Friday, September 05, 2003


When our local Rabbit Sheriff calls me out of the blue and invites me for coffee, I know something is up.

I had naturally been expecting a lecture about how that couldn't possibly have been a wolf my Inventing Uncle encountered near Lincoln Park Wednesday, but I didn't get one. On the contrary; the RS said it was entirely possible, maybe even likely. There are wolves all about. This one probably wasn't from Yellowstone, more likely a formerly domesticated one from Colorado (leave it to the Greenies to try to keep wolves as pets) that either escaped or was turned loose by its keeper when it got too vicious (in which case, thanks a lot, jerkstore. I declare your backyard as Ground Zero for the Komodo Reintroduction Project). Yeah, I feel better, too.

Anyway, that's not what he wanted to talk about at all.

It was even better.

Seems about two weeks ago, a local woman contacted him about a very sick deer that was hanging out in her backyard. The RS reported to the scene, already suspicious of what was making the deer so sick.

He found out Wednesday that indeed, this doe tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease.

CWD has been around for 50 years or so, but it's still rather poorly understood. It's a spongiform encephalitis like scrapie or Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease or BSE (aka Mad Cow Disease), caused by weird little spiral-shaped infectious proteins (prions) that burrow into the brains and spinal cords of infected animals, and it's usually fatal. It is not known exactly how CWD is transmitted between deer (elk can get it, too), but a recent Associated Press Story (you can read it HERE) based on a study that appeared in Nature indicates that it spreads a lot faster than previously thought.

The Rabbit Sheriff told me that usually where there is one infected deer there is a cluster of them, which means that for the time being our little town is going to be regarded as a prime site for monitoring for the disease.

Which means that our local Rabbit Sheriff will shortly commence taking down about 20 deer from in and around Saratoga for study. Since no live test currently exists, this means he'll have to take road kill and shoot some animals.

At least Wyoming Game & Fish doesn't take the view that, say, Wisconsin's does – killing off hundreds and hundreds of animals to just try to eradicate the disease from the affected area. Not for the time being, anyway.

Now, this is of limited concern for us who live here. There is absolutely no evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans or livestock. I repeat: none.

But, you are likely to hear some gunfire in town while the RS completes his work. And you'll see him driving his pickup, likely with deer bits in the bed.

He had other news for me as well that I didn't much care for, though in retrospect it probably oughtn't to have been news to me at all. I've just not been thinking that much along these lines.

It is very, very probable that quite a lot of the grouse and sage chickens around these parts are infected with the West Nile Virus. And this is transmissible to humans, and not just by mosquitos. If you're dressing a bird you've shot and scratch or cut yourself while doing so, you're probably going to contract WNV yourself if any of the bird's blood gets into your cut.

So for Bog's sake, watch yourself when you're handling game birds this season, folks.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news today, but sometimes that's the only news there is.

Just be careful out there, and cooperate with the Rabbit Sheriff if he asks you for the head of your harvested deer or for the bodies of any birds you don't plan to eat.

Thursday, September 04, 2003


I have often, in these pixels, observed that one of the most useless phrases in the English language is "supposed to," i.e., any time someone uses it in a sentence, that person is pretty much just whining about something that isn't going to change.

"Well, that check was supposed to have been mailed to you yesterday."

"There aren't supposed to be any maggots in this soup."

"You were supposed to bring the blue paint, not the red."


Well, if two big selling books in the popular press are any indication of the way things are going these days, I'm predicting that pretty soon "grown up" or any other indication of "maturity" or "adulthood" will have to join that phrase on my list of adynata.

On the one hand we have Treason by Anne Coulter, in which she fusses and fumes over how everyone politically to her left hates America and is a traitor, and apparently (I haven't read this thing, nor am I likely to unless some paper somewhere offers me a truly princely sum to publish a book review of same) throws in a sad little paen to po' misunderstood Joe McCarthy in the process. Lots of foaming in the mouth on both the left and the right about this, as many of Coulter's colleagues are now pretty embarrassed to be associated with her. Still, it's selling very, very well.

And on the other, we have Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. Another tome I shan't touch without serious renumeration, but just look at that title.

So we're all back in the sandbox, hurling insults at each other and pouting.

And people ask why I'm a member of neither party.

So, raise your hands if you find it merely coincidental that yet another one of my blog chickens has come home to roost in an alarming way?

Actually, it is quite unpardonably silly to open this entry with a metaphor treating of a prey animal, but it's 3:35 a.m. and I've spent the better part of five days cranking out story after story for the two statewide publications that pay what passes for my salary these days. The assignments, gratifyingly, seem to have found a nice, seedy little motel room somewhere, thereat to be fruitful and multiply. I may yet be able to buy Christ-X presents for my nearest and dearest this year.

But I digress.

So, just days after I foamed at the mouth and went off on this very computer screen about the hideous inappropriateness and ultimate wickedness of the promulgation of a revisionist Peter and the Wolf, along comes a real life encounter with one of these nasty creatures and one of my nearest and dearest.

