One interesting side effect to being chairman of the Board of Supervisors is all the strange and rarefied knowledge and certifications one must accumulate.

Hardly a week goes by that I do not have to take a test, go to a seminar, or — the state government’s newest favorite thing — listen to a “webinar” on the computer. This afternoon, it was an hour and forty minutes becoming “sensitized” to the possibility of wrong-doing in the Medicaid program. I guess having me absorb this is supposed to somehow, by osmosis perhaps, seep down to the people who are actually working with the program.

This is not really complaining because I find much of this stuff to be utterly fascinating. I found out today that is if a HIPAA violation occurs, that is if someone who is not authorized gets to see some aspect of someone’s medical record, and you are involved if there are extenuating circumstances like 1. you did not know it happened and 2. could not reasonably have known you violated HIPAA, and 3. there was nothing you could have reasonably been expected to do that would have prevented it, then you are only liable for the lowest penalty, which is a fine of up to $10,000.

Even more interesting was a whole section on a particular federal law known as the False Claims Act. If you bill the government for some magnificent medication and actually give the patient only aspirin, you have violated this provision. I actually worked with this law in a very involved investigation years ago. Reading over the section and its background during this preparation, I learned something else interesting. Also known as the “Lincoln Law,” it passed during the civil war. The impetus for it was a notorious horse trader who routinely billed the Union for mules in spite of the fact the animals he delivered were donkeys. Makes $100 hammers seem sort of tame.

I find myself falsely accused of a similar offense, to wit, claiming I was doing questions and actually addressing only a single topic. Folks who take the questions business pretty seriously pay strict attention to when and how the answers are forthcoming. I am, therefore, awash with contrition and will do the remaining questions this week (which is exactly what I promised, I think). The first, coincidentally, has to do with donkeys.

I know this is not a local issue but I have heard that out west there is a big problem with wild donkeys attacking people, so the government is killing them off. Can this be true?

I have not heard and cannot find reports of attacks specifically by feral donkeys although I do not reject it out of hand because there are enough people killed or injured by domestic donkeys each year that the federal government does keep statistics on it. I have been told that, once living in the wild, a donkey is very difficult to tame, unlike some of the mustangs. It is also true that feral donkey populations are quite high in some areas, to the point they are damaging some of the fragile plant species and causing starvation in some of the native wildlife, like wild sheep. For this reason, the federal government has had some culls but information seems hard to acquire.

We had a coyote in our yard right beside the driveway. Should we be concerned?

One of the signs that an animal may be sick/rabid that always appears in official warnings is that it is out in the daytime. This is possibly an indication of a problem but, in late summer and early fall, absolutely not a fail-safe all by itself. During this season there is a double whammy. Parent animals are totally depleted from trying to feed growing litters and are doing everything they can to build up fat reserves to survive the winter.

Young of the year are off on their own, trying to learn hunting skills enough to survive. Half of them will not and there is a lot of desperation. Therefore, it is not unusual to see everything from coyotes to great horned owls hunting day and night. I once handled a call concerning something getting into a henhouse in the dark and found it to be a juvenile goshawk — who should have been sleeping! So, get some pictures, and stay away from it.

I was sitting in my living room watching my bird feeder when suddenly a young doe, probably a year old, walked across Sutherland Road, my road, and I noticed a large amount of saliva coming from its mouth. I watched her meander through the woods and she was drooling a lot of saliva every few steps. I am a seasoned outdoorsman with well over 500 backpacking trips in all seasons and have never seen anything like this. She continued her trek to the Batten Kill and I did not see her again, but she looked very healthy otherwise. Any idea what was causing this drooling?

After the recent attack, we are all super sensitive to the possibility of rabies. With that said, deer do not sweat but rather cool themselves by panting and, if something had run her in hot weather, it is not out of the range of possibility, she was just overheated. However, excessive drooling is also a characteristic of a rabid animal. I might lean to the former explanation since the deer was still pretty mobile and the real excessive salivation (when the virus is being most actively shed) most often happens when the disease is pretty far along. Once again, a good animal to avoid.

What are the filmy white things I see all over my lawn early in the morning? They are usually gone within a few hours.

You are seeing spider webs. They have been there right along but the heavy dew of late summer and fall makes them show up quite dramatically. We have no idea our lawns and fields are such busy places. They disappear for two reasons. First, when the dew dries, the webs become transparent again. Secondly, the sticky nature of the web disappears after a few hours, especially if it gets wet. Therefore, if it was a productive location, the spider typically eats the old web and replaces it with a new one before evening every day.

Bob Henke writes a weekly outdoors column for The Post-Star.


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