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Animals

The last orca to be born in captivity at SeaWorld died Monday after just three months of life, the company announced. The calf, named Kyara, succumbed to "some very serious and progressive health issues over the last week" at SeaWorld's park in San Antonio.

This is the second story in a three-part series on the wildlife refuges of the Klamath Basin and water in the arid West. Read part one here.

A line of binoculars point upwards at a ridge on the edge of Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. There’s an owl’s nest in a small cave about 150 feet up, and Charlotte Kisling has her scope trained.

Olympic National Park is inching ahead on a plan to reduce or eliminate its population of non-native mountain goats. A draft plan released Monday for public comment includes options to relocate or kill the animals.

In Hawaii's Kauai island, the native forest birds are in peril. Once considered a paradise for the colorful songbirds, the island has lost more than half of those native species.

What's happening on Kauai could be an early warning for the other Hawaiian islands.

This is the first story in a three-part series on the wildlife refuges of the Klamath Basin and water in the arid West. Read Part two here.

Driving around Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge is like being on bird safari. Guides today are refuge manager Greg Austin and biologist John Vradenburg.

This summer, scientists in California are releasing 20 million mosquitoes in an effort to shrink the population of mosquitoes that can carry diseases.

It sounds counterintuitive. But the plan is to release millions of sterile male mosquitoes, which will then mate with wild female mosquitoes. The eggs the females lay won't hatch, researchers say.

Washington state’s department of Fish and Wildlife will kill members of a wolf pack that is causing problems for livestock in Stevens County.



Jim Schott had one goal when he abandoned academic life to start the company called Haystack Mountain: He wanted to make some of the finest goat cheese in the country. With cheese in hand, he visited supermarkets, trying to persuade them to sell his product. Some didn't take him seriously. But Whole Foods did.

"From the very beginning, they wanted to taste it," Schott recalls. "And they wanted to know the story. They wanted to know where the cheese came from; who was making it; where it was made."

Woodland Park Zoo

Vip the gorilla needed emergency hernia surgery. Dr. Andrew S. Wright explains his process, from inspecting Vip in the smelly gorilla enclosure to hurrying away as Vip woke up from his anesthesia.

As recently as 10 years ago, humans were thought to be the only species with the ability to plan.

Recent studies on great apes showed the ability is not uniquely human. Now, scientists in Sweden have come to the surprising conclusion that ravens can also deliberately prepare for future events.

"It is conservative to conclude that ravens perform similarly to great apes and young children," the researchers write. However, monkeys have failed similar experiments.

Editor's note: This story is for mature bees only.

Seducing a honeybee drone – one of the males in a colony whose only job is to mate with the queen – is not too difficult. They don't have stingers, so you just pick one up. Apply a little pressure to the abdomen and the drone gets randy, blood rushing to his endophallus, bringing him to climax.

"They're really accommodating," says Susan Cobey, a honeybee breeder on Whidbey Island, Wash. "One ejaculate is about 1 microliter, and it takes 10 microliters to artificially inseminate a queen."

Editor’s note: Research, tenacious advocates and $16 billion have lifted Columbia salmon from the brink of extinction. But the Northwest has yet to figure out a sustainable long-term plan to save the fish that provide spiritual sustenance for tribes, food for the table, and hundreds of millions of dollars in business and ecological benefits. This is part of a special series of reports exploring whether salmon can ultimately survive.

Study: Orcas Lose Two-Thirds Of Their Pregnancies

Jun 29, 2017

Two-thirds of all detectable orca pregnancies have ended in miscarriages over the past seven years, a new study shows.

To figure out if orcas were pregnant, the researchers trained dogs to find orca scat and then tested the scat’s hormone levels. What they found was sobering.

“Of those that we confirmed were pregnant, 31 percent of the pregnancies are successful. So 69 percent were lost,” said Sam Wasser, a University of Washington professor and study author.

Bella, a pot belly pig from Seattle, gets a weekly manicure. She used to get bubble baths, but she's become too heavy for her own to lift into the tub, so she settles for showers.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Louren Reed first saw the sign at Eckstein Middle School in north Seattle: “No dogs, cats, or pot bellied pigs.”

For the first time in more than four decades, the Yellowstone grizzly bear is set to lose its federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. Citing a rebound in the bear's population, the U.S. Department of Interior announced its intention Thursday to end these protections and return oversight of the animal's status to the state level.

The agency says the rule to remove the grizzly from the endangered species list will be published "in coming days" and "will take effect 30 days after publication."

Millions of tubular sea creatures called pyrosomes have taken over the Pacific Ocean in an unprecedented bloom that has scientists baffled.

