Scary big cat spotted in UK public park turned out to be a plushie

Residents of Steyning, a small rural town in southeast England, spotted a big cat resembling a panther in a public park. They summoned police who bravely approached the animal. From a police tweet on the matter:

Reports of a large apex predator in the Steyning area turned out to be true," explained the Horsham Police department on Twitter while sharing a photo of the 'big cat' still lumbering onto the park bench. "It may be a stuffed toy," they wrote, "but the attending officers didn't necessarily know that at first."

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Watch these penguins enjoy a bubble machine

Animal keepers at Newquay Zoo in Cornwall, UK installed a bubble machine in the penguin habitat to delight the birds. All that's missing is the Lawrence Welk Orchestra playing on the speakers. From South West News Service:

"The birds are usually kept occupied by feeding shows and guests visiting the zoo, but due to coronavirus their daily routine was forced to change. Staff at Newquay Zoo in Cornwall were trying to find a way to keep them entertained, and then someone kindly donated a bubble machine."

(via Laughing Squid) Read the rest

Red Lobster saves blue lobster

According to the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine, there's a one in 2 million chance of catching a blue lobster. The very rare crustaceans have a genetic defect that causes the unusual tint. In Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Red Lobster employees noticed a blue lobster in their daily delivery and contacted the Akron Zoo. They named it Clawde after the restaurant mascot. From the Akron Beacon Journal:

Zoo spokeswoman Elena Bell said a conservation partnership called Seafood Watch run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California helped to coordinate the donation of the rare American lobster.

The lobster has been put into isolation in a so-called Man Cave tank at the zoo before it can join its new friends who call the Komodo Kingdom building home.

(Thanks, Charles Pescovitz!) Read the rest

Audobon's Birds of America art released as free, high-res downloads for printing

The National Audubon Society has released all of John James Audubon's magnificent watercolors from his classic work Birds of America (1827-1838) as free, high-resolution downloads for printing. The 435 life-size watercolors in the collection were "all reproduced from hand-engraved plates, and is considered to be the archetype of wildlife illustration." Each image's web page is accompanied by Audubon's wonderful first-person descriptions of the animal.

John J. Audubon's "Birds of America" image downloads (Thanks, Bob Pescovitz!)

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Weird fish with human mouth

This mouthy triggerfish was reportedly caught in Malaysia. According to National Geographic, triggerfish "use very tough teeth and jaws to take on sea urchins, flipping them over to get at their bellies, which are armed with fewer spines."

(New York Post)

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An author wrote a beautiful tribute to his late dog disguised as writing advice

I've known Literary Agent/author Eric Smith as an editor and friend for about a decade now; I even wrote a review of his most recent novel, the delightful Don't Read the Comments, right here on BoingBoing.

Sadly, Smith recently had to put down his beloved corgi, Augie, after five and a half sweet years together. And while losing a dog is always hard, Smith penned a beautiful tribute to his short-legged companion — in the form of writing advice. It begins thus:

When it comes to crafting the perfect story, advice tends to be fairly subjective. What might work for some writers, won’t necessarily work for others.

But these specific rules… they worked for me.

Let’s discuss.

First and foremost, at the very start of your story, you want to make the introduction of your character memorable. After-all, the beginning sets the tone for the entire narrative. Readers are going to remember two major things when they walk away. The beginning and the end. And we’ll revisit this idea later.

Basically, you should find a way to surprise us.

Yes, that video is part of it. So you get the idea. It continues like that, all the way through the end of the storytelling process. The final result is not only a clear and succinct collection of good advice for good storytelling, but also an absolutely tear-jerking tribute to who was clearly a very sweet pup who lived a life full of love.

If you love dogs, or storytelling, or crying, or any combination thereof, I suggest you read it. Read the rest

Photo of a freaky human-sized bat

OK, this bat, said to have been photographed in the Philippines, may very well be "human sized" as it's been described, but a more specific description is likely "human child sized." In any case, it's pretty damn huge, with a reported wingspan of 5.58 feet. The freaky photo went viral (again) this week but Snopes first addressed it last year. From Snopes:

We have not been able to positively identify the species of bat shown in this image, but it is frequently circulated with captions naming it as a “Golden Crowned Flying Fox” (Acerodon jubatus), also known as the golden-capped fruit bat — although the animal in this picture doesn’t appear to have the golden fur around its head that species is known for. It’s possible this image actually shows another species of megabat, called fruit bats or old world fruit bats, such as the Large flying fox (Pteropus vampyrus).

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Cannabis dispensary giving free CBD dog treats to reduce fireworks anxiety

The Toledo Hemp Dispensary in Ohio is offering free CBD dog treats this week to help reduce animal anxiety triggered by fireworks. Every treat contains 10 milligrams of CBD. Good for the dogs and for the business, it seems.

"Most people come back every year and tell their friends so they come and try it," dispensary manager Payton De Moe told 13ABC. "Most people if they try it on the first, come back and get a bag for the next few days because with it on the weekend people are going to be doing (fireworks) the whole weekend."

