Guns are welcome, Idaho poachers, and a popping eyeball.

  • UTAH Although even the finest marksmanship is not always appreciated by the target.

    Greg Woodall
 

IDAHO
A secretive predator stalks the elk, moose and deer that roam the forests of north Idaho, reports the Spokesman-Review, and according to George Fischer, a state Fish and Game conservation officer, these two-legged, stealthy animals are "probably killing as many (game animals) or more than wolves … that is the shock-and-awe message." Poachers have a shockingly high success rate, based on a detection factor of 5 percent; Idaho estimates that about 600 elk, 80 moose, 260 mule deer and 1,000 whitetail deer are illegally killed every year. What's really surprising, says state conservation officer Barry Cummings, is that nobody talks about poaching's devastating effects, though if four-legged predators were suspected of this level of carnage, "Holy buckets, we would be setting budgets aside." It's not clear why people don't turn in known poachers, said Mark Hill, a senior conservation officer for Idaho. Maybe they figure, "If I turn in so-and-so, I'm going to be reflecting on some of the things I do, and they will turn me in."

COLORADO
Aspen has a "dirty little secret," writes Lorenzo Semple in the Aspen Daily News, and it's a real bummer for spring skiers. Blame the lingering effects of the "snirt-storm" – a mix of dirt and snow – that hit on March 31. That night the sky turned orange and a giant cloud of dust called a "haboob" swept over the resort town and its famous mountains. This was no "thin layer of dust," says Semple, or even the year's only dust storm, but hopefully, the last coating of the season. Brown snow increases runoff and evaporation and also makes ski turns look a lot like "fudge-swirl ice cream." Which might sound yummy, but doesn't improve the skiing.

THE NATION
In Wyoming, former U.S. Republican Sen. Alan Simpson and the Big Horn Basin Tea Party have been debating the proper role of sheepdogs, reports Gregory Nickerson in Wyofile. Robert Ruckman of Powell told the Cody Enterprise that the Tea Party has merely acted as the conscience of the Republican Party – much like sheepdogs, he said – who are "geared toward protecting and helping others." If this is the group's role, responded the always blunt and acerbic Simpson, "we are all in trouble." Simpson, who is pro-choice and supports reforming not only Social Security and Medicare, but also defense spending, asked: "Why should the sheepdogs force and foist their religious and political ideas on the rest of us? I thought the Republican Party was about these things: Government out of your life, the precious right of privacy and the right to be left alone. Did I miss something?" In more letters, Tea Party adherents replied that indeed, Simpson did miss something; in fact, they said, he was sounding like a dreaded liberal. As Tea Party member Ray DiLorenzo put it, Simpson has "either forgotten, never understood or IS the liberal that looks at every compromise as getting closer to their goal of secular socialism." But then DiLorenzo attacked the Tea Party's very own sheepdog metaphor: "I don't need a political 'shepherd' to guide me through life … I'm an American!" So far, no comment from sheepdogs, who tend to keep their political views to themselves.

THE WEST
In a fine piece about a group of Western thinkers rafting the shrinking Colorado River in Harper's Magazine, Christopher Ketchum includes a telling quote from the writer Bill deBuys. With 200 dams sucking up river flows, and declining reservoirs threatening the delivery of water to millions of people downriver, rational decision-making about water allocation is going to be tough, he predicted: "Drought erodes society's confidence, goodwill, trust. It gives people plenty of time to erect defenses, pick sides, and meditate on the defects of their neighbors."

ALASKA
It's hard to beat this local-color lead in the Alaska Dispatch: "The eyeball popped out when the man blew his nose, shortly after receiving the punch. He pushed it back in before heading to a Dillingham doctor, who said he would need to get surgery in Anchorage." The victim, who said he did not know who punched him, noted that he "had never had an experience where his eyeball popped out after blowing his nose." We're willing to take his word for it.

COLORADO
Shades of the 1960s: An 18-year-old senior at a charter school in Colorado Springs, The Classical Academy, was told he must cut his shoulder-length hair or be barred from classes, reports the Independent. So far, Charlie McGrath, who plays drums in two bands, has refused: " A lot of my friends like my hair. It's nice for being in a band." We're hoping his hair stays long for graduation.

Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write [email protected].

High Country News Classifieds
  • WATER RIGHTS/ADJUDICATION BUREAU CHIEF
    Job Overview: Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that Montana's land and water resources provide benefits for present and future...
  • CLIMATE CHANGE COORDINATOR
    The Greater Yellowstone Coalition is seeking a Climate Change Coordinator to play a lead role in shaping our programs to make the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Executive Director Position Announcement POSITION TITLE: Executive Director ORGANIZATION: Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument REPORTING TO: Board of Directors EMPLOYMENT TYPE: Part-time - Full-time, based...
  • HEALTHY CITIES PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Healthy Cities Program Director leads and manages the Healthy Cities Program for the Arizona Chapter and is responsible for developing and implementing innovative, high...
  • CONSERVATION PROGRAM MANAGER
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Conservation Programs Manager Job Opening Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Associate Director Job Posting Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through science,...
  • UNIQUE, ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOME ON ACREAGE NEAR MOSCOW, IDAHO
    Custom-built energy-efficient 3000 sqft two-story 3BR home, 900 sqft 1 BR accessory cottage above 2-car garage and large shop. Large horse barn. $1,200,000. See online...
  • OUTDOOR ADVENTURE BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures (MOLA) - established and profitable outdoor adventure & education business in Missoula, Montana. Summer camp, raft & climb guide, teen travel,...
  • OJO SARCO FARM/HOME
    A wonderful country setting for a farm/work 1350s.f. frame home plus 1000 studio/workshop. 5 acres w fruit trees, an irrigation well, pasture and a small...
  • STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Join Skagit Land Trust (the Trust), a not-for-profit conservation organization based in Mount Vernon, Washington, and help protect land for people and wildlife. Skagit Land...
  • 2022 SEASONAL SCIENCE EDUCATOR
    The Mount St. Helens Institute Science Educator supports our science education and rental programs including day and overnight programs for youth ages 6-18, their families...
  • POLICY DIRECTOR
    Heart of the Rockies Initiative is seeking a Policy Director to lead and define policy efforts to advance our mission to keep working lands and...
  • CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
    Self-Help Enterprises seeks an experienced and strategic CFO
  • CONSERVATION SPECIALIST - LAND PROTECTION FOCUS
    View full job description and how to apply at
  • RIVER EDUCATOR & GUIDE
    River Educator & Guide River Educator & Guide (Trip Leader) Non-exempt, Seasonal Position: Full-time OR part-time (early April through October; may be flexible with start/end...
  • LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    The Land and Water Conservation Director is a full-time salaried position with the Mountain Area Land Trust in Evergreen, CO. The successful candidate will have...
  • FOOD SYSTEMS ENVIRONMENTAL FELLOWSHIP
    If you were to design a sustainable society from the ground up, it would look nothing like the contemporary United States. But what would it...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is seeking an Executive Director who will lead RiGHT toward a future of continued high conservation impact, organizational...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Help protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Work hard, meet good people, make the world a better place!...
  • NEW BOOK:
    True Wildlife Tales From Boy to Man. Finding my voice to save wildlife in the Apache spirit. 365+ vivid colorful pictures. Buy on Amazon/John Wachholz