Nation briefs 07/13/04

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Theories abound over vanished pelicans

CHASE LAKE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, N.D. -- The air here this time of year usually is filled with the grunts and squawks of thousands of white pelicans and their chicks. The giant birds have made the refuge their home for at least 100 years. Now their nesting grounds are quiet. The pelicans are gone -- and no one knows why. The 4,385-acre refuge in central North Dakota had been known as the home of the largest nesting colony of white pelicans in North America. The nearly 28,000 birds that showed up to nest here in early April took off in late May and early June, leaving their chicks and eggs behind. Normally, the pelicans stay at the refuge through September, raising their young. Wildlife officials have considered diseases, food supply, water quality, weather, predators and other factors, but have found no satisfactory explanation for the exodus, said Mick Erickson, the Chase Lake refuge manager.

Inmate killed after taking woman hostage

SMYRNA, Del. -- An inmate who took a woman hostage at a state prison was shot and killed by a sharpshooter Monday afternoon, authorities said. The hostage has been taken to a nearby hospital, department spokeswoman Beth Welch said. It was not known whether the hostage was injured or what her condition was. The inmate, Scott A. Miller, 45, was believed armed with a homemade knife. He took the woman hostage in the maximum security area of the Delaware Correctional Center in midmorning, and negotiations continued with him through late afternoon. Miller was convicted of multiple sex offenses and kidnapping charges involving attacks on nine women in 1997. Prison officials said his sentences totaled 699 years.

Crews battle wildfires in Alaska and California

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- A wildfire near a village of about 60 residents almost tripled in size Monday as warm, dry weather gave new life to it and dozens of other fires in Alaska's Interior. Conditions were drying out, heating up and taking a turn for the worse following several days of rain, officials said. The 17,000-acre fire was burning about a mile from the village of Bettles. Fire officials said the blaze was a top priority Monday -- one of the 71 fires already burning statewide. It was not known what caused the fire, which was 10 percent contained by Monday. Meanwhile, in California, firefighters battled a wildfire near Palm Springs. The fire at the edge of the San Bernardino National Forest scorched nearly 1,500 acres, but had destroyed no homes and was 40 percent contained.

-- From wire reports

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