But I Digress

Blog calendar: Jan. 28 | Jan. 26 | Jan. 20 |Jan. 17 |Jan. 12 |Jan. 6 | Jan. 5 | Jan. 4

posted Jan. 29
Bacon Explosion recipe exploding on Internet

Move over beer brat. A new barbecue sensation has heavily hit the Internet, and the stomachs of anyone man enough to try it.

With more than 5,000 calories and 500 grams of fat, the Bacon Explosion, and its savvy marketing, have created a greasy Web curiosity that has garnered almost half a million lip-smacking, gut-wrenching views.

Start with a mat of woven bacon, layer down a pile of Italian sausage, add some cooked bacon and wrap that four-pound meatwad up. Smoke that sucker for two hours, sauce it down and wa-lah! Hmmm-mmm. You can feel those arteries hardening just looking at it.

The buzz began in the kitchen of Jason Day in Roeland Park, Kan. — pop. 6,817, sal-ute! Day and Aaron Chronister, members of competitive cooking team Burnt Finger BBQ, were asked online through their >BBQAddicts.com site to take on bacon for the barbecue.

"It's a variation of what's called a fattie in the barbecue community," Day told the New York Times for this >story. "But we took it to the extreme."

After taking the creation to their practice pit — apparently serious barbequers have practice pits and competitive pits — they peddled their creation on the Internet.

Barbecue fans were quick to pick up on it, and it found homes on outdoors and hunting sites, where venison was suggested to replace the sausage.

Day and Chronister probably wouldn't appreciate that bastardization of the >recipe they promote as "The BBQ Sausage Recipe of all Recipes."
Some 16,000 Web sites now drip with the recipe, some lauding and others lamenting its excessiveness.

It's just in time for the Super Bowl and that new case of Lipitor.

posted Jan. 28
Neither snow nor rain nor gobble of turkey ...

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gobbling charge of turkeys stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Wanna bet. A gang of wild turkeys has forced the local post office in Rockport, Mass. — pop. 7,767, sal-ute! — to cease delivering mail to certain households.

A rafter — that is what you call a group of wild turkeys, that or Congress — of about 10 turkeys led by two "ring leaders" have been harrassing the carrier and mail truck, chasing and pecking at both, for the past five months.

The mailman had been arriving at different times and parking in different spots to avoid the South Street gang, but to no avail. The problem came to a head last week when drivers passing by had to stop and shoo away the ruffian turkeys to allow the mailman to get back in the truck.

So some houses on South Street won't be receiving their mail until the carrier can combat the onslaughts — with an umbrella. That's the advise Postmaster Bob Kerrigan received from Capt. John Tulik of the state environmental police.

The way to deal with tough toms protecting their turf is to show them you are more dominant. Tulik said an opened umbrella will trick the charging turkey into thinking the mailmen is a more dominant turkey.

"We're not going to go out with an umbrella every day, but after a couple of times it should show the turkey that the carrier is dominant," Kerrigan was quoted for >this story in the Gloucester Daily Times. "But I'm a little skeptical because nothing seems to stop them from going after the carrier and truck."

If that doesn't work, they'll go to Plan B, one aspect of which will be to get the residents to quit feeding the turkeys.

Readers posting comments on the Times' site have the best remedy, and most involve cranberry sauce. Paul Cohen actually took some time to come up with this.

    Just when you thought it was safe to serve alcohol ... Turkeys gone postal! Just a little primer on this latest threat to humanity. The American Turkey (meleagris gallopavo) is, indeed, omnivorous. Its diet includes various grasses, acorns, juniper berries, snakes, salamanders, frogs, and the occasional Postal worker ...

    The conflict can only escalate if left unchecked. Picture roving rafters ... of our former feathered friends wreaking havoc among the peaceful inhabitants of this picturesque town, a town left virtually defenseless as even The Environmental Police packed up their green FUV's and chickened out. They were heard to call out in their hasty retreat, "last one to KFC buys."

