Wintery resurrections; a coyote that cried wolf; drug bust

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.


IDAHO: They can certainly be a wild bunch.
Patrick Haas

Michael Lausch can now truthfully claim to have come back from the dead. The 39-year-old was skiing at Vail when he fell headfirst into snow so deep he almost disappeared from view, reports Mountain Town News. Another skier witnessed the accident and began frantically calling for help. “When I got there,” said Tom Nern, who was skiing with a group from Vail Dermatology, “there were two ski boots sticking out of the snow.” In about 10 minutes, the rescuers managed to dig down and free the Ohio skier, who weighed 270 pounds, from the 6-foot snow pit that buried him. But Karen Nern, a Vail dermatologist, feared the worst when she looked at his face: “He wasn’t breathing. He was purple. No pulse — nothing.” Quickly, she and Beth McCann, a retired obstetrician-gynecologist, started CPR. After three sets of chest compressions and six to eight breaths, Lausch revived suddenly, and, “with a snorkeling kind of breath he was alive again.” Lausch later spoke to the Vail Daily, marveling at his close call. “It’s overwhelming to know I was dead five days ago and I’m going to make it to my 40th birthday. There were angels on the mountain that day and those people were my angels.” Doug Lovell, chief operating officer at Vail Mountain, said the dramatic save showcases the importance of training in CPR. 

An unlikely resurrection also occurred in Kalispell, Montana, when Fluffy, a 3-year-old outdoor cat, was revived after being found frozen stiff in a snowbank. Fluffy was brought into the Animal Clinic with no discernible temperature, but after getting warmed and fed intravenously, the cat began to growl. Veterinarian Jevon Clark told the Associated Press that because Fluffy was “normally a little crabby,” he knew the cat was back among the living. 

The lengthy government shutdown last month coincided with Death Valley National Park’s busiest tourist season, so it wasn’t long before garbage overflowed the waste bins. Soon, bits of leftover meals were carried around the desert by the wind, signaling to wildlife that food scraps and humans were linked. Three coyotes and two bobcats got the message loud and clear and began boldly approaching people for handouts. One coyote even faked a leg injury to beg for food, stopping traffic in the middle of a blind curve. Park rangers worried about the traffic hazard and also that the animal’s growing lack of fear might make it aggressive toward humans. They tried hazing it, said Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds, but the wily coyote soon learned to identify Park Service vehicles and slip away. Ultimately, rangers decided to kill it.

In a press release, park staffers said they spent 1,500 hours assessing damage from the shutdown. Not surprisingly, many involved vault toilets. With no funding to clean, stock or pump the outdoor bathrooms, “even well-intentioned people damaged the park.” At least 1,665 clumps of toilet paper and 429 piles of human feces had to be removed, and that figure was incomplete. “We estimate there was at least a half-ton of human waste deposited outside restrooms.” In a masterpiece of diplomatic understatement, Reynolds called the human waste, trash, vandalism and impacts to wildlife “disturbing.” 

If you’re considering housing a bison in your back forty, you need to think about a few things first, said Jay McCleary, founder of Bela Animal Legal Defense and Rescue in Victor, Montana. “For bison to be happy, they really need to be with other bison. … If they’re alone they tend to get in trouble.” A month ago in Corvallis, a bison named Tonka did get into trouble, busting out of the pasture where he lived alone and strolling around the neighborhood near an elementary school. Tonka’s behavior got McCleary wondering if the bison needed companionship. Now Tonka, a former rodeo performer who would never be accepted by a wild herd, has found a new home with other “misfit” bison in Victor and is enjoying it just fine, reports KPAX. “He’s adjusted perfectly,” McCleary said. “And the female that was here just a second ago is kind of like his girlfriend now. … He’s the new head honcho.” When Troy Westre, ranch manager of Bitterroot Bison in Victor, gets calls from people who want to buy just one or two bison, he tells them he only sells five at a time. Would-be owners also don’t realize how much land is needed for each bison to roam, he added, and that when they get bigger, “they eat 25 pounds of grass a day.”

A snowplow driver got a rich surprise when, some two hours south of Casper, he hit a black case and money came tumbling out of it. Just as he was giving the case and its cash to state police, reports KTVQ, three guys in a small Toyota went to a local state patrol office to inquire about their missing “luggage.” Big mistake: A drug-sniffing dog gave the alert, whereupon police searched the men’s car and found 81 pounds of marijuana, a felony amount of MDMA (ecstasy), and other drugs. Felony charges are pending.

Note: This article has been corrected to reflect that the bison is named Tonka, not Tonto, and that he resides in Montana, not Oregon.

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

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