Into the Wilderness: Wild and Untamed

Into the Wilderness: Wild and Untamed

Someone once asked me how I could possibly feel safe spending time in the woods, and still not fear the presence of wolves?

I live in Northern Wisconsin, and do spend a significant amount of time hiking and camping in the woods. Yes, there could be some calculated risk involved, but I am not going to live in fear of that which I cannot control. If a wild predator wanted to attack me while I was in the woods, I suppose it probably could. And I am okay with the logic of that. But that, by no means, should give us reason to be afraid to enjoy an escape into wilderness. That is exactly what nature is intended to be.

W I L D  •  U N T A M E D  •  W I L D E R N E S S

Upon which we enter at our own risk. That’s not to say humans don’t have any place to be there. But we must respect the fact that when we enter the wilderness, we are agreeing to the terms of a different playing field, wherein humans are no longer the ones in charge.

We cannot tame a storm. We can only prepare ourselves for the unforeseen and make calculated decisions based upon when and where we decide to enter that place we call wilderness. And we would be naïve to believe otherwise. That wolves, coyotes, wild cats or any other facet of nature for that matter, should befall to the needs of our species above all others.

Instead of thinking, “the dangerous should be ridden”, perhaps we could learn to respect the fact that we, along with all other living things, are simply trying to get by on this planet together.

To the Boys Who Cry ‘Wolf’

To the Boys Who Cry ‘Wolf’

As a Northern Wisconsin resident, I’d say I spend quite a bit of my time in the woods. Not only in Wisconsin forests, but also quite a bit in the northern Minnesota / Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) as well as the upper peninsula of Michigan. All of which are prime habitat for Great Lakes wolves. Have I ever felt threatened?

Never.

At least not by wolves. Why? Because wolves are terrified of us. And if you have ever felt your safety threatened by a wolf, you might consider that you were somewhere you shouldn’t have been. Maybe that was a mother wolf rearing its pups in a den 50 yards from where you were standing. In these instances, it is useful to imagine putting yourself in such a position. What if a wolf came strolling up to your home and lingered around your kids as they were playing in your back yard? As a parent or guardian, would you go on the defense a little bit too? The same mentality goes for bears, wild cats — even deer.

My dog was actually attacked by an aggressive doe one spring. The deer charged at Reagan and flipped her over right before my eyes. She was just a mother protecting her fawn. If you don’t have kids of your own (I don’t either), try to pause for a moment to understand what that might be like to have some strange, potentially dangerous creature trespassing on your territory threatening your innocent, helpless young ones.

And then, maybe instead of resulting to the notion that that creature is dangerous and therefore needs to be killed, perhaps we could learn to respect the fact that we, along with all other living things, are simply trying to get by on this planet together.

Note: In all my research, I still have never been able to supply one single case of a healthy wolf attacking a human in North America. There are however, approximately 130 people killed across the US by deer every year, ironically enough.

Photography by Joel Sartore

The Wisconsin Deer Mortality Fallacy

The Wisconsin Deer Mortality Fallacy

One of the biggest misconceptions about wolves, and what I believe to be one of the main drivers behind this state’s senseless wolf slaughter, is the idea that wolves are “decimating” the deer population.

With all the violent, vengeful and unfounded slander being thrown at wolves by Wisconsin hunters these days – most wanting to see all wolves eradicated as if they were vermin – it was so refreshing to stumble upon this insight from a young Wisconsin deer hunter with a higher sense of responsibility:

“Deer hunting in Wisconsin has absolutely imploded over the past 5-7 years. Here are a few of my thoughts on how we can turn this ship around…

#1 – $25 Doe Tags (No more free or cheap doe tags! If I want meat, I am happy to pay $25 for a doe tag. That still only figures out to about .45/lb.)

#2 – One Buck Only. When a hunter buys a license, they get a buck tag. They can fill it using gun or bow, but we all only get one per year. That will allow a good number of bucks to survive and grow one year older. Some will say, “I don’t care about antler size, I hunt for meat.” No one is stopping you from shooting the first buck you see. But, I have never heard another hunter complain about seeing a big one.

