Otters in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska.
The sea otter population of Glacier Bay has increased dramatically in the past 20 years. Ecologists consider sea otters a keystone species here. Otters consume vast quantities of clams, urchins, crabs, and other invertebrates and their presence creates ripples through the ecosystem. NPS photo.
Every day someone like you becomes a wildland wildfire fighter, a teacher, a trail-builder, a museum curator, or a park ranger. Discover your opportunities in national parks. Come to play. Come to learn. Come to serve. Develop your environmental leadership skills. Find a job. Be the next generation to preserve and protect these great places.
With more than 80% of Americans living in urban areas, urban parks are more important than ever. The father of American landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted, said of urban parks:
It is one great purpose of the Park to supply to the hundreds of thousands of tired workers, who have no opportunity to spend their summers in the country, a specimen of God's handiwork that shall be to them, inexpensively, what a month or two in the White Mountains or the Adirondacks is, at great cost, to those in easier circumstances.
Love is in air. It seems like everywhere you look, you can see tender moments between couples -- including in the animal kingdom. So this Valentine’s Day say, “Awww!” with these sweet pics of animals showing affection.
Seriously -- how ridiculously cute is this? A Weddell seal pup gives its momma a kiss. The Weddell seal population of Erebus Bay, Antarctica, has been extensively studied for over 40 years. It's one of the longest running studies of a long-lived mammal. Between September and October, Weddell seals give birth to one pup, and the pup will stay with the mother for 5-6 weeks. Photo by William Link, USGS.
Week-old black-footed ferret kits born at the National Black-Footed Ferret Conservation Center form a heart shape as they cuddle. One of the most endangered mammals in North America, Black-footed ferrets are born blind and helpless. By 90 days of age, the kits are 90 percent of their adult size and adept at hunting. Learn more about U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Black-footed ferret recovery efforts. Photo by Kimberly Tamkun, USFWS.
Moose calves nuzzle each other while posing for the camera. Female moose (called cows) give birth to 1-3 calves, with triplets being rare. At birth, calves weigh 28-35 pounds and pack on weight quickly -- reaching 300+ pounds within five months. Photo from Fortymile Wild and Scenic River by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management.
Not all couples show affection the same way. Clearly.
Eagles mate for life, choosing the tops of large trees to build nests, which they typically use and enlarge each year. Nests may reach 10 feet across and weigh a half ton. Breeding bald eagles typically lay one to three eggs once a year. Learn more about bald eagles. Photo by Roy W. Lowe.
Black-tailed prairie dog pups greet each other with a "kiss" at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado. This sweet act, which involves touching each other's front teeth or nose, helps prairie dogs maintain kin recognition. Photo by Rich Keen, DPRA.
Many birds are monogamous, but Laysan Albatrosses mate for life. Young birds search for a mate with elaborate courtship dances. Once they hit breeding age, Albatrosses breed their entire lives, hatching and caring for one chick at least every other year. Pictured here is Wisdom -- the oldest living, banded, wild bird -- and her current mate at their nest at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Pete Leary, USFWS.
Two elk smooch while enjoying the view at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Every autumn, elk gather for the rut or annual mating season. Bull elk can be heard calling to females with a crescendo of deep, resonant tones that rise rapidly to a high-pitched squeal before dropping to a series of grunts. Remember to keep your distance when observing them. Mating wildlife enjoy their human-free personal space. Photo by Brent Willmert (www.sharetheexperience.org).
These two little red foxes snoozing at Maine’s Acadia National Park warm the heart. A mother fox gives birth to a litter of 2-12 kits, which the parents raise together. When the kits are about seven months old, they’re ready to strike out on their own. Photo by Jana Matusz, National Park Service.
This might look like a fight, but it’s part of the avocets’ complicated courtship ritual. After mating, avocets stand side by side with their bills crossed and the male’s wing draped over the female. National wildlife refuges, such as Bombay Hook in Delaware and Bear River in Utah, are great places for birding experiences. Photo by Julio Flego (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Two bear cubs hold paws in this sweet moment. While very little is known about playing in the animal kingdom, it’s not uncommon to see them horsing around. Bear cubs have been observed sparring with their siblings, wrestling with their mothers or froclicking with sticks. Photo from Lake Clark National Park and Preserve in Alaska by Gretchen Kaplan (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Sea otters have a lot of cute behaviors -- from holding paws as they float on their backs, to mothers cuddling their napping babies. The smallest marine mammals, sea otters are mostly found off the coast of Alaska. Once nearly eliminated by fur hunters, sea otters have made a spectacular comeback throughout the North Pacific, following protection in 1911 and reintroductions about 30 years ago. Photo by USFWS.