Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

Moose moms rough up humans to protect young

AP Photo

When it comes to protecting offspring, mama grizzlies apparently have nothing on moose mamas — as Alaskans are finding out.

From the Associated Press:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska wildlife biologists are warning about the dangers of moose calving season after several people were injured in the past week by protective cows, including a 6-year-old girl who was stomped by one in her backyard until her father scared it off with a log and a baseball bat.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Jessy Coltrane said cow moose are giving birth now, and people need to be extra careful in and near the woods.
“Cows are dropping calves all over town right now,” Coltrane said. “Those cows are so defensive of their little babies. They will literally stand there on the edge of the woods watching you, and if you take one step into their personal bubble, they’ll come out hooves flying.”
The warning comes after 6-year-old Chloe Metzger was stomped by a moose Monday in her Eagle River backyard. She suffered a broken clavicle and injuries to her back, according to Wednesday’s Anchorage Daily News.
The same day, a moose struck a man outside an Anchorage elementary school, but he was uninjured, police said. Over the weekend, a moose charged and injured at least two mountain bikers on trails at a south Anchorage park.
Chloe Metzger’s mother, Julie, said her daughter and an 11-year-old friend were jumping on a trampoline when they decided to venture toward the woods into some nearby bushes.
They encountered the moose, which chased them back into the yard. The older girl ran and hid in a playhouse with an attached swing set, Julie Metzger said.
“My daughter didn’t make it. I looked out, and she was curled in a ball protecting her head,” she said. “Everybody was screaming.”
The moose stomped on Chloe’s back with its two front hooves until Julie’s husband, Wade, threw a log at it, she said. It stunned the moose long enough that Chloe was also able to run to the playhouse, and Wade Metzger threw a baseball bat at it, Julie Metzger said.
Unfortunately for the girls, the moose ran into the swing set, became tangled and injured the older girl as well, Julie Metzger said. Eventually they were able to scare away the animal and rush Chloe to a hospital, where she had surgery.
The moose was calm when Coltrane and another biologist went to see it Monday after the attack.
Coltrane said moose can be unpredictable this time of year.
Several groups of mountain bikers learned that over the weekend on the trails at Kincaid Park. A couple of them were injured when a moose either attacked or drove the bikers off the trail, she said.
“It was all fast-moving, blind corners and basically running smack into the moose,” Coltrane said. “I would definitely recommend to people to get a new hobby for the next couple weeks.”
Bison leaving Yellowstone via the Gardiner entrance (AP Photo)

As proposals go, this one isn’t too bad. When one considers the role the bison played in America’s expansion westward during the period of Manifest Destiny, it makes sense.

From the Associated Press:

Western lawmakers want to elevate the Plains bison to a status similar to that of the iconic bald eagle with legislation to declare the burly beasts America’s “national mammal.”
Bison advocates launched a “vote bison” public relations campaign Friday to coincide with the bill.
The National Bison Legacy Act introduced in the Senate is backed by lawmakers from Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Rhode Island.
The largely symbolic measure would provide no added protections for the estimated 20,000 wild bison in North America. And the bald eagle would still hold a somewhat loftier role as the national emblem, as declared by the Second Continental Congress in 1782.
But supporters said the bison legacy bill would afford overdue recognition to a species that has sweeping cultural and ecological significance. Bison — North America’s largest land animal — already appear on two state flags and the official seal of the U.S. Department of Interior.
“The North American bison is an enduring symbol of America, its people and a way of life,” said Wyoming Republican Sen. Mike Enzi, chief sponsor of the bill along with South Dakota Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson.
Tens of millions of bison, also known as buffalo, once roamed most of North America. They were heavily relied on by many American Indian tribes who harvested the animals for food and materials to make clothing and shelter.
Overhunting reduced the population to about 1,000 animals by the turn of the 20th century.
That’s when conservationists, including President Theodore Roosevelt, intervened to save the species from extinction. Beyond today’s wild herds in places like Yellowstone National Park, there are an estimated half-million bison, including animals in commercial herds, many of which have mixed cattle genetics.
Yet resistance to free-roaming bison lingers.
In Montana, livestock producers and property rights advocates have filed lawsuits to stop the spread of an animal that ranchers say can tear down fences, spread disease and compete with domestic cattle for grass.
This week in Boulder, Colo., city officials citing cost concerns and public opposition rebuffed a proposal from Ted Turner to donate a bison herd for viewing along U.S. Highway 36.
John Calvelli with the Wildlife Conservation Society, one of the “vote bison” campaign sponsors, said the effort is meant to transcend political concerns and instead mark the animal’s place in American cultural history.
“This isn’t about getting into the middle of these issues of bison and property rights,” he said. “No matter what political stripe you come from, we can all agree on the important role that bison have played.”
Other sponsors of the campaign are the Intertribal Buffalo Council, which includes 57 tribes, and the National Bison Association.
In recent years, federal and state agencies, wildlife advocates and Indian groups have revived efforts to put wild bison on more parts of the Western landscape.
That includes the transfer in March of about 60 Yellowstone bison to northeastern Montana’s Fort Peck Reservation.
The Interior Department also has been considering bison for public lands, including Badlands National Park on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.

