Monday, May 11, 2015

EXTREME WEATHER: Wildfire Near Prince George, British Columbia - 80 People Forced To Evacuate!

© John Tymofichuk

- Homes are being evacuated in small lakeside communities near Prince George as firefighters battle a wildfire.

The evacuation order covers about 80 people living on Norman Lake, Little Bobtail Lake and Naltesby Lake, while residents to the north and west are under an evacuation alert.

The wildfire is burning 50 km southwest of Prince George and was last estimated to cover 2,500 hectares. As of Sunday night, 26 firefighters were trying to bring it under control with the help of two helicopters, and five pieces of heavy equipment, but more than 100 additional staff have been called in to assist.

Smoke from the fire can be seen from Highway 16 and nearby communities.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

Jillian Kelsh of the B.C. Wildfire Management Branch said the evacuations are from a number of permanent and seasonal homes. She added that the fire was about 20 hectares in size when it was first spotted Saturday but quickly spread.

The forecast for the Prince George area this week calls for sunny skies and temperatures as high as 24 degrees through to Sunday. Winds are expected to gust at up to 20 km/h on Monday and Tuesday.

Kelsh said a top priority for firefighters on Monday will be to evaluate how the warm, dry, windy weather will impact the spread of the blaze.

© Vancouver Sun/Google Maps

Up-to-date information on evacuations can be found on the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako's website and website for the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George.

B.C.'s Wildfire Management Branch is currently dealing with two active fires larger than 10 hectares in size. The second blaze is burning 32 km south of Lillooet off the Duffey Lake Road and spans 60 hectares, but it is contained by natural barriers and no structures are at risk. - Vancouver Sun.

EXTREME WEATHER: Terrifying Video Reveals The View From Inside A Tornado As It Strikes Norman, Oklahoma!

Video footage reveals the swirling winds and flying debris surrounding a shelter in Norman, Oklahoma.
In this still a tree is in the process of being uprooted and rain lashes down

- Few people have seen the destructive force of a storm from the inside of a tornado.

But now video footage reveals the terrifying swirling winds and flying debris surrounding a shelter in Norman, Oklahoma.

The tornado destroyed a number of buildings in the town and skirted the University of Oklahoma's campus, according to local news reports.

Chris Mance, who lives in the neighbourhood, shot the incredible footage on May 6, around 20 miles south (16km) of Oklahoma City.

The grey-toned video shows lashing rain and wind carrying debris such as branches ripped from trees and various piece of debris, through the air.

WATCH: Inside Norman tornado.

It is sometimes difficult to make out any shapes, as visibility drops to almost zero at times, Business Insider noted.

At one point some foliage and even what looks like a wheel, hits the window of the shelter.

It appears that tornado moves over the shelter so that it's in the eye of the storm.

The conditions seem suddenly calm immediately outside and a twig can be seen lying lifeless just beyond the shelter, as other debris continues to be whipped around by the storm, just metres away.

Aerial images from KFOR show the destruction the storm caused nearby, with roofs ripped off buildings and a mobile home park completely destroyed.

Officials in the area said that at least 12 people were hurt, with five of them in a critical condition.

The local news channel reported that guests sheltered in a hallway at the centre of The Normal Hotel.

Chunks of wall were ripped off the structure and the damage was described as 'significant'.

There were also reports of a storm shelter 'floating up out of the ground' as the storm raged.

Luckily, the woman noticed the shelter looked unstable as she sought a place to ride out the storm with her family and found that afterwards, it was floating in a pool of water, having been ripped from the ground.

'That could have been my children in there...something could have happened,' she told News9.
- Daily Mail.


MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Major Planetary Transformations As The Black Celestial Event Nears - Severe Storms Ravage Central United States With Snow, Floods, And Tornadoes!

Snow covers the ground off Interstate 90 east of Sturgis, South Dakota, United States, in this view from a highway camera taken May 10, 2015.  
© Reuters/South Dakota Department of Transportation/Handout

May 11, 2015 - UNITED STATES
- Snow, flooding and powerful tornadoes have ripped through many central US states, emergency officials said. The most affected were Texas and South Dakota where dozens of people have been injured and many houses were left in ruins.

The storm hit eastern Van Zandt County and the town of Van in northeast Texas on Sunday, the Van Zandt County fire marshal and emergency management coordinator Chuck Allen said. At least 26 people have been taken to hospital with injuries.

About 30 percent of Van, a town with 2,500 people, was damaged.

"Damages range from completely destroyed homes, damaged homes, to trees and power lines down," Allen said, adding that utility companies are now restoring "vital infrastructures." Also the American Red Cross is to open a shelter at First Baptist Church in Van, Allen said.

At least six people have been pulled out of homes by rescue helicopters in Denton County thunderstorms brought heavy rains in the area, officials said.

WATCH: Tornado near Denton, Texas.

The storms have been affecting Texas for almost a week now. On Saturday, one person was killed in a tornado.

Powerful storms have also hit South Dakota where at least nine people received non-threatening injuries. A local Lutheran Church and 20 more buildings have been destroyed.

WATCH: Tornado damage in Delmont, South Dakota.

"Our house is flat. There is nothing left," Stephanie Lunder Delmont told AP. The officials have been evacuating the residents of Delmont, a town of 234 people. "It's a voluntary evacuation: there's no water, no heat, no electricity," Tony Mangan, public information officer for the South Dakota Department of Public Safety, told Reuters.

WATCH: Tornado damage in Delmont, South Dakota.

