Texas Is Mulling a Ban on Pouring Gasoline into Rattlesnake Burrows

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Tigerhawkvok
At some unknown point in the not-too-distant past, after the advent of the internal combustion engine, human beings discovered that pouring volatile chemicals into underground burrows made it much, much easier to hunt rattlesnakes and other critters.

The practice, aptly called "gassing," caught on and has been in use in Texas ever since.

"What people do is take gasoline or kerosene or other noxious substance and pour enough of it down into an animal burrow to create a vapor that forces them out," said Texas Parks & Wildlife spokesman Mike Cox. "That's the main idea: it messes up the atmosphere enough inside the burrow to force them to come out."

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SMU Will Deploy Seismic Monitors Around Azle to Learn Source of Earthquake Swarms

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The shaking around Azle and Reno, which I will hereafter refer to as "San Andreas Minor," has attracted the attention of the U.S. Geological Survey precisely because the area has almost no record of seismic activity. A few studies, including one recently from SMU, point to correlation between the epicenter of the earthquake swarms and the locations of underground injection wells for fracking wastewater.

However, there isn't enough granular, on-site seismic data to draw hard conclusions yet. It's thought that the injection alters the bedrock stresses on faulting in this area, inducing slippages that produce quakes like the magnitude 3.6 detected in near Azle just a few days ago. The USGS says this is entirely possible, but to arrive at that degree of certainty, it needs more data, which is why it just lent SMU four seismic monitors to be positioned in private homes, public buildings and schools in the area.

Another entity with an intimidating acronym, Program for Array Seismic Studies of the Continental Lithosphere (PASSCAL), will provide some 15 sensors to the effort. "We are first going to focus in on where the earthquakes have been occurring -- about a five- to six-mile area near Reno and Azle," said Heather DeShon, SMU associate professor of geophysics. "How long the monitors remain depends on continued seismicity. We're thinking a few months."

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SMU Researchers Suggest Link Between North Texas Earthquakes and Fracking Wells -- Again

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A team of researchers at SMU has reached a conclusion that may seem obvious to those who have felt the 20-plus earthquakes that rattled North Texas last month: The recent bursts of seismic activity could be linked to fracking.

The researchers, led by recent SMU grad Ashley Justinic, took a close look at the cluster of quakes in and around Cleburne in 2009 and 2010. The data offer no definitive proof that they were tied to gas drilling, but suggest that they may have something to do with the injection of fracking wastewater into the ground.

"Because there were no known previous earthquakes, and the located events were close to the two injection wells and near the injection depth, the possibility exists that earthquakes may be related to fluid injection," Justinic and her coauthors write in their report.

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Dallas Arboretum Children's Garden's Former Manager: "Everything Over There Is a Clusterfuck"

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Dallas Arboretum
When it opened last month, the Rory Meyers Children's Adventure Garden received mostly glowing reviews, and understandably so. It's hard not to be at least a little awed by a $62 million science playground that packs more than 150 interactive exhibits into eight prime acres at the Dallas Arboretum.

For Melissa Wright, the woman hired to run the operation, the magic wore off fast. "There's nothing good to say," she told Unfair Park on Tuesday afternoon, describing the garden as a "debacle." Then, she settled on a choicer phrase. "It is a clusterfuck, honestly. Everything over there is a clusterfuck."

Wright, if you haven't already guessed, no longer works at the arboretum. She quit in frustration after two months on the job with plans to reopen The Lab, the quirky, free-wheeling kids' science space she ran for three years in East Dallas. She has a tough time summing up her complaints, which are voluminous, but she gave it a shot.

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East Texas Researcher Who "Proved" Bigfoot's Existence Says Her Website Was Hacked

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A closeup of sasquatch's face, from Ketchum's part of Ketchum's "definitive video and DNA evidence" of Bigfoot.
Melba Ketchum, the veterinarian-turned-fulltime Bigfoot crusader from Nacogdoches has been riding high this month. First, she and her team released "definitive video and DNA evidence" of the creature's existence and its kinship with human beings. Then, online animal nomenclature database Zoobank accepted her proposal to give sasquatch the scientific name of Homo sapiens cognatus -- a "natural choice," seeing as they're the only "living proven hominin besides us."