Cougars 2, Wolves 0

Texas Parks & Wildlife photo

No, that’s not a sports score. It’s the mortality and morbidity report from Montana, where mountain lions appear to be targeting gray wolves.

From the Associated Press:

HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) — Mountain lions have killed two radio-collared wolves in the Bitterroot Valley since January, a state wolf specialist in Montana says, and two others were killed last year.
“I haven’t heard of it happening anywhere else,” Liz Bradley of Montana, Fish, Wildlife and Parks told the Ravalli Republic.  “It’s pretty interesting that the Bitterroot has had so many.”
She found a dead wolf last week with skull puncture wounds that are a trademark of a mountain lion.
“It’s hard to say what happened,” Bradley said. “There was no elk or deer carcass nearby that they may have been competing over.”
She said the lion ate part of the wolf and covered the rest with debris.
In January, she found another dead wolf west of Lolo with the same wounds. In that case, a deer carcass nearby indicated that the two predators apparently fought.
“That one was probably a conflict,” she said. “They compete for the same resource. When there is overlap in areas where you have lots of prey, conflicts occur.”
She said last year she found two other wolves with puncture wounds in their skulls. Now, only four packs in the Bitterroot Valley have a wolf with a radio collar. At the end of last year, Bradley had collars in seven packs in the Bitterroot. She estimates that there are 14 packs in the area.
“It’s too bad because we don’t have those now,” she said. “Ideally, we would have at least half of the packs collared in the Bitterroot.”
She said the largest pack has nine wolves, while most have four to seven, and that several just have a male and female. The number of wolves in the area is between 60 and 70.
“That’s a little bit lower than what we had in 2011,” she said. “We had about 80 last year. We had some mortality.”
At the center of another legal battle

I’ll say this about environmental activists: If they put as much effort into conservation as they do into litigation, they’d be a heck of a lot more effective at making the Earth a better place.

Some environmentalists in Arizona want to ban the use of lead bullets because bullet fragments ostensibly poison condors. The groups’ leaders think they can bring about the ban by suing the U.S. Forest Service.

News flash: Congress passed a law more than 20 years ago that prohibits federal agencies from writing regulations to ban lead ammo. You’d think the enviros would know that.

From the Associated Press:

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Environmental groups in Arizona are proposing a lawsuit against federal officials, saying they need to ban lead bullets that are killing California condors.
The Arizona Daily Sun reports three organizations are considering suing the U.S. Forest Service for not doing enough to protect condors from hunters’ lead ammunition.
Jay Lininger, of the Center for Biological Diversity, says condors living on federal land cannot survive if there is a risk they will ingest lead.
Wildlife officials say about 22 California condors have died from lead poisoning in the last two decades.
Environmental advocates say the Forest Service is violating the Endangered Species Act.
A spokeswoman for Arizona Game and Fish, which tracks condor survival, says voluntary measures such as handing out free non-lead ammunition are helping.

