But I Digress

Blog calendar: Sept. 27 | Sept. 21 | Sept. 17 | Sept. 13 | Sept. 9 | Sept. 7 | Sept. 3

posted Sept. 27

I smell a big rat in New York

It might not have been such a smart idea to combat a rat problem by releasing opossums -- just kind of a bigger rat -- a New York City borough has learned.

The city of Brooklyn -- pop. 2.5 million, sal-ute! -- believed bringing in the marsupials would take a bite out of the troublesome rodents, but alas, now oppossums are overrunning areas, even making it into Manhattan, and scaring some residents who are afraid to go in their yards at night.

See the story in the New York Post, which might be a touch overblown but the comment section brings up some interesting points.

Some said it's funny the town's plan went awry, and others suggested to send some to Albany for its rat problem. One thought a bounty on opposums would eliminate that issue and another followed suit with a Possum and Taters recipe. (Possum recipes are abundant in the South but debates rages over what wine to serve with.)

Owls would have been a better choice to combat rats, one said, while it was also suggested that better sanitation and trash receptacles would curtail numbers of both critters. A comedian posted that nocturnal possums are getting cocky; he saw one walking down a street "in golf slacks with a cigar in its mouth."

One said the plan was stupid because possums don't even eat rats. The National Opossum Society says they do, along with all sorts of bugs and carrion. They deemed possums "nature's little sanitation engineers."

Maybe it wasn't such a bad idea, but Brooklyn thinking possums would eat the rats and not procreate was off base. Litters can be larger than 10; momma takes care of them in her pouch after a gestation period of about two weeks. The varied diet of the shy, slow moving critters that have lived for 70 million years makes them successful colonizers as they can inhabit diverse locations.

Most get to the size of a large cat in their short 2-year livespan, and their mouthful of teeth can look rather intimidating. They can put up an aggressive bluff, hissing and growling while baring those dentals, but they'd rather just be left alone.

In fact, playing possum is one of their defensive gigs, where they lie motionless, teeth bared sometimes with foam and glands sending off a nasty deathlike odor.

For a possum encounter, the society simply recommends you watch. They said there are non-lethal means to rid them from taking up residence in your house.

Possums don't receive much thought other than roadkill, but the world's older living mammal are definitely here for a reason, and yes, maybe even helping get rid of a few rats.

posted Sept. 21

Rare crocs freed by Karl

Tens of thousands of people in Mexico's Veracruz state have been left homeless by the torrential rains and flooding from Hurricane Karl.

Another 400 residents in the area were swept down the Antigua river, but be wary of them. Those residents lived at the El Colibri wildlife reserve. They are endangered Morelet crocodiles, now loose in the area after their breeding facility was inundated.

Some are almost 10 feet long, and authorities are warning residents not to approach them and report any sightings as they have "specialist wildlife handlers" ready to act.

They'd better hurry and find the crocs because with conditions as they are, some of the reptiles could find themselves being turned over an open pit.

posted Sept. 17

Mercy kill requires 17 shots, leads to questions

The deputy obviously isn't a hunter, what with needing 17 shots to put an injured deer out of its misery.

In Florida's Alachua County, a sheriff's deputy came upon a deer that had been struck twice by vehicles but was still alive. He called in and was told to shoot it behind the shoulder in the heart, but he kept shooting it in the stomach.

The report said the deputy was absolutley horrifed that the poor creature wouldn't die. And now the sheriff's department is going to receive some training on how to quickly dispatch a critically injured animal.

This report in Gainesville.com leads to more questions about mercy kills, avoiding collisions and what can be done with roadkill.

Along with May and June when yearlings move, the next several months is when most deer-vehicle collisions occur. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources offers a nice rundown on its page, Living with Wildlife in Illinois.

First it advises that since deer are crepuscular -- active around dusk and dawn -- be on high alert as most accidents happen between 5-10 p.m. and 5-8 a.m. This includes suburbia as deer can thrive in some metropolitan areas.

It includes tips on how you can avoid an accident, common sense practices like slowing at curves and other known deer areas, honking and flashing high-beams and even hitting emergency lights to warn other motorists.

If you hit a deer, Illinois advises motorists to pull over, hit flashers and call 911, but do not attempt to move the animal as you might endanger yourself.

In most states, it is illegal for anyone other than law enforcement officers on duty to kill a deer crippled by a collision with a motor vehicle.

There have been instances across the nation where a citizen has called the state game department and received permission to put an injured deer down, especially rural areas and Texas, but most states also require you to provide more information.

Citizens can legally possess roadkill, in fact there is usually no limit on deer possession under these circumstances, but the driver who hit it has first rights.

Illinois further states: If the driver does not take possession of the deer before leaving the collision scene, any citizen of Illinois who is not delinquent in child support may possess and transport the deer.

That's a nice touch.

And anyone who does claim one has to report it to the state wildlife department within 24 hours, and they can expect to give details such as when, where, sex, etc. In most cases, that person has to get a tag issued before anyone lawful meat processor or taxidermist would take it. Nebraska calls it a salvage permit.