    A negotiated settlement may be our last resort. Former VP Dan Quayle has offered to facilitate the sessions. "We just want to sit down and talk turkey." He may just be trying to feather his political nest but ... I know, it sounds crazy, but it just might work! So far negotiators for the Meleagris Americanus Union haven't answered repeated phone calls, or turkey calls, for that matter, perhaps prefering to keep their hand close to their breast. Dinner at Eleven.


posted Jan. 26
"Hokey smokes, Bullwinkle! You missed my day"

I am so sorry, readers. I missed alerting you to Squirrel Appreciation Day, which has been held annually on Jan. 21 since 2001.

Christy Hargrove, a wildlife rehabilitator in Asheville, N.C., came up with the day as a way to honor the itty bitty, bouncy, trouncy fluffy tailed critters. While her >Web site says there were no schedule events — a parade with the giant balloon of Rocky the Flying Squirrel and nuts thrown to children seems appropriate — it is strategically timed.

Her site lists that the main activities are to watch the scurrying little guys (yes it's easier with no leaves) and to put out a little extra food. Hey, it's tough being a squirrel in the dead of winter.

eHow.com, a site promising to show you "How To Do Just About Everything," picked up on the big to-do and gives some pointers on how to celebrate the festive rite of winter with >this post. We are not making this up.

It gives steps on how to learn about, feed or simply celebrate squirrels. (Another site recommends celebrating squirrels in a crockpot).

Its best tip is to "Spend the day watching Rocky and Bullwinkle episodes. Cheer for Rocky!" I mean, how can you not? He always saves Bullwinkle's bacon.

Hargrove's site also answers the age-old questions of how to stop squirrels from uprooting potted plants, how to get them out of the attic and how to keep them away from bird feeders.

Now if you ask my mom, the latter is her main problem. I'd like a nickel for every time she complained about the tree rats — my words, not hers — getting into her bird seed. She's watched them scheme around numerous squirrel-proof bird feeders, employing ingenious tactics.

Google squirrel-proof bird feeder and you get 140,000 results in 0.33 seconds. No. 1 on the list is the 100 percent guaranteed RollerFeeder, which spins and dumps off squirrels and large nuisance birds and has been "Squirrel-proofing America since 1998."

Talk about building a better mousetrap. >Check this out! Now if I could just get one for my mom. Hint, hint.

Of course, eHow also offers its methods >here, and they include baffles, grease and cayenne pepper.

Another site might be on to something. It recommended giving the squirrels a separate place to munch and different food and just enjoy the show. Ah. That's the true spirit of Squirrel Appreciation Day.

posted Jan. 20
Oh yes, he's got bats in his belfry

Uh-huh. We at the ESPNOutdoors.com office thought it was just another sad excuse. One morning, writer Jamey Bergman tells us he'll be a touch late getting in ... he and wife Kate and dog Alfie saw a horrific bat episode the night before.

First we thought he watched the Batman where The Riddler infiltrated the Batcave and Adam West had to "POW!", "BAM!", and "ZOKK!" him into submission.

Ha! Gotcha. Frank Gorshin's Riddler was the only one of the big four criminals, which included Joker, Penguin, and Catwoman, to never enter the Batcave, and if you knew that, you need to be Zokked.

The Bergmans were in fact confronted by bats in their belfry. A bunch of bats. You know, the only flying mammals. Rats with wings.

While bats are great at eating insects and pollinating, most people just think they're creepy, especially when in one's house.

Now, we certainly can see Jamey shreiking like a little girl and leaving his abode for the night, but they weren't vampire bats for goodness sake.

Vampire bats do feed at night on blood, even human's sometimes. Interesting little critters, too. Feeding mostly on cattle, vampire bats can sense where bloods flows in their victims. No enamel allows them to keep teeth razor-sharp and barely felt.

