Second right whale calf of the year spotted off the coast of Florida

A critically endangered North Atlantic right whale calf and its mother have been spotted off of the coast of Florida. The sighting marks the second confirmed newborn of the winter birthing season. Scientists, researchers, and conservationists were hoping that right whales would be born this year after there were zero documented births last year. The estimated population of the right whale is only 411. The natural lifespan of a North Atlantic right whale is longer than 30 years but they can and often do die earlier when struck by ships or wrapped in fishing rope. Researchers have linked the decline in birth rate to female whales exhausting their energy while swimming entangled in fishing rope. Animal conservationists also warn that pending seismic tests along the east coast could have a devastating effect on the right whale.  

 

This marathon runner has a training partner that turns heads

Sarah Hites and Penny the goat Photo from Runnersworld.com

Sarah Hites of Tuttle, Oklahoma sets out for her runs with an unusual running buddy named Penny, a 1.5-year-old Nigerian Dwarf goat. Hites told Runners World that she adopted the goat when it was just a baby because her daughter wanted to make goat lotion, milk, and soap. It wasn’t until later that they realized the goat had to be mated in order to do that, so she just became a pet. One day while Hites was starting her run she noticed Penny chasing after her. It happened a few more times before Hites let the goat come along on the run. Hites reports that Penny can make it about 4 miles before she starts “huffing and puffing,” at which point Hites sends Penny back to the house on her own. The runs are clearly good for both Hites and Penny, but they bring a lot of joy to other people too. “People slow down a lot when they see us,” said Hites. “They’ll wave or laugh or give a thumbs up.”

 

After 20 years of effort, 87-acre tract of land conserved in Madison County, NC

The town of Mars Hill, NC has purchased an 87-acre tract of land on 3,500-foot Bailey Mountain. The property will be added to a 197-acre tract on the southern slope of the mountain to create a public park. Protection for Bailey Mountain became a priority in the 90’s as housing developments began popping up in Madison County and around Western North Carolina. Hoping to protect the iconic peak, the Richard L. Hoffman Foundation bought the initial 197-acre tract of land in 1996. The newly purchased 87-acre tract borders the originally protected tract of land. The town of Mars Hill is now working on a recreation plan. Due to the cold winter weather, any grand opening celebration for Bailey Mountain Park will be scheduled sometime in the summer.