January 06, 2013

A Candlelight Vigil for an Elk

Boulder being Boulder, they will hold a candlelight vigil for a bull elk, shot by cops on Sunday, who liked to hang out in the Mapleton Hill neighborhood.

A friend of mine who lives there wrote on her Facebook page,
Shocking and sad news. The elk, whose photo I posted last winter when he was lounging in our garden was killed last week. Killed by an on duty police officer at night, who then had a trophy photo taken and called in a buddy off duty officer to bring his truck and take the carcass home for meat. The elk was just standing in a neighbor's garden, as usual, minding his own business. A memorial is scheduled for this evening.
The "official story" stinks: "the officer told investigators the elk appeared injured, with a limp," said the Denver Post.

So he shot him, and then he and another officer were going to take the meat home. I think the technical term for that is "destruction of evidence." 
[Neighbor Roger] Koenig said it took the three men [an off-duty sheriff's deputy showed up too] nearly an hour and a half to load the animal -- which they estimated to weigh between 700 and 800 pounds -- into the pickup truck, and even then part of its rear quarters were hanging over the open end of the bed. He said the men talked about needing a roadkill tag for the animal so it could be driven out of the area.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has gotten involved in the case. They should have been called first thing, since this was (allegedly) a wildlife issue. Now we will see if they have the balls to prosecute officer Sam Carter and his pals or if "professional courtesy" will prevail.

They could be prosecuted under "Samson's Law":
Samson's Law, passed in 1998 after a well-known bull elk in Estes Park was killed by a poacher who was fined just a few hundred dollars, adds substantial fines for the killing of trophy animals. The killing of a bull elk with six-point antlers or larger can carry a fine of up to $10,000, on top of the other criminal penalties for violating hunting rules.
 Which ought to do serious damage to someone's law-enforcement career.

January 03, 2013

A Pencil Sharpener as Survival Tool

Click image to embiggen.
From the Facebook page of Jake Griebe's School of Wilderness Medicine and Survival.

This is a good idea, one that I had never thought of. And since I saw it on Facebook, and this blog has a FB feed, by posting it here, I will have created some kind of cyber-loop.

Toss a pencil sharpener in your pack!

January 01, 2013

Waiting for Spring Snow in the Arkansas River Basin

From KRCC in Colorado Springs, a report (one of a series) on snow pack, water, and drought in the Arkansas River Basin, with photos and graphics.
Typically the snow to water equivalency in the Arkansas River basin approaches around 5 inches by mid-December. Right now it’s only 57% of average. With so much riding on this year’s snow pack – the numbers are disturbing for farmers downstream who depend on the river for irrigation.

December 31, 2012

Things You Might Find on the Moon

A future archaeologist's dream is waiting on the Moon.Heritage Daily lists some of the items left behind both by astronauts and unmanned spacecraft:
  • more than 70 spacecraft, including rovers, modules, and crashed orbiters
  • 5 American flags
  • 12 pairs of boots
  • TV cameras
  • film magazines
  • 96 bags of urine, feces, and vomit
  • numerous Hasselbad cameras and accessories
  • several improvised javelins
  • various hammers, tongs, rakes, and shovels
  • backpacks
  • insulating blankets
  • utility towels
  • used wet wipes
  • personal hygiene kits
  • empty packages of space food
  • a photograph of Apollo 16 astronaut Charles Duke’s family
  • a feather from Baggin, the Air Force Academy’s mascot falcon, used to conduct Apollo 15′s famous “hammer-feather drop” experiment
  • a small aluminum sculpture, a tribute to the American and Soviet “fallen astronauts” who died in the space race — left by the crew of Apollo 15
  • a patch from the never-launched Apollo 1 mission, which ended prematurely when flames engulfed the command module during a 1967 training exercise, killing three U.S. astronauts
  • a small silicon disk bearing goodwill messages from 73 world leaders, and left on the moon by the crew of Apollo 11
  • a silver pin, left by Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean
  • a medal honoring Soviet cosmonauts Vladimir Komarov and Yuri Gagarin
  • a cast golden olive branch left by the crew of Apollo 11
  • There is another object that lies on the Lunar Surface and that is an  urn containing the ashes of Eugene Shoemaker, the famed planetary geologist.  His lifelong ambition was to visit the moon.

December 30, 2012

Blog Stew with Mystery-Animal Ingredients

• Who is buying guns? Women and Democrats. The Washington Post says so, and they would not lie about it.

• A new journal of crytozoology discussed in a long post by Darren Naish, one of the contributors.

• Colorado writer Dave Petersen brings "the mule deer wars" to The Huffington Post.
In fact, the most dangerous long-term enemy of mule deer and hunting throughout the West is a growing and increasingly consumptive and nature-ignorant human population, causing habitat loss, degradation and splintering.

