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Weekly hunting-fishing report for the Inland Northwest

FISHING-HUNTING — The ice is almost gone from Sprague Lake this week, a harbinger of a new season to come.

Here's the latest hunting fishing report, posted today by S-R columnist Alan Liere. 

Chronic wasting disease still a threat to big game

HUNTING — Chronic wasting disease isn't getting the press it received a decade ago as the malady was being documented in deer and elk in several states and provinces. However, while stepped up testing programs from coast to coast are affirming that most areas remain disease free, CWD is still cropping up in new places, according to the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance.

For example, in testing done during the past hunting season:

  • MaryIand documented its first case of CWD in a deer.
  • Minnesota documented the first case in a deer outside of the fenced captive herd where CWD was documented in 2002.
  • Alberta tested 12 new cases in wild deer among more than 3,000 heads tested.
  • Nebraska found CWD in a record 52 of 3,645 deer tested, but found only a slight increase in the area where previous CWD cases had been detected.
  • South and North Dakota found 3 cases among 243 elk samples and 22 among 1,407 deer.

Washington and Idaho remain free of CWD.

CWD is a disease of the central nervous system in deer and elk that’s related to the “mad cow” disease that affects cattle. To date, there’s been no link between CWD and diseases that affect humans.

Wildlife officials throughout the country advise hunters to avoid eating the meat of any animal that shows symptoms of being anything less than 100 percent healthy. However, it's notable that the some of the states reporting deer testing positive to the disease also noted that the deer were otherwise healthy, according to the CWD Alliance's latest report.

Read on for more info on how CWD is affecting hunters.

Coyote is 10th critter documented with rabies in southern Oregon

WILDLIFE — A coyote has become the 10th animal in Josephine County to test positive for rabies over the past 13 months.

The coyote was found in the Cave Junction area, where seven foxes and one goat have all died from the disease. The other rabies victim was a fox near Merlin, The Mail Tribune reported.

The coyote has yet to be tested to determine whether it contracted the same strain of bat rabies found in the other dead animals.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say it’s likely that other animals have contracted rabies in the Cave Junction area.

“Maybe we hit the jackpot and it’s the only one,” said Colin Gillin, the department’s state wildlife veterinarian. “But normally, when you find it, it’s in others.”

Read on for more of the story moved by the Associated Press.

Hunting, fishing trends pegged in national status report

OUTDOOR TRENDS  – The ebb and flow of hunting and fishing is detailed in a recently released federal report  on hunting and fishing statistics.  For example:

  • The number of turkey hunters has increased at more than twice the rate of the growth of the U.S. population since 1991.
  • The number of duck and deer hunters has remained stable since 1991.
  • Turkey hunters in 2006 went out twice as many days as they did in 1991, and the rates for duck and deer hunters going out also increased by 20 percent to 40 percent.
  • While the overall number of hunters has declined, most of this can be attributed to a large decrease in small game and dove hunting. Rabbit and squirrel hunting lost half their participants since 1991, which may indicate that new hunter recruitment is declining.
  • Fishing participation has dropped for both freshwater and saltwater angling and for nearly all species of fish, with the exception of flatfish.
  • Anglers have increased their average days of fishing, so overall fishing efforts remained stable.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a new report, “Trends in Fishing and Hunting 1991-2006: A focus on Fishing and Hunting by Species,” that provides a detailed look at fishing and hunting by species and offers information on national and state fishing and hunting expenditures, participation rates and demographic trends. 

The 72-page report, an addendum to the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation, represents a comprehensive survey conducted by the Service’s Wildlife Sport Fish and Restoration Program. Data used to support the study were obtained from 11 fishing and hunting surveys sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Assn. of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

Read on for quotes on the meaning of the report:

Idaho Fish and Game chief Groen retiring

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The director of the Idaho Fish and Game Department has announced his retirment.

Cal Groen will leave his post as the agency's top man at the end of March and return to Lewiston, where he plans to spend much of his time hunting and fishing, according to today's story in the Lewiston Tribune.

Groen, 64, officially announced his retirement this morning at 10:15.

