Columns

2010.01.27 Animal tales alternately interesting, funny and sad

on . Posted in Nowhere Road

By RICH FOLEY

There seems to be a rash of animal stories in the news lately, most of which don’t seem to have a happy ending. A bear using the Lake Tahoe community of Incline Village, Nev., as Ground Zero for his own little reign of mischief has evaded a sad end so far, but keeps adding to his list of enemies.

The huge unnamed black bear, estimated to weigh in the neighborhood of 700 pounds by some, has been terrorizing the area for more than three years. He even survived a gunshot to the head by a resident of a home he had visited several times previously.

“He shot it right between the eyes and the bullet bounced off his skull. We know that because we found it,” Carl Lackey told the Associated Press. Lackey is a biologist and bear expert for Nevada’s Department of Wildlife. Lackey added that a second shot to the bear’s body wasn’t mortal, either. That proved to be true because after no bear sightings for a few weeks, apparently a recuperation period, the bear was back in business.

Lackey says the bear broke into about 50 garages in the area in 2009 alone, causing about $70,000 in damages, plus many more in the three years he has been tracking it. The bear generally likes to break into garages and go after the contents of freezers, or failing that, any garbage that might be handy.

One resident recently reported hearing a crash one evening and looking outside to discover the bear breaking down her garage door. She watched as the bear eventually left the garage and tried to open the locked door of her car. Perhaps he had heard about an overabundance of carp in Utah and needed to go check it out. That’s a long way for a bruin to walk, and if he can survive a bullet to the head, maybe he’s able to drive, too. If he just could have picked the lock, he might have headed east.

The Utah Department of Natural Resources is attempting to restore an ecological balance to Utah Lake, near Provo. The common carp has done so well in the lake that it is crowding out the June sucker, which is on the endangered species list. To help stabilize the sucker population, the Utah DNR is removing 10 to 20 tons of carp a day from the lake, with a goal of harvesting 50 million pounds over the next six years.

That would be about a 75% reduction in the population of carp, an amount hoped to be enough to allow sucker numbers to recover. The only problem with the scheme is what to do with 50 million pounds of carp. Anyone hungry?

A few companies have suggested processing the carp for human consumption, but lack the capital to build the needed facilities. An idea to use the carp as food for mink on mink farms was rejected as not being viable on a large scale. Simply putting them into a landfill seems like a waste the Utah DNR wishes to avoid. I’m thinking importing a crew of hungry bears just might be an option. I’m sure those folks in Nevada would buy a plane ticket for their rampaging bruin. And if he’s not welcome in Utah, maybe Maine might be an option, assuming bears have a taste for lobster.

A recent news report says that hundreds of thousands to possibly millions of lobster traps have been lost off the Maine coast over the years, with many of them continuing to catch lobsters that will never be harvested.

Lobstermen in Maine actively fish over 2 million traps, losing an estimated 5 to 10 percent of those every year. In 20 years, perhaps as few as 10, as many traps are lost as those now in use. A new federal regulation requiring lobstermen to use a type of rope they claim is more prone to breakage will most likely increase the number of lost traps. The loss in unharvested seafood runs into the millions each year.

A study of so-called “ghost” traps will take place this winter off the Maine coast, as well  as the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts. Ghost traps in those areas cause the loss of crabs, sea bass and fish. A recent study off Hawaii collected over 600 tons of lost fishing nets, still collecting large amounts of fish.

It seems everywhere you look, large quantities of seafood are going to waste. If it’s not meant to be for humans to have it, then where are those hungry bears when we really need them?

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