Beary good news from Mark Boersen, the Michigan biologist featured in Baby Bear’s Adoption

In 2018, Arbordale published the fascinating realistic fiction, Baby Bear’s Adoption. The beautifully illustrated book explains a remarkable adoption program that takes place in Michigan. (To be clear, it is, of course, about scientists helping mama bears adopt baby bears not people adopting bears!)

The book is based on the work of real-life wildlife biologist, Mark Boersen, and his team, at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, who safely place orphaned baby black bears with an adoptive family. As the narrative details, this is a multi-step process beginning with the very unusual process of placing an electronic collar on a large, denned mother bear in wintertime.  (Check out the bright collar on the big sleeping bear on the cover for a visual!)

Fortunately for the bears, Boersen and his team will continue to help cubs in need. In fact, Boersen has had quite the busy summer, placing an orphaned baby with a sow (mother bear) and her two cubs and tracking down another sow who had slipped out of her collar. 

This season, Boersen has added new tech to his bear toolbox—drones and drones with thermal camera. The flying equipment will save him and his team a tremendous number of hours walking the dense, snowy woods, seeking the bears’ locations. Once the leaves fall off the trees, he says, we can use the drones to look for curled up, warm bears, note their GPS coordinates and get to them much more quickly.

Want to learn more? You can read the multilingual digital version of this book for free all September in English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, French and Thai!

How are humans helping animals in need? National Wildlife Day

National Wildlife Day on September 4 brings an awareness of the plight of animals around the globe, whether in your own backyard or one you might see in a zoo or aquarium. Animals may need help for a variety of reasons, some of which are caused by humans and others not.

  • Development causes habitat loss and/or fragmentation.
  • Pollution may not only affect what animals eat and drink but some trash can trap animals and injur or kill them.
  • Injuries by car or other human-caused injuries (which may result in animal orphans)
  • Changing climate
  • Natural disasters
  • Some animals may just not survive their “childhood.” In some cases, the animals give birth to multiple young as the offspring may not be expected to survive. In other cases, it may be something like a bird falling out of a tree in your backyard.

Some of these issues may not just case an animal or two to be affected but entire animal species may be affected, or to become threatened, endangered, or even critically endangered. We certainly don’t want them to become extinct!

From fledgling birds falling from a tree, to breeding programs for endangered animals, there are “animal helpers” all around.

