Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A hard to swallow squirrel solution

A few weeks ago, I told you a story about the squirrels attacking people in a Mountain View, California park. Apparently park visitors had taken to feeding the cute little rats biscotti and banana-nut muffins due to a shortage of their natural food source, litter. This went on for some time until some jackbooted park rangers put an end to the volunteer squirrel feeding program. Now PETA claims that squirrels don't hold a grudge.

Living in Harmony With Squirrels (PETA's

Nevertheless, it'’s important for all of us to remember that we should not vilify these animals' they don'’t have a score to settle with us.
I think the facts speak for themselves, however. Immediately after the feeding ban was put in place squirrels began attacking park visitors. With angry squirrels attacking cute little toddlers, park rangers were left with no choice but eradicate the squirrels, until the story became national news and cute animal loving people began complaining. So the squirrel hunt was put on hold.

Squirrel traps left unarmed, for now (
The squirrels at Mountain View's Cuesta Park have been enjoying a reprieve: Mountain View hasn't "armed'' the heavy-gauge steel traps that would've squished them to death. That was the fate they faced after three people -- including a 4-year-old boy -- were bitten by the bushy-tailed rodents at the popular park, and city officials said they had no other recourse. But as of Friday, the 15-inch tube traps placed in trees at the sprawling park "have never been armed,'' said David Muela, community services director for Mountain View. Instead, the city has successfully retrained park visitors, who were feeding the squirrels a steady diet of muffins and leftover treats for their children.
Trout Underground made a comment on my original post that got me thinking.
I think the problem isn't that squirrels have become habituated by human feeding.

It's that we're not training the humans to *not* feed the rodents by letting the squirrels bite, maim assault anyone who does.

Sure, it's a radical's simple solution to a complex problem, but I think we'd have a lot less bear problems in Yosemite if we'd train the bears to attack those who offered them food.
While this initially sounded like a good plan, there was a fatal flaw in Trout Underground's logic. Any animal trainer with a lick of sense knows that the only way to train a bear (or squirrel) is with food rewards. If you train them to attack anyone who offers them food then you end up with a dead animal trainer. This plan is not cost effective since you may go through two or three animal trainers per animal you train.

We need to find a real solution before a tragedy strikes like it did in this park in the UK:

Russian squirrel pack 'kills dog' (BBC NEWS)
A "big" stray dog was nosing about the trees and barking at squirrels hiding in branches overhead when a number of them suddenly descended and attacked, reports say.

"They literally gutted the dog," local journalist Anastasia Trubitsina told Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

"When they saw the men, they scattered in different directions, taking pieces of their kill away with them."
I believe that by feeding squirrels, we have taught the squirrels that they are at the top of the food chain and that people are at the bottom. This is a dangerous predicament because it is only a matter of time until a squirrel attempts to eat a human. A secret government program to teach people how to defend themselves from human eating squirrels has already been developed.

After some extensive research, I determined that squirrel attacks were virtually non-existent in the Southern United States. What is different about the South, you ask? People in the South eat squirrels! I believe that in order to solve the squirrel crisis in the west, people must start eating squirrels, lots of squirrels.

I have listed some of my favorite squirrel recipes to help those in the west think of squirrels as a tasty treats instead of cute fuzzy friends.

Wild Buttery Squirrel
While this concoction of Vodka, Amaretto, Butterscotch Schnapps does not actually contain any squirrel, I recommend that you knock back a few of these before sampling some of the other recipes.

Pork Rind-Crusted Fried Squirrel with Molasses Red-Eye Gravy
Anything encrusted with pork rinds and then deep fried has got to be good.

Squirrel Casserole

Surprise your family this Thanksgiving with a squirrel casserole topped with the traditional Durkee French Fried Onions.

Chicken Fried Squirrel

This recipe leaves out 8 of the Colonel's herbs and spices to let that squirrel flavor come through.

Squirrel Fricassee
Nothing warms you up on a cold winter day like a warm bowl of squirrel soup. MM...Good!

Squirrel Sorbet

This refreshing treat is the result of that ominous question: What happens when you put a squirrel in a blender? Apparently if you throw in a couple of eggs and a whole lot of sugar and refrigerate it overnight, then you get a tasty goop the kids will love. Don't forget that you can "garnish with the ears" for special occasions.

