Subscription Preview

To read the full article, you must log in or subscribe. Enter your email address:

Deer smugglers and avocado thieves

THE WEST
We won't go into the Freudian implications of hunters who covet wall decorations fashioned from the enormous antlers of the deer or elk they "hunted" on a fenced game ranch, but in Texas, where everything is supposed to be bigger than life, the desire for giant racks has gotten entirely out of hand. Smugglers have been hauling in bucks with huge antlers to breed with the state's "delicate native deer," reports the Wall Street Journal. The result: deer with racks that can span four feet and are "often festooned with dozens of thick knobs and nubbins," reminiscent of Dr. Seuss' creations. Federal agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently nabbed one of the smugglers -- Billy Powell, 77, who was sentenced to up to six months of home confinement, $1.5 million in penalties and the forfeiture of 1,300 vials of frozen deer semen, said to be worth close to $1 million.

CALIFORNIA
An avocado thief in Vista, Calif., with a history of violations, didn't get jail time, but the unemployed tow-truck driver received a rather unusual punishment. Capital Press reports that Barron Stein must avoid avocado groves without permission "and can't possess more than 10 at a time." More than 10 avocados, we assume, not actual groves.

IDAHO
Jessica Robinson of Oregon Public Broadcasting recently spent some time with two sheepherders from Peru, whose work in the 6,000-foot-high mountains above McCall, Idaho, could be summed up this way: Sheep are their entire lives, because the herders are "on call up to 24 hours per day, seven days per week, in all weather." Because they also bed down among the animals, Ruben Camayo Santiago and Nequar Pocomucha Huaroc deter almost all predators far more successfully than radio-activated alarms or noisy cracker shots fired from rifles. Not that it's easy: After one horrific night a while back, the herders have come up with a nickname for wolves; they call them "las terroristas" -- the terrorists. "They can kill 40, 50, 60 sheep, but not eat them, just kill, kill, kill. ... And after a wolf has killed, he runs away and howls. Like he wants to say, 'Ruben! I've now killed 40 sheep! Gracias!' I prefer the bears. The bears say, 'I'll just eat one, thanks.' " But a night like that one is now rare; the men say they're keeping their herd of 2,000 sheep safe through "caminas, caminas, caminas" -- always walking to new pastures.

From our friends

Inspiring words from a die hard reader:

"I subscribed to HCN for a number of years, loved every issue...I stopped subscribing because my work load escalated. It was ok the first few months but after six months I was regretting the decision...the relevance of HCN did not diminish. I continued to look at the enticing titles of articles in the online newsletter but couldn't read enough to satisfy the craving. So I'm back. I also kicked in another 50 bucks as a personal reminder that quality reporting is not free."

Robert E. Hall, Washington D.C.

What another journalist has to say about HCN:

"High Country News is a rich resource for those among us who long to hear the voices of the West. The stories and commentaries are always well-written, with strong regional flavor, by knowledgeable professionals, and prepared and presented by editors with high standards."

Barbara Ellis, Denver Post News Editor