  • You might have a wildlife rehabilitator living near you! They are your “go-to people” for helping injured or orphaned animals you may find. They are trained and licensed to care for specific kinds of animals. The goal is to get these wild animals cared for and then released back into their natural environment. Sadly, not all animals can be released and they will then often be found at zoos, aquariums, and nature centers where they are cared for and protected so people can learn about them. You can learn more about these animal helpers by reading Baby Owl’s Rescue, Animal Helpers: Wildlife Rehabilitators and Animal Helpers: Raptor Centers.
  • Some animal helpers are very specialized like the folks at Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research who rush to oil spills to clean oil from the animals. You can read all about how they do that in River Rescue.
  • Then there are sanctuaries that take exotic pets (like big cats, bears, or even pigs) when the owners realize the animals aren’t safe to keep. These Animal Helpers: Sanctuaries may be affiliated with zoos or other non-profit organizations.
  • Some injured wildlife go to “animal hospitals” often affiliated with zoos, aquariums, or other non-profit organizations. The SC Aquarium has a sea turtle hospital that cares for a wide variety of sea turtles (Carolina’s Story: Sea Turtles Get Sick Too!) and places like The Marine Mammal Center specialize in sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals like Honey Girl: The Hawaiian Monk Seal or Astro: The Steller Sea Lion. As explained in the book, Astro refused to return to the wild and now has his “forever home” at the Mystic Aquarium where you can visit him.
  • Orphaned animals may also need help. Firefighters at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska saved The Lucky Litter wolf pups when a wildfire killed their mother. The pups found their forever home at the Minnesota Zoo. Kali (Kali’s Story: An Orphaned Polar Bear) travelled by snow mobile and then by plane to the Alaska Zoo, onto the Buffalo Zoo and again to his forever home at the Saint Louis Zoo. Go see him! One of the most fascinating animal adoption stories is featured in Baby Bear’s Adoption where biologists from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources trick a mother bear into adopting an orphaned cub! It’s nice to know that the little cub stayed wild. You can read this book in English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, French, and Thai this September at Arbordale’s Free eBook of the Month.
  • As mentioned in a previous blog, zoos and aquariums around the world are not just fun places to see animals but are very involved in conservation issues. Many Animal Helpers: Zoos and Animal Helpers: Aquariums participate in breeding programs to help endangered animals avoid extinction. Some of these programs have been highly successful in releasing the offspring into the wild. They educate visitors about animals and any conservation issues that may be affecting the animals and, in some cases, also support conservation projects for those animals in their native homelands. They are stewards of the animals in their care and take great pains to ensure the animals are kept healthy in mind and body. The animals are “enriched” through a variety of ways that you can read about in Primate School. When it is not in an animal’s best interest to remain at a location for some reason, the animal is moved to a better location. For example, elephants are very social animals and need herd mates. When Maggie Alaska’s Last Elephant was left alone after her herd-mate died, the Alaska Zoo sent her to the PAWS elephant sanctuary in California where she was happily accepted into a large herd.
  • Similar to or as part of breeding programs, head-starting programs raise some wildlife young until they are better prepared to live on their own in the wild. These animals are carefully raised to not interact with humans so they have a better chance at survival in the wild. While they may be fed, the feeding is done in such a way that they still have to find their own food. After a While Crocodile: Alexa’s Dairy shares how young Costa Rican students head start American crocodiles at their school and Turtles in my Sandbox features a young girl head starting diamondback terrapins.
  • Then there are volunteers that walk beaches every morning to look for sea-turtle nests during nesting season. They mark the nests so people don’t walk on them and, if the nest is below the high-tide line, they move the eggs to protect them. They watch the nests carefully and try to be there when the hatchlings make their big crawl to the ocean, keeping people and animals from disturbing them. You can read about that in Turtle Summer: A Journal for my Daughter.
  • Sometimes the animal helpers are locations giving endangered animals safe places to live. For example, critically endangered Florida panthers (Felina’s New Home) find safe places to live in the Everglades National Park and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Biologists study animals to learn as much as possible. This knowledge helps them (and us) better understand the animals and their needs so that we can all better protect them. Read how The Lizard Lady and the Pooper Snooper (and his scientist trainer) learn about, study, and care for critically endangered animals. A young girl and her biologist father explore the life cycle of salamanders and vernal ponds in Salamander Season. After studying and watching a few salamanders grow, they release them back to the wild.
  • Biologists aren’t the only ones who can study and learn about animals. There are several citizen science projects with which children and their families can participate! check out Bat Count and Moonlight Crab Count (horseshoe crabs). You can explore ways to participate in similar projects near you at SciStarter or CitizenScience.gov.

What are some other ways humans help care for wildlife? Feel free to share your story of how you help animals!

Year of the Toads?

By Jennifer Keats Curtis

Even after a book is published, the wondering does not stop.

A few years ago, my friend, J. Adam Frederick, and I wrote the book Salamander Season after he dragged me to a vernal pool to show me the light. Who knew amphibians could be so cool? Luckily for me, Adam is an environmental biologist and the Maryland Sea Grant, Assistant Director for Education at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology in Baltimore, Maryland. Not only is he happy to answer my questions, he always encourages them.

That is how I knew I could ask him about all the toads that I’ve seen around my house lately. So, I plucked him out of my favorites and called him. (Our ongoing joke is that nobody asks more questions than me. Still, he picked up.) I’ve been in the same house for six years and I’ve seen toads, skinks, and even a couple of treefrogs. But this year, there have been way more toads than I’ve ever seen. During our research of Salamander Season, I remembered Adam mentioning the sensitivity of amphibians to the environment so I called to tell him I’d been wondering if this could be a good sign.

Fortunately, the answer is yes. Adam says amphibians are excellent indicators of what is happening in our environment and as we squeeze their space with development and the use of chemicals that impact water quality, their decline continues. (Plus, it’s been warm and rainy, which the toads also like.)

“I wonder” is often embedded in school lessons to recognize students’ connections and to encourage curiosity. Looks like you don’t have to be a school kid to appreciate the technique, especially if you have a scientist on speed dial.

