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  • This article by Betsy Marston originally appeared in the Dec 22, 2011 issue of High Country News.
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Topic: Culture & Communities     Department: Heard Around the West     Comments: 0

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Deer smugglers and avocado thieves

News: Dec 22, 2011
by Betsy Marston

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.

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