Zoo Boise

A baby North American porcupine has been born at Zoo Boise.  The male baby, called a “porcupette,” was born July 27 to parents Zeus and Athena.  The baby is now on exhibit at the zoo.

The baby weighed 468 grams when it was born.  Porcupettes are born with soft quills, to give mom a break during the birthing process.  Those quills harden 30 minutes after birth.

Zoo officials say first-time mom Athena has been taking good care of the baby.  He has grown to 538 grams in the last few days.

Diane Gilleland / Flickr

The Northwest is known for its love of coffee. Now evidence of that is showing up in the Pacific Ocean. Researchers have found low levels of caffeine at half a dozen locations on the Oregon Coast.

Caffeine does not occur naturally in the environment in the Pacific Northwest. Marine scientists believe the java jolt gets into seawater through treated sewage and septic runoff.

Dave Fotsch / Central District Health Department

A woman from Twin Falls has tested positive for the West Nile Virus. It’s the first confirmed case in Idaho this year.

Dave Fotsch of the Central District Health Department says mosquitoes tested positive in Ada, Canyon, and Payette counties. According to the Ada County Weed, Pest, and Mosquito Abatement website, the virus has also been found in west Boise.

Fotsch says West Nile’s peak year came in 2006, with almost one-thousand confirmed cases and 23 deaths. Since then, Fotsch says it’s tapered off, with only three cases last year.

metaroll / Flickr

A week ago, the U-S Department of Agriculture sent out a newsletter encouraging employees to take part in a Meatless Monday initiative.  The USDA said meat production creates greenhouse gases, wastes resources, and uses pesticides.  Now Idaho’s Mike Crapo and a handful of other Senators are expressing their displeasure. 

The drought that hit the West from 2000-2004 is not only the worst in 800 years, but it could be the new “normal”. That’s according to new research in the journal Nature Geoscience.

You’d have to go back to the middle ages to find a period as dry as 2000-2004 in the American West.

Snowpack decreased. Crop productivity in much of the west went down by 5-percent.

And that’s not the worst of it, the researchers say.

Halstead Fire Evacuates Boy Scouts At Camp

Jul 30, 2012
Mardi Rhodes / Salmon-Challid National Forest

Two hundred boy scouts had to cut their camping trip short Monday and another 200 won’t be able to go at all. That’s because of a fire burning near the Bradley Boy Scout camp in the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

The Halstead Fire is 15 miles north of Stanley and has burned 60 acres so far. Forest Service officials say it’s too dangerous for firefighters to fight on the ground because of fallen and dead trees. Ninety-two people are currently fighting the blaze from a distance, working to clear fire fuels and protect nearby campsites. A helicopter is also being used.

Anna King / Northwest news Network

Drought that’s sizzling the rest of the nation has largely left the Northwest states alone. Furthermore, the Midwest’s farmers’ misfortune is actually benefiting farmers here.

That’s because grain prices are going up due to the Heartland’s decimated yields. Meanwhile, many Northwest farmers crops are above average.

Todd Ray is the owner of 10 New Holland tractor dealerships in Washington and Oregon. He says Northwest farmers may be doing better than the rest of the country, but they still have to think about high input costs –- like gas, tires and fertilizer.

First Sockeye Reach Idaho's Stanley Basin

Jul 27, 2012
Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

The first sockeye arrived in Idaho’s Salmon River this week. That’s later than usual.

Most of Idaho’s sockeye come from the Salmon River. It’s also where they return to spawn. Tom Stuart is a salmon advocate. He says the endangered salmon species is more than two weeks behind schedule. That has him worried.

“It tells salmon advocates that the red fish of Redfish Lake are still at risk,” he says.

US Forest Service

Forests in parts of southern Idaho are suffering this summer.  An insect known as the Western Spruce Budworm has been busy turning what are normally green forests…a brownish-red color.  The bug has been feasting on Douglas-fir, true firs, spruce and other conifer species.

Dave Olson is with the Boise National Forest.  He says tree experts aren’t worried about the bug since it’s native to the West.  Forests adjust to the insect and usually only small trees dies from an infestation.  He says Idaho had a similar outbreak about 25 years ago. 

