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Gulf oil disaster for wildlife

Oil that gushed for months from BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil well blowout was devastating to a wide range of fish and wildlife populations and their habitats. Among the lawsuits that began coming forward this fall and winter is one by the Defenders of Wildlife that charges the disaster has and will continue to kill endangered and threatened species, including whales, manatees, birds and sea turtles.

The Gulf region is home to at least 27 endangered or threatened species. The rig explosion killed 11 workers and spilled 4.1 million barrels of oil. More than 600 sea turtles were found dead and another 456 were found alive but soiled with oil. More than 4,300 oiled birds were found, more than half of them dead. Long-term impacts on wildlife are unclear.

500 times on top of Rainier

George Dunn, 56, extended his Mount Rainier climbing record to more than 500 ascents. A mountain guide since the 1970s, Dunn has logged more than 4.5 million vertical feet and 9,000 miles of climbing in a string of two- or three-day endurance tests on the 14,411-foot peak. And the numbers don’t include the 100 or so times he’s had to turn around short of the summit because of poor weather or other hazards.

Of the thousands of people who’ve climbed Rainier, most do it only once. Eight have climbed the mountain 300 times and three have logged 400 summits.

“But it’s not about numbers,” said Dunn, a director at Ashford’s International Mountain Guides. “The beautiful thing about this job is the people I’ve met and getting to share lifetime memories with them.”

Youngest climber on Everest

Jordan Romero, 13, of Big Bear, Calif., became the youngest person to reach 29,035 feet and the summit of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak.

The feat in late May whipped up controversy in climbing circles on whether there should be minimum age for trekking into the death zone. He left for the peak with three Sherpa guides from base camp on the Chinese side. Unlike neighboring Nepal, the other approach to Everest, China has no age limit for climbers.

Monitors killed on Clearwater

Tragedy struck the Idaho Fish and Game Department on Aug. 31 when fisheries biologists Danielle Schiff, 34, and Larry Barrett, 47, were killed in a helicopter crash with pilot Perry J. Krinitt, 43, while doing Clearwater River salmon surveys.

River pike boom continues

Northern pike continued to populating the Pend Oreille River with the enthusiasm of immigrants lured to a paradise of free land, free love, no taxes and all the food they can consume.

Even researchers were amazed by the number s of the toothy predators they caught in May in a gillnet study on the region’s newest boomtown fishery.

Research indicates the non-native pike increased 640 percent from 2004 to 2010 in the Box Canyon Reservoir portion of the river.