By Rachael Bale, ANIMALS Executive Editor
The first day of summer is almost here, and people are eager to get out in nature. National parks in the U.S. are slowly starting to open, and that means wildlife once again will be sharing their habitat with tourists. Already some trails are crowded and people are behaving recklessly. And I’m not talking about a lack of social distancing from fellow humans in the parks, as my colleague George Stone has noted.
Here’s the thing: People aren’t keeping their distance from wildlife.
There already has been at least one injury this season because someone wanted to get up close and personal with a dangerous animal in a park: In Yellowstone last month, a woman was knocked down by a bison after getting too close. (Above, a bison at Yellowstone's Upper Geyser Basin.)
With that in mind, please do not touch/feed/attempt to take selfies with wild animals. Squirrels look cute, but they won’t hesitate to bite. Bison look slow-moving, but they’ll charge in a split second. Elk will gore you, and moose will trample you. No matter how long you’ve been stuck inside your home, don’t greet alligators. And bears ... well, everyone knows bears can be dangerous.
To stay safe around wildlife, use common sense and give animals a lot of room. If you want more information, check out our safety tips and our guide on how to photograph wildlife ethically. Remember, approaching an animal doesn’t just put you at risk—it puts the animal at risk, too.
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Today in a minute
Pinker flamingos: Flamingos that are pinker tend to be healthier and more sought after by mates, but a new study indicates they also are more apt to start fights. That’s because the healthier birds spend more time vying for food and eating it, said researchers, who focused on lesser flamingos (pictured above, in Kenya), the smallest of the six flamingo species. One insight from the study for keepers of captive flamingos: Give the birds more space so fewer food fights break out, Virginia Morell reports for Nat Geo.
A reprieve: For decades, China’s list of approved traditional medicines included scales from the pangolin, the world’s most trafficked nonhuman mammal. This year, however, the authorities have spared the scaly anteater-like animal, which is facing extinction. Days earlier, China had upgraded pangolins to the status given to the nation’s beloved panda—a status that prohibits almost all domestic trade and use of the animals, Nat Geo’s Dina Fine Maron reports.
Best friend (and early warning system): A new study finds that dogs carry the similar chemical loads as their owners, but they will get chemical-related diseases faster. That information could be useful as scientists seek to offer guidance for people exposed to certain chemicals, researcher Catherine Wise tells Nat Geo. With COVID-19 restrictions keeping people at home more, she said, the importance of “our shared environment has never been so great."
Once barbaric, soon to be legal: Reversing an Obama administration rule, the National Park Service is allowing the killing of wolves and coyotes in Alaska, including pups, during the season when mothers wean their young. The park service is also letting hunters use dogs to track down bears. The switch, promoted by big-game hunters including Donald Trump, Jr., affects Alaska public lands and is to take effect in July, the New York Times reports. Among the tactics now allowed: Gunning down swimming caribou from motorboats. Baiting grizzly bears with doughnuts. Using spotlights to blind and shoot hibernating black bear mothers and their cubs.
There’s a reason: Why, you might ask, do baby froglets erupt from the back of a Suriname toad? Well, the mother toad protects the babies before hatching by carrying them around, leaving them less vulnerable to egg predators, Jake Buehler explains for Nat Geo. Jake also addresses the nine-month pregnancy of female Nimba toads.
Playdate: With all this serious stuff in the world, here’s a change of pace: A deer and a dog in western Pennsylvania, separated by a chainlink fence, are mimicking each other’s moves, as you can see from this short video. “I’m not sure which is cuter, the dog and deer, or the little girl narrating this video,” one fan writes.
Your Instagram photo of the day
Here’s looking at you: The face of a carpenter bee, found while camping on Little St. Simons Island, off the coast of Georgia. Photographer Anand Varma captured this image while on an expedition to explore the resiliency of coastal areas. “As a kid growing up in Georgia, I loved exploring this wild coastline,” Anand says. “It was only on this recent trip that I learned that Georgia has some of the best preserved habitat for native wildlife on the eastern shore of the United States.”
Subscriber exclusive: Photos from inside a tree reveal intimate lives of wild honeybees
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The big takeaway
What’s driving the illegal jaguar trade? Increased Chinese investment is likely linked to intensified hunting of the jaguars of Central and South America. A new paper finds that from 2012 to early 2018 in Central and South America, more than 800 jaguars were killed for their teeth, skins, and skulls to be smuggled to China. That number represents only the shipments that law enforcement has intercepted and that have been reported in the media, Nat Geo reports. The cats are rapidly declining in population and have lost half of their habitat to sprawl and deforestation. The findings show a tie to the recent influx of Chinese workers supporting megaprojects such as new roads and dams. The new study finds that jaguar teeth are the most commonly seized parts going to China. Above, a jaguar along a riverbank in Brazil’s Mato Grosso del Sur state.
Subscriber exclusive: On the trail of the jaguar poachers
In a few words
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On Friday, Whitney Johnson covers the latest in photography news. If you’re not a subscriber, sign up here to also get Debra Adams Simmons on history, George Stone on travel, and Victoria Jaggard on science.
The last glimpse
Shark vs. squid: That’s a giant squid that likely left these golf-ball-sized suction marks (pictured, upper right) on a seven-foot-long oceanic whitetip shark. The encounter took place deep in the Pacific off Hawaii’s Kona coast, writes Joshua Rapp Learn for Nat Geo. The photo was the first researchers had seen of such an encounter. Though whitetips can make deep dives, they mostly hunt near the surface, and have been known to prey on smaller squid species. This giant squid, researchers say, could have stretched its tentacles 27 feet long,
Subscriber exclusive: Witnessing a shark frenzy in French Polynesia