Archive for December 21st, 2007

A different kind of rescue assignment

December 21, 2007


In one of the most unusual emergency operations in Colorado this year, three cow elk that fell through the ice of a private pond south of Pagosa Springs were rescued by Division of Wildlife officers, a local volunteer fire fighter and ten other law enforcement workers. The rescue occurred on Dec. 15.
Another elk, a young spike bull, died in the pond during the effort.
It is not uncommon for big game animals to break through ice during winter while searching for water. But it’s not common for the animals to be rescued.
James Romero, a DOW officer, received a call from the Colorado State Patrol about 8:30 a.m. and was told about the animals struggling in the pond. The call also went out to Archuleta County emergency operations. Staff from the sheriff’s office, the Pagosa Fire Protection District, the Pagosa Springs Police Department and Upper San Juan Search and Rescue also went to the scene and all arrived within a few minutes of each other.
The elk, apparently, had seen open water in what was the middle of the pond. When they moved to the edge the ice broke under their weight. Romero estimated that the animals weighed from 300 to 500 pounds each. 
“I think they’d probably fell in earlier in the morning,” Romero said. “They were panicked and struggling, but appeared they had enough energy to last awhile.”
One of the people who came to the scene was Thad McKain, a volunteer with the Pagosa Fire District who is certified to perform ice rescues. He had been called by the search and rescue workers. They carry two suits designed for ice rescues in their truck. 
McKain said he’d been involved with three rescues of dogs on ice, but had never been called on to save wildlife.
“We put the suits on and I gave James a crash course about what to do,” McKain said.
Without the suits, rescue of the animals might not have been possible.
Secured by ropes, the two men moved to the edge of the water with an ax and broke some ice away to make a narrow slot into which they hoped to guide the elk. On the bank the 10 others stood to help.
“Then we just started making things up as we went,” said Mike Reid, another local DOW wildlife officer who helped with the rescue.
Romero, who had never attempted to rescue a big game animal before, wasn’t sure what to expect as he moved toward the elk. When he got to the edge of the ice, one of the cow elk swam to him.
“I was surprised. I didn’t anticipate that, she came right up to me and seemed to be very calm,” Romero said.
He dropped a rope around the elk’s neck and held it close to the edge. McKain got on his knees, reached his hands into the water and tied a rope around the animal’s legs. Then the whole crew worked to pull her out of the water. She fell down in the snow and the rescuers threw a blanket over her.
“Thank goodness that she made it a lot easier than it could have been,” Romero said.
The rescue, however, didn’t go quite so smooth with the other animals.
Romero went back to the edge of the ice and a second cow swam up to him. She was pulled out in the same way. But when the rope was removed she dashed back into the water. Romero went back to the edge and swinging the rope cowboy style threw it around the elk’s neck. The crew pulled her out again, held her down and tied her feet together.
By this time the spike bull had died and was floating. Romero and Reid speculated that the cow elk might have been going back to the water to protect the young animal. So they threw a rope around the dead animal’s antlers and dragged it out of the water.
The last cow elk proved to be the most difficult: It resisted being pulled up and fought its way back into the water three times. By the last time the elk was exhausted and crew was able to hobble her.
“We were all pretty wiped out by that time,” Reid said. “The surprise is that we got three of them out alive.”
The crew made sure the elk were hobbled securely, dried them off as much as possible, and then lifted each of them into separate pick-up trucks. Reid and Romero decided to take the animals to an area about 20 miles south of Pagosa Springs and let them go on U.S. Forest Service land.
They arrived at the release site by about noon, unloaded the elk and removed the hobbles. The animal that had run back into the water three times stood her ground and acted to protect the others. It charged toward the rescuers and reared up, kicked at them and grazed the face of one of the men with a hoof. Then it turned, jumped a fence and ran toward the forest.
A second elk stood up a few minutes later and made a similar escape. But the third elk, exhausted from the ordeal, fell back down after trying to stand up several times.
The wildlife officers stayed with the animal for an hour then left to make their work rounds. About 4:30 p.m. they returned and found a sheriff’s deputy there. He had not been part of the rescue, but went to the release site after receiving a report that an elk was injured near U.S. Highway 84. The elk was in obvious physical distress and he decided to end its misery.
“It was frustrating to see, but the deputy made the right call,” Romero said.
Romero said that the other two elk appeared to recover and looked good when they ran off.
“I think they had a pretty good chance,” Romero said.
For McKain, who also owns a construction company, the effort put an unusual wrinkle in his career. “It gave me a new addition to my rescue resume,” he said.
Romero credited the team effort for the rescue.
“We couldn’t have done it without the help from the other agencies,” he said.
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NOTE TO EDITORS: Below are links to photos on the DOW web site of the rescue effort. Also below are photo cutlines. The photos were taken on Dec. 15. Please credit photos to: Elizabeth Reid, for C-DOW.
ELK IN POND: Rescue workers from the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Archuleta County move to rescue elk that had fallen through ice in a pond south of Pagosa Springs. Four elk fell through the ice and one died in the water.  The photo was taken Dec. 15, 2007.
Photo by Elizabeth Reid, for C-DOW
RESCUING FIRST ELK: Rescue workers wearing special ice- rescue suits, prepare to pull an elk out of the pond where it had become trapped. The photo was taken Dec. 15, 2007.
Photo  by Elizabeth Reid, for C-DOW
ELK OUT OF WATER: Colorado Division of Wildlife Officer James Romero, left, walks away from the edge of the water after pulling four elk out of a pond south of Pagosa Springs. Thad McKain, a volunteer fire fighter with the Pagosa Fire Distrct, tries to catch his breath. Ten other people worked ropes to help pull the elk out of the water. The photo was taken Dec.15, 2007.
Photo by: Elizabeth Reid, for C-DOW.
CAPTURING ELK: A cow elk scrambles to move away from rescue workers after it was pulled from a pond near Pagosa Springs. The photo was taken: Dec.15, 2007.
Photo by: Elizabeth Reid.
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The Colorado Division of Wildlife is the state agency responsible for managing wildlife and its habitat, as well as providing wildlife related recreation. The Division is funded through hunting and fishing license fees, federal grants and Colorado Lottery proceeds through Great Outdoors Colorado.

