Backcasts archive: Through Jan. 26, 2007

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    posted Jan. 26, 2007

    Here's a proposal that has some real bite to it

    If Washington state legislators pass the country's first bill of its kind, man's best friend will be allowed to sidle right up to the bar with him.

    That's right, at alehouses, cocktail lounges and rathskellers alike, Fido would be welcome and dogcatchers would have to leave their nets and nooses at the door.

    A new "breed" of taproom jokes immediately would be spawned.

    And soon taverns across the Evergreen State would be hiring for the new job of barktender.

    Of course, it also would give an entirely different perspective on barkroom brawls.

    Expect plenty of water bowls at watering holes. I've got "digs" on Canine Canteen as the name of my place of business. And Hounds' Lounge. And the Pub 'n' Pup.

    But seriously, how seriously can we take this measure that, according to the Associated Press, would permit bars and restaurants with liquor licenses to welcome dogs, as long as they accompany their owners and remain well-behaved and leashed?

    "You can take dogs into hotels. My God, some people are carrying dogs in their purses," said state Sen. Ken Jacobsen, who pitched the bill. "Why can't we have them in the bars?''

    Sounds pretty serious, even for a guy who doesn't own a pooch.

    The National Conference of State Legislatures is unaware of any states that allow dogs in bars or any states considering similar legislation, according to the AP.

    It's a particularly passionate issue in the Northwest, considering dogs get waterlogged at the very least and may float away entirely in the most torrential downpours as their masters drown their cabin fever inside.

    The proposal might even be good for the drinkery business.

    "If people were asking me to go somewhere and I could bring my dog, I might be more likely to go,'' said Olympia, Wash., dog owner Lisa Owens.

    Predictably the naysayers are many.

    "Animals don't use the toilet and they shed and they sometimes drool, and those are potential issues with food,'' said Joe Graham, public health adviser for the Washington state Department of Health.

    Why would a little slobber be a problem? Could it be that a dog's mouth being cleaner than a human's is just an old wives' tale? Be that as it may, don't even ask me to stop kissing bowwows.

    The Senate Labor, Commerce, Research and Development Committee scheduled a public hearing on Jacobsen's proposal for Jan. 30.

    We'll fetch you the details then.

    Bummer, reefs wrecked as live fish brought to market

    Apparently if you're rich in China, the Associated Press reports, dining on live reef fish is a symbol of status.

    But what's really footing the bill? The ocean reefs around Asia, that's what. As "fishermen" — that's certainly not the term we would use, and ours isn't printable — increasingly resort to cyanide and dynamite to bring in the valuable catch.

    A study released this week about the live-fish trade in Malaysia found that catches of some grouper species and the endangered Napoleon wrasse fell by as much as — is this unbelievable? — 99 percent between 1995 to 2003, a period coinciding with soaring economic growth in countries where the exotic fish are a delicacy, according to the AP.

    Pollution and global warming already have these reefs reeling, and now TNT and poison on top of that? What's such a salty shelf to do?

    "With all the threats the reefs already face, these fishing practices take us one step closer to losing these reefs," said Helen Scales, who co-authored the study for the Swiss-based World Conservation Union.

    And guess what? You got it: no reefs, no reef fish.

    I can't even go on, it's such a bummer; but if you'd like to, please read the full story here.

    But there is some good news for our finned friends

    In the first of two much more encouraging new items, scientists, regulators and actual fishermen have gathered this week at a first-of-its-kind international conference in Kobe, Japan, to iron out a plan to save one of the world's most valuable and endangered catches — the tuna.

    At stake, according to the Associated Press, is an annual global haul of the sleek, silvery speedsters worth hundreds of millions of dollars and the preservation of a top-tier predator fish that helps hold the seas' ecosystems in balance.

    Not lost on the Herculean effort to reverse the decline of tuna stocks is that Japan itself reportedly devours one quarter of the world's supply of the five big species: bluefin, Southern bluefin, bigeye, yellowfin and albacore. The country also accounts for 12 percent of the global tuna catch of 2.06 million tons, according to the AP.

    Conference reps were expected to conclude their referenda today by releasing an action plan outlining future steps to save the tuna fish.

