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Dec. 9, 2013: We've scoured the Web to find the best and most compelling animal stories, videos and photos. And it's all right here.
No one is sure why snowy owls, who normally reside in the Arctic, are showing up in North Carolina, Bermuda, the Great Lakes and the Northeast this year. On Friday, 15 were spotted at Logan Airport in Boston. Denver Holt, founder of the Owl Research Institute in Montana, says this may be an “irruption year,” when the birds have an unpredictable migration. In 2011, the owls were sighted in large numbers from east to west across North America. Last year, they were spotted in the Great Plains, northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest. This year, they appear to have settled on the East Coast. Experts aren’t sure what’s driving these mystery migrations, but some owls who’ve arrived at Logan Airport in recent years have been outfitted with transmitters that showed they were able to fly back to the Arctic. Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count, which begins on Dec. 14, includes snowy owls. If you see them, you can submit your sighting at eBird.org. — Read it at Live Science
The staff at the Jacksonville Zoo watched on a remote video system as critically endangered twin Amur leopards were born on Nov. 16. This is the third litter in three years for mom Makarii and dad Nicolai. Keepers and veterinarians at the zoo say the cubs were immediately active after their birth, and their frequent nursing indicates they’re in good health. Amur leopards are extremely rare. Only about 30 of the cats remain in the wild in the forests of far eastern Russia. Late last month, we told you about how the wild cats surprised conservationists when a remote camera recorded footage of two cubs and an adult female on the Russia-China border. — See photos at Zooborns
A team from the Shark Research Institute and the University of West Florida says that sharks can understand the orientation of the human body, and know whether the person is facing them or not. That could help the predator approach the person from their blind side, if the shark is going to attack. Studies have shown that sharks avoid the field of vision of their prey. In the team’s experiments, scuba divers were positioned on the sea floor so scientists could observe the swimming patterns of Caribbean reef sharks. (This species isn’t considered as much of a threat to humans as some others.) They found that significantly more sharks swam outside the person’s field of vision. "Our discovery that a shark can differentiate between the field of vision and non-field of vision of a human being, or comprehend human body orientation, raises intriguing questions not only about shark behavior, but also about the mental capacity of sharks," writes Erich Ritter of the Shark Research Institute. The findings were published in the journal Animal Cognition. — Read it at Science Daily
The staff at the Edgar’s Mission farm sanctuary in Victoria, Australia, thought they’d saved three pigs who escaped from their owner on Sept. 28. The pigs were found wandering in the middle of a cold night, and the staff used food to lure them to a safer home at the sanctuary in what they dubbed Operation Charlotte’s Web. Then on Saturday, Wonder Woman, one of the rescued pigs, gave birth to 8 adorable piglets, bringing the total number of lives saved to 11. The newborns have been named appropriately for the season — they are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. — Read it and watch it at Buzzfeed
A dog owner in Wisconsin called 911 for help on Sunday morning after her dog chased a goose onto thin ice on Lake Michigan, and fell through. The dispatcher contacted the Sturgeon Bay Coast Guard station, which sent out its ice rescue team within 10 minutes. The rescuers were able to safely pull the frightened pup from the ice-cold water. "The ice is really new right now, so it is really important to understand the ice conditions," said Coast Guard officer Nathan Disher. "In this case, the owner of the dog did the right thing by not trying to rescue her dog by herself and calling us for help instead." The dog was checked out by a veterinarian and is recovering at home. — Read it at Wisconsin’s Journal Sentinel
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