Animal lovers have more online outlets for their passion than ever before. The popularity of April the giraffe and her baby shows how much the internet wants to be involved in the lives of animals, both in captivity and out in the wild. While live cams are fun, online wildlife trackers will feed your love for the wilderness and its denizens, all from the comfort of your computer.
Yosemite Bear Tracker
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Yosemite National Park is famous for its gorgeous landscapes and spectacular wildlife sightings. Visitors get especially excited when seeing the park’s famous black bears from a safe distance. You don’t have to fight the crowds to keep track of the shaggy Yosemite critters. The park launched an online Bear Tracker this year to let you keep tabs on the four-legged residents from afar.
The tracker is part of a larger educational site called Keep Bears Wild. The map lets you take a close look at the GPS trails created by collared bears. You can see how far they travel in a day, or within the last 30 days. Yosemite’s rangers delay the data so you can’t use it to find the exact location of a bear at any given time, but it gives you a way to see just how active the bears are and how much ground they can cover, which can be impressive.
The Bear Tracker lets you peek in on specific case studies, including that of a bear that was captured and relocated within the park. On a more sobering note, the map also shows the locations of bears that have been hit by cars. This is meant to remind visitors to obey speed limits while driving within the park. If you’re a fan of bears, then be sure to explore the whole Keep Bears Wild site for tips on storing food and what to do if you see a bear in the wild.
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With names like Banjo, Aquarius, Anna, Tinker Bell and Myrtle, it’s easy to fall in love with the spectacular sea turtles being tracked by the Sea Turtle Conservancy, a Florida nonprofit organization dedicated to sea turtle research and conservation.
The Sea Turtle Conservancy keeps tabs on tagged turtles by using satellite tracking. The trackers are attached to the tops of the reptiles’ shells using resin and fiberglass or with epoxy glue. “Proper attachment methods are designed not to harm the sea turtle, damage its shell or increase the turtle’s chances of being tangled,” the conservancy notes. The trackers tend to work for about a year before falling safely off. That’s plenty of time to follow a turtle’s migration pattern.
Selecting a tracked turtle pulls up a map that lets you follow the reptile’s trail. Adult loggerhead sea turtle Anna, for example, has covered nearly 1,500 miles and you can see how she has curved around the coast of Florida during her travels. Aquarius, a juvenile green sea turtle, has a crazy-looking migration map showing his scattershot travels in the ocean around Bermuda.
It’s fun to peek in on the turtles’ activities, but the tracking also provides important data about migration patterns and behavior for scientists focused on protecting the turtles.
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Polar bears are not considered an endangered species, but the U.S. lists them as a threatened species. The World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly the World Wildlife Fund), lets you peek into the secret lives of polar bears through its online tracker. The bears wear collars that let scientists follow them using satellite signals. Here’s an interesting piece of trivia: only female polar bears can be tracked using radio collars. The males’ necks are simply too wide for the collars to stay on.
The WWF map lets you choose a polar bear and see its age, size, most recent locations, and where and when it was originally tagged. This also opens up a small photo gallery showing that particular bear. You might also get some extra information, including the animal’s condition and how many cubs she has. Click on “see more” to open a more detailed terrain map and check in on where the bear has traveled. Each bear has a different number, but some of them also have names, like “Snovit,” which means “Snow White.”
Most of the bears are located around the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard or in the vicinity of Hudson Bay in Canada. The bear tracker also links to field notes with updates about the tracked bears, so you can check in with the researchers about their latest observations and keep up with all the fascinating news about these big predators.