This week in odd news: Chickens saved and falling iguanas
BY RICHARD A. SOMMA
Jan. 06, 2018
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) — Florida authorities are sharing the details of an unusual 911 call on New Year's Eve, from a man who said he wanted to report himself drunk-driving.
Polk County Sheriff's officials say the dispatcher kept him talking while directing officers to the scene.
When the dispatcher asked Michael Lester where he was, he said, "I'm too drunk. I don't know where I'm at."
And when she asked what he'd been doing all night, he said "I don't know, driving around, trying to get pulled over, actually."
"I'm driving on the wrong side of the road," he said later.
The operator repeatedly urged him to park his truck and wait for officers to find him. Unfortunately, he chose the wrong spot.
"Look, I'm parked in the middle of the road," he said. Sirens could be heard in the background a short time later.
Deputies said Lester admitted drinking beers and swallowing methamphetamine. He also said he'd barely slept for several days.
The sheriff's office Facebook post says Lester's criminal history includes DUI, aggravated battery, drug possession and hit-and-run.
"Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious crime. Innocent people are too often injured or killed from impaired drivers. DUI is not a laughing matter," sheriff's officials wrote. "However ... in this particular incident, nobody was hurt, so we couldn't help but LOTO (that means we Laughed Our Tasers Off)."
MINOT, N.D. (AP) — Authorities say a North Dakota man who wheeled a shopping cart with stolen merchandise out of a Hobby Lobby craft store was stopped by snow.
Police say 22-year-old Dustin Johnson filled up a cart with about $4,000 in products at a Hobby Lobby store in Minot on Wednesday. After the cart got stuck in the snow in the parking lot and tipped over, Johnson allegedly ran off.
Police say that along with the merchandise, Johnson left behind his wallet — which contained identification with his address.
Johnson is charged in Ward County with theft of property. Court documents do not list a lawyer for him.
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A Florida contractor says he was attacked by a bobcat inside a woman's condo, but the animal's owner says her feline is no predator, just a 10-pound domestic longhair kitty named Calli.
The contractor, Marcos Hernandez, filed a lawsuit in Tampa on Dec. 19, alleging condo owner Christine Lee illegally kept a bobcat inside her unit. He said a bobcat scratched him on May 16, causing serious injuries after he entered the condo to conduct a fire safety inspection.
Hernandez was in the condo alone, Lee said, something that shouldn't have happened. She said an employee from the building was supposed to accompany him inside.
"This has gotten so blown out of proportion, it's ridiculous," Lee said.
According to the lawsuit, Hernandez said he was attacked by an unleashed bobcat and suffered permanent injuries. He's seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages. Hernandez said Lee had a duty to provide a safe environment and failed to warn him about the bobcat.
Lee said that's nonsense. She only has a fluffy, tortoiseshell-colored housecat and a sleeker black cat named Max. She doesn't know which cat may have scratched Hernandez, but Max's color would likely rule him out.
She has not yet retained an attorney.
"I'm not denying he got scratched, what he was doing to get scratched, I don't know," she said, adding that when she arrived home that day, Calli was "cowering and scared." Max was underneath her bed.
Calli, who is 3 1/2, is friendly, Lee said. But "just like any animal, she is guarded. If they feel threatened, they may attack, scratch or bite."
Soon after the incident, she was informed by building management that Hernandez had been scratched, but she hadn't heard of the lawsuit until this week, when the Tampa Bay Times first wrote about the case and took a photo of Calli. Hernandez is also suing the condo building's owner.
Lee said she has never owned a bobcat.
"A bobcat does look much different than this. They're much bigger than this 10-pound little thing," she said. "It's a litigious society and here we are."
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, wild bobcats in the state are about twice the size of a domestic cat, up to about 35 pounds. They are tan to yellowish brown, with dark spots. A wildlife official visited Lee's apartment on Thursday, the newspaper report.
Hernandez' attorney's office said they were not going to comment at this time.
CRANSTON, R.I. (AP) — Wintry weather didn't keep a Rhode Island man from driving through town in his topless convertible.
WPRI-TV reports the roof on John Pratt's convertible Mercedes Benz has been broken for about a month. He tried to get the lipstick red luxury car to the repair shop Thursday morning, as a massive storm dumped more than a foot of snow in parts of the state.
But his chilly open-air ride turned into an icy predicament when his car got stuck. Onlookers took video, which then made the rounds on social media .
The episode left the Cranston man and his car covered in snow.
Pratt blames his 16-year-old son for the broken roof. He says he doesn't mind the trouble because people got a few laughs out of it.
