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Tuesday, August 29, 2006
News Hound archive: Through Aug. 25, 2006

By J.R. Absher
Special to ESPNOutdoors.com

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    posted Aug. 25, 2006

    Feds' Channel Island proposal has SoCal anglers riled

    Southern California sportfishing groups have vowed to challenge the proposal to double the size of no-fishing zones around the state's Channel Islands.

    Last week, the California Fish and Game Commission signed on to the federal plan to create 29 marine-protected areas, encompassing nearly 200 square miles between Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz.

    Sport anglers and commercial fishermen say there were blindsided by the plan because it imposes restrictions beyond the "preferred alternative" plan originally supported by the state Department of Fish and Game.

    "It was a slap in the face to all of the fishermen who worked so hard on this process in good faith, and were told they'd be listened to," said Jim Martin, West Coast regional director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance. "It felt like we were up against a firing squad."

    The changes would affect nine areas extending as far as six miles from the shores of San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa and Santa Barbara islands, which make up Channel Islands National Park.

    Angler groups are encouraging their faithful to take part in public hearings scheduled for Sept. 26 in Ventura and Sept. 28 in Santa Barbara.

    "We need to gather our best and brightest and show up at the meetings … and testify on our behalf to show that we already have enough closed areas," Joel Greenberg, chairman of the Southern California chapter of the Recreational Fishing Alliance told the Los Angeles Times. FORUM | MAILBAG

    Venomous fish outnumber poisonous snakes

    Coming soon to a theater near you: "Fish on a Plane."

    Fish?

    A study conducted by researcher William Leo Smith of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City has confirmed that the Earth is home to many times more poisonous fish species than their snake counterparts.

    Further, the research indicates venomous fish outnumber all other venomous vertebrates combined.

    The findings identified 1,200 venomous fish — more than six times previous estimates.

    Smith conducted the study with Ward Wheeler, curator in the Museum's Division of Invertebrate Zoology. The results are reported in the Journal of Heredity.

    Approximately 50,000 humans are poisoned by fish bites annually, Smith and his colleague said. Symptoms range from blisters to death.

    Smith said there are numerous poisonous fish in America, but most are not particularly harmful. Exceptions include a scorpionfish species in California and the western Atlantic.

    "Venomous fishes are in almost all habitats," Smith said. "They range from mountain streams to the depths of all oceans, but the vast majority of the most venomous fishes are in the tropics." FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Aug. 24, 2006

    Young angler does the right thing, lets record bass go

    When 12-year-old angler Colby Pearson caught the biggest largemouth bass he'd ever seen while fishing Oregon's Hyatt Lake last week, the seventh-grader suddenly came face-to-face with bass fishing's ultimate dilemma.

    Should he keep the potential state record fish, or release it to be caught again?

    Colby Pearson
    Bravo: Colby Pearson and the 12-pound Oregon bucketmouth he opted to release rather than risk killing it in pursuit of a state record.
    Wiser than his age may suggest, young Colby passed the difficult test with flying colors.

    With the nearest certified scale a 20-mile drive away, he knew the fish's survival would be questionable, at best.

    Mark Freeman, the outdoor writer for the Medford Mail-Tribune, reports today that the youngster kept the bass just long enough for his mom to snap a few photos and measure his catch before they released it.

    Putting pencil to paper, Freeman suggests the 25-inch bass with a girth of 24 inches would weigh 12 pounds, enough to surpass the current state record of 12.16 pounds.

    Freeman writes that young Colby revealed his admirable character when asked why he decided to release the fish.

    "I don't think it's right to kill a fish just to get a record," he said.

    To say Colby likes to fish for largemouth would be a colossal understatement. While camping at Hyatt Lake for 35 days this summer already, you can usually find him tossing a Grass Hog into this high mountain lake that is known more for its rainbow trout than for its big bass.

    "It doesn't really matter how big the bass is, I let it go," Pearson says. "That fish probably is as old as I am."

    While the state record bass swimming in Hyatt may or may not be caught again, we can say with some certainly Colby Pearson is a keeper. FORUM | MAILBAG

    Alabama's first gator season ends tonight

    As of yesterday, Alabama's first sanctioned alligator hunt had tallied 30 reptiles measuring 6 feet or greater in five nights of hunting.

    Those 20 adventurous souls who still have not filled their tag have one more night to reach the state's goal of 50.

