February 5, 2009

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

I know there is some type of saying that goes… burn me once, shame on you; burn me twice, shame on me. I’ve also heard it said, fool me once…

Mr. Gullible here has decided to try to put this cliché to music for my new theme song.

For the second time in the past month or so, I received a rather intriguing set of photographs in my e-mail regarding local wildlife.

If you remember back to December, the Memphis Democrat ran an article regarding an e-mail hoax pertaining to mountain lion photos allegedly taken in northeast Missouri by a trail camera.

I received those images in my e-mail, just like most of you readers did. The note attached to the pictures stated they were taken in Knox County. As we later learned, that was not the case. With the help of Conservation Agent Gary Miller, we tracked down information through the Missouri Department of Conservation that revealed the photos had been taken in South Dakota.

The funny thing was, we weren’t the first folks to be duped by the hoax. Those same images had made the e-mail circuits in numerous other communities, whipping up a frenzy among the willing believers in communities across the Midwest.

I was pretty skeptical regarding the big cats, so I wasn’t too surprised by the news.

Less than a month later however, another apparent e-mail tall tale found my inbox, and this time I wasn’t quite as suspicious.

The most recent “news” was a series of photos of a pair of quail hunters who reportedly stumbled across the remains of a record-setting buck while chasing birds right here in Scotland County.

There were five or six images of the two men, holding up the massive rack, which the story said had been rough scored at a whopping 265. The image showed that this deer had been found intact, with some obvious deteriorating caused by aging on the ground following the animals demise from whatever cause, natural or otherwise.

Unlike the mountain lion, where the surroundings were far from common for Scotland County, these deer pictures displayed native habitat that is normally found in our locale. While I didn’t recognize either men by name, for some reason both seemed familiar to me.

So forgetting being burned once, I set out scorching myself a second time, wasting my time trying to track down the origin of the e-mails. If this deer really scored 265, I wanted to find the new owners of the trophy to do an interview and to get additional pictures for publication in the newspaper.

I started my investigation, once again contacting Gary Miller, while also doing some computer work trying to find the source.

Apparently some of my fellow mountain lion suckers had learned their lesson better than I had. I can just see them now, whistling my theme song as they investigated the latest hoax with a few searches on the Internet.

It wasn’t long before I got a few replies from other recipients of this original e-mail. These new messages showed other pictures of what appeared to be this same deer. These e-mail shots showed different owners holding the deer, proclaiming it was found in Illinois. That was the scuttle in the MDC offices as well, so as of now I’ve put my trophy deer find story on hold.

If I find out anything else, I’ll let you all know. Well until my next great scoop comes across the net, I’ll be signing off. I have to go now, I smell something burning…

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