MORGANTOWN, Miss. (AP) — A 99-year-old hunter in Mississippi wants to know why people are making a big fuss about her recent kill. It was a doe after all, not a prized buck.
The Clarion Ledger reports that Bertha Vickers used a .243 Winchester rifle to kill a doe recently a few miles from her rural home. Relatives posted pictures of Vickers and her kill on Facebook, and people sent messages of congratulations.
Vickers says she doesn't know "why everybody is making such a big deal about it" because it was "just a doe" and not a buck.
Vickers lives near the farming community where she grew up in northern Mississippi, outside Starkville. She still mows her own yard and enjoys squirrel hunting.
She turns 100 on Tuesday.
Felipe Rodriguez says he thought he was hallucinating when an eagle snatched his sister's little white dog from her yard, flapped its massive wings and disappeared over the trees.
Did he really just see that?
He had. Zoey the 8-pound bichon frise was gone, taken by a hungry raptor Tuesday afternoon not 50 feet from his sister's house on the banks of the Lehigh River in Pennsylvania, Rodriguez said.
"It seemed like something from the 'Wizard of Oz,'" he told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "I'm a city boy. This doesn't happen in my world."
Even more astonishing: Zoey would live to bark the tale.
More on that later. But first, let it be said that eagles are quite capable of taking a small dog or a cat.
"It has been documented before, but not that often," said Laurie Goodrich, a biologist at nearby Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, a ridgetop preserve that annually records tens of thousands of migrating hawks, eagles and falcons.
With food scarce and waterways freezing up, raptors are "looking a little more widely and taking advantage of whatever might be out there," she said.
Rodriguez said he was by himself at his sister's home in Bowmanstown, about 80 miles (128 kilometers) north of Philadelphia, and Zoey was playing in the fenced yard when he heard a loud screech, hurried to the door and looked out.
"The bird was holding onto the dog. There was flapping of wings and then it was gone," said Rodriguez, a 50-year-old healthcare executive visiting from Chicago.
He drove around the neighborhood looking for the 7-year-old bichon, to no avail. Rodriguez assumed Zoey was gone for good.
His sister and her family were devastated when they found out.
"I did nothing but cry all day," Monica Newhard said.
Newhard said it's not unusual to see eagles, given her home's proximity to the river. She also suspected they occasionally grabbed one of the rabbits that lived under her shed. But it didn't occur to Newhard that any of her four dogs would be in danger.
Heartbroken, she and her husband scoured the woods for Zoey's body. Little did they know their bitty bichon would be found later that afternoon — a full four miles away.
Zoey's rescuer was Christina Hartman, 51, who said she was driving on a snow-covered back road when she spotted a furry white lump ahead and pulled over to investigate.
"I notice this little frozen dog, icicles hanging from all over. It could hardly move," Hartman said.
She scooped up the whimpering pooch, wrapped her in a blanket and took her home, feeding the dog two bowls of chicken-and-rice soup. Gradually, the bichon warmed up and began to show some spunk. Hartman noticed several small wounds on the back of her neck, and the dog walked with a limp. She had no collar.
"This dog belongs to a family, and I'm gonna find out who owns it," Hartman told herself.
It didn't take long. She spotted Newhard's public Facebook post Wednesday morning — Newhard had uploaded a photo of Zoey — and made an excited call.
"I said, 'It's a miracle! I have your dog!'"
Zoey had bruises and a few missing patches of fur. It's not clear how far the eagle might have carried the dog, but Rodriguez said he can't believe Zoey survived.
"She is not really herself, but she is getting lots of love," his sister, Newhard, texted the AP late Wednesday. "She doesn't want to go out. ... I really can't blame her."
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — It's so cold in Florida that iguanas are falling from their perches in suburban trees.
Temperatures dipped below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) early Thursday in parts of South Florida, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.
That's chilly enough to immobilize green iguanas common in Miami's suburbs.
Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino tweeted a photograph of an iguana lying belly-up next to his swimming pool. WPEC-TV posted images of an iguana on its back on a Palm Beach County road.
The cold-blooded creatures native to Central and South America start to get sluggish when temperatures fall below 50 degrees (10 degrees Celsius), said Kristen Sommers, who oversees the nonnative fish and wildlife program for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
If temperatures drop below that, iguanas freeze up. "It's too cold for them to move," Sommers said.
They're not the only reptiles stunned by this week's cold snap: Sea turtles also stiffen up when temperatures fall. The wildlife commission's biologists have been rescuing cold-stunned sea turtles found floating listlessly on the water or near shore, but no such rescue is planned for iguanas.
