Outdoors, action, adventure

Category: Nature

National Parks 2011 fee-free days announced

Panoramic view of the Grand Canyon.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced Wednesday that the National Park Service would waive admission fees on 17 selected dates throughout 2011 and encouraged Americans to visit a national park this year.

"Many people have made resolutions to spend more quality time with loved ones and to get outdoors and unplug in 2011," Secretary Salazar said in a press release. "There's no better place than a national park to help keep those resolutions. Parks offer superb recreational opportunities, making them perfect places to enjoy our beautiful land, history and culture, and nurture a healthy lifestyle."

The 2011 fee-free dates will be the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 15-17); National Park Week (April 16-24); the first day of summer (June 21); National Public Lands Day (Sept. 24); and the weekend of Veterans Day (Nov. 11-13).

Salazar noted that, with 394 national parks throughout the country, most Americans live within a few hours of a park, making them ideal locales for convenient and affordable vacations.

"In these tough economic times, our fee-free days will give families many opportunities to enjoy our nation's heritage and natural beauty in meaningful and affordable ways," he said.

Many national park concessions will also offer discounts on the fee-free dates, saving visitors on the cost of food, lodging, tours, and souvenirs. More information is available at http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Panoramic view of the Grand Canyon. Credit: National Park Service

Outposts looks back at 2010: Unusual news 2

With the year ending, it is worth looking back at memorable posts of 2010. Each day this week through Friday, Outposts will recount some of the records broken, the achievements reached, the notable passings and the downright unusual during 2010 in the outdoors, action and adventure world.

Hunter's ticking timepiece attracts some interesting clock-watchers

Deer seem to be checking the time in these images taken by a trail camera. Minnesota bow-hunter Doug Strenke received a surprising, and amusing, reaction after hanging up a large, white-faced clock near the infrared trail camera he installed on the property he hunts, wanting to keep track of when deer visit the area, since the cam had no time-stamp function.

The St. Paul Park, Minn., resident was worried that the clock would scare everything away "within miles." Instead, his trailcam began photographing lots of deer and, Strenke said, "A lot of my pictures show the deer looking at the clock."

Photo credit: Doug Strenke

Bigfoot alive and well and living in North Carolina

North Carolina resident Tim Peeler drawing the Bigfoot creature he had a close encounter with. Bigfoot has apparently gone blond and lives in North Carolina. At least according to Cleveland County resident Tim Peeler, who told local authorities of his encounter with the 10-foot tall creature.

Peeler thought he was calling coyotes, but instead got surprised and frightened by what -- or who -- came a-calling.

"This thing was 10-foot tall. He had beautiful hair," said Peeler.

Screen-grab credit: NBC affiliate WCNC NewsChannel 36, North Carolina

Sailboat struck by breaching whale

A southern right whale breached and landed on a sailboat off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa on July 18. The whale broke the mast and then swam away, but the boat's occupants were uninjured.  A couple sailing off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa, on July 18 got the surprise of their lives but were uninjured when a breaching southern right whale crashed onto their sailboat, damaging the vessel.

"It was quite scary," said Paloma Werner, who had been out sailing with her boyfriend and business partner, Ralph Mothes of the Cape Town Sailing Academy. "We thought the whale was going to go under the boat and come up on the other side. We thought it would see us."

Photo credit: European Pressphoto Agency

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Fish and Game Q&A: What to do with pesky coyotes?

Coyote sightings in and around urban areas have become common. In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:

Question: For the past 10 months, our neighborhood in Encinitas has been overrun by coyotes. Who can we work with to mitigate the situation before someone gets hurt? (Ken S.)

Answer: Coyotes and other wildlife cannot and should not be removed just because there may appear to be too many in a community. If they are congregating, the problem may be that your neighbors are being careless with food and garbage, which serve as attractants. Coyotes play an important role in the ecosystem by helping to keep rodent populations under control. They are by nature fearful of humans.

Coyotes primarily hunt rodents and rabbits for food but will take advantage of whatever is available, including garbage, pet food and domestic animals. If coyotes are given access to human food and garbage, their behavior changes. They lose caution and fear and may cause property damage or threaten human safety. When this happens and they threaten humans or begin preying on domestic livestock or pets, they may be killed.

Relocating a problem coyote is not an option because it only moves the problem to someone else’s neighborhood.

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Audubon's annual Christmas Bird Count begins Tuesday

An Anna's hummingbird feeds within the upper reaches of Leo Carrillo State Park north of Malibu.

Birding enthusiasts nationwide are encouraged to participate in the 111th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, believed to be the longest-running wildlife census in the world.

The citizen project, which begins Tuesday and runs through Jan. 5, 2011, helps scientists assess the size of bird populations in local communities.

Count volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile-diameter circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day. It’s not just a species tally -- all birds are counted all day, giving an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day. If observers live within a CBC circle, they may arrange in advance to count the birds at their feeders and submit those data to their compiler.

Those interested in participating, be it at home or with a field party, need to register in advance. There is a $5 fee per field participant per count. Feeder watchers do not need to pay the fee, and all observers 18 and younger may count for free. Fees go toward funding the program and to help cover costs of generating materials, producing the annual summary and maintaining the CBC website and database.

A few of the frequently asked questions and answers posted on the Audobon website regarding the Christmas Bird Count are after the jump:

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Fish and Game Q&A: Can scent attractants be considered bait?

Close view of a bull elk.

In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:

Question: I understand the baiting issue, but I would like clarification on deer and elk attractant scents, like "Tink’s" or "BuckBombs." There are also scents for bears, hogs and predators and I want to be in full compliance for whatever I’m hunting for. (Michael J., Mojave)

Answer: California Fish and Game Commission regulations do not specifically prohibit using the products you mention. However, the regulations do prohibit taking resident game birds and mammals within 400 yards of any baited area.

The definition of baited area is, ". . . any area where shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat or other grains, salt or other feed whatsoever capable of luring, attracting, or enticing such birds or mammals is directly or indirectly placed, exposed, deposited, distributed or scattered, and such area shall remain a baited area for ten days following complete removal of all such corn, wheat or other grains, salt or other feed."

According to retired Department of Fish and Game Capt. Phil Nelms, scents sprayed into the air and allowed to disperse over a wide area in the wind generally do not fall within the definition of bait. Scent products that have to be applied directly to a surface such as a rock, tree or bush generally cause the game to come to that specific place, and if they feed on it, it is bait.

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California Fish and Game wardens in the spotlight on 'Wild Justice,' premiering Sunday on National Geographic Channel

California Department of Fish and Game wardens will be the focus of the upcoming series Wild Justice, premiering Sunday on the National Geographic Channel.

California Department of Fish and Game wardens certainly have an interesting work schedule. Dealing with illegal hunters, methamphetamine users, illegal pot growers and probation violators, it seems no two days are alike. 

These 240 law enforcement men and women patrol wide swaths of the state's 159,000 square miles of land, 30,000 miles of rivers and streams and more than 1,100 miles of coastline, often alone and in rural areas where backup can be hours away. And often, many of the people they come in contact with are armed.

The real-life bravery of California game wardens is brought to light in the new National Geographic Channel series "Wild Justice," premiering Sunday at 9 p.m. with two hourlong episodes before moving to its regular night and time, Wednesdays at 10 beginning Dec. 1.

The 11-episode series follows the lives of California’s Fish and Game wardens, on call 24/7, as they defend against human threats to the environment, endangered wildlife and the cultivation of illegal drugs.  On foot or horseback, by car or off-road vehicle, by plane or by boat, this small group of law enforcement officers covers a large territory in pursuit of poachers, polluters and illegal marijuana growers, while still making sure hunters and anglers follow the rules.

Though the show appears to focus on the "dirty" side of the job, it's not all trouble -- wardens also promote and coordinate hunter education programs and represent the DFG at schools and meetings of hunting and fishing clubs and other special interest groups.

