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Archive for the ‘Carnivorans’ Category

I saw several sea otters on my cruise, but I saw them from the ship while it was in motion.

So this is my best photo:

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Steller sea lions on a buoy just off from the Point Retreat Lighthouse. This body of water is called the “Lynn Canal,” which is actually fjord. It was named by George Vancouver, and it was supposed to be called “Lynn Channel,” but transcription error led to it being called a canal. But glaciers made it, not canal diggers.

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This is Admiralty Island, which is not far from Juneau. It is known by the Tlingit as Xootsnoowú, which translates as “Fortress of the Bears.”

It is home to 1,600 brown bears, which I didn’t see while whale watching. This island has one the highest densities of brown bears anywhere in the world, and it is the highest for North America.

These aren’t just normal brown bears, however.  This is where things get really interesting.

About ten years ago, it turned out that many brown bears from Admiralty Island and the neighboring islands of Baranof and Chichagof had mitochondrial DNA that is similar to the polar bear.  This caused quite a bit of a sensation, because if these brown bears really were closely related to the polar bears, then we might have found the place where polar bears evolved from brown bears. This was also at the time when there was a growing body of evidence that polar bears evolved very rapidly and relatively recently from brown bears.

A later nuclear DNA study revealed that the similarities between these brown bears and polar bears were the result of ancient hybridization. The genomes of these brown bears is roughly 1 percent polar bear, but 6.5 percent of the X chromosomes come from polar bears.

These islands and Ireland are both places where polar and brown bears hybridized at the end of the last glacial maximum. Polar bears got stranded on islands, which became great brown bear habitat. Male brown bears mated with polar bear sows, and the offspring were fertile. However, they bred back into the brown bear population in such a way that they are almost entirely brown bear in ancestry.

As the arctic is warming, polar bears are finding themselves stranded on land for longer periods during the mating season, and brown bears (mostly grizzlies) are wandering north. Several hybrids have been killed in recent years, including one from this year.

Polar bears could very likely become extinct as a result of climate change, but their genes could still live on in the brown and grizzly bears that manage to hybridize with them during this transition period.

I wish I had been able to see one of those bears on Admiralty Island,  but I am just glad I got a photo of the island itself.

Whales were calling. Not bears.

 

 

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Raccoons out foraging

These two raccoons are in their summer coats, and I think they are females that have been nursing young. If you’ve never seen one before, they have an interesting way of moving. They are plantigrade but light on their feet.

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wolf eats sea otter

Full story.

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Love my baby!

hao hao baby

This is Hao Hao, a giant panda on loan to the Pairi Daiza Zoo in Belgium, recently gave birth to a single male cub.

I am posting this photo to show how amazingly underdeveloped baby pandas are.Pandas engage in delayed implantation, in which the actual development of the fetus doesn’t happen until well after conception. Because of this factor, giant pandas have wildly variable gestation periods, which can be anywhere from 90 to 160 days.

The cubs are born looking nothing like their parents– more like white amorphous blobs with fuzz on them.

 

 

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I purchased a diaphragm coyote call a few months ago from MFK. I wanted to liven up the blog with some possible coyote photos and videos, and coyote hunting is one of those things I’ve always wanted to try.

It’s much harder than it looks, especially if the coyotes in your area don’t howl that much and are generally unresponsive to howls and other vocalizations.

However, I eventually did get lucky. I set up about 100 feet deeper down an Allegheny bench. I howled three times and let loose a few bitch-in-estrus whimpers.

I noticed some movement to my right. Something yellow was advancing across the bench opposite mine across a small ravine.

That’s when I knew it. I had a coyote coming in. I just got ready for him to come up from the ravine. What follows is, well, pretty hard to believe. If I didn’t have the photos and the video proof, I still wouldn’t believe it.

This is not a zoo animal. This is backwoods West Virginia, and this is a very wild Eastern coyote from a population that is as pressured as any on the East Coast.

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So calm and relaxed that he stops to scratch an itch!

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He paced around me for about ten minutes. He was looking for the bitch. If he started to wander off, I would just whimper a bit through the diaphragm, and he’d come back.

This is one of those moments when you realize how great it is to be alive.

Too look into those wild yet sagacious brush wolf eyes is to be taken back to a time when the only dogs were wild ones.

It was  my pleasure to have had this opportunity.

I met a wild one.

And it doesn’t seem real.

 

 

 

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