#3 – Allow Feeding Again. While I’m not a big proponent of feeding or baiting during season, there is no reason why someone shouldn’t be able to help the deer herd through the winter after the hunting seasons are over. The DNR have it backwards right now, baiting should not be allowed during hunting season but feeding outside of the deer seasons should be permitted.

#4 – Raise Non-Resident License Fees by $90. $250 is still an inexpensive ticket to some highly enjoyable entertainment and fine table fare! If hunters see the value here, they will still gladly pay the fee. If they are just coming for cheap meat, they may stay home.

Deer hunting in this state is as much of a tradition as Thanksgiving and to see it deteriorate to what it is now in most parts is very unfortunate. We as sportsmen have more of a responsibility to make wise decisions than the DNR. We are the ones pulling the trigger, not them. And for the wolves, they still only account for around 15% of the annual deer mortality [its actually 6%, according to a 5-year study conducted by the University of Wisconsin and the WDNR]. Let’s take a hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves how we plan to regain our deer hunting greatness in this state. Change will be painful for a few years but if we don’t make adjustments now, we will suffer through many more deerless seasons. Times change and we must adapt. If we manage our resources well, they will be here to enjoy for generations to come.”

I think it is important for us to acknowledge that all hunters are not reckless barbarians, and that there are still many sportsmen who share the same respect for all wildlife and understand the importance in making responsible decisions in the woods.

While wolves only account for a marginal annual percentage of deer mortality (6%), statistics show Wisconsin deer hunters take over SEVEN TIMES that amount (43% annually). And that doesn’t even account for the additional 8% taken by poachers and thousands more deaths caused by motorists each year (6%). (2013 UW / WDNR Deer Mortality statistics found here >> http://bit.ly/1fg6qTs )This is elementary-level math we’re talking here:

Deer Mortality, wolf human statistics

Yet, the state of Wisconsin is currently in the process of slashing its wolf population by one third, in the name of “management” of course. Maybe, before we humans take it upon ourselves to go interfering with a natural predator species that has successfully evolved to survive and sustain a healthy existence over millions of years, perhaps we should first attempt to get our own rates of deer mortality under control.

And to those individuals who still want to immediately direct all the blame at wolves, coyotes, bobcats or any other being you like to call “them” — just remember, every time you point your finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at you.

Lake Superior Ice Caves

Lake Superior Ice Caves

Note: Access to the ice caves at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore closed on March 17th due to changing ice conditions.

When I learned that Lake Superior had frozen over enough this winter for people to walk to the ice caves along Wisconsin’s northern coast, Brandon and I recruited a crew of friends to make the journey. On Sunday, after attending the American Birkebeiner festivities in Hayward, we packed up and headed north to Bayfield on state highway 13 and through Red Cliff until we reached the lake access point known as “Meyers Beach” just up the shore from  Cornucopia.

Map to Lake Superior Ice Caves

Most winters the park remains open, but the caves are not navigable without a thick layer of ice. But this year, frigid temperatures gripping the Midwest have turned Lake Superior into flat, ice-covered frozen tundra only to be seen a couple of times in the past two decades. Since earlier this winter, when waves crashed and froze along the sandstone cliffs, tens of thousands of visitors have flocked to see the fantastic icicle formations.

People Flocking to Caves

Most people travel by car, but with modest parking accommodations, many visitors are walking for miles along the state highway just to reach the trailhead. Some even travel to the caves by cross-country skis or snowshoes, and parents tote bundled children in toboggan sleds.

The hike from the trailhead is about one mile to the caves, and the walking trail can consist anywhere from packed down snow to soft, deep snow mixed in with an uneven terrain of ice boulders, cracks, rolling mounds and slippery ice slides. A very fun hike if you are dressed for the occasion !

Chandeliers

As you begin to approach the ice formations, it almost feels as though you are making your way through an art gallery, each exhibit as unique as the next. Intricate and spectacular, dangling like chandeliers, some almost alien-like, others embodying shrines for royalty, I caught myself wondering — what concept was the artist going for in this piece?

Ice Caves

Shrine

It’s a humbling experience to stand before these massive ice formations, taking in what this lake is truly capable of.

You could spend hours exploring the frozen landscape, shimmying around on your stomach from one crystal cove to the next, each filled with delicate, feathered icicles dangling inside.

Ice Cave

Glowing Cave

Lake Superior Ice Caves

The last time the caves were safely accessible was in 2009—and this year’s ice layer, though thick, could quickly disappear. I encourage everyone to go explore them while you still can — this dazzling shoreline may only be navigable for another few weeks !

Ice Cave Hole

>> Ice Cave Adventure Tips <<

Pictures don’t do these spectacular wonders justice. Make the trek — GO see them !

Shuttle buses are being offered, more info here.

There is a $3 fee to park in the parking lot (approximately 50 spaces).

Restrooms are available in the parking area.

Keep furry friends on a leash.

Go during the week (less busy) and on a sunny day, if possible ☼

Dress appropriately! Warm comfortable boots, snow pants, down winter jacket, extra layers, hats, scarves, gloves and something to keep your face protected from wind.

Before making the trip, call for the latest ice condition report. We visited right after a massive snow storm that forced officials to closed the park temporarily until the trailhead was accessible again. And depending on winds, currents and temperatures, safe ice conditions can deteriorate at any given time. Call the Apostle Island ice line before you go, the report will tell you everything you need to know >> 715-779-3398 (ext. 3)

If you simply cannot make the journey to see the ice caves in person, please enjoy this lovely video slideshow created by my talented mother =)

Video created by >>  “A Ricci Studio” Web Design & Management

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BrittRic - Lifestyle & Awareness BlogBrittRic is a lifestyle blogger, landscape photographer and environmental conservationist. ::Feel free:: to follow her on FacebookInstagramPinterest and Twitter. Contact: bsricci@gmail.com

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Have You Seen Blackfish?

Have You Seen Blackfish?

Growing up, my childhood dream was to become a marine biologist at SeaWorld. As an eight-year-old, I could tell you all about echolocation, how many teeth an adult bottlenose dolphin has, or the differences between a male and female orca whale. I was fascinated by them. I even created my own marine issues of National Geographic, cut and pasted by hand from old posters and magazine clippings.
britt dolphin

Me greeting a bottle nose dolphin at SeaWorld Orlando, age 9.

Me greeting a bottlenose dolphin at SeaWorld Orlando, age 9.

But I did not grow up to be a marine biologist at Sea World. Instead, I took the more “practical” route attending a liberal arts university, graduating with a degree in Geography / Environmental Studies, and joining the nine-to-five weekday workforce in technical writing and communications. Yet, a small part of me always wondered how life might have been if I had followed my true passion to work with the marine mammals that I loved and respected so deeply.

Last night, that sense of longing for what could have been, vanished forever when I saw Blackfish.

It was one of the hottest films at the 2013 Sundance film festival, but it will leave you shuttering with chills. The critically acclaimed, eye-opening documentary tells the story of Tilikum, a notoriously aggressive orca whale that killed three people while in captivity. Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite uses shocking, never-before-seen footage and riveting interviews with trainers and experts to present a convincing case against keeping these wild animals confined for human entertainment. This emotionally wrenching story challenges us to consider our relationship to nature, and reveals how little we humans have learned from these highly intelligent and enormously sentient creatures.

See the film that has the whole world talking:

>> Google Play

>> Amazon Video

>> Netflix

>> iTunes

Official Trailer (HD):

 

 

You have a voice.  Sign & share the following petitions, and join the conversation in the comments section below.

SeaWorld: End Captive Orca Breeding Program (Change.org)

SeaWorld: Release Orcas & Dolphins to Ocean Sanctuaries (Change.org)

SeaWorld: Release Tilikum to Seapen for Rehab (Change.org)

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BrittRic is a lifestyle blogger, landscape photographer and environmental conservationist. ::Feel free:: to follow her on FacebookInstagramPinterest and Twitter. Contact: bsricci@gmail.com

 
 

The War on Wisconsin Wolves

The War on Wisconsin Wolves

“We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”   ~Aldo Leopold

war on wolves has been declared in Wisconsin.

From a population that stood at roughly 800 just three weeks ago, hunters and trappers have already killed over 196 wolves in Wisconsin. That’s about twice the pace at which wolves were killed last year, and almost one third of the state’s entire wolf population. The territory is divided into six harvest zones, each with its own limit. Each zone remains open until the limit is reached or until the end of February, whichever comes first. Three weeks into the season, zones 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 have already been closed.

In Wisconsin, provisions allow for hunting wolves with steel jaw traps andcable snares, creating dangerous situations for humans and other domestic animals. Some have even been known to bait their traps with the carcass of a deceased wolf to lure in its remaining family members.

Starting in December, despite public outcry, Wisconsin will become the first and only state to allow hunters as young as ten years old to usepacks of dogs in the hunt. When these killer packs meet up with wolves, there will be death and maiming on both sides. With canid on canid conflict, it becomes a blood sport — no more than an organized dog fight, which is illegal in the United States. Furthermore, Wisconsinites end up funding the destruction of hunting dogs with tax dollars. A hunting dog killed by a wolf can earn its owner up to $2,500 in depredation payments, even though hunters knowingly put these dogs in harm’s way. Since June of this year, 26 bear hunting dogs have been killed by wolves and an estimated $65,000 was paid to the owners as compensation.

Aside from all the other harvest zones, Zone 3, located in the heart of the northwoods, has so far reported very few kills yet this season. Conservationists suspect that hunting groups in this region have made a concerted effort to hold off until December, when they can legally, for the first time in history, unleash packs of killer dogs on Wisconsin wolves.

 

Unfortunately, politically entrenched, vocal and powerful hunting, trapping and livestock interest groups have had everything to do with influencing wolf management in Wisconsin. An aggressive, multifaceted misinformation campaign has been raging, and now wolves are facing persecution, supported by false claims and blatant lies of those who want to eradicate wolves as if they were vermin. Wolves have been framed as the enemy, and the scientific community is growing very concerned. Quotas are too high and the duration of the hunting season is too long (Oct-Feb), allowing it to extend into the breeding season, making it difficult for packs to maintain stable populations, potentially leading to the devastation of the Wisconsin wolf population altogether. Management policies have become narrowly directed towards treating wolves as a ‘resource’ to kill, preserving opportunities for recreational killing rather than conservation or preservation of ecological integrity.

Ignoring biology and the intrinsic value of this species, our wildlife agencies have resolutely judged wolves as animals in need of management, adopting policies that treat them as a problem, rather than as respected members of the biological community.

Dr. Paul Paquet, 2013 International Wolf Symposium

Biologists warn that the disappearance of wolves will have significant impacts all the way down the food chain. Over millions of years the wolf has evolved to play a crucial role in regulating its ecosystem, from the survival of trees and riverbank vegetation to the health of the populations of their prey.

Many Wisconsin deer hunters maintain that the presence of wolves is destroying the deer population. Contrary to this common misconception, wolves actually tend to eat older, injured or less healthy animals which makes the wolves’ species of prey healthier. Also, when prey like deer are hunted by wolves, it keeps pressure on the herds to keep moving which prevents overgrazing. This pressure on herds allows for plant roots to provide stability to riverbeds so they do not erode, and flora to provide roosting places for migrating birds. Vegetation supplies beavers with materials for dams, which then create the deep pools that young fish need to survive. It is a beautiful, complex tapestry that shows the level of interaction that must happen between apex predators and their environment for the full health of the system.

>> How Wolves Change Rivers <<

The threat of depredation by wolves on livestock has also been a concern for Wisconsin farmers. One of the likely reasons for this type of wolf conflict relates to the fact that agricultural areas are expanding into suitable, remote forested wolf habitat at the edge of the northern forest. Therefore, risk for wolf-human interactions and conflicts can be higher in these regions.

However the current approach to “wolf management” in Wisconsin has researchers concerned that these types of conflicts might only be enhanced. What happens to a wolf pack if the family leaders or breeding pairs are killed? Young wolves need these pack leaders to teach them how to hunt. Losing the strong, savvy wolves can be devastating to the entire family.

There is a strong possibility that if you take out the biggest and best hunting wolves out of a pack, you may turn the rest of that pack into depredators. For the less skilled, it is much easier to kill a sheep than it is to run down a deer.

