For Your Enjoyment #41, The Animal Ed.

“Government wildlife agencies are charged with managing species to achieve positive outcomes at the population level but there’s no doubt that most people relate to animals on an individual level,” [Yellowstone superintendent Dan] Wenk said recently as he was taking that message to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis. “I believe individual bears like 399 can solidify the sense of connection citizens feel to public lands and public wildlife they own.”

Grizzy 399 is alive and well! (image above)

Sam Steingard of Germantown, Maryland, didn’t have a date to his senior prom last year, so he looked around and found an adorable companion right in his own home: his cat, Ruby.

- This guy is my hero.

A previous winner of the ‘World’s Ugliest Dog’ title for his “natural ugliness in both pedigree and mutt classes” has redeemed himself by taking out a ‘Most Heroic Hound’ award this week. Mugly, a twelve-year-old Chinese Crested dog, won the National Pet Show award in London for his work with British Organisation, Therapy Dogs Nationwide. 

- Looks really DON'T matter.

What you don't hear amid all the noise surrounding the Bison Legacy Act is anything about the continued mismanagement of the last truly wild bison. These herds have existed on the American landscape since prehistoric times but are now found only in in Yellowstone National Park, where they survive under a management program defined by round-up, quarantine, and slaughter conducted in the interest of a far more powerful icon of the American West: the livestock rancher. Ranchers fear the invasion of bison into grazing areas where cows are considered the only deserving users of the public domain. (Ranchers also believe, without any scientific basis, that bison pose a disease threat to cattle.)

- National Mammal or not, we continue to slaughter bison left and right

In a recent post on social media, an officer working for West Midland Police's Central Motorway department shared an image of three sheep that had been rescued from suspected poachers. Confusingly, though, the sheep's faces had been blurred.

- Sheep need to have their identity protected, too

“Cats Meok Bang,” a mash-up of the Korean words for broadcasting and eating, began by accident. While visiting his mother-in-law in a mountainous village in southwestern Korea, Koo Eun-je saw a cat outside, wondered how it survived and put out leftover fish for it. The next day, the cat was back so Koo kept feeding him, and the others who followed. Finally, he set up a surveillance camera and livestreamed the scene online. “We started the channel simply for me and my wife to watch, but other viewers also started watching it,” the 35-year-old who previously worked as a web designer said in an interview near the lake where he goes bass fishing for the cats. “We guessed that there would be one or two cats, but now it turns out that 17 cats are coming to eat food.” Four months on, 110,000 South Koreans watched the show on a monthly average and more than 10,000 of them have bookmarked the show. Some viewers sent him virtual cash items, which help cover his living expenses and cat food. Others send food and donations to Koo. As his cat TV got popular, at least one copycat show emerged. 

- South Korea: Where watching stray cats eating is the newest online fad

Pierre, despite his three-year featherless period, lived a full life, tending to the nest he shared with his longtime lady friend Homey, enjoying a spot of herring here and there and fathering more than a dozen offspring. It was 2005 when the plucky African penguin lost his feathers for reasons that remain a mystery. He began to feel insecure, as many of us would without our normal coverings, and lost interest in eating and hanging out with Homey. The other penguins rudely ostracized Pierre. “It made him look different. The bird that stands out is drawing attention, which isn't good. You don't want to draw attention to yourself when you are potentially prey,” Brenda Melton, curator for the aquarium, told The Chronicle in 2014. “Pierre became a liability.” Pam Schaller, an aquatic biologist, swooped in to restore Pierre’s confidence with a custom wetsuit that got him back in the water and, more importantly, back in the good graces of Homey. He returned to their nest around 2008 when his feathers reappeared. Once his feathers returned, Pierre came to dominate the academy’s penguin exhibit as the alpha bird, said Vikki McCloskey, assistant aquarium curator. African penguins usually live to age 20. So at 33, Pierre was an elder statesman at the academy’s Steinhart Aquarium. His waddle slowed in recent years and he developed cataracts, but he remained active and continued to enjoy the company of Homey in “every way possible,” McCloskey said.

- Rest in peace, dear wetsuitted Pierre

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey last month delivered a sobering update on the white-nose syndrome (WNS) epidemic in North America. WNS has been confirmed in a little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) near North Bend, Washington, over 1,300 miles west of the previously identified western edge of the disease front, Nebraska. ... In the worst-case scenario, a complementary strain has been introduced into North America and will eventually find its way to locations where the East Coast strain exists, facilitating a more recalcitrant and adaptable pathogen. In the best-case scenario, this case represents a loss of containment within North America, reducing the value of efforts to slow the westward spread of WNS while treatments can be developed and western bat hibernacula can be identified. Either way, the news of a WNS-positive bat in Washington state represents another disaster for bats that are already experiencing unprecedented declines.

