“Bears” Is the Year’s Best Movie About Wild Bears

What makes for a good Hollywood movie in 2014? Start by keeping out all the terrible things: computer-generated spaceships, bad-dialogue pornography, 45-year-old giant babies making two hours of fart jokes, and the usual plotlines about the end of the world or getting pregnant or being a robot. Bears is a surprisingly pleasant movie about wild bears and other critters living in the Alaskan wilderness.

Not much happens, which is a relief. They do not defeat a super-villain, a sequel is unlikely, and no critics will describe it as a subversive or sly take on Our Current Situation. Even the moron element of these Disney nature movies—the cornpone narrator—is a minimal offense. (more…)


“Vampire Squid From Hell” Arrives At Monterey Bay Aquarium

I went down to Monterey on the “members’ preview day” to see the new “Tentacles” exhibit at the beloved aquarium, but had I known the vampire squid had yet to arrive, I would’ve obviously delayed my travel. Bay City News reports:

Though mainly a scavenger subsisting on marine snow, mucus, decaying dead animals and fecal matter, its Latin name Vampyroteuthis infernalis translates as “vampire squid from hell.”

Image via Monterey Bay Aquarium. “Tentacles” is open now, and has a vampire squid.

California Condors Released Into the Wild: Watch ‘Em Live!

We highly recommend visiting the Condor Cams right now, because four enormous California Condors were released just this morning, and they’re currently enjoying lunch. California Condors!

I remember very well when the majestic giant vulture was very nearly extinct, just 30 years ago—and when Brooke Shields did a summer internship at the San Diego Zoo next to my high school downtown, your teenaged correspondent went over and watched the movie star help feed chunks of meat to the bred-in-captivity chicks. The humans wore special “condor muppets” so the babies would … get used to horrible muppets? No, of course not! So the babies wouldn’t fall in love with Brooke Shields.

But I could see her, in her stylish safari-style uniform that looked a little better tailored than those worn by the average zoo worker. I could see she wasn’t a condor, and I could not keep from falling in love, at least for the afternoon. Condors, everybody! Follow the Ventana Wildlife Society and the Oakland Zoo for live updates on the condors’ big first day in the wild.

UPDATE: Here’s a Condor Cam montage if you missed today’s excitement: (more…)

Go get 'em, tiger ... we mean, 'jaguar' ...

Hooray For Jaguars: 764,000 Acres Named Critical Big Cat Habitat

Jaguars in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico will have it easier thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which just named 764,000 acres as critical habitat for the beautiful cats. But as usual in these big decisions, the Feds were pushed by a conservation group working to protect the predators from the real predators in the U.S. Southwest: energy companies and mining operators. (more…)

Whoooooo Am I?

Who Am I?

The USFWS National Wildlife Refuge System shares this mysterious photo from the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. What is it? Well, it’s a tree! But who is it?

Why that’s the Eastern Screech Owl tucked into that tree. The owl is “no bigger than a pint glass,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  A pint of owl seems just right. And when they’re busy at night, these owls provide the haunting soundtrack of the eastern U.S. forests. Spring is almost here—why not wander into the woods this weekend and listen for owls at dusk?

Photo by George McGeorge via USFWS Refuge System.

The Ocean's Buddy.

Help the Saltwater Sea Weasels While Doing Your California State Taxes

Did you know sea otters are “the heaviest members of the weasel family“? Well now you know. Luckily, they are called otters instead of weasels, avoiding the unfortunate English-language connotations of the word “weasel” as a description of venal and cowardly human behavior.

Sea otters have made a remarkable recovery over the past 20 years. In the early 1990s, there were only about a thousand left worldwide. And this recovery did not come about accidentally—it took a tremendous amount of ongoing work, ongoing legislation and enforcement, and the costly coordinated global end of the otter-fur business. One of the easiest ways to directly support the recovery of the otters is one little checkbox on your California state income tax return. (more…)

The eggs come from the chicken butt.

The Agony and Joy of Backyard Chickens

In celebration of my daughter Lily’s third birthday, we bought her three baby chicks, thinking they would provide valuable life lessons about responsibility, the cycle of life and what it means to be an omnivore. When I became the chickens’ sole caretaker soon thereafter, it was a stark reminder that small children don’t help much around the house. Such is the life of the urban chicken farmer, a roller coaster of hopes and realities.

Chicks are objectively, unequivocally adorable—nearly weightless puffs of yellow that fit in the palm of a child’s hand, making their young eyes dance with delight. For a moment, anyway, until they walk away, distracted by a distant television, a farting cat or a passing car. It’s left to you to put the adorable bird back in its cage, which is in your bathroom, taking up way too much real estate and driving the aforementioned cat insane. For six weeks. (more…)

There are ONE-HUNDRED-THOUSANDS of these invasive Burmese pythons loose in Florida, gah.

Snake Wrangling: Everyone’s On the Lookout For These Florida Pythons

What happens when “exotic pets” are dumped in a place not so different from their natural habitat? They take over and kill everything, that’s what. In Florida’s remaining wild swamps, Burmese pythons are eating all the native wildlife—they’re even eating full-grown alligators! This is one of those Ecological Nightmare Scenarios that requires a very clever response.  (more…)