Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

Note to governor: Leave bears alone

Beware the bear

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has learned the hard way not to mess with black bears when they’re hungry. He came dangerously close to being bitten.

From the Associated Press:

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A late-night encounter with four bears trying to snack from backyard birdfeeders gave Vermont’s governor a lesson in what not to do in bear country.
One of the bears chased Peter Shumlin and nearly caught the governor while he was trying to shoo the animals away, he said Friday.
“I had a close encounter with a bear, four bears to be exact,” Shumlin said.
Shumlin said he had just gone to bed inside his rented home on the edge of Montpelier late Wednesday when the bears woke him up. He looked out the window and saw the bears in a tree about five feet from the house trying to get food from his four birdfeeders.
“I open up the window and yell at them to get away from the birdfeeders. They kind of trot off,” Shumlin said Friday. “I go around to the kitchen to turn the lights on and look from the other side and they’re back in the birdfeeders. So I figure I’ve got to get the birdfeeders out of there or they’re going to make this a habit.”
He said he then ran out and first grabbed two of the feeders. As he grabbed the other two and made his escape, “one of the bigger bears was interested in me.”
“It was probably six feet from me before I slammed the door and it ran the other way,” Shumlin said.
Shumlin said he didn’t stop to get dressed, though he didn’t reveal exactly how little he was wearing.
“I sleep like many Vermont boys, without too much clothing at night. I’m not a big pajama person,” he said. “The bottom line is: The bears were dressed better than I and they could have done some real damage.”
Shumlin, 56, a first term Democratic governor from Putney, said he had part of the encounter on video, which he refused to release. He first described the wild encounter in an interview with the editorial board of the Valley News newspaper of Lebanon, N.H. He told the newspaper he was within “three feet of getting ‘arrrh.'”
“The lesson is as a Vermonter who grew up in this state and should know better, if you’re going to feed birds at this time of year, bring your birdfeeders in at night,” he said.
But Col. David LeCours, Vermont’s chief game warden, said bringing feeders in at night won’t make a difference because the bears will return to eat the birdfeed on the ground. The Department of Fish and Wildlife urges homeowners to remove birdfeeders in the spring.
While homeowners like to watch the birds, they don’t need to be fed once the snow melts, LeCours said.
In certain circumstances, such as if someone is deliberately trying to attract bears, people can be fined for keeping feeders out, but that wouldn’t apply in the governor’s case.
“If someone does it inadvertently, there’s no violation of law,” LeCours said.
LeCours said it was likely Shumlin was dealing with a sow with three cubs. He said he’d never heard of a bear chasing after a person with food, but mother bears will protect their young.
“She most likely felt her cubs were being threatened,” LeCours said.

Cougar killing might cost official his job

Dan Richards and the cougar that might cost him his job

Imagine losing your job because you took part in a perfectly legal hunt.

That’s might just happen to Dan Richards, president of the California Fish and Game Commission. Richards killed a mountain lion in Idaho, where it’s legal to do so. Animal rights activists in his home state of California — where mountain lion hunting is illegal — went bonkers. They put pressure on Democratic members of the state Assembly, who introduced legislation to oust Richards from his post.

The legislative effort was short-lived, but the San Jose Mercury News reports that  members of the Commission recently voted 4-1 to change the rules by which commission presidents are chosen. Armed with the rule change, they could vote Richards out of his presidential post as early as May 23.

Animal-rights and environmental groups are salivating at the prospect. The Humane Society of the United States and the Sierra Club openly lobbied for Richards’ ouster.

I think the Commission’s vote says more about the people being appointed to the Commission than it does about Richards. For years, in the interest of “diversity,” animal-rights and enviro groups have sought to load up state game commissions with people who represent their points of view. In California, it would appear that the effort has achieved critical mass.

If the attempt to oust Richards succeeds, where will it lead? Will good people fear to run for office because they had (gasp!)  “animal killings” in their past? Would politics become a “hunters need not apply” prospect?

I sure hope not.

Woman wants rid of the turkey that stalks her

Photo by Maslowski/NWTF

City folks. You gotta love ’em.