    "It's gone very well," said Jerry DeBin, chief of information and education for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

    "It's obvious the hunters have plenty of chances to harvest gators."

    The largest alligator killed so far was 12 feet and weighed 461 pounds.

    Alabama joins Florida, Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana in allowing limited alligator hunting to thin what game managers say is a growing population. Hunting is confined to about 40,000 acres of the Mobile Delta.

    My good friend Alan Clemons, the fine outdoor writer at the Huntsville (Ala.) Times, spent a recent night accompanying Alabama Conservation Department district supervisor Chuck Sharp while he monitored the hunt and checked in gators as they were brought in by successful hunters.

    Sharp said that despite the inherent dangers associated with operating watercraft at night and shooting at alligators, everything seemed to be going well.

    "Running the Delta can be tricky during the daytime, but at night it's magnified," Sharp explained. "There are shallow bars, debris from Hurricane Ivan and Hurricane Katrina.

    Then you have the gators and people who probably never have hunted them. One group had a gator take a bite out of their boat, which didn't have bilge pumps or anything. They were bailing water with a 5-gallon bucket and a Pepsi bottle with the top cut off."

    The one reported injury?

    Sharp said one hunter suffered a self-inflicted pocketknife wound while applying his tag to an expired gator.

    We bet he probably wouldn't want his injury story to circulate among his tough, gator-hunting comrades. FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Aug. 23, 2006

    A really wild cat tale

    We'll never know for sure what Colorado Springs, Colo., resident Clifton Sanches said when a full grown mountain lion came crashing through his screen door and into his home Tuesday night, but you can bet it wasn't, "Hello, kitty."

    Sanches said his dogs were barking loudly late that night and he went to see what was riling them.

    He found out, big time.

    "I got up to shut the dogs up and a mountain lion came through my window; it came right through my screen door," he told a Colorado Springs television station.

    Not desiring to spend any more time than necessary with his home invader, Sanches fled to his neighbor's and alerted the sheriff's department.

    After about an hour's wait, the cougar butted though a screened window in Sanches' house and leapt through in dramatic fashion.

    The incredible video of the cougar's exit may be viewed here.

    "To have a mountain lion sighting is one thing. To have a mountain lion actually enter a structure is really rare," said Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Michael Seraphin.

    Rare, indeed. FORUM | MAILBAG

    DNA, bear lead authorities to moose poacher

    Call it CSI: St. Elmo, Colo.

    Wildlife authorities used DNA evidence to solve a four-year-old cold case and convict a Wisconsin man of illegally killing a bull moose during the 2002 Colorado elk season.

    And they had a little help from a bear, as well.

    Colorado Division of Wildlife district manager Ron Dobson began the investigation in 2003 after the discovery of a moose skull that had been dug up by a bear.

    "It was obvious to me that whoever killed the moose went to a great deal of trouble to conceal the crime by burying portions of the hide and skull. If it hadn't been for the bear, the evidence might still be buried," Dobson told the Colorado Springs Gazette.

    The poacher's trail remained cold until a recent citizen's tip led authorities to Charles Pedraza of Oshkosh, Wis., and a subsequent computer check revealed he had held an elk license for that hunting unit in the fall of 2002.

    A search of a storage unit held by Pedraza turned up a moose pelt and photos that placed him at the scene. DNA testing positively matched the pelt to the skull.

    A Chaffee County Court judge this week ordered Pedraza to pay $11,391 for killing a bull moose without a permit and illegal possession of the moose.

    "This case is a good example of how a citizen's tip can be combined with old-fashioned detective work and high-tech DNA evidence to solve a cold case," Dobson said.

    FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Aug. 22, 2006

    Study: Hunters don't embrace Wisconsin CWD strategy

    A newly released analysis of Wisconsin hunter attitudes indicates most Badger State sportsmen and women haven't bought into the Department of Natural Resource's key tactic in the fight to eradicate chronic wasting disease by drastically reducing the deer herd in specific regions where the fatal ungulate brain illness has been found.

    At the core of the state's four-year strategy are liberalized hunting seasons and increased bag limits, but researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point say hunters soundly reject the premise.

    Why don't hunters find the prospect of taking more deer attractive?

    Because most simply don't believe in harvesting more venison than they and their family can consume, say researchers.

    In three surveys in 2004 and 2005, 84 percent to 95 percent of hunters said they don't believe in shooting more deer than they need.

