Friday, April 01, 2005

Salt Lake City - Following an investigation into last month’s incident in which an avalanche control shell missed its target, the Utah Department of Transportation today announced it will suspend use of its Howitzer Cannon in Provo Canyon for the remainder of the season.

UDOT’s investigation found there was a breakdown in the procedure that is followed prior to firing avalanche control shots from the 105mm cannon. Further, the Department determined human error was to blame for the breakdown.

“I’m confident that had our procedure been followed properly, this incident would not have occurred,” said UDOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras.

UDOT avalanche control workers follow a step-by-step procedure prior to firing each shot. One of the steps calls for the assistant gunner to observe the loader “prepare the round by removing the correct number of (propellant) bags” from the shell. In this case, the loader did not remove the correct number of propellant bags from the shell. Additionally, the assistant gunner was not observing the loader.

The Department will take disciplinary action against the two employees involved, but at this time that action has not been determined.

“We will continue to evaluate our avalanche control procedures to ensure safeguards are implemented that will prevent this type of incident from happening again,” Braceras said.

UDOT officials are confident those safeguards will be implemented in time to resume use of the Howitzer Cannon for avalanche control work next season.

“Fortunately, we’re at a point in the year where the need to conduct control work in Provo Canyon is beginning to diminish,” Braceras said.

Spring weather typically allows more opportunities for control work to be conducted using a helicopter to drop hand-charges into the avalanche paths. If further control work is required in Provo Canyon this would be the method UDOT will use.

12:06:10 PM    

Good news came from chronic wasting disease sampling conducted by the Division of Wildlife Resources this past fall — the disease that's fatal to deer and elk does not appear to be spreading in Utah.

The DWR tested 3,067 samples from deer and elk taken during last fall's hunting seasons. A total of seven mule deer tested positive for the disease. All of these deer came from the La Sal Mountains in southeastern Utah, which is one of three areas where chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been found in Utah.

The seven hunters who took the deer were contacted by the DWR and were made aware of the findings.

Final 2004 chronic wasting disease findings

"We met our CWD sample goals on most of our units, but fell short in a few of them," says Leslie McFarlane, wildlife disease specialist for the DWR.

"We also started testing elk this year," she said. "We collected 405 samples from elk taken in the La Sal Mountains and near Vernal, and none of the samples tested positive for CWD. We'll continue testing both deer and elk in those areas this year."

In addition to the La Sal Mountains, CWD has been found in deer in the Vernal area in the past. A total of 438 deer and 226 elk samples were collected from that area this fall. None of the animals tested positive for CWD.

The Fountain Green area in central Utah is the third area where a CWD-positive deer has been found in the past. The DWR tested 607 deer samples from the area last year and did not find CWD in any of the samples.

"It doesn't appear that the disease is spreading to new areas in Utah, and it isn't spreading much even in the areas where we've found it in the past," McFarlane said. "We're happy with what we found in 2004, but there's still more work to do."

McFarlane says the DWR started sampling deer in southwestern and western Utah in 2004. Those are the only areas in the state where CWD sampling had not been done in the past.

"We need at least one more year of data from southwestern and western Utah to determine whether we have CWD in those areas," she said. "We also need to continue sampling elk in areas where we've found CWD before we can draw conclusions about whether elk populations in Utah have CWD. CWD isn't as prevalent in elk as it is in deer, so we're hopeful that we'll find the state's elk herds are unaffected by the disease."

CWD Sampling in 2005

McFarlane says the DWR will continue sampling for CWD across Utah in 2005. In addition, the DWR has started a special study on the La Sal Mountains to learn more about the behavior and migration patterns of deer in the area.

"It's important for people to remember that there is currently no evidence that CWD can be naturally transmitted to humans or livestock," McFarlane said. "It also does not appear to cause catastrophic die offs in deer or elk populations."

People can learn more about CWD by logging onto the DWR's Web site at

Another excellent source of information is a national Web site ran by the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance ( This site includes links to CWD information on other Web sites, including Wisconsin's, which contains some excellent information about CWD.

12:03:36 PM    

(Salt Lake City, UT) –The Utah Cancer Action Network and Utah Department of Healt h, in conjunction wit h Envirocare and The Children ’s Museum of Utah, will host an educational exhibit featuring the Colossal Colon ® from April 1 ­8 at the future home of the Children ’s Museum at The Gateway.

The Colossal Colon ® is a 40 ­foot long, 4 ­foot tall, crawl ­through replica of the human colon designed to educate the public about colorectal cancer. It includes examples of healt hy colon tissue, several non ­cancerous diseases of the colon, polyps, and various stages of colon cancer.

The Colossal Colon ® exhibit is free and open to the public beginning at noon on Friday, April 1. Hours of operation will be Monday through Saturday from noon unt il 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon until 5 p.m.

Physicians and other health professionals will be available to answer quest ions. Educational information about colon cancer will be available at all times. "The Colossal Colon is a great way for people in the communit y of all ages to get information on colon cancer and why it is important to get screened," said Jan Heins, UCAN spokesperson at the Utah Department of Health. "We hope that everyone will take advantage of this opportunit y to tour the Colossal Colon."

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Almost 150,000 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year, and more than 55,000 of them will die. Fortunately, colon cancer is also one of the most preventable cancers – more than 90 percent of all cases could be prevented through proper screening methods.

The Colossal Colon ® ’s visit to Salt Lake Cit y is presented by the Utah Cancer Action Network, Utah Department of Health, Envirocare and The Children ’s Museum of Utah. For more information, call 1 ­888 ­424 ­2100 or visit

12:02:31 PM    

PRICE, UTAH — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) is offering a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the shooting and killing of a golden eagle in the Pinnacle Peak area just west of Price. The shooting occurred in mid-March.

"There is no excuse for this type of senseless killing," asserted UDWR Sergeant Carl Gramlich. "The wanton destruction of this majestic bird tarnishes the image of all gun owners and sportsmen. It makes us all look bad."

Golden eagles are common year-round residents in Castle Country. By mid-March, many pairs of eagles are incubating eggs. The shooting of an adult usually results in nest failure and the loss of chicks which may have been raised by the pair of eagles.

Anyone with information on this or any poaching incident is encouraged to call the DWR office in Price at (435) 636-0277. The caller's identity will be held in strict confidence or may remain anonymous. We ask that the caller provide enough detail to help substantiate the validity of the information.

11:59:33 AM