Well-meaning residents finding stiffened iguanas are advised to leave them alone, as they may feel threatened and bite once they warm up.
"Don't assume that they're dead," Sommers said.
Green iguanas are an invasive species in Florida known for eating through landscaping and digging burrows that undermine infrastructure. They can grow over 5 feet (1.5 meters) long, and their droppings can be a potential source of salmonella bacteria, which causes food poisoning.
The wildlife commission has begun holding workshops to train homeowners and property managers to trap or manage iguanas. The reptiles may be easier to catch this week, Sommers said.
"This provides an opportunity to capture some, but I'm not sure it's going to be cold enough for long enough to make enough of a difference," she said. "In most cases, they're going to warm back up and move around again, unless they're euthanized."
A two-week cold snap with temperatures below 40 degrees (5 degrees Celsius) in 2010 killed off many iguanas, along with Burmese pythons and other invasive pests that thrive in South Florida's subtropical climate. Those populations have since rebounded.
Elsewhere in Florida, the effects of a brutal winter storm rolling up the East Coast were less exotic. It snowed briefly Wednesday in the state's capital, Tallahassee, for the first time in 28 years.
MADRID (AP) — A passenger on a delayed Ryanair flight from London who apparently got fed up waiting to get off a plane after it landed in the southern Spanish city of Malaga surprised fellow passengers by using the emergency exit to jump onto a wing.
The incident on New Year's Day took place 30 minutes after the flight from Stansted Airport landed.
The man, who has not been named but is said to be a non-Spanish citizen, was coaxed back onto the plane while police were called.
Fellow passenger Fernando del Valle Villalobos, who videoed the incident, said he heard the man say he got fed up waiting.
"I was astonished," del Valle, 25, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
He said the passengers were standing in the aisle waiting to get off the plane when the man "very calmly asked permission to get past, opened the emergency exit, looked out, saw the wing, went back for his back-pack."
Later, he said the captain came out and asked the man why he had done it and del Valle heard him say clearly that he was sick of waiting inside. The passengers, except the man in question, were kept a further 15 minutes on the plane before being let off.
Police said Wednesday that they have opened a complaint against the man for breaching security.
Ryanair said the incident was now in the hands of Spanish authorities.
ARMOREL, Ark. (AP) — Eighth-grade science students have used a 3-D printer to create a prosthetic leg for a duck found without a foot shortly after he hatched.
The students in northeastern Arkansas created the leg at Armorel High School's environmental and spatial technology lab for an 8-month-old Indian runner duck named Peg.
Peg's owner, Patsy Smith, told television station KAIT that when she found the bird, a turtle had apparently chewed off his foot. She said the leg became more irritated as Peg grew. The students reached out after hearing Smith was seeking a way to help Peg.
Lab director Alicia Bell said it took about 30 tries before students Matthew Cook, Darshan Patel and Abby Simmons built an appropriate leg.
Smith said Peg now walks and runs like a normal duck.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — It was a race against the cluck as California Highway Patrol officers scrambled to rescue nearly 20 chickens that ran through highway lanes near Los Angeles.
The agency says the birds blocked a portion of Interstate 605 in the Norwalk area Tuesday morning after their cage fell from the back of a truck.
The agency tweeted photos and video of the chickens on the highway and a motorcycle officer collecting them.
Officers managed to rescue 17 birds. Two died.
One tweet asked: "why DID the chickens cross the road? Because they obviously did not want to become 'fast food' on an LA area freeway, of course!"
The driver transporting the chickens was unaware that the birds fell off the truck and did not stop.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Philadelphia father put the city's signature sandwich to use in a whole new way: measuring his baby's size in cheesesteaks.
Philly.com reports Thursday that computer programmer Brad Williams used a foolproof system he calls "Cheesesteak for Scale" to measure the growth of his son during the child's first year in 2015.
It started when he noticed his 2-week-old, Lucas Royce, was about the same size as a cheesesteak he'd brought home. So Williams snapped a picture of the sandwich next to his newborn and the tradition was born.
Every month for the next year Williams and his wife would buy a cheesesteak to track their growing boy .
He says babies and cheesesteaks are quite similar. He says they are warm and cuddly when wrapped up "but once you unwrap them, expect a huge mess."
PROVO, Utah (AP) — Provo police say a man broke into the department's evidence room undetected and took back his bike.
Deseret News reported Thursday that the burglary went unnoticed until the person who originally was found with the bike was arrested again and told officers David Elwin Snow was bragging that he "pulled off the crime of the century."