Poll Finds Northwesterners Support Coal Export Proposals

Jul 27, 2012
Kimon Berlin / Creative Commons

A new poll finds that most residents in the Northwest are supportive of transporting coal through the region for export to Asia. DHM Research conducted the poll for Earthfix.

"Obama, rein in your regs."
That was on a sign that Wyatt Fitch held up when the President visited Portland this week.

Fitch was showing his support for proposed coal export terminals in Oregon.

Humans Caused Most Fires Around Boise So Far

Jul 26, 2012
Mallory Eils / BLM

A total of 80 fires have burned on the Boise District of the Bureau of Land Management this year. Malloy Eils of the BLM says 61 of those have been caused by humans.

This ratio is pretty normal. Seventy-five-percent of fires in a season are usually human caused. Eils says what’s been on the rise, though, is the number of fires. She says it’s because of extra dry conditions.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

It's that time of year, time for the puncture vine plant to grow. The invasive weed and its spiny seed pods, known as goat heads, are a bane to bare feet and the scourge of cyclists. Just ask Mike Wieser, a mechanic at George’s Cycles in downtown Boise.

On the desk at the shop there’s a jar of thorns that have popped tires. It’s just for educational purposes. Wieser says they could fill two of them on a Saturday.

Sadie Babits / Boise State Public Radio

UPDATE 10:20 PM:  The BLM has estimated the fire to be around 1200 acres.  Spokeswoman Mallory Eils told KBSX the fire's active flames have been controlled.  The fire has burned only grass and sage brush.  Eils says firefighters haven't set a date and time for containment. 

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

The drought that’s gripped much of the country is hurting farmers from Texas to North Dakota. And here in Idaho, the effects of drought could be mixed for farmers and consumers.

Take your average grocery bill. Expect it to go up because of the drought says Paul Paterson.  The agriculture economist with the University of Idaho says the decimation of Midwestern crops like corn and wheat will increase the cost of most processed foods.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife

Washington, Oregon and Idaho are joining forces to track populations of feral pigs across the Northwest. These “hogs gone wild” can do massive damage to the landscape. And wildlife agents want to know where swine are on the move. They’re even launching a so-called “swine line” for people to call with sightings.

When domesticated pigs escape their sties, Wendy Brown says something strange happens.  “They actually develop darker fur, longer tusks -- they actually change in physical appearance. It’s amazing.”

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

It's a question all of us face sooner or later: whether to spend a good chunk of money to protect against a catastrophe that has a very low chance of occurring. A workshop that just wrapped up in Corvallis, Oregon considered that dilemma in the context of Northwest dams and a magnitude 9 earthquake.

Atlanta Gold Company Fined By Judge

Jul 20, 2012

A U.S. District Judge handed down a penalty today and issued a warning to a company trying to mine gold in Idaho.

U.S. District Judge Mikell Williams has ordered Atlanta Gold Company to pay $2-million dollars in fines for not following clean water laws. Judge Williams also ordered it to comply with the federal Clean Water Act by the end of October or face even more penalties.

Payette NF - McCall Ranger District

A new fire is burning southwest of Midvale.  The Roadside Fire started this morning within the Payette National Forest protection zone. 

Highway 95 is down to one lane near the fire.  Six hundred acres have burned so far.  The Midvale Fire Department, eight engines, ten smokejumpers, and multiple air resources are fighting the fire.  Officials have called for more resources.

The cause of the fire is unknown, but fire investigators are on the scene. 

Northwest States Map Liquefaction Susceptibility

Jul 20, 2012
Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Two major earthquakes last year raised red flags for the Northwest. Some of the damage from those quakes in Japan and New Zealand resulted from a phenomenon called liquefaction. This is when the ground turns to jello or quicksand. Transmission towers topple, buildings sink and utility pipes break. Now, geologists in the Northwest, including Idaho have mapped the spots most likely to liquefy here in an earthquake.

This summer, the sound of hydraulic jacks reverberates through upscale neighborhoods near Tokyo Bay. Look closer, and you'll notice some of the homes here are tilted.

Katie Campbell

This fall marks the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act – a piece of legislation that changed the way water  in this country is regulated and protected.

Pollution was supposed to be curtailed so that fish from all the waters in America would be safe for people to eat. 40 years later, though, many waterways still bear fish too tainted to consume safely.