"One thing about this job is that everything changes," DFG Warden Brian Boyd comments in one episode. "It's one reason why I like it and the reason some people don't like it, cause you can't set your clock to it."

"Wild Justice" episode descriptions through mid-December are after the jump (the rest of the descriptions are still pending):

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Waterfowl hunting? There's an app for that

Homejpg Waterfowl hunters have something new at their fingertips to assist with their sport, be it in the blind or in the kitchen, thanks to the new Ducks Unlimited official application for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

The app includes a list of the most popular North American waterfowl species, including photos, audio sounds, descriptions, breeding, migration, populations and food habits.

It also offers more than 300 videos in various categories, including duck-hunting tips, dog training, conservation and wild-game cooking.

"The DU iPhone app is a valuable tool for waterfowl hunters," said Anthony Jones, Web director for Ducks Unlimited. "We’re really excited about the benefits it will offer subscribers."

The app also allows Ducks Unlimited members to browse a state-by-state listing of all of the organization's events across the country and provides a link for event details and contact information.

"With the ever-expanding mobile-smart-phone market, Ducks Unlimited has a unique opportunity to leverage this channel as a new way to communicate and engage with the waterfowl hunting community," added Jones. "It also provides a way for our members -- and thousands of potential members -- to stay connected with the organization."

The application can be purchased through iTunes for $1.99, and proceeds from sales will help fund Ducks Unlimited’s mission to conserve, restore and manage wetlands and associated habitats for North America's waterfowl.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: iPhone screen image. Credit: Ducks Unlimited

Poll takes the pulse of sportsmen on western gray wolf issue

A gray wolf runs through the snow in Yellowstone National Park.

Gray wolves in the western United States remain a highly contentious issue. Populations of the reintroduced animals have reportedly exceeded expectations, so much so that the predators were removed from Endangered Species Act protection (at least temporarily, until U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy’s Aug. 5 ruling which placed gray wolves back on protected status).

States are looking to overturn this decision and are seeking the authority to manage packs within their boundaries -- including the possibility of allowing wolf-hunting seasons, as were held in Idaho and Montana last year.

Among those stakeholder groups attempting to be heard on the matter -- state and federal legislators, animal-rights activists, ranchers and sportsmen -- are America’s hunters. But when surveyed on the subject as to how best to proceed, they seem to have some gray areas.

Asked if they believe western gray wolf populations have recovered and should be removed from the Endangered Species List, well over half of the respondents to the September HunterSurvey.com and AnglerSurvey.com polls said yes, with 57.1% responding in the affirmative. But about 36% stated that they "did not know" if populations are recovered, with only 6.7% saying they are not.

One thing respondents seem united on is their distrust of the motivations behind animal welfare groups’ opposition to delisting the gray wolf or turning over management authority to the states. An overwhelming 65% believe these groups are acting out of an interest to limit hunting opportunities, with almost 40% saying the organizations are doing so as a means to boost membership and donations. Only 16.1% believe these groups are acting out of genuine concern for conserving and restoring wolf populations. Comments submitted by survey respondents supported these beliefs, with many suggesting animal rights groups will say or do anything they can to put a stop to hunting in any form.

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Fish and Game Q&A: When is a duck not a duck anymore?

Ducks take flight.

In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:

Question: During waterfowl season, I would like to hold onto as many birds as I can so that I can mount those birds that are in the best shape. But at what point does a duck go from being a duck in my possession to a carcass for mounting? Does a skinned-out bird count as one duck toward that season’s bag limit? Do birds in the freezer from last year count toward this season’s bag limit? Do mounted birds count toward my possession limit? I would like to know what the regulations are and abide by them. (Brian Porter)

Answer:According to Department of Fish and Game Assistant Chief Mike Carion, generally, Fish and Game laws and regulations prohibit a person from having more than the bag or possession limit prescribed for each species. You may not keep game for longer than 10 days after the season, unless you have a valid hunting license (or a copy) for that species that was issued to you or to the person who donated the birds to you. The license must have been issued for the current or immediate past license year. Possession limits apply to each person in the household whether they were the taker of the game or not. As long as you do not possess more than the legal possession limit for each person living at the residence, you will still be in compliance with the laws.