Randy Jurewicz, Wisconsin wildlife biologist

Lethal control may relieve conflict temporarily. However, new wolves will often move into the vacated territory, and the cycle of loss will continue—unless the root cause is addressed.

Modern, non-lethal methods of prevention have shown to keep depredations down to almost nothing, if implemented properly. Efforts to prevent livestock depredation include reducing attractants (removing livestock carcasses rather than leaving them to rot in the field), improved fencing, fladry fencing, confining herds at night, scare tactics (such as alarms or non-lethal ammunition), and guard animals such as llamas, donkeys and dogs—all of which can offer low cost, non-lethal and effective methods of predator control. My favorite example of non-lethal predator control comes from two farmers in Bayfield, WI who have turned to a very special breed of dog called the Italian Maremma to protect their flocks of sheep. The dogs stand about two and a half feet tall and weigh in at 70-100 lbs. Maremmas are known for flock guarding and livestock protection skills, and have been used successfully to guard herds from wolves for more than 2000 years.

Wolves are a very misunderstood and misrepresented species. And although special interest groups and politicians have taken the reins on “wolf management”, nowhere does actual science support the need to kill wolves. Wisconsin wolf management plans have been compromised to appease the special interests who are buying their cravings for trophies. It appears our wildlife agencies will permit just enough numbers to survive so those who enjoy killing and inflicting pain and suffering will have enough to satisfy their lustrous hatred for wolves. What about the majority of non-consumptive Wisconsinites who believe that wolves are necessary, and want to see them remain in our forests?

The entire wolf restoration program was guided by directives contained in the Endangered Species Act, a law created to ground a cornerstone of science that says the healthiest, most stable natural systems tend to be those with high levels of biodiversity. It is time to revisit this very principle and make Wisconsin wolf management decisions based on hard science—not political science.


You have a voice.
 Sign & share the following petitions, contact your state representatives and join the conversation in the comments section below!

» Oppose Stripping Federal Protections for Wolves   (USFWS)

» Stop the Anti-Wolf Agenda in Wisconsin  (Defenders of Wildlife)

» No Dogs Allowed in Wisconsin Wolf Hunt  (MoveOn.org)

» Suspend Wolf Hunting in Minnesota  (Howling for Wolves.org)

» Don’t Let Fish & Wildlife Service Abandon Wolves  (NRDC)

» 11th Hour for Wolves  (Sierra Club)

Write your WI state representatives and governor Scott Walker (govgeneral@wisconsin.gov)  to voice your opposition to the wolf hunt.

If you are not sure who to contact >>  Who are my Legislators?

 

BrittRic is a lifestyle blogger, landscape photographer and environmental conservationist. ::Feel free:: to follow her on FacebookInstagramPinterest and Twitter. Contact: bsricci@gmail.om

 

Countdown To Wolf Hounding

Countdown To Wolf Hounding

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”  ~Mahatma Gandhi

According to a survey conducted by the Humane Society, “85 percent of Wisconsin support a ban on using packs of dogs to chase down and hunt wolves.” However, despite overwhelming public outcry, starting Monday, December 2, 2013 it will become legal for hunters as young as 10 years old to use packs of dogs to hunt wolves. Wisconsin is the only state to authorize the practice, arguably the most controversial and most opposed aspect of the state’s wolf hunting regulations.

Wisconsin wolf hunt territory is divided into six “harvest” zones, each with its own limit. Each zone remains open until the limit is reached or until the end of February, whichever comes first. Three weeks into the season, quotas for all but one zone were filled. However, Zone 3 (see map below) has reported very few kills yet this season. Conservationists suspect that hunting groups in the region have made a concerted effort to hold off until December, when they can legally, for the first time in history, unleash their packs of hunting dogs on Wisconsin wolves.

read more >> THE WAR ON WISCONSIN WOLVES

WolfZones

Animal behavior experts warn that violent clashes will be inevitable. Encounters between wolves and dogs are ferocious and frequently result in the death and dismemberment. Wolf hounders are permitted to release dogs fitted with radio collars, giving them free-reign into the forest to run down packs of wolves. When these killer packs meet up with wolves, there will be death and maiming on both sides. Hounders are also allowed to arm dogs with spike collars consisting of nails and shards of steel, intended to lacerate the mouths of wolves as they try to defend themselves and their family members. With canid on canid conflict, it becomes a blood sport — no more than an organized dog fight, which is illegal in the United States. Dr. Joe Bodewes, a veterinarian based out of Minocqua, described the damage to bear hunting dogs in a recent letter to the Wisconsin State Journal:

Broken and crushed legs, sliced-open abdomens and punctured lungs. Dogs lying mangled and dying on the surgery table — all in the pursuit of “sport”.

