Backcasts archive: Through Oct. 5, 2007


Blog calendar: Oct. 5 | Oct. 4 | Oct. 3 | Oct. 2 | Oct. 1

posted Oct. 5, 2007

Washington woman, 90, takes her last ATV ride

Hats off to the late Dorthea Cashman, 90, a newcomer to the world of ATV riding. May her thumb always be on the accelerator.

Unfortunately, that's what did her in, according to the Associated Press. Authorities say that just following a riding lesson, the Bonney Lake, Wash., woman apparently panicked, hit the gas and crashed through two fences before landing in a shallow stream. She was not wearing a helmet.

It's a heartbreaking end to what should have been a feel-good story for all outdoor lovers.

A nonagenarian taking up an extreme sport; it warms the cockles of any sportsman's heart. Hey, if we can't turn on the next generation to hunting, fishing and the outdoors, we should be able to encourage the last generation to take up the sports, right?

I dig seeing old fogies scoping in on game, plying the trout waters and behind the wheel of a fat-tired 4WD vehicle.

Last month we spotted 91-year-old Pete Smith taking part in Wyoming's One-Shot Antelope Hunt. You may recall the feisty, 90-year-old flyfishing enthusiast, Mildred Luce, who saved her kitty from the clutches of a bobcat by pinning it down with a snow shovel. And there's 4-foot-5, 110-pound Gwendolyn Wunneburger, 77, who shot a 12-foot, 4-inch, 750-pound male alligator two hours after dispatching another gator measuring 10 feet, 4 inches and weighing 650 pounds.

Bully for all of the old-timers.

However, Cashman's story had a very different and traffic ending.

Sheriff's deputies originally expected Cashman to survive the crash of the all-terrain vehicle despite having numerous broken bones. However she passed away this week in Yakima County, five days after her accident in Selah, Wash.

At least old Dorthea departed doing something she appears to have enjoyed; I'm quite certain any of us would hope for the same when our turn comes.


posted Oct. 4, 2007

Bear in wolf's clothing? So it seems among these salmon anglers in Alaska

Regular readers of Backcasts (we trust that's not an oxymoron) know that we loathe poachers almost as much as we love Page 1 outdoors stories.

Unfortunately, the former seems much more prevalent than the latter.

But today, right there on the front page of the Seattle Times, is a terrific wildlife story that really has to be read to be believed.

As first reported by the Anchorage Daily News, it turns out the famous salmon-hunting brown bears of Alaska's Katmai National Park had some competition this summer from an unlikely visitor – a lone, female wolf.

Now apparently wolves are known to fish for salmon, but it's a totally different story for them to do so in the company of bears.

In this case the bravado of the she wolf was stunning and her efficiency even more so. The canine dared venture into the bear-lined falls at Brooks River for 62 minutes and brought out 15 salmon for her efforts, according to Chicago's Paul Stinsa, who photographed the remarkable scene.

The visual evidence is compelling, to say the least. You simply must check it out.

Wolves and bears tend to have an antagonistic relationship, according to the Daily News, because the big, bad dogs have been documented killing bear cubs.

So why would a lone wolf risk being attacked during so many salmon sorties? One wolf couldn't eat 15 salmon in an hour, right?

The best guess from David Person, an Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist who studies wolves in southeast Alaska, is that she was just "high grading" her kills – eating the fat-rich brains and eggs the way bears do when salmon are plentiful – and then returning for seconds, the Daily News reports. But Person also suggests she may have been delivering fish to pups or even to another wolf helping to feed pups.

As the newspaper breaks it down, pup survival in southeast Alaska has been found to be unusually high, according to Person, because of the wolves' deadly precision as salmon hunters:

A bounty of salmon – some studies have concluded up to a quarter of wolves' diet on Prince of Wales Island comes from marine sources, most likely salmon – can be key to helping young wolves survive that difficult first year.

Nothing like a little bear in wolf's clothing to improve the health of the species, we like to say.


posted Oct. 3, 2007

From where we sit, pigeon poop and Bengals fans don't mix

In Cincinnati pigeon poop is messy enough when it's raining down on fans' heads during Bengals games. The simple solution would be to shoot the pests.

(And after the poor play of Carson Palmer and company Monday night against the Patriots, the birds might not be the only things folks in southwestern Ohio might want to target.)

But throw in the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and you've got a real mess.

Officials at Paul Brown Stadium had sought permission from the city to use an air-powered rifle to kill pigeons roosting in the beams and pipes above the stands and protect fans from being bombarded, according to the Associated Press.

You see, bird droppings on your head and shoulders is one thing; but when food and drinks are involved, it becomes a safety issue.

But PETA doesn't see it that way and is petationing, er, petitioning Mayor Mark Mallory to reject the stadium's request. Mallory's office said the mayor also opposes shooting the birds, the AP reports.