These bumpy, translucent organisms look like sea cucumbers that range in size from six inches to more than two feet long. But they’re actually made up of hundreds of tiny animals knit together with tissue into a filter-feeding cylinder.

In the dense megacities of East Asia, millions of people dwell in high-rises with very little green space. This isn't an ideal setting to raise big dogs or more unusual pets. Cramped quarters aren't great for domesticated pets in general.

When Anthony Planakis was going through the New York Police Academy, they told him to write his interests down on a little card.

"Beekeeping, of course I put that down," says 54-year-old Planakis, who is a fourth generation beekeeper. "And the very first job, the sergeant comes right up to me and I just look up and go, 'Hey, Sarge,' and he goes, 'Bees?' and I go, 'Yeah, where?' 'Harlem.' And I go, 'Cool.' That was it, that was the first job I handled," he says.

Most anyone who has encountered a flamingo has probably been impressed by its signature ability to balance on a single long, spindly leg for remarkably long periods of time.

But actually, scientists have now shown that what appears to be a feat requires almost no muscle activity from the bird.

Wolves mostly make the news when they are in conflict with livestock and that’s part of the reason they were once removed from the Western landscape. But a new study shows wolves play an important role, whether we like it or not.

Culvert Case Decision A 'Win For Salmon' In Washington

May 22, 2017

A big court decision could open up new habitat for salmon in Washington and end up costing the state billions of dollars. The case stemmed from poor maintenance and design of road culverts, which can block fish passage upstream.

A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Friday denied the state’s request to rehear the case. A lower court had ordered the state in 2013 to fix hundreds of road culverts.

Road culverts are those metal pipes or concrete boxes you see carrying streams underneath roads. There are thousands across the Northwest.

Dozens of scientists recently glued fake green caterpillars onto plants around the world in an unusual study to see how the caterpillars' risk of getting eaten varied from pole to pole.

Any ant, slug, lizard, bird or beetle that attacked the soft clay caterpillars left telltale bite marks that were later analyzed by a lab in Finland.

It had been a timeless love story. A garden snail with a rare genetic condition can't mate with normal snails; scientists launch an international search for a mate; the snail becomes a media sensation; and miraculously not one but two possible mates are found.

That's where we left the tale of Jeremy, the rare left-coiling snail, last November.

Bears do it; bats do it. So do guinea pigs, dogs and humans. They all yawn. It's a common animal behavior, but one that is something of a mystery.

There's still no consensus on the purpose of a yawn, says Robert Provine, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Provine has studied what he calls "yawn science" since the early 1980s, and he's published dozens of research articles on it. He says the simple yawn is not so simple.

An Alaska Air 737 arrives at SeaTac as a flock of birds crosses.
Flickr Photo/Michael @ NW Lens (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/2iJ6CS

In a new environmental action by the Jet City, officials in Seattle have committed to protecting the "Pacific Flyway" — the route migratory birds take from Alaska to Mexico, on which Seattle is a stopover.

Volunteers Brian Gregory and Victoria Poage count crab in a trap at a site near Seabeck, June 2016
Washington Sea Grant/Emily Grason

Scientists think they know what brought invasive green crab into Washington's inland waters last year.

In short: "the blob." That was the temporary expanse of abnormally warm water off the West Coast from 2013 to late 2015.

Kill A Juniper Tree, Save A Sage Grouse

Apr 27, 2017

There’s good news for the West's imperiled greater sage grouse. New research suggests the bird has a better chance of survival when juniper trees are removed from its habitat.

The chicken-sized sage grouse's decline has happened over the same stretch of time that's seen western juniper and pinyon pine trees spread out across the bird's sagebrush ecosystem. Reasons for the trees' expansion include fire suppression, overgrazing and changing climate conditions.

As the stands grow more dense, they outcompete sagebrush. They also serve as perches for birds of prey.

Baby humpback whales seem to whisper to their mothers, according to scientists who have captured the infant whales' quiet grunts and squeaks.

The recordings, described in the journal Functional Ecology, are the first ever made with devices attached directly to the calves.

Most creepy, crawly bugs are pretty much harmless when it comes to infectious diseases.

But there are two classes of little critters that cause big — and we're talking big — problems: ticks and mosquitoes.

To learn how climate change could alter the course of tick- and mosquito-borne diseases, we talked to two scientists who have devoted a major chunk of their careers to answering that question.

Let's start with the bloodsuckers that can stay on your skin for days.

At 3:33 p.m. ET on Wednesday, SeaWorld welcomed its last orca born in captivity.

The birth at the SeaWorld in San Antonio, Texas, wasn't streamed live — unlike with April the giraffe — but it will be the final chance for SeaWorld guests to see a baby orca grow up.

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