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Know the West

A trapped coyote; human waste pollutes Denali; public lands on the runway

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.


In the Northern California town of Auburn, population 14,000, a wildlife drama began when careless humans threw away a large plastic jar with something yummy still adhering to the inside. The odor tempted a coyote, who had clearly not read Winnie the Pooh, to investigate by sticking her head into the container. Then — surprise! — her head got stuck and she could no longer clearly see. Dozens of people tried to help catch the jar-headed canine, reports KTXL. Yet the wily coyote eluded them for 10 days, and though unable to eat, still managed to continue drinking at streams. Finally, volunteers got the chance to sneak up on the weakened coyote — who stank of skunk following yet another misadventure — and grab her by the hind legs. They then used a net and crate to move her to an animal hospital, where the jar was cut off. The coyote was expected to fully recover, and when strong enough she’ll be released to the wild.

Sneaky Seattle homeowners seem to be slow to learn. Two years ago, the city sought $1.6 million in fines against two groups of residents who believed the view from their homes was so important that they stealthily chopped down “public trees” in a greenbelt. Their illegal logging was messy — they left big trees scattered haphazardly on the steep slope — and they were soon identified and sued. In a settlement, the city accepted $440,000 for the damage, reports the Seattle Times, and extensive revegetation was planned. Unfortunately, a different group of West Seattle homeowners then thought, “Hey, great idea!” and sneaked out to shear off an acre of old trees in the same greenbelt, only to be caught and fined $360,000. When the next deluge comes, all these self-centered homeowners may have more reasons than financial to regret their destruction: The 150 trees that were cut in the two incidents were protecting a steep slope that “had been designated by the city as an environmentally critical area at risk for landslides.” Meanwhile, clucking was in the air in Edison, Washington, population 133, when the town’s annual Chicken Parade took over the main drag. More than a thousand people came to ooh and ahh at the birds, many of which were on leashes, and also at their oddly dressed owners, some of whom were decked out like chickens themselves. This was definitely a parade to arrive at on time: “The parade lasts two blocks for the birds, more or less, and it takes about 12 minutes. It took three times as long for the marchers to assemble than to walk the route,” reports the Seattle Times. The marching songs, emanating from both chickens and their human companions, consisted of hearty renditions of “Bu-GAWK! Bu-GAWK!”

There really is no throwing something “away,” not even on Alaska’s Denali, the tallest mountain in North America at 20,310 feet. Glacier geologist Michael Loso calculates that climbers left behind 215,000 pounds of solid human waste on Denali’s Kahiltna Glacier between 1951 and 2012, assuming it would be ground up over time into harmless matter. But his research finds that the poop will never “fully disintegrate,” he told The Associated Press. Since 2007, the National Park Service has required climbers to keep waste off the mountain itself, but at the same time the agency allowed climbers to continue throwing biodegradable bags of waste into crevasses on the glacier, the main route up to the peak. Loso worries that the waste might resurface downstream “as stains on the glacial surface” — stains that might also contaminate ice that climbers melt for drinking water. Officials have proposed new regulations instructing climbers to drop waste into only one high crevasse “where a huge ice cliff is thought to pulverize the poop and render it inert.” As for anywhere else, the 1,100 climbers during the short climbing season will have to carry out their own waste.

Speaking of clean water, a group called Food & Water Watch says Americans— who spend about $16 billion a year on bottled water — could save money by just filling a bottle from the tap: “64 percent of bottled water is tap water, and it costs 2000 times more,” reports Ecowatch. And in 2016, the plastic packaging for bottled water “required an energy input equal to at least 45 million barrels of oil.”

Thousands of people protested at Utah’s state Capitol in December after President Donald Trump eviscerated two of the state’s newer national monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. But probably nobody there could have predicted that their photos would end up reproduced on trend-setting clothing. It’s all because of designer Chris Leba, who turned candid shots of people defending public lands into colorful statements on his clothes, described by the Salt Lake Tribune as “Mad Max with khaki and camouflage.” One of his men’s T-shirts, for instance, features an image of a “Protect Wild Utah” sign, and a “Utah Stands with Bears Ears” poster decorates a women’s jumpsuit. Protest fashion now elevates Utah’s national monuments into an unexpected new world — one “sexy enough to take a turn on the catwalk.”

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