By Rachel Cernansky, Planet Green
You’ve probably heard about the polar bear who swam more than 400 miles over a continuous nine-day stretch. She was looking for ice, and although polar bears regularly swim long distances between ice floes, the Telegraph reports, “it is feared the animals are being forced to go further as there is less ice because of global warming.”
The polar bear accomplished quite a feat in her search for ice (though sadly, she also lost her yearling cub)—but she’s not the only animal surprising humans with impressive travel skills, either for purposeful migration or because they show up by chance hundreds or thousands of miles away from home.
Here’s a look at some other animals that have turned up shockingly far from home—and not all of the animals here are wild.
Dog – 200 Miles
Sophie Tucker, a grey and black cattle dog, fell overboard from her family’s yacht off the coast of Australia—but instead of drowning, or being eaten by sharks, the dog swam six miles to a small island. She survived there on wild goats for more than four months, at which point local residents noticed her presence and contacted wildlife rangers, who eventually reunited Sophie Tucker with her family.
Bobbie Sue is another dog with a surprising story: a Shih Tzu who, a story on Petfinder says, “went missing 50 miles north of Kansas City and…was found in Montauk, a four or five hour drive away.” Bobbie Sue’s family saw her listed on Petfinder as “Star.” Even though she was 200 miles from home, they knew it was their dog. Their persistence led to a heartwarming reunion.
Penguin – 3,000 Miles
A Magellanic penguin went 3,000 miles astray in search of food. These penguins usually look for food in groups, but this guy got separated from his flock in the Strait of Magellan, at the tip of Chile and all of South America, and turned up in Peru.
Whale – 6,200 Miles
A humpback whale—a species that usually migrates from north to south (or south to north) and that also usually sticks to the same route—was found to have traveled a whopping 6,200 miles to the east, starting in Brazil and arriving in Madagascar.
“No other mammal has been seen to move between two places that are further apart,” said marine ecologist Peter Stevick.
Black Bear – 2 Miles, Heading for the City
A black bear turned up on the loose in Des Moines, Washington a couple years ago, but he didn’t just wander into town from a nearby park or an inland forest. He got there by swimming two miles across Puget Sound. Authorities said he just jumped in the water and started to swim the two miles across to Des Moines, authorities said Friday.
The Coast Guard Lt. said a general notice was sent out that day to beware of the bear—”It’s something we do fairly regularly when there’s something in the water,” she said. “This time that something happened to be alive.”
Turtles – 4,000-Plus Miles
Leatherback turtles swim for thousands of miles to get from their breeding grounds to a feeding area: one female was tracked swimming 4,699 miles in a straight line from Africa to South America. She averaged 30 miles a day and got to her destination after about 150 days of consistent swimming, MSNBC reports.
The trick for them, though, is not the great distance, but the fishing industry that dominates the oceans with nets and hooks and other dangerous obstacles for turtles. A conservation biologist said, “All of the routes we’ve identified take the leatherbacks through areas of high risk from fisheries, so there’s a very real danger to the Atlantic population.”
Image: ZA Photography