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News Hound archive: Through Aug. 11, 2006

8/24/2006

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    posted Aug. 11, 2006

    Final charge for grizzly

    You might say it was a grisly grizzly discovery.

    A 600-pound Alaska brown bear was electrocuted just yards from a popular Anchorage hiking trail after it knocked down a plastic utility box and bit into an exposed 5,000-volt power line, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

    The Anchorage Daily News reports that a young girl discovered the bear carcass yesterday morning while riding her bicycle on the Sisson Loop trail in the northern part of Kincaid Park. The bear was 50 yards from the popular Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, an area frequented by hundreds of hikers, runners and bicyclists daily.

    The 7-foot adult boar was found with the wire still in its mouth, its tongue and teeth burned and blackened. A patch of grass under the left foot was singed. The smell of scorched meat hung in the air, wrote Megan Holland of the Anchorage paper.

    Agency biologist Rick Sinnott said the bear was one of the largest grizzlies he's seen in Anchorage.

    By its stiffened, outstretched legs and appearance of the bear's carcass, Sinnott surmised the bruin died instantly when it bit into the wire.

    "It didn't thrash much, it was pretty quick," he said.

    FORUM | MAILBAG

    Ohio octoped update

    The mystery surrounding how an octopus found its way into the Ohio River (and subsequently, into the net of an Indiana catfish angler) was solved yesterday when a college student came forward and claimed responsibility for placing the creature in the river.

    According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Zachary Treitz, a 21-year-old college student, told a reporter that he placed the dead, six-foot-wide octopus into the water below the Falls of the Ohio State Park after using it as part of a film project on Sunday.

    Treitz confirmed the octopus was dead when he purchased it from a Louisville seafood shop.

    The amateur filmmaker said he was surprised at the media coverage provoked by his discarded delicacy.

    "I guess we didn't think about the interest this would cause," he said. "It was completely surprising."

    FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Aug. 10, 2006

    Holy incarceration, Batman!

    Officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission arrested and jailed a Belleview, Fla. man Monday who they say illegally captured dozens of bats and placed them in a cage on his property, with the intent of using them to help control the flying insects around his home.

    The Ocala Star-Banner reports that 23-year-old John Karbowski crawled through various caves in Marion County where he caught flying Southeastern myotis bats by swinging a pillowcase through the air.

    Investigators responding to reports that Karbowski was capturing bats said they found about 50 dead or dehydrated animals in an exposed cage. He was charged with cruelty to animals and taking wildlife from the wild without a permit. Bond was set at $250.

    FWC spokeswoman Joy Hill told the Star-Banner the bats were being kept in the sun and without water, which basically allowed them to "fry."

    While bat houses are often used for the purpose of attracting the animals for bug control, Hill noted that Karbowski's method was quite illegal.

    "You just can't go hunting for bats in caves," she said.

    Memo to Karbowski: Next time you want to do something about the mosquitoes around your house, buy a bug zapper. It's cheaper than bail.

    FORUM | MAILBAG

    Ohio River catch in-seine

    Catfish angler David Stepp was seining for baitfish below the dam at Falls of the Ohio State Park across the Ohio River from Louisville, Ky., Monday night when he discovered something more than minnows in his net.

    It was a six-foot octopus.

    When the 20-year–old angler told Indiana Park Ranger Bill Putt about his catch, the officer was initially skeptical.

    "I thought, 'This guy's got to be drunk,' " Putt told the Louisville Courier-Journal. "But we looked at it and that's what it was."

    Though the saltwater creature was dead, it was still intact and had probably only recently expired in the freshwater environment. It measured a full six feet across its outstretched tentacles.

    Though it was the first octopus that anyone remembers being caught at the popular fishing location, toothy tropical fish and a crocodile are among the exotics that have made their way into the Ohio, most likely from pet owners who release them there.

    FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Aug. 9, 2006

    Stats put spin on cougar hunting

    "There are lies, damned lies and statistics."
    —Mark Twain

    Some alert ESPNOutdoors.com News Hound readers may have run across a story circulating in the mainstream media this week that offers an excellent example of how studies and statistical data can be subtly used to further an anti-hunting agenda and platform.

    The headline in USA Today read: "Study: Cougar hunting doesn't lower fatal attacks."