Making laws to create more deer

John McCoy photo

It’s tough to write laws that help a deer herd expand, but lawmakers in Maine are giving it a shot. Here’s hoping they are more successful than the West Virginia Legislature, which in the 1950s and 60s

botched every attempt it made at deer management — and ultimately handed over control to the Division of Natural Resources.

From the Associated Press:

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — With hopes of rebuilding a deer herd that has shrunk sharply in parts of Maine, Gov. Paul LePage has signed legislation to implement strategies that include restoring habitats that shelter the animals in the winter and thinning out the population of their main predator, the coyote.
One concern that has prompted the new laws signed Monday is that areas known as “deer yards” have been lost due to logging and to spruce budworms, pests that have killed large tracts of forest.
Deer yards are stands of trees — typically cedar, spruce or hemlock — that protect deer from the snow and cold. Deer venture from these natural shelters to feeding areas.
Wildlife officials say one of the best ways of protecting deer yards is through cooperative working agreements with large timberland owners to leave those areas intact. The agreements would not be required, and they could come in the form of easements or even sales of areas containing deer yards.
The loss of deer, which are central to Maine’s hunting tradition, has been a major worry especially in eastern, northern and western regions of the state. Deer density in those regions has plummeted to 1-4 per square mile, a fraction of the optimum number, while it hovers around 40-50 in southern and some coastal areas and islands, said David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.
The optimum can number vary and is based on how many deer a given piece of land can sustain, but is usually between the extremes found in Maine, Trahan said.
Maine’s deer herd is estimated to be in the 250,000 range, with annual harvests on the decline to about 19,000. The number of deer killed by hunters exceeded 28,000 annually in the 1980s.
The disappearance of deer in much of the state has had an impact on hunting, which “is vital to our heritage and economy,” Rep. David Burns, R-Whiting, sponsor of a new law that expands the mission of a state deer-management fund to include preserving deer yards, in addition to its traditional focus on controlling coyotes.
Deer hunting and viewing in Maine generate at least $200 million per year in spending on guide and outfitting services, hunting camps, motels, restaurants and related businesses, Burns said.
“Maine has traditionally been famous for its big bucks, but as this No. 1 game animal becomes scarce, hunters will find Maine less desirable,” he said.
To support the new deer management fund, $2 of each $5 collected in “tagging” fees hunters pay after killing a deer must be deposited in the fund. The new law also establishes a check-off on the hunting license application for donations to the fund.
The law authorizes fish and game officials to impose limits on the feeding of deer by the public when it’s believed that feeding is having a detrimental impact on deer. Examples are placing food across the highway from the woods, which puts them in danger of being struck by a vehicle, or feeding them the wrong foods, such as hay or whole corn, which take too much energy to digest.
A separate bill adds $100,000 to the fish and game department’s predator control program. With money left over from this year, the department will have $150,000 to reduce the coyote population in specific areas of the state.
Maine does not offer bounties for the hunting and trapping of coyotes. The department instead determines specific areas most hard-hit by the predators and assists in bringing in hunters and trappers to lower their numbers.
Sporting groups see a proposal to borrow $5 million to preserve forests and farmland as another tool to protect deer yard. The proposal awaited LePage’s signature in order to be sent to voters for authorization.

In the modern political world, no crisis is allowed to go to waste — even when it’s a manufactured crisis.

Consider what’s going on in California, where lawmakers in the state Senate have voted to outlaw the use of dogs to hunt bears and bobcats. Never mind that the state is crawling with bears and bobcats; never mind that only a minority of the bears and bobcats killed each year have been pursued by dogs.

So where’s the crisis? A California fish and game commissioner had the temerity to travel to Idaho for a perfectly legal mountain lion hunt, and then had the temerity to pose for a photo with the cat he killed. Democratic lawmakers went nuts (The commissioner, not surprisingly, is a Republican). All of a sudden, anyone who hunted with dogs was Public Enemy No. 1. (wanna guess which party the commissioner belongs to?).

