Survey Says: Gray Seals Are Back

Andreas Trepte, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.5
Andreas Trepte, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.5

Scientists have used Google Earth to count New England’s gray seals, and the news is good: The digital survey spotted tens of thousands of animals, far more than previously estimated. The researchers published their findings in the journal Bioscience.

The same features and behaviors that help gray seals survive—their snow- and ice-colored coats, along with their strong swimming skills—can also make them hard for scientists to find. It's important that we find them, and not just because they're so very cute.

Accurate surveys of wildlife populations are crucial not only to scientific understanding of how the world works but also in creating policy measures that will help keep that wildlife safe.

Historically, researchers have done their counting the old-fashioned way: first on foot, seal by seal, then by motor vehicle, then by flying planes over the hauled-out seal families as they lay on the beaches and ice.

Previous aerial surveys of New England populations spotted about 15,000 seals off the southeastern coast of Massachusetts. But scientists were pretty sure they were overlooking at least a few animals.

For a different perspective, they tapped into Google Earth and scoured the beaches, the ice, and the frigid waters where the seals spend so much of their time. They overlaid these images with radio tracking data, and the combination provided a far fuller view of the seals’ world.

Google Earth image of the New England coastline, complete with tiny seals on the beach.
Google Earth/Duke University

Reviewing the results, the researchers discovered that the aerial surveys had, in fact, missed a few animals. All right, more than a few—more like 15,000 to 35,000. The Google Earth/radio data survey easily doubled and could triple previous estimates.

“Computer-based assessments of seal populations such as this hold great promise in terms of accuracy and repeatability,” study co-author David W. Johnston of Duke University said in a statement.

“This is a conservation success that should celebrated.”

New York City Falcon Cam Reveals Nest With Four Eggs

BrianEKushner, iStock via Getty Images
BrianEKushner, iStock via Getty Images

The urban jungle of New York City supports a vibrant wildlife population. One animal that calls the city home is the peregrine falcon, once an endangered species, that has been seen around downtown Manhattan for decades. Recently, a livestream of the falcons of 55 Water Street revealed that one of them is about to be a mom.

The camera on top of the skyscraper at 55 Water Street peers into a falcon nesting site, and a female peregrine falcon there has been displaying incubating behaviors since at least late March, according to the Downtown Alliance's blog. It was assumed she had laid eggs, though this wasn't confirmed until she flew away from her nest on the afternoon of March 31. Her absence left four eggs in clear view of the building's bird camera.

It also created some concern among viewers. When female falcons leave the nest to hunt, the father usually takes over incubating duties—something that didn't happen in this case. Fortunately, the mother wasn't gone long enough to put her eggs in any real danger. She returned later that afternoon, and is currently nesting right where the internet can see her.

Peregrine falcon eggs need to be incubated for about 33 days, so expect to see them hatch sometime within the next month. In the meantime, here are some more animal livestreams to check out.

Busch Is Donating Three Months’ Worth of Beer to People Who Adopt or Foster Shelter Dogs During the Coronavirus Pandemic

This dog can turn a foster home into a forever home with one slobbery smile.
This dog can turn a foster home into a forever home with one slobbery smile.
Nataba/iStock via Getty Images

If getting to play with a happy, lovable pup isn’t already enough of an incentive to foster or adopt a shelter dog, Busch is throwing in a bonus—three months’ worth of free beer.

CNN reports that the “Foster a Dog, Get Busch” deal is available to the first 500 people who foster or adopt from Midwest Animal Rescue & Services (MARS) in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. Fostering is free, and adoption costs between $200 and $600 (which covers all required vetting services, including deworming, vaccines, spaying or neutering, and more).

The offer is meant to encourage folks to help animals in need at a time when many shelters are canceling adoption events or temporarily shutting down to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. According to People, Busch is donating an additional $25,000 to MARS to keep the animals safe and cared for.

“During these uncertain and lonelier times, people need an escape: cue the cute puppy memes and photos,” a Busch spokesperson told People. “But as much as we need those cute puppy pics to help get us through social distancing, it’s actually them who need us.”

If you’re interested in hanging out with a MARS rescue and a refreshing bottle of Busch, you can apply to foster a dog here. Once you’ve finished the process and received a confirmation email from the shelter, you should send a screenshot of that email to Busch through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram before April 25. (Since only the first 500 people will be able to claim your prize, we recommend passing along that confirmation email as soon as you get it.) Busch will respond to winners via social media and send them each a prepaid debit card for $100.

You can take Busch’s advice and use it to buy a hefty supply of alcohol, or you can spend it on something else that’ll help pass the time during self-isolation—like a pop culture subscription box, or products for an indoor garden.

[h/t CNN]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER