A punchy cougar; wildlife comms; COVID-safe hugs

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

 

UTAH
Cougars have often been spotted by state wildlife officers around Millcreek Canyon near Salt Lake City, but having a big cat punch its way through a plate-glass window was a first for one local homeowner. KUTV reported that wildlife officials think the cougar was attacking its own reflection, but after briefly confronting an even more startled human resident inside the house, it turned around and padded back outside over the shattered glass. “This was a large, thick glass window,” said the homeowner, “so these animals are crazy, impressively strong!” No one has seen the lion since, said wildlife officials, perhaps because it didn’t like the look of the tough cat it saw in the window.

WYOMING
If you prefer quiet to hosting freeloading animals in your backyard, you probably shouldn’t move to Teton County’s Solitude Subdivision, south of Grand Teton National Park. A homeowner there has become the doyenne of an informal wildlife cafeteria. In 2018, the state’s annual wildlife survey took an aerial photograph of 10 moose on her lawn, while last winter a dozen of the ungulates dropped by for brunch. But this year’s dinner guests took the cake, served in the form of molasses-enriched grain pellets, when celebrity Grizzly 399 showed up with her four cubs. The homeowners’ association filed complaints last year with Wyoming’s Game and Fish agency, and several (human) neighbors have also complained to federal officials. Finally, when Wyoming warden Brian DeBolt and federal agent Steve Stoinski investigated, they found the bears happily noshing away, while their “very excited” hostess stood outside talking on her cellphone, reports the Jackson Hole News & Guide. When the agents warned her not to approach the bears, she replied: “Oh come on! You people are a bunch of (wimps).” She later told officers that she communicated with wildlife through “an aura,” and that even if the bears attacked, she was “OK with being killed.” According to the report, “she does anything the animals ask of her,” including picking ticks off moose and giving them (the moose, not the ticks) massages. Besides, she explained, the food was intended for moose, not bears, so it’s not like she was intentionally feeding them. Surprisingly, this explanation got the woman off the hook, because in Wyoming, feeding moose is legal, and, according to state attorneys, convicting anyone would be “difficult.” In 2016, Republican lawmakers concerned about private property rights blocked a state law that would have banned wildlife feeding. Under federal law, feeding wildlife could be considered illegal harassment, but no charges were brought in this case, which is why the woman has not been identified. Meanwhile, the presence of so many grizzlies in the neighborhood has become dangerous to both grizzlies and humans. Last summer, Grizzly 802, one of the woman’s frequent visitors, was killed after becoming a nuisance. And last fall, a Solitude Subdivision family had to make “a mad dash” to avoid a grizzly on the trail. The sow became agitated after she was separated from her cub, which had climbed a nearby tree. This encounter ended well, as the hiker said later: “We prayed for help, and the bear stopped chasing us.”

THE WEST
Los Angeles Times writer Sammy Roth isn’t often upbeat, but he’s always pithy. In his newsletter, Boiling Point, he recently noted three items worth thinking, or rather worrying, about: Ingesting wildfire smoke is even more hazardous than previously thought, with new research showing that the smoke carries fungi and bacteria. Meanwhile, last year in Arizona, extreme heat killed at least 494 people, while in California, research indicates that the mysterious cancer killing sea lions is likely caused by the toxic chemicals DDT and PCBs, plus a previously unknown herpes virus.

THE WEST
The arrival of COVID-19 vaccines has transformed the formerly grim clinics of the pandemic into “gratitude factories,” reports the Washington Post. Christina O’Connell, a clinic director at the University of New Mexico, who has been busily jabbing people’s arms with needles, said, “I don’t think I’ve ever had an experience in my career that has felt so promising and so fulfilling.”

And in Denver, the Associated Press described a long-sought, bittersweet reunion between Lynda Hartman and her 77-year-old husband, Len, who lives at a care center for dementia. The couple had not been able to hug for close to a year, but thanks to an ingenious plastic “hug tent,” they finally got to embrace. “It really meant a lot to me,” the 75-year-old woman said. “It’s been a long, long time.”   

