Heard around the West

 

When birds fall from the sky as thick as snowflakes and a stunned moose splays itself over the hood of a car, does this portend something ... weird? First, the phenomenon of the falling web-footed grebes: 3,000 of them plummeted to the snow-covered fields of central Utah apparently believing they were dropping safely onto bodies of water. Once on the ground, reports the Salt Lake Tribune, the birds lay helpless; they can only become airborne by pushing off from the water. Ignoring pecks from the red-eyed, frightened grebes, local residents worked for three days with state wildlife staffers to load the birds in pickups and then drive them to a nearby wildlife refuge. Total saved: 2,700.

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A moose in Spokane, Wash., also found itself geographically challenged, though in this case the confusion was caused by rush-hour traffic. The fast-moving moose dodged 8 a.m. drivers while leading police and state wildlife officials on a three-hour chase through suddenly hushed streets. A tranquilizer dart finally rendered the 550-pound cow moose woozy, but it kept on gamely trotting until it collapsed on the capacious hood of a 1984 Chrysler Fifth Avenue. The moose was hauled back to the hills by wildlife officials, reports the Spokesman-Review.

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Something there is about an Airedale that may not appeal to moose, or at least to one particular moose in Wyoming that's been hanging out at the Jackson Hole Golf Club. The moose galloped 25 yards to attack an 11-year-old Airedale that was just "sort of waddling along." Then it stomped the dog to death. A veterinarian told the Jackson Hole News that a tough winter has prompted dozens of moose to browse the golf course, and while the animals are usually calm, you never can tell what will provoke them. Airedale owner Beege Atwater muses sadly that, while moose are still "part of the beauty and serenity that comes with this place, I don't feel that way right now. I think I will again, but not right now."

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While we are learning not to mess with deceptively placid animals, a woman in Tucson, Ariz., has admitted feeding dessert to black bears. Her favorite, or perhaps the bears': French vanilla ice cream, hand-packed at a Baskin-Robbins store. Since bears eat like proverbial pigs, they consumed a lot of the expensive stuff, AP reports. A worker at an ice cream store said bear-feeder Patty Thomas bought 10 to 12 quarts at a time for the bears' delectation. For her criminal-nuisance offense of feeding wildlife, Thomas has promised to fatten nothing but birds for the next year.

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She doesn't need to slip seeds to birds at Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park. Ravenous ravens there fend for themselves so expertly they unzip zippers and rip off Velcro seals. Only buckles seem out of the question, reports the Idaho Falls Post Register. Their modus operandi? A raven targets an unattended snowmobile, swoops onto its seat, caws a triumphant squawk, peels back a flap with a beak, chows down on a Snickers or Cheetos and then, finally: "He defecates on the seat."

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Speaking of bodily functions, three Utah men flying to Nevada in a small plane used coffee, soda and then the contents of their bladders to help land an aircraft whose hydraulic fluid had drained away. A mechanic in an air-traffic control tower came up with the advice to pee, though the men stopped short of contributing any of their blood - still another of his suggestions for oiling the landing gear, AP reports.

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Before the 1997 ski season ends in a morass of mud, we want to leave you with a new vocabulary, compliments of the Telluride Times-Journal. Snowboarders, the most inventive lingo creators, call young boarders "gromits' while older ones are "grays on trays." Regardless of age or skill, women are "shred Bettys'; that's because any female who snowboards is cool and can be a Betty. Skiers like to call boarders "knuckle draggers," which indicates a little of the tension between the two downhill activities. However, both say a good snowfall is "dumping" and if it is really snowing hard it's "puking." Was it a good day on the slopes? Mumble "epic" and head for liquid refreshment at the "Wrinkle Bar," the Sheridan Bar, known for its older clientele, or The Last Dollar Saloon, known as "The Buck." And hope for lots of puking.


Heard around the West invites readers to get involved in the column. Send any tidbits that merit sharing - small-town newspaper clips, personal anecdotes, relevant bumpersticker slogans. The definition remains loose. Heard, HCN, Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428 or editor@hcn.org