Coyote diets; anaerobic digesters; poachers caught on camera

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

 

COLORADO: There’s a community for everyone.
Courtesy of Michael John Jurynec

WYOMING
The headline in The New York Times didn’t pull any punches: “Sorry, Instagrammers, you are ruining Wyoming.” Tourists who post “geotagging photographs” on social media are drawing crowds of people to beautiful places that used to be remote, said Brian Modena, a member of the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board. “We want people to have a real connection to nature,” he said, “not just a page with a pin on it.” The board suggests that visitors cease their bragging and use a generic location tag: “Tag Responsibly, Keep Jackson Hole Wild.” 

CALIFORNIA
The relationship between Southern California’s humans and their coyote neighbors has been “more than a little strained” over the past few years, reports Atlas Obscura, largely owing to the coyotes’ diet. Sometimes the menu consists of food from garbage cans, but now and then somebody’s pet goes missing. To pin down exactly what coyotes eat, National Park Service ecologist Justin Brown trained volunteers to act as “poop scouts.” Searchers were taught to look at the ground for “links about the size of their thumbs, with tapered ends.” Back in the lab, researchers put the coyote scat into panty hose, washed it, and then baked it to kill parasites before analyzing what was left behind. Atlas Obscura says more than 3,200 samples have now been studied, revealing that LA’s coyotes definitely enjoy feasting on domestic cats, as well as fruit from ornamental trees like figs, rabbits, gophers and insects and human food leftovers. Coyotes are not dainty eaters; they gulp their food whole, Brown said, and unlikely aperitifs like work gloves, a condom, shoelaces and “plenty of packaging” turned up in some scat. Residents are naturally unhappy when coyotes bite them or devour their pets, but as the researchers noted, “Coyotes are living pretty much everywhere, and a lot of them aren’t causing conflicts.” Where they do get into trouble, say researchers, it’s important to “control their food sources.” 

COLORADO
If you’re ever in Grand Junction, Colorado — at some 60,000 people, the biggest city on the Western Slope — check out its garbage trucks, street sweepers, dump trucks and buses, because every vehicle is run on human poop. Anaerobic digestion starts breaking down the organic matter at the Persigo Wastewater Plant. Then the raw biogas the plant produces is collected and turned into renewable natural gas, or biomethane, which can then be used for electricity, heat or fuel for vehicles. The result, as the Guardian reported back in 2016, is “like finding a diamond in the sludge,” especially compared to the old method of “simply flaring off the raw gas into the atmosphere” or burning diesel or gasoline. Don Tonello, who recently retired as wastewater services manager for the city, said the Persigo plant may be the only one in the nation that powers its vehicles with biomethane. The biomethane is produced during the night, and vehicles fill up their tanks for the next morning. In less than a decade, the project, worth $2.8 million, is expected to pay for itself.

It’s a different story in Weld County, in the northeastern part of Colorado. Though its Heartland Biogas plant, a $115 million anaerobic digester, does an efficient job of turning cattle manure and food waste into renewable biogas, some rural residents say the operation stinks — literally. In fact, the county shut down the plant, reports the Coloradoan, after some 600 complaints about dizziness, headaches and the nasty smell of “scorched manure.” The company says it’s working to solve the odor problem, but in its defense claims that “about 10 people made most of the (complaints).” Heartland Biogas has been in operation since 2015 and has contracts with Sacramento, California, as well as Weld County.

ALASKA
“They’ll never be able to link it to us,” crowed poacher Andrew Renner, 41, to his son Owen, 18, of Wasilla, Alaska. They’d gone out to Esther Island in Prince William Sound to kill a hibernating black bear, confidently assuming no one would ever discover their crime. Unfortunately for them, a government stop-motion camera caught their every move. The poachers shot a mother bear in her den and after her two panicked cubs began bawling, the men slaughtered them as well. The video shows the two men in front of the den, high-fiving their bloody hands, reports the Washington Post, while one can be heard boasting: “We go where we want to kill shit.” The Post notes: “Had it not been for the camera, the duo’s illegal hunting — and efforts to cover up what they had done — would not have led to criminal charges last year.” Faced with the video evidence gathered by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Forest Service, the men pleaded guilty to unlawful killing of the bears. Andrew Renner was sentenced to three months in jail, fined $9,000, and his hunting license was revoked for 10 years. His son’s license was suspended for two years, and he was required to do community service. An Alaskan assistant attorney general called the case “the most egregious bear cub poaching case his office has ever seen.” 

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
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), Utah's largest conservation organization, has an immediate opening in its Salt Lake City office for a staff attorney. SUWA's...
  • DEVELOPMENT & COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST
    Idaho Walk Bike Alliance seeks a lover of bicycling, walking, and all modes of active transportation who willingly puts the car in the garage and...
  • COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
    Friends of Inyo - the Communications Director is a full-time permanent position that reports to the Executive Director and utilizes communication strategies and production skills...
  • INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS EDITOR
    High Country News seeks an editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk. This individual will lead a team of passionate journalists...
  • HIKING TO THE EDGE:
    Confronting Cancer in Rocky Mountain National Park. Poetry and photos on survival thinking. E-book and paperback available at Amazon.com.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation has grown into America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 53 state/territorial affiliates and more than...
  • IPLC RIGHTS AND EQUITY PROGRAM ASSOCIATE
    A LITTLE ABOUT US Founded in 1951, the Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FUTURE WEST
    Future West seeks an executive director to lead this dynamic organization into the future. Based in Bozeman, MT this well-respected nonprofit provides communities in the...
  • PART-TIME EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Mitchell Museum of the American Indian Location: Evanston, IL Salary Range: $45,000 @ 24 hours per week. send resume: [email protected] www.mitchellmuseum.org
  • COMMUNICATIONS LEAD
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • SENIOR POLICY ADVISOR
    Since 1989, The Nature Conservancy in Alaska has been doing work you can believe in protecting the lands and waters that all life depends on....
  • OUTDOOR PROGRAM - ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
    St. Lawrence University seeks to fill the position of Assistant Director in the Outdoor Program. To view the complete position description, including minimum qualifications required,...
  • PUBLIC LANDS DIRECTOR
    Job Announcement Conserve Southwest Utah is seeking a dedicated advocate for conservation and public lands Public Lands Director a "make a difference" position Conserve Southwest...
  • FOR SALE
    Yellowstone Llamas Successful Yellowstone NP concession Flexible packages
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT & MARKETING
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners is seeking a full-time Director of Development & Marketing. This is a senior position responsible for the development of all marketing...
  • LEGAL DIRECTOR
    The Legal Director will work closely with the Executive Director in cultivating a renewed vision at NMELC that integrates diversity, equity, and justice. Black, Indigenous,...
  • WE'RE LOOKING FOR LEADERS!
    As we celebrate 50 years of great Western journalism, High Country News is looking for a few new board members to help set a course...
  • WIND RIVER WRITERS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS RETREAT BY THE NATIONAL BIGHORN SHEEP CENTER
    Enhance your writing or photography skills with world-class instructors in the beautiful Wind River Mountains. All skill levels welcome. Continuing education credits available.
  • EARTH CRUISER FX FOR SALE
    Overland Vehicle for travel on or off road. Fully self contained. Less than 41,000 miles. Recently fully serviced Located in Redmond, OR $215'000.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    identifies suspect buried trash, tanks, drums &/or utilities and conducts custom-designed subsurface investigations that support post-damage litigation.