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Know the West

Heard around the West



A man working in a brushy area of his horse pasture in Big Horn, Wyo., looked over his shoulder and suddenly noticed he’d been stalked: A mountain lion stood 10 feet away. The man, who told the Cody Enterprise he wished to remain anonymous, did everything right: He straightened up, yelled and banged his shovel to appear threatening. The lion stayed put. When the man tried to edge away, the lion charged. But the man still had his shovel, and he swung it at the lion and connected, while also shouting for help. The combination did the trick, and the lion retreated; later, the animal was treed by dogs and shot by state wildlife officers.


On Oct. 22, a dozen or so skiers in Silverton in western Colorado couldn’t wait for the ski season to begin: Ten inches had fallen on the town, nestled high in the mountains at 10,000 feet. The skiers headed out to the still-closed Silverton Mountain Ski Area and were having a great time, reports the Silverton Standard & the Miner, when they saw a fracture line shoot across the snow above them. An avalanche immediately released, sweeping one skier over a cliff and some 800 to 900 feet down to the valley below. Amazingly, the skier lived to tell the tale, though he was found buried up to his neck in snow that had set like concrete. He suffered mainly from hypothermia — the avalanche had stripped off all his clothes from the waist up.


Brought back to the West in 1995, wolves are flourishing in and around Yellowstone, but they still get in trouble whenever they feast on private property in the form of calves, lambs or llamas. Environmentalists protest that wolves are then killed for doing what comes naturally — eating — while ranchers complain that wolf packs threaten their livelihood. The man dealing with their criticism for the last decade has been Ed Bangs, team leader for wolf recovery for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Bangs isn’t retiring, but he’s looking to pass on his hot seat to Montana staffers at the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Let the state decide when and where to kill problem-causing wolves, he told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Bangs joked that he’s ready for a tame job in a coffee shop, the kind where "people come to you for something they want, you give it them, and they thank you."


Thanks to the Moab-based Canyon Country Zephyr, we saw a list of constitutional amendments that might just have passed Nov. 2 had they made it onto the state ballot. In the Top 10: "All Internet traffic passing through Utah must be baptized at the state line," "Separation of church and state shall not exceed three minutes," "God shall provide adequate water for lawns in all years," and the no-brainer for men: "Marriage shall consist of a union between a man and as many women as can tolerate him."


Talking about wolves in the middle of the night can make some people trigger-happy. That’s what happened to a 38-year-old hunter from Florida, who got "scared to death" by a conversation about wolf packs with a guide and another hunter. Later, when he was alone in the dark near Livingston, Mont., David Williams heard something moving and fired three rounds of his .300-caliber magnum rifle toward the noise. What he hit was his 25-year-old guide, J.C. Davis, who’d been walking his horse toward Williams. The Associated Press said the blast "blew a hole" in the guide’s upper left arm, causing extensive damage; Williams has been charged with reckless endangerment.


Is anyone else annoyed by the full-page Volkswagen ads in glossy magazines for the company’s all-terrain Touareg SUV? The car is ballyhooed as so special that "the highway is just a suggestion." A photo shows the car lured by white lines peeling off a highway and up into rugged desert, because "you actually could go just about anyplace you get the urge to." Not so on most public land in the West. Here’s a suggestion for VW: "Roads are for driving. Stay on the road."

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