Alaska Digest

Posted: Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Low-level eruptions continue at volcano

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ANCHORAGE - Pavlof Volcano on the Aleutian arc continued to vigorously erupt lava Monday, the Alaska Volcano Observatory reported.

A steady stream of earthquakes and flowing lava continued throughout the day at one of Alaska's most active volcanoes, located about 600 miles southwest of Anchorage.

"The activity's been continuing at pretty much the same level it's been at," volcano seismologist Steve McNutt said late Monday.

A team of scientists visited the volcano over the weekend to observe it and to install several new instruments, including a low-frequency pressure sensor and a Web camera. The camera is not yet online, but McNutt said it could be up and running in about two days.

The team was expected to return Monday evening.

McNutt said he thinks the volcano could be in for a major, more explosive eruption.

In the past, the volcano has maintained low-level eruptions for several months, broken up by a few large-scale, explosive eruptions.

Scientists said the primary hazard of this eruption is airborne ash, which could disrupt air traffic in the event of a major explosion at the volcano. So far, ash from the eruption has stayed below 15,000 feet above sea level, the observatory reported.

When Pavlof erupted in 1996, the ash cloud reached as high as 30,000 feet above sea level, and in 1986 it reached as high as 49,000 feet.

The observatory is maintaining aviation color code "orange" and volcanic activity alert level "watch."

Russian River bears, anglers getting along

ANCHORAGE - The bears and anglers lining the Russian River are getting along better this summer. The bears for the most part have been behaving themselves, even though the humans are not always following new rules to foster a more peaceful coexistence.

Bear encounters last year got a bit heated, resulting in anglers shooting charging bears, including a brown bear with cubs.

While some bears this year have gotten into a few backpacks and fish stringers, no one reported an especially threatening run-in.

However, despite new signs and repeated public requests to chop salmon carcasses into bits that are less likely to attract bears, full carcasses continued to wash downstream.

"I'm very happy we haven't had any major issues out there," said Alaska Fish and Game biologist Jeff Selinger, who at the season's start had anticipated several carcass-conditioned grizzlies camping out in the area. "We still have some things to work on - mainly the carcasses."

Going into the season, state and federal agencies announced an aggressive effort to eliminate conflict. It was to include marking bears with dye. But the first time Selinger darted one of the grizzlies to mark it with a distinguishing color for observation, the tranquilizer projectile pierced the bear's liver, killing it.

Since then, the only bears that approached humans and became possible candidates for marking were sows with cubs, Selinger said. Biologists decided against risking orphaning the cubs.

The recent calm between humans and bears may be a simple matter of numbers. The late run of Russian River sockeye - 65,000 by this week last year - amounted to just 26,000 by Monday.

Bears remain in the area but the number of anglers has thinned, said Bobbi Jo Skibo, a Chugach National Forest employee who coordinates Russian River bear management for state and federal agencies and the Kenaitze Indian Tribe.

Anchorage considers new rules for pets

ANCHORAGE - Proposed rule changes would require that Mr. Whiskers the rabbit find a new home.

The rules to be considered by the Anchorage Assembly would ban many animals from small backyards, from ferrets to chickens to bunnies.

The proposed revisions to the city's Title 21 zoning code ban geese, roosters and turkeys outright and disallow backyard pets other than dogs in all mobile home parks.

The rules would limit the number of small backyard animals to three on regular residential lots smaller than 10,000 square feet.

Any pet's pen has to be 10 feet from the property line, and pet owners must buy a permit every two years at a cost of $115, said Erika McConnell, a city planner.

The rules are an effort to find a balance - allowing pets that don't make noise on most residential lots, but also making sure there are not too many and that there's space to insulate neighbors, she said.

Regulations are needed to deal with problem pet owners, supporters say.

Existing rules for backyard pets are confusing, said Maria Martin, spokeswoman for Animal Control. But as far as Animal Control is concerned, if animals are well taken care of, they're fine. There's no chicken limit, but four rabbits require a permit.

There is currently a little-known, little-enforced section of Title 21 that prohibits any animal that isn't a dog - be it chicken, rabbit, dove, pigeon, cat or ferret - from being caged outside on the average R-1-zoned single-family residential lot, unless the pen is 100 feet from the property line. Most R-1 lots aren't that big. So, technically, most backyard pets in pens aren't legal.

Karan Nixon, who rescues bunnies, including Mr. Whiskers, says the proposed rules aren't realistic. She said many people have more than three rabbits, adding that a crackdown would only deluge Animal Control with orphaned animals.

The city is taking public comment for possible revisions to this and other code changes in September. All the changes to Title 21 must be approved by the Assembly.

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