David Mathews, 70, who owns Old Bank Mini-Mart in Delmont, said that the storm was very fast.

"We were in our house and knew something was going on and getting ready to go to the basement, then it was over. We just built a brand new fire hall and it was destroyed. Also a row of houses near the fire hall."

The Black Hills, a small, isolated mountain range, in South Dakota has seen 30cm of snow. Tornadoes hit central Iowa where a roof from a high school was ripped off. Snow fell in parts of the Rocky Mountains and western Nebraska.

WATCH: Rescuers airlift stranded residents in flood devastated Texas.

A tropical storm has struck the southeastern US as it created wet and windy conditions in North and South Carolina. The Miami-based National Hurricane Center said the Tropical Storm Ana should be taken seriously and issued a 14 advisory, saying that "Ana [is] moving farther inland across North Carolina." - RT.


EXTREME WEATHER: Tornado Lifts Roof Off Lake City, Iowa High School!

© Via twitter@Lehighs_Finest

May 11, 2015 - IOWA, UNITED STATES
- Central Iowa was hit hard by severe storms and tornadoes on Sunday, May 10, 2015.

In Lake City, the roof of Southern Calhoun High School was ripped off while 100 people were inside for an awards ceremony.

According to a report in the Des Moines Register, the school's girl's basketball coach says they received the warning and got everyone into the school's basement and locker room area just two minutes before the twister hit.


The exact moment was caught on video from only a few blocks away. Luckily, no one was hurt. Classes at the school were canceled for Monday, May 11.

There were nine reports of tornadoes in North Central Iowa.

WATCH: Tornado rips off school roof in Iowa.

Survey teams from the National Weather Service will assess the damage to determine whether damage reported in Calhoun, Carroll, and Pocahontas Counties was caused by tornadoes or straight-line winds. - WQAD.


WEATHER PHENOMENON: Omen - Ice Halo Forms In St. Croix, Virgin Islands On Mother's Day!


May 11, 2015 - VIRGIN ISLANDS
- A little before noon Sunday, several diners at the new My Brothers Workshop Café and Bakery on Back Street almost leapt from their chairs and charged into the adjacent parking lot to see why some folks were gazing up in the sky.

Turns out it wasn't the end of the world, as someone had suggested. It was a solar halo surrounding the sun, as the name implies; and it seemed to absorb the whole sky.

According to Wikipedia: A halo, also known as a nimbus, is produced by light interacting with ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere, resulting in a wide variety of colored or white rings, arcs and spots in the sky."

Closer to home, University of the Virgin Islands physics professor David Smith shared a professional view on the phenomenon.


"Ice crystals in the upper atmosphere create this halo, like little rainbows," he said. "It's produced by light interacting with the ice crystals."

Smith said the phenomenon isn't all that rare further north.

"It's not as common in the tropics, since there are fewer ice crystals in the upper atmosphere," he said.

A previous halo also appeared in the local sky a few weeks ago, Smith said, adding he had seen very few in the 30 years he has lived here.

Of sharing his store of knowledge, Smith had this to say: "When something about the sciences happens, we're usually quite happy to talk about it." - St Croix Source.

TERMINATOR NOW: The Rise Of The Machines - "Avengers: Age Of Ultron" And The Risks Of Artificial Intelligence!

Image courtesy Marvel

May 11, 2015 - TECHNOLOGY
- Technology enhanced with artificial intelligence is all around us. You might have a robot vacuum cleaner ready to leap into action to clean up your kitchen floor. Maybe you asked Siri or Google—two apps using decent examples of artificial intelligence technology—for some help already today. The continual enhancement of AI and its increased presence in our world speak to achievements in science and engineering that have tremendous potential to improve our lives.

Or destroy us.

At least, that’s the central theme in the new Avengers: Age of Ultron movie with headliner Ultron serving as exemplar for AI gone bad. It’s a timely theme, given some high-profile AI concerns lately. But is it something we should be worried about?

Artificial Intelligence Gone Rogue

How bad is Ultron? The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe lists his occupation as “would-be conquerer, enslaver of men” with genius intelligence, superhuman speed, stamina, reflexes, and strength, subsonic flight speed, and demi-godlike durability. The good news is that Ultron has “normal” agility and “average hand to hand skills.” Meaning if you can get in close to an autonomous robot with superhuman speed, you should be good to go. At least briefly.

But perhaps most importantly, Ultron represents the ultimate example of artificial intelligence applications gone wrong: intelligence that seeks to overthrow the humans who created it.

WATCH: Avengers - Age of Ultron Official Extended Trailer.

Subsequent iterations of Ultron were self-created, each one getting stronger, smarter, and more bent on fulfilling two main desires: survival and bringing peace and order to the universe. The unfortunate part for us humans is that Ultron would like to bring peace and order by eliminating all other intelligent life in the universe. The main theme in Age of Ultron is this fictional conflict between biological beings and artificial intelligence (with a mean streak). But how fictional is it?

Thinking Machines

The answers are found in scientific research related to the fields of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and artificial life. These are fields that continue to expand at a ridiculous, if not superhuman, pace.

One of the most recent breakthroughs was a study in which Volodymyr Mnih and colleagues at Google DeepMind challenged a neural network to learn how to play video games.

The point was to see if the software (rather ominously called a “deep Q-network agent”) could apply lessons learned in one game to master another game. For more than half of the games examined, the deep Q-network agent was better than human level. This list includes Boxing, Video Pinball, Robotank (a favorite of mine), and Tutankham.