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Fish and Game Q&A: What to do for a lonely osprey?

Osprey2 In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:

Question: We keep our sailboat in the Alamitos Bay Marina and recently have been seeing an osprey perching on another sailboat mast across from ours. This same bird was there last year, and there was another osprey flying around with him. This year, he is the only one there, and he just cries and cries and gets no answer. My husband is very worried about him. Is there anyone we can talk to about this? (Lois and Chuck M.)

Answer: You can assure your husband that there’s no reason to worry about this lone osprey you’re seeing. According to Department of Fish and Game Seabird biologist Laird Henkel, although osprey are typically monogamous, after their breeding season concludes each year the two members of a pair will separate and migrate to different wintering sites. Since they don’t nest in Southern California, any osprey you may see during the winter in your region are likely migrating or just wintering there locally. Because of this, the two birds you saw last year were almost certainly not a mated pair. It’s also unlikely they were a parent-juvenile pair as juveniles also migrate separately from their parents.

The second bird you saw last year may be around again this winter but just in a different part of the bay, or it may have been a bird that has died since last year.

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Illinois angler catches, releases 105-pound blue catfish

Jason Jackson and the 105-pound blue catfish he caught and released.

Jason Jackson had a fishing day he'll likely never forget -- during the River Bend Classic Tourney the Piasa, Ill., resident pulled a 105-pound blue catfish out of the Mississippi River.

"I knew it was a pretty big fish when I hooked into it," Jackson told The Telegraph, in Alton, Ill. The 23-year-old caught the lunker using 100-pound braided line and a river herring as bait, and took 20 minutes to land the fish.

While not the largest blue catfish ever caught, it's impressive nonetheless and is believed to be one of the largest ever landed. (The all-tackle world record is a 130-pounder caught July, 2010 on the Missouri River; before that the record blue weighed in at 124 pounds and was caught on the Mississippi River in 2005.)

"I think it was an inch shorter than the world record and the second-biggest blue catfish taken in North America in a tournament. We were pretty excited. It was definitely a century fish."

An environmental biologist, Jackson decided to release the lunker whiskerfish after it was weighed.

"We catch and release all of our fish," he said. "Something that big has to have some great genes and want to spread as much of that offspring as possible."

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Jason Jackson and the 105-pound blue catfish he caught and released. Credit: Jason Jackson

Artist completes artificial reef, 'The Silent Evolution,' installing 400 sculptures underwater


Artist Jason deCaires Taylor recently completed work on one of the most surreal and awe-inspiring artificial reefs I've seen.

"The Silent Evolution" is the final and most ambitious of four stages of an underwater museum and consists of 400 permanent life-size sculptures forming a monumental artificial reef in Cancun/Isla Mujeres, Mexico.

DeCaires Taylor said in an e-mail release that "the road has been long -- taken 18 months, required 120 tons of cement, sand and gravel, 3,800m of fiberglass, 400kg of silicone, 8,000 miles of red tape, 120 hours working underwater and $250,000," adding that "sculpting close to the mangroves Evo2 in Puerto Morelos the team received over 2,500 mosquito bites, tabano bites, fire ant stings and more than 20 nips from Damsel fish during installations in the sea."

Located in the National Marine Park of Isla Mujeres, Cancun and Punta Nizuc, the environmentally friendly reef -- each of the sculptures is made from specialized materials used to promote coral life -- was constructed with the cooperation of marine park officials and the Cancun Nautical Assn. in an effort to promote the recovery of nearby natural reefs. The hope is to give visitors an alternative to the Cancun Marine Park, one of the most visited stretches of water in the world, with more than 750,000 visitors each year.

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About the Bloggers
Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.