    The article cites data compiled by the Sacramento-based Mountain Lion Foundation indicating that regulated cougar hunting does not necessarily reduce the number of fatal encounters between humans and cougars.

    Considering that one's chances of being attacked by a wild cougar are far less than being struck by lightning, one wonders why this study was performed — and how it made national headlines.

    Heck, you have to read two-thirds into the story to discover that the organization funding and directing the study "opposes sport hunting of lions."

    What a surprise, huh?

    Perhaps the main premise of the study's conclusion is that while one-third of the known fatal cougar attacks since 1890 have occurred in California, the state "banned cougar hunting in 1972."

    Evidently, the reporter didn't think it was significant to note that despite the fact that individual hunters cannot pursue cougars in California, hundreds of the big cats are hunted and killed annually by state and federal agents. Just last year, 222 depredation permits were issued in the Golden State, with as many as 328 issued in 1994 — coincidentally, the same year that two fatal attacks occurred there.

    The bottom line is that the managed hunting of mountain lions — and all big game animals — by professional biologists and state agencies leads to thriving, balanced game populations. Modern, science-based game management also affords hunters and sportsmen the opportunity to pursue their dreams and make memories that can last a lifetime.

    You can believe it.

    FORUM | MAILBAG

    Sturgeon smack-down

    A Florida jet-skier knocked unconscious by a leaping, four-foot sturgeon Sunday is recovering from his injuries after being airlifted to an area hospital.

    Blake Fessenden, 23, was traveling about 30 miles per hour on the Suwannee River when he turned to look at his girlfriend on another craft behind him and was blindsided by the massive airborne fish, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

    Florida F&W agents investigating the incident reported that the victim's girlfriend held his head above water until help arrived.

    Boaters on Florida's Suwannee River are aware of the hazards that leaping sturgeon can pose. A 31-year-old woman was hospitalized in April after a flying 3-foot specimen jumped into a boat and struck her in the face.

    Florida sturgeon can leap as high as 8 feet and can weigh up to 200 pounds.

    FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Aug. 8, 2006

    Animal rights' poster boy sentenced

    Rodney Coronado, perhaps the contemporary animal rights movement's most notorious individual, was sentenced to eight months in federal prison yesterday for interfering with the efforts of authorities who were attempting to trap problem mountain lions near Tucson, Arizona in 2004.

    U.S. District Judge David Bury also sentenced Coronado to three years probation and ordered him to refrain from contact with activists involved with groups including the Animal Liberation Front, Earth Liberation Front and Earth First.

    Coronado, 39 and Matthew Crozier, 33, were convicted by a jury in December of Conspiracy to Impede or Injure an Officer of the United States; Interfering with a U.S. Forest Service Officer and Aiding and Abetting Depredation of Government Property.

    Coronado, Crozier and Esquire Magazine Reporter John Richardson were arrested in March 2004 for interfering with a mountain lion hunt being conducted by the U.S. Forest Service and Arizona Game and Fish Department in the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area near Tucson. The park was closed to the public after visitors reported several close encounters with at least three different mountain lions.

    It won't be Coronado's first extended stay in prison.

    Coronado spent four years in prison for firebombing a mink research facility at Michigan State University in 1992. He has also claimed responsibility for sinking two whaling boats and damaging a processing plant in Iceland in 1986. During an appearance on "60 Minutes," Coronado defended those who use tools such as arson to fight urban sprawl and animal abuse.

    According to the Arizona Daily Star, at yesterday's sentencing, Coronado told the judge that his actions were "nothing more than an act of civil disobedience, a protest."

    To his credit, the judge didn't buy Coronado's litany, telling the convicted activist that when someone uses "force and violence in civil disobedience you are going to be punished for it; it's anarchy."

    FORUM | MAILBAG

    Montana bison hunt beefed up

    Chalk it up as a victory for science-based, common sense wildlife management.

    The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission wildlife commissioners voted last week to increase the number of licenses to hunt bison that wander into Montana from Yellowstone National Park to 140, nearly triple the number allowed last year.

    In June, the commission endorsed a tentative plan to authorize 100 licenses, double last season's number. On Thursday they added another 40 at the urging of Commissioner Shane Colton.

    The main purpose of the hunt is to manage the number of bison that leave the national park (where no hunting is allowed) and to prevent the spread of the cattle disease brucellosis, which is present in Yellowstone's bison herds.