They don't suck blood, only lap it up from the wound. And get this, the substance in their saliva that keeps blood from clotting is called draculin. Bram Stoker, best-known for his 1897 book "Dracula," was said to be keen on vampire bats, but much of his research for the book came from European folklore and stories of vampires.

But the Bergmans had nothing to worry about since vampire bats only live in Pennsylvania, check that, Transylvania ... hold it, northern Mexico to Argentina.

Rabies, you say. Ok, we'll give him that fear. While only 0.05 percent of bats carry rabies, most of the infrequent cases of rabies in the U.S. come from bat bites, and it's those infected bats flying like drunken pidgeons that are most likely to come into contact with humans.

So, Bergman's off the hook ... this time. We gave him his stories about the stingray in his sink, the bunnies in the boudoir, the elephant in the refrigerator (who hasn't heard of that?), but if he tries to take off for butterflies in the basement ... Oooooh.

We're on to you, Bergman!

Read his email that brought on this entire mess here.

(Parts of this report were fictionalized to make Jamey Bergman look bad.)

posted Jan. 17
Stuff always seems to drop in threes

Letting loose with the theory of things appearing to come in threes, a trio of wildlife scat stories plopped onto our desk this week.

First, a rhesus monkey is on the loose in Tampa Bay. Authorities with a bucket truck and tranquilizer dart couldn't capture the primate since Tuesday, but the species isn't considered dangerous. Unless you make it mad, then it has a tendency to throw feces.

It was last seen in Clearwater, and rumors are the water isn't so clear anymore.

Around the globe in Bangkok, Thailand, researchers attempting to keep count of an endangered Asian elephant population have made it a dung deal — by counting the poop piles.

You'd think counting such large animals might be a little easier, and less offensive to the nose, but the herd in Malaysia's Taman Negara National Park shifts often through the dense jungle, making a head count difficult.

This manure method — I would like to see the want-ad for these jobs — came up with an estimated 631 elephants, making the park "one of the great strongholds for Asian elephants in Southeast Asia," Melvin Gumal, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's conservation programs in Malaysia said for this >story.

Enumerating by excretion — or counting the dung piles — also is an internationally recognized technique and has been endorsed by U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, Gumal said.

Well, isn't that nice. Next time a census worker knocks ... no, better not.

For No. 3, let's head to the oceans of the world, where scientists claim that fish poop is maintaining the delicate acid balance.

This >story says that the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere not only drives global warming but also "raises the CO2 dissolved in ocean water, tending to make it more acid, potentially a threat to sea life."

But bony fish ingesting calcium form "calcium carbonate crystals in the gut and the fish then simply excrete these gut rocks."

Wow. The chemical excreted in a process, which is actually separate from digestion and production of feces, helps balance the acidity in the water.

Ok, so the latter isn't officially feces, but hey, close enough.

The story also says rising sea temperature and CO2 "would cause fish to produce more calcium carbonate, thus helping to mitigate the warming."

So if fish can actually help their own ecosystem by passing these things, who are we to argue. Go gut rocks!

posted Jan. 12
Can a raptor carry off a dog?

Ok, you've most likely heard about the report of an eagle snatching a small pooch from unsuspecting RVers on a pit stop.

Even made us a wee bit verklemp when the report detailed how the husband really loved his wife, hysterical from losing her baby (fill in any small dog breed) in such traumatic fashion.

The man consoles her for the loss and, once corralling her back inside, busts out in celebration, the little mutt that he's seen take inordinate amounts of his wife's attention is finally gone. (Note: Some guys buy their wives dogs to draw fire away.)

An >article on snopes.com debunks birds of prey carrying off small canines as simple urban legend. Even small dogs are too much for their lift capabilities, which is about 4 pounds max for the largest of birds. But raptors most assuredly do attack pets.

It happened last Tuesday in Virginia Beach, Va. — pop. 435,619, sal-ute! A red-tailed hawk tried to pick on a nine-week-old whippet puppy named Arrow as it romped in some bushes.

