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animals

Mishka the asthmatic otter is doing fine despite the wildfire smoke, the Seattle Aquarium tweeted last week.
Seattle Aquarium

Call it "canary in the smoke-choked city."

While people are struggling with the unhealthy air quality in Seattle, the animals are having similar issues.

 J-50 swims with sister J-42 on July 21. NOAA Fisheries photo, permit number 21368.
NOAA Fisheries/Katy Foster

There has been an extraordinary federal-local-tribal effort aimed at nursing the killer whale known as J50 back to health. But is it far enough?

Seattle Times reporter Linda Mapes has been covering the operation, and she told KUOW’s Angela King about it.


KUOW photo/David Hyde

Seattle, you may have noticed some new neighbors around lately.

Not the ones who moved here to work at Amazon — that’s another story entirely. We’re talking about beavers, which were all but eradicated from the region just over 100 years ago.

But now they’re back.

While honeybees and their buzzing hives and hyper-fertile queens get all the press for pollinating our food supply, the hard-working blue orchard bee is one of 4,000 bee species native to North America that does its solitary work in relative obscurity. That is, until now.

Drone image by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the J50 feeding effort
NOAA Fisheries, under permit # 18786

Scientists have taken an unprecedented step to save one of the Salish Sea’s 75 endangered orcas: They tried to feed her in the wild.

Day 9: The orca mother continues to carry her deceased baby, as the baby's body begins to decompose.
Courtesy of Soundwatch NMFS permit #21114

Bill Radke talks about our anthropomorphizing of the grieving mother orca, Tahlequah, and what it tells us about how humans think about mothering and losing a child.

The orca known as J35 swims without her baby off San Juan Island on Saturday.
Photo courtesy of Ken Balcomb, Center for Whale Research

A grieving mother orca has finally let her dead calf go, ending her "tour of grief."

Lummi Tribal Chairman Jay Julius loads live chinook salmon onto King County Research Vessel SoundGuardian in Squalicum Harbor on Friday, August 10, 2018. (Image taken under the authority of NMFS MMPA/ESA Permit No. 18786-03)
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

An extraordinary effort to feed a sick, young orca got underway Friday morning in the waters west of Bellingham.

Crews loaded 24 live chinook salmon into tanks aboard King County's Research Vessel SoundGuardian as well as the Lummi Nation police boat at Squalicum Harbor.

Jeff Foster of the Whale Sanctuary Project checks the pole that will be used to collect breath samples during the planned health assessment of J50
John Gussman/NOAA Fisheries

As scientists searched Salish sea waters for the young, emaciated orca known as J50, they spotted her relative, still carrying her dead calf.

Southern Resident killer whale J50 and her mother, J16, off the west coast of Vancouver Island near Port Renfrew, B.C., on August 7.
Brian Gisborne, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

J50 is alive.

The emaciated, 3 1/2-year-old orca had seemingly gone missing over the weekend, leading some biologists to worry that she may have died.

Plans were underway to feed the young whale with live salmon – possibly laced with medicine – or to inject her with antibiotics, in the hopes of saving the youngest orca in this endangered group.

Michael Milstein, a spokesman for NOAA, confirmed that the young orca was found west of Vancouver at the Port Renfrew near the west entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Protesters call for the removal of dams on the Snake River to help salmon spawn -- and consequently feed Puget Sound orcas. The protest came outside a meeting of the governor's orca task force in Wenatchee on Tuesday.
KUOW photo/Eilis O'Neill

In late July, an orca calf died within half an hour of its birth. The mother carried the dead calf on her head for more than a week.

Now whale scientists and NOAA are weighing trying to feed live Chinook salmon to an emaciated 4-year-old orca or trying to inject her with an antibiotic.

 J-50 swims with sister J-42 on July 21. NOAA Fisheries photo, permit number 21368.
NOAA Fisheries/Katy Foster

The effort to save a sick, starving orca named J50 is a personal mission for Aaron Hillaire and Malcolm Owings of the Lummi Tribe.

“Hundreds and hundreds of years we’ve been around the orcas and it’s family, really,” Hillaire said.


Baby orca J54 swims with its mom, J28, in the waters off San Juan Island this month.
Dave Ellifrit/Center for Whale Research

Laura Blackmore of Puget Sound Partnership speaks with KUOW's Kim Malcolm about the task force kicking off on Tuesday to discuss the overall health of the killer whales local to the Washington state and Canadian coast lines, known as J-Pod. 


File photo: Bee
Flickr Photo/westpark (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/5bmhnw

It seems there’s a "how things work" theme on Speakers Forum recently. Last week it was tides, this week, bees.

Our guide is Thor Hanson, an uber-biologist who seems to really love what he does. He’s also a fine and animated storyteller. His new book is “Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees.”

