MINNESOTA students sickened by rare bacteria in DEER meat ~ OREGON WOLF PACK kills first LIVESTOCK of the New Year ~ CALIFORNIA officials persuade MOUNTAIN LION to leave residential area ~ WYOMING officials kill MOUNTAIN LION in residential area.

Whitetail deer. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army.

Minnesota 01/11/12 vitals.msnbc.msn.com: by Linda Carroll — A Minnesota high school science project that involved hunting and butchering deer — including one road-kill capture — and turning the meat into venison kabobs backfired when 29 students were sickened with a rare kind of E. coli food poisoning, investigators say. The 2010 incident just now reported in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases highlights the risks of E. coli contamination, not just from factory-produced meat, but also from small, local providers. Doctors first knew they had a problem in December 2010 when two kids from the same high school turned up at a Minnesota hospital with abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. Fearing they had a food poisoning outbreak on their hands, they quickly called in the state’s top-notch public health officials. Both teens had taken part in a school environmental science and outdoor recreation class that involving hunting, shooting and butchering six white-tailed deer, explained Joshua Rounds, the study’s lead author and an epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Public Health. A seventh deer was harvested after being hit by a car, the report says. The deer were processed on school grounds and then grilled and eaten in class a few weeks before the students got sick.

Epidemiologists interviewed 117 kids in five class periods and found that 29 definitely had become ill, but not with E. coli O157:H7, the strain commonly associated with food poisoning from ground beef. Rounds suspected the deer might have carried another E. coli strain that also produces poisons known as Shiga toxins. He was right. Samples from the students and the deer meat turned up E. coli O103:H2, which is part of a larger category of non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli bugs, known as STECs. Scientists also turned up another E. coli strain, E. coli O145:NM that didn’t produce Shiga toxins. STECs are becoming a more worrisome form of E. coli, so much so that federal agriculture officials are poised to begin banning six strains of the possibly lethal bacteria from some forms of beef in the nation’s food supply starting next spring. Under the new regulations, the bacteria will be considered adulterants and it will be illegal to sell beef contaminated with the bacteria collectively dubbed “the big six,” including Shiga-toxin producing E. coli O103 and O145.

Instant meat thermometer

In the case of the Minnesota deer hunters, the source of the problem was clear. People don’t usually get sick from eating hunks or steaks of muscle meat, Rounds said. In this case, however, the meat had been skewered and cooked only to medium rare. The skewers had dragged contaminants from the meat’s surface down to the center of the kabobs, which hadn’t been cooked to a high enough temperature to kill the bacteria. Unless the entire hunk of meat is cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, there’s a risk of food poisoning, Rounds said. Another factor was hand-washing when handling meat — or the lack of it, Rounds said. Not everyone in the class was as fastidious about cleaning their hands as they could have been. “If you think about high school males, they’re probably not the best when it comes to food safety practices,” he said. “So you can have cross-contamination.” The case is a reminder, Rounds said, that all meat, no matter where it comes from, should be treated with careful precautions.

Oregon 01/11/12 opb.org: by Elane Dickenson — The year’s first livestock kill by wolves in Wallowa County was confirmed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife the first of this week. A 10-month-old replacement heifer was killed early Saturday morning, Jan. 7, in a pasture on the Triple Creek Ranch, managed by Scott Shear, just six miles southeast of Joseph on Tucker Down Road. “This brings to 21 the number of livestock confirmed killed by the Imnaha pack since spring 2010,” said ODFW wildlife communications officer Michelle Dennehy. She said there are a minimum of five wolves in the Imnaha pack. ODFW notified the Shears at 5 a.m. Saturday that, according to a signal from OR4, the pack’s collared alpha male, the wolf was in the vicinity of their cattle. They found the dead heifer a short time later. Among those who gathered to view the ODFW necropsy of the dead animal at the Shear ranch were Wallowa County Commissioner Susan Roberts and State Rep. Greg Smith of Heppner, who was in Joseph to watch a wrestling tournament. “The damage caused to the animal by the wolves is what’s appalling,” said Roberts.

ODFW had planned to kill two Imnaha pack wolves because of ongoing depredation of livestock, but there is currently a court stay-of-execution of the wolves in effect. Wolf “range rider” Will Voss is back on the job at the request of the Shears. “When the wolves come back into the valley, it’s time for Will to go back on the job,” at a Scott Shear, who is vice president of the Wallowa County Stockgrowers Association. He said that Voss, who worked as range rider last year, will be monitoring cattle ranches in the area at night in his pickup. Shear said he valued the heifer at $1,500, but that it could have produced calves for the next 10 years. “What value do you put on that,” he asked. He plans to put in a compensation claim when the state starts taking claims in February. This is Shear’s second livestock loss due to wolves and he has also reported fence damage due to wolves chasing his cattle. “There’s a place for wolves and this isn’t it,” he said.

California 01/11/12 hidesertstar.com: by Jimmy Biggerstaff — A mountain lion stand-off ended peacefully for all concerned here Monday morning. The cat climbed a utility pole in Larry Klein’s front yard in the 56200 block of Perris Street. The adult female, weighing around 85 pounds, jumped or fell about eight feet from the pole and took refuge under a pickup truck. San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Naylor responded to the call. He notified the state’s Department of Fish and Game, which dispatched Game Warden Rick Fischer, who was enforcing fishing laws on Silverwood Lake in the San Bernardino mountains. Fischer called in biologist Jeff Villepique to help determine the best way to handle the situation. When the cat did not seem inclined to vacate her spot under the truck, the game warden and biologist loaded their shotguns with bean-bag rounds, with the deputy acting as back-up with regular buck shot. “I loaded two bean-bag rounds with a third round of buck shot just in case,” Fischer said after the event. Fischer said when wild animals get scared they usually run as fast as they can the other way, “But they’re wild animals so you can’t predict just what they’ll do.” The stand-off ended when the three officials cautiously moved in and were able to coax the big cat into bolting for open desert. When the cat came off the utility pole, she may have received a laceration under its left eye, or the mark may have been an earlier injury. “Otherwise, she was totally healthy and did not exhibit any unusual behavior,” Fischer said. “That cat was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. She didn’t anything wrong, she just got caught where she didn’t want to be,” the game warden explained. “Underneath that truck was the safest place at the time. Our goal was to return her to her habitat and that’s just what we did.” Mountain lions are more common in the mountains, where they prey on deer.

Wyoming 01/11/12 trib.com: Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials authorized killing a mountain lion Tuesday in a residential area in north Gillette near Warlow Drive. Most residents saw the mountain lion pass through their neighborhood on Monday. The 2-year old, 100-pound female lion appeared to be in good physical condition, but wouldn’t leave the area. The lion was euthanized for public safety reasons based on the animal’s location and behavior. Any attempt to immobilize and relocate the animal could have resulted in increased danger to the public. Human/mountain lion interactions, although infrequent in Wyoming, can be serious. Mountain lions primarily prey on deer. Do not attract mountain lions to residential areas by feeding deer.

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