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Red foxes can be seen around the world in many different environments including forests, prairies, mountains, and even in deserts. Red Fox sightings occur throughout the United States, and that distinctive flash of red fur always quickens the breath with excitement. A fox is a cunning and resourceful animal that adapts well to living near humans, and can be found throughout the Chesapeake Bay region of Virginia. This beautiful vulpine is the most widespread meat eating mammal in the world, but the vast majority of people have never seen this crafty animal in the wild.

Equally at home hunting rabbits and scrounging through garbage cans, Red Foxes are omnivores which are able to thrive near humans by easily adapting to take advantage of any opportunity to find food. Their diet can be as varied as their range. Foxes will eat fruit and vegetables, fish, frogs, and even bugs. When near humans, foxes will often dine on garbage and any pet food that is left outside overnight. However, being typically shy and fearful of man- these clever animals can often live right in your neighborhood and for the most part go entirely unnoticed. The exception to this rule is generally during the summer, when rambunctious pups start to vocalize and begin to wander from the den.

Red Foxes mate in the winter, and the vixen typically gives birth to a small litter of kits in early spring. Kits are born blind, and are typically brown or dark gray at birth. A pup's red coat usually grows in by the end of the first month, but some red fox varieties are golden, reddish-brown, silver, or even black. Both parents will typically care for their young through the summer. The kits will remain at the den until fall, when they will normally strike out on their own.

While these cute creatures often appear to be catlike because of their graceful movements and large fuzzy tails, they are actually related to wolves and coyotes. Like their cousins, these wild animals should always be appreciated at a distance, and humans should not approach them or try to feed them.

If you are vacationing in Williamsburg this summer, keep your eyes open and you just might catch a glimpse of a family of foxes sneaking past!

 
 
_A century ago whales were plentiful in the world's oceans as the unrivaled kings of the seas, but humans have have a devastating impact on whale populations. The commercial whaling era killed millions of these majestic animals. Whales were used to manufacture lamp oil, lubricants, and cosmetics. Even today, whales still face many man-made dangers including pollution, the loss of food sources and habitat, climate change, ingesting plastic and trash, ship and submarine sonar, net entanglement, and even being struck by ship propellers are all common causes of whale injury and death. Conservation techniques are helping many whale populations to recover, but spotting these incredible animals in the wild can still be very difficult. These simple tips can help you. Whale sighting expeditions are very popular, and can create an unforgettable vacation memory!

For whale watchers, the right destination can make all the difference. These seven popular vacation destinations are all great places for whale sightings:
  1. Cape Cod, Massachusetts
  2. Los Cabos, Mexico
  3. Maui, Hawaii
  4. Depoe Bay, Oregon
  5. San Diego, California
  6. Port Townsend, Washington
  7. Glacier Bay, Alaska

Know what you are looking for to be a successful whale watcher! Local tour operators and tourist information centers can normally provide you with specific information about the types of whales you are likely to see on your excursion. Each whale will have different characteristics to watch for, and understanding what you are looking for is vital to being successful in spotting a whale species. Follows are four whale species that can be found in all oceans.


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_ A.  Sperm Whales

Sperm whales are generally easy to identify. Their blow holes are located near the top of the head, so spouts normally spray at an angle toward the front of the whale. They have rounded dorsal (back) fins with several bumps present behind the dorsal. They have very broad and thick flukes (tails) and the heads are huge and square.

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B. Right Whales

Right whales can also be easily identified because of their unique spray. These whales blow two separate spouts that form a V pattern. They have no dorsal fin so they can be difficult to spot on the water until they breach, but it is truly magnificent to see on of these whales jump from the water! Their tails are very wide and curved, and there are white bumps on their heads, so when you do see one you'll be able to recognize the species. These whales can be found on all oceans, but are very rare.

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C. Fin Whales

Fins Whales spouts go very high, straight up into the air. They have a very small dorsal fin that is set far on their back near the tail, and rarely allow their flukes to breach the water. The most easily identifiable characteristic of this whale species is the pointed head.

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D. Humpback Whales

Humpback whales have low bushy spouts that form a small cloud over the whales back. The dorsal fin is very small, but their backs hump at a sharp angle when they make a deep dive (often referred to as a fluke dive). There are white patches and a jagged edge to their tails, and their very long flippers are also white on the underside. Humpback whales have flat heads. Their unique flippers are the most easily identifiable characteristic of this species.

Occasionally, whales will strand themselves on the shore or a beach. Scientists are still unsure why this behavior happens. Sometimes even if the whales are pushed back into the water, they may still return to shore and beach themselves again. If you find a stranded whale on the beach and it is still alive, notify the local authorities immediately. You can also try to shade and cool the whale by placing wet towels or even seaweed onto the exposed back. Be sure to keep the blow hole clear and unimpeded, and be very careful of the whale's sensitive eyes. Try to keep people away from the animal as much as possible until expert help arrives.

To learn more about whales, please visit http://www.savethewhales.org.