Save a toddler...Eat a squirrel.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Let off-leash dog's owners lie

As a park ranger, I am supposed to be unbiased and impartial on each and every law enforcement contact. The problem is, that after I have issued 100+ dog off-leash tickets, you start to think that everyone is a liar.

Here's how a typical dog off leash contact goes:

"Good afternoon, ma'am. My name is Ranger Gord. I see that you don't have your dog on a leash. Were you aware that we have a leash law in the park?"

"Oh, really? I had no idea. I see other people out here with their dog's off-leash, so I thought it was O.K. Besides, my dog is a really good dog."

"You didn't see the three signs that you drove past on the way to the parking lot that say 'Pets must be on a leash'?"

"No. I didn't see any signs."

"I see you found our dog cleanup bags. You didn't notice the sign on the dispenser?"

"No. I guess I didn't."
Is there truly anyone in America that seriously thinks that it is legal to have there dog off leash in a public park? I don't think we even need signs notifying people that they need to keep their dog on a leash. It's just common knowledge and should be common sense.

Here is a typical liar, err...I mean dog owner that is confronted by a park ranger:

Pontifica's Parlor: Got my mojo workinÂ’.
ThereÂ’s almost nothing I hate more than unyielding bureaucratic authority. In any case, last month I got a ticket for not having my dog on a leash in Griffith Park. I was on a favorite hike with Charming Girlfriend and said Lawless Hound, when said CG spied a Park Ranger up ahead in his Ranger Vehicle. Despite my quick sleight-of-hand, despite my wide-eyed protestations of innocence, said Heartless Ranger issued me a citation and told me to show up in court. I guess sending a check is not enough penance; they feel we scofflaws need a talking-to in person.

The last time I ignored such a summons (same dog, same lack of leash, different park) I got slapped with a fine exceeding one thousand dollars (which the Understanding Judge reduced to a mere $300).
She continues her post by pontificating about her ability to evade punishment through the use of her deceitful silver tongue to sweet talk the prosecutor into letting her off. She then details the disingenuous tale she told the prosecutor:
Okay, I lied a little. I said the Ranger was too far away to see whether my dog was leashed, and babbled on about how responsible I am after eleven years of dog-ownership. I might have even said that She Is Always On A Leash In The Park. Which is a big lie. She is Very (er, mostly) Well-Behaved and gets to run free whenever possible, especially at the beach.
Here is another miscreant dog owner that has a run in with the local park ranger:
So today I was at this wildlife reserve thing, and I was walking my dog, which is part rottweiler, part sharpei. Anyways, you're supposed to keep dogs on a leash, but I think it would suck to spend your life on a leash so I let her run around on her own. I mean, my dog's good, if I call her she'll come and she wouldn't run after anybody.

Anyways, this park ranger guy came up to me and said, "Excuse me, I'm gonna have to ask you to keep your dog on a leash. It's just so it doesn't disturb the wildlife." And I said "Oh, sorry, I forgot it. But she's good, she's not gonna chase anything." And right when I said that, my dog took off after a squirrel, caught it, and totally ripped it apart. I felt hella bad, but I kinda started laughing because it was so ironic.

And the ranger got mad and said, "I'm gonna have to write you a ticket." And I said "No speakee english." And I took my dog and started walking back to my car. And the dude was following me so we started running. I got to my car and we left. I think we got away before he got my license plate number. Anyways, I wasn't sure if those park rangers can actually write tickets or if he was just trying to scare me. But it was kinda funny, heheheh.

I'm a little confused. Maybe Ms. BS could explain to me how it's ironic when a park ranger tells you that you need to leash your dog so that it won't disturb the wildlife and then moments later it kills said wildlife. Irony is when the opposite of what is expected occurs, not that which is anticipated. I guess she does need to work on her English.

Here is my advice for you dog owners that insist on letting your dogs run wild through the parks: Go ahead and lie. The prosecutors and judges always enjoy a good laugh when they read the report I write on the back of the ticket.

Here's what Ms. BS' would look like:
At approximately 1420 hours on September 16, 2006 I observed a woman with a large dog without a leash running through Sacred Squirrel Wildlife Preserve. I notified the woman, Brittney Skye, that she needed to leash her dog in order to protect the park's wildlife. Ms. Skye stated to me in plain English without any hint of an accent that she had forgot to bring a leash. As Ms. Skye was insisting that her dog would never harm the wildlife, her dog ran after a squirrel and killed it. Ms. Skye did nothing to stop her dog. In fact she must have thought it was funny because she started to laugh. When I notified Ms. Skye that I was issuing her a citation, she stated with a heavy accent, "No speak English." She then called to her dog and ran to her car as I yelled at her to "Stop!" Ms. Skye drove out of the parking lot at a speed well in excess of the posted speed limit of 15 miles per hour. I pursued her vehicle in my patrol car and was able to stop her approximately 1 mile past the park entrance. I immediately read Ms. Skye her rights and arrested her for Eluding a Police Officer and Obstructing a Police Officer in addition to her dog off-leash infraction. Ms. Skye was booked into the county jail. During the drive to the jail, I had difficulty maintaining my professional demeanor as I experienced several uncontrollable fits of laughter.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

See I told you so!

Just when I step off my soapbox about people not realizing the amount of law enforcement that park rangers routinely perform, I run across a story that actually confirms what I am saying. I guess Ranger Gord is not full of least on this subject.

Crime slowly creeps into parks, forests (The Seattle Times)

The officers Klaasen oversees in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and Olympic National Forest regularly encounter abandoned meth labs, evidence of marijuana growing and fugitives living deep in the backcountry who survive by stealing from campers.

In general, Cmdr. Barb Severson of the Forest Service said, crime appears to be increasing in the more than 1 million acres of national forest land that her 25 officers patrol in Washington state.

Between October 2005 and September, officers in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest handed out 709 citations and wrote an additional 2,197 incident reports, Severson said. Citations were handed out for everything from vandalism to illegal dumping to nonpayment of recreation fees and illegal off-road vehicle use, Severson said.

During the same time period, officers in the Olympic National Forest gave 262 citations and wrote 875 incident reports.

Severson didn't know how many arrests were made.

In 2005, rangers at Olympic National Park made 14 arrests and handed out 523 citations according to park spokeswoman Barb Maynes.

Of the more than 10 arrests by Olympic National Park rangers this year, most were for drunken driving, she said. This year rangers have handed out more than 215 citations.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) says the rise of crime in national forests is reflected in the increase in threats and violence toward employees of the Forest Service, National Parks Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management. According to PEER, attacks against employees of those agencies have increased from 88 reported in 2004 to 477 in 2005.

In the summertime, Mark O'Neill, who patrols Olympic National Park, parks his patrol car along Highway 101, the main drag between Port Angeles and Forks, to catch speeders. During these traffic stops he often finds fugitives wanted on arrest warrants.

"We take weapons off people all the time," O'Neill said.

A rash of car break-ins at the Lake Quinault trailhead last summer resulted in the theft of nearly $20,000 worth of items from 21 people, Jordan said. By bashing car windows with a rock, thieves stole laptops, wallets and other items. Only six people recovered some of their possessions, she said.

During 12 years as a Forest Service officer, Shane Wyrsh said he's seen alleged gang members practicing shooting; he's helped investigate violent assaults and even stumbled upon "the mother of all meth labs." This was a property where people were exchanging cars, bicycles, generators and other stolen items for drugs.

Over the years he's also had several people threaten to kill him.

Wyrsh said he joined the Forest Service because he wanted to be a cop. He now believes working in the woods can at times be more dangerous than patrolling a city.

"It's probably one of the most unique styles of law enforcement there is," he said. "Safety is kind of on us. Backup is 30 minutes to an hour away."

Many park rangers and forest officers say park visitors often chide them about carrying guns and don't see them as serious law-enforcement officers.

Jordan, who will regularly respond to such comments with a history lesson about the role of the park service, is convinced that the confusion stems from the fact that their khaki uniforms look a lot like the ones worn by civilian park guides.

"They [visitors] view me as some sort of benevolent park employee or a Smokey the Bear," Jordan said.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Incident at Elephant Butte Lake

In my last post, we saw what happened when a park ranger underestimated the threat when making a law enforcement contact...he lost his life. This is often in the back of a park ranger's mind when dealing with an uncooperative suspect.

The Incident at Elephant Butte Lake
On Tuesday, August 23, 2005 Clyde Woods was the only ranger on duty at Elephant Butte Lake State Park, the most popular recreation area in New Mexico, located 150 miles south of Albuquerque. At approximately 8:00 p.m. the volunteer camp hosts notified Woods that the camper in site #84 was rude and belligerent when they asked him to pay the required $14 camping fee. They stated that he refused to pay and shoved something at them when they notified him that they would have to call law enforcement. Ranger Woods contacted the rude camper, Bruce Teschner, a 58 year old former jewelry maker, at his campsite. Woods stated that Teschner responded to him with a "lack of respect" and "negative attitude." Woods notified Teschner that he would have to either pay the camping fee or leave the park. Teschner refused to do either, so Woods told him that he was placing him under arrest. Woods placed Teschner prone on the ground, a standard practice when arresting an uncooperative subject without backup. Teschner, wearing only shorts and sandals, resisted and got up from the ground. Teschner began moving away from Woods with his hands near his pockets. Woods continued to give Teschner verbal commands, but Teschner refused to comply. A couple in a campsite nearby describe what happened next:

Butte Victim Was 'Belligerent' (Albuquerque Journal)
The couple said they heard someone twice yell, "Get on your knees!" and also heard someone say, "Get off of me!" before a series of quick gunshots. But they said they did not know who was doing the yelling or if the same person gave both orders.
In an instant, Ranger Woods had shot Teschner twice in the back. Bruce Teschner died at the scene.

Ranger Woods was immediately place on paid administrative leave from his $26,000 a year position while the shooting was investigated. On December 12, 2005, Ranger Woods was arrested and charged with murder in the second degree. Three months later, a judge reduced the charge to involuntary
manslaughter. A week ago Friday, District Attorney Scot Key announced that they would change the charge against Woods to voluntary manslaughter.
Ex-Ranger Gets Reduced Charge In Butte Slaying (Albuquerque Journal)
The involuntary manslaughter charge indicated Woods acted with gross negligence but without malice or the intent to kill. The voluntary manslaughter charge indicates Woods killed Teschner by acting in the heat of passion.
The Commentary
Was this a case of an over-zealous ranger angered by a park visitor's lack of respect and refusal to comply to the rules or was it a case of a young, in-experienced ranger who got into a tense and stressful situation and made the wrong split-second decision.