    Even when offered up to $1,000 to take more whitetail, the vast majority of polled hunters were not willing to shoot more deer than they needed.

    "This appears to be very deeply rooted in our modern hunting culture — probably from years of conservation philosophy — that you don't take more than you can use," said University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point researcher Robert Holsman.

    Perhaps the results were disappointing to state game managers, but what else would you expect from the state that gave us Aldo Leopold, also known the father of the American conservation movement? FORUM | MAILBAG

    Suwannee's leaping sturgeon on record pace

    Who needs "Snakes on a Plane" when you have "Sturgeons on the Suwannee?"

    Regular readers will recall the recent story about the Florida Jet Ski rider who was knocked unconscious by an airborne, three-foot Gulf sturgeon, an act seen by more than one bass fisherman as karmic, to say the least.

    Jabs at oft-maligned personal-watercraft users aside, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission reports that more Suwannee River boaters were smacked down by a flying sturgeon this past weekend, bringing to six the total fish-related injury reports for 2006 — a record.

    The Gainesville Sun reports that state officer Dorvan Daniel witnessed a 5-foot, 40-pound sturgeon leap out of the river and into a passing boat, knocking a 9-year-old child into the water. The youngster received gashes on her neck, while an adult on board the boat suffered a broken arm and cuts to her legs.

    The record number of incidents has prompted Florida wildlife officials to post warning signs along the river to caution boaters about the potentially dangerous, high-flying fish.

    "We're preparing to post signs along the Suwannee at each boat ramp, explaining the risk of impacts with these fish," said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission Major Bruce Hamlin.

    "We want to make the public aware that these fish are in the Suwannee and they do jump. We recommend boaters reduce their speed to reduce the risk of impact." FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Aug. 21, 2006

    Neighborhood watches for big, bad killers

    Forget about the potential for burglars, crackheads and car thieves.

    And don't even think about wild critters like black bears or mountain lions that seem to be popping up in urban areas more frequently every year.

    They're raccoons. And they're baaaad.

    The residents of an Olympia, Wash., neighborhood have formed a Raccoon Watch program after about 10 cats were killed in a three-block area by what are said to be "vicious, urban raccoons."

    Sean Carrell of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife told the Olympian newspaper that the situation was "bizarre and weird."

    After reading about the reaction of the neighborhood folks who've lost felines to the roving killer coons, I have to agree with Mr. Carrell.

    Residents Keeton and Pam Corwin have built "cat coops" so their kitties can go outside and have some protection.

    "I'm afraid of them," said Lisann Rolle. "I carry an iron pipe with me."

    In each incident, the perpetrators were said to be wearing masks. There were no reports of identifying tattoos or body piercing one might expect from the criminal element.

    "It's a new breed," said Keeton Corwin. "They're urban raccoons, and they're not afraid."

    Just like with other neighborhood watch programs, residents share information about particularly ruthless troublemakers.

    "You've got to watch which ones are bad," Keri Hall said. "It's not all of them. We just have to arm ourselves with pepper spray." FORUM | MAILBAG

    WHA update updated

    Since blogging the latest update on the activities of the controversial World Hunting Association on Friday, a press release has been issued by the organization detailing its plans to scratch deer darting and drugging from its program.

    "The organization will shift to a traditional harvest format in time for the organization's inaugural tournament this fall," the release stated.

    Though it's likely we'll never know for certain, I suspect that an opinion from the Michigan Attorney General's office may have influenced the decision made by WHA founder David Farbman, as well recent comments from veterinary groups and the FDA regarding the darting competition as reported by the National Geographic last week.

    That said, I'd be stunned if the reversal provides WHA the groundswell of support (and advertisers) it might be expecting as a result.

    Hunters have pretty much made up their minds about the WHA, and my gut feeling is that they're just as riled about the questionable ethics of a contest hunt as they were about the "non-lethal hunting" part.

    ESPNOutdoors.com News Hound reader Jason from Springfield, Ill., wrote that the whole WHA concept reminds him of professional wrestling.

    "After seeing what their idea of entertainment is, it appears clear that their vision, production and company is a joke," Jason opined.

    "The combination of corny lines and cornier nicknames could only bring to mind professional wrestling. Maybe we could bring the nicknames to all of the hunting community. How about Michael (He Don't Walk He) Waddell, Bill (Shoots Like Michael) Jordan, Stan (Stop Banging) Potts or Fred (Hits Like A) Bear?"

