Heard around the West

  • STUBBORN BISON: Waving a glove didn't help

    Bruce McClelland photo
 

For two years a buffalo dubbed Bart lived without incident at a Tucson, Ariz., guest ranch, apparently content in its confinement. But recently the 2,000-pound animal busted out of his pen and the puzzlement began.

No one, it seemed, knew how to corral a truly wild beast, and every attempt to trap, harass, entice ("Come on, big boy") failed, reports the Arizona Daily Star. Bart ripped through ropes and moved where Bart wanted, staring balefully at his would-be captors. Freedom didn't last, alas. A water-buffalo "whisperer" from India convinced the giant animal, sometimes described by media as big as an RV, to go back to its pen. But Bart's breakout may not have been in vain. The headline of a recent Star editorial said "Free Bart" and more than one Tucson resident railed against confinement of an animal whose ancestors freely roamed millions of acres.

Not so long ago, comedians joked that by the year 2,000, everyone in the United States would either be a prison guard or an inmate - considering the astounding rate of jail construction. But what if you built a jail and no one came? That's the problem Santa Fe, N.M., faces after spending $27 million for an "adult correctional facility." Private operators of the 648-bed facility have found few takers from other states for the hundreds of extra beds. Some reasons: Crime rates are plummeting nationwide, competition from private and publicly run prisons has depressed room rent, and Texas, which had been deficient in prison beds, now has plenty. In fact, Texas imports prisoners from seven states, reports the Los Angeles Times. American Jails magazine warns - perhaps too late for New Mexico - that if a state decides to build jails to generate jobs and revenue, it could be walking a path toward "correctional bankruptcy."

Hit and amble. A California man riding his bicycle in Glacier National Park collided with a bear recently. The man, who suffered a broken collarbone, was taken by ambulance to a hospital, while the bear wandered off, apparently unhurt. Reports the Treasure State Review in Montana: "Officials were unable to determine what make of bear was involved."

"Some huge birds just walked in here," said a volunteer at a visitors' center atop 10,500-foot Grand Mesa near Grand Junction, Colo. Huge is no exaggeration when you're talking about condors, which the three birds indeed were. The carrion-eaters sport 10-foot wingspans. Condors are also curious, reports AP. These big birds had boldly flown farther than any of the other 19 members of their group, an experimental population near Grand Canyon that still gets fed to make sure they survive in the wild.

Why do a few Western toads live to cross the road? Because a "toad patrol" of volunteers in the central Oregon town of Sunriver detains the toads with a 6-inch drift fence, then gathers them up for ferrying across busy highways. Only 10 to 15 breeding pairs are known to survive nearby, and the toads must hop across roads that lie between their breeding area and hatching ponds, AP reports. "Automobiles were killing two-thirds of all the breeding adults," says Jay Bowerman, who works for the Sunriver Nature Center. "It was rare to find one that made it to the center line before being run over." Just 10 years ago, the Western toad was the most widespread amphibian in the Northwest; these days the number of toads has dropped dramatically. In Sunriver, a resort town, cars seem a major factor in the decline. Bowerman says in 1993, the last big breeding season for the toads, offspring "got slaughtered on the roads."


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 [email protected]

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