Michael Morris of would have you believe that Ranger Woods is a cold blooded killer that would shoot anyone who disagreed with him.
Christmas comes early for killer cop (
It is not every day a man can coldly pump 2 shots into the back of an unarmed man and walk away facing fewer consequences than a fellow who wrote 2 bad checks.
Morris continues with an absurd description of the incident in which he belittles Ranger Woods' for even attempting to enforce the law.
Clyde Woods was not your typical cop. In fact, absent the shoddy management of the state parks, Woods would never have had police duties or powers. Clyde Woods was more of a nature guide with a gun. On the night of the murder Woods was called to a state campground for a camper who had not paid the $14 camping fee. Woods, lacking the experience of an actual police officer but possessing a gun and a badge escalated the situation. Knowing that being a soft and somewhat weakly man he would be unable to take control of the situation of such a minor offense Woods tried the bully routine. When the victim was obviously not going to put up with the humiliation tactics employed by Woods the ranger became somewhat enraged. Instead of calling for some backup Woods decided he would simply attack the victim. Seeing no reason for the attack over a camping fee the victim fought back breaking the grasp of the underwhelming Clyde Woods. Woods, acting like he had Clyde Barrow in his sights again escalated the violence yelling for the victim not to walk away. When this failed Woods knew he was unable to subdue the non-payer with his hands. At that time park ranger Clyde Woods drew his weapon and shot his victim in the back twice as the victim walked back to his vehicle.
Morris is obviously unaware of what park rangers do and the kind of situations that they run into. Let's a detailed look at Morris' analysis of the incident.
Clyde Woods was not your typical cop.
Park rangers are not typical cops. They do not sit in a police cruiser 8 hours a day, five days a week thumping the heads of criminals. They work in remote areas without a partner and often without available backup. Ask any regular duty cop to work this kind of shift and not only will they tell you "no", they will say "Hell no!"
In fact, absent the shoddy management of the state parks, Woods would never have had police duties or powers.
I guess Morris' contention is that park rangers should not be law enforcement officers. Apparently he thinks that criminals don't go to parks. Perhaps Morris thinks bad guys can only be found in the ghettos. The fact is there is a lot of crime that occurs in our parks and there is rarely any law enforcement presence without park rangers.
Clyde Woods was more of a nature guide with a gun.
In order to become a New Mexico State Park Ranger you must have a bachelor's degree and successfully graduate from the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy. This is the same academy that New Mexico State Police recruits must graduate from, yet the state police do not require any post-secondary degree. Perhaps a more accurate description would be, "Clyde Woods was more of a state police officer with a bachelor's degree."
On the night of the murder Woods was called to a state campground for a camper who had not paid the $14 camping fee. Woods, lacking the experience of an actual police officer but possessing a gun and a badge escalated the situation.
I guess it is acceptable in Morris' point of view for police officers to just look the other way when people violate the law if there is a chance that the suspect could refuse to cooperate and the situation escalate.
Knowing that being a soft and somewhat weakly man he would be unable to take control of the situation of such a minor offense Woods tried the bully routine. When the victim was obviously not going to put up with the humiliation tactics employed by Woods the ranger became somewhat enraged.
I do not know Ranger Woods nor have I ever met Ranger Woods and I speculate that neither has Morris. This statement is Morris' mere speculation with no evidence. I speculate the opposite to be true. Lets take a look at the facts. Woods had been hired as a park ranger in December of 2004. In order to obtain this position, he had to pass a fitness test. Additionally, after he was hired, he was sent to the state law enforcement academy which has a tremendous amount of rigorous fitness and defensive tactics training, so I doubt Woods was "soft and somewhat weakly." How can any rational person consider a police officer that demands a subject comply with the law as bullying or humiliation tactics? Ranger Woods gave Teschner two choices, pay or leave. He did not say, "Since you did not pay within 15 minutes of arriving at your campsite I am going to arrest you." That would be bullying. Park rangers quite often must deal with disrespectful individuals that refuse to comply with their orders because they are not seen as real cops. Could this kind of behavior cause Ranger Woods to become "enraged"? Possibly, but I highly doubt it.
Instead of calling for some backup Woods decided he would simply attack the victim. Seeing no reason for the attack over a camping fee the victim fought back breaking the grasp of the underwhelming Clyde Woods.
Why didn't Ranger Woods call for backup? Well he was the only ranger on duty, that means his backup would have to be provided from an outside agency. The nearest towns are Elephant Butte (population 1,500) and Truth or Consequences (population 7,000). I am fairly certain that Elephant Butte does not have a police force. Truth or Consequences has 14 police officers, but I doubt they are allowed to respond outside of the city limits. That leaves us with the State Police. Often in rural areas, it can take 30 minutes to several hours for state police to respond to an assistance call. While I do not know if this was the case in this incident, I would not be surprised. When a police officer is attempting to subdue a suspect that is resisting arrest, it can not be considered attacking a victim.
Woods, acting like he had Clyde Barrow in his sights again escalated the violence yelling for the victim not to walk away. When this failed Woods knew he was unable to subdue the non-payer with his hands. At that time park ranger Clyde Woods drew his weapon and shot his victim in the back twice as the victim walked back to his vehicle.
The fact is that Woods did not know who Teschner was and whether or not he was dangerous. As far as he knew Teschner could have been as dangerous as Clyde Barrow. When a suspect refuses to cooperate when given a simple order to comply or leave, it throws up all kinds of red flags for a police officer. Why won't this guy just leave? What is he trying to hide? Does he have warrants? Does he have weapons or something illegal he is trying to hide from me?

As it turns out, this was not unusual behavior for Teschner.

'Everybody Was Afraid of Him', Cops Sought Man Killed at Butte (Albuquerque Journal)
Truth or Consequences trailer court owner William Martin said some of his last words to departing tenant Bruce Teschner on Tuesday (August 23, 2005) were that someone was likely to shoot him. "Everybody here was pretty much afraid of him. And I was constantly watching him," said Martin, an owner of the Artesian Bath House and Trailer Court. He said Teschner hadn't paid for his month long stay at the court and pulled out early Tuesday evening after being asked to leave on Monday.

A Sierra County Sheriff's Department report said Teschner was arrested at a Williamsburg RV park on June 6 for disorderly conduct and resisting an officer. "I had to order him to kneel down several times to avoid a physical confrontation," the sheriff's sergeant wrote in his report. "At my (patrol vehicle), Bruce refused to get inside and I had to force him in."

