PHOTOGRAPH BY CRAIG F. WALKER, THE BOSTON GLOBE/GETTY IMAGES
PHOTOGRAPH BY CRAIG F. WALKER, THE BOSTON GLOBE/GETTY IMAGES
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Calming jittery pets while fireworks explode

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By Rachael Bale, ANIMALS Executive Editor

We just adopted a dog. His name is Sherman, he’s a three-year-old corgi, and he has an adorable butt wiggle when he’s excited. Sherman had been left in the overnight drop of an animal shelter, with a bad skin infection and a note from his anonymous former owners that said, “Very sweet and loving dog. Please find him a good, loving home. He deserves the best.”

The rescue organization that my mom works with, New Beginnings for Animals, pulled him from the shelter, got him veterinary care, and then found him his forever home—which turned out to be with me, my husband, and our cat.

With the Fourth of July coming up, I’ve been worried. He’s been through so many changes, and the sound of fireworks exploding can be terrifying to even the most secure of dogs (pictured above, a doggie before a Fourth of July celebration in 2018 in Boston). Every year after the holiday, I hear countless stories about pets that got scared and escaped during the commotion of the fireworks. Is Sherman going to be OK? (This year, much of the U.S. has seen an extended fireworks season. Residents in dozens of cities and neighborhoods around the country have reported hearing fireworks almost nightly for weeks.)

It’s not just pets who may become anxious around fireworks. For combat veterans, refugees from conflict zones, and victims of gun violence, the sound of fireworks can trigger a panic attack or flashbacks of a traumatic event. People with autism and other sensory processing or anxiety disorders may also struggle.

The good news for us is that Sherman turns out to be easily the most laid-back dog I’ve ever met. He doesn’t glance twice at our cat, and he’s walked past rabbits in our front yard like they don’t exist. Doorbells, other dogs’ barks, and the slam of the screen door barely elicit an ear twitch. If I had to guess, I’d say he’s barely going to notice fireworks. Show him a piece of turkey, though…

This Fourth of July, keep your pets safe and check out the American Veterinary Medical Association’s tips. For resources about PTSD, anxiety disorders, and fireworks, check out this University of Miami health blog post.

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Potentially deadly bile: A snow petrel aggressively pursues a nesting competitor along the high cliffs of interior Antarctica. The orange substance on the leading bird is bile that's been regurgitated by the bird in pursuit. This potentially can be a death sentence, as it removes the oil on feathers that helps keep the bird buoyant while swimming at sea. These birds are nesting roughly 200 miles from the ocean, and every three to five days they make the arduously long flight to the ocean to collect food for their nesting chicks, photographer Keith Ladzinski says. The ability to float in water provides a time to rest and to collect food—without the necessary oil, it can result in an exhausted bird drowning. More than 260,000 people “liked” this photo on our main Instagram account.

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Today in a minute

Roadkill rates: They’ve gone down for some wildlife during the height of the lockdown, thanks to many drivers staying off the roads, a new study finds. Fatal collisions with deer, elk, moose, bears, mountain lions, and other large wild animals fell by as much as 58 percent. Road deaths of dogs, sheep, and other domestic animals show a similar plunge, Cheryl Katz reports for Nat Geo.

Manatees: Deaths of the gentle giants in Florida are up 20 percent, the Guardian reports. Conservationists are facing unexpected challenges in the face of the coronavirus, including more unsafe boating activity, delays to environmental project launches, and unfavorable changes in public policy.

The oldest dog breed? That could be the fluffy, curly-tailed Greenland sled dog, which emerged 9,500 years ago and likely evolved from Eurasian wolves. That’s the word from scientists who sequenced the genome of a dog from Siberia’s Zhokhtov archaeological site, Jason Bittel reports for Nat Geo. The finding provides the “first firm date for diversification in dogs,” says paleogeneticist Mikkel-Holger Sinding.

Helping out moms: Moms aren’t bottlenose dolphins’ only teachers—peers help out too, a new study of the marine animals says. Researchers observed the dolphins off Australia’s coast showing each other hunting techniques. Before, scientists have found peer learning only in humans and great apes, Liz Langley reports for Nat Geo.

The big takeaway

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How do porcupines mate? Very carefully, goes the old joke. The latest National Geographic magazine describes the tree fights, urine squirts, and quill covering behind the conception of every baby porcupine. Above, a female porcupine. (Your curator learned that there’s usually only one baby porcupine per seven-month gestation period, and the proper term is porcupette.) Subscribers can read all about it here.

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The last glimpse

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Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-owl peeking out from saguaro nest cavity

Saving the pygmy owl: It prowls Arizona, one of America’s fastest growing states. The six-inch catcus ferruginous pygmy owl is one of the most ferocious raptors of its size, but conservationists say it may not be able to keep up with urban sprawl, a border fence, and climate change. Its range has shrunk to the 20-mile-wide Altar Valley, which extends to the U.S.-Mexico border. While officials debate protecting it, the Phoenix Zoo, in partnership with Wild At Heart Raptor Rescue, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department, is breeding pygmy owls in captivity, Shaena Montanari reports for Nat Geo.

This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard, with photo selections by Jen Tse. Have an idea or a link? We'd love to hear from you at david.beard@natgeo.com . Thanks for reading!