Woman and two small children next to a creek
Interspecies Connections
February 17, 2020

The Very Slow Adventure

— By Ann Loyola — The trail to the pebbly beach was a short distance, maybe 400 yards at most. It was a skinny dirt path weaving flatly through pines and aspens,...

Close up of a bison calf's face

-- by Susan B. Eirich, Ph.D. -- There was a national sadness at the euthanizing of a baby bison in Yellowstone last May. It was taken away from its herd by well-meaning but ill-informed tourists, and the rangers made the decision to kill it when it couldn’t be introduced back. It was causing difficulties running up to cars looking for help. We all become a bit traumatized by news like this. There have been radically different responses to this highly emotional event. An environmental educator wrote in response to what she perceived as cruel attacks on the tourists through social media. She talks about the basically loving, concerned impulse of the tourists, however misguided, and how it...

Two brown and white spotted eggs sitting in rocks, grass, and leaves

Jean sensed something was wrong. He was using the backhoe to dig a pond for our new beaver rehabilitation project. He noticed two killdeer running on the ground and fluttering their wings as if wounded, trying to attract his attention. He suddenly realized, "There's a nest somewhere here!" They were trying to lure him away with the promise of themselves as prey. He was digging for a good cause---to save beaver. But apparently the birds had decided this is where they were going to have their family. He stopped the backhoe and got out to look for the nest. The ground was all rocks and killdeer eggs are perfectly camouflaged for that setting. He could look for a long time and not see them....

Beaver eating leaves in a pond

Beavers are charming and fascinating creatures. Dr. Donald Griffin, the father of animal cognition, notes, "When we think of the kinds of animal behavior that suggest conscious thinking, the beaver comes naturally to mind." They perform their incredible engineering feats not just through instinct, but through imitation and experience. But even more than that they are incredibly important ecologically, a fact we have belatedly recognized. Called nature’s finest wetland engineer, professional human water engineers study them for water management. Beavers reliably, and economically, maintain wetlands that sponge up floodwaters, alleviate droughts and floods, lessen erosion, raise the water...

Coyote standing against dark background with crossed legs

— by Susan Eirich, Ph.D. — One day some time ago, one of our fine supporters, Judith Austin, called us. Could she bring a friend over to visit the animals? He was a very special childhood friend who loved animals. Judith had been good to us over the years, so of course we said yes. She arrived on the property with this massive man who had been a famous---and famously aggressive---NFL football player named “Adam.”* A little taken aback, we took him around to meet the animals. He stood silently overlooking the Wildlife Garden as he watched the wolves play; met Bluebell the Bison and the bears. Our first assumption was that he would be attracted to the large, powerful animals. Then...

Close up of bear feet

— by Susan Eirich, Ph.D. — There are places in Yellowstone National Park where alternating grizzly bear footsteps are worn deep into the earth, forming trails that lead to very specific sites at geothermal vents. These footsteps are almost sculpted into the ground as each bear places its foot precisely into the tracks of its predecessor, rubbing its feet sideways in each track. Arriving at the site, the bears begin to eat the soil, high in potassium and sulfur. One theory is that the sulfur helps rejuvenate their digestive system after the long inactivity of hibernation, and they may be low in potassium after their winter’s fast. How do they know to go there? Does each bear...

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