Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

Mushroom hunting, Europe’s new danger sport

The Italian Alps

The Alps of northwest Italy are a great place for sightseers or bike riders.

Mushroom hunters? Not so much.

Reuters reports that 18 people mushroom hunters died within a 10-day stretch in and around Italy’s Valle di Fassa. Most fell off wet, rocky slopes while seeking the delectable fungi. According to the Reuters account, many of them were hunting at night so as to avoid tipping off the location of prized caches.

And I thought West Virginia’s morel hunters were hardcore…

What the heck is a zedonk?!

Young zedonk and mom

Folks at the Chestastee Wildlife Preserve in Dahlonega, Ga., were just a tad surprised when one of the preserve’s female donkeys gave birth to a foal with stripes on its legs and muzzle.

The foal turned out to be a zedonk, a zebra-donkey hybrid. Apparently the female donkey had been engaged in a little hanky-panky with a male zebra.

The Gainesville Times has the full story, with photos.

Not all fish eggs are created equal

A pair of long-nosed gar
A pair of long-nosed gar

It took three days for a trio of Arkansas men to recover from their attempt at caviar tasting. They found out — the hard way — that the eggs of a long-nosed gar are toxic.


Read the entire story at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Web site. A couple of quotes from the men’s family members are flat-out funny.

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

Skunk freed from peanut butter jar

This video clip is making the Internet rounds as if it were brand-new. When I looked it up on Google Video, however, I found copies of it that were five months old.

I post it here, though, because it’s a cool little clip. You’ve gotta admire the wildlife control officer’s courage. He could easily have been on the wrong end of the skunk’s built-in defense mechanism.

New state record not exactly a ‘whopper’

Russ Geldrich and his trophy catch
Russ Geldrich and his trophy catch

The fish’s name sort of tells the story: Pygmy whitefish.

Russ Geldrich of Kalispell, Mont., recently got his name in that state’s official record books by catching a pygmy whitefish that weighed about as much as a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with cheese. He caught the fish on a maggot-and-jig lure intended for kokanee, a landlocked and undersized version of Pacific sockeye salmon.

From the Associated Press:

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — State wildlife officials say a Kalispell man has caught a state record pygmy whitefish.
The Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks says Russ Geldrich caught a .36-pound (5.76-ounce), 9.84-inch pygmy in Little Bitterroot Lake on Feb. 13 while fishing for kokanee. The previous mark was 0.23 pounds held by three anglers.
Fisheries biologist Mark Deleray certified the record.
The pygmy whitefish is a native fish that lives near the bottom of northwestern Montana lakes such as Little Bitterroot, Ashley and Flathead.

Now that’s a weird deer!

weirddeer.jpgMy nominee for Unusual Whitetail Rack of the Year goes to the buck in the accompanying photo.

Killed by former Charleston Newspapers employee Sam Stribling on Thanksgiving Day near Tornado in Kanawha County, the buck features an antler that sprouts from the right cheek, just behind the eye, and curves forward and ends in a big knob just under the animal’s chin. Stribling said the antler tip had actually rubbed a sore on the side of the buck’s muzzle.

Stribling plans to have the buck’s skull and antlers mounted, European-style — bare bone and bare antler. No skin, no artificial eyeballs.

Florida catch leads to piranha scare

flapiranha.jpgFlorida fish and wildlife officials are taking no chances with their latest foreign invader.

When a Palm Springs teenager landed a red-bellied piranha at a nearby fishing hole — and when investigating biologists found another piranha alive in the pond — crews quickly showed up to poison the pond with rotenone. The kid lost his favorite fishing spot, but at least the state avoided a brush with yet another invasive, potentially dangerous tropical species.

The Palm Beach Post has the complete story.

Wyoming considers bear spray mandate

bearspray.jpgRemember Kennesaw, Ga., the town that passed an ordinance in 1982 requring its citizens to own and maintain handguns?

An official in Wyoming has a similar idea — not to require handguns, but to require backcountry hikers, anglers and hunters to carry bear spray.

Teton County Attorney Steve Weichman announced the proposal last week during a Yellowstone Grizzly Coordinating Committee meeting. If approved, it would require all recreationists overnighting in grizzly country to have bear spray on hand.

According to an Associated Press report, not everyone is sold on the idea. Bob Wharff, executive director of Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife,  worries that hunters might be forced to forgo a sure-fire bear repellent — a firearm — in order to use pepper spray.

Does this remind anyone else of the old joke about how to tell grizzly poop from other animals’ poop? It has backpackers’ “bear bells” in it, and it smells like pepper…

Big bucks lock antlers, drown in golf course pond

dedbuck.jpgThe annual whitetail rut might not have started just yet, but it’s definitely on the way.

Case in point: Two titanic Illinois bucks recently drowned after locking antlers and falling into the Wood River.

The battle apparently took place near the 16th hole of the Belk Park Golf Course in the town of Wood River. One of the bucks was an 18-pointer, the other a 10-pointer. Both weighed more than 200 pounds. The Alton (Ill.) Telegraph has the complete story.

The accompanying photo shows a wildlife biologist determining the 18-pointer’s age by inspecting its teeth. 

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

The new big-bass bait: Rattlesnake?!

basssnake.jpgFrom the Brazos River in Texas (via the always-entertaining Moldy Chum Web site) comes one heck of a cool fishing story.

A Brazos fishing guide, Tim Ridings, was fishing the river in a kayak when a juvenile rattlesnake swam over and attempted to board. The end result you see in the accompanying picture. The complete story, with additional photos, can be seen here.