    By fighting a tooth-and-nail PR battle since June while attempting to legitimize deer darting for sport — only to do a 180 today — the WHA has clearly exhibited its true motives and personality to hunters and the industry.

    History has given us the notorious marketing strategy of P.T. Barnum, and today's hunters are anything but suckers.

    Cover scents are one thing. But honest, hardworking and ethical mainstream hunters won't buy snake oil. FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Aug. 18, 2006

    Deer-drugging competition update

    Not to belabor a personally distasteful subject, but in the interest of news dissemination to my regular ESPNOutdoors.com New Hound readers, I'd like to share some of the latest developments on the World Hunting Organization and its plans to conduct a $600,000 deer-drugging contest on a high-fenced property in Michigan this fall.

    A National Geographic News report appearing yesterday confirms what I'd been hearing in recent weeks: that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has asked the State Attorney General's office to determine if the competition planned by real estate mogul David Farbman is even legal under state statute.

    Some agency personnel from other states with whom I've spoken have confirmed that the catch-and-release drugging of deer using guns and archery equipment would not be permitted in their respective states.

    There's another interesting angle addressed in the National Geographic article. Apparently, veterinary organizations as well as the FDA have concerns about the use of potentially harmful tranquilizers as part of the contest.

    Terry Kreeger, Wyoming wildlife veterinarian and author of the Handbook of Wildlife Chemical Immobilization, said bows and arrows are never used by professional wildlife workers to dart deer, because of the inherent risk of injury to the animals.

    What's more, he says, the prescription drugs WHA plans on using — Telazol and Xylazine — are only intended for medical or research purposes.

    "These drugs are not there to make this guy money," Kreeger said. "They are there to help animals."

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agrees.

    "Extra-label use is limited to treatment modalities when the health of an animal is threatened or suffering or death may result from failure to treat," FDA wrote in an email to National Geographic News.

    Stay tuned.

    FORUM | MAILBAG

    Study: Pheasant numbers directly related to CRP

    According to new report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, within large units of prime pheasant habitat in the Great Plains, researchers found a 22 percent increase in ring-necked numbers for every four percent increase of acreage enrolled in the department's Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

    The Minot, N.D. Daily News reports today that an estimated 13.5 million pheasants are produced annually on 25.5 million acres of CRP land considered located in the country's prime pheasant range. Obviously, factors such as moisture and harsh winters can also affect pheasant numbers.

    Researchers from Western EcoSystems Technology of Cheyenne, Wyo., conducted the pheasant study for the USDA.

    "It has certainly been helping pheasants. We don't have any specific numbers," said Stan Kohn, upland game biologist with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. "But since CRP has come in, our pheasant numbers have certainly shot up. CRP has to rank right up there at the top with providing super nesting cover and habitat."

    But the jury is still out regarding CRP's benefit for the Hungarian partridge population.

    ''CRP does not seem to be as beneficial to huns as (pheasants and sharptail grouse),'' said NDG&F upland game biologist Jerry Kobriger. ''Now that we've got CRP we don't have many partridge. When we didn't have CRP we had lots of them. That's not conclusive but you can take it for what it's worth."

    FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Aug. 17, 2006

    Outdoor industry touts clout

    A first-of-its-kind economic study released last week by the Outdoor Industry Association reveals that outdoor recreation supports one in 20 U.S. jobs, while contributing $730 billion to America's economy each year.

    The report by the Outdoor Industry Foundation, Southwick Associates and Harris Interactive indicates active outdoor recreation supports 6.5 million jobs and generates $88 billion in federal and state tax revenue, while stimulating 8 percent of all consumer spending.

    The outdoor recreation economy is fueled by the more than 75 percent of Americans who participate in fishing, hunting, bicycling, camping, paddling, hiking, snow sports and wildlife-viewing activities.

    The study's figures were broken down into nine separate regions.

    The states of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington topped the list with $81 billion in annual contribution. Region 8 (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Montana, Utah, Nevada and Wyoming) ranked high, as well, with $61 billion in annual economic contribution from the active-outdoor-recreation industry.

    Rob Southwick, the main author of the study, has an extensive track record with the outdoor industry, penning many reports for state and federal wildlife agencies, as well as for private parties.

