Even bison, it turns out, need a bailout. Too many of the big critters are raised and not enough of us want to eat them.


After producing more bison-burger than the market could bear, ranchers recently asked the federal government for help - their second request in as many years. The U.S. Department of Agriculture came up with the money, reports AP, buying $6 million worth of bison meat for its school lunch program. A North Dakota-based cooperative representing 350 bison ranchers including the biggest, billionaire Ted Turner, cheered the federal subsidy. Last year, the government spent $2.5 million to buy buffalo.





In Mendocino County, Calif., no one is pressing the government for aid to emu ranchers. The Ukiah Daily Journal reports that the owners of 40 of the ostrich-related birds simply sent the animals packing. "It's pretty funny seeing them walking down (Highway) 101," says local emu-catcher Clark Curtis. The long-legged animals once sold for $35,000 a breeding pair; now they're not worth the price of their feed. A public-relations person for the American Emu Association, Patti Londre, says people still continue to fall in love with the birds, finding them "serene and funny and curious and sweet." Emu steaks and emu jerky, however, have yet to catch on with consumers.





Dog lovers have been communing through the Internet, relaying haiku presumably written by their pets. Though untaught, these pooches show promise:





I live belly-up


In the sunshine, happier than


You ever will be





Today I sniffed


Many dog butts - I celebrate


By kissing your face





I lift my leg and


Whiz on each bush. Hello, Spot-


Sniff this and weep





My human is home!


I am so ecstatic I have


Made a puddle





Look in my eyes and


Deny it. No human could


Love you as much as I do





I hate my choke chain "


Look, world, they strangle me! Ack


Ack Ack Ack Ack Ack!





My owners' mood is


Romantic - I lie near their


Feet. I fart a big one





Most men think that losing their hair is a problem; just think about being a hairless deer in the dead of winter. Yet going bare is what's been happening to blacktail deer in western Washington since 1996. Yearlings and fawns are shedding their protective covering the most, leaving them vulnerable to ailments. Now, researchers at Washington State University have brought eight young deer onto campus to study the animals' plight.





It's true: Some bunnies just keep on going and going. In Salt Lake City, an intensive-care nurse saved the life of a 10-lb. rabbit named Thumper after the pet chewed through an electric cord and electrocuted itself. Thanks to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and miniature CPR, "within two minutes, he sneezed," reports the Salt Lake Tribune. Nurse Rainey Morgan said the indomitable bunny has some salve on his lips but otherwise "looks like he's going to live to chew through another cord someday."





Prairie dog postscript: The politically correct company Celestial Seasonings will no longer poison black-tailed prairie dogs on its Boulder, Colo., property; instead, it will round them up for relocation. The tea company may also adopt prairie dogs pushed out of their burrows by development, reports the Boulder Daily Camera. "This has been the most intense and passionate dialogue we've had inside this company," said Celestial president Steve Hughes.





Sack lunch postscript: The Aspen Ski Company wants it known that it applauds the Forest Service policy allowing bring-your-own food and drink to slopeside restaurants. The culprits trying to force everyone into restaurants were concessionaires leasing space from the resort, says Diana Lane, communications manager for the ski company.





Grizzlies occasionally turn grisly. In Choteau, Mont., a young grizzly that had killed a sheep was trapped by wildlife officials and readied for relocation. Another grizzly, apparently a bigger one, entered the trap and killed the bear inside, reports the Great Falls Tribune.





Aspen can't brag anymore that its homes are the most expensive in the country. Worth magazine recently bumped the ski town from first to second place. It lost out to Jupiter Island, Fla., where the median price of a home was $1.7 million. Aspen's price was a mere $1.6 million. Most of this year's Top 10 pricey homes were in California, but Mountain Village at Telluride placed sixth with homes at $1.2 million and Snowmass Village near Aspen was eighth, with homes selling at $1.1 million.





Hikers in an open space preserve of the Cupertino Hills of California should reach for a brolly to defend themselves against "love-crazed" wild turkeys, reports the San Jose Mercury News. To demonstrate their masculine vigor during breeding season, the animals chase people and peck at their legs. A good defense: snapping an umbrella open and shut.





Los Angeles Times columnist Shawn Hubler is exercised because new regulations ban giant inflated Godzillas or King Kongs from floating above supermarkets or auto showrooms. "For crying out loud, this is LA!" she rails. Hubler says allowing helium monsters to bob above the city makes Tinsel Town lovably tacky; restricting them denies "our inner cheese ball." After all, she concludes, "eradicating visual blight has not historically been a Southern California priority."


*Betsy Marston





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 bumper sticker slogans. The definition remains loose. Heard, HCN, Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428 or betsym@hcn.org.