An industrious badger; misspelled markers of death; a political shooting match

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

  • COLORADO So, whose stretch was the cleanest?

    Doug Rhinehart
 

UTAH
Badgers are known for
their digging prowess, but now we know just how maniacally they’ll work for later dining opportunities. In an ingenious experiment, University of Utah researcher Evan Buechley staked down seven cow carcasses in the Great Basin Desert, then filmed whoever showed up to feast. When one carcass completely vanished, with no signs of dragging, Buechley was mystified. Then he looked at what the camera revealed: A single badger had entombed the cow in situ, burying the animal and completely covering it with dirt, NPR reports. Buechley said he was “more and more amazed at this kind of impossible feat that this badger had achieved.” The badger excavated day and night, digging underneath the carcass while building a den connected to it — sort of an underground dining nook. “So it worked overtime for five days, like really, really intensely, and then it just had a two-week feeding fest,” Buechley said.

MONTANA
Apparently, most Montanans
weren’t bothered by TV commercials showing two political candidates shooting at inanimate objects, but Missoula Independent writer Dan Brooks confessed his dismay. The two men were vying for the state’s at-large House seat vacated by newly appointed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. In an ad called “Grab,” Republican Greg Gianforte fires a shotgun to blow up a computer perched on a desk in a grassy field, while an ominous voice-over explains that it represents the apparently outrageous notion of a national gun registry. Meanwhile, in “Defend,” Democrat Rob Quist’s weapon of choice is a rifle. After first pointing the weapon directly at the camera — a move some viewers perhaps found disquieting — Quist blasts away at a television, thereby demonstrating his distaste for a National Rifle Association TV ad that targeted his candidacy. Both candidates wear jeans and humongous belt buckles, so that, Brooks says, “they look like what they are: two guys who dressed up to shoot televisions for television.” The candidates are betting that “voters will sit up and bark for guns, phony swagger and whatever other rootin’, tootin’ marketin’ a team of political consultants … can think up.” But Brooks hasn’t lost hope: “There has to be a meaningful idea around here somewhere.” The special election was set for May 25.

ARIZONA
If you’re going to chisel an inscription
onto a marble headstone created to stand the test of time, it is assuredly a good idea to spell the name of the deceased correctly. And should you fail the spelling test? Just dispose of the evidence, as somebody did about 65 years ago, tossing 50 rejected headstones into a sandy incline called Pantano Wash near Tucson, Arizona. As the decades passed, the “typo-ridden grave markers” were joined by even more debris, including 10 tons of tires, 240 tons of concrete and 80 tons of scrap metal, including entire car bodies, reports the Arizona Daily Star. “There’s so much junk it boggles the mind,” said Eddie Garcia, an inspector with the engineering company that’s reinforcing stream banks along the wash and adding trails. The project is estimated to cost $8.2 million; no word if points were taken off for spelling.

WYOMING
In a delightful Wyofile story
by Matthew Copeland titled “How to patch a wind turbine,” we’re told that the primary responsibility is “Don’t die. That’s job one.” Job two is “kind of like fixing a tooth cavity,” says Jason Litton, a Cody-based rope-access technician, explaining that turbine blades can get pitted or cracked by lightning strikes, falling ice or wind-borne objects. Those holes need to be filled in with fiberglass and ground smooth, much like dentistry. But there’s no comfortable office for the fixer, who has to dangle in space hanging from a rope while being buffeted by Wyoming’s famous gusts. The pay starts at $25 an hour, with a healthy travel allowance, but the risks include being hit by lightning or shocked by a high-voltage cable. Not to mention that “an unlocked turbine blade could lift you 400 feet higher into the sky, turn you upside down and drop you.” No nitrous oxide available either, though that’s probably not a good idea anyway if you’re working 300 feet above the desert floor.

MONTANA
There’s mud, and then there’s Montana mud,
so suction-savvy it can swallow a Humvee’s 37-inch tires and hold the vehicle tight for a week. That’s what happened near Billings after a Humvee slid into a mud bog on a rural road. The crew, on patrol to Minuteman III missile sites, had to abandon the vehicle and call for help. But the mud embraced the Humvee with such enthusiasm that it defeated three attempts at extrication. Eventually, a helicopter from the Montana National Guard had to wrap it in a sling to airlift it from its death grip, reports the Billings Gazette.

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

High Country News Classifieds
  • PLANNED GIVING OFFICER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks a Planned Giving Officer. Do you find energy in...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Methow Valley Citizens Council has a distinguished history of advocating for progressive land use and environmental values in the Methow Valley and Okanogan County...
  • ACTING INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS DESK EDITOR
    High Country News is seeking an Acting Indigenous Affairs Editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk while our editor is on...
  • GRANTS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation seeks an enthusiastic, team-oriented and knowledgeable Grants Program Director to work from their home in Montana. Established in 1983, the Cinnabar Foundation...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Artemis Program Manager will work with National Wildlife Federation sporting and public lands staff to change this dynamic, continue to build upon our successful...
  • ALASKA SEA KAYAK BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Well-known and successful sea kayak, raft, hike, camp guiding & water taxi service. Sale includes everything needed to run the business, including office & gear...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND EVENTS PROGRAM COORDINATOR
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a detail-oriented and enthusiastic Membership and Events Coordinator to join our small, but mighty-fun team to oversee our membership...
  • PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT FACILITATOR
    ABOUT THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM Since opening in 1982, HIGH DESERT MUSEUM has brought together wildlife, culture, art and natural resources to promote an understanding...
  • LAND STEWARD, ARAVAIPA
    Steward will live on-site in housing provided by TNC and maintains preserve areas frequented by the visiting public and performs land management activities. The Land...
  • DEVELOPMENT WRITER
    Who We Are: The Nature Conservancy's mission is to protect the lands and waters upon which all life depends. As a science-based organization, we create...
  • CONNECTIVITY SCIENCE COORDINATOR
    Position type: Full time, exempt Location: Bozeman preferred; remote negotiable Compensation: $48,000 - $52,000 Benefits: Major medical insurance, up to 5% match on a 401k,...
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
    ArenaLife is looking for an Executive Assistant who wants to work in a fast-paced, exciting, and growing organization. We are looking for someone to support...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Mountain Lion Foundation is seeking an Executive Director. Please see our website for further information - mountainlion.org/job-openings
  • WASHINGTON DC REPRESENTATIVE
    Position Status: Full-time, exempt Location: Washington, DC Position Reports to: Program Director The Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) is seeking a Washington, DC Representative...
  • REGIONAL CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER
    Position Title: Regional Campaign Organizers (2 positions) Position Status: Full-time, exempt Location: Preferred Billings, MT; remote location within WORC's region (in or near Grand Junction...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Driggs, ID based non-profit. Full time. Full job description available at tvtap.org. Submit cover letter and resume to [email protected]
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • SPRING MOUNTAINS SOLAR OFF GRID MOUNTAIN HOME
    Located 50 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada in the pine forest of Lee Canyon at 8000 feet elevation. One of a kind property surrounded...
  • MAJOR GIFTS MANAGER - MOUNTAIN WEST, THE CONSERVATION FUND
    Cultivate, solicit and steward a portfolio of 75-125 donors.
  • NATURE'S BEST IN ARAVAIPA CANYON
    10 acre private oasis in one of Arizona's beautiful canyons. Fully furnished, 2123 sq ft architectural custom-built contemporary home with spectacular views and many extras....