For great rates on vacation rentals to many whale watching destinations, please visit http://vacation-times.org/vacation-rentals.html

 
 
_In today's ultra-competitive business environment, many car rental employees are trained and encouraged to sell upgrades and use misleading sales tactics in an attempt to boost profits. Often, car rental agencies will advertise very low car rental rates to bring customers in the door- and then gouge consumers on additional fees hidden in the fine print of the rental contract. Savvy consumers refuse to allow a car rental company take them for a ride! Here are four simple strategies to help you save money the next time you rent an automobile.

1) Avoid Unnecessary Insurance Coverages

Insurance policies are a huge profit center for car rental companies. These policies can be sold using fear and high pressure tactics to tack on large upcharges on a standard rental rate. Before paying for any insurance policy offered by the car rental company, always be sure to check with your own insurance company and your credit card provider to ensure you are not purchasing duplicate insurance coverage. Many personal auto insurance policies provide sufficient coverage without buying additional insurance. Also, many credit cards also include some collision and theft protection when they are used to pay for an automobile rental, but these benefits are usually secondary to personal auto insurance or the coverage sold by a car rental company.

Talk to your personal insurance agent to ensure you understand the coverage you already have, as well as the potential costs and risks if you damage the rental car. You may still decide that you want some type of additional coverage simply for your own piece of mind, but a little preliminary research can still save you money since most car rental companies offer at least four kinds of insurance policies: collision damage waiver, supplemental liability protection, personal accident insurance, and personal effects coverage.  While saving money is important- you should always remember that
it may be better to purchase duplicate coverage than to have an accident and discover that you have no coverage at all.

2) Don't Pay the Rental Car Company For Gasoline

Another huge profit center for car insurance companies is a huge markup on gasoline. Most rental agencies charge high fees or penalties if you return the rental car with less fuel than it contained at the start of your rental. Always take the few moments needed to refill the gas tank before dropping off your rental car. The savings from this simple action can be substantial. Also, be very cautious if a car rental employee asks you if you would like the option of prepaying for a full tank of gas. This tactic is nothing less than the car agency reaching into your pocket and pulling out a wad of cash!

3) Avoid Paying for Unnecessary Upgrades

Some car rental agencies pay bonuses to employees who sell upgraded rentals. If you arrive at the counter, and are told that they do not have the class of vehicle you reserved- refuse to pay any type of upgrade fee. Most car rental companies have a policy that they will provide you with a free vehicle upgrade if they overbook a class of vehicle. If the desk clerk refuses to give you the free upgrade, demand to speak to the manager or contact the corporate office. If the car rental company truly can't provide you with the vehicle you reserved, you will almost always be given the next class of rental car for free.

4) Read the Fine Print of the Rental Agreement

Make sure you actually read the rental contract before you sign it. Some contracts will include charges for services you may not need such as satellite radio, automatic toll payment, and gps directions while other contracts will specify large penalties for driving over the state line, going over the allowed mileage, or having more than driver during the trip. This is another area where a little preliminary research can reap substantial savings! Understanding the true cost of the car rental means understanding all the charges that will apply during your trip. Never pay for services or benefits that you do not plan to use!

 
 
Przewalski Horses (equus ferus przewalskii) once roamed throughout the plains and steppes of Asia and across the geographic regions now know as Germany, Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia, and China. As human populations expanded, the herds were driven into very remote places until finally only a few herds remained. These horses are the only truly wild horses remaining in the world, since the wild mustangs in the Western United States are actually decended from tame horses originally brought from Europe.

Przewalski Horses were actually deemed extinct in the wild until 2008, but a few successful reintroductions caused the animals to be reclassified as critically endangered. Currently, there are only a few hundred of these horses living free and approximately 1,500 animals remaining in zoos and breeding facilities. However, all these animals carry genes from only a few founder animals- many of which can be tracked back to only 34 horses brought to Germany by an animal collector, Carl Hagenbeck. Most of the animals found in zoos today can be tracked back as descendents of this handful of horses.

These horses can breed with domestic animals, but can be identified scientifically as the Przewalski Horses have two additional chromosomes. Mitochondrial DNA studies have shown that these horses are not the ancestors of our domestic horses.

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_Przewalski Horses also show a number of other consistent differences from domestic horses in their appearance. The Przewalski mane is short and erect in most horses that are in good body condition and the forelocks are close to nonexistent. The upper part of the tail has short guard hairs, unlike domestic horses, that have long, falling manes and long guard hairs all over the tail. A dark dorsal stripe runs from the mane down the spine and dorsal side of the tail to the tail tuft and there are also commonly several dark stripes the can be found on the carpus (knee) and the tarsus (hock). Also, Przewalski's Horses shed their tail and mane hair once per year.

To learn more about this amazing animal and to learn ways you can help protect this critically endangered species, please visit The Foundation for Preservation and Protection of the Przewalski Horse at this LINK.


You can also currently find Przewalski Horses at many fine zoos including the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in San Diego, California. This zoo has a fantastic program, and has had a number of successful births for this incredibly rare horse!