Heard Around the West

  • Neck and neck on the 3:10 to Emu



Hikers passing any of 284 high mountain lakes in western Colorado this fall may get to see some flying fish. First, a small plane will appear, flying low. Then, "at precisely the correct time," the pilot will open a bay and send a stream of fish-filled water into the lake. It's a native fish-stocking operation run by the state's Division of Wildlife. If a Cessna 185 jockeying wind currents some 125 feet over a lake sounds chancy, imagine what it's like for the 2-inch-long cutthroat trout. They've known only the soft life of a hatchery, yet when the little fish go airborne, they exit a plane traveling at 85 miles per hour.


Bears can be such slobs. In Tahoe City, Calif., a bear and two cubs broke into the mountain home of Danny Hyde, a school principal, and were still living off the fat of his kitchen when he opened the front door. Hyde shouted when he glimpsed the open refrigerator and food strewn everywhere, and the intruders fled, jumping out of an open window. The bruin family left behind ripped-out shelves and a floor covered by a gooey conglomeration of molasses, cookies, honey, ice cream and chicken chow mein, reports the New York Times. Cleaning up the mess took Hyde and his six helpers five hours. The break-in was anything but unique: Every night during the summer, said a state biologist, an estimated 10 bears muscle their way into homes in the Lake Tahoe area - a big jump from previous years. Placer County Deputy Sheriff John Lasagna thinks the increase might be caused by a lack of easy pickings, now that more homeowners have installed bear-proof garbage cans.


A llama broke out of its fenced yard, reports the Bend Bulletin in central Oregon, and that was only the beginning: It attacked a jogger, spitting, stomping and kicking her. It took five people to hold down the 250-pound animal, which was said to be suffering from a rare disorder called "berserk llama syndrome." Maybe it's catching. In Fort Collins, Colo., a bull snake slithered into a classroom at Colorado State University. When a student tried to pick it up, the nonpoisonous snake bit the student's hand. Meanwhile, other classmates stood on chairs, screaming. A brave soul finally put the snake in his backpack and took it outside, reports the Associated Press.


District Judge John Paternoster couldn't have been sterner as he sentenced two poachers from Fort Worth, Texas. Their crime spree, he said, constituted a "serial act of terrorism." What Kolby Knight and Jonathon Seamen did was shoot several antelope as the two hunters drove along a 90-mile stretch between the small towns of Raton and Clayton in northeastern New Mexico. The men were each sentenced to 90 days in jail and ordered to pay $10,750. They also have to turn in their rifles to the state and write letters of apology that will be published in local newspapers, according to the Albuquerque Journal.


As Grist, the online environmental newsmagazine, succinctly put it: "Your opinion is wrong." For the fourth time, the National Park Service asked the public what it thought of a plan to limit the number of snowmobiles entering Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Much as in previous times, nearly three-quarters of the 122,190 people commenting said that all snowmobiles should stay out of the parks, with snowcoaches the only form of mechanized transportation allowed. But does this groundswell count? Apparently not. An agency spokesman said that public opinion doesn't necessarily guide the final decision. Only 193 people - less than two-tenths of 1 percent - reports the Billings Gazette, favored the park's plan that would allow 720 snowmobiles a day in Yellowstone.


If you're going to visit a brothel in rural Nevada, it's definitely smarter to leave your daughter at home, especially if it's a hot day. A man from Bend, Ore., parked his 2-year-old in an automobile for two hours, reports the Salem-News, while he was "attending a private function inside." Security guards heard the little girl crying, and after failing to find a parent, took her inside and out of the 95-degree heat. Lucien Hoffman was charged with child neglect.


Two men from Portland got in trouble for "fishing" at trailheads in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge. For three months, Daniel Brandberg and Timothy Wiley trolled for envelopes containing cash by applying rodent glue to a piece of metal, then lowering the device into boxes filled with fees meant for the Forest Service. Longtime fee critic Scott Silver of the nonprofit group Wild Wilderness chortled at the connection between rat glue and what he calls a RAT - the Recreation Access Tax. The official name of the backcountry and parking lot fees law is the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act. The two "fishermen" were charged with theft and possession of methamphetamine.

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.

High Country News Classifieds