Read on for the rest of the story by Lewiston Outdoors writer Eric Barker:

Bill would restore hound hunting for cougars

OLYMPIA — Fifteen years after Washington voters banned using dogs to hunt cougars, lawmakers want to set permanent hunting seasons allowing licensed hunters to use hounds to track the cats, according to an Associated Press story.

The proposed bill, sponsored by Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, is the latest step in a seven-year process of addressing the 1996 ban through a pilot program aimed at testing cougar hunting seasons with dogs to stem the cougar conflict complaints that spiked after the ban.

The original three-year program has been extended twice so far.

Representatives from the Fish and Wildlife Commission say the pilot program has resulted in a 75 percent decline in confirmed complaints about cougars killing pets or livestock, or causing other problems.

Still, opponents of the bill say the use of hounds is cruel and inhumane, and is not being limited to public safety concerns.

The major opponent to the bill is the out-of-state-based Humane Society of the United States, which was a major funding source for the initiative campaign to ban hound hunting for cougars and bears.

HSUS is not affiliated with the “Humane Society” pet shelters that do the hard work of taking care of stray pets on a local level. Instead, HSUS is a multimillion-dollar conglomerate that mainly creates issues to feed its fundraising mission. 

I elaborated on this with details from the HSUS tax returns in this recent column, one of several on the subject.

Meantime, read on for more of the AP story from Olympia.

Hunter volunteers to help woman with coyote issue

HUNTING — When the Washington Fish and Wildlfie Department enforcement officer in Pend Oreille County received a call from a woman distressed about coyotes frequenting her yard, he had a cost-effective solution:   A hunter.

Officer Severin Erickson responded to the coyote complaint in Usk last week and learned the woman was afraid to let her animals out of the house because a pack of coyotes was visiting her home almost every morning and evening.

Her husband was out of state working and she was scared to shoot a firearm.

Erickson contacted a certified master hunter who was happy to hunt the coyotes for the lady starting the next day, Erickson reported.  The woman was very thankful for the help, WDFW officials said.

Spokane Region wildlife cops working on shocking angle

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT – Electrifying news comes today from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department:  Some wildlife enforcement officers are doing the preliminary work required to be able to equip themselves with Tasers.

Stay tuned, and  well-grounded.

Nuisance moose may get paint job from officers

WILDLIFE — Washington Fish Wildlife officers have been armed witha new weapon to deal with nuisance moose.

Six paint ball guns and accessories valued at more that $1,200 were given to the Spokane region thanks to a donation from the Northwest Sportsman’s Club in Spokane. 

The guns will be used primarily for hazing moose in the greater Spokane area and Pullman, according to Mike Whorton, spokane region enforcement chief.

Prolific poacher gets five months in jail

WILDLIFE ABUSE — The sentence: Just five months in jail for the man investigators say call the most prolific wildlife spree killer in Washington state history.

Cody Stearns of Western Washington was caught in an interview by KIRO TV as he left the courthouse last week after being convicted on five counts of poaching. Fish and Wildlife officers said they believe the man has killed more than a hundred animals and that the actual total could be much higher.

Even though he denied killing ANY animals, the KIRO website also includes a slideshow with graphic scenes sampling the evidence that piled up against Stearns.

Police detective accused of obstruction

A Spokane police detective has been placed on administrative leave after he was charged with obstructing a Fish and Wildlife law enforcement officer.

Detective Jeff Harvey, 46, who is vice president of the Spokane Police Guild, was charged with the misdemeanor offense last week in connection with a January incident in which it’s alleged he “did willfully hinder, delay and obstruct” an investigation into illegal hunting.

Capt. Mike Whorton, of the Region 1 office of the state Fish and Wildlife Police, said he could not comment beyond what was in the report.

“This is one individual. It certainly doesn’t reflect on the professionalism of the Spokane Police Department,” he said. “They are working with us on the case.”

Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said she placed Harvey on paid administrative leave at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“We will be thorough and complete in our investigation,” Kirkpatrick said. “He will remain on paid administrative leave for as long as it takes to do the internal investigation. The criminal matter needs to be handled independently of us.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Weekly fishing report finds hot spots for trout, steelhead

FISHING — Highlights from today's FISHING & HUNTING REPORT by SR columnist Al Liere include great shore fishing for trout at Lake Roosvelt and unusually good steelheading on the Clearwater River.  Check it out.

Sportsmen back Wildlife Commission at Legislature

OLYMPIA — Sportsmen jammed a state Senate hearing room Thursday and delivered this message to legislators over and over: Don't strip the Fish and Wildlife Commission of its authority in an attempt to save the state money.
The sportsmen were testifying before the state Senate Natural Resources and Marine Waters Committee on Senate Bill 5669, which would merge the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, and Recreation Conservation Office into a new Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Read on for the on-the-scene report by Allen Thomas, outdoors scribe for the Vancouver Columbian.

Lead shot banned for controlling nuisance wildlife

ENVIRONMENT — In an effort to reduce lead toxicity hazards to wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week that it has banned the use of lead ammunition for it's official control hunting of nuisance birds such as blackbirds, cowbirds, grackles, crows and magpies.

The agency often allows lethal control of these birds in areas where they congregate in numbers large enough to cause damage to crops or property or pose a health or safety hazard.

This new regulation will require the use of non-toxic ammunition in the control of these nuisance birds. 

“Depredation hunting tends to leave large amounts of highly toxic lead ammunition on the ground that non-target birds and other wildlife consume while mistaking it for food,” said Michael Fry, an avian toxicologist and advocacy director for the American Bird Conservancy.

“We have had many discussions with FWS about using non-toxic shot for all agency operations and we are very glad they have made this decision.”

“The paint industry got the lead out, the gasoline industry got the lead out, the toy industry got the lead out, the home building industry got the lead out of plumbing, and even the automotive industry most recently is getting the lead out of the wheel weights on cars,” Fry said. 
“The lethal impacts of lead in our environment are so well documented and accepted by the science and health community that any deliberate release of lead into a public environment should be viewed as unacceptable.”

State lands parking pass a tough sell in WA

PUBLIC LANDS — Washington's budget crisis is leaving lawmakers with the grim prospect of having to close perhaps 100 of the state's parks plus access sites at some recreation areas managed by other state agencies.

One of the solution's is a $30 Discover Pass user fee for vehicles accessing these public lands, detailed in my Outdoors column today. 

The hitch is that even if lawmakers approve the bill for a new vehicle parking pass, Washington residents have indicated they won't buy it.  

The State Parks Department experimented with a vehicle parking fee for day users at some sites beginning in 2003. But the Legislature rescinded the fee in 2006, after stepped-up enforcement triggered public opposition.

This time around the state parks have few other options. The governor's budget proposal offers no general fund money to the parks system.

Sportsmen have become accustomed to paying their way through excise taxes and license fees.  Hikers, birdwatchers and other outdoor groups have not.

The Washington Trails Association has seen the bottom line and realized a new funding source is desperatly needed to nurse state parks through this budget crisis. The group lobbied in Olympia Wednesday and urge support for the Discover Pass bill.

However, in the WTA magazine, the letters from hikers were clearly against a new parking pass required for public lands access.

People don't think twice about paying a fee for every text message they send, but they balk at paying for public land access and management through fees or taxes.  Where do we go from there?  

Trooper charged with poaching moose

SANDPOINT, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho State Police trooper accused of shooting a moose in Bonner County before the start of last fall's hunting season has been charged with misdemeanor poaching.

Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson says he filed a misdemeanor charge because Cpl. Jeff Jayne has agreed to plead guilty. Jayne has said he incorrectly memorized the dates for the start of hunting season.

A plea agreement calls for a $500 fine, six months of unsupervised probation and the revocation of Jayne's hunting and fishing privileges for two years.

Rare Utah mule deer tag bagged for $265,000

OUTBID– For the first time since at least 1981, mule deer on Utah’s Antelope Island will be in the cross hairs of a hunter’s rifle, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

A hunter won the right to kill one buck later this year on the 26,000-acre Utah state park with a bid of $265,000 during the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo held last weekend in Salt Lake City.