    Elsewhere, we're pleased to learn that a federal appeals court has ordered that funding to count young salmon and other fish in the Columbia River Basin be continued, according to the Associated Press.

    The agency responsible for collecting data on chinook, steelhead, coho, shad, sockeye, pink salmon and lamprey is the Portland, Ore.-based Fish Passage Center.

    Scientists there oversee 20 dams and fish traps and keep track of river conditions in order to make educated flow and spill requests of dam operators and power administrators in an effort to improve the survival rates of migrating fish and protect endangered species.

    Foreign publisher buys classic American outdoor periodical

    Outdoor enthusiasts have been waiting for word on the fate of one of their favorite reads. Wait not longer.

    In yesterday's joint announcement it was learned Field & Stream has been purchased by Bonnier, according to the Stockholm-based magazine group and Time Inc., a Time Warner company that had published the 18 magazines in the deal.

    Also included in the package are the other important hunting and fishing titles Outdoor Life and Salt Water Sportsman.

    All the slicks appear to be in good hands; Bonnier is a 200-year-old company with approximately $2.9 billion in annual revenue, according to the release.

    We're curious, though: Does one hunt or fish for Swedish meatballs?

    Bonnier also landed Popular Science, Parenting, Yachting, MotorBoating, SKI and TransWorld SKATEboarding.

    Time Warner notes that editorial, sales and marketing staff for the 18 books will remain in New York, California and Colorado.


    posted Jan. 25, 2007

    When you're that old, oh, the stories you tell

    If you think we're having banner years of late in the field, ponder what hunting must have been like, oh, say, 120 years ago.

    The stories back in the day must have been mind-blowing.

    And there to relay the tales from the field — and the savanna and the woods and the mountaintop and the desert and the tundra — was Sports Afield.

    Founded in 1887, it is the oldest outdoor periodical in the nation, and its contributing scribes have included the likes of such legendary voices as Zane Grey, Annie Oakley, Russell Annabel, Gene Hill and Townsend Whelen.

    The tradition continues today in the fine writing of Craig Boddington and ESPNOutdoors.com contributor Tom McIntyre.

    But instead of resting on its laurels and continually touting its past achievements, the magazine and its management appear committed to bringing to readers new adventures and a renewed zeal for shooting sports.

    In her wonderful Editor's Notes in this month's edition (I can never figure out the archival sequencing for this things, but the January book is Volume 230, Number 1), Diana Rupp, to her credit, dwells not on the past in observing the magazine 120th anniversary, but instead looks to the present as a hunting heyday and holds dear the notion our sport has a bright future.

    "I truly believe that right now we live in the golden age of hunting adventure. International travel is within reach of more people than ever, and populations of desirable game species in North America and much of Africa are at all-time highs," she pens.

    "Most encouragingly of all, you, the readers of this magazine, are among the most active and enthusiastic hunters in today's world, and you carry the same passion for our sport and concern for the future of wildlife that has been a hallmark of true sportsmen since even before the magazine's founding."

    Hats off, Sports Afield, and here's to hoping your presses roll another six score.

    Are these cats blind? The Netherlands has a mouse problem

    What would the ink have looked like had this been reported 120 years ago, do you suppose?

    A newcomer to parliament in Amsterdam, the Dutch Party for Animals already is
    leading the government by its tail.

    Apparently the party — which, as Reuter reports, considers itself the first animal-rights group to be elected to any supreme legislative body across the globe, has prohibited the use of poison to control the vermin infestation in its offices.

    Officials with the party, which claims to stand for the rights of animals and lobbies for "compassionate farming" practices, will only OK traps from which mice can be released unharmed, a Dutch paper reports.

    In a hilarious sidebar, the daily De Telegraaf also notes one Christian Democrat politico joshed he had dropped breadcrumbs around his office before turning the space over to Party for Animals representatives.

    Mickey would be proud. And I laughed my mouse ears off.

    Gotta say, too, we're b-i-g fans of Reuters UK's Oddly Enough, and we'll bring you more of their best of as we see it.

