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AK Beat: Donations overflow for Valdez avalanche cat's vet bills

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch
Kristina Clark and her cat, Ninja. Courtesy Khristina Clark

Donations overflow for Valdez avalanche walker’s vet bills: The woman who was arrested while trying to walk 42 miles to Valdez across the closed Richardson Highway in late January in an attempt to save her ailing cat, Ninja, has had her veterinary bills paid in full by dozens of donors from across the country, said veterinarian Dr. Kelly Hawkins on Monday. Hawkins treated the cat after it arrived in Valdez alongside Kristina Clark and her boyfriend via an Alaska Department of Transportation helicopter, that had taken them off the highway and out of avalanche danger. Hawkins said Ninja’s total bill for several days of treatments came in at $1,200. Donations had far surpassed that, and were up to “several thousand” on Monday, Hawkins said. Just under 50 people had donated, one as far away as Florida. And the donations just keep coming in, Hawkins said. That extra money is being put into a “honey bear fund,” for the next time an animal needs assistance and its owner can’t pay. Meanwhile, the clinic is trying to send thank-you notes to everyone who has donated.

Rumrunners trial convictions: Convictions in the trial of the corporation that owned Rumrunners Old Towne Bar and Grill and one of the establishment's bouncers were handed out on Tuesday in Anchorage, more than two years after a beating occurred at the former downtown bar that has since closed. Former bouncer Murville Lampkin and the corporation that ran the bar, AB&M, were both found guilty of misdemeanor assault in the fourth degree. Lampkin faces up to one year in jail, and the corporation faces a maximum fine of up to $500,000. Sentencing will be on April 7. The trial against Lampkin and AB&M began after the state charged Lampkin with assaulting Jonny Brown in October 2011. Defense attorneys have the option of appealing the charge, but prosecuting attorney James Fayette told Alaska Dispatch on Tuesday that he believes the “convictions will stick.” 

Dog dies on Yukon Quest trail: Bashful, a dog on Yukon Quest veteran Dave Dalton's team died Monday, according to a statement from the race. Dalton, a 23-time Yukon Quest racer and 18-time finisher, is tied for the most Yukon Quest finishes with longtime racer Frank Turner. Dalton, of Healy, later scratched in the checkpoint of Pelly Crossing. The dog was transported to Whitehorse for a necropsy Monday night and officials released no other details on the death.

Another musher withdraws on Yukon Quest trail: Musher Cody Strathe activated a beacon calling for help early Tuesday morning on the Yukon Quest trail, about 26 miles from the checkpoint of Braeburn, according to race officials. "The RCMP have been notified and have put together a mobilization team to reach the area as soon as possible," officials reported on the race's Facebook page shortly after 3 a.m. Tuesday. Help eventually arrived and found Strathe and his team in good health, officials reported later. But by activating his help button on his tracker, Strathe would be withdrawn from the race. The musher had left the checkpoint of Carmacks Monday en route to Braeburn, in a duel for third place with rookie Matt Hall. Musher Brent Sass withdrew from the race Sunday when he fell from his sled and hit his head on lake ice outside of Braeburn.

An answer for why polar bears don't hibernate? In sub-Arctic and even temperate winters, brown and black bears hibernate. But polar bears, exposed to the severest conditions in Arctic winters are active year round (with the exception of pregnant females). Now scientists at the University of Buffalo think they may have found a mechanism that enables this, according to a UPI report. The scientists have focused on genetic differences between the Arctic bears and their more southerly brown and black cousins; specifically, the genes controlling the production of nitric acid, which helps regulate metabolism, differ in polar bears. “Gene functions that had to do with nitric oxide production seemed to be more enriched in the polar bear than in the brown bears and black bears. There were more unique variants in polar bear genes than in those of the other species,” Charlotte Lindqvist told UPI. That may mean that the bears can simply extract more heat from food than their ursine cousins.

Dangerous animals are everywhere: Household cats more dangerous than bears? Maybe. The Detroit Free Press reports on a Mayo Clinic study that found that one out of three people who sought treatment for a cat bite ended up in the hospital. "Published in February in the Journal of Hand Surgery the study looked at 193 patients who received treatment for a cat bite on the hand from January 2009 through 2011,'' the newspaper reported. Two thirds of those 193 patients required surgery. Bear attacks annually send only a handful of people to the hospital. Alaska's state epidemiologist reported way back in the 1980s that dogs were more dangerous than bears in the 49th state -- or at least dogs killed more people. And now it’s the cats’ turn. Bears, of course, don't just wound, they also sometimes kill. The Mayo study found no fatalities from cat bites in the two years of data it examined, but infections can prove deadly as well. The Detroit Free Press warns cat bites should not be treated lightly. It reported on the case of one woman who thought she'd cleaned her wound well after being bit by one of her pet tabbies only to end up enduring an "eight-week hospital ordeal and $150,000 in medical bills."

Recovering from extreme cold: How cold can a person get and still survive? At least 56.7 degrees (not that you should try this at home, for reasons that will soon become apparent). We know this because of the story of Anna Bagenholm, a Norwegian medical student, who survived a skiing accident that left her body’s core at that temerature -- more than 40 degrees lower than normal. A riveting account of Bagenholm’s experience is offered in The Atlantic (the article is an excerpt from a book by the article’s author on “extreme medicine”). In 1999, she was skiing with friends outside Narvik, north of the Arctic Circle, when she lost control and tumbled, eventually falling headfirst through a hole in the ice covering a stream, where she remained trapped for a staggering hour and 20 minutes, before rescuers were able to free her. The cold, as it turns out, may’ve been also been partially beneficial: “Despite the amount of time that had passed since Anna’s heart had first stopped, there was still the glimmer of a hope that the terrible cold might also have protected and preserved her brain.” It had, though not without the help of innovative doctors -- they used a machine designed for heart surgery to warm her quickly -- and plenty of time.