And though arcade games may seem trivial, the takeaway here really had nothing to do with games per se. The relevance is that an AI system could adapt its skills to situations for which its programmer had never prepared it. The AI was effectively learning how to apply skills in a new way, basically thinking on its own. Which is relevant in considering the possibility of an AI going rogue.

IBM's Watson computer is a well-known instance of AI. Credit: Clockready
IBM’s Watson computer is a well-known instance of AI. Credit: Clockready

Sounding an Alarm

So, is this a problem? Coverage in popular media often seems to give the spin that machine learning and artificial intelligence are things to fear. There is a boundary that separates helpful applications of AI—imagine a scenario of robot-conducted surgery performed in a remote community and overseen by a physician in a distant location—from truly frightening scenarios of near-future military applications. Imagine the combination of current combat drone technology with artificial intelligence computer engines giving independence to machine warfare.

The real problem is that we don’t often recognize that we have crossed these kinds of boundaries until we are already on the other side. In science we often push to discover and apply things before we truly understand all the implications—both positive and negative—that will accompany them. We often do things because we can without fully considering if we should, in fact, do them at all.

It’s a sentiment that has been surprisingly echoed among various tech cognoscenti in recent months. In late 2014, Tesla CEO Elon Musk told an MIT symposium, “I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that.”

And in January he put his money behind the cause, donating $10 million to a non-profit for AI safety.

Bill Gates revealed his reservations about AI in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session later that same month, writing, “I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”

And last year, Stephen Hawking co-authored an article on the risks of AI, saying it could be the “worst mistake in history.”

A Different Vision

Central to these concerns is artificial intelligence’s theoretical independence from human regulatory interaction. To avoid such extreme independence—and that sci-fi end-game of Ultron—maybe we’d be better off adopting the approach of “collaborative intelligence” as computer scientist Susan Epstein proposed in a recent study.

We traditionally build machines because we need help, Epstein writes. But perhaps a less-capable machine could be equally helpful, by allowing humans to do things that they’re better at anyway, such as pattern recognition and problem solving. In other words, built-in inabilities in our intelligent robots could allow them to perform their jobs better while keeping them in check—though at the cost of requiring more interaction with their human overseers.

In the tradition of sci-fi futurists Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Isaac Asimov, the future is “supposed to be a fully automated, atomic-powered, germ-free utopia” Daniel H. Wilson wrote some years back.

A collaborative view of AI, on the other hand, equates to thinking about robots as tools—sometimes very smart ones—that humans can employ and work with rather than a replacement for humans altogether.

This view, though, is at odds with the imperative to instrument and mechanize operations of all sorts wherever they are found. The end game—as Ultron’s creators discover—has disastrous ramifications. We all get to enjoy watching this dystopian future play out on the big screen this week.

Luckily for our future selves, in the real world these conversations are still happening as we continue to progress toward smarter and smarter machines.

But maybe not too smart. I still want to win at Robotank. - Discover Magazine.

WEATHER PHENOMENON: Omen - Mother's Day Sun Halo Appears In Shanghai, China!

The solar halo photographed in Chongming County yesterday.  © CFP

May 11, 2015 - SHANGHAI, CHINA
- Moms across the city received a gift from the heavens yesterday when a beautiful pearl-colored halo around the sun greeted them on Mother's Day morning.

While some web users saw this as a celestial blessing for Shanghai moms, the Shanghai Meteorological Bureau had a more prosaic explanation.

It was a result of altostratus cloud, formed by the lifting of a large stable air mass, explained forecasters.

That causes invisible water vapor to condense into cloud, creating optical phenomena — such as the sun halo.

Around 10am, many Weibo and WeChat users posted pictures, with many seeing it as a good omen.

According to a Chinese proverb: "When there is a solar halo, it will rain; when there is a lunar halo, it will blow."

And sure enough, rain was forecast overnight.

Today should see a rainy start to the week with possible rumbles of thunder and a slight drop in temperatures, forecasters said. The mercury will range between 17 and 24 degrees Celsius.

But tomorrow will be sunny with the high likely to soar to 28 degrees, and reaching 30 degrees on a clear Wednesday. Wednesday's low is also expected to rise from 17 degrees to 19 degrees.

Thundershowers are forecast to return to the city late Thursday with the mercury dipping to 27.

Not much change in temperature is expected on Friday with showers or thundershowers still likely.

Lows on Thursday and Friday will remain at around 19 degrees. - Shanghai Daily.


MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Nepal Prime Minister Says Death Toll From The Mega-Quake Event Could Reach 10,000 - United Nations Estimates That Over 8 MILLION People Have Been Affected!

A teddy bear lies on the top of debris as Indian rescue workers look for survivors and bodies trapped in a building in Katmandu.(Photo: Manish Swarup, AP)

May 11, 2015 - NEPAL
- Nepal's prime minister said Tuesday the death toll from the devastating earthquake that rocked the country Saturday could reach 10,000, and the United Nations estimated 8 million people have been affected.

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala made the statement to Reuters as he appealed for tents and medicine and ordered rescue efforts to be stepped up. International aid has started arriving in the country.

The death toll from the magnitude-7.8 quake has soared past 4,700. Hundreds of thousands of people are sleeping outdoors and living in the open because they are homeless or out of fear of being inside amid aftershocks. It rained heavily Tuesday in the capital of Kathmandu, forcing people to find shelter wherever they could.

