* iStock photo. Wolverine: Milder winters have caused rodents, a primary source of food for wolverines, to decline and now threatens the wolverine with extinction.
* iStock photo. Wolverine: Milder winters have caused rodents, a primary source of food for wolverines, to decline and now threatens the wolverine with extinction.
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Welcome to the fourth in a new series of Animal Tales from the Bermuda S.P.C.A., which have kindly been sponsored by our good friends at Noah's Ark.

The unseen effects of climate change

Whether or not you believe in climate warming, the sea ice around the North Pole is definitely shrinking, and this in turn is having a dramatic effect upon the animals that inhabit the remote northern regions of our planet.

Most people are already aware of the threat posed to polar bears through the loss of natural habitat and reduction in prey.

The ice floes, on which the bears rest when swimming across the ocean in search of their prey, are becoming smaller or disappearing altogether.

As a result the bears have to swim that much further while foraging for food, and increasing numbers of bears are drowning from pure exhaustion.

But bears are not the only animals in decline in the far reaches of North America, Europe, and Asia. Other species include reindeer and the little known wolverine.

The latter animal is a predator renowned for its strength and its resolute, determined character, which has evolved to live out its life on the snow pack.

Wolverines have thick, warm fur, short legs, and extra large feet, and they mainly eat rodents and the carcasses of the larger northern animals, such as elk, moose, and caribou.

With milder winters and less snow, the result is a shallower snow pack each year.

As a consequence the rodent populations have less insulation to weather the cold and their numbers are decreasing accordingly.

Conversely this reduction in the severity of the winter weather has had the opposite effect on the larger animals by enabling more of them to survive, and this has added to the food shortages for the wolverines.

Sitting back and watching various species of animal slowly heading for extinction is not an option, say scientists.

Many are now calling for a reduction in trapping and deforestation within the northern snow zones, and this they hope will offset the effects of the diminishing snow packs.

Highland yarn

April Fool's Day has come and gone since I wrote my last article, but I wondered how many readers saw the piece in The Times about tartan sheep?

A sheep breeder in East Lothian, Scotland claims to have bred unique tartan varieties of sheep, whose coats come in a range of vivid, coloured patterns.

When interviewed he denied that he was intending to fleece anybody or to pull the wool over their eyes!

Watch the birdie!

In future before you call a silly person a birdbrain, you might want to rethink your terminology!

Although we sometimes compare empty-headed people with birds, scientists suggest that we may actually be doing the birds a disfavour.

Recent studies of wild crows in the South Pacific have shown that the birds are capable of crafting and using tools to extract food, as well as exhibiting problem solving traits.

It was previously thought that only primates had these abilities.

Scientists managed to capture several wild crows and then set up complex experiments inside their cages.

The experiments required the crows to work out how to use a short stick (attached to the end of a piece of string) in order to dislodge a longer stick, which in turn they could use to retrieve food that had been placed out of reach.

Several of the crows needed more than one attempt to solve the problem, but all were eventually successful.

Prior to the experiments the crows had been known to whittle away at sticks in the wild, which they then used to spike fish, but their ability to actually reason came as a complete surprise to scientists.

Animal adoption

In closing I would just like to remind readers that the Bermuda SPCA currently has a number of animals available for adoption.

If you have an interest in adding to your family and giving a deserving animal a good home, then please check out the Society's website for further information: www.spca.bm.