Hunting groups had been trying to get the Antelope Island hunting tags for more than a decade. One tag was approved last summer on a one-year trial basis, with the requirement that 90 percent of the money from the auctioned tags be used for wildlife habitat improvements on the island.

“I want the money going into habitat improvements, not toilet paper and plungers,” said Miles Moretti, president of the Utah-based Mule Deer Foundation, which helped auction the tag.  

The hunt will be the easy part. The deer are virtually tame.

ATVers want detour around Idaho Fish and Game laws

HUNTING — Some hunters who ride all-terrain vehicles to pursue their quarry have gone to the Idaho Legislature in a bid to expand where they can drive, according to a story just moved by the Associated Press.

Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, is giving the off-roaders some traction with a bill that would strip the Idaho Fish and Game Department's authority to regulate where hunters can ride their ATVs.

The agency limits ATV travel by hunters during hunting seasons to established roads on about a third of Idaho’s 99 hunting units, mostly in the open spaces of southern Idaho.

The agency has made the case through research that restrictions are needed to protect big-game herds from overhunting and too much disturbance.

But some ATV riders told the Senate and House resource committees today in Boise that they see the state agency in cahoots with the federal government to limit access to public lands.

Those people clearly have not paid attention to the evolution of Fish and Game's ATV restrictions.

Idaho sportsmen who don't use ATV's have been the strongest voice against unregulated ATV use during hunting seasons  — not Uncle Sam.

Read on for another news item, just moved, that impacts Idaho ATVers.

Apply for Idaho turkey, bear hunts by Feb. 15

HUNTING — The application period for  Idaho's spring turkey and black bear controlled hunts is open and runs through Feb. 15.

Spring turkey and spring black bear seasons start April 15 – some controlled hunts open later. Leftover tags for spring turkey and bear controlled hunts go on sale April 1.

Information on spring hunts is available in Idaho's new upland game and turkey rules. Spring 2011 bear hunts are listed in the 2010 big game rules brochures. New controlled hunt numbers can be found online here.

Online applications can be made here.  You must have a 2011 Idaho hunting license to apply.

WA mandatory hunter reports due Monday

HUNTING — Washington hunters must file their season's hunting activity report by Monday for each black bear, deer, elk, or turkey tag they purchased in 2010.

Whether successful or not, hunters are are required to file the reports by phone or online or face a $10 fine, payable before a hunter can purchase a 2011 license.
Read on for details.

Hunting season’s over, bull elk know it

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A herd of more than 60 elk, mostly mature bulls, was photographed recently in Utah by a Uinta County Sheriff as he waited for the herd to cross the road ahead of him about 12 miles out of Evanston.

Hunting season is over, but the shed hunting seaons ought to be awesome in this area.


Winter-feeding is in full swing at the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department's Oak Creek Wildlife Area 15 miles northwest of Yakima. Visitors are welcome to watch hundreds of hungry elk and bighorn sheep gather to dine on alfalfa hay and pellets — a program designed to keep them off of nearby agricultural lands when winter forces them down from the high country.

Oak Creek visitors can check the recorded message on the headquarters phone (509) 653-2390 for updates on feeding and elk-viewing tours. Tour reservations must be made at least 48 hours in advance by calling (509) 698-5106.

Click here for driving instructions and more info.


Hunt accident story makes Landers see orange

HUNTING SAFETY —  A 35-year-old eastern Idaho man who lost his right lung and most of the use of his right arm after being mistakenly shot during hunting season last fall is in the news for stating publically that he’s frustrated the shooter is facing only a misdemeanor.

The Associated Press reports that Korby Hansen of Rexburg says his medical bills are close to $400,000 and that he expects those to increase after being hit with a 12-gauge shotgun slug fired by 57-year-old Mark Later of Rigby in October.  The two men were hunting whitetails in Madison County when the accident occurred near the end of legal shooting hours

Later faces a misdemeanor charge of injuring another by careless handling and discharge of a firearm. Hansen wants Later charged with felony aggravated battery, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Reading past reports on this accident, it’s staggering to consider how preventable it was.

