Heard around the West

  • Too much snow, even for a reindeer-drawn sleigh

    Ed Kosmicki


Spurred by global warming or just plain wanderlust, a female polar bear and a male grizzly got together six years ago for what Borat would call "sexy-time." What the encounter produced might be dubbed a "pizzly" or a "grolarbear." The male hybrid was shot earlier this year on a remote Arctic island by Jim Martell, 66, a wealthy Idaho hunter, and DNA examination confirms that it is indeed a new kind of bear. Martell and his Inuit guides first assumed the white furry animal was a polar bear. But closer examination revealed anomalies: long claws, a humped back, black-ringed eyes and a dishy face — just like a grizzly’s. After spending seven months with a taxidermist, reports The Edmonton Journal, the bear went to Martell’s home in Glenns Ferry, a town of 1,400 east of Boise. The full-body mount won’t be there long. Martell, who prefers to call his kill a "polargrizz," plans to show it off at a Nevada hunting expo in January. Bagging the bear was not cheap: Martell paid $50,000 for the hunt and $10,000 for the stuffed carcass.


Which is more important: opening your garage door, or homeland security? That was the knotty question facing Colorado Springs after the Air Force appropriated a particular frequency — one so common that it is used by an estimated 50 million garage-door openers nationwide. The Associated Press says the answer was a no-brainer for folks in the patriotic city. The Air Force has since shut down its signal while it tries to solve the problem, but if it’s unable to adjust the frequency, more than 400 complaining residents will have to install new units. Holly Stack, who lives near Cheyenne Mountain Air Station, joked, "I never thought my garage door was a threat to national security."


A handsome buck with an impressive rack of antlers turned out to be a female, much to the astonishment of the hunter who killed it, reports The Week magazine. "It’s got no male utilities," said Carmen Erickson. "It has teats."


PEEReview, the magazine of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, says the National Park Service is making no friends with its new policy of charging visitors for activities ranging from taking photos of large groups to having weddings. Prices vary from park to park, and the rationales seem to vary as well: "Mount Rainier National Park charges $60 for filming and $60 for a wedding … but only $25 for scattering of ashes — the ultimate exit fee."


Thanks to his upbringing in the shadow of Chicago’s Midway International Airport, Jim Oakley is no stranger to "the ceaseless din of high-powered engines," reports the Boulder Daily Camera. That’s fortunate: Oakley had just bought a new house in Erie, Colo., population 10,000, when a big dog of a neighbor moved in just 100 yards away from him — a 100-foot-tall drill rig belonging to EnCana Oil & Gas USA. It features "a deafening roar" and sports bright lights so it can drill 24 hours a day, seven days a week. EnCana’s arrival brought other surprises as well, such as a constant flow of trucks and heavy equipment. The good news for Oakley is that the company, which leased the mineral rights to 35 acres, plans to cease drilling by the end of the year.


The Kaibab National Forest south of Grand Canyon issued Christmas tree-cutting permits for the Tusayan Ranger District, but specified they were only for "Piñon or Jupiter." Writer Peter Friederici says he’s not sure what a Jupiter tree looks like, "but I’ll sure be keeping my eyes open for one." In the U.S. capital, meanwhile, the Park Service’s PR chief apparently leads a double life, with one involving a kitchen. Explaining why his new boss, agency director Mary Bomar, wasn’t ready to give interviews, David Barna signed his e-mail "Chef of Public Affairs, National Park Service."


Should school buses ferrying public schoolchildren shill for America’s Next Top Model? The Denver Post says "a handful" of Colorado districts have decided to pay for rising transportation costs by putting ads on their buses. Douglas County, near Denver, has joined affluent Cherry Creek in the practice, hoping to make a hefty $13,000 a month. Not all parents are supportive, and Commercial Alert, an Oregon-based nonprofit group, blasts school districts that use advertising to put "our children up for sale."


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.

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