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NEWSFILE: ATTACKS, EPIDEMICS AND ANOMALOUS DEATHS (18a)

c. Aug-Sep 1998 (the time covered by Animals & Men issue 18.)

Sept 30, 1998 - USA TODAY KILLER WASPS- A toddler died in Tampa after a swarm of yellow jackets bit him more than 200 times. Officials are probing why the parents of Harrison Johnson, 2, did not call paramedics until seven hours after the attack.

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USA TODAY - Sept 30, 1998 FISH DEATHS: state water-quality regulators arrived at Camp LeJeune, N. C. , to determine what caused tens of thousands of fish to die in a tributary of the New River. The fish. mostly menhaden, were found at the mouth of French’s Creek. Tile fish didn't have the lesions Easily associated with Pfiesteria, a toxic microbe blamed for massive fish kills and some illness among fishermen.

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USA TODAY - Tuesday, October 20 1998 - Connecticut Hartford — The latest tests of mosquitoes trapped in south-eastern Connecticut have turned up no signs of the deadly Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus. The discovery of infected human-biting mosquitoes in September prompted the DEP to order insecticide spraying.

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WOMAN BITTEN BY FOX AS SHE WINDOW-SHOPPED

09/09/98 NORTH KINGSTOWN, R. I. (AP) _ What would you do if you were window-shopping and a fox came up and bit you on the leg? You'd scream, of course.

And that 's precisely what Linda St. Laurent did Saturday morning when an apparently rabid fox nipped her on Brown Street in Wickford, a pretty harbour on Narragansett Bay.

St. Laurent, who is 43, said the fox crept up and sank its teeth into her left leg while she was strolling with a friend. The fox then tried to bite the friend, but got only a mouthful of shoe leather. The same fox apparently then ran off and bit a leashed dog.

St. Laurent drove to a hospital in Newport for rabies shots. Even though it was a scary encounter, Saint Laurent has a sense of humour about it. She joking calls the ordeal ‘the nightmare on Brown Street. ‘

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Woman head-butted by elephant wins $1. 6 5 million settlement

NEW YORK (June 11, 1998 ) A. P. - A woman who was head-butted and injured by an elephant before its appearance on ‘Live With Regis and Kathie Lee’ received a $1. 6 5 million settlement on Wednesday. Yelena Aleynikov, an English-Russian translator, wept after the settlement was announced. The deal was struck just before the start her $5 million lawsuit against ABC, the Greater Moscow Circus and its booking agent, Wessex Productions. The settlement will be paid by the circus and Wessex.

Aleynikov was backstage at the ABC studio where the show is taped when Flora, an elephant scheduled to perform, knocked her against a wall in 1994. Aleynikov suffered a fractured skull, a punctured lung, broken ribs, and facial injuries. Flora's trainer said the pachyderm may have panicked after he left her alone to change his clothes. Mark Manus, Aleynikov's lawyer, said his client has not been able to work because her ability to concentrate is impaired. ‘It's a lot of money but she would give it back in a second for this not to have happened,’ he said.

TEHRAN, Aug 8 (Reuters)- Scorpions are the fourth major cause of death in Iran’s southern province of Khuzestan, the daily newspaper Qods reported on Saturday. Quoting a report by state veterinary researchers, it said that after respiratory, infectious and digestive diseases, scorpions cause the greatest number of deaths in this humid, oil-rich province. The report did not give any figures on those killed, but said some 25,000 people were treated for scorpion stings in Khuzestan every year, adding that some 60 different varieties of the deadly insect could be found in Iran. ‘Population growth and urban development have brought the residents in Chloser contact with scorpions, ’the report added.

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TWO FAMILIES FIGHT ABOUT COWS' SHOOTING 09/08/98 12:47PM

SWANSEA, S. C. (AP) _ When a family's pet cows strayed into a neighbour’s yard, the homeowners shot the cattle and hauled the carcasses to a butcher for processing.

A magistrate says it was legal, and now two families are fighting in court like the Hatfields and the McCoys. ‘They've got a freezer of meat,’ said Darlene Davis, who along with her husband, Terry, owned cows Snowball and Dingus. ‘These were my pets.‘

Tom Dilas Jr. , one of the men who shot the cows, said he regrets it but the cows were in his backyard where his children were playing. ‘I felt it was the best thing to do to prevent my children from being killed,’ he said. Magistrate William Shockley allowed Dilas to keep the meat, saying the Davises acted irresponsibly by allowing the cows to get loose too often.

The Davises plan to appeal, saying Dilas' motive was to get a refrigerator full of steaks. ‘You can’t just kill trespassing animals, ’ said their lawyer, R. Charles Richards.

He questioned why the Dilases were so quick to call a butcher, who had the carcasses within 30 minutes.

‘Do you like steak?’ Richards asked. ‘We eat mostly chicken, ’ testified Sue Dilas, Tom Dilas' wife.

The Davises acknowledge the cows sometimes got loose, mostly when lightning knocked out the electric fence. But the cows weren't mean, they said.

‘My cows were just like people, ’ Mrs. Davis said. ‘They were pets. You could touch them, talk to them, and they'd make sounds. ‘ The Dilases say the cows were dangerous.

Dilas said the cows got loose 28 times during the past several months, and just before the shooting, he saw the cows running through his back yard where his daughters, ages 3, 4 and 5, were playing. ‘My wife was just frantic, like the end of the world was coming, ’ Dilas said. So he loaded his . 308-calibre rifle and called his father, who brought a. 22-calibre rifle.

The Dilases' lawyer, Scott Shirley, said the Davises failed to act responsibly by letting their cows get loose repeatedly. ‘It would have been more regretful to see one of those kids killed, ’Shirley said.

Lexington County sheriff's Lt. Gary Morgan said owners are liable for any damage caused by their animals. ‘If it was a dangerous bull and it's trying to attack you, you do have the right to defend yourself, ’ he said.

'We're not calling them 'attack cows',' Shirley said. ‘But there’s an inherent danger when you have large animals running through’ the property, he said.

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Poachers shot and killed two rare and endangered mountain gorillas in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, near where rebels are fighting the government of President Laurent Kabila, a U. S. conservation group said Friday. The African Wildlife Foundation, a major contributor to the Virunga National Park where the gorillas live, said the poachers killed Birori, a juvenile male, and Gasigwa, a three-year-old female, Sept. 3, apparently while hunting monkeys.

‘The deaths represent a devastating setback in our fight against extinction, ’ said foundation president Michael Wright. Just more than 6 00 of the gorillas survive, in the forests around the point where Congo, Uganda and Rwanda meet. Strife has disrupted the operations of the parks set up to save them. Four of the gorillas were killed in cross fire in the Virunga National Park in May 1997, during the fighting that led to Kabila’s taking power in Kinshasa. Katie Frohardt, a spokeswoman for the African Wildlife Foundation, said there was a loose link between the fighting and the latest gorilla killings, since most of the armed men in the area belong to rebel groups. The fighting has frightened off foreign tourists, who helped finance the park system, and many guards have not received their salaries since January, the foundation said. - REUTERS

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Rabid bats kill 3 people in Mexico

Oct 2, 1998 MEXICO CITY (AP) - Rabid bats have prompted a health alert in northern Mexico's scenic Copper Canyon, where three people have died from bat bites and eight others recently were attacked.

A 40-year-old Tarahumara Indian man and his two teen-age sons died after a group of bats attacked them while they slept in the village of Batopilas, a popular tourist stop. The deaths occurred two months ago, but Mexico City health officials couldn’t confirm the cause was rabies-induced encephalitis until now, newspapers reported Friday.

Bats attacked eight other people last month. The victims were undergoing treatment and have not shown symptoms of rabies, newspapers reported.

An epidemiological team is investigating Copper Canyon, in the border state of Chihuahua, where thousands of bats live in numerous caves.