Owner Kara Keith would have none of that. She kicked that red-tail blue.

"I think the adrenaline just kicked in and my first reaction was 'No you are not taking my puppy!'" she told WAVY.com for >this article.

Pretty gutsy, but Keith is trained as a veterinary technician. And that might be what allowed the bird to survive as she "kicked the hawk and then reached down and grabbed his right wing with my right hand and stepped on his right talon with my left foot."

She kept it pinned down while neighbors came and threw a blanket over the bird. Arrow was scared but only had a few scratches.

Bogus report? Another urban legend, you say. Hardly. We followed up on this one.

The responsible Keith took the hungry hawk to Lisa Barlow, president of Wildlife Response, Inc.. She is licensed in raptor rehabilitation. No kidding.

Contacted Thursday, Barlow, who treats about 100 birds a year, said the three-year-old male red tail is about a half pound under the normal 3 pounds, and is having hunting difficulties.

Right, it tried to nab a whippet whose keeper had a swift right foot.

"For whatever reason, he's not catching enough prey and a lot of times what will happen is they'll turn to something simple like a cat or a dog," she said. "It does happen. And up here it seems to happen on a not-so-unusual basis."

She said last year a woman had her Chihuahua killed by a red-tailed hawk and an acquaintance lost a Yorkshire Terrier.

Barlow said the red-tailed who attacked Arrow has nothing wrong with its vision, but she is treating it for a broken talon on each of its feet. It is recovering, eating mice and rats and should be able to return to the wild and hunt.
Hopefully, it learned its lesson about hunting dogs ... near humans.

Red-tailed hawks can be seen frequently in winter alongside roads. Kids on a holiday road trip passed the time by counting no less than 62 hawks perched along a 100-mile stretch of two-lane highway. Why?

"Those are havens for rabbits and rats," Barlow said, adding that the birds are opportunistic hunters. "They're not going to spend a lot of time hunting. But they don't normally eat roadkill."

All that aside, the thought of a bird of prey making off with a dog created a buzz around the ESPNOutdoors.com news desk, and creative director Matt Barnette recalled an incredible video he had seen of golden eagles using a particularly brilliant hunting tactic. Yes, it's better than sea otters cracking clams with a rock on their bellies as they float in a kelp bed.

Not cuter, but more ingenious.

The big mountain birds, which have 7-foot wing spans, use the rocks on the valley floor as a weapon. Oh, they don't pick them up. They swoop down on prey, a small goat-like critter, drag them off the cliff and drop them down the mountainside.

Don't believe it. Check out this >wild video from Spain. Wait, there are incredible moments.

This video had our entire crew watching in amazement. But alas, it is somewhat of a setup as the bird was trained to do this, yet digging further we found a post saying the behavior had first been found in the wild.

Our man from Spain, Alvaro Sela, clued us in on the show and host, both famous in his home country. Felix Rodriguez de la Fuente produced wildlife documentaries on a show called "El Hombre y la Tierra" (Man and the Earth) that ran from 1974-80. Show DVDs with spectacular footage remain on sale to this day.

The show was comparable to America's popular "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" hosted by Marlin Perkins. Remember him? He was the guy who let assistant Jim Fowler do his dirty work. Johnny Carson spoofed Perkins like this: "I'll mix the martinis while Jim Fowler wrestles in the mud with the giant anaconda, and tries desperately to keep it from crushing his windpipe."

De la Fuente, who died in an airplane crash while heading to location in 1980, was so beloved that there is a children's song honoring him. Sela even started singing it.

Ok, back to raptors. The golden eagle in the video didn't actually pick up its prey; it used its huge wingspan to soar down and away from the cliff, like a hang glider. The bird is dragged downward by the weight it carried.