WATCH: Devastating Nepal earthquake aftermath.

Gautam Rimal, an official in rural Nepal, said 250 people are believed missing following a mudslide and avalanche in the isolated village of Ghodatabela, not far from the epicenter of the quake, the Associated Press reported.

Among those killed are 18 people, including four Americans, who died on Mount Everest after the quake triggered an avalanche that buried part of the base camp at the world's highest mountain.

WATCH: New video of Nepal earthquake shows building collapsing on motorists.

At least 61 people died in India, and 25 were reported dead in Tibet as tremors from the quake rippled across the region.

"The government is doing all it can for rescue and relief on a war footing," Koirala told Reuters. "It is a challenge and a very difficult hour for Nepal."

With its sewage system badly damaged, carcasses rotting in the rubble and thousands of people sleeping rough, experts say Nepal faces a race
against time to ensure a devastating earthquake does not trigger a public health disaster. AFP

The death toll and the number of injured — which the United Nations puts at nearly 7,000 — is expected to rise as search-and-rescue teams reach remote areas in the Himalayan country.

American doctor Rebecca McAteer, who is working in the quake zone, told the AP that most rural people were working in the fields when the earthquake hit around noon, meaning they escaped injury when buildings collapsed.

"In some villages, about 90% of the houses have collapsed. They're just flattened," she said. "The immediate need is getting support to where it's needed, but there will be a lot of work rebuilding."
Thomas Meyer, an engineer with the International Nepal Fellowship, added: "This is a long-term emergency," AP reported. "This will need major attention for the next five years. People have nothing left."

A U.N. situation report said 1.4 million people are in need of food, according to early indications.

"Of these, 750,000 people live near the epicenter in poor quality housing," the report said. "Impact on agriculture-based livelihoods and food security is expected to be extremely high."

Jamie McGoldrick, the U.N. resident coordinator in Kathmandu, told reporters that 8 million people had been affected by the quake, the AP reported.

The United Nations Population Fund warned that hospitals in the Katmandu Valley are overcrowded, while the Injured are being treated in the streets. Women and girls are especially vulnerable, the fund said.

"The Fund is particularly concerned about the fate of pregnant women who have been affected by this tragedy, including those who might face potentially life-threatening complications," said Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA's executive director.

Emergency workers were being deployed and dignity and reproductive health kits were on the way to the country, the organization said. - USA Today.


DELUGE: Flash Floods Swamps Afghanistan - 8 People Killed; Over 1,500 Homes Damaged Or Washed Away!

Flash floods in Faryab Province, Afghanistan, May 2015.  © BNA

May 11, 2015 - AFGHANISTAN
- Afghanistan state news agency, Bakhtar News Agency (BNA) report that at least 7 people have been killed in flash floods in Faryab Province in the north of the country.

Flash floods in Baghlan Province have killed 1 person and injured around 10 others.

Flash floods struck on 08 May 2015 in Faryab Province after a period of heavy rainfall.

The districts of Garyzan, Pashtunkot and Belcheragh were worst affected. BNA report that at least 7 people were killed and over 1,500 homes damaged.

The Faizabada-Takhar highway have been closed to traffic and wide areas of crops and orchards have suffered damaged.

Kuwaiti News Agency (KUNA) also report that flooding struck in the Baghlan-i-Markazi district of Baghlan province, where 1 person was killed and several injured early on Saturday 09 May 2015.

"There was heavy rain in Baghlan-e-Markazi district Friday evening and the people left their houses to safer areas.

It was early Saturday when a flash flood hit the area and washed away more than 500 houses," district Governor Gohar Khan Babri told reporters in provincial capital Pul-e-Khumri, 160 km north of Kabul. - Floodlist.


MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFFS: Disaster Precursors And Warnings From Mother Nature – The Latest Incidents Of Strange Animal Behavior, Migratory Patterns, Attacks, Deaths, And Appearance Of Rare Creatures!

May 11, 2015 - EARTH - The following constitutes the latest reports of unusual and symbolic animal behavior, mass die-offs, beaching and stranding of mammals, and the appearance of rare creatures.

Dead whale found on beach at Bald Head Island, North Carolina

Officials with the Bald Head Island Conservancy found a dead whale which washed ashore Monday morning. 
© Poul Lindegaard

Bald Head Island Conservancy officials found a dead whale on shore Monday morning.

According to Assistant Director Poul Lindegaard, his crew came upon the animal in the middle of South Beach and notified officials immediately.

UNCW's Stranded Marine Mammal Team is currently determining the cause of death.  © Poul Lindegaard

The UNCW Stranded Marine Mammal Team is determining the cause of death. - WECT.

Wild animals in drought-stricken Western states are dying for a drink

As thousands of acres of grassland have turned to desert, the giant kangaroo rat has disappeared. John Roser/University of California at Berkeley

For the giant kangaroo rat, death by nature is normally swift and dramatic: a hopeless dash for safety followed by a blood-curdling squeak as their bellies are torn open by eagles, foxes, bobcats and owls.

They’re not supposed to die the way they are today — emaciated and starved, their once abundant population dwindling to near nothing on California’s sprawling Carrizo Plain, about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles, where the drought is turning hundreds of thousands of acres of grassland into desert.

Without grass, long-legged kangaroo rats cannot eat. And as they go, so go a variety of threatened animals that depend on the keystone species to live. “That whole ecosystem changes without the giant kangaroo rat,” said Justin Bra­shares, an associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of California at Berkeley.