The 37-year-old Snow and his brother had gone to the department on Dec. 18 to retrieve the bike, but since they never reported it stolen they had a hard time verifying it was Snow's bike. Police accuse Snow of stealing it that same night after seeing where it was being stored.
The bike was found Wednesday at Snow's grandmother's house.
Police Sgt. Nisha King said such a heist has never happened at the department.
MIDDLETOWN, Ohio (AP) — Authorities say a man robbed a bank in Ohio and used the money to buy his fiancee an engagement ring.
The Hamilton-Middletown Journal-News reports 36-year-old Dustin Pedersen has been charged with robbing a Fifth Third Bank branch in Trenton on Dec. 16.
Police say records show that Pedersen spent $4,500 on an engagement ring less than an hour after the robbery and presented it the next day.
A Trenton police detective said in court Wednesday the robbery netted $8,800.
Police say Pedersen became a suspect after a man wearing an identical hat robbed a Butler County bank six days later.
Pedersen has denied robbing any banks, but told police that surveillance photos of the robber look like him.
Pedersen's attorney wasn't immediately available for comment Thursday.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Any mists spotted rising over the swamp may just be Washington wielding its newest weapon in its never-ending war on rats: dry ice.
The District of Columbia's rodent control division's program manager, Gerard Brown, tells The Washington Post the frozen form of carbon dioxide complements the poison the city uses, as reported rat complaints reach a four-year high.
Last month, Brown and Mayor Muriel Bowser oversaw a demonstration in which health department staffers stuffed dry ice into a northeast Washington alley rathole. As the ice smoked, the emanating carbon dioxide suffocated the rats, according to Brown's explanation.
Residents are encouraged to purchase their own dry ice. The city is working on usage guidelines.
Department of Energy and Environment Director Tommy Wells says dry ice is relatively humane, cheap and pet-friendly.
SEASIDE, Ore. (AP) — A tsunami-warming system erroneously informed people living in Seaside, Oregon, that a tsunami was approaching in four hours.
City spokesman Jon Rahl says a malfunction in the system replaced what was supposed to be Wednesday's regularly scheduled test message.
Seaside police quickly sent email and text notifications correcting the error.
Gas station owner Rich Trucke wrote to The Daily Astorian newspaper that some people panicked despite his assurances that tests are regularly done on Wednesdays. He says one customer hastily drove up, demanding gas to leave town. Another had told his 95-year-old mother to start packing.
Rahl says the mishap is a reminder of why tests are conducted. He says they "give us the opportunity to evaluate what's working, and in this case what's not."
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Danish police say a valuable bottle of vodka that was reported stolen from a Copenhagen bar has been found.
Copenhagen police say the bottle — which is worth $1.3 million, according to its owner — was recovered intact. Police say the investigation is continuing.
The vessel is made of 3 kilograms (6.6. pounds) of gold and the equivalent amount of silver. It has a diamond-encrusted cap fashioned to resemble a vintage car front.
Cafe 33 owner Brian Ingberg told The Associated Press that he received a call on Friday from person who reported finding the vessel at a construction site in Copenhagen and handing it over to the police.
Ingberg says no arrests have been made. He refused to identify the caller.
LONDON (AP) — British confectioner Cadbury is making a white chocolate version of its popular Easter Creme egg — and offering a cash prize for those who find them as it tries to bolster the product's appeal.
The company says it will make a small batch of between 350 and 400 white eggs, for sale until Easter Sunday on April 1. Each will carry a prize of at least 100 pounds ($130).
Cadbury's has faced accusations of cheapening its chocolate recipe in its Creme Egg since it was taken over by U.S. company Kraft Foods in 2010 and is hoping to ramp up interest in the product, which first went on sale in 1971.
White eggs will be wrapped in the same foil as regular Creme Eggs, making the hunt a blind draw.
LAUREL, Mont. (AP) — A different mayor of a southern Montana town was sworn into office a day after the mayor-elect failed to appear for a swearing-in ceremony.
Former city councilman Tom Nelson was sworn in as the new mayor of Laurel on Wednesday after mayor-elect Dave Waggoner did not show up to the city council's Tuesday meeting.
Nelson had lost to Waggoner in the November mayoral election.
Waggoner was asked to leave his current position at the city's wastewater treatment plant before he could take office.
City officials say Waggoner did not submit a letter of resignation for his city job, so the council appointed Nelson.
Waggoner did not return calls seeking comment from the Billings Gazette.
