Tell the feds you want a Chicagoland NWR

Tell the FWS that Chicago and Milwaukee would like Hackmatack, a new wildlife refuge they could drive to. You might see whooping cranes, river otter, cougars, blandings turtles and all kinds of birds there. They take comments until April 27 and are set to decide this fall.

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Hummingbirds arrive a month--sometimes two--early this year; some never left

In the last week hummingbirds flew into IL, NY, PA, OH, MD and even Ontario, way ahead of schedule. Freakishly, many fragile hummingbirds spent all winter up north.

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Men's mags duel over OH zoo gone wild

GQ and Esquire face off over the exotic predator release in OH. Esquire goes all action adventure. GQ tries to figure out how lion, tigers and bears were unleashed on suburbia.

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Willdife photographer David FitzSimmons dances with frogs

gray tree frog

David FitzSimmons, author of Curious Critters  and photography instructor, dances with the creatures he photographs for a half hour or so to get to know them. “I try in images to convey some kind of personality,” he says.

The dance involves making his partner comfortable and getting into unusual positions himself. “I try to shoot on eye level. We sort of look down on them.” And, yeah, he knows that some people cringe at using the word personality with animals. Well, I cringe at their cringing. He’s not thinking the squirrel feels romantic love for its mate, but the attitude and emotion that becomes clear when you get to know any animal. “A snake could be timid or particularly aggressive,” he says. “The crawfish [in the book] has got his claws up and seems particularly aggressive. The gray tree frog seems spiritual and humble.” Aside from a few technical tips–like putting a snake over a hat to get them comfortable before a shoot–FitzSimmons loves getting students of his photography workshops excited about little and common creatures, knowing their enthusiasm will lead to conservation of their subjects. He’s one of four professional photographers that lens-makers Sigma agency sends out nationwide. He teaches literature at Ashland University. For his most recent book,  wrote Curious Critters, which we reviewed here, he photographed animals  against a pure white background. His choices were local–from his own backyard to some of Ohio’s animal tourist attractions. His daughter helped, spotting  the cover’s teeny

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Dogs and Wolves Win in State Initiatives

Arizona became the first state to reject the NRA campaign to make hunting a right, enshrined in the state constitution. (Arizona voted 56% no, despite Republicans winning across the state.)

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Baraboo, WI: Cranes So Close You Can Tell How Much They Hate You

Whooping Crane Hunts

The International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, WI, gives you an intimate look at whooping and other endangered cranes. They hate people but carefully choose their own mate.

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Happy Joint Birthday, Indiana Wolves, Enjoy Your Frittata

Would you like to treat a wolf to a frittata? What if you know it was his birthday? And that the wolf happened to looove frittata? Indiana’s Wolf Park–probably the most innovated wolf sanctuary in the country– is having a joint birthday party for its wolves this Saturday, April 24.

All the wild canids (including coyotes and foxes) at Wolf Park breed and give birth around the same time. Last year the center, which started in 1972, started having an adorable birthday party. You can buy your favorite wolf a birthday cake (a $25 donation) and then get a picture of them devouring it.The cakes aren’t really cake, but a frittata with eggs, butter, cheese and chunks of meat, says assistant manager Dana. “The wolves don’t really have much of sweet tooth,” she says. They are very popular with the wolves. The human visitors enjoy the happy spectacle.

For the wolves that live in pairs or their own enclosures, delivering the cake isn’t much of a problem. But some in the main pack got ripped off last year. “The trickeist ones we have are the main pack. Last year we made larger cake they could all eat. One wolf, Tristan, the alpha a the time, just ate it all and was sick afterwards with a tummy ache,” Dana says. This year, they’ll deliver individual cakes, which they expect the wolves to run off with.

Cake time is 2 p.m. Saturday. Since they don’t want any wolves to go

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Wolf Parks Jump on the Twilight: New Moon Bandwagon

Wolf at Longleat Captivated by Twilight New Moon

The wolves at Longleat Safari Park in England were impressed with the realism of Twilight: New Moon. At a special showing in the their park west of London, they paid attention to the wolf scenes and howled back, the Telegraph reports. They’re just the latest tie-in wolf parks are making with the vampire movie.

Sure, the whole “World Wolf Premiere” thing is a ploy for the DVD release. “Whilst we’re used to deafening screams for Robert Pattinson, it’s a nice change to hear howls of approval for the rest of the cast, including the screen wolves themselves,” one movie promoter said. 

But at least the wolves were entertained. Or enriched, as animal care people say. They circled the giant screen pulled by a semi, making sure it wasn’t a predator about to attack. Then they started watching and sometimes howling. “They seem to be really keen on the wolf bits,” Ian Turner, the park’s deputy head warden said.

The folks at Indiana’s Wolf Park were way ahead of the Brits. In January they hosted a special night for Twilight fans, who learned the differences between real wolves and those hunks in the film.

As every hack journalist knows, you need three events to make a trend, so here you go. Turns out the animators for the movie got their accuracy on by hanging out at Wolf Mountain Sanctuary in California. “They all climbed into a 40ft pen with the wolves

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Plenty of Destruction from Beaver, But Is It Pointless?

I got to see my first wild beaver in the U.S. last month outside Columbus. My family was in town for a sad occasion, the tragic hospitalization and ultimately funeral of my sister, Ellen Grubbs, who died of the flu and asthma. We spent a lot of time at the Best Western in Pickerington, waiting for good news that never came. My mountain man big brother Tom, who would get up and dawn and hike, first saw a beaver in the creek between the hotel and the Tucker Nature Preserve.

We had nothing to do but worry, so suddenly we all wanted to go see the beaver. Tom described the area as having bike paths and joggers, so I pictured it being a little too manicured. Far from it. Ellen would have thought it hysterical if she had seen us scrambling up a brush covered ledge. We kept trying to see the beaver–though not trying hard enough to get up at dawn, when you really need to be there.

For the first week all we got to see was the beaver work–huge trees knocked over and gnawed. Amazing destruction. But I’d point out in the beaver’s defense, it was nothing compared to the lots cleared of trees nearby for, say, our new favorite hotel, the Target or just to look more attractive for a store. And the beaver has a way of keeping the forest fresh. Lots of animals can move into the new marshes they make. Moose–not

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Q & A With Endangered Species Artists

Lots of environmental causes give gifts when you make a donation. But how many eco totes do you really need? A couple of clever Chicago artists, Jenny Kendler, and Molly Schafer, have devised a new way to help the environment: the Endangered Species Print Project. They create a limited edition art print of a criticially endangered species. You buy it for $50. They give all the money to an organization that protects the species you’ll see on your wall.  The organizations they’re helping are so tiny (like the populations they serve) that they don’t have the slick fund-raising apparatus that supplies thank you gifts. So Kendler and Schafer effectively stepped in and offered the groups both publicity and donations–plus charming portraits of their animals. Here’s how they describe it:

The Endangered Species Print Project offers limited-edition art prints of critically endangered species. The number of prints available corresponds with the remaining animal or plant populations. For example, only 45 Amur Leopards remain in the wild, so for this edition, only 45 prints will ever be made. A different organization, whose mission is to the ensure the survival of the species depicted, is chosen for each print. 100% of the sales of ESPP prints are donated to these conservation organizations. You can check out the ESPP site at, and don’t forget to peep our blog, which is full of amazing endangered species facts and news. ESPP is an art project and labor of love is run by myself,

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