New England briefs

Gun goes off at Chili's

No one was injured, and no charges are being filed after a person's firearm accidentally discharged in a restaurant on Tuesday. Bennington Police said that at 5:30 p.m. they responded to Chili's Bar and Grill, located at the Hannaford Square, after an employee reported that a person had discharged a firearm inside the restaurant. The person had left by the time the matter was reported.

Police spoke with people at Chili's and were able to identify and locate the person who had the firearm. They were interviewed by police at their home. Police determined the gun fired accidentally and never left its holster. Police said a piece of the person's clothing may have got caught in the trigger guard, engaging the trigger.

NY reports success in battling Lake Champlain sea lamprey

New York environmental protection officials are reporting success in efforts to control sea lamprey populations in Lake Champlain.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation announced Wednesday that lamprey-killing chemical treatments conducted last year on several of the lake's tributaries in New York and Vermont have improved conditions for landlocked Atlantic salmon and lake trout.

The treatments by the DEC, in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, are meant to kill lamprey that attach themselves to other fish, often killing the host fish.

The control program also benefits other fish species including northern pike, walleye and lake sturgeon.

DEC officials say the treatment program will continue to benefit the lake's fish population this year. The agency first began combating lampreys in Lake Champlain in 1990.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Expand wildlife habitat

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to establish the "Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge," areas of New England and New York to preserve more shrubland and young forests for numerous species, such as the New England cottontail.

The agency has identified areas in New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. The goal is to gain up to 15,000 acres.

The agency says many areas across the Northeast have been cleared for development or have grown into mature forests. Private landowners and conservation groups have worked with state wildlife agencies to restore and protect land for 65 songbirds, mammals, reptiles and other wildlife, but more land is needed.

The Service is accepting comments on the proposal through March 4.

"We've had incredible success in restoring New England's only native rabbit and its habitat. Yet our work is far from done," said Rick Jacobson, New England Cottontail Executive Committee chair and wildlife division director of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Energy Protection Wildlife Division. He said more land needs to be preserved for the cottontail, "but this isn't just about a rabbit. It's about American woodcock, ruffed grouse, golden-winged warblers, monarch butterflies and a whole suite of wildlife that depend on this habitat."

In New Hampshire, for example, the agency would like to conserve up to 1,500 acres in Strafford, Rockingham and Hillsborough counties. More than 6,900 acres in these areas are already managed, but not all of it is made up of young forest or shrubland.

The process of working with interested landowners to buy conservation easements and buying land would take decades. Land would not become part of the refuge unless the owners sell or donate it to the service.

Joke post: Trooper has run-in with 'fire breathing' opossum

In tongue-in-cheek fashion, Maine State Police are talking about a trooper's encounter with an opossum described as a "nasty, fire breathing type" of beast.

Trooper Eric Paquette helped remove the opossum from a car in Greene operated by James Feely.

In a posting on the Maine State Police Headquarters Facebook page Wednesday, the report says Feely had discovered the stowaway under his seat while driving. Paquette used his riot baton to persuade the "ferocious looking critter" to exit the vehicle.

The post says no animals were harmed during the "investigation."

Troopers used the incident to take a friendly dig at the state's game wardens, noting that "every once in a while we get to do something relatively easy. You know, like what the Game Wardens do every day."

Maine heating oil prices reach lowest level since 2004

The Governor's Energy Office says the average statewide cash price for heating oil is $1.77 per gallon, down 4 cents since last week and the lowest price recorded since the office began its fuel price survey in 2004.

The average kerosene price declined 4 cents as well, now $2.38 per gallon, while the average statewide propane price remained the same at $2.22 a gallon.

– The Associated Press


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