Sarah Thomas

The Word of Mouth Saturday broadcast is your shining beacon of awesome at the end of a snowy week. Whether you're wearing headphones under your winter hat or you're listening in a snow-covered car, we have the segments that delight and enlighten. You may even forget we have six more weeks of winter! Listen to the full show, and scroll down for links and more.

Meet Ben Kilham, 'Bear Whisperer'

Oct 29, 2013
Lauren Gesswien / Courtesy of Ben Kilham

From ThoughtCast comes a story about the bear whisperer of Lyme, New Hampshire, Ben Kilham, and the abandoned black bear cubs he has rescued, rehabilitated and released back into the wild.


As the curtain falls on another season of superhero blockbusters, Hollywood is already hard at work re-booting  "Batman," "Captain America," and the "Fantastic Four" franchises.  More than sixty high-profile superhero films have been released since the surprise success of "X-Men" in the year 2000.

Joe Hanson points us to a more enduring source of awe-inspiring acts: nature. Hanson is a biologist who writes and hosts the PBS. video series “It’s Okay to Be Smart.”

Travis S. via flickr Creative Commons

Fifteen-thousand years ago, nearly 100 species of large animals known as ‘megafauna’ roamed the amazon forest before going extinct. A team of researchers from oxford and Princeton University studying the ‘megafauna’s’ effects on the ecosystem discovered that they were crucial in maintaining soil fertility.  Chris Doughty is currently a lecturer in ecosystem ecology within the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford, and lead author of a recent study: “The Legacy of the Pleistocene Megafauna Extinctions on Nutrient Availability in Amazonia.”

via Monadnock Lyceum

Life is not a commodity, but a community.  Animals are not our possessions, but our elder siblings, guides and teachers in the larger family of which Homo sapiens is merely a junior member.  Reverend Gary Kowalski shares the journey that led him to appreciate nature as the primordial sacrament and to rediscover the ancient knowledge evident to indigenous people (reconfirmed by the findings of modern biology) that other species are not so different from ourselves, but share in the emotional depths and psychic capacities that make us most fully human.

Therapy Dog, "Angel," Lives Up To Her Name

Jun 22, 2013
Courtesy Sarah Kirsch

Sarah Kirsch rescued her dog, Angel, from the Concord-Merrimack County SPCA, and enrolled Angel in a program to become a therapy dog through that organization. Now certified, Angel makes regular visits to nursing homes.

The presence of a therapy dog can have a significant impact on the residents.

Kirsch and Angel were directed to one resident, Pearl. Though she seemed to be unresponsive, her roommate informed Kirsch that she really did like dogs.

Sean Hurley

Animals have long played a part in human therapy and healing; from dogs trained to assist the disabled, to all manner of animals making visits to hospitals and nursing homes. For one Vermont woman, it’s a horse that’s helped her heal; not from physical ailments, but from the emotional and spiritual scars of abuse. Sean Hurley brings us her story.

There are many ways to ease the pangs of loneliness, illness, and old age –among them, spending time with a friendly animal companion. More than ten thousand animals are currently registered as care workers in the United States - only fourteen of them however, are llamas. I recently spoke with llama trainer Niki Kuklenski of J.N.K. Llamas about how this unusual animal is playing a role in human therapy.

Check out a video from Colors Magazine that shows Niki's llamas in action.


E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: How are populations of African elephants faring these days? What conservation efforts are underway and are they working?-- Libby Broullette, Salem, MA

Baby Black Bears Nursed Back To Health

Mar 30, 2013
Benjamin Kilham

It's cuddly work, but someone has to do it.

The Kilhams are those someones. Last spring, black bear specialist Benjamin Kilham, his wife Debbie, and his sister Phoebe, who together operate a bear rehabilitation sanctuary near Lyme, New Hampshire, took on the care of twenty orphaned black bear cubs - much higher than their usual number of charges.

Royal BC Museum in Victoria

E - The Environmental Magazine

iStock Photo

E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: What is the purpose of National Wildlife Week, which I understand will take place in March 2013? -- Melissa P., Burlington, NJ

Hemera Collection

E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: What are some tips for keeping my dogs and cats healthy?-- Kim Newfield, via e-mail

Believe it or not, our pets may be exposed to more harsh chemicals through the course of their day than we are. Researchers at the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that pet dogs and cats were contaminated with 48 of 70 industrial chemicals tested, including 43 chemicals at levels higher than those typically found in people.

Nothing exceptional here via Flickr Creative Commons

Today when dogs do a disappearing act, infrared cameras, tracking devices, and social media help owners keep tabs on wandering pets. These security technologies are a growing part of the 56-billion dollars spent annually on America’s pets.

Kirk from Wolfeboro

In his book, New Hampshire’s Ben Kilham describes what he has learned in his twenty years studying these creatures.   Contrary to their image as solitary and not-that-intelligent, Kilham finds bears capable of altruism, and cooperation. He even finds them possess a complex communication system, as well as social  behaviors that at times look a lot like ours.


gLangille via Flickr Creative Commons

More than three decades ago, the Mountain Gorilla project started a tourism project to save the threatened gorilla population from poaching. The project hired poachers as park rangers and demonstrated that live gorillas were much more valuable as tourist attractions than dead ones. Since then, gorilla tourism has added hundreds of millions of foreign tourist dollars to state coffers in Central Africa, and the great ape populations have seen a modest rebound.

