Survival Notebook: Notes On A Few Issues Of Importance To Hunters

Under the rubric of “undramatic but easy ways to get very ill or die” we should include carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, which many health and safety experts are now calling “the silent killer.” In America alone, several hundred people perish each year from inhaling CO fumes. Another several thousand end up in emergency rooms. The danger is fairly ubiquitous, starting at home and extending outward to cars, RVs, and all hunting camps, plush or primitive.

What is CO?

CO is a colorless, sometimes odorless, toxic gas produced by the leakage or incomplete burning of certain fuels. Any appliance, engine or accessory that runs on natural gas, liquefied petroleum (LP), oil, kerosene, or gasoline can emit CO fumes. Other sources of dangerous CO emissions include wood fires, coal fires, and burning charcoal.

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Indoors, whether home or in an RV or a permanent structure camp, the first order of safety is to be sure that large-scale appliances and heating systems are installed according to code (optimally by professionals), and are inspected after installation. Annual or regular inspections should include chimneys, vents, flues, and connections. Monitor all permanent structures (homes, cabins, trailers, RVs) with a CO detector/alarm device–or devices, plural. One sensor should be placed near potential CO sources (such as a furnace or stove); another should be near the main sleeping area. Detectors must not be covered or blocked in any way, such as by curtains or furniture.

Most commercial gas fuels are scented for easier detection. If you sniff an unaccounted-for garlic or onion odor, suspect a gas leak. Ventilate for fresh air and contact a professional (often the provider company) for immediate inspection.

A surprising number of people asphyxiate while using charcoal or petroleum fuel inside an enclosed area, such as a tent or RV. The rule here is simple: Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, tent, or vehicle. Not even to cook, and certainly not for heat. Nor should you use portable fuel-burning stoves indoors unless you have adequate ventilation. And don’t try to heat a close-up tent or camper with any LP lamp or flame-burner; you must have a window or hatch open at least two or three inches to let noxious fumes out and fresh air in.

If you are stranded inside a vehicle and need to keep the engine running (to heat the interior, for instance), do not park in an enclosed area where CO fumes might accumulate to toxic levels. Also check to see that the mouth of the exhaust pipe is clear of all obstructions (especially snow, if you’re caught in a storm or mired in a drift). A blocked exhaust pipe forces CO up into the vehicle’s interior, where you could quickly (and unknowingly) become asphyxiated.

Esbit Cubes & Stove

Worth adding to every survival pack and emergency kit, Esbit solid fuel tablets are lightweight and easy to use. They are “practically odorless and nearly smokeless,” nontoxic, weather-resistant, and leave no liquid or ash residue when burning. A single cube will burn for twelve to fifteen minutes, generating up to 1400 degrees F. of high-intensity heat–enough to bring one pint of water to a rolling boil in eight minutes or less.

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With one Esbit cube, you can quickly build an emergency fire in cold, windy, or wet weather, even without the aid of natural tinder. You can also take a break from hunting to make a quick cup of hot coffee or soup (or to purify available water) just by using the burning cube; no need for wood gathering and assembly, no cleanup or safety concerns, and none of the game-alarming smoke you’d get from a standard wood fire.

For optimal heating and cooking, use the tablets with an Esbit Pocket Stove. This is a compact (3″x4″x3/4″) folding unit, made of steel and designed to efficiently direct the tablet fuel flame, either widely to accommodate a frying pan or tightly to heat a tin cup or small coffee pot. With proper ventilation, the stove can be used safely in a tent or vehicle.

Esbit cubes and stove are available at many sporting goods stores and online from www.mpioutdoors.com.

Dangerous Geese?

Scientific studies are showing that there is a direct correlation between increasing geese populations and the diminishing quality and safety of some of the waters the birds inhabit and visit during migration. This is a plausible conclusion when you consider that an adult goose drops about three pounds of fecal matter per day. Since goose poop (inquiring minds want to know) is typically composed of 76 percent carbon, 4.4 percent nitrogen, and 1.3 percent phosphorus, the impact on ponds and lakes can be significant, resulting in algal blooms and excessive plant growth.

Worse still, goose feces are often infected with organisms that threaten human health. The least of these, though still noisome, is the parasite that causes “swimmer’s itch” (cercarial dermatitis), a temporary rash that may last a week or more. The outbreak requires no medical treatment beyond standard anti-itch applications of the kind used to soothe mosquito bites. (Hydrocortisone cream, Calamine lotion, and Itch-X, for example.) To avoid this problem, only stay out of water frequented by geese and other fowl, especially during the warm-water peaks of summer.
Much more severe are goose feces that are contaminated with dangerous bacteria, such as E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, and Chlamydia. Each of these can make humans very sick, and some have proved fatal. Recent studies have shown that geese can carry these harmful bacteria from one place to another, “infecting” the water (and possibly some croplands) as they go. Thus it pays to be wary of using, touching, or drinking water that is heavily frequented by geese.

According to the studies, the greatest potential danger to humans occurs in places where geese come into contact with liquid livestock wastes, which contain high levels of antibiotics. The birds then spread not only common bacteria but bacteria that have become highly resistant to antibiotic treatment. To say it another way, some geese could be spreading “super bacteria” which, if spread to people, would be all the harder to cure.

It’s important to note that though geese sometimes transmit harmful bacteria through their digestive tracts, the birds themselves are not infected with any related diseases. That means, happily, that meat from harvested geese is safe for consumption.

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