Villagers in Kazakhstan use 'guard wolves' for protection

Mr Zhylkyshybay says he takes his wolf, Kurtka, for walks through the village
Villagers in Kazakhstan are increasingly turning to an unusual animal to guard their land - wolves, it's been reported.

"You can buy a wolf cub for just $500 (£320), they say, and hunters are adamant that if treated well the wild animal can be tamed," the KTK television channel reports. Nurseit Zhylkyshybay, from the south-eastern Almaty region, tells the channel he bought a wolf cub, Kurtka, from hunters three years ago, and the animal is perfectly happy wandering the yard of his house. "He's never muzzled, I rarely put him on a chain and do take him for regular walks around the village. Our family and neighbours aren't scared of him at all," Mr Zhylkyshybay insists. "If the wolf is well fed and cared for, he won't attack you, although he does eat a lot more than a dog."


New bizarre-looking species breaks record for world's deepest fish

Aberdeen University researchers have set a new record for the deepest fish ever found (shown in red ring)
A never-before-seen fish has been caught on camera, setting a new depth record in the Pacific Ocean.

The world's deepest fish was captured on camera at depths of 8,145 meters (26,700 feet) in the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean. The newest discovery breaks a depth record set in 2008 by nearly 500 meters (1,640 feet).

The previously unknown creature, believed to be a snailfish, was filmed several times floating along the sea floor. It is a white translucent fish with an eel-like tale and wing-like fins.


Snowy owl sightings on the rise across the upper US

If you have a passion for birds or even if you're so-so about them, you're going to love this. All the indicators are present telling us this year is going to be witness to another snowy owl eruption across the upper United States. That means for us up here on the Range, too!

Last year, 2013-2014, we saw what was possibly the largest eruption of snowy owls during the last century. This year could be even better. There have already been 44 snowy owls reported in Minnesota alone.

There are different theories on why Snowy Owls leave the Arctic. Some believe that due to such great nesting success, a shortage of food forces the younger owls to leave the area in search of better hunting territories. Others believe the younger owls leave because they have not perfected their hunting skills yet and would not be able to survive competing among older, wiser owls. No matter the reason, what this really means to most of us is this will be a great winter to get out and see one of these beautiful visitors from the Arctic Tundra.

Rare Arctic gyrfalcon seen in Madbury, New Hampshire

© Hanne & Jens Eriksen/VIREO
Gyrfalcon travels south from normal Arctic range

The largest of the falcons, a rare gyrfalcon, was seen in Madbury during the past week, according to the Audubon Society's rare bird alert.

Fast like a peregrine falcon and wearing a faint mustache, gyrfalcons live in the Arctic.

According to the Peregrine Fund, the birds of prey are very sensitive to changes in the environment.

The group said pesticides, loss of habitat or a decrease in prey can affect populations of gyrfalcons.
Cloud Lightning

Birds may detect approaching storm from 900km away by infrasound waves

© Alamy
The golden-winged warblers may have picked up infrasound from tornadoes, which travels through the ground.
A group of songbirds may have avoided a devastating storm by fleeing their US breeding grounds after detecting telltale infrasound waves.

Researchers noticed the behaviour after analysing trackers attached to the birds to study their migration patterns. They believe it is the first documented case of birds making detours to avoid destructive weather systems on the basis of infrasound.

The golden-winged warblers had just returned from South America to their breeding grounds in the mountains of Tennessee in 2013 when a massive storm was edging closer. Although the birds had just completed a migration of more than 2,500km, they still had the energy to evade the danger.

The storm, which spawned more than 80 tornadoes across the US and killed 35 people, was 900km away when the birds, apparently acting independently of one another, fled south, with one bird embarking on a 1,500km flight to Cuba before making the return trip once the storm had passed.
Black Cat

First mountain lion seen in Kentucky since before the Civil War shot by wildlife officer

© US Fish and Wildlife Service.
A Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife officer killed a mountain lion on a Bourbon County farm on Monday, marking the first confirmed sighting of a mountain lion in Kentucky since before the Civil War, said Mark Marraccini, a spokesman for the agency.

Marraccini said a farmer spotted the cat in a tree and alerted the department. When the officer responded, he found the animal had been trapped in different tree by a barking dog and decided it was best to "dispatch it."

Mountain lions were once native to Kentucky but they were killed off here more than a century ago, Marraccini said.