    "Croc Hunter" is gone, but his action figure is not forgotten

    It certainly didn't take long after the death of Steve Irwin for the "Crocodile Hunter's" action figure, complete with his signature "Crikey" sound effects, to be readied for U.S. retail shelves.

    Toymaker K&M International has designs on rolling out its 39-piece Steve Irwin Wildlife Adventure Series during next month's International Toy Fair in New York, according to the Associated Press.

    The figurine apparently was ready to launch before Irwin died Sept. 4 when the poisonous barb of a stingray pierced his heart. K&M was set to cease production, but the showman's widow, Terri Irwin, insisted on moving forward with the enterprise, said G.B. Pillai, the toymaker's president.

    On the market for the past year in Australia, the Irwin likenesses also will be sold in Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

    "We want people to know what he stood for and never forget him," Pillai said.

    "Holy Guacamole!'' Did that guy ever have appeal!


    posted Jan. 24, 2007

    Can you see the refuge for the smog?

    How's this for crazy talk? If conservationists have their way, a wildlife refuge will be created in, of all places, L.A.

    You've seen the Hollywood car chases through the City of Angel's concrete flood-control channel (one of Arnold's "Terminator" flicks immediately comes to mind).

    Well, that, my friends is the Los Angeles River, which flows (mostly trickles between bouts of winter flooding) 51 miles from the southern base of the San Gabriel Mountains through the San Fernando Valley and downtown L.A. to Long Beach and San Pedro Bay.

    The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy is pursuing a plan to apply for millions of bucks to buy up land along the urban waterway to create a federal wildlife sanctuary, according to the Associated Press.

    All but 11 miles of the river has been paved, and much of its soft-bottomed waterway runs through the San Fernando Valley.

    You know, The Valley, home to "The Brady Bunch" and their countless neighbors in this metro-suburban sprawl; Warner Bros. Studios; the ironically named Panorama City (can you say Smog City?); the porn industry; and its big ideas of seceding from Big Brother L.A. and creating its own municipal government.

    Yeah? Well, this is where L.A.'s version of Central Park would be housed if the plan pans out.

    "It's sort of a zany idea for anyone who doesn't know anything about the river except that it's a box channel off the freeway," said Dan Cooper, author of "Important Bird Areas of California."

    "But those of us who spend a lot of time birding there or biking there, we just know there's a lot to be saved."

    And we thought there were more-pressing issues to tend to in L.A., not the least of which includes crime, gang shootings, pollution and overpopulation.

    But, who knows, maybe a wildlife sanctuary will be a Band-Aid to the woe and strife that define this city. Good luck, really.

    Aussie diver: Now that's using your head

    Once again, adventurers, take note: Use the old noggin to get yourself out of a tight jam.

    A 41-year-old Australian diver by the name of Eric Nerhus survived Tuesday after what's thought to be a great white shark bit into his skull, according to the Associated Press.

    If that wasn't enough, the 10-foot fish came back to finish the job, only to get an eyeful of fingers and general thrashing about by its stubborn prey.

    A witness to Nerhus' attack off Cape Howe, south of Sydney, said the shark "swallowed his head."

    Nerhus was treated for shock and serious lacerations to his head, body and left arm. He suffered a broken nose when the unfriendly denizen crushed his face mask.

    "Eric is a tough boy. He's super fit," said fellow diver Dennis Luobikis, who saw the incident. "But I would say that would test anyone's resolve, being a fish lunch."

    Scientists say there are an average of 15 shark attacks annually in Australia, according to the AP. That represents one of the highest rates in the world, with about one attack proving fatal each year.

    To turns kids on to reading, get an assist from deer

    To continue yesterday's wapiti theme, props to the kids periodical Zoobooks, published monthly by Wildlife Education in Poway, Calif.

    A remarkably detailed and thoughtfully produced slick magazine, Zoobooks "uses creatures as teachers" in its aim to get children passionate about reading.

    The January issue focuses on "The Deer Family" and is replete with biology lessons on ruminants ranging from the South American pudu, at less than 20 pounds the world's smallest deer, to its largest cousin, the North American moose, weighing in a nearly a ton.