Endangered kangaroo rats are just one falling tile in the drought’s domino effect on wildlife in the lower Western states. Large fish kills are happening in several states as waters heated by higher temperatures drain and lose oxygen. In Northern California, salmon eggs have virtually disappeared as water levels fall. Thousands of migrating birds are crowding into wetlands shrunk by drought, risking the spread of disease that can cause huge die-offs.

As the baking Western landscape becomes hotter and drier, land animals are being forced to seek water and food far outside their normal range. Herbivores such as deer and rabbits searching for a meal in urban gardens in Reno are sometimes pursued by hawks, bobcats and mountain lions. In Arizona, rattlesnakes have come to Flagstaff, joining bears and other animals in search of food that no longer exists in their habitat.

“You think about it. In our urban environments, we have artificial water. We’re not relying on creeks,” said David Catalano, a supervisory biologist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. “We have sprinkling systems. We water bushes with fruit and water gardens. That’s just a magnet for everything.

“We’ve seen an increase in coyote calls, bear calls, mountain lion calls — all the way to mice and deer,” Catalano said of the distress calls made to his department by residents. “At your house, everything is green and growing and flowering, and they’re being drawn to it.”

The state wildlife agency said it is preparing for a deluge of calls reporting bear sightings from Lake Tahoe this summer when berries and other foods they eat disappear for lack of rain.

About 4,000 mule deer have vanished from a mountain range near Reno since late last year, probably because of drought. “Our level of concern is very high,” Catalano said. Nevada has placed low fiberglass pools called guzzlers that hold up to 3,600 gallons of water at more than 1,000 wilderness areas across the state to provide water for wildlife.

For a second year, the Arizona Game and Fish Department warned people in Flagstaff, near Grand Canyon National Park: “Don’t be surprised if you see more wild animals around town in the next few months. Drought conditions may cause creatures like elk, deer, bobcats, foxes, coyotes and even bears to wander further into town than normal, as they seek sources of food and water.”

California water regulators adopted unprecedented restrictions on how people, governments and businesses can use water amid the state's ongoing drought. (AP)

Don’t feed them, the department cautioned. Remove pet food, water bowls, garbage and other items that attract wild animals. It does more harm than good.

In California, where mandatory water restrictions were passed by the state water board on Tuesday, humans are already coming into contact with desperate wildlife from the 250,000-acre Carrizo Plain National Monument in the Central Valley, near Bakersfield.

“Just today, 20 minutes ago, four coyote cubs arrived” from Bakersfield’s outskirts, said Don Richardson, curator of animals for the California Living Museum, which has an animal shelter in the city.

“We actually get everything from reptiles to mammals,” Richardson said. “We have 13 San Joaquin kit foxes, an endangered species. They were abandoned, orphaned. The kit foxes’ health was impacted by the struggle to make it with reduced resources. Then, of course, we see a lot of birds of prey — owls and golden eagles.”

The animals are already suffering from the fragmentation of their habitat because of ranching and urban development. “It’s looking to be a very, very difficult year for wildlife,” Richardson said.

Endangered San Joaquin kit foxes, coyotes and birds in the wildlands outside Bakersfield all rely on the giant kangaroo rat to survive. But those rodents are struggling themselves.

“We fear that a semi-arid grassland is becoming a desert,” said Brashares. “The giant kangaroo rat can’t survive in desert.”

A study by the university recorded a 95 percent population loss since 2010.

Before the drought, 60 percent of their habitat was covered in grasses that they eat and seeds that they store for hard times in a network of underground burrows, Brashares said. Four years of little rain has reduced the cover to 18 percent.

“They simply lack food, so they starve,” Brashares said. As the state wildfire season approaches, the remaining grasses could be wiped out. 

For a study, biologists caught a few kangaroo rats this year to study their condition. “They were skinny,” Brashares said. “We looked at females to see whether they had young, whether they were lactating.” They weren’t.

In this reality, where food is scarce and births are few, kangaroo rats are still a top prey, further shrinking their numbers.

The demise of this species would be unthinkable, Brashares said. There’s no overstating how important the rodent is in the ecosystem. Few others are around to feed snakes, badgers, weasels and animals already mentioned. Even the soil kangaroo rats dig for burrows creates moist habitat for insects.

A worse situation is hard to imagine, said Stafford Lehr, chief of fisheries for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. But there is one.

Chinook salmon are in great danger, he said. For two years, only 5 percent of their eggs have survived winter and spring migrations because the cold water their eggs need to survive drains from rivers and reservoirs.

“If you draw down a reservoir, cold water at the bottom drains first,” Lehr said.

To save them, wildlife officials tried to replenish cold water that drained from Shasta Lake north of Sacramento last year. “It didn’t work,” Lehr said.

“Ninety-five percent of eggs and juvenile brood in 2014 were killed,” Lehr said. “Those would be expected to return three years later. We also had heavy mortality in 2013, expected back in 2016. The 2015 fish are spawning right now. We’re trying everything in our power to have enough cold water in Shasta so we don’t have what we had last year.”

Salmon are only part of the problem. Smelt are at the lowest number ever recorded in the state. They are a major forage fish, feeding other fish and birds in the marine ecosystem.

“It’s part of the heritage resource in the state of California. It’s our responsibility to ensure they are protected,” Lehr said. “Every time you lose something, it puts pressure on the environment.

“You lose it and something else will replace it, but it will be lost. They’re part of the ecosystem. Millions of dollars have been invested in their survival.” - Washington Post.

