October 24, 2014

Hunters are killing Wisconsin wolves at an even higher rate than previous years.     Photo: northwoodsphoto/Thinkstock

Wisconsin Wolf Hunt May Come to an Early End

Hunters killing wolves at exceptionally high rate

Wisconsin’s third annual wolf hunt may come to an early end, according to a report by the Associated Press. The hunt, now in its third year, will end February 28 or when 150 wolves are killed, whichever comes sooner. Hunters have already killed 103 animals, or 70 percent of the quota, in less than 10 days since the hunt began on October 15. Though each of the two previous hunts also ended early, this is the fastest hunters have reached 70 percent of their quota.

Department of Natural Resources large carnivore specialist Dave MacFarland told the AP that issuing more hunting permits, or “tags,” and the increasing use of traps (a practice not without controversy) contributed to the faster rate. Traps, considered the most effective way of killing wolves, were responsible for 85 percent of kills, up from 52 percent in 2012.

As recently as the 1970s, gray wolves had been all but eliminated from the continental United States, where they were once common. Wolf populations have rebounded slightly since the passage of the Endangered Species Act, and their range has expanded to the Great Lakes and Northern Rockies. Wolf hunting has been legal in Wisconsin since 2012, when wolves lost federal protection.

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Alan Eustace takes the plunge.     Photo: Courtesy of PSDC

Google VP Breaks High-Altitude Skydiving Record

No, Red Bull was not involved

Alan Eustace, a 57-year-old computer scientist heretofore known for his work as a senior vice president at Google, has broken the world record for high-altitude skydiving, set just two years ago by Felix Baumgartner.

“It was amazing,” Eustace told the New York Times. “It was beautiful. You could see the darkness of space, and you could see the layers of atmosphere, which I had never seen before.”

Tethered to a helium balloon, Eustace took off on Friday morning from an abandoned runway in Roswell, New Mexico, and climbed to an altitude of 135,908 feet (25.7 miles) above the Earth’s surface, comfortably exceeding the 128,100-foot record set by Baumgartner in 2012. He then cut himself loose from his tether with a small explosive device and descended for a full 15 minutes, at one point falling at more than 800 miles an hour and setting off a sonic boom.

“It was a wild, wild ride,” Eustace said of the adventure, which he had been planning since 2011 without sponsorship funding. According to the Times, Google had offered support, but Eustace declined out of concern that the project would become a marketing event. He recruited a small group of engineers to design his space suit, life support system, and parachutes. The GoPro cameras and the radio he used to connect with team members on the ground were reportedly consumer grade.

A veteran pilot and parachutist, Eustace has admired space explorers since his childhood in Orlando, Florida, when he would watch takeoffs from nearby Cape Canaveral with his family. He has worked for Google since 2002.

Just before the jump.   Photo: Courtesy of PSDC

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The FIS developed a safety air bag system that activates during crashes and is worn under a skier's suit.     Photo: FIS

FIS Postpones Implementation of Air Bags

Crash systems violate skier equipment codes

The International Ski Federation (FIS) announced Friday that it has postponed the introduction of air bag systems in alpine racing. Skiing’s governing body has been developing the system for four years, but it’s not yet up to equipment code.

“They are not ready to be approved, and they cannot be used in races,” FIS men’s race director Markus Waldner told the Associated Press. “So we continue working on it.”

The FIS has been working with Italian manufacturer Dainese, which makes gear and safety systems for motorcycle racing, winter sports, bicyclists, and equestrians. The ski-racing vest would be worn under the suit and deploy a built-in airbag if the skier loses control and crashes, protecting the neck, shoulders, arms, and backbone. Development strategic manager Vittorio Cafaggi told 3 News NZ in January that the system can deploy in 100 milliseconds and absorbs 61 percent of the impact. Downhill skiers Werner Heel of Italy and Jan Hudec of Canada tested prototypes last season. The FIS had planned to debut the final version at the World Cup in Val Gardena, Italy, on December 19 but ran into some equipment snafus.

According to the AP, the gas generator that inflates the airbag would have given the skier an aerodynamic edge if left in its original position, so the developers built it right into the protector. But the FIS only allows back protectors that are 45 millimeters thick or less, and integrating the generator into the protector exceeded that.

“It’s unfortunate because this is really a big step forward in safety,” Waldner told the AP. “We go on, and I am sure we find a good solution.”

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