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Don't panic when removing fishooks and leeches

THE WEST

Don't you just love those helpful hints about what to do when you're caught in a jam while out hiking miles from the nearest rural road? Your first response is probably hopeless despair -- the outback is, by definition, a long way from a hospital. Fortunately, a recent issue of Backpacker magazine offers reasonable solutions for some of the unpleasant things that can happen when you're in the backcountry. An example: What should you do if a fishhook snags in your cheek? Clip the barb, sterilize with an alcohol wipe (something we're sure every hiker carries) and "slide it out." If the barb lands in your eye, though, hurry to the nearest emergency room, no matter how far away. Then there's the shock of losing traction on a steep slope of scree; how do you arrest your slide, before it's too late? Do what seems unnatural: stop leaning in and "stand up straight." If, for some reason, you find the odd leech attached to your body and sucking blood: "Don't panic. Slide your fingernail along your skin toward the leech's small end and push sideways to dislodge." If you find a leech in your ear, however, you're allowed to panic; then try puncturing it with a pin and dragging it out. Should you get caught in an "inescapable wildfire," run for the nearest lake, ditch or rocky spot, into which you should lower yourself and hope for the best, which in this case would be a low-intensity blaze. But there are some things that can't be remedied by a helpful hint, and number one is blundering into a bruin (presumably without bear spray): "There's no sugarcoating it; this will suck." Playing dead while rolling yourself into a ball might work, but "if it doesn't give up on you within a minute, fight back with everything you have."

MONTANA AND WYOMING

For columnist Todd Wilkinson, writing in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the claim didn't compute: Three years ago, a group called Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd predicted that wolves would cause the largest migrating elk herd on Earth to become extinct in three years, while also turning the Yellowstone ecosystem into a "biological desert … a waste-land." Neither had happened the last we looked, though the then-chairman of the group, Robert T. Fanning Jr., continues to rail against wolves as he runs for governor of Montana on an anti-wolf platform. Wilkinson says he spent several days reading 50 different outfitter Internet sites to get a current picture of life for both elk herds and wolves living from the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming to the Canadian border. The result: "Not a single proprietor of guided hunts mentions anything remotely suggesting that wolves are annihilating elk herds or jeopardizing the quality of hunts." In fact, elk hunting seems to be as good as ever, with outfitters competing to lure hunters with fabulous tales of success in the still-wild wild. "Either clients are being fibbed to, or the public is. Which is it?"

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