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Tiger startled by construction workers, kills trainer

Oct 8, 1998 NEWBERRY, Fla. (AP) — A rare, white Bengal tiger being walked on a leash killed a trainer Thursday after it was startled by construction workers.

Charles Edward Lizza III was running to help calm the 350-pound tiger when he tripped and fell and the animal bit him on the neck, said Alachua County sheriff's Sgt. Jim Troiano. Lizza, 34, died at a hospital.

Ron Guay, who co-owns Ron and Joy Holiday's Cat Dancers, was walking the tiger from a night kennel to a day kennel when it was startled.

The Guays had raised the tiger since it was six days old, The Gainesville Sun reported. It is up to the owners to decide what becomes of the tiger, Troiano said.

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ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH - Aug 1, 1998 Tiger unnerved by crowd claws boy at fair

A. P. MINOT, N. D. - - A 5-year-old boy visiting a state fair exhibit where children could get their pictures taken with a tiger was clawed by one of the cats when it apparently became unnerved by the crowd. Antony Gottus, son of an airman at near by Minot Air Force Base, suffered several facial cuts, and had to undergo plastic surgery after the incident Thursday afternoon. He was listed in good condition Friday at a hospital. Antony, his mother, twin brother and three sisters had just gotten their picture taken with the tiger when the accident happened. The fair's photo sessions and cat shows are presented by the Bridgeport(Texas) Nature Center. Trainer Brian Turner said the 4-month-old Bengal apparently was spooked by the number of people in the photo area or by a sudden movement.

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MASSACRE OF CATTLE 'BIZARRE’

Gympie police and stock officials investigating the gunshot massacre of almost 70 prime breeding cattle at a remote Amamoor property have described the case as ‘bizarre’.

Det-Sgt Vic Tipman said last week's discovery of 31 dead brahford-crosscows and a charolais bull followed the slaughter of 37 cattle on the same property in March. He said the shooter had all but extinguished a $31,000 breeding herd of 70 to 80 head owned by two local graziers.

‘I'd certainly call it unusual, ’ he said. ‘It's not often we come across a whole herd wiped out. ‘ Sgt Tipman said police were investigating whether the killing could be part of a vendetta the graziers, who have asked not to be identified.

‘We looked at the aspect of drugs, but there was no evidence of anything on the property . . . it's not consistent (with drugs), ’ he said. ‘We don't think it was a thrill-kill because the only way you could get to them was on horseback or on foot. ‘

Sgt Tipman said when the carcasses of the first cattle were noticed on April 4, about three weeks after their deaths, the owners thought they may have died from herbage poisoning or disease.

Department of Primary Industry officials were called and the rest of the herd were inoculated before being moved to a different paddock on the mountainous 1500ha property. However, when the second batch of dead cattle was discovered on August 7, fresh wounds indicated they had been shot with a large calibre weapon.

Gympie Department of Industries stock inspector John Crossley, who was called to the first mass killing, said the cattle were badly decomposed then and there was nothing to indicate foul play.

‘I was dismayed when I was called the second time, ’ he said. ‘I was hoping that it would not be another death from disease that I hadn’t considered, but these had only been dead seven to 10 days and when I saw a few holes I got suspicious. ‘

Mr Crossley said the cattle had all been shot at random, in their stomachs, necks and hindquarters. ‘It was pretty bizarre. I couldn't believe anyone would do that - not just because of the financial loss . . . the suffering of the animals shocked me. ‘ He said only 14 cows and calves from the original herd had survived, some still suffering minor gunshot wounds.

Sgt Tipman said police had taken possession of weapons in the Gympie area and further evidence found near the shooting scene and now were awaiting forensic testing.

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Study links U. S. fish microbe to new brain syndrome

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Thursday 13 August 1998.. Researchers reported the first scientific evidence of a human health threat from a toxic microbe that has killed millions of fish along the U. S. East Coast, saying it was responsible for a new neurological syndrome.

Writing in the Lancet medical journal, Maryland researchers blamed the single-cell micro-organism Pfiesteria piscicida for problems discovered among 24 commercial fishermen, sportsmen and environmental workers exposed to contaminated water on Chesapeake Bay's Eastern shore last year.