    The commission's decision was contrary to the sentiment of many who commented on the hunt during a period set aside for public input.

    According to reports, 68 of the 77 comments received by the agency opposed the plan or called for changes in the hunt. Not surprisingly, most of the anti-hunt comments were worded similarly and were not even from Montanans, instead originating from writers in Florida, New York, California and even the Netherlands.

    For at least two decades, Montana's bison management program has consistently drawn protests and criticism from national animal rights groups — something that has not gone unnoticed by the commission.

    "I don't care what somebody thinks in New York City," Commissioner John Brenden said during last week's vote. "I care what Montanans think."

    FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Aug. 7, 2006

    The other side of otters

    You've seen them in zoos and in nature movies, those loveable otters that appear to be some of the cutest and most playful creatures on the planet, right?

    Don't use "cute and playful" and "otter" in the same sentence to Floridian Leah Vanon.

    Vanon was walking her Labrador retriever and fox terrier along a West Boca canal last week when she stopped to watch four otters playing in the water.

    "This one large otter came swimming across and before I knew it she ran up the embankment and grabbed Jasmine the Lab by the snout and pulled her down into the canal," Vanon said.

    The horrified dog owner jumped into the canal and pulled the Lab from the otter's jaws. In the ensuing mayhem, the terrier leapt into the water and received the business end of some gnashing otter teeth as well.

    "The otter immediately starts going after him and goes after his snout and starts flipping him and dunking him and to drown him like they do to a fish. I started punching the otter in the face which I felt really bad about because it's cute and I didn't want to hurt it but it was killing my dog," Vanon said.

    Now there's a scene we'd like to see on a real-life nature program: An attractive woman punching a "cute" otter in the face to save her terrier from certain death.

    The dogs were treated for puncture wounds and received rabies boosters.
    FORUM | MAILBAG

    Bear of Tahoe meets Bard of Avon

    A Lake Tahoe-area black bear with obviously more refined tastes than the one blogged about here last week recently enjoyed a late night visit to a deserted food court at the Sand Harbor Shakespeare Festival, where it helped itself to salmon, tri-tip and cherry ice cream.

    Reporter Jack Carrerow writes in today's Nevada Appeal that the offending bruin probably didn't want to be outdone by the South Shore black bear that found its way through the back door of the Mount Bleu Casino "looking for a little gaming action" last week.

    The folks at the Shakespeare festival said the bears have been particularly troublesome this year.

    "Nothing like this has happened before and this year, all four of our food vendors have been hit," said festival director Catherine Atack. "We even had one bear appear during the show and when the audience was told to stay seated until he was chased away, the audience applauded."

    Biologists with the Nevada Department of Wildlife have placed bear traps in the area, but no bears have yet been attracted to the bait they provided.

    "I put old donuts in the trap and he just seems to walk by it and head for the refrigerators in the food court," said department biologist Carl Lackey. "I mean, why eat day-old donuts when you can get salmon?"

    Good point. FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Aug. 3, 2006

    Tahoe bear takes gamble

    The "Habitat For Everything Wild" ad campaign underway at a Lake Tahoe casino attracted an unintended patron last weekend, when a young black bear wandered in through a rear loading dock and sauntered around employee hallways.

    The 150-pound yearling reportedly entered the MontBleu Resort Casino and Spa early Saturday and was headed toward a cafeteria when it was chased by several employees and scurried out the way it came in.

    A current MontBleu television commercial features a cocktail waitress who walks out of a cocktail lounge and tosses a fresh fish to a waiting bear.

    "Evidently the bears out there heard the story that bears can be fed at the nightclub at MontBleu," employee Earl Zeller told the Tahoe Daily Tribune. "I guess we reached our target audience."

    In the understatement of the day, casino general manager Patrick Basney said employees got a laugh from the incident but management recognized the "need to secure our area a little better." FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Aug. 2, 2006

    Montana trout in hot water

    Scorching temperatures and declining river flows in parts of the West have led to fishing restrictions on some of Montana's most-famous trout waters.

    On Monday, Montana officials imposed noon-to-midnight fishing restrictions on 538 miles of water, including the Bitterroot, lower Gallatin, east Gallatin, lower Madison, Sun, Dearborn, Smith and the Yellowstone River downstream from Big Timber.