A former girlfriend earlier this month filed a court restraining order against Teschner, claiming he was dangerous and "displayed extremely (erratic) behavior." And the very day he was killed, Truth or Consequences police obtained a misdemeanor arrest warrant for him after he allegedly harassed a teenage girl in hopes of getting her to pose for nude photographs.
We can only speculate what Woods may have been thinking. "I have a gun pointed at this guy and yet he is still going for the vehicle. What is in that vehicle that he wants so bad? A gun?" Unless you have been in this type of situation, it is difficult to understand how you would react. You have a split second to make a decision. Unfortunately in this situation, Woods made the wrong decision.

Former National Park Ranger Jim Stiles recalled a similar incident that he experienced:

Blood spills over $14 camping fee (High Country News)

I have my own story. One dark evening, when the Arches campground was full, a couple of young men tried to camp illegally in the picnic area. My first encounter with them was civil enough, and I told them they needed to leave. Twenty minutes later, paid campers complained that they had moved into their site. This time I was firmer, and their attitude was icier. A few minutes later, I could see their headlights creeping down the Salt Valley Road in search of an illegal campsite.

My self-righteous indignation has always been a quality I needed to work on, and on this evening it was in full bloom: How dare these jerks defy the order of a ranger! I found their vehicle tracks; it was 11 p.m., I was out of radio contact but determined to cite these violators. I walked into the darkness with my Maglite, my service revolver snapped firmly in its holster. A hundred yards down the dry wash, the illegal campers were already in their sleeping bags.

When I advised them loudly that they had to leave immediately and that I was giving them a federal citation, the two men came unglued, leaping up from their bags, screaming. They called me every unkind name imaginable, in such a hysterical manner that I wondered if I was about to lose control of a situation that was barely 30 seconds old. One was particularly rabid, and moved toward me in a threatening way.

I was scared to death. I took a step backward and placed my thumb on the keeper of my gun holster. The young man stopped, then screamed at me, "You take that gun out and you're a dead man!" We stared at each other for five long seconds.

I reflected on his words, and I decided that he was most likely right: If I took my gun from the holster, I'd be the one shot dead.

"OK," I said, taking a deep breath. "I'm going back to my patrol cruiser. I want both of you out of here in 30 minutes." I backed off slowly, turned and walked back to the road. Had they come running up behind me, I would never have heard them; the sound of my heart pounding in my ears was deafening.

I sat in my patrol car for 20 long minutes, shaken, but happy to have my body intact. Finally, incredibly, here they came, packed up and in their car. One of them had calmed appreciably, and I handed him the citation. He even thanked me. His friend, however, was still out of control, and kept slamming his fists into the ceiling of their vehicle.

Had I been a coward or a wise man? I decided that, for once, I'd been wise. I never again came close to a confrontation like this.

I don'’t know all the facts in the New Mexico shooting, but I would guess that fear and adrenaline and the rapid rush of events were among its causes.

The Lesson
What can park rangers learn from this unfortunate incident?

The only way you know how you will react in these stressful situations is with realistic situational training with your force tools. Practice escalating and de-escalating your force level to that which will gain compliance. Even though you have drawn your sidearm, you can always holster it and draw a baton or OC spray in order to gain compliance from an unarmed, uncooperative suspect.

Another option would be to defuse the situation by simply leaving the scene. Give the suspect a specific amount of time to comply with the law and leave. Once you are gone, he no longer has to prove to you that he is a bad ass (also known as "saving face"). The amount of time you give him should match the response time of your backup. You can then return to the scene with a show of force. I have seen hard core criminals instantly become calm and courteous when three squad cars arrive on scene.

Make sure you train realistically, so that it's the bad guy going to jail, not you.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Ranger's killer found not guilty by insanity

I thought that a murder getting off on the insanity plea was as likely to happen as a witnesses actually performing a Perry Mason style confession on the stand. Unfortunately for the family of Steve Makuakane-Jerrell, I was wrong. In 1999, National Park Ranger Makuakane-Jerrell was killed by Eugene F. Boyce III while contacting Boyce about a dog off leash complaint. Judge Susan Oki Mollway found Boyce not guilty by reason of insanity because Boyce thought Ranger Makuakane-Jerrell was trying to kill him and his dogs.

I agree with Ranger Makuakane-Jerrell's widow that Boyce should have been found "guilty and insane." Our thoughts are with Ranger Makuakane-Jerrell's family this week.