Ketchum sensed that victory was just over the horizon. "We are slowly winning the battle with our massive amount of genetic data!," she tweeted. "Sasquatch is real and any open minded scientist is going to know."

The skeptics must have sensed this, too, since Ketchum discovered that the website for Denovo, the scientific journal she either created or purchased after others refused to publish her findings, had been hacked.


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The Dallas Safari Club Will Save the Endangered Black Rhino by Auctioning Off the Chance to Shoot One

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The black rhino is teetering on the edge of extinction, and it has been for some time. Their numbers have dropped precipitously over the past several decades, dwindling from several hundred thousand a century ago to a couple thousand a decade ago, partly from habitat loss but mostly from poachers. Rhino horns fetch a premium on the black market, typically from practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine who believe they can cure a wide array of ailments, from snakebites to devil possession. Their numbers have recovered slightly in recent years -- there are now 5,055 according to the nonprofit Save the Rhino -- but the pressure is unrelenting.

The Dallas Safari Club is on a mission to save the black rhino, and it plans to do so in the most counterintuitive way possible: by offering up the chance to shoot one of them dead.

It's not every day that hunters get to open fire on an endangered species, but the DSC got a special permit from the government of Namibia, and a green light from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to hunt one of that country's 1,800 remaining black rhinos. The club will auction it off at its big annual convention in January.

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Dallas' Wastewater Is Actually Making the Trinity River Cleaner

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Flickr user fusionpanda
It's fun to joke about the filthiness of the Trinity River. It's even more fun to remind Houston that all that urine and feces and prescription medication we flush down our toilets winds up in their water glasses. By all means, this should continue.

At the same time, it's worth being mindful of a tiny piece of irony: The millions of gallons of wastewater that Dallas, Fort Worth, and their upstream neighbors are sending down there are actually making it cleaner.

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The Trinity Forest is Getting a Zip-Line Park

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The Southern Cross, via Facebook
At some point the Great Trinity Forest, that relatively untrammeled expanse of foliage in southern Dallas, will have reached capacity for grand, high-profile amusements. That hasn't happened yet.

In November, the Trinity Forest Aerial Adventure Park will make its debut on seven wooded acres off Dowdy Ferry Road just north of I-20. It's a zip line course, or six of them, really, with all the accompanying ladders, rope bridges, and platforms those entail.

Here's how the operation is described on its website:

Reconnect with nature in a place far away from the concrete jungle.  No worries here.  No work deadlines, no phones, no internet, no North Dallas traffic jams. Just smooth sailing.  A little bit o'country right here in the Big City.  Recharge, reconnect.  Log off, then log on for a brand new Adventure.  Come play at the Trinity Forest Adventure Park!
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Patrick, the Dallas Zoo's Sexist Gorilla, Has a Friend in NPR

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Patrick the gorilla
Patrick, the Dallas Zoo's recently departed lowland gorilla, was never quite a social butterfly, but he wasn't always quite so angry, either. Embittered by his best friend's death at the hands of Dallas police in 2004, he retreated further into himself, lashing out at his fellow primates -- especially the females zookeepers hoped he would mate with.

And so, when the Dallas Zoo decided to send him to a South Carolina facility after 18 years of trying to get him to shape up, the storyline was too good for the media to pass up. "'Sexist' gorilla being kicked out of Dallas Zoo," the New York Daily News announced. "Male Dallas Zoo gorilla to get therapy for sexist attitude," NBC News proclaimed.

The Dallas Zoo, apparently unfamiliar with the Internet, expressed shock and dismay at the "sensationalism and inaccuracy" of the news reports and attempted to set the record straight.

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In Dallas Yesterday, Researchers Unveiled "Definitive Video and DNA Evidence" of Bigfoot

Dr. Melba Ketchum, the East Texas veterinarian turned Bigfoot-hunting geneticist, is at a loss to explain why the scientific community refuses to take her research seriously.

"It's been rather painful," she explained in an exclusive, one-on-one interview with WFAA. "I was naive when I went into this. I thought science would welcome new information."

Not so. Her work with the Sasquatch Genome Project, which recently sequenced Bigfoot's DNA to discover that the creature is part human, has been met with ridicule by those outside of the cryptozoological community.

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