Furthermore, hunters who choose to put their dogs at extreme risk ofhorrific injury and even death can be compensated with Wisconsin tax payer dollars. A dog killed by a wolf can earn its owner up to $2,500 in depredation payments, even though hunters knowingly put these dogs in harm’s way. Since June of this year, 26 bear hunting dogs have been killed by wolves and an estimated $65,000 was paid to the owners as compensation. Many speculate that Wisconsin’s compensation program creates “an incentive for abuse” — that is, hunters who deliberately put their dogs at great risk.

Unfortunately, only a handful of small, politically entrenched and powerful advocacy groups have had everything to do with influencing wolf management policies in Wisconsin. These prominently include the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, the Safari Club International and United Sportsmen of Wisconsin. Collectively, these groups spent nearly $400,000 since 2004 lobbying state officials for their support of the wolf hunt. The wolf hunt bill’s lead Assembly sponsor, former state Rep. Scott Suder (R) even attempted to snare the United Sportsmen a $500,000 state grant, which was denied due to legal concerns raised about the group’s eligibility and honesty.

Earlier this year, a majority of the Conservation Congress voted to prohibit the use of dogs in wolf hunting altogether. The passing of Senator Fred Risser’s Senate Bill #93, would accomplish this goal. However, it is currently languishing in the Senate Natural Resources Committee and has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. In a move to obstruct the democratic process, the case remains stalled at the desk of the committee chairman, Senator Neal Kedzie, preventing the bill to enter the floor for a fair vote.  It appears the hunting factions have convinced Senator Kedzie that illegal dog fighting is acceptable in Wisconsin.

Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin, a wolf advocacy group out of northern Wisconsin, has been working with Senator Fred Risser to have dogs removed from the wolf hunt. Right now, the group is focused on exposing the cruelty of this practice in hopes to educate Wisconsinites on this archaic method of killing. “We want Wisconsinites to know what will happen when packs of dogs are unleashed on wolves,” said Rachel Tilseth, founder of WODCW. “There has never been a more important time for the people of Wisconsin to show they are not going to give in to a small group of people that want to torture animals for fun under the guise of “sport.”

The brutality, abuse and torture of wolves and dogs should not be acceptable to the people of Wisconsin. Wolf hunting with dogs is nothing more than state sanctioned animal fighting likely to result in vicious and deadly encounters between these animals. Was the intention to spend decades of money to restore our wolf population only to allow a small percentage of barbaric hunters and trappers take them back from the brink of extinction?

You have a voice! There is still time to express your opposition to wolf hounding and support for Senator Fred Risser’s SB#93 calling for the removal of dogs from the wolf hunt. Contact your representatives, sign the petition and join the conversation in the comments section below.

» Contact the Natural Resources Committee:
sen.kedzie@legis.wisconsin.gov  (608-266-2635)
sen.moulton@legis.wisconsin.gov (608-266-7511)
sen.tiffany@legis.wisconsin.gov (608-266-2509)
sen.miller@legis.wisconsin.gov (608-266-9170)
sen.wirch@legis.wisconsin.gov (608-267-8979)
sen.risser@legis.wisconsin.gov (608-266-1627)

» Write your WI state representatives and governor Scott Walker (govgeneral@wisconsin.gov).  Who are my Legislators?

» Sign & share this petition: No Dogs Allowed in Wisconsin Wolf Hunt  (MoveOn.org)

» Follow activist group Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin to stay current on the fight to end wolf hounding in Wisconsin

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BrittRic is a lifestyle blogger, landscape photographer and environmental conservationist. ::Feel free:: to follow her on FacebookInstagramPinterest and Twitter. Contact: bsricci@gmail.com

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