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for people who care about the West

Ranger danger, a case of mistaken fish identity and tiny-house dating

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.


Oops: Totally wrong creature on that billboard outside Lolo, Montana. An all-volunteer tourism improvement board had hoped to pique interest with a billboard showing a bait fisherman hooking a largemouth bass, under the headline: “Welcome to Bitterroot Valley, Montana: Small Town, Big Adventures.” But as any fly-fisher can tell you, the state is a mecca for anglers seeking elusive trout, reports the Ravalli Republic. Fishing outfitter Eddie Olwell went to his favorite brewery and found that people had already become “kind of wild” about the error. Though it’s heresy in Montana to admit it, none of the tourism board members fished, and to them, one fish seemed much like another. Now, the group has ordered a new billboard starring a fly-fisher hooking a trout. Board member Robbie Springs looked on the bright side, observing that “even driving by at 65 miles per hour, people were able to identify that the fish was the wrong kind.”

The lonely mountain lion that roams Los Angeles’ Griffith Park is probably responsible for leaping the zoo’s 9-foot-high fence and bagging a 14-year-old koala bear named Killarney. The bear enjoyed wandering through the grounds at night, reports the Associated Press, and her fans were shocked when her mangled body was found outside the zoo. Evidence against the 130-pound big cat, dubbed P-22, remains circumstantial, though the animal is known to have crossed two freeways to scale the park fence a few years ago. The recent attack sparked a debate between the Los Angeles Council and zoo director John Lewis, with Councilman Mitch O’Farrell wanting to relocate the puma to a larger area where it might find other lions. P-22, whose wild relatives are accustomed to 200 square miles for hunting and breeding, might be feeling thwarted. Last year he left the 8-square-mile park and “lolled under a crawlspace of a home, attracting a media frenzy until he finally wandered home.” But Lewis wants to keep P-22 around, even though the cat’s chances of mating remain remote: “There’s a lot of native wildlife in this area. This is their home, so we’ll learn to adapt to P-22 just like he’s learned to adapt to us.”

“When most of us see a ranger,” said an editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune, “we tip our hats.” Beaver County Commissioner Mark Whitney, however, who presides over a far flung county of only 6,100 residents, regards a federal land manager as a threat — somebody who puts a virtual bull’s-eye on a local’s front, and maybe on his back as well. The idea that federal law enforcement is a “Utah menace” is, “in a word, bull,” the paper said bluntly, and yet the state has agreed to pay $250,000 to the Rural Utah Alliance. This is the group that might pick up some of the legal fees San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman racked up after spearheading an illegal ATV ride through Recapture Canyon two years ago. The paper’s editorial writers, who have become increasingly exasperated, asked: Why does 15 percent of the state — the rural contingent — always “wag the other 85 percent?”

When you live in Seattle in a house the size of a dumpster, it can be tough on your dating life, says Grist magazine’s Katie Herzog. “Finding love is a lot harder to do when you bring someone home for the first time and they see that your apartment has the dimensions of a jail cell.” Herzog’s clock radio is her 300-square-foot home’s entertainment system, her bed requires a ladder to a loft, and the kitchen accommodates only one person at a time. The 32-year-old writer says she was lucky to find an adaptable partner before having to resort to a new reality show, Tiny House Dating, which puts together two strangers. They’re invited to live in a tiny house and, if they’re tolerant and kind, “come out of it in love.” Though the experiment might sound like fun, chances are it would be terrible, Herzog guessed. Would she watch the show? “Maybe, but I can’t fit a TV in my apartment, so I suppose I’ll never have the chance.”

A tiny house sounds lavish compared to a shipping container. Yet in Treasure Valley, Idaho, entrepreneur David Herman lived in one for a couple of years and considered it an upgrade from a mobile home he called “a tuna can with windows.” Now, Herman is developing a 17-home subdivision of metal container homes on 1.2 acres near the Boise River, and seeking “eco-conscious” homebuyers willing to spend $152,000 for a “well-insulated and durable” house. Each is composed of four 8-by-40-foot containers 9-and-a-half-foot-tall, and features some solar, wooden floors, and an acoustic ceramic ceiling, says the Idaho Statesman. The container houses seem a bargain: The median sale price for new homes in the county in 2015 was $313,900.

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