Day 9: A small fin of the deceased baby whale follows its mother through Salish waters.
Courtesy of Soundwatch NMFS permit #21114

Marine biologist Taylor Shedd has told The Record that the grieving orca mother — known as Tahlequah or J35 — is carrying her dead calf for a ninth day. The baby's body has started to decompose.

The killer whale delivered her baby on Tuesday last week. Half an hour later, the calf died.

In a clash of protected species, Pacific Northwest members of Congress are coming down in favor of salmon. The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to vote Thursday morning to make it easier to kill sea lions who feast on Columbia and Willamette River salmon and steelhead.

Esperanza Yanez can spot a sick cow just by looking at it.

"The head hangs down and they don't eat," says Yanez, who immigrated from Mexico two decades ago and has been caring for cattle ever since.

While learning to communicate with animals takes years of patience, Yanez says the true language barrier exists between the dairy workers and the veterinarians who rarely speak Spanish. Medical terminology can be confusing, and to avoid embarrassment, Yanez says she and other workers may feign comprehension.

Northwesterners are hearing a lot about mountain lions lately. Since May, an extremely rare fatal attack in the Washington Cascades, a Willamette Valley pool party interrupted by a wandering cat and a viral Facebook video of a mountain lion lounging in a southern Oregon woman’s living room have made headlines across the region.

Are the Northwest’s mountain lions acting out of character this summer?

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Derek Broman says no. But they are adapting to a gradual shift in their range.

During every berry picking season in the Pacific Northwest, blueberry and raspberry growers fight to prevent birds from gobbling up the crop before they can harvest it. This year, some farmers are trying something new and high tech to scare away the thieving birds.

Citizen scientists count butterflies on Sauk Mountain, in the North Cascades.
Eilís O'Neill/KUOW-EarthFix Photo

Jean Bradbury lives in northeast Seattle. She’s an artist, and she loves swallowtail butterflies.

“These guys are big—like we think of a monarch, maybe—big like the palm of your hand,” Bradbury says. “They’re pale bright yellow. Very, very beautiful.”

She says she hasn't seen many swallowtail butterflies in Seattle before, but this summer she sees them every day.


Counting cats, much like herding them, is a complicated proposition.

But a coalition of groups in Washington, D.C., is giving it a shot.

PetSmart Charities, the Humane Society, the Humane Rescue Alliance and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute are collaborating on a project called the D.C. Cat Count, which aims to create a more accurate estimate of the city's entire cat population — both feral cats and pet cats.

Goat's milk. Sheep's milk. Soy milk. Almond milk. The grocery store shelves these days are filled with alternatives to dairy from cows. But in Europe, interest is growing in milk from a surprising source: horses.

You know that expression, "Leave no stone unturned?"

That’s how Washington State University neuroscientist Allison Coffin goes about catching midshipman fish — at least during mating season.

Standing on the rocky, oyster-covered shoreline of Hood Canal, she rolled over a beach-ball sized rock to reveal a small pool of water just barely covering two fish.

“Oh yeah! Another female,” she said. “And then there’s the male right there.”

Because it’s low tide, some of the fish she and her research partner Joe Sisneros uncovered aren’t in any water at all.

An LED street light in Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

Seattle street lights are, it appears, bad for spiders.

And you and me and other wildlife — the intense white-blue light can disrupt the circadian rhythms of anyone beneath its glare.

Rhino embryos created in a lab are raising hopes that high-tech assisted reproduction may help save the northern white rhino, the most endangered mammal in the world.

Only two of these rhinos are still alive, both females living in a sanctuary in Kenya and protected around the clock by armed guards.

American pika in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Flickr Photo/Tony's Takes (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/WYDpFq

Pikas are little rabbit-like mammals that could fit in the palm of your hand. They’re often seen scurrying around rocky alpine slopes with their mouths full of wildflowers.

Pikas like it cold, so, as the climate has warmed, they’ve disappeared from lower elevations where they used to live.

Few species manipulate their surroundings enough to make big ecological changes. Humans are one. Beavers are another.

The call is going out again to the operators and pilots of big ships to slow down in the shared border waters between Washington and British Columbia. The idea is to reduce underwater noise that could bother endangered killer whales.

The federal government is reviewing the endangered species status of gray wolves in the Lower 48 states — a move that could lead to reduced protections. This includes the western parts of Oregon and Washington, where wolves are considered endangered under U.S. law.

Rare Whale Dolphin Washes Up On Oregon Coast

Jun 14, 2018

A rare right whale dolphin was found beached on the Oregon coast last week.

Experts say that this is only the fourth sighting of the dolphin species in more than two decades along Oregon’s northern coast.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that Nehalem Bay State park staff found the dead female whale dolphin along Manzanita Beach last Friday. Park staff then reported the incident to the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, which works to save stranded sea mammals and investigates what might have caused them to beach.

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