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Wednesday, November 4, 2009
But I Digress

By Mike Suchan
ESPNOutdoors.com blog columnist



Blog calendar:
Oct. 28 | Oct. 22 | Oct. 21 | Oct. 12 | Oct. 2 | Sept.17

posted Oct. 28
Smarter than the average bear

Let's get us some pic-a-nic baskets!

That was Yogi Bear's cry to Boo Boo whenever the Jellystone Park bruin hankered for some grub. The bear talk in the real Yellowstone Park in California has become, "Let's get us a minivan."

Seems the bears there are able to recognize a meal when they see it, and research of vehicle break-ins proves the bears recognize and specifically target minivans as large pic-a-nic baskets.

Remnants and spills from Happy Meals are the reasonable connection as a bear's nose knows.

"I've got two small kids," said Stewart Breck, a carnivore ecologist and lead author of the study that appeared in the Journal of Mammalogy. "If we were going to visit Yosemite, we would definitely clean up the car."

Breck, who noticed the trends after studying Yellowstone vehicle break-ins early this decade, suggests a good steam cleaning of the interior to eliminate leftover scents. Read the full article in the Modesto Bee.

While many of these bear-gluries were done in the cloak of darkness, this story brings to mind those funny home videos of people in their minivans feeding a bear through the crack of their window, only to have the weight of the bear shatter the glass. Hi-larious.

They end up driving off to leave the drive through park and tell the keepers, "No, we weren't feeding the bears."

Good idea, don't feed the bears, especially in Yosemite, where they're smarter than the average bears.


posted Oct. 22
Tricky sounds like part cat

Tricky is the name Daniel East and sister Tevyn gave a coyote that escaped the wildlife rehabilitator they drove it to.

Of course, they went about 500 miles for a long distance delivery of the canine castaway. They picked up the coyote near the Utah-Nevada border when it ran in front of their Honda Fit, broke through the nose in the collision and was wedged between the grill and the radiator.

The coyote survived with only some scratches. This story on KRCA.com is complete with a photo of how the critter was stuck and the channel's news report.

Yet no word if they're being prosecuted for taking wildlilfe across state lines.


posted Oct. 21
Caught by a leech

Watch out crooks. Forensic science has come a long way.

In Australia, a man who robbed a woman faces jail time after he was caught, get this, by a leech, the only evidence left at the scene.

Apparently a leech fell off the perpetrator during the crime 8 years ago. His DNA was extracted from the bloodsucker and a recent arrest and recording of DNA led police to him.

"It's certainly unique and shows how the boundaries of DNA technology have been pushed since it was first introduced to Australia 22 years ago," the University of Tasmania Forensic science researcher Sally Kelty told the Associated Press for this article.


posted Oct. 12
Talk about a Built Ford Tough bird

Talk about tough. Built Ford Tough.

Only this time it was the bird that put the KO on a Ford F-250 pickup.

A great horned owl was hit by the moving vehicle driven by James Ellis of Shoals, Ind., in the early morning darkness near Haysville, and both bird and truck had to be taken in for work.

The bird had to be removed from the grill and taken to wildlife rehabilitor for injuries to its wing and some scrapes. The truck had to be towed as the collision apparently punctured the truck's radiator.

Read the story from the Journal & Courier online editions.

Imagine what that owl would have done to a Thunderbird.


posted Oct. 2
Goat head found at cleanup leads to movement plan

Maybe it was the leftover from some sort of weird ritual, or maybe just leftovers from a dinner feast.

After California's 25th annual Coastal Cleanup Day, the weirdest thing found by any of the record 14,000 volunteers picking up trash from Malibu to Long Beach was a severed goat's head.

Makes you wonder, but c'mon, it's L.A. Coulda been worse.

The mystery head was among the 300,413 pounds of trash and recyclables collected through the "Heal the Bay" organization's cleanup project, part of the world's largest.

Led by the Ocean Conservancy, the day is part of an international volunteer effort to remove debris from waterways. The "Guinness Book of World Records" even recognized the 2008 effort as the world's largest 24-hour volunteer event as 41 other states and 100 countries accumulated 6.8 million pounds of trash.

So, what is going out on there? How does that much trash get spread?

One simple answer is, "We're pigs."

This article in the Malibu Times explains that the drainage systems push much of the garbage from the city streets to the fragile coastal habitat, but I'm sticking with we're pigs.

Maybe that's in part the draw for outdoorsmen, to be out in unadulterated nature. It can be a great getaway from the unsightly sites around our cities and towns. Yet even at parks or wildlife areas, people are so callous as to leave their soda bottle or honeybun wrapper on the ground for me to pick up.

And yes, even so-called outdoorsmen. A recent trip to a popular fishing area at a state lock and dam revealed, along with regular trash, yards and yards, seemingly entire spools, of fishing line. Hey, pick that stuff up! There's a trash can 30 yards away.

Heck, even our roadways to get to the great outdoors can be disgusting. You ever walked down an Interstate highway?

