Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Update from us

We've had a busy past two weeks since we returned home from vacation. We spent one Saturday at Schlitterbahn Water park in Galveston. I choose not to take the camera as it's not waterproof, so I didn't get any pictures, but I can assure you, we had fun!
Mike managed to get his hands on the company Astros tickets, so we took in a baseball game at Minute Maid Park. I'll post some pictures soon. They were great seats right in the front row by the bullpen.
Russell H. came down last week. He had a job to do nearby, so we enjoyed having him come stay for a night. Maybe next time Andrea will be able to travel (baby due soon).
Tonight we have Sheila E. and boys coming to stay. The boys are excited to see their buddies, Bryce and Dylan again. No telling what kind of trouble 5 boys could get into!
School starts next week, so we've done a little school shopping. We've got all supplies and most clothes bought, so we're almost ready!
Hope everyone has had a great summer!

We love whales!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Last day in Washington-Goin' on a bear hunt

First, I want to introduce you to a few key players. There's my sister, Tami, who you'll see later in this post. She has the greatest job with R.E.I. She is an Outreach Specialist who teaches people how to live and recreate in bear/cougar country. She works in close conjunction with the Washington State Wildlife Enforcement Agency. Years ago, when there was a report of a "nuisance bear"(one who has become comfortable with humans), an officer would be called in, the bear would be tranquilized and a helicopter would transport the bear to the higher mountain elevations. What they found upon studying this method, is that many bears who were relocated couldn't survive in unknown territory. Many couldn't find adequate food sources and they starved to death. So, the method was slightly changed and they now do what's called a "hard release". Basically what they do is capture the bear, record the data on it, and release it right back to where it came from using bear dogs and shooting at the bear with rifles with bean bags (pellets similar to a paintball sting). While it doesn't hurt the bear, it does make them uncomfortable and hopefully gives them a little more fear of humans. This method has about an 80% success rate. So, Tami got the call that Bruce (another key player; a W.E.A. officer) had captured a bear on a home owner's property...would she like to come and watch the hard release? She mentioned that she had family in town. "Bring them!", Bruce said. So, thank you, Tami and Bruce for letting us tag along! I have never seen a bear in the wild, so this was a first for me and great fun to be able to see them so close.
This is Mishka. Mishka is a legend in his time! He's a 6 year old Karilean Bear dog. He's the first Karilean Bear dog to be used in Washington state for hard releases. These bears have a very keen sense of smell and are not afraid of large animals and will hunt them down and force them further into the wilderness.
Then there's Bruce (key Wildlife officer). Bruce loves to educate kids in how to handle these beautiful creatures. He is showing the kids the cocktail he's going to use to tranquilize this bear.
Giving it a shot
I only posted this picture to show you how happy Justin was to be able to help with a bear. You can tell by his smile, he's on Cloud 9!
It's a 2-3 year old male black bear. It weighs approximately 200 lbs. These bears can grow to be around 500-600 lbs. While they do have Brown Bears in Wa. there are only a handful of them, so the majority of the time, if a bear is spotted, it's a black bear, such as this.
Data is recorded
Meet Brian. Brian is a wildlife biologist. Justin bonded with him instantly, wanting to help with all the measurements (girth, length, height)...
and teeth.

Our family with the bear
Then there is Jason (another W.E.A. officer). He did the tagging of the ear. This is not a tracking device, but it identifies the bear if they are hunted later in the year (hunting season started 5 days after this).
Mishka ready to go to work.
Tami and I holding the bear
The boys with the bear
After the exam, the bear is safely tucked back into his cage and given another cocktail to wake him up.
About 2 hours later, the bear is fully awake again and Rich (another W.E.A. officer) and his dog, Cash are here. Rich lives in E. Washington and does a lot of "cougar calls". He's got the 2nd and only other Karilean bear dog used in bear releases in Washington state. Cash is only 3 years old but is a bit more lively and aggressive than Mishka. He's still in training, but knows how to hunt grizzlies much larger than his size.
Cash is excited! He knows there is a bear in there and he's ready to go to work with Mishka!
The officers get their guns loaded and they're ready to go. See video for release...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Washington Trip-Days 10 & 11

Remember how I mentioned there is a phenomenal experience that we had the last day of vacation in Washington?? It's coming tomorrow!! So, if you've been following along, I'm planning to post it tomorrow!! Stay tuned!!
The huge totem poles in our hotel

Orca whales are significant to the indian tribe as they represent a relief from famine that the indians experienced many years ago
Sun. a.m. Mom's meeting. Randy and Amy A. had a potluck. It was great fun to be together again! Thanks A's!!
Justin looks on while Trevon plays his game and Ashlyn plays.
We spent the last night with Tami and Vil before we flew home. Justin insisted on having his picture with Summit as they have matching toy dogs!
Beautiful Mt. Si at sunset

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Washington Trip-Day 9

Another shot of downtown Leavenworth
The boys each took a piece of bread off of the breakfast buffet to feed the goats

We walked a bit at the park in town
Somehow this picture just seems so serene
The boys played on the playground before we head back over the pass
We stopped at the dam and fish ladder to see if any fish were jumping
Looking back down Tumwater Canyon
Plenty of fish jumping, but couldn't set my camera right to capture them as they were out of the water We stopped at Steven's Pass. I spent many a day here during high old skiing spot
The boys spotted some leftover snow on the Bluebird run, so we walked up to play
They thought the snow cave was neat
Justin can't resist sliding down it (video of Jarin at the bottom)
Walking back down to the lodge
Next stop...a salmon hatchery. Our kids had never seen one. This was the holding pond for the big ones. They were jumping as well (video at bottom)
Holding ponds for the little ones
Next stop...the Reptile House. The kids hold a boa and a corn snake
Never, ever argue with a cobra!
A two-headed turtle
Alligator snapping turtle (native to Texas waters)
Another Texas native, the Cottonmouth (a.k.a. water moccasin)
A giant tortoise
Komodo dragon
More Texas natives...copperhead snakes