Most states do not allow you to sell or barter deer killed in any manner other than hunting. Of course, that doesn't mean the meat can't be donated.

posted Sept. 13

It's raining bears in Missoula

At first glance, the image of a little black bear looks like it's enjoying a good old-fashioned Eskimo skin toss.

You know, you've seen circle of folks holding a net and flinging the participants as high as 30 feet in the air.

Part of the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics -- yes, there is such a thing -- the blanket toss originated as a way to spot game over the horizon, or was done to celebrate a successful whale hunt.

But this black bear wasn't having much fun. Spotted in Missoula, Mont. -- pop. 64,081, sal-ute! -- the 70-pound, first-year cub got on the wrong side of the tracks and encountered a human before scurrying up a tree.

Can't have a bear stuck in a tree in the downtown neighborhood, so Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials came to the rescue. Using a bucket truck, they darted the bear to tranquilize it and caught it as it fell. It was tagged and relocated.

An interesting side note is the whole episode was watched and videoed by some visiting Australians, who have quite a story to take home.

Louise and Lawrence Scott of Perth had noticed bears on license plates then came upon the scene.

Louise recalled American Soldiers telling bear stories during World War II, to which he would counter with Australian tales of "drop bears," or koalas that got drunk on eucalyptus nuts and fell off their branches.

"You couldn't organize a better tourist act than this," Lawrence told the Missoulian's Rob Chaney for this story.

posted Sept. 9

Poachers get tagged from Facebook post

Talk about getting tagged in a Facebook photo!

An anonymous tip to the Florida Game Commission sent its new specialized Internet Crimes Unit into action scouring Facebook. There they found key evidence of a wildlife crime -- pictures of two people skinning a deer.

Two residents of Inverness, William Andrew Buchanan, 21, and Tara Anne Carver, 27, were run down from the pictures, interviewed and cited for possession of wildlife taken illegally.

Some unfriending appears to be in order.

FWC lead investigator Jim Smith said Buchanan confirmed he was in the photographs as he helped skin the deer but wouldn't admit to shooting the deer or being present when the deer was killed. He did use his mother's truck to move the deer when called by Carver and provided the chain to hang the deer.

"Carver said she published the photographs on her Facebook page and that the deer was killed sometime in May," Smith said, noting that is out of season.

Carver blamed Buchanan for killing the deer but confirmed she had skinned it and stored some of the meat in her uncle's freezer.

It's never easy sometimes, these he-said-she-said cases, but it's nice to see a state wildlife department, which are often understaffed, keeping up with the times.

Officers have advanced from employing mechanical deer decoys to catch spotlighters, to the use of of game cams and even sophisticated forensic techniques to apprehend poachers.

And now, they're even using social media sites.

"Fortunately for investigators, pictures can say a thousand words," Smith said.

posted Sept. 7

Gets the rednecks out

Don't do this at home, or even in your least favorite bar.

A man says he was commissioned by a guy named "Ricky" to walk into Cahoots bar in Jacksonville, Fla., and squirt the contents of a Visine bottle around.

Joshua Aaron Brunke, 26, was offered $20 to do the dirty deed, which indeed was dirty -- the bottle held deer urine.

The stink cleared the bar and Brunke -- of course he was drunk -- was escorted to jail.

Read more about the shenanigans on Firstcoastnews.com.

posted Sept. 3

One whale of a tail

Poor Chris Hogan. He sure didn't seem to know.

Fishing at dawn for blue crab on Delray Beach, Fla., where the 60-year-old has lived for the past 34 years, Hogan was told a small whale had come ashore and died. So he walked over and figured he'd get him a chunk.

With help from a stranger passing by, he sliced off the tail end to take home and cook up. Only then a lifeguard informed him it was illegal, some sort of Marine Mammals Act where you can't kill or even possess parts.

"I apologize to the state of Florida," he told The Palm Beach Post. "I pay my taxes and I didn't know it was illegal. I do now."

It wasn't like he was being insconspicuous, wearing a pith helmet and loud shirt. (See the pictures).

He was carted away by a wildlife officer and two Delray Beach cops for the heinous crime of trying to make off with a two-foot section of whale tail.

He was grilled -- what he wanted to do with the whale meat -- and since he'd been out of work the past two years, he worried about a fine. He should.

A fine for a first-time marine mammal collector runs from $250 to $800, and a criminal charge could range to $100,000 and a year in the brig.

He said the po-po was nice to him, but asked his motive. Was he planning to sell it?

"I said, 'No, I was planning to eat it. Because I'd never eaten whale before," he said.

Smart move there, Mr. Hogan.

He was super apologetic.

"I really screwed up," he said. "I'm really quite embarrassed about the whole damn thing, to be honest with you."

Who knew the animal, probably a pygmy sperm or dwarf sperm whale -- not endangered -- that washed up ashore to die would cause him such a hubbub?

I see an honest mistake from one hungry, curious dude.

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.