Drifter is ruled insane in Kaloko-Honokohau killing (

The widow of a ranger shot in 1999 says the ruling makes it difficult to move on

After waiting seven years for justice, the family of a Big Island park ranger who was shot and killed by a drifter was deeply disturbed yesterday that the killer was found not guilty by reason of insanity. "Definitely it was a blow to us," said Joni Mae Makuakane-Jerrell, widow of park ranger Steve Makuakane-Jerrell. "It's not the kind of verdict that anybody wants, not especially when you have someone who committed such a brutal and violent crime."

Eugene F. Boyce III fatally shot Makuakane-Jerrell Dec. 12, 1999, at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park. The ranger was investigating complaints against Boyce's three dogs. After a struggle, Boyce gained control over the ranger's semiautomatic handgun and shot him twice, once in the forehead, piercing his brain, and again in the right arm, according to testimony.

U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway found the 37-year-old Boyce not guilty only by reason of insanity following a five-hour nonjury trial. The verdict applies on all three charges of murder of a federal government employee engaged in official duties, using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

"Regardless of the fact that the doctors would say he's schizophrenic, I do have a problem with 'not guilty by reason of insanity,'" said Joni Mae Makuakane-Jerrell, a former law enforcement park ranger. "It should be guilty and insane."

A Federal Bureau of Prisons psychologist testified for the defense that Boyce suffered from paranoia and schizophrenia, and could not appreciate the wrongfulness of his acts due to his psychotic state, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson said. Sorenson said it was a problem trying to overcome the government's own psychologist. "In this instance, you have what is viewed as an impartial psychiatric and mental health entity," Sorenson said. The psychologist testified Boyce believed the ranger was trying to kill him and his dogs.

Joni Mae Makuakane-Jerrell said: "The 'not guilty by reason of insanity' means the burden of proof is on Boyce, yet we have to be there every time there's a hearing of any kind to be sure he won't get out, so it's still a burden. "You don't go on with your life, not with a verdict like that," she said. It has been tough these past seven years on the family of Steve Makuakane-Jerrell. "No matter how long it's been, it's not any easier," Joni Mae Makuakane-Jerrell said. "We think of him every day. "We think of all the things he's missed," she said of herself and her children, now 22, 23 and 30. "He never got to see the children graduate from high school. He never got to see our son get married."

Sorenson said he will ask for Boyce's continued detention Nov. 20 at a custody hearing and would continue "fighting for detention as long as he comes up for review." Boyce has been held at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo. He will be remanded to the Bureau of Prisons for a mental health study to see whether he poses a risk of danger to people or property, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a written statement.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

When squirrels attack

Here's some breaking news...parks contain wild viscous animals. Believe it or not, this is news to some people. Visitors to urban parks see the cute and cuddly chipmunks and squirrels and think they can treat them like they are a neighbors pet. "Let's give the cute little squirrel a treat." Then they are shocked when the "cute little animal" bites someone. Once this happens, the local media jumps in a gives a sensational report like this:

Squirrels Go On Attack At South Bay Park (

An aggressive squirrel pounced on a 4-year-old boy in an attack last week in Cuesta Park in Mountain View, Calif. The attack happened as the boy's mother unwrapped a muffin during a
picnic. The boy had to get rabies shots after the attack. He is still getting the shots. The attack is not the first one reported at the park. Mountain View Community Services Director David Muela said that as many as six people have been bitten or scratched by squirrels since May, and
that the attacks have become more ferocious in the last month. Park Rangers spent Saturday patrolling the park. (RG: Unit 24 I have spotted a bogie at 3 o'clock in a large oak tree. He's heading your way and looks like he means business). The city is trying to make sure people don't bring food into the children's play area at the park.

"I think it's our fault, because we made them aggressive," Carmen Perez of Palo Alto said. "Now it's dangerous and we have to do something."

In response to attacks, the city of Mountain View has announced it plans to start trapping and killing the aggressive tree squirrels. Over the next three weeks, park workers will set tube-like traps in the trees of Cuesta Park and euthanize captured squirrels "in a humane way," said David Muela, Mountain View's community services director.

Ironically, efforts to curb the behavior may have exacerbated the squirrels' aggressive tendencies, Muela said. This summer, the city installed new trash receptacles featuring metal
tops with a latch that makes it nearly impossible for an animal to rummage through the can in search of food. Increased park ranger patrols and flier distributions cautioning against feeding the animals might have further cut the squirrels' food supply, prompting them to act more assertively in their quest for food.

