Armed and amorous, women’s pay and rogue bears

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

  • CALIFORNIA The U.S. Border Patrol keeps a close watch on the birds.

    Jim West

“The gun hidden in my back pocket
is dying to meet the gun in your purse” might be the motto of a new dating website for the “carry firearm community.” Singles who share a passion for the Second Amendment might just kindle one for each other, or so goes the expectation of 

If you’re an ambitious woman living and working
in the West, it’s entirely possible that you’ve examined your paycheck and wondered, “Am I fairly paid compared to that slacker, Joe, who does the same job, and do I have any shot at moving up in this male-dominated company?” According to, which worked with the Center for American Progress to collect the data, the answers to those questions might well be “no” and “no.” Julie Anderson at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research looked at four key indicators of gender inequality in all 50 states, and when it came to the wage gap between women and men working full time, six Western states ranked close to the bottom. Wyoming ranked dead last in the nation, with women making only 64.4 percent of what men earned, followed by Utah, fourth lowest, North Dakota, fifth lowest, Montana, sixth lowest, Idaho, eighth lowest, and South Dakota, which came in at 20th. It is a dubious distinction that these six Western states also showed up among the website’s “10 worst states” when it came to the percentage of management jobs and legislative seats held by women. And although 42 states now fund preschool slots for 3-to-4-year-olds, none of those six Western states do so, which makes it difficult for women to stay in the work force. For the record, Mississippi scored as the very worst state for working women seeking gender equality.

What we don’t know about bears could kill them
, so Colorado wildlife managers began tracking 85 bears starting in 2011, using radio collars that told them exactly where those bears were every hour. They focused on bears living around Durango, in southwestern Colorado, because the college town is expanding into prime bear habitat — just like Glenwood Springs, -Aspen, Colorado Springs and Boulder. While the researchers never figured out exactly how the bears spent their time, they learned a lot about these highly adaptable bruins, and what they’ve found out might change the state’s policy on nuisance bears. For example, researchers found that though bears often visit developed areas when they need a food boost, the animals don’t stick around and become addicted to human garbage. This new notion of urban-food-as-snack challenges the state’s two-strike policy, which calls for killing bears that have been reported more than once for becoming habituated. The Denver Post reported other interesting findings from state wildlife officials: While older bears can thrive in a city, cubs are likely to get hit by cars, since they’ve never had a chance to learn to dodge them. And if separated from their mothers, cubs are liable to mistake “power poles for trees, leading to regular electrocutions.” Meanwhile, in 2015, there were 1,200 reports of “problem bears” across the state, and hunters killed more than 1,000 bruins. The allowable kill has doubled over the past decade, and researchers now say that the bear population in southwestern Colorado is decreasing.

In West Yellowstone
, at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, captive grizzles get to work at fun jobs testing storage containers that are designed to be “bear-resistant.” In the last 10 years, grizzlies, including “the infamous Kobuk the Destroyer,” have “brutalized” 425 containers, reports the Jackson Hole News&Guide. Only about three out of five bins survived an hour with Kobuk and his cohort, which is the officially sanctioned success standard for a container. But a problem has developed: “The grizzly bears responsible for tearing containers to shreds are getting bored and depressed.” If they can’t bang around bins because the containers are built to stay firmly seated on the ground, said Forest Service bear expert Scott Jackson, “they just lick the bait off the outside and leave them alone.” 

In other ursine news
, what looked like a teddy bear picnic of 13 grizzles was spotted by the pilot of an airplane flying above a ranch in the foothills of Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front. Wayne Kasworm, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said he’d never seen that many bears in one place; he thinks they included mothers and daughters “and possibly even a grandmother.” So why were male bears missing from this family reunion? Kasworm said that when the males leave home, they go farther afield than females, who tend to adopt part of their mother’s turf. At 1,000 bears, the population of grizzlies in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which includes the Rocky Mountain Front, is now the largest in the Lower 48, and growing, reports the Great Falls Tribune.

Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write [email protected] or tag photos #heardaroundthewest on Instagram.

High Country News Classifieds