Stabbed In The Back

December 21, 2007

To me, this is the best Christmas present I could ever receive” —
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), CBS News, December 20, 2007


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Gun Owners of America and its supporters took a knife in the back
yesterday, as Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) out-smarted his
congressional opposition into agreeing on a so-called
“compromise” on
HR 2640 — a bill which now goes to the President’s desk.

The bill — known as the Veterans Disarmament Act to its opponents —
is being praised by the National Rifle Association and the Brady

The Brady Bunch crowed “Victory! U.S. Congress Strengthens Brady
Background Check System.” The NRA stated that last minute changes to
the McCarthy bill made a “good bill even better [and that] the end
product is a win for American gun owners.”

But Gun Owners of America has issued public statements decrying this

The core of the bill’s problems is section 101(c)(1)(C), which makes
you a “prohibited person” on the basis of a “medical
finding of
disability,” so long as a veteran had an “opportunity”
for some sort
of “hearing” before some “lawful authority” (other
than a court).
Presumably, this “lawful authority” could even be the psychiatrist

Note that unlike with an accused murderer, the hearing doesn’t have
to occur. The “lawful authority” doesn’t have to be unbiased. The
veteran is not necessarily entitled to an attorney — much less an
attorney financed by the government.

So what do the proponents have to say about this?

ARGUMENT: The Veterans Disarmament Act creates new avenues for
prohibited persons to seek restoration of their gun rights.

ANSWER: What the bill does is to lock in — statutorily — huge
numbers of additional law-abiding Americans who will now be denied
the right to own a firearm.

And then it “graciously” allows these newly disarmed Americans to
spend tens of thousands of dollars for a long-shot chance to regain
the gun rights this very bill takes away from them.

More to the point, what minimal gains were granted by the “right
hand” are taken away by the “left.” Section 105 provides
a process
for some Americans diagnosed with so-called mental disabilities to
get their rights restored in the state where they live. But then, in
subsection (a)(2), the bill stipulates that such relief may occur
only if “the person will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous
to public safety and that the GRANTING OF THE RELIEF WOULD NOT BE

Um, doesn’t this language sound similar to those state codes (like
California’s) that have “may issue” concealed carry laws — where
citizens “technically” have the right to carry, but state law only
says that sheriffs MAY ISSUE them a permit to carry? When given such
leeway, those sheriffs usually don’t grant the permits!

Prediction: liberal states — the same states that took these
people’s rights away — will treat almost every person who has been
illegitimately denied as a danger to society and claim that granting
relief would be “contrary to the public interest.”

Let’s make one thing clear: the efforts begun during the Clinton
Presidency to disarm battle-scarred veterans — promoted by the Brady
Anti-Gun Campaign — is illegal and morally reprehensible.

But section 101(c)(1)(C) of HR 2640 would rubber-stamp those illegal
actions. Over 140,000 law-abiding veterans would be statutorily
barred from possessing firearms.

True, they can hire a lawyer and beg the agency that took their
rights away to voluntarily give them back. But the agency doesn’t
have to do anything but sit on its hands. And, after 365 days of
inaction, guess what happens? The newly disarmed veteran can spend
thousands of additional dollars to sue. And, as the plaintiff, the
wrongly disarmed veteran has the burden of proof.

Language proposed by GOA would have automatically restored a
veteran’s gun rights if the agency sat on its hands for a year.
Unfortunately, the GOA amendment was not included.

The Veterans Disarmament Act passed the Senate and the House
yesterday — both times WITHOUT A RECORDED VOTE. That is, the bill
passed by Unanimous Consent, and was then transmitted to the White

Long-time GOA activists will remember that a similar “compromise”
deal helped the original Brady Law get passed. In 1993, there were
only two or three senators on the floor of that chamber who used a
Unanimous Consent agreement (with no recorded vote) to send the Brady
bill to President Clinton — at a time when most legislators had
already left town for their Thanksgiving Break.

Gun owners can go to to
read about how this betrayal occurred 14 years ago.

With your help, Gun Owners of America has done a yeoman’s job of
fighting gun control over the years, considering the limited
resources that we have. Together, we were able to buck the Brady
Campaign/NRA coalition in 1999 (after the Columbine massacre) and
were able to defeat the gun control that was proposed in the wake of
that shooting.

Yesterday, we were not so lucky. But we are not going to go away.
GOA wants to repeal the gun-free zones that disarm law-abiding
Americans and repeal the other gun restrictions that are on the
books. That is the answer to Virginia Tech. Unfortunately, the
House and Senate chose the path of imposing more gun control.

So our appeal to you is this — please help us to grow this coming
year. Please help us to get more members and activists. If you add
$10 to your membership renewal this year, we can reach new gun owners
in the mail and tell them about GOA.

Please urge your friends to join GOA… and, at the very least, make
sure they sign up for our free e-mail alerts so that we can mobilize
more gun owners than ever before!

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