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  • This article by Betsy Marston originally appeared in the Feb 10, 2011 issue of High Country News.
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Topic: Flora & Fauna     Department: Heard Around the West     Comments: 0


Cultural exchange

News: Feb 10, 2011
by Betsy Marston


Someday, there may be a Disney movie based on a black bear named Windfall who didn't know she was a bear because she was brought up to be a princess, doted on by two loggers in the dense backwoods of Coos County, Ore. Writing in the Medford Mail Tribune, Mark Freeman says the father-son duo of Jonathan and Rocky Perkett -- self-described "mountain men" -- found baby Windfall in the woods, apparently abandoned, so they took her home, "loved her like a daughter," and for 18 months fed her pizza and pop. They even took showers with Windfall (carefully blow-drying her hair afterwards) and gave her the run of the house. Unfortunately, the privileged life was terrible for the bear's health -- not to mention illegal; removing bears from the woods is a violation of Oregon law. After Oregon state troopers took her to the Applegate Park Zoo in Merced, Windfall had to be treated for internal parasites as well as bear mites. At first, she was frightened by living in close proximity to wild animals such as raccoons and apple-throwing monkeys. But over time, Windfall adapted and then, two years ago, was joined by a bear companion named Missy. These days, the two bruins share a cage where they roughhouse and fall asleep together, to the delight of visitors. As for the Perketts, they haven't visited because  it "would be too big a heartbreak," although they're glad their  "daughter" is happy and well-cared for. "That's the most important thing," Rocky Perkett says.


Ranching may be suffering lean times in the American West, but it's booming in southwestern Russia. There, the remote high plains resemble Montana the way it used to be 100 years ago, "when it was just all grass," reports the Billings Gazette. And now, thanks to an innovative deal brokered by state Agriculture Director Ron de Yong, Montana cattle producers are sending an "instant ranch" to the Russian region of Voronezh. The hope is that Montana smarts can help the government-subsidized cattle industry become more efficient. Just what is an instant ranch? In this case, it's 1,424 purebred cattle flown to Russia along with quarter horses, a veterinarian and some Montana cowboys. Indispensable lore -- call it "how-to-ranch services" -- will be provided by Montana rancher Darrell Stevenson, though other ranchers from the state are expected to visit and offer advice as well. According to Stevenson's wife, Sara, the Russians ride the range in their own distinctive way; for instance, they don't build fences but hire as many cowboys as possible to create jobs, and there's  "much more direct government involvement." As for the future of the partnership between Montana and Russia, Agriculture Director de Yong says that "the potential is so huge, it's hard to put numbers on it."

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