There are a lot of scary critters in Detroit. Drug dealers. Gang members.  Thugs of all shapes and sizes. So what does a Motor City woman fear? A turkey.

From the Associated Press:

COMMERCE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — An Oakland County woman says she’s become a prisoner on her own property, stalked and harassed by a 25-pound turkey.
Edna Geisler calls the foul bird “Godzilla.” The 69-year-old told the Detroit Free Press that the turkey wanders near her Commerce Township property each day from nearby woods. She recently couldn’t get to her front door after a trip to the grocery store.
“I have to go to the post office at 6 o’clock in the morning to avoid him,” said Geisler, who has been bumped and clawed.
She has tried changing her schedule but this turkey is no dummy. A friend, Rick Reid, said the turkey went after him, too, when he opened the door on his minivan.
“He tried to come right in the door,” Reid said. “He bit me on the elbow.”
Indeed, a video posted online by the Free Press shows Godzilla roaming the grounds like they’re his own. State wildlife expert Tim Payne said adult turkeys are known to aggressively defend their territory, although most fear people.
“This bird has probably attacked, and the person retreats,” said Payne of the Department of Natural Resources. “What it tells the bird is, ‘What I’m doing is good.’ It reinforces the aggressive behavior.”
Payne suggested Geisler open a large umbrella to drive the turkey back to the woods.
“Make some runs at the bird and become the aggressor,” he said. “The bird needs to learn who’s the boss.”
Geisler wants the turkey gone by summer so she can work in her garden. The hunting season opens in April.
“Every time I eat turkey I smile,” she said. “I’d like to do that to him.”

Something to make your head explode

My goodness.

It was bad enough that someone torched a 3,500-year-old cypress tree in Florida. It’s even worse to find out why the fire got started.

Authorities allege that 26-year-old Sara Barnes, a resident of Seminole County, Fla., set the fire so she could better see the methamphetamine she was preparing to use.

Slow, deep breaths. Control that blood pressure. Think “calm.”

The Orlando Sentinel has the full story.

Hat tip: J.R. Absher in The Outdoor Pressroom.

Gut shot — by a raccoon?!

Here’s one that makes you laugh and wince at the same time. From the Associated Press:

REDFIELD, Iowa (AP) — A rural Redfield man is being treated for two gunshot wounds after an attempt to shoot a raccoon caught in a live trap backfired.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says 68-year-old Larry Godwin was using a .22-caliber handgun to shoot the caged raccoon at around 11 a.m. Saturday when the bullet ricocheted off the cage and struck him in the lower abdomen on the right side. He dropped the gun and it fired again, shooting him again in about the same spot.
He was taken to Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines by private vehicle.
The DNR says the injuries are not believed to be life threatening.

Homeowners encounter purple squirrel

Just when you thought you’d heard everything…

From the Associated Press:

JERSEY SHORE, Pa. (AP) — A couple in central Pennsylvania found a very unusual critter in their backyard — a purple squirrel.
Percy Emert said he and his wife, Connie, have cage-like traps in their yard to keep squirrels away from the bird feeders. Percy Emery then releases the squirrels into the woods away from his home but joked that sometimes they make it back to his house before he does.
“I came home (one day recently) and my wife said, ‘You’re not going to believe it but I saw a purple squirrel in the yard,'” he said Thursday. “So I put out a trap with a couple of peanuts inside.”
Before too long, the squirrel came back and found itself in the trap Sunday.
“I thought, ‘Nobody’s going to believe me,” he said. “Even the inside of its ears were purple. It wasn’t like it fell into something. It didn’t look like that at all.”
The animal quickly became an online sensation and even has its own Facebook page.
After the couple released the squirrel Tuesday, Percy Emert said a state game warden came by and took samples of purple fur that the squirrel left behind inside the cage, as well as six to eight pieces of fur that Percy Emert took from the squirrel’s tail before releasing it.
“It looked like it was healthy, the only thing was that its teeth were brown,” he said.
Asked about the possibility of having this particular squirrel making its way back to his house, Emert said he thought it was unlikely.
“It’s far enough away,” he said. “Maybe we’ll hear about someone in town seeing it.”
Henry Kacprzyk, a curator at the Pittsburgh Zoo, said Thursday he thought it looked like a gray squirrel tinged in purple, after looking at a picture of the critter on an iPhone.
He knows of albino squirrels. Black squirrels. Gray squirrels. Reddish squirrels.
“But the purple coloration, from the purple I saw … it looked to me like this animal had come in contact with something with its fur and dyed its fur,” Kacprzyk said. The squirrel could have come in contact with a pokeberry patch, but pokeberries aren’t in season.
“I’ve got to think one of the suggestions might be it fell in a Porta John that had blue coloration,” he said with a chuckle. “I have no idea why … but I don’t think it was born that way.”
When asked about the suggestions by some people in online forums of the potential impact of fracking fluid, Kacprzyk said the composition of such fluids in Pennsylvania wasn’t known. “My guess there is if you don’t know something, is that there’s no scientific proof to that. … I would find it amazing that it had that kind of effect,” he said.
In general, purple is an unusual color for mammals, let alone squirrels.
“There are definitely birds that have coloration like this … but not mammals,” he said. “Mammals don’t normally uptake color, ingest something it goes through and (then) it comes out through their fur.”
Accuweather.com first reported the discovery.

