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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How to find the snowy owl near you

Snowy owl stands on Wisconsin brush,

The white, Harry Potter owls are having a boom year, sighted in Boston, Chicago, Philly, Denver and Long Island. Look on eBird to see where.

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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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Curious Critters: local animals with excellent PR

Photographer David FitzSimmons gives local birds, frogs and other common animals the spotlight in a kids book with sharp macro pictures and funny text.

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Ohio is the Wall Street of the U.S. exotic animal trade Zanesville exotic animals

Parts of Ohio, the Wall Street of the U.S. exotic animal trade, were locked down to catch the predators released by a private zoo owner before he killed himself.

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Daily AnimalTourist: Horsemeat, Nazi Dog and Ohio Bear Pets

Horsemeat lovers unite, Nazis hated dog who did Hitler salute and OH finally bans exotic pets.

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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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Dillie the Deer Maligned as Dangerous

Since Dillie the deer has gotten a lot of press, her human mom, vet Dr. Melanie Butera, has gotten a lot of grief.   The panic runs the gamut from worrying Dillie is plotting murder to fretting the GPS collar might suffocate her.

“It seems like the hunters are the ones that get the most upset,” says Dr. Butera. On Friday’s Bill O’Reilly show Alisyn Camerota, one of Fox’s blond correspondents, picked the Butera family as the stupidest thing of the week. “Haven’t we all learned,” Camerota said, “that when you live with a domesticated wild animal, one day it wakes up and eats you.”

Hasn’t Camerota learned that an animals can’t be both domesticated and wild? That there’s a difference between carnivores and herbivores? Or even that this particular deer was farm-bred? Maybe Keith Olbermann, a big fan of deer–or at least security videos of deer invading stores–will respond.

“I wondered how she is going to to kill me. Is she going to apply for an American Express card and get on the Home Shopping Network and order a machete?” asked  Dr. Butera.

Not that we’re fans of pet deer. Dillie is an exception because she was born on a farm (not in the wild), raised by an experienced wildlife vet, who has a huge enclosure for her. Plus, she close the house (particularly the guest bedroom) over the barn. You can see what she’s up to on the Dillie cam.

Ohio has about 1,000 deer farms, which have

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Dillie, the Ohio House Deer, Defies Odds

Don’t try this at home: an Ohio family is living with a deer.  This is not the typical story we hear nearly every day: an animal person takes in an animal they are unprepared to manage and tragedy ensues for one or both. The characters and species change; the results are monotonous. This month we saw the Canadian guy killed by his pet tigers and the death of Michael Jackson’s former giraffes. Miraculously, this isn’t one of those stories.

Dillie the deer was rescued by someone who knew what she was doing. Dr. Melanie Butera (Dillie’s human mom) is a vet who does a lot of  wildlife work. Dillie’s deer mom rejected her because she was sickly and had cataracts. That means she wasn’t brought in for the usual wrong reason: somebody finds a fawn alone in the woods and doesn’t realize its mom is just out eating.

 Dillie was born on a Canton area deer farm. (Ohio has tons of farmed deer, whose purpose ranges from being pet, bred, eaten or the target of a canned hunt.) The farmer saw Dillie’s deer mom, busy with two robust other triplets, push Dillie aside. Ohio has elaborate rules banning the miscegenation of wild and farm deer, so she couldn’t go free–even if she were capable. As she’s hand-raised and nearly blind, she’s not. She’s afraid of local deer and thwarted plans to raise her in the barn by being terrified of a horse’s snort.

Then Dr. Butera went to extraordinary

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