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No foolin': Bears in the air and digital pocket knives.

Byline: INSIDE THE OUTDOORS By Mike Stahlberg The Register-Guard

April Fools Day or not, the following outdoor news items are true; I kid you not:

A pair of bald eagles in northern Wisconsin's sprawling Chippewa Flowage are `mad as hell' because someone's been sleeping in their bed - and he's still there!

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the squatter is a bear that decided to hibernate on the soft grass and moss on the interior of a 4-foot-wide mass of sticks and twigs the eagles constructed last year atop a 45-foot tall aspen tree.

Most Wisconsin bears spend their November-to-April hibernation in caves, culverts or sheltered spaces among overturned trees and downed logs. It's a mystery why this particular bear chose to scramble up a tree to the "penthouse suite," as the newspaper calls it.

The bear in the air was noticed by snowmobilers, who took photos and showed them to wildlife officers (see: www.jsonline.com/news/state/mar04/214918.asp). Biologists estimate the sleeping bear weighs about 150 pounds.

The snowmobilers also reported seeing three eagles nearby, the paper said, "including one perched about 10 feet away from the nest, eying the somnolent interloper."

In an completely unrelated development, The Chicago Sun-Times this week reported the Windy City is home to a pair of nesting bald eagles for the first time in more than a century. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officials said the eagles set up housekeeping next to the Little Calumet River, on Chicago's southern boundary.

The Victorinox company recently introduced a digital version of its ubiquitous Swiss Army Knife. In addition to knife and screwdriver blades, fingernail file and scissors, the new `Memory USB' knife comes with a `flash memory stick.'

A fold-out memory chip attached to a plug that fits into a computer's USB port, the latest Swiss Army Knife `tool' is designed to allow people to store database files or presentations for easy transport, said Urs Wyss, Victorinox's marketing director.

"People need the mobility offered by these small memory sticks, especially when traveling," Wyss said. "You don't have to take a computer ... when you have flash memory."

A lichen native to the Rockies is apparently responsible for the deaths of at least 300 elk in southern Wyoming, according to The Associated Press. The elk die-off had baffled wildlife scientists and cost the state thousands of dollars looking for a cause.

Veterinarians suspected the lichen after finding it in the stomachs of many of the elk that died in south-central Wyoming. To confirm those suspicions, three elk were fed the lichen at research facility. All three got deathly sick and had to be euthanized. A ground-dwelling lichen known as Parmelia molliuscula produces an acid that apparently breaks down muscle tissue, said Walt Cook, a veterinarian who led the inquiry.

Telephone pollsters in Michigan last month found that 51 percent of that state's voters oppose the hunting of mourning doves, while only 34 percent oppose the death penalty in capital murder cases.

Outdoor writer Tom Steinstra of the San Francisco Chronicle noted last month that "of the top-20 outdoors activities in America, hunting ranks near the bottom because most people do not like to kill."

To solve that problem, Steinstra proposed creating the new sport of "shoot-and-release hunting." By "converting a high-powered rifle to a tranquilizer dart gun,' he said, "the world's oldest and now most controversial sport - big-game hunting - could be transformed into a provocative quest acceptable to most anyone.

"Imagine the thrill of tracking, spotting, stalking and hunting the world's greatest game animals at close range in Africa - lion, Cape buffalo, leopard, elephant and rhinoceros - without killing any of them.

"With a dart gun, a hunter must spot and stalk within close range to get a clean shot, similar to the demands required of a bow hunter. After a `kill,' a wildlife biologist could examine, measure and age the animal, so the hunt provides a benefit to wildlife science.

"The hunt would end not with a photograph of a rich guy standing next to a carcass, but with the animal walking off into the wild."

Michael Malik, a 50-year-old real estate developer from Grosse Pointe, Mich., spent $90,000 last month to buy a New Mexico elk tag through a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation auction. Malik said he expects to spend an additional $20,000 on guide fees and other expenses related to the hunt itself, which he hopes will end with him bagging a trophy bull. Meanwhile, an Illinois man paid $81,000 this week for the right to hunt one mule deer in Utah.

The Santa Fe, N.M., City Council is considering an ordinance that would require doggie seat belts. According to The Associated Press, a council committee working on a major rewrite of the city's animal control ordinance last week endorsed a provision that would require an animal in the bed of a truck to be "crated or restrained ... so it cannot fall or jump from the truck or be strangled." It also would require that any animal riding "in or on" a vehicle be restrained to keep it from falling out.

Mike Stahlberg can be reached at mstahlberg@guardnet.com.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Apr 1, 2004
Words:861
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