December 29, 2012

Bad News from Mountain Gazette

If you have been picking up free copies of  Mountain Gazette at your favorite high country coffee house, store, etc, or if like me you subscribed, those days are apparently over.

A recent letter from from MG speaks of a "pause" in publishing and a "next iteration of Mountain Gazette."

None of this sounds too encouraging.

Subscribers are being offered T-shirts and/or bumper stickers.

December 28, 2012

A Veterinary Medicine "Bubble"?

Law professor and blogger Glen Reynolds often talks about the "bubble" in legal education—new law schools opening, older ones expanding, even as few graduates find jobs in their field but leave school with their JD and a huge load of debt.

Now he suggests that something similar is going on in veterinary medicine.

The vet clinic that we use most is basically a father-and-son (and for a time, daughter) operation — plus a revolving cast of new Colorado State University graduates, especially on the small-animal side.

You go and meet with "Dr. Susie" or "Dr. Kevin," and on the next visit, it's someone else.

Dog-blogger Patrick Burns often rants about vets up-selling additional tests and services just to pad the bottom line.

Maybe there is a connection. Too many vets, not enough clients? And are "Dr. Susie" and "Dr. Kevin" underemployed and carrying their own load of debt?

December 26, 2012

Must-Watch Neanderthal Television


Watch Decoding Neanderthals Preview on PBS. See more from NOVA.
Nova's January 9 episode will be devoted to the latest research on Neanderthal people, says anthropologist John Hawks.

That's his voice on the trailer, talking about the "mother of all image problems."

Rocky Mountain PBS actually has it scheduled on that date at 8 p.m., unless they suddenly decide to replace it with Antiques Roadshow or another John Denver special.

December 24, 2012

Hunting, Hipsters, and the Truths of Conservation

Once you get past the usual cliches —
In modern culture, hunting has been dominated by a stereotype of burly men in camouflage who view the pastime mostly as a sport. [Speak for yourself, Jacki Lyden. My friends and I were writing hunting-related poetry and essays in our twenties.]
— this NPR piece is interesting. Interviewed is Lily Raff McCaulau, author of Call of the Mild: Learning How to Hunt Your Own DInner. (Her book seems to have had two different subtitles.)

McCaulau takes a state-sponsored Becoming an Outdoors Women workshop in Oregon, including a pheasant hunt, of which she says,
And there was one other woman who hadn't shot a bird. So the two of us went up kind of close to where the dog was holding the bird, and when the bird flushed, it flew up in the air. We both took a shot and killed the bird. And I was really shocked by my reaction because I was expecting to just be wracked with guilt and really confused about what had just happened. And instead, I was euphoric. I couldn't believe that I had it in me and that I'd done it. I felt empowered and proud and amazed and relieved.
Others on the program talk about women in their 20s and 30s who take up hunting. Read the transcript.

Meanwhile, Slate says that "hunting is undeniably in vogue among the bearded, bicycle-riding, locavore set."
The expansion of hunting into liberal, urban circles is the latest development in an evolving and increasingly snug coexistence between humans and beasts in North America. Jim Sterba’s new book, Nature Wars, examines the paradox of the rebound of many wild species, particularly in the densely populated East Coast of the United States. Whitetail deer, turkeys, Canada geese, black bears, and trees are all doing wonderfully in 2012, thanks to conservation measures in the past and vagaries of history and cultural change. The problem, Sterba says, is that most modern North Americans have no idea what to do with these species. We gawk and gape; we feed them doughnuts; we run into them with our cars; we are surprised and alarmed by their messy habits and occasional aggressiveness; we manage them all wrong; we want them gone from our neighborhoods, but we abhor the idea of killing them.
(Let's see . . . Beard? Check. Bicyle-riding (well, sometimes)? Check. Locavore? Check. I had no idea that I was so much in tune with the zeitgeist — or maybe the zeitgeist is now in tune with me?)

So hunting is not a red state thing. It is a red meat thing," concludes writer Emma Marris. "And, more than that, it is a necessary thing."

December 23, 2012

Drop the Smart Phone, Go Hiking, Be Smarter?

I am not sure how you measure creativity — it's not like saying how many pull-ups you can do or something like that, but if being outdoors enhanced creativity, then I will support the meme.
Earlier studies have shown that children spend only 15 to 25 minutes outdoors daily and that outdoor recreation has declined over the past 30 years. People ages 8 to 18 spent more than 7.5 hours daily watching TV or using cellphones or computers.
But I always feel a little guilty about now in writing such a blog post, because guess where I am at this very moment.

OK, tomorrow, serious hike. It's supposed to snow too.

December 21, 2012

Mountain Lions at Lunch

With the bears now out on their own, our local wildlife rehabbers were able to meet us in Nearby Town for a long lunch.

The conversation wandered around "secret" hiking trails, local water issues, and of course critter tales — specifically mountain lions.