Nelson's term as mayor will last until the next municipal election in 2019.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The rector of a retirement home for Roman Catholic priests who was convicted of embezzling a half-million dollars has been sentenced to eight months in federal prison.
Authorities say Monsignor William Dombrow spent the stolen funds on casino visits, expensive dinners and concerts.
At his sentencing Wednesday, Dombrow acknowledged committing a "serious crime" and said he would accept the judge's decision.
Dombrow's attorney says the priest was sometimes accompanied on those outings by residents of Villa St. Joseph. The Philadelphia Archdiocese runs the facility in Darby to house aging priests and treat those accused of sexual abuse.
In addition to his prison term, Dombrow was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to repay the embezzled funds.
TORONTO (AP) — Nazem Kadri was an assist short of a bizarre Gordie Howe hat trick.
Kadri ripped out part of Joe Thornton's mountain-man beard in a fight off the opening faceoff and scored in regulation in the Toronto Maple Leafs' 3-2 shootout victory over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night.
Thornton and Kadri dropping the gloves just two seconds after being tossed out of the opening faceoff for slashing each other like manic lumberjacks. The 38-year-old Thornton's beard took a beating in the scrap, thanks to Kadri hanging on to the beard rather than his jersey as he was twirled around by the bigger Shark. A hunk of Thornton's facial hair was left on the ice like a mini-tumbleweed.
"I ended up with a piece of it in my hand," Kadri said. "I have no idea how that happened
"I thought I was a hockey player not a barber. I didn't mean to grab him there. I mean he's a big boy. I couldn't reach all the way across his shoulder. I felt like I just grabbed him in the middle of his jersey and just came down with a handful of his hair."
Thornton didn't comment after the game.
The hair ultimately found its way to the glove of backup goalie Aaron Dell on the San Jose bench.
"We were trying to figure out what it was," Sharks forward Chris Tierney said.
Kadri, who was giving up at least 4 inches and 30 pounds to Thornton, had a welt on the side of his face as a souvenir of the fight.
"I didn't see that coming," said former Shark Patrick Marleau.
The fight seemed to spark the Leafs, who snapped a three game losing streak. They had plenty of jump against the talented Sharks in a wide-open, entertaining game that saw plenty of big saves at both ends.
"It was a good fight ... It kind of gets everybody pumped up, especially to see a smaller guy like that (fight)," Leafs center Auston Matthews said.
CINCINNATI (AP) — Merchandise inspired by Ohio's famous baby hippo, Fiona, has returned nearly half a million dollars to the Cincinnati Zoo.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reports the zoo has collected about $480,000 in sales from businesses with merchandising agreements. Products include everything from clothing and ornaments to beer and ice cream.
The zoo says it isn't keeping track of cash the hippo-themed products are turning over. But zoo spokeswoman Michelle Curley says more than $200,000 of the money was used for Fiona's neonatal care. Curley says the remainder is helping with the care, feeding and enrichment of all the zoo's hippos.
The beloved baby hippo will celebrate her first birthday Jan. 24. Local merchants expect the celebration to spur an economic boost as businesses roll out more Fiona-themed products.
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A cheetah named Bingwa at the St. Louis Zoo is a proud mother — eight times over.
The zoo announced Wednesday that the 4-year-old cheetah gave birth Nov. 26 to eight cubs — three male and five female. It's the largest litter of cheetah cubs ever delivered at the zoo. The average litter size is three to four cubs.
In fact, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums has documented 430 litters and said this is the first time a cheetah mom has given birth to and reared on her own a litter of eight cubs at a zoo.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Bingwa means "champion" in Swahili.
All eight cubs and the mom are doing well. They'll remain indoors, away from the public and under close scrutiny from staff, for several months.
Bingwa is proving to be an "exemplary" mom, zoo officials said.
"She has quickly become adept at caring for her very large litter of cubs — grooming, nursing and caring for them attentively," Steve Bircher, the zoo's curator of mammals/carnivores, said in a news release.
The cubs were born at the zoo's River's Edge Cheetah Breeding Center as part of a program to manage genetically healthy population of cheetahs at North American zoos. More than 50 cheetah cubs have been born at the breeding center since 1974, the zoo said.
Bingwa is at the zoo on loan from Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon. The father, 9-year-old Jason, is on loan from White Oak Conservation in Yulee, Florida.
Cheetahs once roamed much of Africa and Asia. Today, only around 10,000 remain in the wild in Africa along with 100 or fewer in Iran. The decline in numbers is due in part to conflict with humans as well as lack of genetic diversity, the zoo said.