How The Hen House Turns: More Horse Sense

By CARY NEEPER
Formerly of Los Alamos
 
We are learning more and more about how closely we are knit into the living web of life on earth. The latest wake-up call comes from the “Notes From Earth” in Discover Magazine’s article “Wildlife” by Nancy Averett.
 
New information is pouring into social media from amateur photographers with motion-activated cameras.
 
In Colorado Springs Sue Dickerson captured views of a skunk at 4 a.m. using a rock as a tool to break the ice in the frozen water dish she had set out. Also reported in the article are the photos of an Eurasian Nuthatch using a piece of wool to try to lift up a patch of willow tree bark.
 
For my education committee presentation last summer I found YouTube videos of octopuses escaping traps, cuttlefish antics, elaborate squirrel challenges set up gradually in people’s backyards, ravens recognizing masks and faking the hiding of food, dogs responding to spoken English, parrots doing tricks and vocalizations, and the gorilla Koko’s accomplishments.
 
Science News.org Aug. 17 recorded whispering between whale moms and calves in the shallows where orcas couldn’t hear them. Of course we remember the remarkable canine sense of smell that we humans have put to good use. Most amazing, we have learned recently that trees use chemicals to exchange help and information.
 
Groupers and octopuses work together to hunt fish. All kinds of fighting males — from fish to giraffes — assess their chances before fighting for mates. Ground squirrels have been noted threatening with stones and waving their tales to warn off rattlesnakes. It makes sense that animals have survived in the wild by using their common sense and experience in order to win mates and find food.
 
When they have encountered humans and human artifacts, animals of all kinds have continued to learn from their interactions. In our cities, urban birds (cockatoos and stone martins, jays, ravens and pigeons ) have settled in. My favorite example is the famous picture of bear cubs enjoying a swing set in someone’s backyard.
 
It’s just a little alarming to realize that we are not alone in our cognizance. But it is also exciting — and challenging to realize that we are truly not alone in the struggle to maintain this beautiful planet as a haven for all kinds of life that both depend on each other, yet interact, as they must, to survive.
 
Turkey Bear and Lucy. CourtesyCary Neeper