Nature | Environment

Nature, Environment

‘Gum Wrapper’ Blamed for Flier’s Pain Was Not a Gum Wrapper

The Free Press WV

If you’re seated next to Quin Maltais on a future flight, forgive her if she’s a little jumpy. That’s because the Canadian student recently had another seatmate—an unwelcome one—on a recent Air Transat flight from Toronto to Calgary. On that Feb. 26 flight, Maltais initially dismissed what the CBC describes as a “fluttering motion” on her lower back, thinking maybe it was a draft from the plane’s AC. That movement, however, soon turned into a “piercing pain.“ “Oh, my God, something bit me,“ she recalls thinking. Maltais couldn’t take her seatbelt off right away, as the plane was landing, but once it touched down and the lights came back on, she got up and peered into the seat—and spotted a scorpion “in the fold toward the back of the chair.“

A flight attendant Maltais summoned at first thought a gum wrapper in the seat had been what had poked Maltais, but then she, too, saw the scorpion. Maltais figures the critter, which she says was about 4 inches long, had been in her sweater for a half-hour or so. The airline confirms to CTV News the incident happened as the plane was descending into Calgary, and that Maltais received paramedic attention at the airport after the plane landed; she wasn’t injured. The scorpion was captured after all the passengers had left the aircraft. In a statement to the CBC, an Air Transat rep calls the situation an “extremely rare” one and says the plane has since been fully checked and exterminated, though the airline hasn’t said how the creature is believed to have snuck into the cabin of Maltais’ flight. Maltais, for her part, says “I definitely will check under my seat” each time she flies now.

Americans’ Love Affair With TP Is Flushing Forests Down the Toilet: Report

The Free Press WV

The average American uses nearly three rolls of toilet paper per week—which means Canada’s forests are quite literally going down the toilet. Leading US toilet paper, tissue paper, and paper towel brands use only virgin fiber pulp for their products, and that pulp comes mostly from the old boreal forests in Canada. According to a new report from two international environmental groups cited by the National Post and, the forests are being wiped out thanks to American consumers’ demand—fueled by marketing campaigns—for super-soft TP, which requires the use of softwood from Canada. And then there’s the fact that toilet paper is flushed rather than recycled, creating what the report calls a “tree-to-toilet pipeline.“ The report suggests alternative content, including recycled wood pulp, wheat straw, and bamboo, be used instead.

The report specifically calls out Procter & Gamble, Georgia-Pacific, and Kimberly-Clark, the three biggest US producers, whose brands include Charmin, Quilted Northern, Kleenex, Bounty, and more. “None of their flagship at-home brands contain recycled materials or alternative fibers,“ the report notes. And that, in turn, causes further environmental damage: Degraded forests can’t absorb man-made greenhouse gas emissions as well as they otherwise would be able to, and carbon stored in the soil and vegetation of the forests is released into the atmosphere. Logging, in part to meet the demand for products made from tree pulp, destroys a million acres of boreal forests per year, which also puts the indigenous people and animals who live there at risk. Spokespeople from P&G and Georgia-Pacific insist they use pulp from responsibly managed forests, while Kimberly-Clark says it plans to cut its use of virgin pulp in half by 2025.

West Virginia spring fire season began March 01

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia spring fire season begins Friday, March 01, and continues through Friday, May 31. During fire season, outdoor burning is limited to the hours between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m.

To remind more residents about the limited burn season, West Virginia Division of Forestry (WV DOF) has posted a new WV Fire Prevention video online. In the one-minute film, Assistant State Forester Don Kelley talks about conditions that affect fire risk and who to contact when in doubt whether burning conditions are safe.

The restriction limits outdoor burning to evening hours when cooler temperatures, increased humidity and calmer winds reduce the risk of a fire escaping. The state’s forests are most vulnerable to fire in fall and in spring, when trees have no leaves to protect
the ground cover from drying out.

The WV DOF reports that debris burning ranks as the state’s second most common cause of fires, behind arson.

The WV DOF provides a summary of forest fire laws on its website at The fire safe law includes:

  • No burning from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Fires must always be attended.
  • Before leaving any fire for any length of time, the fire must be completely extinguished.
  • Clear at least a 10-foot area around the fire and make sure the area is clear of all burnable material.
  • If your fire escapes, you are liable for the costs of fighting the fire and any damage the fire may cause.
  • Violation of the burning law is punishable by a fine up to $1,000.

The Division of Forestry protects nearly 12 million acres of forestland across West Virginia. For more information on fire safety and programs such as forest legacy, logging and landowner assistance, visit

12th annual Southern West Virginia Spring Eagle Survey and Winter Birding Weekend March 01-03, 2019

The Free Press WV

Eagles, birds of prey and winter bird watching are the focus of the 12th annual Spring Eagle Survey of the Bluestone/Pipestem area and Winter Birding Weekend March 01-03 at Pipestem Resort State Park. Registration is requested before February 28.

“The January survey recorded 58 eagle sightings during the four-hour survey period,” said Julie McQuade, naturalist at Pipestem Resort State Park. “The March survey could also result in a high number with volunteers scattered throughout the area monitoring eagle sightings and nests.”

The weekend includes additional programs. “Birding 101: Be Better at Bird Watching” is at 7 p.m. in the Cardinal Room at Pipestem’s McKeever Lodge. Instruction will be provided on how to use binoculars and tips and tricks to bird identification, field marking and field guide use. Discussion about the Saturday eagle survey, how it is organized and history of the surveys rounds out the evening.

The Eagle Survey begins Saturday at 10 a.m. and runs until 2 p.m. Participants will gather at 9:15 a.m. and transportation will be provided to the survey site at The Pit Area of Bluestone Lake. The four-hour survey pairs professional birders with novice or beginning bird watchers and assigns them to survey observation sites to look for golden and bald eagles.

“This has become a special event in the Pipestem area and over the years we have recognized an increase in golden and bald eagle nests and sightings. We watch the skies snow, rain or shine,” said McQuade.

McQuade and others, including Jim Phillips, former Pipestem naturalist, organize the survey teams and leaders. Multiple sites are determined based on the number of people who confirm participation. Everyone is contacted in advance with instructions and the survey locations. When the survey concludes at 2 p.m., all teams meet in Hinton to compare and compile notes.

Saturday evening’s program is “Wings of Wonder – Birds of Prey” with Three Rivers Avian Center at 7 p.m. The program is free and open to the public. Staff will talk about the habitat, diet and behavior of each bird presented, the most common causes of injury to each species and the laws protecting them.

Special guests from the Bibbee Nature Club and from Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory Tower will be on hand during the Live Birds of Prey program to answer questions about migratory birds, birds of southern West Virginia, getting involved in Bibbee Nature Club hikes and activities, as well as how to find Hanging Rock Observatory and the best time to visit.

Sunday at 8:15 a.m., a winter bird walk with McQuade completes the birding weekend.

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