Ooooh. Ahhhh.

image: modified version of "Kintamani dog white" by lmk0278 (public domain) Read the rest

Woman gored after approaching bison in Yellowstone National Park

The National Park Service reports that a 72-year-old woman repeatedly came within ten feet of a bison Yellowstone National Park to take a photo, and was gored by the animal.

From a Park Service Statement:

After a 72-year-old woman from California approached within 10 feet of a bison multiple times to take its photo, the animal gored her. The incident occurred on the evening of June 25, 2020, at the female’s campsite at Bridge Bay Campground. Rangers provided immediate medical care to the woman who sustained multiple goring wounds. She was then flown via helicopter to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center. “The series of events that led to the goring suggest the bison was threatened by being repeatedly approached to within 10 feet,” said Yellowstone’s Senior Bison Biologist Chris Geremia. “Bison are wild animals that respond to threats by displaying aggressive behaviors like pawing the ground, snorting, bobbing their head, bellowing, and raising their tail. If that doesn’t make the threat (in this instance it was a person) move away, a threatened bison may charge. To be safe around bison, stay at least 25 yards away, move away if they approach, and run away or find cover if they charge.”

Image: NPS / Jacob W. Frank Read the rest

WATCH: Rescued sloth bears are having fun learning to be free

These rescued sloth bears in India are having fun just being safe. In India, there is a long tradition of animal abuse with this species. Read the rest

Watch: Komodo dragons vs. Robot Spy Pig

BBC Earth's "Spy in the Wild" series (also on PBS) uses animatronic animals outfitted with miniature cameras to capture wildlife close up. In this gripping scene, Komodo dragons meet the Robot Spy Pig. Guess who wins.

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Chicken enjoys riding bicycle with human

This unusual chicken enjoys joining their human for a relaxing bike ride. Read the rest

Dog has a funny greeting for her humans when they come home

“The greeting we get every time we come home!!!!” Read the rest

Watch this street fight: Ninja rat vs. cat

A bit of a cliffhanger, although I feel like the cat is not particularly impressed by Splinter's flashy fighting style.

Also, the way they trot off together makes me think there may be a Tom & Jerry dynamic at play here. Read the rest

Cute bear cubs play-fight at South Dakota wildlife park

These two little bear cubs are play-fighting, but they look beary serious. Read the rest

King Penguin poop is rich in laughing gas

The poop of King Penguins releases high levels of nitrous oxide, aka laughing gas. An international team of researchers from China, Denmark, and the UK were studying how the retreat of glaciers and penguins activity impact soil greenhouse gases on South Georgia, an island north of Antarctica. They observed that the penguin guano is rich in nitrogen that, when it interacts with bacteria in the soil, is converted into nitrous oxide. From CNN:

"It is truly intense," said Bo Elberling, an author of the study. He noted it's not an insignificant amount, either -- the emissions measure about 100 times more than a recently fertilized Danish field. There was enough emitted nitrous, in fact, that one researcher went "completely cuckoo," while "nosing about in guano for several hours," Elberling said...

"The small nitrous oxide cylinders that you see lying in and floating around Copenhagen are no match for this heavy dose, which results from a combination of nitrous oxide with hydrogen sulphide and other gases," he added, referring to the containers designed for whipped cream but often used as a recreational drug.

"Combined effects of glacial retreat and penguin activity on soil greenhouse gas fluxes on South Georgia, sub-Antarctica" (Science of the Total Environment)

image: transformation of original photo by Andrew Shiva (CC BY-SA 4.0) Read the rest

Dogs will obey commands from social robots

Will dogs obey commands from robots? In IEEE Spectrum, Evan Ackerman writes that "Yale University’s Social Robotics Lab led by Brian Scassellati presented a paper taking the first step towards determining whether dogs, which are incredibly good at understanding social behaviors in humans, see human-ish robots as agents—or more specifically, whether dogs see robots more like humans (which they obey), or more like speaker systems (which they don’t)."

Spoiler: The dogs do respond to the robot's commands much more frequently than they obey the voice from the speaker system, even if the experiment appeared to baffle the animals.

From IEEE Spectrum:

We asked [lead researcher Meiyin] Qin whether she thought it would make a difference if the robot was more or less humanoid, how much of a face it had, whether it smelled like anything, and other traits that dogs might associate with human-ness. “Since dogs are very sensitive to human social cues, the robot being a humanoid or not may make a difference,” Qin says. “However, if a non-humanoid robot behaved like an agent (e.g., behaved like a dog, or exhibit any social behaviors), dogs may also respond in a social manner.”

She explained that, in terms of whether the robot has eyes or not, or smells like a person, these factors could also impact how dogs respond to the robot. But Qin adds that the researchers need further evidence to give a more affirmative answer. “Whether the robot moves or not could affect the dogs differently,” she says.

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