Brian_Kellett via Flickr Creative Commons

Recent studies out of Duke University have discovered that everyone’s favorite lab rat, the humble mouse, has a penchant for singing – and more importantly, singing in a way.  Producer Taylor Quimby is Word of Mouth’s always willing investigator of strange science, and he has the story.

Check out Cinderella's singing mice. They are true heroes:

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Do environmentalists think the Endangered Species Act has been a success or failure with regard to protecting biodiversity in the U.S.?-- Ron McKnight, Trenton, NJ

While that very question has been a subject of debate already for decades, most environmental advocates are thankful such legislation is in place and proud of their government for upholding such high standards when it comes to preserving rare species of plants and animals.

Photo Credit Atelier Teee, via Flickr Creative Commons


Part 1: A Horse of Exactly the Same Color and Jumping for Gold...Someday

Produced with Zach Nugent


Jul 18, 2012
Photo Credit Sad Diego Shooter, Via Flickr Creative Commons

Remember how people used to joke about online dating? What once was an easy target for digs about desperate singles and social pariahs is now a success story for oodles of couples and dozens of highly profitable dating services.  Among the unabashed masses of online daters these days is an unlikely demographic – the animal kingdom. Reyhan Harmancy is a staffer at Buzzfeed, where she wrote about how zoos use online dating methods to profile and pair species together. 

iStock Photo

E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: One of the objections to wind power has been that the turbines can kill birds. Has there been some progress in developing bird-friendly wind power? -- Marcie Mahoney, Boston, MA


(Photo by maplegirlie via Flickr)

A note to listeners: This interview was supposed to include Jim Gorant, a Senior Editor for Sports Illustrated, and author of The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption. Unfortunately, we lost our connection with him shortly after his part of the interview began.  /RL

We love dogs. So we can't resist passing along word that later today All Things Considered plans to catch up on the story of Andy, a tan and white Pembroke Welsh Corgi who has been missing since New Year's Eve.

New research shows that first-graders and baboons have at least one thing in common: Both can tell the difference between actual written words and random sequences of letters. This finding challenges some conventional ideas about what goes on in the human brain when we read.

Scientists have assumed that reading relies on the same brain circuits involved in spoken language, but now they are considering a more complicated explanation, thanks to six baboons who took part in an unusual experiment.

Pipe Down! That Noise Might Affect Your Plants

Mar 26, 2012

Researchers haven't given much thought to the effect of noise and noise pollution on plants. After all, plants don't have ears — at least, not the kind you hear with — so there doesn't seem to be much point. But thanks to ecologist Clinton Francis, that could be about to change.

Francis is a postdoctoral researcher at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in North Carolina. But he has spent the past few years in northwestern New Mexico, studying noise pollution in Rattlesnake Canyon.

A Body at Play...

Mar 23, 2012

We've all seen wildlife documentaries showing young animals—lion cubs, perhaps—wrestling, chasing, pouncing on their siblings. Observe household puppies and kittens and you'll see the same behavior: young animals at play.

Play is defined as spontaneous, energetic behavior with no apparent purpose or goal. But whenever there's considerable expenditure of energy, a closer look is warranted. There may not be apparent goals, but the true benefits of play are being recognized by a growing number of disciplines.

Giant and colossal squids can be more than 40 feet long, if you measure all the way out to the tip of their two long feeding tentacles. But it's their eyes that are truly huge — the size of basketballs.

Now, scientists say these squids may have the biggest eyes in the animal kingdom because they need to detect a major predator, the sperm whale, as it moves toward them through the underwater darkness.

Wildlife Heroes

Mar 12, 2012

For tens of thousands of years, humans relied on animals to sustain life: their skins kept us warm, their oils provided fuel.  But the 7-billion of us stomping the earth today? Our relationship with the creatures around us is vastly different.  Around the globe, species big and small remain under intense threat of extinction. A new book, ‘Wildlife Heroes’ tells the story of forty leading conservationists who are fighting behind the scenes to save these animals.

After a series of videos revealing apparent cruel treatment of farm animals went viral, Iowa has made it a crime for people to misrepresent themselves to gain access to a farm. The so-called "Ag-Gag" law targets undercover animal rights activists who secretly take videos. Farmers say they need the legal protection to block those trying to take down agriculture, but critics ask what the industry may be hiding.

Here's the secret of the modern dairy farm: The essential high-tech advances aren't in machinery. They're inside the cow.

Take a cow like Claudia. She lives at Fulper Farms, a dairy farm in upstate New Jersey. Claudia is to a cow from the 1930s as a modern Ferrari is to a Model T.

In the 1930s, dairy farmers could get 30 pounds of milk per day from a cow. Claudia produces 75 pounds a day.

To appreciate a cow like Claudia, you have to know where to look.