Animals

Whales hanging out in New York

First dolphins, now whales — sea mammals in New York City are bigger than Cats! Urban nature blogger Matthew Wills caught a humpback whale frolicking off Sandy Hook, N.J., within sight of the city. (He's got some great pictures over at his blog.) Wills was dismayed by the floating trash in the bay, not to mention all the garbage produced by his fellow boat passengers. But on the whole, the presence of whales and dolphins is a good indicator for water quality.

Critical List: New York AG going after natural gas companies; species move one mile north each year

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenaed three energy companies as part of an investigation into natural gas production estimates. If rats could abandon Ship Earth, they would right about now. Instead, species in the Northern Hemisphere are moving north at about a mile per year — three times faster than anyone imagined. Kick your caffeine habit now: climate change could make 60 percent of the places that now grow coffee inhospitable to the crop by 2050.

Otters are back in England

Once nearly extinct in England, otters have now returned to every county, indicating that rivers are at their healthiest in decades. Conservationists had predicted that it would be another 10 years before the otters reached this level of repopulation, so it's a real triumph for the iittle dudes. Not to mention an overwhelming stroke of good fortune for Brits, who can now watch otters play from the comfort of their homes, the lucky bastards.

Dolphins take Manhattan

New York is becoming quite the haven of wildlife! There's the pigeons, the giant monkey on the Empire State Building, and now dolphins have been spotted in New York Harbor. The frisky sea critters haven't gotten into an empire state of mind in two years, so this is a big deal — it means the water quality is better and the fish populations are rebounding. Of course, regular Grist List readers know that you can't always trust a dolphin, what with their mad lust-fueled killing sprees and everything. But that probably means that the tolerant Big Apple is the best …

Lake Michigan has become unfishable

While lobster fishermen in the Long Island Sound are stubbornly — but just barely — hanging on, people who depended on the fishing stock in the Great Lakes for their livelihood can no longer make it. Lake Michigan is a "liquid desert," reports Dan Egan in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Even the most devoted fishing family Egan can find is sending one of its own up to Alaska, because "he can catch more fish in one day in Alaska than he can catch all winter off Milwaukee."

Border fence doesn’t stop humans, just endangered species

The 600 or so miles of fence splitting the U.S. from Mexico hasn't stopped immigrants from moving northward, but the fence has kept a few (non-human) endangered species from crossing the border. According to a new study, some species have had their range cut by 75 percent. But the affected species, which include the Arroyo toad, California red-legged frog, black-spotted newt, and Pacific pond turtle, aren't the type that tend to incite widespread indignation on their behalf — that is, they’re reptiles and amphibians, which usually aren’t considered cute enough to worry about.