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An unobtrusive eye on wildlife

Sure, the Internet is responsible for any number of bad ideas _ spam, computer "cookies" and day-trading, to name a few. Here is a good idea, one that links desk-bound humans with the natural world: the critter cam.

"Conservationists are finding that critter cams _ remotely operated cameras trained on a den, nest, island or other spot where it's tough to observe wildlife _ provide unique viewing opportunities without intruding on the critters' daily lives," says the Society of Environmental Journalists. "Companies, often utilities, find that training cameras on eagles and falcons that nest at their facilities provides feel-good publicity."

Here are a couple of sites to begin your nature watching:

http://natzoo.si.edu /hilights/webcams/ webcams.htm is operated by the National Zoological Park in Washington D.C. and features pandas, giraffes and other animals; or try http://cricket.biol.sc.edu/ and click on USC Roach Cam for a view of giant Madagascar hissing cockroaches. For other sites, do an Internet search on the name of an animal and the word cam.

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