    Southwick noted that direct expenditures on outdoor recreation are larger than spending on legal services, motion pictures and video industries, and automobile and light-truck manufacturing.

    Outdoor recreation is particularly important to rural America, where it "jump starts rural economic development, providing the lifeblood for communities that depend on recreation tourism for jobs," Southwick said. FORUM | MAILBAG

    Feds take gander at goose rules

    States, landowners and airports will have additional latitude in managing resident Canada goose populations under a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department ruling published in the Federal Register last week.

    Resident geese don't migrate, usually staying within a tight geographic area. As a result, the waterfowl can damage property, agriculture and natural resources, as well as become aggressive around humans and pets.

    Additionally, a full-grown Canada goose can produce up to a pound of feces daily.

    In short, they can be general nuisances.

    As with other migratory birds, the management of geese ultimately rests with the federal agency.

    Goose populations have become especially problematic in areas of minimal waterfowl hunting that also lack of natural predators, like suburban golf courses and city parks.

    The USFWS reports that resident Canada goose populations have increased an average of 2 percent per year during the last four years in the Atlantic Flyway and was recently estimated at 1.15 million birds.

    In the Mississippi Flyway, Canada geese have increased an average of 5 percent per year since 1997; and this year almost 1.7 million were tallied, a 7 percent increase from last year.

    Under the program, control and depredation orders will be available without a federal permit for airports, landowners, agricultural producers and public health officials.

    Secondly, expanded hunting methods and opportunities, such as use of electronic calls and unplugged shotguns, may be allowed by some states during the early September season.

    The third control component consists of a new regulation authorizing the FWS director to implement a resident Canada goose program on an individual basis when traditional management measures are unsuccessful. FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Aug. 16, 2006

    How not to go fishing

    Bad fishing idea No. 1: Trespassing.

    Bad fishing idea No. 2: Fishing in a pond without the owner's permission.

    Bad fishing idea No. 3: The pond has just been stocked for a special fishing event for disabled children.

    Bad fishing idea No. 4: The pond is owned by the county sheriff.

    A trio of not-so-bright anglers spent the weekend in the Danielsville, Ga., jail as guests of Madison County Sheriff Clayton Lowe after they were arrested by state wildlife officers for illegally fishing in Lowe's specially stocked lake.

    This spring Lowe stocked the pond with about $1,200 worth of catfish and bream to offer disabled children from the county a fun day of fishing.

    In the interim, however, the three ne'er-do-wells evidently made multiple trips to the pond, trespassing onto the property with an ATV and catching the fish meant for the deserving youngsters.

    The Associated Press reported Brian Wallace, 35, of Comer, Ga., and Michael Fricks, 32, and Christopher Wallace, 37, both of Kannapolis, N.C., were released from jail yesterday after paying a fine.

    In the meantime, the sheriff paid $360 to restock the pond before the children's fishing day.

    "It all worked out. They caught plenty of fish," said Lowe.

    Is it just me, or is there script potential for "The Andy Griffith Show" here?

    FORUM | MAILBAG

    Head count

    The heads of St. Louis' World Aquarium put their heads together and came up with a heady idea for a real heads-up exhibit, one that doesn't play head games and proves that two heads or better than one.

    Especially, when they're on the same reptile.

    Aquarium officials believe an exhibit opening there next week and running through Sept. 5 will achieve a Guinness World Record for the most two-headed animals on display in one location.

    The aquarium expects to have 22 two-headed snakes and turtles in the exhibit … making an actual head count of 44.

    Last year, the World Aquarium at the City Museum acquired a rare albino two-headed rat snake after it was discovered by a startled UPS truck driver in St. Louis.

    The reptile, which was being shipped illegally, was never claimed and has been displayed at the aquarium ever since.

    Aquarium president Leonard Sonnenschein said another two-headed albino rat snake from a private collection also will be part of the exhibit. As a result, officials plan to introduce the two, er, four of them to see if they have eyes for each other, so to speak.

    "There are no guarantees," Sonnenschein said, "but it's very likely these two could mate and have babies."

    Anyhow, if you intend to view both the St. Louis exhibit and the new movie "Snakes on a Plane," you might want to scale back your plans. FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Aug. 15, 2006

    Two days late, $25,000 short

    When he hooked a tagged striped bass while fishing Chesapeake Bay on Aug. 2, Philadelphia angler John Baranski sadly discovered he was a tad bit more than a day late and a dollar short … by about another 24 hours and $24,999.

