Heard Around the West

  • Signs spotted on the Navajo Reservation



It must be nerve-racking to teach school in Salt Lake City, where, at any time, a person can legally walk into a classroom with a gun concealed in clothing or tucked into a backpack. But that’s state law, so what’s a school district to do? One state legislator pooh-poohs potential problems, advising teachers and principals to level the battlefield by carrying their own hidden guns. Recently, the seven-person Salt Lake school board settled on a more moderate approach. It ordered “STOP” signs posted at the city’s 28 schools with this message: “School safety is a priority! Please help us keep our schools safe and free from violence and weapons. We encourage all concealed-carry permit holders to leave their weapons at home or outside the school.” If that doesn’t work, here’s a suggestion gleaned from anti-smoking activists: “THANK YOU FOR NOT TAKING YOUR GUN TO SCHOOL.”


Say what you will about Dick Cheney, a vice president often accused of arrogance, but he’s got class — outdoors. His waders sport patches of duct tape, and around the campfire he welcomes contrary opinions, according to fishing guides in Jackson Hole, where the veep has owned a $3 million home for three decades. The Jackson Hole News and Guide tagged along on a recent fishing trip with Cheney and saw some good-natured teasing going on, too. For example, guides gave Cheney a special present: eyeglasses with missiles glued to the lenses, so Cheney could more easily spot weapons of mass destruction.


The Rocky Mountain News described it best, with the headline, “Colorado’s big cheese squeaks his mind: Mouse-to-mouse resuscitation from state may aid species.” The mouse in question is the Preble’s jumping meadow mouse, and the “big cheese” is Gov. Bill Owens, who complained about the Endangered Species Act at a conference organized by Governing magazine. Colorado construction companies are suffering, Owens says: The mouse now has 31,000 acres of federally protected “critical habitat,” stretching from Colorado Springs to southeastern Wyoming. That makes it harder to build new subdivisions and roads in the wetland areas where the tiny rodent lives. Of course, one solution is to stop building them, but Gov. Owens sees no need for a mouse homeland. Instead, he asked: “How hard can it be to actually breed mice? If we have a problem with not enough of an endangered frog, we have seven or eight state fish hatcheries. Why don’t we raise our own?”


Two biologists at Montana State University in Bozeman have been following wolves around Yellowstone National Park, pooper-scoopers in hand. They bring wolf scat back to the lab to find out if wolves identified as dominant suffer more stress than others in the pack. And yes, it’s tough at the top. Thanks to the presence of a stress hormone known as glucocorticoid, researchers Jennifer Sands and Scott Creel have concluded that alpha wolves “pay for their rank with shorter lives,” reports The Economist magazine. This goes against studies of other mammals — humans — which show that bosses have longer life expectancies. Executives among British civil servants, for instance, were found to be healthier than their underlings. For lower-status wolves, however, burnout at the top has an advantage: Turnover is “frequent enough to reward patience.”


Two women hiking in Glacier National Park suddenly became the victims of a grizzly bear that attacked them from the rear. The women heard a loud “woof,” followed by what sounded like teeth gnashing, all of which led Kathryn Hiestand, 48, of Bozeman, Mont., to grab her bear spray. At that moment, the bear pushed her from behind into a tree, says Amy Vanderbilt, park spokeswoman. The grizzly then attacked Kelsy Running Wolf, 20, of Browning, Mont., “pulling her to the ground and biting her on the shoulder.” That gave Hiestand, who had been playing dead, the chance to spray repellent at the bear, which immediately ran off. The mugging lasted only about 10 seconds, and although both women suffered puncture wounds and scratches, they were able to hike out six miles to a ranger station.

Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colo. Tips of Western oddities are always appreciated and often shared in the column, Heard around the West.

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