Blue whale found decaying on Hunt's Island off Newfoundland's southwest coast

A dead blue whale has washed up on the southwest part of Hunt's Island. © Norm Strickland

A dead blue whale has washed up on the southwest part of Hunt's Island.

Too often, scenes of dead whales are seen around shores. This whale, believed by locals to be a giant blue whale, has died and will soon begin to decay on the southwest part of Hunt's Island.

The temperature in Burgeo is still fairly cold and it is not composing fast, there is a lot of meat and blubber to decompose there.

It is more than a mile from town so the smell hasn't had any effect. After the gulls have picked holes in it, it is speculated it will sink because the holes will release the air.

Times have changed since the days of Farley Mowat and Moby Joe, people look at a dead whale now sadly, they love to see those huge beautiful mammals swimming and spraying their mists into the air.  - The Gulf News.

Seal seen 40 miles inland in Cambridgeshire, UK

The sunbathing seal. © Nathaniel Gore/PA

A sunbathing seal has been spotted in a river 40 miles from the sea in Cambridgeshire.

Nathaniel Gore, 33, was out walking near his home in St Ives on Sunday when he spotted the animal splashing around in the water.

The editorial project manger stopped to film the seal and said it was not put off by the attention.

He added: "I've heard stories of seals being found inland before and he seemed perfectly happy so I wasn't too concerned.

"I stopped for about 20 minutes and he seemed to be enjoying the attention. He was splashing around in the water and sunbathing by the side of the river. I was able to get within three feet and it was a great sight to stop and enjoy."

WATCH: Seal spotted splashing around and sunbathing - 40miles inland.

In 2013, another seal was found 50 miles from the sea in Fen Drayton Lakes, near St Ives. It is believed the animal swam along the Great River Ouse from Norfolk.

While the animals often survive quite happily before returning to their habitats, one seal found in a field in Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside, shortly before Christmas was not so lucky.

The animal, later named Dumbledore, died at the RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre, Norfolk, in January after suffering from pneumonia. - Daily Telegraph.

Animal weirdness: Wild boar drops through roof of store in Hong Kong

Surprise: Wild boar gets trapped inside a children's clothing store

Shocked shoppers were given quite the surprise on Sunday when a wild boar fell through the ceiling of a children's clothing store.

The unusual customer had wandered into a Hong Kong shopping centre where it was then trapped and unable to get out.

Video aired by local TV stations showed the boar, which had apparently climbed up a ladder, punching a hole through the showroom's false ceiling with a trotter.

WATCH: Who said shopping was boar-ing? Customers squeal as wild pig drops through roof of store.

News reports said the animal was a 25kg, metre-long young female.

A crowd of shoppers, watching from behind a line of police, squealed in amazement as the boar clambered down onto the top of display case, jumped to the floor and skittered around the shop, knocking over mannequins and signs.

The boar was eventually tranquillised by a vet and taken to an animal rehab centre, the South China Morning Post reported.

Wild boars are common in Hong Kong, where they are often found roaming the forested hills of the southern Chinese city. - Mirror.

Dead whale seen in Vancouver's Burrard Inlet

The carcass could be seen from buildings in downtown Vancouver overlooking Burrard Inlet.  © CBC

Officials have yet to confirm the carcass is that of a killer whale

The carcass of what appears to be a dead killer whale has washed up in Burrard Inlet next to downtown Vancouver.

Officials have yet to confirm the species of the whale, but Biggs killer whales, also known as transients, have been spotted in recent months heading through the busy harbour on their way to nearby Indian Arm, where they are known to prey on seals.  - CBC.

Angry elephant leaves water to kill a man on shore

Tragic: The elephant viciously throws the onlooker in the air

A rampaging elephant in India has been filmed trampling a man to death after it was provoked to charge them.

Horrific footage shows the animal stamping and throwing him after he fell and twisted his ankle as he attempted to escape.

As the attack unfolds onlookers desperately attempt to distract the enraged animal.

A few minutes earlier someone had launched a firework at the animal, sending it running along the opposite bank.

WATCH: Angry elephant comes on shore to kill a man in front of many people.

The clip shows a man then being helped out of a river and carried along the shoreline with two dozen more people scattered around nearby.

As the injured man limps along, the elephant can be seen in the background, wading out of the water, and for a few seconds it looks as if everyone is safe.

However, the elephant then begins charging, sending the people nearby running for their lives.

Tragically, one man falls down and the elephant brutally attacks him, tossing him into the air to the shock of the onlookers.

One man runs forward and waves his arms in the air in a bid to lure the elephant away, but it proves fruitless.

The clip ends with the elephant circling in rage by the water.  - Daily Mail.

Mystery of giant yellow rat snake seen slithering in suds by the seashore in Mayport, Florida

Lifeguards said snakes on the beach are rare, but the tides have been unusually high in recent days

A Florida surfer sparked a little bit of a panic after he spotted a large snake on the beach and posted pictures of it slithering through sea foam on the internet.

Swimmer and surfers alike were alarmed to see the reptile, believed to be a yellow rat snake, in the online photos from the seashore in Mayport.

They needn't have worried as yellow rat snakes are nonvenomous and mostly harmless.

Pictures of this snake were first posted on

Surfer Bo Miller said: 'It's definitely sketchy.'

Lifeguards said snakes on the beach are rare, but the tides have been unusually high in recent days, News4Jax reported.