    Already closed to afternoon and evening fishing are portions of the Clark Fork, Jefferson and Little Blackfoot Rivers.

    Historically, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks enacts fishing closures when water temperatures exceed 73 degrees for three consecutive days.

    My pal Mark Henckel, the longtime outdoor scribe for the Billings Gazette, writes that the "hoot owl restrictions" are common during hot, dry times for loggers in the mountains of Montana.

    "It means they can work only from midnight to noon — when the owls are hooting and when the air is coolest and most humid. They're put in place to help prevent the start of man-caused fires."

    The Missoulian reports today that the Blackfoot River will join the list of morning-only fishing waters tomorrow. FORUM | MAILBAG

    Net losses versus net gains

    Most non-coastal anglers have probably never heard of the menhaden, but the foul-tasting, oily fish has been getting a lot of attention from politicians and biologists who reside near Chesapeake Bay — the largest estuary in the United States and the third largest in the world.

    Under a compromise agreement reached this week between the governors of Maryland and Virginia, the commercial menhaden harvest will be limited to 109,000 metric tons per year.

    The five-year limit on industrial fishing of Atlantic menhaden was agreed to by the Houston-based Omega Protein Corp., a company that uses giant nets to scoop up entire schools of the fish, a practice that fishing groups say has led to an overharvesting of the species.

    The company processes the small fish for pet food, cosmetics and nutritional supplements.

    The menhaden is considered a keystone fishery because it filters pollutants and is vital to the overall health of the ecosystem. It's also a primary food source for popular sport fish such as striped bass, rockfish and bluefish.

    The group Menhaden Matter, a cooperative of regional conservation and recreation organizations, praised the governors' action, calling the agreement, "a wonderful balance between conservation and commerce." FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Aug. 1, 2006

    Earth to WHA: It's not hunting

    It's been nearly two months since I first blogged about the upstart World Hunting Association and the intent of its founder, Michigan millionaire David Farbman, to establish a televised competition in which "hunters" stalk deer on a fenced game farm and shoot them with tranquilizers.

    Since that time, national organizations such as Safari Club International, U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Quality Deer Management Association and others have weighed in on the negative side of the WHA.

    Every sponsor that was originally named as supportive of the WHA wasted no time in withdrawing and denouncing Farbman's intentions.

    No other single ESPNOutdoors.com News Hound blog posted before or since has elicited the response of my first posting, which drew many hundreds of mailbag comments and far too many to post all.

    This week, the WHA Web site is introducing four men it considers to be among the "best hunters in the country," who will take part in the inaugural deer-drugging competition (I refuse to call it hunting). I've never heard of any of them, nor has any outdoor writer or hunting editor with whom I've spoken.

    One of the competitors is a wheelchair-bound ex-Marine. Another is an African-American hunter the WHA calls (I swear I'm not making this up) The Dark Archer.

    Man, some advertising agency really outdid itself. What? No women?

    It's been nearly two months since the WHA was first unveiled. Frankly, I hoped it would be gone by now. No such luck.

    Dozens of my contemporaries writing for newspapers and magazines have unanimously thumped the WHA and everything it stands for. Many have written that shooting deer with drugs is a travesty, an insult to hunters and a terrible example for sportsmen. But no one has said what it is not.

    It's not hunting.

    From the get go, the WHA founder has claimed his concept is not unlike catch-and-release fishing competitions. However, there's one major irregularity in that interpretation:

    The participants in every fishing tournament held in the United States are licensed anglers. Why? Because they are taking part in what every state and federal game and fish agency considers as legal fishing.

    Many state hunting regulations specifically outlaw the use of "pods" or drugging mechanisms on hunting arrows. All states are crystal clear about what constitutes hunting and legal hunting equipment; from the caliber and type of firearms to hunting bow draw weight and broadhead size.

    No darts. No drugs. No catch-and-release.

    Farbman says his handpicked WHA personalities will "do for hunting what Jeff Gordon has done for NASCAR and Mike Iaconelli has done for bass fishing."

    Memo to the WHA: Hunting is doing just fine, thank you very much.

    What are your thoughts on the matter? FORUM | MAILBAG

    Duck outlook rosy

    It's the annual duck hunter's mantra, but it appears like the 2006-07 season will be great for waterfowlers — that is, if the weather cooperates.