In a leap of logic all too typical of politicians in the Land of Fruits and Nuts, someone decided that since the commissioner participated in an Idaho hunt where hounds were used, then by golly hunting with hounds should be outlawed in California! A bill was written, and now it has passed the upper chamber of the state Assembly.

If you can stomach it, here’s the full story from the Associated Press:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The state Senate voted Monday to ban the use of dogs to hunt bears and bobcats, a practice the bill’s author compared with shooting animals in a zoo.
State Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, introduced the legislation after a California fish and game commissioner posed for photos with a mountain lion he killed during a legal hound hunt in Idaho.
Before the vote, Lieu described the practice in which packs of dogs chase the animals until they are exhausted and climb trees, holding them until the hunter arrives.
“It’s been likened to shooting a bear at a zoo,” Lieu said. “It’s simply not fair.”
He also noted that dogs are sometimes injured or killed and called the practice inhumane and unsportsmanlike.
The Senate passed SB1221 with a 22-15 vote and sent the bill to the Assembly, despite objections by Republican lawmakers.
Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, said hunting is in danger of following logging and gold mining to the list of endangered activities in the state.
“It is an attack on rural California,” he said of the legislation.
Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto, said he saw no difference between using dogs to hunt bears and hunters’ use of dogs to point out and flush pheasant. He also argued that California needs the $400,000 generated annually by hunting fees as it struggles with a massive budget deficit.
The use of hounds to tree bears is a practice dating back hundreds of years across the U.S. and Europe.
Sen. Doug La Malfa, R-Willows, said shooting treed bears is more humane because a clean shot results in fewer wounded bears that can then escape.
Lieu said two-thirds of states already ban the use of hounds to hunt bears.
Between 1,500 and 1,800 bears are killed by hunters each year in California, with less than half tracked with dogs, according to state wildlife officials. The state has a black bear population estimated at about 30,000, up from about 10,000 in the 1980s.
California has an estimated 70,000 bobcats. It issued about 4,500 tags to hunt bobcats last year. About 11 percent of the bobcats were killed with the use of dogs.

There’s probably no better time than right now to wet a line at park ponds throughout West Virginia. Division of Natural Resources workers have just finished stocking adult channel catfish in a slew of those ponds.

For details, here’s the DNR news release:

           SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) has stocked more than 8,000 catchable-size channel catfish during the week of May 14, according to WVDNR Director Frank Jezioro.  This popular stocking program provides fishing opportunities at popular and accessible lakes across the state.
            Lakes stocked are: Anawalt Lake (McDowell Co.), Barboursville Lake (Cabell Co.), Berwind Lake (McDowell  Co.), Cacapon State Park Lake (Morgan Co.), Cedar Creek State Park Lake (Gilmer Co.), Chief Logan State Park Lake (Logan Co.),  Conaway Run Lake (Tyler Co.), Coopers Rock Lake (Monongalia Co.), Edwards Run Pond (Hampshire Co.), French Creek Pond (Upshur Co.),  Handley Pond (Pocahontas Co.), Hurricane Lake (Putnam Co.), Indian Rock Lake (Nicholas Co.), Krodel Lake (Mason Co.), Laurel Lake (Mingo Co.), Little Beaver State Park Lake (Raleigh Co.), Mason Lake (Monongalia Co.), Mountwood Lake (Wood Co.), North Bend State Park Pond (Ritchie Co.), Pendleton Lake (Tucker Co.), Pipestem State Park Lake (Summers Co.), Tomlinson Run State Park Lake (Hancock Co.), Wallback Lake (Clay Co.), and Wirt County Farm Pond (Wirt Co.).
            As part of a cooperative effort with West Virginia State Parks, a total of 400 tagged channel catfish have been stocked into eight state park lakes, including: Cacapon State Park Lake; Cedar Creek State Park Lake; Chief Logan State Park Lake; Little Beaver State Park Lake; North Bend State Park Pond; Pipestem State Park Lake; Tomlinson Run State Park Lake; and Pendleton Lake at Blackwater Falls State Park.
            Anglers catching a tagged catfish and following the tag instructions for reporting the catch will receive a “tagged fish reward.”  The reward is a choice of a ride to Whittaker Station at Cass Scenic Railroad or a ride to Blennerhassett Island on the sternwheeler, The Island Belle.
            Anglers who catch a tagged fish are asked to return the tag or tag number along with information on the date of capture, if the fish was kept or released, and the name and address of the angler to WVDNR, 2311 Ohio Ave, Parkersburg, WV 26101.  Anglers also can call in the information (304-420-4550) or provide the information via e-mail dnrfishtags@wv.gov.
Charges filed