If you are looking for amphibian-related curriculum or more information, here are a few links. If you know of others, please share in the comments below to help other educators, thanks.

National Science Teacher Association for grades K-4: Amphibian Curriculum

Want to read more? Check out this article about Carroll County (MD) students raising salamanders: https://www.mdsg.umd.edu/onthebay-blog/host-most-raising-marylands-spotted-salamander-larvae-students-study-unique-example

Eastern American Toad on JKC’s deck…one of many this summer.

How would YOU weigh an elephant?

Zoo animal curators and veterinarians constantly monitor animals to ensure they stay healthy in mind and body. Just as humans have regular health physicals, so do animals. I suspect we can all relate that one of the first (dreadful) things we do during a health screening is to step onto a scale. So how do zoos weigh large animals like elephants?

Thanks to George Richey and the Birmingham Zoo for these photos showing how they weigh elephants today. In the photo collage, you can see the elephant coming into a small area where it will end up standing on a large (very large) scale.

Typically, zookeepers will train the animals to step forward or to go places and stand where the keepers and veterinarians can give physical exams or quick lookovers. Just like many of us train dogs with treats, the zoo animals might get treats during training too. I suspect that this elephant received treats (maybe peanuts?) to help guide it to and from the scale.

Back around the year 200 in Ancient China, there was a need to weigh an elephant. They did not have huge fancy scales like today’s zoos do, so how did they weigh it? Interestingly, it was a six-year-old boy named Cao Chong who figured it out. This was the first documented case of someone using Archimedes’ principle!

Would you have thought of it? Read the book to learn how Cao Chong did it. Winner of NSTA Best Stem Book, NSTA-CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book, Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People and a Mathical Honor Book. The book is available in English, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese print at your library or wherever you normally purchase your books. The multilingual digital book (powered by Fathom Reads) with native narration includes those three languages plus Arabic, Indonesian, Thai, and Japanese (Japanese audio coming soon).

weighing elephants

Pooper Snooper Author and Pup Jasper Featured on Freakonomics New Podcast, Off Leash

Pooper Snooper Author and Pup Jasper Featured on Freakonomics New Podcast, Off Leash

This summer, Alexandra Horowitz launched Off Leash, a new podcast from the Freakonomics Radio Network. The bestselling author (Inside of a Dog; The Year of the Puppy) invites “an interesting person and their dog to join” her on a walk. And that is how Arbordale author Julianne Ubigau (Pooper Snooper), and her detection dog Jasper, found themselves in the very first episode of Off Leash, aptly titled Smell.

As seems typical these days with our knowledgeable and fun-loving Julianne, the pair “somehow ended up at a dumpster in a parking lot.” The first words out of the mouth of this education and outreach coordinator of Conservation Canines, University of Washington Center for Environmental and Forensic Science are: Our freezer is just a beautiful library of scat from studies going back 20 years now.

To learn more about what this esteemed author talked to Horowitz about, check out this URL: https://freakonomics.com/podcast-tag/julianne-ubigau/.  

Jasper and Julie

The science and scientists don’t stop after a book is published!

In 2018, The Lizard Lady launched.

The beautifully illustrated nonfiction follows the real Lizard Lady, herpetologist Nicole Angeli, as she chops through rough Caribbean terrain to find and save a critically endangered ground lizard on the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Croix. The slithery little St. Croix ground lizards nearly became extinct after a cute but invasive mammal was brought in to eat the rats that were eating farmers’ crops. (Spoiler alert: The Lizard Lady and her team find a way to save these reptiles from extinction!)

The Lizard Lady, now officially Dr. Angeli, was finishing her doctorate (Ph.D.) as she and author Jennifer Keats Curtis (JKC) worked on the book. Today, Dr. Angeli is the Director of Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources. And (drumroll please), she has BIG news to share about the St. Croix ground lizards. Hear more about it as Dr. Angeli and JKC (who clearly have become fast friends) discuss the Lizard Lady’s latest on their last Zoom call video.

To learn more about The Lizard Lady, click here. The book is available in English and Spanish (La Dama de las Siguanas) wherever you normally buy your books or through Arbordale, Amazon, or an independent bookstore near you.