    Strong graphics complement such features as, "Why do deer grow antlers" (did you know each of the ancient Irish elk's antlers measured more than 12 feet from tip to tip); the workings of the four-stomach digestive tract; the reasons why the ungulates herd; an explanation of the relationship between doe and fawn; and a look at the future of the deer family.

    The photography is top drawer and the message is clear: teach your child about animals, teach your child the love for reading.

    Coming next month: turtles. Oh, and for preschoolers, check out Zootles.


    posted Jan. 23, 2007

    In Washington, elk are fattened up for the hunt

    When elk and hunting, and the issues surrounding both, become Page 1 news in a metropolitan daily, we naturally perk up and pay attention. Such was the case Sunday when the front-and-center headline "Hungry elk first fed, then hunted" practically screamed "read me" from the ink of the Seattle Times.

    In a fascinating assessment of how Washington wildlife officials are caught in a tug-of-war with nature lovers, the hefty article describes how game managers are for the first time fattening up the Mount St. Helens elk herd — at 12,500 animals the state's largest — in order to keep their numbers up during the harsh winter.

    Then they plan to institute an aggressive hunting campaign to thin the herd down to 10,000 wapiti in the next five to eight years.

    Now that is a beautiful thing.

    The elk attract tourists and hunters to the tune of some $30 million annually in the five counties where the herd roams, according to government assessments provided to the Seattle Times.

    And without the fresh alfalfa — served up like pizza-delivery trucks with a "come and get it" slogan at a cost to state taxpayers of $820K so far — up to 15 percent of the Mount St. Helens elk herd would starve, freeze or fall prey to predators in a habitat that is far too small to sustain it.

    Figuring it makes no sense to let the elk numbers dwindle naturally, the state stepped in with the dinner bell in part of a larger, similar effort that began in Washington in the 1960s.

    It is a complicated issue, to be sure, and its benefits are measured against risk, such as the increase in the odds of disease being spread among elk congregating in such high numbers. Will the elk become tame? And at what point will the wapiti that hoof near their infamous namesake volcano be considered more zoolike than wild creatures?

    We feel for wildlife officials up here who have to balance the health of elk herds against the notions of human residents, some of whom complain they don't like their gardens gobbled up by 1,000-pound ruminants.

    In general, however, folks want large numbers of game, which is composed of naturally occurring Roosevelt elk interbred with Rocky Mountain elk introduced in the early 1900s.

    "Public sentiment is, 'We want as big a population as we can have. We want to see more, hunt more. More, more, more," manager of the state wildlife division David Ware told the Seattle Times.


    posted Jan. 22, 2007

    Florida ringneck ducks the grim reaper

    If ever there was a lucky duck, this bird is it.

    After being beaned by a hunter and put in the cooler presumed dead, a 1-pound female ringneck will live to quack another day.

    Two days after being knocked out of the sky, this feathered critter looked right up at the hunter's wife when she opened the refrigerator in their Tallahassee, Fla., home, according to the Associated Press.

    The wife apparently was so startled she had her daughter drive the waterfowl to a nearby animal hospital; it eventually was treated for wounds to its wing and leg … but not hypothermia.

    Apparently the duck has low metabolism and could have survived quite nicely in the frig, provided the door was opened and closed on occasion, an observing veterinarian said.

    The doc believes the duck has a 75 percent change of survival but likely won't be returned to the wild.

    If a cat has nine lives, we now know ducks have at least two.

    Not to be outdone, here's one lucky buck

    Speaking of doing a good turn by our friends in the animal kingdom, check out the compassion a couple of Beaver State cops had recently for a buck that had become tangled in the rope swing at a bucolic home in Anby, Ore.

    Figuring they weren't going to risk life and limb to free the wildly thrashing ungulate themselves, a sheriff's deputy and a state trooper decided the best way to handle the situation was to shoot it between the antlers out of compassion, according to the Associated Press.

    But before pulling the trigger, it dawned on them they might as well put a taser to good use before making a fatal shot.

    After zapping the deer, it stopped moving and the officers freed its antlers from the rope. It soon bounded off.

    "That was pretty good thinking," said Lt. Jim Strovink of the Clackamas County Sheriff's office.

    We'll say it was.

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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. The Evergreen State of Washington is where he makes his home. Click here to email him.

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