NBC11 and first ran this story Wednesday and it stirred up a lot of outrage with
viewers. Many have e-mailed, saying that euthanizing the squirrels is the wrong
response. One viewer wrote, "I come to the parks to watch the wild animals, not
the humans. I will no longer visit your parks knowing that any of them have become a killing ground for natural wildlife." (RG: This guy obviously doesn't get Animal Planet in his cable package). Wildlife advocates also oppose the unusual measure of killing the animals and said it
won't solve the problem. "The squirrels will be back," South Bay wildlife rehabilitator Norma
Campbell said. "For every one you take out, two more will come in. It could be a never-ending project that isn't going to accomplish anything." (RG: Squirrels are well organized and tired of being oppressed).

Officials said the increasingly brazen behavior stems from years of being fed by park visitors.
The state Department of Fish and Game recommends against relocating habituated squirrels, he said, because their fear of humans has diminished and the problem is likely to remain. Instead, the department recommends the animals be put to sleep, Muela said. Muela said the city couldn't afford to wait and see if the squirrels' aggressive behavior goes away eventually, because of the threat posed to public health and safety. Emphasizing his concern for the welfare of park visitors, Muela said, "We will need the public's cooperation on this, because as long as they continue to feed the squirrels it will exacerbate the problem."

Although the squirrels' behavior has led some to fear the animals might be rabid, Muela said that is highly unlikely because incidents of rabid tree squirrels are extremely rare.
How many people would consider hand feeding a wild Norway rat? Probably not many, yet there is little difference between the rat and the squirrel. Both are members of the order Rodentia, but squirrels belong to the family Sciuridae while rats belong to the family Muroidea. The primary difference between these two branches of the rodent family tree is that Muroidea lacks the cuteness gene found in Sciuridae members such as squirrels, chipmunks, and to a lesser degree marmots. Presence of this cuteness gene can often spare an animal from becoming the target of pest control programs by causing an autonomic human response. This response, know as the "Awe, look at the cute little animal" response has even been documented in non-PETA members of the human population.

A park infested with toddler biting rats would cause a public uproar for their immediate eradication, but when it involves a cute animal it spawns demands for the ethical treatment. When will we admit our hypocrisy and just fix the problem (i.e. short term - reduce the problem squirrel population; long term - stop treating wild animals like pets).

Don't get me wrong. I love animals, especially the cute and cuddly ones. The problem is when idiots habitualize wild animals to human contact. Ultimately this will lead to a conflict with humans and when that happens, the animal will almost always lose.

BTW - In no way do I mean to insinuate that Bob Ross was an idiot.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

End of the season rant

This year's end of the season rush added to a busy wildfire season, some last minute training, and a personal emergency left me with no free time. Consequently, my blog really suffered with a complete and utter lack of posts. I'll see what I can do to remedy that.

Let's start off with an end of the season rant from a fellow park ranger. Most parks have a busy season and an off season. In the spring, I can't wait for the busy summer season to start. By August, I'm like a cranky bear getting ready to hibernate. I can't wait for the leaves to start falling and for the idiots to get out of the park and head home.

It is not uncommon this time of year for rangers to blow off a little steam with a tirade on all the idiots that they have had to deal with over the past several months. Ranger Don has apparently had to deal with his fair share of idiots this season.

Lost In Real Life: Thoughts From An Angry Park Ranger

It used to be that camping meant pitching a tent and hiking. Or maybe bringing the horses and doing some trail riding. But lately it seems like people are bringing their homes with them. The generators I can live with so long as they are quiet and used within reason. It‚’s the late night music and drinking that kept us running this summer. I saw more domestics, more of what we classify as "disorderly conduct" offenses, and generally more people being rude and obnoxious to neighboring campers than in years past. And what's with the big screen TV's out in the forest? Can't you cut the umbilical cord with your TV for just three or four days? I went through one campground last night and felt like I was at the freaking drive in.

Make sure you check out the rest of Ranger Don's no-holds barred rant where he summarizes his favorite contacts for the summer, featuring coyote skinning, toy assualt rifles, public defecation, and amoure alfresco.

We feel your pain Ranger Don. Before you know it, winter will be gone and you will be wishing someone would skin a coyote on the side of the park road just so you could go and talk to someone.

UPDATE: 7/10/06 - I have erroneously attributed this rant as the writing of Ranger Don, but it was originally posted on craigslist by park ranger in the Salt Lake City area. Sorry Ranger Don, I am sure you had your share of idiots you dealt with this summer also.