As far as the nightmare of seeing a raptor fly off with your petite pooch, it's not likely to happen. But leaving a small dog out alone in big bird country is ill-advised just the same.

posted Jan. 6
Wyoming project not a hit with big game so much

Now if they could just get people to use their turn signals and the suicide lane.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation receives a herd of kudos for installing deer underpasses along U.S. Highway 30 near the Utah border. Webcams set up show that mule deer are actually using them! Awesome!

The highway that runs through Nugget Canyon splits a migration route used by some 14,000 mule deer, who cross twice a year. Mule deer can go pretty fast, but cars and trucks are faster, and the state reported about 130 vehicle-deer collisions a year since 1990.

So WYDOT teamed with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department on a $3.8 million project that included 12 miles of fence funneling the herd to six underpasses, the design of which was crucial for actual deer usage.

"They did a lot of experimenting with the first underpass moving partitions around to get the proper size, height and width," WYDOT spokeswoman Theresa Herbin told Trib.com for this >story. "And one thing they figured out was that if the deer cannot see open space on the other end, they're not going to use the underpass."

Webcams set up at the underpasses showed that during one week in December, 800 mule deer used the tunnels, along with several antelope and a bull elk.

The departments were smart about this project, too. They first installed an underpass in 2001 and vehicle collisions there were cut in half. The newer underpasses were installed at areas of high deer mortality, presumably replacing deer crossing signs. That's thinking it through.

Deer-vehicle collisions are big business — for auto repair shops and junkyards. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says there are approximately 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions annually in the U.S., causing more than 150 fatalities and $1.1 billion in property damage.

For which states are you more likely to hit a deer, click >here.

It might be difficult to fund and complete such a project in many areas, but if ever considered, the designers should follow Wyoming's lead.

And the Wyoming pictures don't lie.

Herbin said the cameras are " ... showing they are using it and using it heavily."

posted Jan. 5
Shopper left home without it

Stop! Shoplifter!

Dogged determination allowed an unarmed suspect to enter Smith's Food and Drug Center, and, despite being confronted by the store manager and being videotaped, make off with a $3.19 product.

Roger Adamson, manager of the story in Murray, Utah — pop. 34,024, sal-ute! — caught the culprit red-pawed and yelled "Stop!" and "Drop it."

Despite appearing to understand, Adamson said, the husky/wolf mix sped up to make its escape out the automatic doors with a 9-inch Pet Pride oversized rawhide bone, yes, the most expensive one in the whole joint.

That's showing the man.

Lee Benson gives all the details his column in this Deseret News >article.

Video of the two-minute incident has made it way to YouTube and was broadcast on CNN and the "Today Show."

The hound, who apparently lost its American Express card, is still at large.

posted Jan. 4
Mystery of heart found at car wash solved

My heart be still. The one found at Soapy's Car Wash in Paw Paw, Mich. — pop. 3,363, sal-ute! — certainly was. It was frozen.

Seems a hunter cleaning out his truck left a deer heart in the wash bay accidentally.

The mystery heart was found by the car wash owner on Dec. 15, and created a stir complete with a police investigation. They knew it was a heart, but a local veterinarian and then a cardiologist could not determine if it was human or not.

This story in The Courier-Leader reports:

    On Dec. 16, the Van Buren County Medical Examiner was contacted and advised of the complaint. Paw Paw police then contacted Sparrow Hospital Forensic Services Division, Lansing, and requested a pathologist complete an examination of the organ for positive identification.

With no less than 10 pages on Google dealing with the mystery heart, the hunter saving the heart for a friend finally got wind of the big organ to-do.

Paw Paw Police Chief Patrick Alspaugh said the unidentified hunter was interviewed on Dec. 22, and an official at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing told Paw Paw police the heart was definitively deer on Dec. 24. Police plan to close their investigation once they receive a written report from the hospital.

No word if how much taxpayer money was spent before Paw Paw police picked up and put it in their pocket.


About the author: Mike Suchan has been editor at ESPNOutdoors.com the past three years. He's worked in journalism for 25 years, winning state and regional awards. Email him here.