Back when M. and I were hired by the Bureau of Land Management to census Mexican spotted owls, we were stalked by mountain lions twice that we knew of, and probably other times that we did not know of.

But these people hand-raised them. They had two lions that lived out their lives with them, because the cats had been seized from people who owned them illegally and who had had them declawed. There was no way that these cats could be released into the wild.

The lions were quite friendly, almost cuddly. But they were still cats — unpredictable.

One day one of them jumped the woman as she was leaving its pen, knocked her down, and bit into the back of her head. It sounded like a dog chewing a bone, she said.

Her husband got the cat off of her with a couple of swift kicks to the head and a squirt of pepper spray. She was half-scalped. It was a real La Brea Tar Pits moment, he says.

He himself was in a bad car wreck once and was rebuilt with pins and plates, so we figured that their skeletons would astonish archaeologists of the future.

"Look," they might say, "people in the Plastic Age were still preyed on by large carnivores. Yet this woman survived — her people took care of her."

"And the man — clearly he had many enemies, but someone rebuilt his skeleton in a primitive way."

December 18, 2012

Waldo Canyon: What Went Wrong

I was going to blog the Colorado Springs Independent's report on what happened when the Waldo Canyon Fire entered the city last June, but I have been too busy wrapping up a big project.

So here are Wildfire Today's summary and comments.
After reading the article in yesterday’s Colorado Springs Independent, I am left stunned. Regarding the management of the fire within the city of Colorado Springs, I have never heard of a wildland fire with such a huge impact that was so utterly, catastrophically mismanaged.
I, too, thought that Colorado Springs was better prepared for wildland interface fire. 

December 12, 2012

Blog Stew for Kids Who Survive

• I think of catfish as bottom-feeders, but under the right conditions, they are sharks!Say Uncle.

• Dog seat belts don't work. No, that's not a real dog.

• If you have kids on the gift list, check out the "I Survived . . . " series. They come recommended from the Free Range Kids blog, where a reader comments, 
One of my son’s favorite book series this year is the “I Survived…” 9/11 attacks, Titanic, San Fran Earthquake (from Scholastic Books).  At first, I was concerned of his interest in disasters but after reading a few of the pages, I understood why he enjoyed them. He wanted to find out what kids did to survive and not be  victims.

Orphan Bears Returned to the Forest

The formerly undersized yearling black bear heads back into the woods. (Colorado Parks & WIldlife photo)
Last winter, I wrote about how orphan bears that had spent the summer and fall at a nearby rehabilitation center were released into a special purpose-built bear den somewhere in southern Colorado.

Recently, I learned that they had not used it through the winter. Ungrateful bears! What do they think they are, wild animals?

Meanwhile, the rehabbers had two bears to care for this past summer. One was found in the spring, weighing only 12 pounds — yet he was a yearling! How had he survived the winter? A normal weight for a yearling black bear at that stage of life would be 40–50 pounds.

The other was a cub brought in after its mother and sibling were hit by a car.

Both gained a lot of weight over the summer. As our friends reported,
Walmart once again provided tons of bear necessities. The bears gorged on peaches, plums, avocados, grapes, dry dog food (their least favorite), apples and assorted other fruits and vegetables that came with the bear packages. I also gave them as many natural foods as I could harvest. Chokecherry, juniper berries, wild plums and acorns were added to their diet.
This time they were just turned loose into the forest to find their own dens.

December 11, 2012

A Good Experience in the World of Outdoor-Gear Retailing

When this blog was young (2006), I wrote a post about the snobbery of some outdoor-gear shops and gun shops:
You walk through the door, and the clerk's look says, "Are you cool enough to be shopping here? Do I recognize you from Outside or Fly Fisherman magazine?"
This time, M.'s favorite Patagonia hiking shoes were dying, so Santa agreed to take her to Mountain Chalet in Colorado Springs and replace them.

But that model, the "Bly," was not on display. The saleswoman fetched a printed catalog, and M. found the shoe, somewhat redesigned but now apparently discontinued, or at least that was the story.

Still, the saleswoman praised them: "Half the women who work here bought those shoes." Or else she was shrewdly praising M's judgment, a little ego-boost for the customer — whatever. 

Then she did something that surprised us. She went to a computer, looked up the shoe, and found that Sierra Trading Post, a Wyoming-based chain that sells a lot of discontinued and closed-out outdoor gear and clothing, still had them. I had my laptop computer with me, so I went down Tejon Street to Rico's wine bar, ordered a glass of something, and dropped the shoes into my virtual shopping cart, at 40 percent off the original price.

So to give credit where it is due, she did not make a sale, but she left us with warm, fuzzy feelings about Mountain Chalet, and when M. wears out these shoes in a year or two, we will probably look there first again. When you have a brick-and-mortar (literally!) specialty store, you have to do these things.