Pet Scoop: Former Soldier Reunited With Search Dog, Koalas Change Trees at Night

April 9, 2014: We've scoured the Web to find the best and most compelling animal stories, videos and photos. And it's all right here.

Army Spc. Josh Tucker was reunited with his search dog, Ellen, late last month.
Army Spc. Josh Tucker was reunited with his search dog, Ellen, late last month.

Soldier Wins Battle for Dog

Army Spc. Josh Tucker developed a strong bond with Ellen, a black Labrador Retriever, when they worked together on the front lines in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, searching for IEDs. Then, Tucker suffered a head injury in a rollover accident and was sent to Walter Reed National Medical Center near Washington, D.C., for treatment. He says he was told his dog would be waiting for him when he was released, but instead, she was abruptly sent to Germany. Tucker, who also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and his wife, heard that Ellen wasn’t being reassigned to another handler. The Arizona couple asked to adopt Ellen, but their first request was denied by the military. They turned to Arizona Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema for help. After six months of persistence, their joint efforts paid off and Tucker had an emotional reunion with Ellen on March 27. "It felt more complete,” said Tucker. On Tuesday, the Tuckers and their dog visited the U.S. Capitol to thank Sinema. — Watch it at My Fox Phoenix

14 Species Still Struggling After Gulf Oil Spill

A new report from the National Wildlife Federation finds that bottlenose dolphins and sea turtles are dying in record numbers in the Gulf of Mexico, and connects their demise to the nation’s biggest oil spill in April 2010. When the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, it killed 11 people and leaked 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The report examined 14 species that live in the Gulf and found that they’re still feeling the impact of the spill. The research shows the dolphins swimming in oiled areas are underweight, anemic, and showing signs of liver and lung diseases. Also, about 500 dead sea turtles have been found in the spill region each year since 2011, "a dramatic increase over normal rates,” the NWF says. "The oil is not gone: There is oil on the bottom of the Gulf, oil is washing up on the beaches, and oil is still on the marshes," said Doug Inkley, a scientist with the NWF. But he’s not surprised by the slow recovery. “In Prince William Sound, 25 years after the wreck of Exxon Valdez, there are still some species that have not fully recovered." — Read it at National Geographic

Rare Footage Shows Oarfish Swimming

Two oarfish, each about 15 feet long, were caught on video last month, swimming near the shore of the Sea of Cortés in Mexico. The video was shot by a group affiliated with the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. The world’s largest fish, which can grow to be about 45 feet long, don’t usually come so close to the beach. They’re rarely seen because they like to swim in depths of about 650 feet, to as far down as 3,000 feet. — Watch it at Smithsonian


Koalas Change Trees at Night

A new study finds that Australia’s famed koalas like to spend their days and nights in different types of trees. Researchers used microphones on eight koalas in a bush reserve on Victoria's Phillip Island. They recorded hundreds of hours of data for two weeks, and were able to determine that the koalas liked to relax in blue gums during the day, but fed mainly at night in Manner gums. "We don't really know how koalas choose trees, but they all seem to prefer leaves with more protein and less toxins, and spend much longer feeding in those trees," said the study’s lead author, Karen Marsh of the Australian National University. They also found that the animals preferred large trees with more shade during the day. The findings could have an impact on conservation efforts. The study was published in CSIRO journal Wildlife Research. — Read it at Discovery News

Police Capture Duck Intruder

Officers in North Reading, Mass., quickly responded when a woman called for help from her upstairs bedroom, saying she could hear loud banging noises coming from downstairs. But, when authorities arrived at her home on Saturday, they didn’t find your typical intruder. After searching the home, they discovered a wood duck, covered in soot from allegedly breaking in through the chimney. Officers caught the culprit and released it into a local pond. — Read it at People Pets

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