PETA offered to help develop other solutions, such as netting, noise makers and porcupine wire that discourage birds from roosting.

Subsequently, the owners of the stadium have withdrawn their request seeking city approval to shoot the pigeons.

We still say blast the buggers and be done with it. Don't give in to PETA or anyone else who opposes such a simple, efficient and inexpensive plan.

But Eric Brown, managing director of Paul Brown Stadium, said in a letter to the city manager that officials are going to "continue to explore various alternatives to dealing with this patron issue," according to the AP. Team officials apparently have broached such ideas as strobe lights, netting and noise makers to get rid of the menaces.

If none of those remedies work, Plan A may still be a possibility:

City Manager Milton Dohoney has granted permission to shoot the birds if other methods to discourage the pigeons don't succeed.

Seagulls have long been called flying rats on my stomping grounds out West; we're betting Bengals boosters have even choicer terms for the rafters rapscallions at their home field.


posted Oct. 2, 2007

Three legs apparently is quite enough for mother moose

Four may be the norm, but a mama moose seems to be doing just fine, thank you, on three legs, according to the Associated Press.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has received numerous calls about the crippled cow in west Anchorage, and protocol would dictate the animal be put down.

But the rugged ruminant apparently is a survivor, despite missing about 12 inches of her right hind leg, which may have been injured in a vehicle collision sometime this year, biologists said.

The moose also happens to be nursing what looks to be a large and healthy calf.

It all adds up to an unusual situation for wildlife officials, according to the AP.

"She seems to be getting around fairly well on three legs, although she's a little skinnier than she should be this time of year," said Rick Sinnott, the state wildlife biologist for the Anchorage area.

"A complicating factor is she still has a calf and, the last time we looked, the calf was still nursing."

Those monitoring the animal will take a wait-and-see approach into the winter, when moose usually lose weight due to less plentiful food sources.

Should there be an issue with the health of the cow then, it may be necessary to euthanize the moose, said Jessy Coltrane, the assistant Anchorage-area biologist.

"There's no need (now) for a pre-emptive strike," Coltrane said. "Her body condition looks good."

The moose apparently also has drawn the attention of bulls and some speculate she might mate again. There is precedence for such a scenario, according to the AP.

Biologists recollect a cow moose in Eagle River, Alaska, that was missing an entire rear leg and yet produced calves for several years, Coltrane said.


posted Oct. 1, 2007

Wisconsin may be known for badgers, but its reputation for gators is growing

You may recall the story about a man named Jed:

A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed,
Then one day he was shootin' at some food,
And up through the ground came a bubblin' crude.

Ol' Jed Clampett had struck it rich with black gold, Texas tea … oil, you see. And that lucky hillbilly promptly moved his family to Beverly.

Hills, that is.

Have to admit that's a pretty sorry segue into our Backcast of the day, but I suppose it just goes to show you never know what you might get when you're shootin' at some food.

Ed Long found that to be the case Saturday while hunting for ducks on the Milwaukee River, the Associated Press reports from Farmington, Wis.

Long's attention apparently was drawn away from birds when he thought he noticed a snapping turtle. He took his best shot and soon got the shock of his life when he pulled out of the river a 4-foot-long alligator.

"At first, I thought it was a turtle tail," Long said. "Then it turned and came back at me. I seen the eyes come out of the water, but my brain didn't click. This is Wisconsin. There's not supposed to be gators in Wisconsin."

When the reptile submerged again, Long fired and stunned it. He called to his cousin, who prodded the 25-pound animal with a stick, then ran when it moved, according to the AP.

"We both thought nobody is going to believe us," Long said. "We made a decision to bring it back dead or alive, and more likely dead."

The animal appeared to have died from a shot to the head. The cousins dragged it to a field, then went to their uncle's home for help bringing it in.

"I'm still just absolutely, 100 percent shocked," said Long's uncle, Herb Sagan. "You've got a better chance of shooting a 30-point buck in Wisconsin than a gator."

A Department of Natural Resources warden said the hunters had broken no law in removing the invasive species, the AP reports. Long, 31, of Greenfield, Wis., is calling taxidermy shops about preserving the alligator.

"I'd like to have it mounted," he said. "Or at least get a belt or wallet out of it."

It's doubtful Long can expect much extra to put in his new wallet as a result of his fine marksmanship – and less likely enough to bankroll a move to Beverly … Hills, that is. But we're quite certain J.D. Clampett would have been proud of such shooting skills.

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    About the author: Brett Pauly spent nearly six years editing and publishing ESPNOutdoors.com before moving on to produce the ESPN.com Sports Travel site. He is a national award-winning writer and editor with 14 years of experience in the newspaper trade, including stints at the Los Angeles Daily News and Seattle Times. The Evergreen State is where he now makes his home. Click here to email him.

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