The syndrome, though temporary, was marked by several disturbing symptoms including impaired memory, disorientation and learning difficulties. The symptoms were most severe among those with the highest exposure to Pfiesteria-contaminated water. But in each case, health problems began to fade after three months and were gone after six.

In separate but unpublished studies, the team of scientists from the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University also found evidence linking Pfiesteria to changes in brain metabolism and said contact led to skin lesions among those with the most pronounced neurological difficulties.

The health problems appeared to be caused by unidentified toxic chemicals secreted by the micro-organism.

‘These are extremely potent toxins, ’ said Dr. Glenn Morris, the University of Maryland epidemiologist who heads the team. ‘What this does is to open up a completely new field of research. We don't know what the toxins are or how they act. And we don't know how they are transmitted to the brain. ‘

Although Pfiesteria has long been identified in the press as causing health problems including memory loss, politicians and policymakers in some states have denied any threat to the public and concentrated instead on the millions of fish that have developed lesions or died in massive fish kills in contaminated waters.

New outbreaks already have been reported this year in North Carolina and Maryland.

In North Carolina, where memory problems from Pfiesteria exposure were first reported among lab workers in 1990, two epidemiologists from the U. S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the state health department recently reported ‘no findings of any consequence’ with regard to the microbe and public health.

One of those lab workers was JoAnn Burkholder of North Carolina State University, the nation's leading Pfiesteria researcher, who has suffered 11 bouts of pneumonia over the past three years. She suspects her respiratory problems are due to the microbe.

Pfiesteria's emergence as a toxic organism has stirred health concerns and political controversy in state capitals along the East Coast from Delaware to the Carolinas, as well as in Congress. Outbreaks are being monitored by officials in six states and studied by both the CDC and the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Operators of so-called factory farms, which raise poultry and other animals, have come under fire from environmentalists who say nitrate-rich runoff from the huge operations has allowed Pfiesteria to flourish.

And in Maryland, where a major outbreak of Pfiesteria forced state officials toclose three Chesapeake tributaries last year, the seafood industry saw sales plunge by more than $40 million as consumers panicked over a supposed threat to local fisheries.

‘To date, there is no evidence that eating fish causes a human health problem, ’ said neuropsychologist Lynn Grattan, who authored the Lancet article.

What the Maryland scientists did find was that some sufferers would set out by car on an errand only to forget where they were going and what they had planned to do once they got there. Watermen, who had both the greatest exposure to contaminated water and the most severe symptoms, forgot basic fishing equipment before setting off in their boats.

Researchers, saying people's ability to take in new information was most greatly impaired, speculated that further study could shed new light not only on Pfiesteria but on the learning process in general.

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SQUIRRELS INFECTED (AND AFFECTED) BY LARVAE

FLORIDA 09/11/98. OCALA, Fla. (AP) Fly larvae up to 1.5 inches long are burrowing and wriggling under the skin of central Florida squirrels, causing them to act even nuttier than usual.

In an attempt to scratch the itch caused by botfly grubs making a temporary home in their bodies, the squirrels are rolling wildly on the ground and jumping in the air, The Orlando Sentinel reported Friday.

Grotesque as they may be, the parasites, which breathe through a hole in their hosts' skin, don’t seem to hurt the squirrels, and they don't pose a risk to humans, said Donna Morris, vice president of The Wildlife Center at Uncle Donald's Farm in Lady Lake.

The larvae inhabit squirrels, rabbits and other rodents during the late summer and early fall, and form large, irritating growths, said Rick Horton, a biologist for the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission.

Because the lumps grow where squirrels can't scratch, on their back or behind their legs, the rodents roll around or rub up against things out of discomfort, Horton said.

The Game and Freshwater Commission office in Ocala has received between three and four calls a day from residents in Orange, Lake, Seminole, Osceola, Volusia and Brevard counties. People reportedly are worried about the squirrels' unusual antics and large, cancerous-looking lumps.

