Heard around the West

  • CUTE, BUT NOT CUDDLY: Sows and cubs

    Great Bear Foundation photo

Hungry bears breaking into cars and cabins at Yosemite National Park in California are racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. Bears have learned it's easy to get into the driver's seat if they "place their claws on top of car doors and peel them off," reports AP. Relocating the black bears hasn't helped, nor have folk methods, such as hanging mothballs on tree branches or urinating on a vehicle's tires. One driver even left a note on a car, politely asking bears to leave it alone. A better solution: Cleaning food out of the car.

Emerging from hibernation hungry and out of sorts, grizzlies have encountered hikers and skiers in the high country, but most people have lived to tell the tale. In Glacier National Park on May 10, three young men high up on a snowfield unintentionally cornered a cub, separating it from its mother, reports Montana's Hungry Horse News. So close he noticed "plaque on the fang teeth" of a grizzly, skier Matt Mosteller said he was propelled off the mountain by a rush of adrenaline. Another problem lay ahead: The object of the sow's concern, her cub, sat directly below him in the snow. Mosteller says he sat back on his haunches to slide past the surprised cub, then went into a tuck to speed down the slope. Still one more obstacle appeared - the sow had raced down the mountain to lunge at Mosteller again. But handicapped by the deep snow, the distressed grizzly was no match for the intruders on skis. They escaped without a scratch.

Hiker Craig Dahl, 23, of Milwaukee, Wis., was not so lucky; on May 17 he was killed and eaten by a 13-year-old sow grizzly, accompanied by her two almost self-sufficient cubs. The three bears were later destroyed by park officials, though a friend of Dahl's, Gretchen Young, told the Hungry Horse News: "Craig would never want an animal destroyed because of what happened to him."

A bear story in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park started out sounding like a mugging; a week later it read more like road rage. Carla Willis of South Pasadena, Calif., was walking along the shore of Jackson Lake with her father when a black bear "rose up behind her, put its paws on her shoulders and bit the back of her head," reports AP. After she dropped into a fetal position, the bear took some more bites out of her shoulder before standing up to nip and cuff her father. But a story June 10 in the Jackson Hole Guide noted the bear attack was not random; the animal was fleeing down the trail from another group of tourists that had been moving closer to it for "a better view." The message, says park ranger Colin Campbell, is that "park visitors really need to give wildlife some space and not pressure them for the sake of an observation."

Town dads of Mesquite, Nev., thought they'd come up with a great idea to attract tourists: 12 bulls would race up the main drag toward 1,000 people who would cough up $50 for the privilege of staying just far enough ahead to avoid a goring. Critics such as the Humane Society of the United States criticized the planned Pamplona-West as "an unprecedented act of bad judgment." Nevada's Department of Transportation agreed in June and prohibited the highway chase as too risky, reports AP. Now, Mesquite is looking for a side street on which to stage the spectacle. Phoenix promoter Phil Immordino says his bull run will be fun because this country's range bulls aren't "bred to chase people and kill ... They're just looking to run down the street."

Ants may be small, but in bulk - watch out. Winged fire ants, exhausted after an airborne mating ritual, fell into a river in Texas, where they were scarfed up by ravenous stocked fish. Big mistake; 23,000 rainbow trout in the Guadalupe River ended up dead either from stings or from the effects of ingesting hundreds of the poisonous ants, reports the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle. The ants are exotics, imported decades ago from South America in ships carrying soil to stabilize their loads. And, of course, the rainbows are exotics, too.

We predicted a Westwide move to block cows from their wandering ways; now reader Jennifer Rowntree tells us that on a recent trip through Nevada she saw a sign near a Winnemucca rest area. It alerted visitors: "Livestock must be restrained at all times."

What are the necessities of life? Near the town of Wilson, Wyo., residents Cherrie and Robin Siegfried say it's a little place on their 128 acres to touch down and take off in a helicopter. At least 16 neighbors aren't happy about living near the whap-whap noise of a helicopter, reports the Jackson Hole News. Neighbor Sharyl Beebe told the News there was a simple solution: "We think they should land at the airport; that's what it's there for."

Machine noise is one thing; in suburbanizing Oregon some homeowners complain about the relentless peeping of tiny tree frogs, reports the Oregonian. Thanks to El Niûo and a wet spring, the "Pacific chorus frog" is out in force. One man wants his neighbors to fill in their pond to drive the frogs away, a woman is threatening to bill her neighbor for the cost of a sound-deadening air conditioner, and a sleep-deprived man has begun trapping frogs and moving them away, though "the frogs may have beaten their rescuer back home." Biologist Holly Michael says she's taken aback by the irony. "Here you have residents complaining about this wonderful, musical, little native animal that's doing well in spite of us. They're complaining about a success. Some people actually go out and buy CDs just to bring these noises inside their homes."

Wyoming made headlines in June when a strangely named group, Islamic Jihad, left proclamations near the gaping holes that the self-styled "eco-terrorists' had cut in fences along a 45-mile stretch of road near Casper. "Free the public lands! No more welfare for cowboys! No phone - we'll be in touch. No address - we're everywhere." One rancher told The Denver Post: "All they are doing is driving a further wedge between environmental groups and ranchers."

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 [email protected]

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