    Preliminary results from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey released last week estimate a total duck population of more than 36 million, or a 14 percent increase from 2005 estimate and 9 percent above the 50-year average from 1955 to 2005.

    The upshot is liberal hunting season proposals from Fish and Wildlife Service due to the estimates and improved habitat conditions in prime duck-producing regions.

    The USFWS announced Friday hunting season lengths will be 60 days in the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways, 74 days in the Central Flyway and 107 days in the Pacific Flyway.

    "Based on improved breeding habitat conditions and an improved outlook for production in many breeding areas, the agency adopted the 'liberal package,'" said USFWS director H. Dale Hall.

    "Good to excellent conditions in the northern grasslands and parklands of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and above average precipitation in previously dry portions of Southern Alberta will benefit many prairie-nesting species this year. The exception is in the Dakotas."

    Compared to the 2005-06 late season, there will be an extra hooded merganser in the daily bag limit in three eastern flyways.

    The canvasback and pintail daily bag limit will be one for the entire season.

    Last year's reduction in the daily bag limit to two scaup in the Atlantic, Mississippi and Central Flyways and three in the Pacific Flyway will remain unchanged.

    FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted July 31, 2006

    Using the old noodle?

    The practice of noodling, or handfishing for giant catfish, is not a sport for wimps or the faint of heart.

    For example, when you shake hands with Don Brewer, you might guess right away he's a noodler … either that or he's been in some sort of hand-to-hand combat with a paper shredder.

    Brewer took top honors at the seventh annual Okie Noodling Championship held earlier this month — an event considered to be the most prestigious among catfish grabblers far and wide.

    Bob's Pig Shop in Pauls Valley, Okla., has been the tournament's official venue since it began in 1999 with 37 participants. This year there were 92 competitors.

    The 35-year-old Brewer was the subject of a recent feature article in the Tulsa World newspaper. It includes a photo of the tattoo he sports on one of his enormous biceps — a catfish gnawing a severed human arm and the words, "Bite Me."

    He says his wife bought him the tattoo as a Valentine's Day present. Now that's love.

    "I've had broke fingers, busted lips, a busted nose. I've been bit on the top of my head. I've had one catch me right here on the eye," Brewer said.

    When your passion involves becoming completely immersed in muddy creeks and reaching into holes in the bank for massive flathead catfish (or whatever happens to be there), what's a broken finger, now and then?

    The battle scars were worth it for Brewer, who was awarded the coveted "Big Fish" title and $500 in prize money for his 60.6-pound catfish, the largest ever entered in the contest.

    But for the winner, it's not about the money; it's about the bragging rights.

    It's like the champ says: "If you don't lose no hide, it ain't no fun." FORUM | MAILBAG

    For more on noodling, read Keith Sutton's column on the subject.

    Feds propose expanded hunting, fishing on refuges

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week it is proposing the addition of hunting or fishing on national wildlife refuges in Minnesota and New Jersey for the 2006-2007 season and the expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities at six other refuges.

    If approved, hunting will be allowed at Minnesota's Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge and expanded at Agassiz in Minnesota, Blackwater in Maryland and Whittlesey Creek in Wisconsin, as well as Bayou Cocodrie, Tensas River and Upper Ouachita, all in Louisiana.

    The proposed rule also would correct the record to note hunting programs that already are allowed at four Montana refuges: Black Coulee, Creedman Coulee, Hewitt Lake and Lake Thibadeau.

    In addition, it would clarify that five Wetland Management Districts in Montana (Benton Lake, Bowdoin, Charles M. Russell, Northeast Montana and Northwest Montana) are open to all hunting and fishing activities.

    A new fishing program for the 2006-2007 season is proposed for Cape May National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, where previously only hunting has been allowed.

    The rule on the proposals was published in the Federal Register on July 24. A public comment period will end Aug. 16.

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    About the author: J.R. Absher shares his perspective while blogging about hunting, fishing, shooting sports, sportsmen's issues and the occasional offbeat outdoor tale. In more than 30 years of writing and a lifetime of enjoying the outdoors, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, photographer, mule wrangler, wilderness packer, magazine editor, political consultant, hunting-equipment copywriter, public-relations director and sportsman's advocate. You may contact him at jrabsher@psci.net.

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