Where’s the Pooper Snooper this summer?

by Jennifer Keats Curtis

School may be out for the summer but working dogs are still, well working. This week, I had a chance to learn what was occupying the time of one of my favorite human-dog duos, Julianne Ubigau and her dog Jasper. Julianne, the education and outreach coordinator of Conservation Canines, University of Washington Center for Environmental and Forensic Science, and I are the authors of Pooper Snooper. This gloriously illustrated (by Phyllis Saroff) nonfiction details how Julianne and her dog detective work together to help scientists investigate and track endangered animals. (Yes, the title gives it away: The snoopers’ clue? Poop.)

 In addition to teaching her dogs to sniff for the scat of endangered animals, Julianne and her canine helpers are also working with scientists and environmentalists to seek out invasive plants and animals, such as garlic mustard plants and bullfrogs. In her spare time (which she could not possibly have), Julianne is talking with students, interested groups and podcasters to explain how the incredibly useful snufflers of rescued dogs can be. This month, Phil Hatterman, host and producer of Dog Words Presented by Rosie Fund, interviewed Julie to get at the heart (or at least the nose) of the matter. We hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen, https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/dog-words/id1496693461?i=1000568974499.

Photos courtesy of Julianne Ubigau: Sampson, Julianne’s current pooper snooper, readies himself to sniff out bullfrogs.

Shark Awareness Day July 14

Sharks… just the word may evoke fear in some. The reality is that one is more likely to be hit by lightning than be attacked by a shark.  

There are over 500 species of sharks that play important roles in the balance needed for healthy oceans. Some sharks are at the top of the ocean food web keeping marine populations healthy. Other sharks keep the ocean clean by eating animal remains (detritus).

You may find shark teeth at the beach. Sharks loose up to 30,000 teeth over their lifetime and replace them very quickly.

You’ll never find shark bones. Shark and ray skeletons are not made of bones like we have. Their skeletons are made with cartilage, like we have in our ears and noses!

Learn more about sharks and rays by reading some great books today. Look for these and other shark books at your library or online at www.arbordalepublishing.com.

And when you are finished reading, here are some great activities from members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to help young children learn more.

It’s National Zoo and Aquarium Month!

Children love going to zoos and aquariums (Z/As) as great places to see animals they would not see in their daily lives. As children (and their parents/caregivers) explore, they are learning about the animals and their habitats, especially when they read the signage and listen to educator talks.

Learning about animals, their habitats and conservation issues is a first step in caring about the environment. Z/As donate millions of dollars a year to support conservation issues around the world. When you purchase a ticket and buy products in their gift shops, you are contributing to those causes too.

Many Z/As even participate in breeding programs. The American Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) even has programs (Species Survival Plans) to help zoos find endangered-animal breeding partners and locations for the resulting babies. In some cases, these babies may even be released back into the wild! The National and Phoenix Zoos raised and released black-footed ferrets. San Diego and Oregon Zoos participate in raising and releasing California Condors. Hogle Zoo breads and releases Boreal Toads. Potter Park Zoo releases Puerto Rican Crested Toads back into the wild. The Phoenix Zoo participated in “Operation Oryx” to release Arabian Oryx into the wild. The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is one of several zoos and aquariums participating in raising Orinoco crocodile hatchings to be released into the wilds. Other animals that have been successfully raised and introduced into the wild include red wolves, pygmy rabbits, butterflies, Western pond turtles, fishers, and wolverines.

Support your local zoo and aquarium this month! And, make sure to read lots of books featuring animals you might find there.

#zoo #aquarium #helpinganimals

Celebrating Hawaiian Monk Seals

The Marine Mammal Center (TMMC) just announced that the Hawaiian monk seal population has exceeded 1500 seals for the first time in 20 years! TMMC is the only partner authorized by NOAA to rehabilitate these endangered animals. Researchers estimate that 30% of these seals are alive today directly due to conservation efforts by TMMC!

Read about one of the seals they helped: Honey Girl: The Hawaiian Monk Seal (https://tinyurl.com/5yn37k8c) by Jeanne Walker Harvey, illustrated by Shennen Bersani. And learn about more of the Hawaiian monk seals TMMC is helping. https://tinyurl.com/66zfmd5c

#endangeredanimals #Hawaiianmonkseals #helpinganimals