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Archive for February, 2009

Animals burned in the Australian fires continue to be brought to IFAW‘s volunteers, sometimes by people who have lost their own animals and homes, the group reports. Millions of animals have died with “scores of kangaroos” turning up dead on the road and thousands of wild and farm animals have died.

The bright spot in all this is Sam the Koala, who gain international fame from this YouTube video when she held the hand of a firefighter and drank some water from his bottle. The New Zealand Herald reports that the incident was earlier than we thought and was “filmed prior to the deadly bush fires, during a routine preventative backburning operation.” He emailed the footage to friends. But it’s not really a scandal. The video was only a week and half ago; the koala is still recovering at the Mountain Ash Wildlife Shelter, where she has picked up a boyfriend.

Animal lovers around the world are helping through:
–Wildlife Victoria has a spectial Bush Fire Appeal
Dogs Victoria has an International Virtual Dog Show
–The Wildlife Protection Society of Australia has apparently been so inundated its website crashed.
–The main YouTube clip of Sam the Koala links to the RSPCA of Victoria, which also says their site is inundated.

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Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of animals to watch. Here’s a list of places to watch bald eagles all around the country are having their eagle watch or eagle festivals. Eagles can either migrate or stay put. This time of year the birds that live up north come down for open waters to fish in. They especially like waters near power plants and dams. (I guess they don’t have to migrate as far down south if they can find some artificially heated water.

Although I grew up in a time when any eagle sighting would have been spectacular, eagles are now getting much easier to see on just about any big river. The Eagle Fest last weekend offered heated tents and experts, but since Croton Point Park near the Metro-North train station is one of the best spots, you could go anytime in probably from probably January to March This last week was an eagle watching festival at Croton-on-Hudson, which is just an hour north of New York City. Bruce Yolton took spectacular pictures of eagles riding the ice flows. Another great local raptor photographer, Francois Portman, told me he went up recently but only saw birds flying in the air. So, as always it’s hit and miss.

Last weekend I tried to go see the seals that come to Sandy Hook in the winter, but just missed them. A ranger told me they had been right on the sand at Beach B, but I found none. When I walked out a mini-pier near Fort Hancock I asked two photographers if they’d seen anything. “Just a seal,” one said. Just? But I didn’t see any. The ranger also said that they’re often seen just on the island or ice off shore.

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The New York City Parks Department is looking for a new mascot. What, you say, those two characters representing the different color recycling bins didn’t catch on?

That’s right, we may actually get something a little more charismatic this time. Not that blue bin and green bin weren’t sociable when they posed with us at events. But it would be nice to have a character that reflects the wildlife we love in city parks.

The Parks Department is having a contest. People can send in their drawings of a character. The only caveat seems to be that “designs must be able to be produced into a costume that can be worn by an adult between 5’6” and 6’ in height and up to 180 pounds in weight. “

We could still get something pretty dreadful, judging by the examples Parks provided on its contest form. A leaf face? Einstein with ginkgo leaves in his hair?

The big success story for parks over the last decade or so while Adrian Benepe and Henry Stern have been commissioners is that they’ve brought parks back to life. We now have all kinds of animals. That includes all the dog runs they’ve installed. And the resurgence of wildlife–hawks, eagles, owls, squirrels, coyotes, raccoons even a beaver. Surely one of those animals–my preference is the squirrel it’s about the most common animal that people like in parks–deserves to be the New York City Parks mascot.

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