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for people who care about the West

Death by hot-potting; turkey intimidation; hunting poachers

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.


We now know more about why
an Oregon brother and sister walked across Yellowstone National Park’s hottest geothermal region last June, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Wyoming’s KULH-TV. Their illegal stroll made national news because the young man fell into a hot spring and was never seen again — only his flip-flops remained. Like many of the 840,000 who visited the park that month, reports the Washington Post, Sable and Colin Scott came to marvel at Norris Geyser Basin’s weird array of orange, green and pink microorganisms and boiling water, which has been measured as high as 459 degrees. When they left the boardwalk, however, they had more than scenery on their minds: “Their goal was to find a thermal pool and take a soak — illegal conduct that the park describes as ‘hot-potting.’” The two had hiked 225 yards into the basin when Colin Scott reached down to check the water’s temperature, slipped and fell into a 10-foot-deep pool. Though bad weather delayed a rescue attempt, even a fast save would have been futile. As Yellowstone ranger Lorant Veress delicately put it, “In a very short order, there was a significant amount of dissolving.” Veress warns visitors that “straying” beyond the official paths is definitely dangerous.

“I got a turkey here that just won’t let me leave,”
said a desperate caller to a 911 operator in Davis, California. Just in time for Thanksgiving, the Revolution had begun: Several dozen angry wild turkeys formed a gang that patrols the streets and bullies residents, reports The Week magazine. Wildlife specialist John McNerney advised people cowed by the turkeys to not act chicken: Remember you’re “the dominant species. Don’t let them intimidate you.” That advice might have helped the man who complained that the wild bunch “just put me in a corner.”

A man fleeing police in Ontario, Oregon,
thought he’d found the perfect hiding place — a large badger hole on Bureau of Land Management property. Unfortunately, the hole was 8 feet deep, and it swallowed first the man’s dog and then the suspect himself, 22-year-old Gregory Morrow, who found himself trapped and unable to move. It took police 90 minutes to dig him out, and he likely would have died if they hadn’t found him, reports The Associated Press.

If you’re going to poach an elk,
be sure to post a braggy picture of yourself with your kill on Facebook. That’s what one self-incriminating poacher did, and JT Romatzke, wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Grand Junction, happily used that picture to identify four possible canyons where it might have been taken. It took months, but the “kill site” was narrowed down to Exxon Mobil property near Rifle, where no hunting is allowed. Wildlife officers then used DNA evidence to link the poachers to the site during an investigation that took two years to complete. What proved startling, however, was the identity of two of the four poachers, reports the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel: Thad Bingham and Brian Scheer were both federal employees, working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the agency’s Native Fish Facility Ponds near Fruita. “We cannot stress this enough,” said Romatzke. “If you commit a wildlife crime, no matter who you are, we are going to do what we can to find you.” The other men sentenced for poaching were Josh Fitzsimmons and Barrett Rowles. Sentences included a mix of suspension of hunting privileges and fines.

City managers with progressive ideas
seem to get nowhere fast in Arizona. The state Legislature recently banned cities from attempting to ban plastic grocery bags, and as if that weren’t enough, a second bill banned cities from requiring landlords or developers to disclose their energy use. The two bills were a reaction to the city of Tempe, which tried to outlaw the use of plastic bags in grocery stores, and Phoenix, which merely looked into imposing an energy-use mandate. They were simply following the lead of a great many energy-conscious cities around the country, reports the Phoenix Business Journal.

Time to give Texas some credit for progress
in energy conservation. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas provides power to almost everyone in the state — 24 million customers and about 90 percent of the state’s total electric load. The grid operator just made a stunning forecast, reports the Union of Concerned Scientists: “Solar power will not only offer the cheapest electricity for projected bulk power purchases in the state from 2017 to 2031, but its price is also so low that no other type of power plants will likely be built in the state.” Nonetheless, politics continues to trump economics, and Texas leads the court fight against President Obama’s Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution.

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