Tips of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write [email protected], or submit a letter to the editor

High Country News Classifieds
  • NORTHERN NEW MEXICO PROJECT MANAGER
    Seeking qualified Northern New Mexico Project Manager to provide expertise, leadership and support to the organization by planning, cultivating, implementing and managing land conservation activities,...
  • REGIONAL TRAIL STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Are you passionate about connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with trail maintenance and volunteer engagement...
  • TRAIL CREW MEMBER
    Position Title: Trail Crew Member Position Type: 6 month seasonal position, April 17-October 15, 2023 Location: Field-based; The RFOV office is in Carbondale, CO, and...
  • CEO BUFFALO NATIONS GRASSLANDS ALLIANCE
    Chief Executive Officer, Remote Exempt position for Buffalo Nations Grasslands Alliance is responsible for the planning and organization of BNGA's day-to-day operations
  • IDAHO DIRECTOR - WESTERN WATERSHEDS PROJECT
    Western Watersheds Project seeks an Idaho Director to continue and expand upon WWP's campaign to protect and restore public lands and wildlife in Idaho, with...
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT, NA'AH ILLAHEE FUND
    Na'ah Illahee Fund (NIF) is seeking a highly qualified Development Director to join our team in supporting and furthering our mission. This position will create...
  • DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, NA'AH ILLAHEE FUND
    Na'ah Illahee Fund (NIF) is seeking a highly qualified Operations Director to join our team. This position will provide critical organizational and systems support to...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) is seeking a leader to join our dynamic team in the long-term protection of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM). We...
  • GRASSLAND RESEARCH COORDINATOR
    The Grassland Research Coordinator is a cooperative position with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that performs and participates in and coordinates data collection for...
  • HYDROELECTRIC PLANT
    1.3 MW FERC licensed hydroelectric station near Taylorsville CA. Property is 184 deeded acres surrounded by National Forrest.
  • "PROFILES IN COURAGE: STANDING AGAINST THE WYOMING WIND"
    13 stories of extraordinary courage including HCN founder Tom Bell, PRBRC director Lynn Dickey, Liz Cheney, People of Heart Mountain, the Wind River Indian Reservation...
  • GRANT WRITER
    JOB DESCRIPTION: This Work involves the responsibility of conducting research in the procurement of Federal, State, County, and private grant funding. Additional responsibilities include identifying...
  • MATADOR RANCH STEWARD
    The Matador Ranch Steward conducts annual stewardship projects at the Matador Ranch Preserve and occasionally supports stewardship projects elsewhere in Montana's Northern Great Plains. The...
  • COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT ASSISTANT
    The Idaho Conservation League is seeking a motivated individual to help build public support for key strategic initiatives in northern Idaho through public outreach and...
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness Foundation seeks a steward/educator to lead backcountry volunteer projects and community outreach. FT $36k-$40k, competitive time off. ALSO HIRING OPERATIONS MANAGER. More...
  • ASSISTANT RANCH OPERATIONS MANAGER
    WANTED: ASSISTANT RANCH OPERATIONS MANAGER ~ UTAH/COLORADO border ~ Looking to immediately hire an experienced and clean hardworker to join us on a beautiful, very...
  • ASPIRE COLORADO SUSTAINABLE BODY AND HOME CARE PRODUCTS
    Go Bulk! Go Natural! Our products are better for you and better for the environment. Say no to single-use plastic. Made in U.S.A., by a...
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field seminars for adults in the natural and human history of the Colorado Plateau, with lodge and base camp options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • CORTEZ COLORADO LOT FOR SALE
    Historic tree-lined Montezuma Ave. Zoned Neighborhood Business. Build your dream house or business right in the heart of town. $74,000. Southwest Realty
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.