Heard around the West

  • Heidi Harris says bats only bite in self defense

    Michael J Miller/Salt Lake Tribune

Bats R Us is the name of Heidi Harris' free service, just outside Salt Lake City, Utah.

Got scores of bats flying around your high school, sending teenagers and teachers shrieking out the doors? She'll remove - not kill - them, just as she has extricated hundreds of bats from apartment houses and businesses in the area. Harris says her interest in bats began in adolescence, when she'd watch vampire movies on "Nightmare Theater," reports the Salt Lake Tribune. Instead of fearing them, she became fascinated, and now that she has studied the warm-blooded creatures, she finds them not only magnificent but also remarkably similar to us: "Bats have one baby a year ... and they breast-feed," she says. "They also have an intelligence equal to a dolphin. In five to 10 minutes, I can train a bat to come to my hand for food." These days, Harris boards two bats somehow separated from their colony - Miss Piggy, an adult female, and a newborn male she has dubbed Baby.

Three cheers for a guard llama so dedicated it died on the job near Billings, Mont. The adult gelded male was trained to shepherd a flock of cashmere goats, AP reports, and when poachers tried to force it into a loading chute, the animal balked. The would-be thieves clubbed the animal to death. "He did his job admirably," said owner Dennis Rehberg, a former lieutenant governor of Montana. "He was a great llama. He was not a pet." As well as foiling humans, Rehberg said, the llama kept coyotes, mountain lions and dogs away from the goat herd. Rehberg said another llama will immediately take over guard duties.

Quote collectors in Idaho have their ears trained on a member of the State Land Board, Superintendent of Schools Anne Fox. In August, when the board debated the state's role in protecting a rare flower as part of a land exchange with the Forest Service, Fox suggested a novel solution: "If you have a plant that is sensitive, why don't you grow it in a greenhouse?" reports the Spokesman-Review. The answer, said forester Jim Dvoracek of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest, is that "if we could do that, it probably wouldn't be a sensitive species." Anne Fox continued to show interest in science a month later, when the manager of a treated wood-post business told the Land Board he knew why salmon were dying out in Idaho. The culprit was tree roots that make a "very toxic tea," said Bryan Ravenscroft. But he added that an antidote is simple: "More logging." The Lewiston Morning Tribune found Superintendent of Schools Anne Fox receptive to this line of inquiry: "This seems very significant," she said. "Do we have any research money?"

There is new hope for old dogs. A couple has given Texas A&M University $2.3 million to clone their mongrel Missy. The dog's owners, who have requested anonymity, say on their Web site (http://www.missyplicity.com) that they adopted the stray, now 11, when she was 4 months old: "I offered a howl to her, and she raised her nose and howled at the roof. I barked at her and she barked right back, a low, rich-toned, businesslike bark. I whined, she whined." Heading toward dotage, the lucky dog is the focus of something called the Missyplicity Project and can now look forward to "a double leash on life," reports AP.

Two pig farmers went at it hoof by jowl in the pages of the Denver Post recently, debating how and whether to regulate the water pollution and odor of giant pig farms. If pedigree has anything to do with it, Amendment 14, requiring an environmental permit for corporate hog farms, will win. That's because supporter Galen Travis was listed as a "fourth-generation" Colorado farmer. Brett Rudledge, the backer of no-permit amendment 13, is also a farmer, but only "third generation."

A stray cow from a nearby dairy seemed the only threat of encroachment when Jim Butler and his wife, Betty, moved into her mother's turn-of-the-century home in Hailey, Idaho, in 1993. The couple thought they would end their days there. But an airport opened nearby, then a church, residential neighborhood and post office. Now there's a bigger threat, a proposed business park that needs a road. Unfortunately for the Butlers, the planned road "goes right through the front room," Jim Butler told the Wood River Journal. "It's quite an inconvenience for us." The Butlers, who say they "are not in the mood to sell," may be pushed out nonetheless. They're waiting to meet with the planning and zoning board.

How do you nab a driver who's weaving all over the road, clipping off mile markers and almost smashing into a tractor-trailer? Call in the football team from Chadron State College in Nebraska. In DeBeque Canyon in western Colorado, the students turned from defensive drivers into citizen cops. Their target was Christopher Gekas, 46, later arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. At one point Gekas left the road and barreled into a pasture, reports the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, but then he "popped back" up on the interstate before turning off near the town of Parachute. That's when the football players - who had just beaten Mesa State College - went into action, pulling Gekas out of the car and grabbing his keys. Lying on the ground, Gekas couldn't believe he'd been collared. "'Hey, you guys are serious, aren't you? You're serious," he said. "He wanted to leave," recalls assistant coach Chris Stein. Just in case no one believes them, there's a record of Gekas' driving, thanks to another assistant coach. He grabbed the team's video camera and taped Gekas' truck as it bounced off a concrete median barrier.

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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