Hope you don't have to, because it's not a pleasant sight to see the grand amount of debris scattered off the shoulder, much hidden from oblivious motorists cruising along at 70 mph. The orange jumpsuit crews and filled trash bag after trash bag tell the story of how many don't give a goat's head about the environment.

We've all been behind the pickup truck that once up to speed sends refuse flying onto the roadway. Do those drivers ever wonder how their beds got cleaned out?

"Awesome, trash fairy musta visited again."

And sure, rainwater washes a lot of this stuff to fragile ecosystems, where it can affect wildlife adversely.

America has become such an overpackaged, throwaway society that we get almost as much trash, sometimes even more, than the product inside it. I'm guilty. I buy stuff, but I do make a point recycle and dispose of trash while teaching the kids we don't litter.

We've even gone as far as picking up the trash at sports fields and parks. As landfill technologies have advanced and must meet rigorous local, state and federal regulations, the problem seems more in getting the trash to them.

Ever seen a Wal-Mart parking lot after a day of shopping? Apparently many unwrap at their vehicles and drop refuse right there, as numerous trash cans are waaaay up near the front doors.

Maybe retailers should start using their surveillance cameras and fine their littering store patrons.

Right, that would be cutting off their nose. Instead, the stores have to hire those vacuum trucks to cruise the parking lots at night, and pass the cost on to you. A volunteer at the Coastal Cleanup, Arthur Zimmerman of Toluka Lake, had his eyes opened to this problem.

"You certainly become aware of the disposability of our culture," he said. "It makes you want to make the right choices when you go shopping."

How about these great United States go further? It would be spectacular if we could get more people to care about cleaning up the country.

Gee, how about hitting two birds a little harder? Non-violent offenders could meet their parole officers for Saturday morning cleanups until their debt to society was paid off.

The government could create jobs in the recycling world, hiring folks for massive cleanup efforts. The sideyard appliance collectors would be a nice place to start, or those folks could be fined or have property condemned and bulldozed. (A lot of places need that).

There also could be grants or monetary awards for community cleanups. An entire Clean Up America movement could be started.

Oh, gosh. What am I thinking? How would you go about making so many people actually care?

Hmmm. Maybe it's through these grass-root volunteer days. Maybe seeing such efforts as Coast Cleanup will get more than the average concerned citizen involved, hopefully the government and the wealthy secluded in their manicured mansions.

Cynthia Mellon of Glendale worked to pick up the beach near Surfrider last week. She gets it.

"I came because it's the right thing to do," Mellon said "Maybe everyone on the beach will see what we are all collecting and make a point of taking their trash with them when they leave."

Amen, sister. It's a start.


posted Sept. 17
Why is it exactly that you want wolves?

I'm a touch befuddled. I mean more than ordinarily so.

In this case, I'm talking about ESPNOutdoors.com's poll question, "Would you want wolves in your state?"

Well, not the question so much as the responses.

Of those who cared to click, more people seem to want them than not. Hear me scratching my head?

The answer "No way" leads the way with 40 percent of the 2,800-plus votes, but the "Yes" at 38 percent and the "Sure, we already have some" at 15 percent gives those wanting wolves a 53 percent majority.

Let it be noted that the yellow states, those that predominantly voted "Take ours, please," are Montana, Idaho and Alaska. Back to them in a second.

It's only fair to add that Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin, along with Oregon, were in the bring on some more category, turning the entire state green on the poll results.

The Southeast mostly voted as a block not wanting wolves, while a line of states from Massachusetts to Nebraska voted for having them. It was surprising that states like Texas and California voted Yes.

Also of note is Wyoming, which is split evenly on yes/no with 13 percent each and 38 percent each for adding more or taking what they got. (Hey, that's 102 percent. Crazy math, those percentages.)

You might remember that Wyoming was one of the states where the grey wolf was reintroduced. While a management plan to hunt them hasn't been approved there, neighbors Idaho and Montana, where the canine's endangered status was dropped, are holding hunts.

Ranchers have been allowed to kill the occassional wolf or pack that attacked their livestock, but state plans for hunts this year after delisting drew some fire. The poll idea came from Colin Moore's report of environmentalists filing an injunction to stop the hunts and calling for a boycott of Idaho potatos. The nerve.

A plucky legislator moved to pass a bill sending wolves to other states, but alas, no takers.

A judge subsequently allowed the hunts in Idaho and Montana. Good thing, too, because both states took in a chunk of change from license sales, the Missoulian reports.

Idaho is also considering putting on auction 10 special tags, the Spokeman Review reported. The states will need the money as expenses to manage wolves will no longer be handled by the feds.

On Wednesday, a hunter reported the first wolf kill in Montana, but the New York Times reported that wolf hunts aren't so easy.

In Idaho and Montana, they voted overwhelmingly to "Take ours, please." Maybe they know something. Maybe they're jaded. Maybe only ranchers have computers there. Dunno.

I'm curious as to why so many voted for wolves. They're pretty to see? You want to hunt them? C'mon, help me break it down.

Send an email here or state your case on the conversation link.




About the author: Mike Suchan has been editor at ESPNOutdoors.com the past three years. He's worked in journalism for 25 years, winning state and regional awards. Email him here.