Concerned humans can pop the grubs out, take the squirrels to a veterinarian, or do nothing. In a few weeks, the flies will hatch and leave, and the lumps will disappear, Horton said. Then the cycle starts again. Adult flies will lay eggs in a host animal’s nest and the larvae will wriggle their way under the animal's skin through its mouth, nose or another body opening.

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SIX CARS AND A TRUCK LOADED WITH BEARS CRASH

10/13/98 WOBURN, Mass. (AP) - You could say there was some un-’bear’-able traffic Tuesday morning on Route 128. oh, dear... these journalists. - Graham.

Six cars and a tractor-trailer carrying live bears crashed at 8:44 a. m. on the congested commuter highway, just north of Route 38, causing a traffic backup.

No animal - human or bear - was injured.

The cause of the accident was not immediately known, said state Trooper Lisa Cote-Barchelmess. The truck was heading south from the Topsfield Fair, heading southbound on Route 128.

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S. African man slays leopard with screwdriver

JOHANNESBURG, Oct 1 (Reuters) - A South African man killed an enraged leopard with nothing but an old screwdriver after it had attacked villagers near the country's massive Kruger National Park, police said on Thursday. ‘I've never heard of an incident like it in my life. . . they grabbed it and killed it with a screwdriver, ’ a police spokesman said. Tinos Mkansi, 49, was driving an open pick-up truck loaded with eight passengers when the leopard sprang from the bush. ‘I almost had a heart attack. The bloody animal leapt on to my windshield as I came to halt next to the road. It then jumped into the back of the bakkie (pick-up truck) right in the middle of my passengers, ’ he told the Star newspaper.

Mkansi said that the leopard immediately seized one the passengers, Lawrence Sihlangu, and he had to move fast. ‘I knew I had to act quickly or Lawrence was dead. . . Icouldn't find any weapon except the screwdriver, so I used it to stab the leopard from behind, ’ Mkansi told the newspaper. ‘I had to stab it repeatedly in the neck and ribs before it collapsed and died. ‘ Mkansi halted his truck to investigate an abandoned bicycle and a large pool of blood - evidence of an earlier attack by the leopard on two other villagers which left one man in a serious condition after it tore at his face. Ndluvo said that the men had fended the leopard off with a knife and had already managed to blind it in one eye before it jumped at the passing vehicle.

The incident is the second involving a leopard in or near the Kruger Park in the last few weeks. In August a park ranger was fatally mauled while a crowd of tourists he had been guarding tried in vain to scare it away.

Rare swan killed by hunters, officials say. One of 12 rare trumpeter swans released this year at the Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area is believed to have been killed by hunters, officials said Monday.

Witnesses reported seeing two men in a boat shoot and kill a trumpeter swan as it flew overhead with its mate, said state Department of Natural Resources Warden John Christian. Wardens were searching for the carcass on Monday.

The bird was among six pairs of trumpeter swans released into the Horicon Marsh in May with much fanfare, flying and hopping out of their cages, their white wings flapping as they glided majestically in front of excited onlookers. The trumpeter swans were the first to make the Horicon refuge their home in 100 years.

Gov. Tommy G. Thompson helped release one of the birds as part of a programme he called one of the ‘biological signposts of how far we have come in wildlife recovery. ‘

On Monday, outraged conservation officials were trying to find the hunters who killed the bird. Its mate returned to the refuge.

‘We really want to know who these people are, ’ Christian said. ‘Apparently, these guys were calling, it was a goose call. Some other guys yelled, ’Hey, hey! Don't shoot. There’s swans over there!' And then:Bang!’

The two hunters were in a camouflage-coloured, 14-foot boat with a white 25 horsepower Johnson outboard motor. The boat had tubular framing around it for a waterfowl blind. The men left immediately after shooting the swan around 5:50 p. m. Sunday over Stoney Bay, an area open to public hunting on the 30,000-acre marsh’s southern end.