See, My Own Dear Personal Dad and my Inventing Uncle (holds a patent on a machine that allows one man to do two-man CPR!) are up in the hills hunting grouse and sage chickens and, I'm told having a fine time indeed, shooting at birdies (I've got a skillet ready, boys!), playing cards, sampling scary discount whiskey MODPD got on sale in Laramie, etc.

My IU just had surgery recently, poor duck, and is still kind of getting reacquainted with the way his body is supposed to work, so he has apparently been taking brisk, enjoyable early morning constitutionals before the Shocking Sherrod Shooting Show commences.

This very morning, as he strolled blithely along, appreciating the crepuscular beauty of his surroundings, he found in his vicinity a most suprising spectator eyeing him like so many pounds of USDA Prime.

He describes it as having looked rather like a large grey-brown dog, and dog he thought it was at first, until he got a load of its eyes. And heard it growling at him. Most un-doggielike, that growl. No mistaking it for, say, the Collie of Folly feeling unusually impetuous.

He sensibly rolled his jacket around the arm he would proffer if necessary, and ran to beat all hell back to camp. After a bit, the animal declined to pursue him.

Which suits me just fine. I'm fond of the guy. He lets me stay at his house when I'm on assignment in Green River, and he makes a pretty swell uncle, too.

Anyway, we're pretty sure it was a wolf. In our Snowy Range. Sightings have been reported recently on a ranch or two that borders our forest.

Gotta check in with the Rabbit Sheriff to see if we can verify this, but regardless, we all knew it was inevitable.

And so, to all you assholes out there who pushed for wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone, make a sentence out of these three words: Dung, Iguana, Eat.

Speaking of iguanas, I have a great follow-up reintroduction project for you.

As any half-educated half-wit who managed to stay awake through seventh grade earth science class knows, once upon a time, long before we terrible, horrible, ecosystem wrecking humans came on the scene, dry land on planet Earth was all one continent, called Pangea. It later broke up into two continents, Gondwanaland and Laurasia (pardon spelling errors, I'm dredging this up from memory), which in turn later drifted around and crashed into each other until eventually we had the good old familiar conglomeration of continents we see on both Mercator's and Fuller's projections of the good old globe.

It is still unclear to what extent our own dear personal species is culpable in all of this. I'll leave that to wiser minds than I, say, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance's, to settle that persnickety question. It's not really all that relevant to my point, after all.

So anyway, given that this all used to be one landmass until something interfered with the Natural Order of Things, we can therefore safely assume that Wyoming was once the natural habitat of many more wondrous, majestic and amazing big predators than just the wolf.

Some of them, indeed, make the wolf look like just the cuddly, pretty, noble creature certain demented types imagine it to be.

Like, for instance, the Komodo Dragon, whose natural habitat has shrunken down to just one measly island in Indonesia.

Fans of Schopenhauer (eXholes, take note! et al probably already know where I'm going with this.

Know how a Komodo Dragon gets his dinner?

He sneaks up on his prey - usually a hapless livestock animal like a goat or maybe a pig, but a human will do in a pinch. They taste like pork, I'm told. – and takes, with his huge, powerful jaws and sharp, nasty pointy teeth, a huge bite out of the prey animal's ass.

No, that's not his meal. That's just his death blow.

Cuz see, a Komodo Dragon's mouth is a festering maw of endless varieties of decay organisms. World class rotters of flesh. Disease. Teeming colonies of death, crawlin' around on his teeth.

The prey animal has just been given a huge flesh wound and a nice dose of all of these organisms, and usually limps off somewhere in pain and terror.

The Dragon doesn't even bother to follow it. It's not going to go far with half its ass missing, after all. And really, nothing much need be done.

The Dragon's nasty, smelly, stinky, foetid little micro-allies will have the critter dead within a day or two.

Once the animal has obligingly died of, well, basically, some form or another of gangrene, the Dragon tracks it down by the hideous, rotting smell, and chows down.

So, now that your work is done with bringing back the Noble Wolf, how about setting free the Konfined Komodo Dragon. Restore it to its ancient habitats. Let it roam free and proud. It, too, is a beautiful animal, an astonishing work of god, or something.

Then see who limps the fastest.

Oops! In my recent slapdash account of the very exciting Saratoga Panthers football opener on Friday, I committed a gaffe unforgivable, and at least one of my faithful (and decidedly not imaginary) readers called me on it.

They're the Lyman Eagles. Eagles, not Wildcats.

Whatever. We plucked 'em like chickens and sent 'em home sobbing to their eyries.

Many thanks to My Own Dear Mortified Sister (hey, she was the jock and played against the "Lady Eagles". I was on the speech team, an entity Lyman really never fielded, as such. At least not in my day) and to My Own Dear Personal Mom, who softened the tone of MODMS' original screed somewhat before communicating to me my error.

Everybody send your psychic cheers the Panthers' way this Friday when they pile into a bus (driven by My Own Dear Personal Dad! We are so the ultimate online Panther family) and head for Shoshone to take on the Somethingorothers.