Mountain lions are the largest cats found in North America and can measure up to eight feet from nose to tail and weigh up to 180 pounds. Also known as cougars, pumas, panthers and catamounts, the cats are considered top-line predators because no other species feed on them.

Comment: Just in case the reader thinks this killing might be an exceptional or isolated incident undertaken by a wildlife officer, then take a look at this article: Out of control: USDA's Wildlife Services killed 4 million animals in 2013 (including 345 pumas)

Also this story: Wildlife officers kill four mountain lions in Black Hills, South Dakota

Arrow Up

Carnivore Comeback: Bear and wolf populations are thriving in Europe

© Kjell Isaksen
A female brown bear (Ursus arctos) with three yearlings in Gutulia National Park in Hedmark, South East Norway.
Despite having half the land area of the contiguous United States and double the population density, Europe is home to twice as many wolves as the U.S.

A new study finds that Europe's other large carnivores are experiencing a resurgence in their numbers, too - and mostly in nonprotected areas where the animals coexist alongside humans. The success is owed to cross-border cooperation, strong regulations and a public attitude that brings wildlife into the fold with human society, rather than banishing it to the wilderness, according to study leader Guillaume Chapron, a professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences' Grimsö Wildlife Research Station.

In Europe, "we don't have unspoiled, untouched areas," Chapron told Live Science. "But what is interesting is, that does not mean we do not have carnivores. Au contraire; we have many carnivores."

Crows join humans, apes and monkeys in exhibiting advanced rational thinking

© Lomonosov Moscow University.
Study finds crows spontaneously solve higher-order relational-matching tasks.
Crows have long been heralded for their high intelligence -- they can remember faces, use tools and communicate in sophisticated ways.

But a newly published study finds crows also have the brain power to solve higher-order, relational-matching tasks, and they can do so spontaneously. That means crows join humans, apes and monkeys in exhibiting advanced relational thinking, according to the research.

Russian researcher Anna Smirnova studies a crow making the correct selection during a relational matching trial.

"What the crows have done is a phenomenal feat," says Ed Wasserman, a psychology professor at the University of Iowa and corresponding author of the study. "That's the marvel of the results. It's been done before with apes and monkeys, but now we're dealing with a bird; but not just any bird, a bird with a brain as special to birds as the brain of an apes is special to mammals."
Arrow Down

Reindeer populations are on the decline worldwide

Reindeer populations are in trouble around the world, and in China, the iconic animals are on the decline largely because of inbreeding, according to new research.

Some folklorists say Christmas tales of flying reindeer may have originated as a hallucination, with one theory claiming the inspiration for Santa Claus came from shamans who would give out bags of hallucinatory mushrooms in late December in the Siberian and Arctic regions. But, nonflying reindeer are very real and an important part of northern ecosystems.

Reindeer populations currently live in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Canada, Alaska, Russia, Mongolia and China, and populations across the board are declining. In the new study, researchers from Renmin University in Beijing focused on the reindeer population in China, which has declined about 28 percent since the 1970s.

Birds in central Michigan are dying due to decades-old DDT pollution

© Teri Kniffen's video
American robin found in Kniffen's neighbor's yard in 2014. Volunteers collect the birds to have them tested for neurotoxicity.
All this week we're bringing you stories about the chemical company responsible for the PBB tragedy in Michigan. Michigan Chemical accidentally contaminated the state's food supply in the 1970s, but the legacy of that company is still very much with us today.

Michigan Chemical - which later became Velsicol Chemical - made more than just PBB, and it left these toxic chemicals behind in St. Louis, Michigan.

One woman insists something is wrong with the birds

Teri Kniffen and her family moved to St. Louis in 1994. She had heard about Velsicol Chemical and the PBB tragedy in Michigan, but when they bought their house, they didn't realize they were moving right next to where the old plant site was buried.

In 2001, she started noticing dying robins in her yard.

"When I'd go out in the backyard, and get near them, they wouldn't move," says Kniffen. "They just would stagger around the yard, and they'd end up dying."

Kniffen said she would find around 10 to 12 dead birds a year - mostly American robins. She said she tried to get officials from the MDEQ and the EPA to test the birds, but they mostly ignored her. An MDEQ official told her to collect the dead birds in her freezer, but she says by the time they came to collect them four years later, she was told the birds could not be tested.

So two years ago, Kniffen had the birds tested herself at MSU, and the birds tested positive for acute DDT and DDE poisoning.

Kniffen videotaped the birds as well. Here's what she and her neighbors would see (this video might be disturbing for some viewers):