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State news briefs
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MAN ATTEMPTS TO SMUGGLE METH AS CANDY: LOS ANGELES (AP) — A California man faces federal drug charges for allegedly trying to smuggle more than four pounds of methamphetamine to Japan in what looked like dozens of Snickers bars.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Monday that 34-year-old Rogelio Mauricio Harris of Long Beach was arrested last week at Los Angeles International Airport as he prepared to board a flight to Japan.

Harris was charged in Los Angeles with drug possession and faces at least 10 years in prison if convicted.

Federal agents conducting routine baggage inspections found 45 full-sized Snickers bars inside Harris' luggage. Each bar was coated in a chocolate-like substance to make it look like a candy bar, but tests revealed the so-called candy contained methamphetamine.

Authorities estimate the four pounds of meth is worth about $250,000.

AUTHORITIES HUNT HIKER MISSING IN SIERRA: BIG PINE (AP) — Authorities are searching for a doctor who vanished after telling friends he planned to solo climb a nearly 14,000-foot peak in the Sierra Nevada.

Inyo County sheriff's spokeswoman Carma Roper says rescuers on Monday sought 60-year-old Gary Dankworth, a family physician from Carson City, Nev.

He left friends Saturday afternoon camped at Finger Lake in the John Muir Wilderness of Inyo National Forest to climb 13,855-foot Norman Clyde peak, a difficult endeavor in a rugged Palisades section of the Sierra containing four of California's highest peaks.

Climbers must scramble off trail over boulder fields, past glaciers and along a ridge with steep drops to reach the base of the mountain just to begin the ascent.

FARMERS DELAY HARVESTS TO PROTECT BLACKBIRDS: TULARE . (AP) — California farmers have delayed harvests to protect flocks of rare tricolored blackbirds nesting in their fields.

Four San Joaquin Valley dairy farmers this year held off harvests to protect more than 20 percent of the tricolored blackbird's global population.

There are 260,000 tricolored blackbirds left worldwide.

The federal government has spent $100,000 to help farmers replace the feed.

Rather than environmental lawsuits, it was a voluntary collaboration that saved the birds and kept dairy farms in business.

When farmers spot a breeding colony, they can notify the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which has biologists to track the birds. The agency also provides financial assistance so farmers can delay the harvest.

The birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

VICTIM IN SACRAMENTO COUNTY HIT-AND-RUN DIES: CARMICHAEL  (AP) — The California Highway Patrol says it will seek vehicular manslaughter charges against a suspect in a hit-and-run crash in Sacramento County after one of the victims died.

Twenty-one-year-old Harrison Long-Randall died over the weekend. Authorities say he and his girlfriend, 23-year-old Gemily West, were struck by a vehicle driven by Paul William Walden on July 16 as they walked four dogs in Carmichael.

Witnesses said Long-Randall stepped in to shield his girlfriend. He suffered a severed leg.

West was seriously injured, but released from the hospital on Tuesday. The four dogs died.

Walden is already facing charges including felony hit-and-run and cruelty to animals. He has not entered a plea.

CHP spokeswoman Lizz Dutton said that investigators will discuss adding vehicular manslaughter charges with prosecutors.

CROOKS SWIPE 14 TORTOISES, TURTLE IN PALM SPRINGS: PALM SPRINGS  (AP) — A Palm Springs botanical garden has been stripped of its wildlife by crooks who stole 14 tortoises and a turtle.

The owner of the Moorten Botanical Garden discovered the thefts Sunday morning.

Only two tortoises were left.

The stolen animals range in age from a year to 40 years old and the largest is about 16 inches in diameter. One African tortoise weighs 35 pounds. Some of the stolen animals are desert tortoises, a federally protected species.

Morton says there probably was more than one thief because of the tortoises' size. He's concerned that the tortoises, who can live up to 100 years, won't receive proper care.

He's offering $200 for information leading to the animals' return.