Show-and-tell bat sparks rabies scare

I don’t quite understand why a Rhode Island man felt compelled to walk through Providence holding a box that contained a live bat, but he obviously got something out of it.

Unfortunately, he apparently also felt compelled to show the bat to people. And, naturally, it bit someone. Rabies scare!

From the Associated Press:
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Health officials are warning people who were in downtown Providence last week that they may have been exposed to rabies when a man was showing off a bat he had in a box.
Officials say the man was displaying the animal in Kennedy Plaza on the morning of Jan. 23. A health care provider alerted health officials after treating one onlooker for a bat bite and another for suspected rabies exposure.
Bat rabies is highly contagious. Health officials say they’re not sure if the bat had rabies, but they’re advising people who were at the plaza that morning to have themselves checked out and to call the Department of Health.
Officials say the unidentified man was in his 50s and was about 6 feet tall with a beard and glasses.

Why shoot a turkey if you can just tackle it?

A few weeks ago I got a letter from one of my readers. Robert J. Brown of Rosedale, W.Va., is obviously a pretty spry 78-year-old. He tells in the letter how he managed, on two separate occasions several years apart, to catch a wild turkey. Not kill, catch. Here’s Mr. Brown’s letter:

Mr. McCoy,
I would like to know how many wild turkeys have been caught on the ground by hand. I have caught two in my lifetime.
Several years ago, a flock was trying to get through a woven wire fence and I cornered one in the corner of the fence.
About a month ago, I went up the hill on my tractor to check my cattle and saw a turkey trying to get through the fence. They usually fly over the fence or run along it. [This one would] back off and keep lunging to get through the same place.
I am 78 years old and don’t get around too good, but was able to get off the tractor and get hold of [the turkey].
I am not much of a hunter and don’t hunt anymore, and I don’t remember if I ever did kill a turkey with a gun.

That’s OK, Mr. Brown. You seem to do just fine without a gun.


Man seriously injured when deer hit him

Pedestrians beware

Steven Barker of Battle Creek, Mich., went for a Friday stroll and ended up in the hospital — put there by a member of the local whitetail herd.

According to the Battle Creek Enquirer, Barker was walking along Lakeshore Drive when he paused to allow several deer to cross the path in front of him. He paused for about 15 seconds and continued on.

He apparently didn’t see three deer trailing the rest. Bystanders say the deer struck Barker and knocked him down.

Barker suffered a head injury and was taken to a local hospital in critical condition. His condition was later upgraded to serious.


Wounded deer kicks, kills hunter

A managed deer hunt in a Fort Wayne, Ind., park turned tragic when a wounded deer apparently kicked a hunter trying to finish it off with a knife.

Authorities found Paul J. Smith, 62, of Fort Wayne, unconscious and seated against a tree. Smith died shortly afterward, despite attempts to revive him.

The complete story is here, in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

Hat tip: J.R. Absher at The Outdoor Pressroom.