- Oh no. (Related: read more about WNS over here)

In the video, the humpback whale is seen breaching twice. Minus a few curse words as they are surprised to see it, the dialogue as they watch it breach is funny. One of the men aboard the boat can be heard saying, “Oh ****! Did you see that?” One of his buddies responds, “I got him,” as he tries to get video. Another adds, “We’re whale watching.” Another person says, “Look at there.” And one, seemingly in awe, said, “Unbelievable.” But scientists said seeing a humpback in the bay isn’t all that rare. James G. Mead, a curator emeritus of marine mammals at the Smithsonian, said the fishermen likely did see a humpback whale. But it isn’t all that unusual. He said a recent survey found that in May there was a “gathering of humpback whales off the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.” “It’s probably one of those,” Mead said.

- ...There are humpback whales in the Chesapeake??! 


- This guy

Here’s what most American birdwatchers are, according to a 2013 government study: White, older than 45, fairly well-off and pretty highly educated. Here’s what many people think birdwatchers are: Creepy. That’s according to a recent study that says it is the first “empirical study of  ‘creepiness.’ ” Led by psychology professor Frank McAndrew at Illinois’s Knox College, the study set out to introduce “a theoretical perspective on the common psychological experience of feeling “creeped out,” and to figure out what makes us think other people are creepy. David. J. Ringer, the National Audubon Society’s chief network officer, took the study’s conclusions in stride. “If you’re already a birder, maybe don’t point your binoculars at other people’s houses, stop your car in the middle of the road, or yell “Bushtit!” during an otherwise civil dinner conversation,” Ringer told the Post in an e-mail. “And if you’re not a birder yet, take a good long look at a cardinal, a hummingbird, or an eagle cam and see what happens. You might get hooked — just remember to keep it family- and bird-friendly.”

- Sorry, birdwatchers: People think you're creepy

Whether you love or hate your job, here's a position you might be happier in: Chief Wombat Cuddler. Tourism Tasmania is holding a contest for Australian residents to meet 8-month-old Derek, a sweet little guy who is melting the Internet's collective heart. "Not only will you and a friend be flown from your nearest Australian capital city to Tasmania's Flinders Island to smother our little friend with cuddles, you'll get to spend three nights exploring Derek's island home," the contest's website says.

- Justin Johnston, winner of the Chief Wombat Cuddler Competition, landed the World's Best Job

The Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park in Bristol, England, says it received an anonymous package filled with eight hand-knit jumpers for the park’s eight 2-week-old lambs. “The jumpers were left outside the park with a note to say they were for the baby lambs,” the park’s marketing manager, Kim Pounsberry, told ABC News. The lambs needed the extra warmth from the jumpers because they are orphans and it helps their survival, according to Pounsberry. Before the sweaters, the lambs had been wearing plastic “lambing jackets.” Pounsberry said park officials believe the knitted jumpers came from someone locally but do not have any leads. When asked what she would want to tell the donor, Pounsberry said, “A big thank you.” 

- There are some wonderful people out there

In 2005, when Mr. Goynes first met [wheaten terrier] Sonja, he was living in a refrigerator box in the entranceway of a building down the block, in the West 50s. He’d been homeless since the 1970s, spent years freebasing cocaine. But he had gotten clean in 2000, and he was scraping along doing odd jobs on the block. “After I got Sonja, he saw various people walking her when I was at work,” said [Sonja's owner] Ms. Kilty, who was studying to be an epidemiologist. “He said to me, ‘I can walk your dog.’ He said this to me several times and eventually I thought why not give it a try, because he clearly needed some income and support.” “It helped me get myself together,” Mr. Goynes said. “It keeps you from messing around, doing other things bad. ‘I got a dog-walking job, I’ve got to maintain.’” “Sonja,” he said. “Man. I was on the street when I met Sonja. Now look at me. I’m 67 years old. I came through the ranks, sir. She helped me, I helped her.” Mr. Goynes found a permanent home in 2007: spartan quarters in a building on East 28th Street run by the nonprofit supportive-housing provider now known as Breaking Ground. One room, a chair, a bed, a little fridge, a television, a bathroom. He walked Sonja most weekends. Sometimes he would house-sit the dog in Ms. Kilty’s penthouse, sometimes for weeks at a time. “He was so reliable and so good, and she loved him so much,” she said. Mr. Goynes liked to watch sports on Ms. Kilty’s big TV. Last spring, Sonja fell ill with inoperable cancer...Mr. Goynes asked Ms. Kilty for Sonja’s tags so he can put them on a necklace. On Thursday, she gave them to him.

- Sometimes pets help us more than we help them