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Booted bear

QUICK TAKES | Relocation plan goes awry when bear reappears at favorite campsite

Illustration by Shaw Nielsen

Booted bear
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Six months ago, officials at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee relocated a female black bear who was guilty of invading campsites and stealing food from atop picnic tables. Four states and 1,000 miles later, though, the bear returned to the very same campsite where she had been captured. Wildlife biologists had tagged the bear, dubbed No. 609, and tracked her to discover what becomes of bears evicted from the park. After her relocation to Cherokee National Forest, Bear 609 wandered into North and South Carolina and even sparked news reports in July when she pillaged a Georgia shopping center. She also survived a run-in with a car. “She never slowed down,” biologist Bill Stiver told WBIR. “She just kept on going.”

Wartime dig

What could distract Ukrainian soldiers from their task of ­digging defensive fortifications in Kherson province? Ancient Roman ruins, of course. Soldiers building earthworks by the Dnipro River in the war-torn nation uncovered the remains of a Roman settlement from classical antiquity, defense officials reported on Dec. 20. The nation’s State Border Guard Service released pictures of the clay pots the soldiers had found. Ukrainian soldiers reported the find to local archaeologists and shifted construction of their defensive line to another location.

Three of a kind

Dec. 18 will always be a big day in the Scott family. It’s the day that Cassidy and Dylan Scott of Huntsville, Ala., welcomed the birth of their first child, a girl named Lennon. But Dec. 18 also happens to be Cassidy’s and Dylan’s birthday, too. Mathematically, the odds of three people picked at random all sharing the same birthday date is around 1 in 133,000. The Scotts didn’t say whether they tried increasing the odds by ­planning the pregnancy.

Attack of the arachnids

A spider infestation forced officials to shutter a Wisconsin middle school. In a letter home to parents Dec. 8, Principal Cory Erlandson of Wilson Middle School in Manitowoc, Wis., announced that ­y­ellow sac spiders had bitten a teacher and a student and the school would close the next day so exterminators could remove the threat. According to Erlandson’s letter, school officials found more than 30 spiders in multiple classrooms.

Fast-food heist

The poor reaction time of a Florida man cost him a sack full of chicken nuggets and an order of fries. Seminole County resident Paul Newman says a local black bear beat him to his Chick-fil-A delivery, which was left on his front porch Dec. 14. Newman uploaded footage from his home security camera to social media and narrated the bear’s heist. According to Newman, the bear took only the nuggets and fries, leaving behind a salad and soda. “He didn’t want the salad, though,” Newman deadpanned in the video. “Nothing to do with the salad. Weird.”

Lost and found

Sandra O’Neill’s German shepherd mix Zeppelin had a habit of getting loose and exploring the neighborhood. That didn’t worry O’Neill because Zeppelin always came back. Until one day he didn’t. The West Sacramento, Calif., resident said Zeppelin ran away in October 2021. But this December, Zeppelin was finally found—about 1,600 miles away. Workers at an animal clinic in Louisburg, Kan., scanned Zeppelin’s microchip and made contact with O’Neill. Then a woman with plans to drive to California agreed to transport Zeppelin home for Christmas. Although O’Neill is happy to have her dog back, she has no idea how the dog made it so far away.

Turn out the lights

It’s getting too bright for many astronomical observatories. Despite their ­construction in locations once considered remote, some of the world’s major observatories are now struggling with light pollution. That’s the finding of ­scientists who published Dec. 20 in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The study’s authors found only seven out of 28 observatories researched had light pollution below a ­previously established threshold when the facilities’ telescopes are pointed directly upward. Just one—an observatory lodge in Namibia—was undisturbed by light pollution when telescopes were pointed toward the horizon.


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