Several years ago, Wisconsin officials reintroduced the graceful, large white birds to the state, where they were hunted to near extinction in the 1800s because their feathers were desired for hats.

Despite a record seven trumpeters shot and killed by hunters last year, Wisconsin's trumpeter program has been a success. Officials expect to reach their goal of 20 nesting migratory pairs by 1999, one year earlier than planned.

The swans released this year in the Horicon Marsh are not expected to begin breeding until next year at the earliest.

‘It saddens me, ’ said Bettie Harriman, past president of Wisconsin Society of Ornithology. ‘There’s an element that gets me angry, but it's more sadness. I'm thinking about from the standpoint of the two birds, because there’s another bird out there without a mate. ‘

Harriman watched the birds' release in May. ‘They sort of jumped out of the cage into the water, ’ she said. ‘It reminded me of sailing ships under full sail as they glided across the water. ‘

Christian said there is no way hunters could have mistaken the trumpeter, which had a banded neck, for another bird. The waterfowl hunting season began Oct. 3.

‘For anyone in waterfowl hunting, it should be readily apparent, ’ Christian said. ‘These things are bigger than a house compared to what we shoot at. It's pure white. There’s nothing we shoot at that 's pure white.

‘To anybody who has any salt at all, they should recognise it's something you cannot shoot. ‘

The maximum fine for intentionally killing a trumpeter swan is $4,000, plus restitution and loss of hunting privileges for up to three years.

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USA TODAY - JULY 14, 1998 New Mexico Willard - A 12-year-old boy who might have been trying to catch a rattlesnake was hospitalised after the snake struck him. Danny Keulen was bitten while playing outside his home and is in satisfactory condition. Rattlesnakes are common in the area. officials urged parents to warn kids to avoid them.

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ST LOUIS POST-DISPATCH NEWS Aug 2, 1998

Montana teenager saves boy from mountain lion A 6 -year-old camper was pulled from the jaws of a mountain lion by a16 -year-old counsellor who likely saved the youngsters life, officials said. The child, Dante Swallow, was hiking Friday on Marshall Mountain near Missoula, Mont. , with other campers and counsellors when the lion attacked him. ‘I don't remember kicking the animal’, said Aaron Hall, who rushed to Swallow’s defence. ‘I was just using my hands. I was waving and just getting him off. ‘ The animal released the youngster and slinked off as Hall and others tended to puncture wounds on the child's neck and scratches on his back and abdomen. He was treated at a hospital and released. Authorities tracked and killed the lion shortly after the attack.

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Aug 4, 1998 - USA TODAY Montana Lincoln - Increased grizzly bear sightings suggest the bears are expanding out of the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat wilderness range, officials say Bears are being seen about five miles south of previous boundaries. People are calling for officials to hire a bear specialist.

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St. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH - Aug 1, 1998. Virginia woman contracts malaria from a mosquito bite; first time in U.S. since 1996

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MONROE HALL, Va. (AP) - A 63-year-old woman contracted malaria, prompting federal health investigators to launch a search for the source of the often fatal disease, rare outside the tropics. It is the first time the disease has been transmitted through a mosquito in the United States since 1996, according to the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. ‘This is a rare situation,’ said Dr. Holly Williams, an epidemiologist with the centre’s Division of Parasitic Diseases.

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USA TODAY - Aug 20, 1998 POISONED LAKE: California has agreed to pay $9 million for damage caused when the state dumped poison in Lake Davis to kill off a predatory species of fish. All fish in the lake were killed 10 months ago as part of the state’s campaign to eliminate the predatory northern pike. The tourist-based economy of near by Portola was devastated by the closing of the lake. Some of the money will cover expenses incurred by the city and Plumas County, and $4 million will be put in a fund for businesses and property owners. The state Department of Fish and Game feared northern pike might move into rivers and threaten native salmon and trout species. The toothy game fish was apparently planted in the lake by fishermen. Lake Davis, 220 miles northeast of San Francisco, was recently declared safe and restocked with nearly a million trout.


For more ~Sept 1998 attacks news, click HERE.