Hansen was wearing camouflage in a firearms hunting area.

Later, who was hunting with another party, said he took a shot a late-day movement he thought was a deer.

Wearing hunter orange clothing, as is required in most states such as Montana, would have almost certainly prevented this accident.

And if it didn’t, Hansen would have had a better case to ask for an even stronger charge – attempted murder.

Bill would give loons status against poachers

OLYMPIA — A bill has been introduced in the Washington Legislature that would, among other things, give loons and trumpeter swans some clout against a poacher's bank acount.

When a  Newport-area man senselessly killed a common loon at Yocum Lake a few years ago, Washington Fish and Wildlife authorities could do little more than write him a ticket for just under $300.

Senate Bill 5201 would increase the fine to $2,000 for killing a loon, ferruginous hawk, bald eagle, peregrine falcon; tundra swan or trumpeter swan.


Sportsmen-related bills entered in Olympia

OLYMPIA — Here' s a sampling of legislation of interest to sportsmen that's been introduced in the Washington Legislature and is up for major public hearings. It's a version reduced from a list being watched by the Fishing and Hunting Natural Resources Forum.

SB 5201 and companion bill HB 1248 regarding issues that impact the department of fish and wildlife: The bill has a variety of measures, such as increasing the prenalty for poaching protected wildlife such as eagles, swans and loons to $2,000.  The bill also would prohibit feeding bears, cougars and wolves.

Scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources & Marine Waters at 1:30 p.m. today.  House version scheduled for public hearing in Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 26.

 HB 1124 and companion SB 5356 establishing seasons for hunting cougars with the aid of dogs: sThe bill would extend the current pilot project to allow hound hunting for northern tier counties from Chelan across to Pend Oreille. It's being oppposed by groups such as the Humane Society of the United States. 

Referred to Agriculture & Natural Resources; public hearing held on Jan 18; scheduled for executive action on Jan. 25 at 10 a.m.

SB 5112 restrictions on firearm noise suppressors:

Scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Committee on Judiciary at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 26.

 HB 1095 Regarding payments in lieu of taxes for lands managed by the department of fish and wildlife:

Scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 26.

 House Bill 1387 and companion Senate Bill 5385, increasing revenue to the state wildlife account: Would increase most hunting and fishing licenes fees, although a few would be decreased.

House bill is scheduled for public hearing the House Committee on General Government Appropriations & Oversight at 1:30 p.m. on Jan 27.

Hunting, fishing fee increase bill introduced

OLYLMPIA — Legislation was introduced Thursday for the first across-the-board increase in Washington hunting and fishing license fees in 14 years, according to a report by Allen Thomas of the Vancouver Columbian.


House Bill 1387 would result in an increase in revenue from hunting licenses of 7.3 percent, 12.6 percent from sport-fishing licenses and 51.4 percent from commercial licenses.


The measure was introduced at the request of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. A companion measure is expected to be introduced in the Senate.


“This legislation is our top priority for this legislative session,'' said Phil Anderson, director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Its outcome will greatly determine this department's  ability to maintain fishing and hunting opportunities and move forward with conservation efforts around the state.'' 


Some West Side sportsmen's groups are not supporting the increass. And of course the bill is just another reason on the West Side to heat up the debate on commercial vs. sport fishing.


Read on for more details in the Columbian's story.

Bird season ends in gale of excitement

UPLAND BIRD HUNTING — Rain was splattering on the windshield and the wind was blowing so hard up the Snake River canyon on Monday morning it rocked the pickup after I shut down the engine. 

That wasn't a good sign for two guys and a dog getting ready to head up the basalt-rock slopes in pursuit of notoriously wild-flushing chukars.

But it was the last day of Washington's 2010-2011 upland bird season, so we gave it our best.

My English setter, Scout, immediately raced up to a ridge and stuck a covey of Huns with a tail-to the-sky point he held for several minutes while we climbed up. The birds flushed fairly wild with the velocity of feathered bottle rockets.  Birds 1, hunters 0.

