Heard Around the West

  • Troy Hurtubise in suit he spent 11 years designing

    Silvia Otte photo
 

A two-headed deer? A wildlife biologist for Montana said he'd never heard of it before. But it was true. One deer head was alive and attached to its body, while the other had been severed from its torso, most probably after a macho duel that involved the two bucks butting heads and then locking antlers. Robert Kercher of Great Falls shot the living four-point deer, then surmised that the entangled deer - also a four-point - had been dragged around, apparently for days. "Eventually the body fell off," reports the Great Falls Tribune, leaving just the head and antlers trapped in the winning buck's rack.

Coyotes may have also gotten involved by moving in to feed on the trapped animal. Kercher and his five hunting buddies say they were anything but amused by the bizarre discovery. One said, "You think of the agony the animal had gone through." Added state biologist Jim Williams: "It's a tough life being a buck."

Jimsonweed is common in the West, boasting a large, pinkish-white flower, blue-green leaves and thistle-like pods that contain hallucinogenic seeds. In Utah, the word is out that eating seeds of Datura stramonium is like ingesting LSD - a cheap ticket for a strange trip. For four Wasatch Front teenagers recently, the trip turned into a scary sprint to a hospital, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. After the kids scouted backyards for the weed and then swallowed its seeds, their hearts began to race, their breathing became irregular, their muscles jumped, they hallucinated and became very frightened indeed. All survived. Doug Rollins, medical director of the Utah Poison Control Center, says he's concerned because, "We're probably only seeing the tip of the iceberg. This is evidently a popular thing among high school students, because they can get these plants everywhere." Jimsonweed has been known to kill people.

Question: How do you guarantee surviving a close encounter with a grizzly bear? Answer: By becoming a walking tank. Audubon magazine recently profiled Canadian Troy Hurtubise, 34, who was apparently so distressed by a mauling a grizzly gave him in 1984 that he invented impervious body armor. His 1atest 147-pound suit even has a name: the Ursus Mark VII. It features "titanium plating, air bags, and a battery-powered ventilation system." In tests, ranging from shots fired at the suit from a 12-gauge shotgun and the impact from a truck hurtling at the suit at 30 miles per hour, the high-tech bear wear emerged unscathed. There is one problem. Besides the burden of walking like the Tin Man, the cost is a hefty $500,000. It is also questionable whether Hurtubise could fit into a grizzly's den in the dead of winter; the inventor says he hopes to wear his suit to witness the birth of bear cubs.

Two stories that tell us things never go quite as planned: In British Columbia, Canada, a man recently shot himself in the leg with a pistol he carried in case he ran into bears. The accident occurred while he was fleeing a black bear and her two cubs, reports the West Kootenai Weekender. And in Helena, Mont., a porcupine nailed its assailant by doing what comes naturally - attaching quills to whatever came in violent contact with it. A 22-year-old man was charged with kicking the animal to death outside a night club; investigators easily proved they'd gotten their man by checking his shoes. The man was fined $125, AP reports.

Some radioactive debris at the 560-square-mile Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington is leaking and heading right for groundwater; some of it roils and boils within huge metal canisters. That's old news. Now comes word that seemingly harmless insects, ranging from gnats and fruit flies to ants, may be randomly spreading radioactive contamination throughout the isolated area, AP reports. About 10 acres containing office buildings and trailers have been closed to workers because of spot contamination, and 13 different areas are now known to set off Geiger counters. A "wet garbage" area attracting flies and gnats seems the hottest spot so far, registering 10 to 12 millirads per hour, which is about the same amount of radiation released by an hourly dental x-ray.

Good news from the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah: Meat-eating dinosaurs once hung out in the park during the Middle Jurassic Period. Standing eight feet tall and probably 25 to 30 feet long, some 31 dinosaurs left only three-toed footprints, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. The happy finder was a temporary employee of the U.S. Geological Survey, Josh Smith. The Louisiana State University undergraduate says he saw some Entrada slickrock a mile off and thought to himself: "That looks like a great place to mountain bike." Then he came upon the tracks laid millions of years ago.


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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