One of the best things about being the associate editor of a wildlife magazine is getting to hear stories about biologists and their interactions with wildlife (and each other).
A month ago, I was interviewing researcher Lorraine Avenetti—the person who told me she calls pronghorn “speed goats.” I asked her for a funny story from her 16-plus years working with wildlife. One of these happened while she was helping biologist Stan Cunningham capture and track black bears in the White Mountains of eastern Arizona. In her own words:
“Stan decided to let me tranquilize this bear. It was my first time. You have to understand, I’m not necessarily a good shot. So, we have the bear and I put the drugs in the firearm and I shoot her—and it doesn’t go in. To anyone watching, it looks like I missed. I do two more darts and they don’t go in. Now it really looks like I’m not a good shot. Then Stan tries, and it doesn’t work for him.
“Only Stan and I are down low; the rest of the team are up high, listening. They can’t see us. That group includes my husband [who volunteers on Game and Fish projects]. So we look at the darts, which are brand new. And we notice they are really old and the plastic-rubber piece that holds the dart in the bear is worn; that’s why it isn’t holding.
I take out a brand new package and shoot the bear, and get her first time. So the problem was faulty darts. But my husband is up above saying ‘That’s my Sureshot Lorraine.’ When the group comes down to process the bear, that’s the nickname they’re using. I tell my husband, ‘Thanks a lot! It wasn’t me, it was the darts.’ He looks at me like, ‘Yeah right.’ The name has stuck … but at least we finally got the bear.”
I spend most of my work hours at a desk. Lorraine’s words took me into the field, where biologists are studying bears and having some fun together doing it. I wasn’t able to include this anecdote in my 500-word profile of Sureshot Lorraine (which will appear in the next issue of Arizona Wildlife Views), but I still felt happy to have heard it. I hope you are, too.