Throughout the rest of the day, Scout performed well, although the strong winds led to a few false points, or at least we thought so.  One time we walked down toward a point far below us with our eyes watering like faucets. No birds were there when we arrived but we weren't sure if they'd flushed. “I couldn't see my eyes were watering so bad,” Jim said.  And the howling wind would have washed out any sound of flushing wings.

Both of us were nearly blown off our feet a couple of times. We looked down on the Snake River to see the wind sometimes whipping up spouts of water at least 100 feet high.

A waterfall pouring down a basalt cliff from this week's runoff was occasionally reversed into a “waterup” by gusts that shot the stream toward the sky.

In the end, the partridges did not get a shut out on the three of us. But teamed with the wind, they definitely won. 

Hunter haunted by local shooting comment

OUTDOOR ETHICS — During a public meeting Tuesday in Spokane attended mostly by hunters and anglers, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department Director Phil Anderson was asked why the state isn't more aggressive about killing wolves.

Anderson explained the recent federal court ruling that returned the gray wolf to the endangered species list. He said gray wolves were under federal jurisdiction at this time, leaving states few lethal control options to manage wolves.

To that, a man in the audience blurted out, “Why don’t we shoot some legislators?”

Several people gasped. Anderson stood speechless at the front of the room.

A few men quietly commented “That’s not funny,” and “You can’t say that.”

Bravo to those who didn't let it slide. 

But It seemed that one hunter should have stood up, commanded everyone’s attention, and said, “Excuse me. Before we continue, it’s important to point out that comment was deeply disrespectful to all elected officials and just as deeply offensive to anyone who calls himself a sportsman.”

More of my thoughts on this incident are in coming Saturday on the newspaper's op-ed page.

Meantime:  Your thoughts?

Dining out in the duck blind

WATERFOWLING — A friend told me today that his fingers were cramping shut after plucking waterfowl from a productive hunt. Been there, done that.

Nowadays I tend to breast-out most of my waterfowl.

A fun way to use duck legs is in the blind itself.  Bring along a small barbecue and briquettes. After your group acquires a few ducks, remove the duck legs, sprinkle with Cajun seasoning or whatever suits your taste; then wrap in bacon using a toothpick to fasten it on.

Enjoy the warmth from the grill, the aroma and a great mash-shore snack while waiting for the next round of incomers.

Wildlife officers keep eye on cougar hunters, snowmobilers

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife enforcement officers kept busy with the usual wide range of efforts last week, but they gave special attention to the opening of the cougar hound-hunting season in northeast Washington and they wrote tickets for snowmobiling violations ranging from missing registrations and Sno-Park permits to riding in prohibited areas.

They made 29 stops at Mount Spokane to help educate snowmobilers about the changes in where snowmobiling is allowed this year. Three citations were issued.

Read on to see a few other highlights that caught my eye from the weekly wildlife enforcement report for this region:

Oprah gives hunting positive ink

HUNTING MEDIA — Stories about hunting are routine here in The Spokesman-Review's Outdoors coverage, but a hunting story in Oprah's O magazine is significant news.

The December issue of O includes an article by Kimberly Hiss, who detailed her challenges and emotions in deciding to bag her own wild turkey for the holiday dinner table.

“This is a really big step for hunting,” said Brent Lawrence, public relations director for the National Wild Turkey Federation. “Many mainstream media outlets, particularly women's publications, shy away from positive hunting stories. This wonderful article gives a voice to millions of hunters and provides valuable insight to non-hunters.”

“For every turkey wrap or club sandwich I'd ever eaten, something had been killed for my benefit - I'd just never done the killing myself,” Hiss wrote. “The deer hunt invitation seemed an opportunity, a challenge even, to reclaim my place in the food chain by assuming responsibility for the meat on my plate.”

Hiss, who endured cold and snow last December on the hunt near Kearney, Neb., used virtually every part of the bird. She made table decorations from the tail feathers and donated the remaining feathers to the NWTF's feather distribution program for Native American tribes.

To read the article, click here.