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April 2, 2014: We've scoured the Web to find the best and most compelling animal stories, videos and photos. And it's all right here.
Two popular web cams are giving people around the world a bird’s eye view as bald eagle chicks begin to hatch. One mating pair built their huge nest in a tree high about the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh. Experts say it’s the first time in more than 200 years that the once-endangered birds have nested in the Pennsylvania city, due to industrialization and pollution. Two eaglets have hatched in the last week, and a third is expected to peck its way through any day now. Two more chicks hatched late last month in a nest located 110 feet up in a tree on the grounds of the National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia. The nest has been active since 2006, with eagles returning for the winter season in January and fledging their little ones. Thanks to the banning of DDT, the bald eagle has made a comeback and is no longer considered threatened. — Watch it at NBC News and from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Facebook
The mystery behind zebras’ stripes has long confounded scientists. Now, they have the strongest evidence yet that the reason is to keep biting flies away. Researchers at the University of California, Davis, put five main stripe theories to the test. They included the ideas that the stripes repel insects, offer camouflage, confuse predators, manage the heat, or help the animals interact socially. The researchers examined striping patterns and placement, as well as where they live, where the flies are found, the ranges of their predators, and other environmental factors to create a statistical model. “We found again and again and again [that] the only factor which is highly associated with striping is to ban biting flies,” said study leader Tim Caro, a biologist at U.C. Davis. “I was delighted to see the results were so strong in one direction.” The study was published in the journal Nature Communications. — Read it at National Geographic
Scott Hemmelsbach wasn’t exactly anxious to go into a burning home in Michigan on Sunday to save a 6-foot python. But because the firefighter had experience with handling snakes when he worked with a wildlife education group while he was in high school, he agreed to do it. “It was trying to crawl up the side of his terrarium and get out. His face was pushed up on the screen and trying to get out. There was a lot of smoke and he was trapped,” Hemmelsbach said. He got the creature out of the home, and reunited it with its owners. “I would do it for any creature. I’m just glad it had a happy ending," he said. — Read it at Michigan Live
With the unusually harsh winter finally over in Washington, D.C., the National Zoo’s 7-month-old panda cub ventured outdoors for the first time on Tuesday — with a little encouragement from her mom, Mei Xiang. Bao Bao tried climbing one of the smaller trees in the enclosure then mimicked her mom, sitting down on the grass to snack on some bamboo. Bao Bao never strayed far from Mei Xiang’s side, and after about two hours, she was wiped out. Her keepers report that she went back indoors and napped for a few hours. — Read it from the National Zoo
Hank, a former stray, continued living out his Cinderella story on Tuesday as the star of the show when his team, the Milwaukee Brewers, took the field for the first time this season. The pooch, who’s believed to be a Bichon Frise mix, was quickly adopted by the team when he wandered into the baseball complex during the team’s spring training in Phoenix. Sporting his team gear, Hank sniffed the game ball for good luck, and it looks like it worked — the Brewers beat the Atlanta Braves, 2-0. Milwaukee has embraced the team’s unofficial mascot, with a local bakery even creating popular Hank cookies. — See photos at People Pets
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