Mistaken identity; bizarre trees; chocolate grizlars

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

 

IDAHO: Better take the road more traveled.
Mark Brunson

MONTANA
“I don’t target practice — but if I see something that looks like Bigfoot, I just shoot at it.” That’s what an unidentified man in a national forest outside Helena, Montana, told a 27-year-old hunter, explaining why he shot twice at him, reports the Idaho Statesman. The hunter in question told Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton that he had been setting up targets for a practice when suddenly a bullet hit three feet to his left and another one whizzed by him on the right. But when he confronted the shooter, who was in a black Ford F-150 truck, instead of an apology he received an ultimatum: Wear orange or get “confused for Bigfoot.” The shooter apparently has been seeing, and shooting at, Bigfoots — or is it Bigfeet? We are unsure of the correct plural here — all over Montana. Initially, “there was some question about the veracity of the incident,” but after the story got around, “another woman came forward,” saying that she, too, had been shot at by a man in a black F-150. “We’re working to find this person,” Dutton said. “It is of great concern that this individual might think it’s OK to shoot at anything he thinks is Bigfoot.”

Curious citizens wanting to know how to tell the difference between a Bigfoot and a regular-footed biped might be interested in the International Bigfoot Conference, usually held in Kennewick, Washington. Unfortunately, however, this year’s gathering has been postponed, according to the event’s Facebook page, “due to a scheduling conflict with a film production.” That means we’ll all just have to wait for the movie.

UTAH
Aspen are truly one of the West’s more bizarre trees. When you look at a thick grove of these white-barked trees with their trembling leaves, you need to remind yourself that you are really looking at a forest of only one: Every tree has sprung from a single root system. It’s not well advertised, but near Richfield, Utah, there’s a 106-acre treasure of some 47,000 aspen clones. All are genetically male, and according to Atlas Obscura, the 13 million-pound clone is “almost certainly the most massive organism on earth.” But there’s sad news about its likely future. Called “Pando,” which is Latin for “I spread,” the Utah forest has begun to shrink in size. The keystone species, which has hundreds of dependents, has come under assault from human encroachment, including the development of campgrounds and cabins, as well as hungry cows and mule deer fleeing from hunters. Paul Rogers, a Utah State University ecologist who has analyzed 72 years’ worth of aerial photographs along with recent ground surveys, said that though the aspen forest had thrived for thousands of years, “it’s coming apart on our watch.” 

WYOMING
Under the “we love dogs, too, but come on, people” department, we were shocked to learn of the way two German shepherds outranked two children during a road trip from Arizona to Wyoming, as reported by the Associated Press. Michael J. Fee, 63, and Amber L. Freudenstein, 31, made two children aged 6 and 10 ride in the trunk while the two dogs lolled in the back seats. In court, Fee offered this rationalization: “There was not enough room for everyone, so the children were relegated to the trunk.” The couple pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of child endangerment but received what seems like an astonishingly mild sentence of 30 days in jail. We can’t help wondering if maybe 30 days in a car trunk would be more educational. 

THE CANADIAN BORDER
Three species of bear — the black bear, polar bear and grizzly bear — have been observed for the first time hanging out at the same time in the same habitat in Canada’s Wapusk National Park. EcoWatch reports that the 366 visits from polar bears and 25 from black bears were not that unusual, since both species live in the region, but the number of grizzly visits — 20 — came as a big surprise.

“How they interact is a really big question,” Doug Clark of the University of Saskatchewan Clark told the Canadian Press. “There’s all kinds of things that could go on.” Yes, indeed. Our biggest question: What to call the progeny, if any? EcoWatch notes that “so-called ‘pizzly’ or ‘grolar’ bears — or grizzly-polar hybrids — are the result of grizzly bears in Alaska and Canada expanding north due to the warming environment,” but adding a third species makes the nomenclature even more complicated. Say hello to “chocolate grizlars,” or maybe “black plizbears”? 

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
  • OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    We are a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education, innovation, and collaboration....
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Come work alongside everyday Montanans to project our clean air, water, and build thriving communities! Competitive salary, health insurance, pension, generous vacation time and sabbatical....
  • CAMPAIGN MANAGER
    Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting, defending and restoring Oregon's high desert, seeks a Campaign Manager to works as...
  • HECHO DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE, COLUMBIA CASCADES
    The Regional Representative serves as PCTA's primary staff on the ground along the trail working closely with staff, volunteers, and nonprofit and agency partners. This...
  • FINANCE AND OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    The Montana Land Reliance (MLR) seeks a full-time Finance and Operations Director to manage the internal functions of MLR and its nonprofit affiliates. Key areas...
  • DIRECTOR OF CONSERVATION
    The Nature Conservancy is recruiting for a Director of Conservation. Provides strategic leadership and support for all of the Conservancy's conservation work in Arizona. The...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • BIG BASIN SENIOR PROJECT PLANNER - CLIMATE ADAPTATION & RESILIENCE
    Parks California Big Basin Senior Project Planner - Climate Adaptation & Resilience ORGANIZATION BACKGROUND Parks California is a new organization working to ensure that our...
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSISTANT - (PART-TIME)
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a part-time Customer Service Assistant, based at...
  • SCIENCE PROJECT MANAGER
    About Long Live the Kings (LLTK) Our mission is to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Since 1986,...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES GENERALIST
    Honor the Earth is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate based on identity. Indigenous people, people of color, Two-Spirit or LGBTQA+ people,...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Colorado Trout Unlimited seeks an individual with successful development experience, strong interpersonal skills, and a deep commitment to coldwater conservation to serve as the organization's...
  • NEW BOOK BY AWARD-WINNING WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST, BRUCE SMITH
    In a perilous place at the roof of the world, an orphaned mountain goat is rescued from certain death by a mysterious raven.This middle-grade novel,...
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST VOLUNTEER PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Deschutes Land Trust is seeking an experienced Volunteer Program Manager to join its dedicated team! Deschutes Land Trust conserves and cares for the lands...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Now hiring a full-time, remote Program Director for the Society for Wilderness Stewardship! Come help us promote excellence in the professional practice of wilderness stewardship,...
  • WYOMING COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS COORDINATOR
    The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is seeking Coordinator to implement public education and advocacy campaigns in the Cowboy State to unite and amplify hunter, angler,...
  • ASSISTANT TOWN ATTORNEY
    Town of Jackson, Wyoming, $66,700 - $88,000 DOQ, full benefits. Law Degree Required. Rental housing options available. For a complete job description and to apply,...
  • MOUNTAIN LOTS FOR SALE
    Multiple lots in gated community only 5 miles from Great Sand Dunes National Park. Seasonal flowing streams. Year round road maintenance.
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...