Sunday, August 3, 2008

Rabid Bobcat Attacks Hikers Near Tucson

Two hikers were attacked by a rabid bobcat while hiking near Tucson, AZ. They were eventually able to kill it with a geologist’s hammer, but not before they both got pretty scratched up.
Rich Thompson said he knew the cat was rabid the moment he saw it staring at him and Katrina Mangin in the Santa Rita Mountains. He said they tried to get away but the bobcat pursued them, lunging at Mangin, climbing up her legs and wrapping its body around her, clawing and biting.
The couple fought off the bobcat, but it continued attacking and jumped on Thompson’s back. “I hit it with the backpack over my shoulder,” he said. The cat fell to the dirt and lunged again. “It attacked me again, and I threw it down.”
Rabid animals become desperate, mentally deranged, and dangerously aggressive. Rabies drove this normally reclusive bobcat literally insane by destroying its brain.
Health officials in the Tucson area said there have been an increase in rabies cases lately. No matter where you are, if you’re heading outdoors, you should be familiar with the signs of rabies. You should also know what to do if you’re bitten by an animal you think might be rabid.
Raccoons are the most likely wild animal to be infected by rabies, but no animal is safe from the disease. Skunks, foxes, bats, and coyotes often carry the virus as well. Big cats, like bobcats and mountain lions, are also susceptible.
There are two types of rabies, by the way: “furious” rabies and “paralytic” rabies according to the CDC. “Furious” rabies causes the animal to bite at everything and become very hostile, while the more common “paralytic” rabies causes confusion, paralysis, and timidity in the animals it infects.
How to Tell if an Animal Has Rabies:
1. Rabid animals often appear confused, insane, and/or aggressive.
2. If a nocturnal animal is out in the middle of the day, it could be rabid.
3. If a normally shy wild animal (like most of them) acts overly friendly, that may also be a sign of rabies infection.
4. Because rabid animals produce more saliva, they may appear to be foaming at the mouth.
5. An animal that is staggering, stunned, having trouble moving, or appears to be paralyzed, may have rabies.
Because it can be difficult to tell whether an animal is rabid or not (and for many other reasons), it’s wise to avoid any contact with animals in the wild.
If bitten by a rabid animal, the first thing you want to do is thoroughly wash the wound with soap and/or a virus-killing cleanser and water. Then get yourself or the bite victim to the nearest hospital for treatment. Don’t lose your cool — you need treatment immediately, but it’s not as urgent as a rattlesnake bite.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bringing food canisters is a must for those backpacking

Exposure to human food is bad for bears on several levels.

The Fresno Bee

Nothing can ruin a backpacking trip like losing your food to a hungry bear.Bad for the backpacker. Even worse for the bear.Curious, intelligent and relentless, bears would rather eat trail mix or beef jerky than gnaw on a berry bush. But once they develop a taste for high-calorie human food, getting them back on a normal diet is next to impossible. "Once wild bears become habituated to human food, they cease to become wild bears," said Rob Mason, a Sierra National Forest wilderness manager. "And as they become habituated, they get more comfortable around people, which isn't good for us or them."
Decades ago, Sierra backpackers slept with their food to keep bears away. Not only did this method prove ineffective, it was also dangerous.
Then backpackers began hanging their food over a tree branch and tying the rope to a trunk. Once bears learned how to slash the rope with their claws, folks started employing a counter-balance technique in which no rope is tied to the trunk. While more effective, this method wasn't infallible. Bears eventually figured out how to bite through branches, shake tree trunks and even leap onto food bags from above.
"There have been documented incidents in Yosemite of bears doing a kamikaze-like jump onto the food from other branches and taking the pain from the fall because the reward is so significant," Mason said.
By the mid-1990s, wilderness officials began promoting the use of hard-sided portable containers See through Canister capable of fitting inside a backpack and storing several days worth of food. Try as they might, bears cannot break into these canisters if they are properly closed and secured.
Today, bear-proof canisters are required for all backpacking trips in Yosemite and in the popular Rae Lakes, Dusy Basin and Rock Creek areas of Sequoia and Kings Canyon. They even have small solo canisters available. They are "strongly recommended" for the rest of the park and also in the neighboring Sierra, Sequoia and Inyo national forests.
By next summer, canisters may be required throughout Sequoia and Kings Canyon, according to park wildlife ecologist Harold Werner. Canisters are widely available. Canisters come in variety of shapes, sizes and colors.
"Almost every bear incident we have in the backcountry involves food storage," Werner said.
Before they are approved for use, canisters are tested for ruggedness and durability on zoo bears and wild bears. A list of approved models can be found at the Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group's Web site,
Backpackers should use canisters to store not only food but also scented items such as sunscreen and toothpaste. They should be placed at least 100 feet from your campsite and away from water and cliffs.
"Bears are a curious and very intelligent species," Mason said. "Often what they'll do is wander into camp and knock over the canister because they know they can get to the food if the lid is off. If all else fails sleep with your food and the safety off on your bear spray.
"But if the lid is properly tightened, the bear usually will leave. Some bears don't even mess with them anymore."
Canisters can be purchased locally at sporting goods stores such as Herb Bauer and REI. Rentals are available at most frontcountry ranger stations.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Big Agnes on the scene

The Amazon Outdoor Store
Sometimes ingenuity comes from the simplest of ideas. Such was the case for the breakthrough product of a Colorado backcountry gear company with Carbondale ties.A firm called Big Agnes managed in 2001 to squeeze into the camping gear industry by coming up with a revolutionary design for its sleeping bags.The product developers for the company, based in Steamboat Springs, were experienced backcountry travelers. They knew full well the frustration of thrashing around at night in a tent, slipping off a sleeping pad and paying the price by getting chilled to the bone.So they stripped the insulation from the bottom of their bags and replaced it with a sleeve that a sleeping pad slides into. That solves a couple of problems: first, sleepers don’t roll off their pads because it is integrated with their bags; second, there’s more guaranteed protection from the cold ground. The insulation on the bottom of a sleeping bag loses its warmth when a body compresses it. Their design replaces that insulation with a cushy pad. A person can go big with a 2 1/2inch pad when they are car camping or settle for a 1-inch when weight is an issue for backpacking. Pads made by other companies work with Big Agnes’ bags.Some of the insulation removed from the bottom of the sleeping bag was shifted elsewhere. But, overall, less insulation is used in Agnes bags so that means shedding weight without surrendering warmth.