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Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Backcasts archive: Through Sept. 19, 2008

By Brett Pauly
ESPNOutdoors.com blog columnist

Blog calendar: Sept. 18 | Sept. 17 | Sept. 16

posted Sept. 18, 2008

Beware encounters of the moose kind in New Hampshire and elsewhere

When we talk about roadkill, it's usually the animal by the side of the highway. But in New Hampshire let's make sure it's not you to whom we refer.

Indeed, as the New Hampshire Union Leader reports, moose are a big hit this time of year … this time being the rut, from mid-September to mid-October.

That's when bulls and cows are on the move looking for love, which often means more run-ins with vehicles – about 230 collisions annually in the state over the past five years, according to the Web site of the Manchester, N.H., newspaper.

And it doesn't matter the time of day; moose have no appreciation for traffic. While collisions occur at all hours, encounters of the moose kind take place more prevalently at dusk and nighttime, according to the Associated Press.

A state wildlife biologist advises drivers to motor no faster than 55 mph, scan the sides of the road and decelerate or even stop altogether if they see a moose, the AP reports. It goes without saying you should wear a seat belt (but we'll say it anyhow).

The bummer with moose, according to one staffer here, is they are particularly dangerous to motorists because of their size; the larger bulls can weigh upward of 1,500 pounds and these wild animals – the largest land dwellers in North America – are supported by long, gangly legs, which elevate the body to such a height it often flies through a windshield when the moose is hit by a car.

Federal Highway Administration statistics suggest that some 200 motorists are killed due to collisions with animals on America's roadways each year, as John Matras, a longtime automotive columnist, reports for examiner.com. This includes deer, bear, moose and other animals.

In the case of moose, Matras writes, they are anatomically more threatening to occupants of automobiles. Moose bellies are about hood height, and the typical moose/automobile crash results in Bullwinkle sitting in the car's front seat … before the occupants have had a chance to exit.

And, remember, while moose may be road hazards in New Hampshire, where their numbers exceed 6,000, moose have a very wide range in the Northern Hemisphere that includes much of New England and upstate New York, northern Michigan and Minnesota, the upper Rocky Mountains, parts of Utah and Colorado and most of Canada and Alaska.

That's a lot of miles on the road, so keep your eyes peeled for Alces alces.

Hey, we'll brake for moose if you do.

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posted Sept. 17, 2008

Wild cats in the cradle of culture after taking up residence in south California

No way we could have come up with a better headline, and that's why the Los Angeles Times pays its copyeditors so well … well, we hope so, anyhow:

With owners in the doghouse, bobcats move in.

And the photo accompanying the Times' article is priceless: two bold felines lounging, seemingly mugging for the camera, on an exterior wall of a house in foreclosure in upscale Tuscany Hills, Calif.

Apparently a family of bobcats, at least two adults and three kittens, made the move to the empty Spanish-style home from the foothills surrounding Lake Elsinore.

Police officers were dispatched after a 911 call came in reporting mountain lions at the dwelling. But the cops were soon clicking snapshots of the less-dangerous-but-still-very-wild cats along with neighbors, the Times reports.

A representative of a local animal-control service suggested the animals were drawn by the water from an old, backyard koi pond.

Hats off to resident Scott Brown for the quote of the week from the Times' piece.

"They are great neighbors," he said of the bobcats, "and as long as they don't want to baby-sit my kids, it's not a problem."

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posted Sept. 16, 2008

With paws, claws for brushes, its tough to draw conclusions from these artists

Sure, lions and tigers and bears may be the stars of this show, oh, my.

Now if bass could paint, we'd really be interested. But water-based applications don't work for obvious reasons, and the EPA tends to frown on oil-based mediums – even if the bucketmouth is painting in a bucket.

But, seriously, animal art, that is, art created by animals not necessarily depicting them, will be front and center today during a national online auction (at auctionnetwork.com), with proceeds going to zoo conservation efforts across the country, the Associated Press reports.

Among the grand masters are a rock hopper penguin from South Carolina named Ricky, who enjoys waddling around the canvas, with footprints in Kelly green, cobalt blue and magenta to show for his efforts, according to the Web site of The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C.

Ricky's magnum opus will lead off 61 paintings from zoo critters as diverse as chimpanzees, macaws, seals, sea lions, ocelots, red pandas, river otters, snow leopards, giraffes and even anteaters, the news organizations reported.

We've known about animal art for some time, especially the remarkable brushstrokes of pachyderms; apparently it is a way to stimulate the minds of elephants and finger-painting gorillas and other would-be artists.

Wonder what images are swirling around the heads of whitetails, antelopes and sailfish? Now if their thoughts could somehow be drawn out on paper we'd pay good money to see it.

You can see the auction entries by clicking here.

Pay particular attention to the offerings of Jing Jai the clouded leopard and Strannik the Amur tiger; they are clearly the cats' meows of this body of work.

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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.

  • Check the Backcasts archives for previous blogs.