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Know the West

An air crow; shutdown interlopers; coyote Happy Hour

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.


UTAH: Convenient for reading material.
Joan Gough

After five months of waking up each night to the sound of howling wolves and barking dogs, Oregon rancher Ted Birdseye finally got some rest. “Last night was the best sleep I’ve had since September with these animals,” he told the Associated Press recently — mainly because there was a generator-powered “air dancer” flailing out in his pasture. The gyrating inflatable — the kind you see flapping at used car lots — was donated by the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife to scare off the Rogue wolf pack, which had targeted his ranch near Medford, Oregon, killing five calves (a sixth had to be euthanized) and a guard dog. What does the air dancer deterrent look like? “He’s all lit up and dancing around in the field,” Birdseye told the Mail Tribune. “He’s lime-green. It looks like an alien at night.” Birdseye added that “wolves are majestic creatures, but they’re killers.” 

You have to feel sorry for Nampa, a city of 81,000 some 20 miles from Boise. It’s suffering from an invasion of crows so horrific that the Idaho Statesman described it as a “Hitchcock movie with poop.” For almost three years, an estimated 10,000 crows, which flock together in what’s called a “murder,” have spent the winter months feeding on fields during the day and descending on the city at night. They bundle up so tightly that their weight breaks tree branches and causes roofs to sag, while their white droppings spatter cars, sidewalks and even people. Air dancers haven’t yet been deployed by the “crow patrol” volunteers who act as “human scarecrows,” but deterrents have included drones, a falcon and infrared lasers that crows read as “sticks flying through the air.” At first, the city tried to kill the birds, but new Mayor Debbie Kling has authorized only non-lethal methods because crows are protected under the 1918 federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Bobby Sanchez, chief of staff for Nampa, says a task force hopes to find a better home for the crows than downtown, “and then over time move them to that location, where they can literally roost in peace.” 

Speaking of poop, a few months ago Oopsie Poopsie celebrated its 10th year of cleaning up dog waste from people’s backyards. Eddie Anthony’s business now boasts two employees, who help him clean more than 100 yards every day in three western Colorado counties, reports the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. His record for the biggest haul brought to a landfill in a single day: 1,300 pounds. The rate is $39 per month for four visits to a backyard, with a limit of three dogs and up to an acre of land. Anthony said that when he started his business — using his Honda Accord to haul away the sacks of dog waste — he had just recently kicked a drug habit and was scrambling to find a way to make a living. Then his brother “offered a friend $50 to pick up dog poop from his backyard.” Anthony volunteered for the job, which many dog owners would like to avoid, and after he advertised for more customers, Oopsie Poopsie was off and running. Anthony said he’s learned over the years that “you can’t just beg God for stuff. You have to get out there and do it.”

When the federal government shutdown sidelined staffers at Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California, a bunch of interlopers took the opportunity to commandeer one of the park’s beaches, swarming a fence, knocking it down, and then taking possession of a parking lot. The invaders were some aptly named elephant seals, each weighing several tons. The males were especially huge, dwarfing the 40 females in the group, who had just had pups. They were part of a colony of some 1,500 seals that hangs out in a secluded area nearby. Park spokesman John Dell’Osso believes recent storms flooded the animals’ usual bailiwick, sending some looking for drier land. What does the park do now that elephant seals have claimed the beach for their nursery? Dell’Osso said that staff might start offering guided tours of the colony. “We are going to have a lot of park rangers and docents,” he said. “We will be able to bring people to the edge of the beach to witness this incredible sight.” One particularly amazing sight was clearly visible to about 1,000 visitors who didn’t even have to go to the beach, reports the Los Angeles Times. The huge animals “came up to the parking lot to procreate,” said Dell’Osso. “So that was lovely.” 

Some dishes that were filled with craft beer to trap slugs and snails turned into an open backyard bar for two coyotes in the north Seattle neighborhood of Ballard. A woman on the “My Ballard” Facebook page reported seeing “two coyotes going from one beer dish to the next … so we may have some drunk coyotes staggering about.” Chris Anderson, district biologist for King County, agreed: “Dogs can get drunk, so yes, coyotes can get drunk. … Coyotes will eat anything they can get their mitts on.” 

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