Elsewhere in The Times: Oxnard bear trapped, released; wildlife imperiled by Gulf oil spill; FDA warns dog owners against meat bones; and more!
-- The Times' local news blog, L.A. Now, reports that a 200-pound female black bear that scaled a tree in a heavily populated residential area of Oxnard before being shot with tranquilizers Tuesday was safely lowered from the tree and has since been released back into the wild. Firefighters had to fashion a makeshift harness and use a fire ladder to remove the groggy bear from the tree before it could be transferred to an undisclosed wilderness area for release. "This is the ending that we always hope for when dealing with bears that make their way into urban areas," Paul Hamdorf, assistant chief of enforcement for the state Department of Fish and Game, told The Times via e-mail. Although bear sightings are fairly common in other Southern California areas like Monrovia, officials are unsure how this particular bear made it to Oxnard. One theory is that it wandered down from the nearby Los Padres National Forest and traveled along the Santa Clara River before being spotted by a passerby on Vineyard Avenue at about 2:15 a.m. Tuesday.
-- Whales, dolphins, sea turtles and seabirds are among the wildlife species most at risk as a result of the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill, The Times' environmental blog, Greenspace, reports. More than 70% of the nation's waterfowl are known to frequent the affected area, including brown pelicans; one major brown pelican rookery is located in the spill's projected path and has yet to recover from a previous oil spill that wreaked havoc with the population. A pod of endangered sperm whales has been sighted in the vicinity of the oil spill, but as of Thursday the pod had successfully avoided the affected area. Sea turtles may be more vulnerable to the oil. "It's a very complicated system that is sensitive to change in any piece of it," Karen Westphal, a coastal wetlands expert with the Louisiana Audubon Society, told Greenspace. "Our marshes are not a wall. This spill is not going to stay on that outer edge. It's a sieve."
-- The Times' health blog, Booster Shots, has the details on a new warning recently issued by the Food and Drug Administration that cautions dog owners against offering bones from their own meals to their dogs. "Some people think it's safe to give dogs large bones like those from a ham or a roast," said Dr. Carmela Stamper, a veterinarian in the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine. "Bones are unsafe, no matter what their size. Giving your dog a bone may make your pet a candidate for a trip to your veterinarian's office later, possible emergency surgery or even death." Potential risks include broken teeth, mouth or tongue injuries and even bone fragments piercing a hole in the stomach or intestines, which can cause peritonitis.
-- An endangered Australian marsupial called the northern quoll is getting an assist from University of Sydney scientists trying an unusual tactic to save it from the country's non-native and poisonous cane toad population. Quolls, which are notorious eating machines that aren't as discerning as one might hope they'd be about potential meals, often die when they ingest cane toads. So scientists are experimenting with feeding young quolls tiny cane toads laced with a nausea-inducing chemical in an effort to make them think twice about eating the toads. The result, according to Times reporter Amina Khan, has been encouraging so far: So-called "toad-smart" quolls in a study tended to live much longer than "toad-naïve" ones.
-- It's that time again: Humpback- and blue-whale-watching time in the waters off Monterey, that is. (Orcas, fin whales and minke whales have been known to show up in the area around this time of year as well.) The Times' Daily Travel & Deal Blog offers bargain-hunting marine mammal fans some helpful information on three Monterey whale-watching packages available now.
-- Lindsay Barnett
Photo: With the aid of a ladder truck, the Oxnard Fire Department lowers a tranquilized bear from a tree in Santa Clara Cemetery in Oxnard on Tuesday. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times