The tides may have caused the snake's arrival or it's possible it was accidentally dropped by a bird of prey that was trying to eat it for dinner.

Photos of the reptile, believed to be a yellow rat snake, were posted online and scared swimmer and surfers

The snake's arrival, however it occurred, caused some exits.

Swimmer Teresa Quin said: 'I think I'd rather stay in the pool.

'I'm a fish girl. I like to go to the beach, but it's kinda scary.'

Although the snakes are not poisonous, they will bite if provoked, according to First Coast News.

Photos of the reptile, believed to be a yellow rat snake, were posted online and scared swimmer and surfers

WATCH: Surfers shocked after giant yellow rat snake appears on beach.

Mike Taylor with Jacksonville Zoo said: 'I've been bitten by them before.

'If you grab it, they will bite you.'

They usually live near water, but like to hang out in trees and grassy area.

However, some yellow rat snakes have been spotted in dunes near the beach in the past.

That is where animal control officers put the snake after they captured it. - Daily Mail.

Man killed by bull shark in New Caledonia waters


A man has died after being bitten multiple times by a shark while swimming off the Pacific Ocean island of New Caledonia, famed for its idyllic turquoise waters and white sandy beaches, police said Sunday.

The man, described as around 50 years old, who was on a cruise with friends in the south of the archipelago, was swimming just metres from the boat when he was attacked by a bull shark, a military police spokesman told local radio.

"It was really a savage and sudden attack. Most people onboard were health workers, the first aid given was significant but the injuries were such that unfortunately there was not much that could be done," said the spokesman, without giving the dead man's nationality.

New Caledonia, off north-eastern Australia, is a French overseas territory but formulates its own tax, labour laws and trade policy.

The sun-drenched island, which boasts the world's largest enclosed lagoon with magnificent coral, is a popular tourist destination. - The Peninsula.

Camper killed by black bear near Mackenzie, British Columbia

A black bear forages for food in Jasper National Park, Alta. on May 7, 2014. © Jeff McIntosh / THE CANADIAN PRESS

A young northern B.C. man was killed by a black bear at a remote campsite this weekend while his fiancée slept inside their motorhome, say authorities who are now warning people to exercise extreme caution in the province's backcountry.

Daniel Ward Folland O'Connor and his wife-to-be were in a small campground near MacKenzie Saturday night when the fatal mauling apparently occurred.

The BC Coroners Service said O'Connor fell asleep near a fire pit, while his fiancé went to bed in their motorhome.

"After getting up in the morning, [she] realized something was wrong and went for help," said spokesperson Barb McLintock.

The incident was reported to RCMP at 10 a.m. Sunday, and conservation officers located the bear believed to be responsible a short time later.

The 300-pound male black bear, as well as a wolf, were shot dead after the 27-year-old's body was found on a remote logging road.

"The injuries Mr. O'Connor suffered were consistent with a black bear attack," said McLintock, adding that campers need to be well aware of the risks that wildlife can pose in remote campgrounds.  - CTV News.

Dead sperm whale found floating off the Bermuda coast

Choy Aming straddles a dead sperm whale that became the subject of a feeding frenzy for three species of shark off Challenger Banks. © Chris Burville

Straddling a dead whale floating on the open ocean as its carcass is ripped apart by three species of shark isn't something you can expect to do every day but it's something Bermudian videographer Choy Aming can now add to his bragging rights.

He received a text on Sunday from a fisherman telling him that there was a dead adult sperm whale floating in the water about 12 miles off shore on the eastern side of Challenger Banks. Within an hour Mr Aming, along with photographer Chris Burville and a small group of friends, were able to watch the drama unfold as about a dozen tiger, blue and dusky sharks made a meal of the 30-35 feet leviathan.

Mr Aming told The Royal Gazette: "I had two sharks within two feet of my face while I was sitting on the back of a dead whale just ripping flesh out of it. I have never been able to get that close. It's not the largest number of sharks I have seen at once but it was just pretty intense over all because the feeding was quite ravenous.

"We were on Chris's boat but once I saw the sharks sticking their heads out of the water I thought, 'I've got to climb on the whale'. I was probably sitting there for 45 minutes with my GoPro camera but it was very shaky and unstable — when the swells came the whale would roll.

"I wore my mask and fins because I genuinely thought there is a good chance I would roll off and if I did at least I would have a good chance of seeing everything and be able to move out of harm's way."

Mr Aming spent eight years satellite tagging sharks along with the late Neil Burnie as part of the Bermuda Shark Project and said he was able to observe feeding behaviours that were new to him.

"They were really in a different mindset — I have never been able to put that much chum out before.

"Probably the biggest tiger was probably in the nine to ten feet range and at one point I saw him bury about three feet of his head inside the whale.

"When we go out tagging and put a marlin head in the water, the sharks take in turns in a sort of pecking order. This time because it was so large three or four could feed uninterrupted — if you give them enough bait they will all have a go."

Mr Aming said that above the water — aside from severe sunburn on its skin — the carcass was relatively unscathed but from below the surface massive bite marks had opened up the body. - The Royal Gazette.

Young girl dies in possible bear attack at Garden Hill, Manitoba

Sources say the girl was Theresa Robinson from Garden Hill First Nation.
A northern Manitoba community is in shock after an 11-year-old girl was found dead, her body showing signs of a possible bear attack.

Teresa Robinson went missing on May 5. Her body was discovered six days later, on Monday.