Forest ranger James Schoeffler ought to get a medal or something. Certainly hikers in Utah owe him a huge debt of gratitude. Chances are his actions saved at least one hiker from death or serious injury.

Schoeffler, a former military man, knew enough about booby traps to recognize them when he found them. And when he found booby traps at a trail shelter on a popular recreational trail, he took immediate action. And now the two men accused of setting the traps are facing harsh justice. Good.

From the Associated Press:

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Two Utah men accused of setting potentially deadly booby traps along a popular hiking trail have been charged with felony aggravated assault.
Benjamin Rutkowski, 19, of Orem, and Kai Christensen, 21, of Provo, await a June 13 court appearance after being charged with the third-degree felony in 4th District Court this week, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
They were arrested April 21 on suspicion of misdemeanor reckless endangerment.
According to court documents, the men built two traps around a well-known, makeshift shelter along the Big Springs trail in Provo Canyon, located about 50 miles south of Salt Lake City.
One was rigged to a trip wire to send a 20-pound, spiked boulder swinging at head level of an unsuspecting hiker, while the other was designed to trip a passer-by into a bed of sharpened wooden stakes.
U.S. Forest Service Officer James Schoeffler, who discovered the traps while on a routine patrol of the area, said the traps could have caused significant or lethal injuries, court documents state. Schoeffler spent 12 years in the military as a bomb disposal technician dismantling deadly devices in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Police have said it was fortunate that Schoeffler was the first to discover the traps, given his military training.
According to the charging documents, both men admitted making the traps but said they were intended for wildlife such as wild boar and bunnies, not people.
There are no listed phone numbers for the men. Phone calls went unanswered Saturday to Rutkowski’s father, Steven, who previously declined comment. Christensen’s mother, Sharon, didn’t immediately return a phone call. It wasn’t clear if either suspect had an attorney.
A third-degree felony carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Follow this link to the Tampa Bay Times’ story about a Florida deer hunter who shot an endangered Florida panther because he didn’t want the cat to interfere with his hunting.

Todd Benfield, 45, of Naples, pleaded guilty to the crime and said he’s sorry to have cast hunters in such a negative light.

It remains to be seen whether Benfield will serve any jail time for the illegal killing. In previous panther-killing cases, judges have levied fines but have been reluctant to issue jail sentences.

Teen gets stripped of striper record

What is it about record-breaking fish that makes anglers want to lie, cheat, break the law and do all manner of unscrupulous things?

That was a rhetorical question, of course.

Latest case in point: A Colorado teenager who caught a state-record striped bass — oops. From the Associated Press:

LONGMONT, Colo. — A Longmont teenager has been stripped of his record for a 31-pound, 8-ounce striped bass after he admitted he lied about where he caught it.
Isaac Sprecher says he was immature for contending he caught the fish at northwest Longmont’s McIntosh Lake, when he’d actually reeled it in from a pond at Pella Crossing, a Boulder County Open Space area with catch-and-release rules.
According to the Longmont Times-Call, state wildlife managers verify all claims for fish records and they smelled something fishy about Sprecher’s claim.
The state’s official striped bass record-holder remains a 15-pound, 11-ounce fish caught in 2009 in Pueblo County.

The full story can be found here, in the Longmont Times-Call.