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U.S. Forest Service to Round Up, Sell Arizona’s Wild Horses

The Gilmer Free Press

TONTO BASIN, AZ —The U.S. Forest Service plans to remove some 100 wild horses from Tonto National Forest in Arizona, fueling a showdown between the agency and conservationists.

The wild horses have roamed free at the forest near the Salt River about 75 miles northeast of Phoenix for decades, but Forest Service officials say they have become a public nuisance. Last week, the agency posted a notice it will impound horses over a 12-month period and ultimately sell them at auction, reining in an estimated 100 horses. Those not sold will be “condemned and destroyed, or otherwise disposed of,“ the agency’s public notice said.

“We’ve got horses in campgrounds, we’ve got horses on the highway,“ Tonto spokeswoman Carrie Templin said. “We would love to see these horses go to a safe place where the potential for accidents don’t exist.“

The plan has angered local animal activists, who say removing the herd is not only dangerous to the horses but also to the ecosystem. The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group said some 500 horses roam the area.

“There is no reason why the Forest Service should want to rob Arizona of this historically, economically and ecologically significant herd. Why are they in such a hurry, and why are they doing this without a fair public process?,“ the group said on a Change.org petition page. “This is one of those points in time that mankind is really going to regret years from now.“

Others said the horses pose no more danger than any other wildlife in the area.

“How are they more of a danger than a rattlesnake or a coyote?“ said Lori Murphy, a manager at Wildhorse Ranch Rescue in Gilbert. “Are we going to start rounding up the other animals, too?“

Bees Naturally Vaccinate Their Babies

The Gilmer Free Press

Humans like to brag about their brilliant advent of vaccinations to prevent diseases, but bees just roll their eyes and shrug. After all, they’ve been doing it naturally for much longer.

That’s what a team of international scientists recently found while studying proteins in the blood of bees. They suggest the discovery, published this week in the journal PLOS Pathogens, may lead to innovations that could benefit how we make food.

The underlying concept of how bees vaccinate their offspring is the same way that we do it for our children. The concept is to introduce little bits of a pathogen to a body so cells in the immune system can come up with the right weapons to fight the disease when the real thing comes around.

In a bee colony, the queen gives birth to all the insects in a hive, but she rarely ever leaves the nest. For that reason, worker bees must bring her a “royal jelly” of pollen and nectar. That food is often mixed with pathogens from the inside, which she eats and breaks down in her gut.

Bits of the pathogens are then transferred to the queen’s “fat body,“ an organ similar to a liver, where they are packaged onto a protein called vitellogenin and delivered to eggs through the queen’s blood stream. The result: newly hatched bee larvae that are already immune to the nasty germs that could have plagued the colony.

Scientists have yet to discover any bees that are opposed to this form of mandatory vaccination, but they do note that this process certainly does not protect bees against all diseases. There are a handful of afflictions devastating bee colonies, such as American Foul Brood, the deformed wing virus and the nosema fungi. They also face invading beetles and a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder, in which worker bees mysteriously disappear and leave the queen to fend for herself.

Dwindling bee numbers have worried scientists and economists alike, who say a reduction in the world’s bee populations could severely hurt ecosystems and agricultural businesses in need of pollinators. Over the past half century, managed honey bee colonies have plummeted from 6 million in 1947 to 2.5 million today, although CDC data have recently shown a slight bump up in the numbers.

Now that scientists understand this mechanism for natural bee immunity, researchers say there’s hope to come up with edible vaccines to help the insect out. Authors of the study already have a patent in the works on the concept.

“Because this vaccination process is naturally occurring, this process would be cheap and ultimately simple to implement,“ said Gro Amdam, an author of the study and a professor at Arizona State University, in a statement. “It has the potential to both improve and secure food production for humans.“

They also suggest that the discovery could extend to other species throughout the animal kingdom. All egg-laying animals have the vitellogenin protein in their bodies, including fish, poultry, reptiles, amphibians and other insects.

A Wild and Wonderful West Virginia Adventure

The Gilmer Free Press

I have fallen back in love with West Virginia.

I had not exactly fallen out of love with my home state; it’s more that I had become complacent, even cynical, about West Virginia. That can happen when you don’t nurture a relationship.

In covering West Virginia as a talk show host, I tend to focus on the negative—political controversies, disasters, broken roads, economic woes, our growing drug problem and more. After awhile, the scales tip too far to one side and Wild and Wonderful are just words you say.

But that changed last week during an adventure staycation at the New River Gorge with my wife, Karin, and son, Ben. It was a brief, but intense courtship with the Mountain State that included zip lining and whitewater rafting.

Roaring over and past the trees on a zip line at heights of up to 200 feet and speeds that reach 60-plus miles per hour was exhilarating. The nine mile rafting excursion down the New River is one of the greatest outdoor adventures in America. The intensity of class IV and V rapids makes the ride exciting and memorable, but it’s also safe enough for a family adventure with plenty of float time to enjoy the wonder of some of the state’s best scenery.

But what really made the experience special was the personality and professionalism of the guides. They are some of the state’s best ambassadors. A combination of tour leaders, safety experts, naturalists and comedians, they worked hard to ensure that everyone had a memorable, safe and fun adventure.

The last time we went whitewater rafting, it was hard to find a place to stay or even a place to eat. Now you can stay on a campus that incudes a variety of lodging and dining options all within walking distance of the adventure activities, which makes it even easier to experience the great outdoors without having to worry about any of the logistics.

People come from all over to have the West Virginia adventure.  Our zip line outing included a church youth group from Chicago.  Their chaperones told me this was a return trip for them.  An extended family of eleven made the trip from Auburn, Alabama for the rafting adventure.

We are rightfully concerned about our image, but nothing helps us more than people coming here from all over the country and being treated to a once-in-a-lifetime adventure combined with a healthy dose of good-hearted West Virginia hospitality and even some corny, down-home humor.

I was completely taken in.  My cynical shell was cracked by the speed of the zip line and my sour demeanor about the state was washed away by the roaring rapids of the New River. Not only was I reintroduced to our wild and wonderful state, but I was exceedingly proud to be one of her native sons.

It’s good to be home again.

~~  Hoppy Kercheval - WVMN ~~

Deadline to Apply for South Branch WMA Dove Hunt is Augest 15

The Gilmer Free Press

SOUTH CHARLESTON, WV - Mourning dove hunters who wish to hunt from a shooting station during the controlled mourning dove hunt on South Branch Wildlife Management Area must submit electronic applications by midnight August 15, 2015, according to Lee Strawn, Wildlife Manager at South Branch WMA. The South Branch WMA is located at the upper end of what is known as the Trough section of the South Branch River in Hardy County.

Hunting is by permit only for the first seven days of the mourning dove season, September 1-7, 2015. Hunters successful in the lottery drawing will be assigned a shooting station, free of charge, and will be allowed to bring two guests. No permits will be necessary to hunt doves after September 07.

Hunters may register in the new electronic license system and apply online at www.wvhunt.com. Individuals can log in to their accounts, click “Enter Lottery” on the home screen, and then select “Enter” to the right of “South Branch Dove Hunt.” Hunters may also apply by calling DNR Dist. 2 Headquarters at 304.822.3551. Successful applicants will be notified by mail by August 28, 2015.

Hunters successful in the drawing will be randomly assigned a day to hunt as well as a shooting station. A map showing location of shooting stations will be included with notification of successful drawing.

Consult the 2015-16 West Virginia Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations for the season dates and additional information.

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