David Harper, Grand Chief of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, said Robinson's remains were found near her Garden Hill First Nation home. He told The Canadian Press that it appears the girl was mauled by an animal, and that a bear in the area could be the culprit.

"Bears were seen wandering there Tuesday night on the east side," he said. "It's just awful ... no one's heard of this happening before."

Investigators have yet to release an official cause of death for the girl. Harper said wild dogs also live in the area, and it could be up to 48 hours before it's clear exactly what killed Robinson.

In the meantime, First Nations leaders have already gathered in the community, and Harper plans to accompany Robinson's grandparents as they travel from Winnipeg to pay their respects.

A black bear is also suspected in the death of a camper in northern British Columbia this weekend. Daniel Ward Folland O'Connor fell asleep near a fire pit at a remote campsite near MacKenzie, B.C. His body was later found near a logging road, with injuries consistent with a black bear attack. - CTV News.

Winter proves tough on deer, states weigh hunting limits

In this Dec. 1, 2014, file photo, a pair of deer move along the edge of the woods during the first day of Pennsylvania's white-tailed deer hunting season in Zelienople, Pa. A
tough winter across the northern states killed off many deer, and wildlife regulators in many states are implementing or considering deep cuts to hunting
permits. In Pennsylvania, wildlife officials are reducing the number of hunting permits for antlerless deer in 2015 by 30,000, or about
4 percent, following a 7-percent reduction the previous year. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

Wildlife regulators in states where deer hunting is a way of life and an important tourism draw are implementing or considering deep cuts to hunting permits after a tough winter killed off many of the animals.

Severe winters are perilous for deer because they risk running out of fat reserves and dying. Fawns, whose health determines the future stability of the herd, are especially susceptible.

A winter of heavy snow and bitter cold may have resulted in increased mortality rates from the upper Midwest to New England.

In Maine, biologists are recommending a cut of 23 percent to the state's deer hunting permits. In Vermont, the number of antlerless deer permits is being cut nearly in half. In Michigan's Upper Peninsula, deer hunting could be halted altogether.

"This last winter was one of the worst that I can remember. I suspect that we lost a lot of deer," said David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine. "Although it's disappointing to see permits go down, I would have to agree."

Maine's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologists are recommending the state issue 28,770 "any deer" permits, which allow hunters to harvest bucks or does. The cut would come a year after the state reduced permits from 46,710 to 37,185, a 25 percent cut that was also motivated in part by winter die-offs.

Maine's deer herd was about 200,000 a year ago. State biologist Kyle Ravana said this year's estimate should be ready soon. The state Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Advisory Council is expected to vote on the permit recommendations this spring or summer.

"Generally you can expect a higher level of mortality than an average year," Ravana said. He added that the damage to the state's deer herd might not have been as bad as some fear because the heavy snow didn't arrive until late in the season.

In this Dec. 1, 2014, file photo, Pennsylvania Game Commission Officer Terry Beer, right, checks the hunting licenses of Dante Bauccio, center, and Aaron Rech during the
first day of Pennsylvania's white-tailed deer hunting season in Butler, Pa. A tough winter across the northern states killed off many deer, and wildlife regulators in many
states are implementing or considering deep cuts to hunting permits. In Pennsylvania, wildlife officials are reducing the number of hunting permits for antlerless
deer in 2015 by 30,000, or about 4 percent, following a 7-percent reduction the previous year. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

In Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where the fall deer hunt is an annual ritual, the population has dropped as much as 40 percent after two bitterly cold and snowy winters. The state's Natural Resources Commission will discuss the situation Thursday during its monthly meeting in Lansing.

A memo prepared by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources lists six options, including canceling this year's Upper Peninsula deer hunting season. Spokesman Ed Golder said it's doubtful the commission would go that far, but the report says many hunters want something done in response to the peninsula's lowest deer numbers in about 30 years.

In Pennsylvania, wildlife officials are reducing the number of hunting permits for antlerless deer this year by 30,000, or about 4 percent, following a 7 percent reduction the previous year. One commissioner said the harsh winter weather factored into his decision, but there's also a broader effort to boost deer populations in certain areas.

In Vermont, officials estimate there will be a deer population of 115,000 to 120,000 at the start of the fall hunting season — a decrease of more than 11 percent from a year ago. The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department is cutting its antlerless deer permits nearly in half, to 9,250.

New Hampshire officials are also concerned about the possibility of above average deer mortality and might consider trimming hunting days in 2016, said Dan Bergeron, a state wildlife biologist. Minnesota and Wisconsin also have taken steps in recent years to try to replenish deer herds hit hard by winter. - Yahoo.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Nicaragua's Telica Volcano Dusts Town With Ash - 30 Eruptions Reported After 8-Year Hiatus!

May 11, 2015 - NICARAGUA
- Nicaragua's Telica volcano, the country's most active, has spewed fiery rocks and gases, dusting nearby towns with ash.

The volcano has registered 30 small eruptions since it rumbled to life on Thursday, the strongest yet occurring on Sunday night, according to the Nicaraguan Geological Institute.

'It spat hot rocks, gas and ash, reaching a height of 400 metres,' the agency said in a statement.

The flaming rocks caused vegetation on the volcano's slopes to catch fire, and fiery balls of burning foliage created a spectacle for observers.

The nearby towns of Posoltega and Guanacastal were dusted in ash following the eruptions, though no major damage or injuries were reported.

Telica, which is 1,061 metres high, is located in the foothills of the Maribios, about 112km northwest of the Nicaraguan capital Managua. - SKY News.