    John Baranski
    John Baranski narrowly missed out on a big payday with this striper.
    The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service says Baranski landed the tagged fish in the state's second annual $1,000,000 Fishing Challenge: The Return of Diamond Jim.

    The striper would have been worth $25,000 if caught in the specified time frame; however, the eligibility of the tag expired two days earlier, at midnight Aug. 4.

    Baranski was fishing with 10-pound spinning tackle from the beach at Tolchester Marina when he caught the 38-inch rockfish bearing the Diamond Jim tag. DNR officials tagged the striper off the Hooper Islands, 65 miles south of where the fish was landed.

    Two anglers have qualified for the Fishing Challenge Grand Prize. The contest officially ends Sept. 4, with the closing ceremony to be held Sept. 16. FORUM | MAILBAG

    Animals vs. hunters: Coming to a theater near you

    Here's a heads-up for all regular ESPNOutdoors.com News Hound blog readers who have small children you take to the handful of movies that are appropriate for youngsters these days.

    Just for your blood pressure's sake, you might want to skip "Open Season."

    Due to be released by Sony Pictures on Sept. 29, the animated feature appears to be scripted around the quintessential wildlife-turns-the-tables-on-the-hunters story.

    According to the movie's Web site, the main characters include Boog, a grizzly bear, and Elliot, a one-horned mule deer rescued while strapped to the hood of a hunter's truck. (Why the deer was strapped to the truck alive, we don't know.)

    As the story unfolds, the two characters decide to unite the forest creatures in order to battle the hunters and to "make life safe once and for all by turning the hunters into the hunted."

    It's been a while since a movie with such a blatant anti-hunter theme hit the theaters, especially one that targets kids.

    Just wanted you to know. FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Aug. 14, 2006

    Long-haul gator

    Wildlife authorities in Florida have decided not to press charges against a Virginia trucker who struck and killed a 10-foot alligator near Daytona Beach, then decided to haul the carcass back home with him, violating numerous game regulations in the process.

    Elliott Terry, who drives an auto transport carrier, ran over the big gator last week.

    "It felt like I rolled over a telephone pole," the Danville, Va., driver told the Daytona Beach News-Journal. "It was a terrible bump."

    Terry said an investigating police officer told him that he could keep the dead reptile and even helped him hoist the massive critter onto the trailer's bottom rack.

    But two days and nearly 700 miles later, Terry discovered that the officer gave him inaccurate advice and that he could potentially face 60 days in jail and a $500 fine for his long-haul adventure.

    Capt. John West, investigator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said the officer should have called a conservation commission official to the accident scene.

    "Most local city and municipal police departments aren't really versed in wildlife law," he said.

    Despite the fact he took a protected species across state lines without the proper permits, Florida Fish and Wildlife now says the trucker's violation was an innocent one.

    So what drove someone to haul a dead gator across five Southern states in the middle of August?

    "I wanted to bring it up here and show my kids," Terry said. FORUM | MAILBAG

    Alaska poop primer: pellets or patties?

    It's common for Jessy Coltrane, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's assistant area biologist for Anchorage, to receive phone calls from area residents who describe in great detail the consistency, color and shape of fecal matter they discover on their property.

    After all, when you sometimes share the neighborhood with grizzly bears, you learn to pay close attention to, uh, poop.

    Coltrane estimates she receives 50 calls a year relating to scat, particularly in the spring, when moose waste tends to resemble patties rather than its normal pelletlike state.

    That's when callers fear the plop in their yard was deposited by a big brown bear — and not a more common (and less threatening) ungulate.

    As a result, the biologist offers callers a few tips to differentiate between bear and moose scat.

    While bear scat is generally darker, moose poop can range in color from green to brown to black, Coltrane says.

    She also suggests examining fecal material with a stick. Because moose are ruminants that chew and regurgitate food before chewing again, their feces are uniform in color and consistency.

    On the other hand, grass, seeds and berries often are found in bear feces, which can appear fibrous, particularly in the spring, when bears eat a lot of grass.

    Jokingly, Coltrane says the public's perception of pellet-shaped moose droppings is perpetuated by all the moose-nugget novelty items that Alaskan tourists buy.

    "It's those darn swizzle sticks and all those earrings," she laughs.

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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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