Hungry, habituated bears; viral pirates; truffle snuffers

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

 

CALIFORNIA
For the longest time, I thought a local restaurant was called “The Hungry Bear.” It was actually “The Angry Bear,” and its name gave me pause, or should I say “paws?” Because why on earth would diners elect to eat somewhere “angry?” “Hungry bear” seems more accurate, especially now that we’ve met “Hank the Tank,” the famous black bear who’s been beary, beary busy the last few months pillaging a Lake Tahoe neighborhood. Peter Tira, a spokesperson for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, told SFGATE that the big bear is “severely food habituated,” meaning that he’s “lost all fear of people” and associates humans with dinner. Neither the authorities nor the animal advocacy groups had reached a consensus on exactly what to do with the destructive bear, but his fate looked grim — until DNA evidence taken from the scenes of the crimes, showed that Hank was not the only culprit; he had accomplices. According to the wildlife agency, at least two other bears were also responsible for the break-ins at South Lake Tahoe homes. This is a major break for Hank the Tank: Officials say they have withdrawn plans to capture and euthanize him, and instead will “trap tag and work to relocate habituated bears.” “All of these efforts are focused on keeping residents safe, and enabling safe and healthy conditions for these bears,” the agency said. 

WASHINGTON
Blink, and you might miss the lede: “Pirate bar faces mutiny over ‘catch the virus’ show.” Wait — there are pirate-themed bars? Well, shiver me timbers. When Vessel Taphouse in Lynnwood, Washington — which proudly proclaims itself “western Washington’s only true pirate bar” — advertised discounted drinks for patrons sick with COVID-19, all hell and the Kraken broke loose. Bands canceled their gigs, employees quit, regulars stopped coming ashore. “Come and see the show, maybe catch the virus or just stay home and whine,” Vessel Taphouse posted to Facebook. “Tickets 10 bucks or 6 with proof of positive Omicron test!!!” Owner Steve Hartley told The Daily Herald that the post was “an ill-advised attempt at humor.” Perhaps next time, instead of hoisting the “Yikes!” flag, Hartley will think better of it and shove any similar ideas all the way to the bottom of Davy Jones’ locker. 

OREGON
After a one-year pandemic pause, the Joriad North American Truffle Dog Championship was back in full swing this February in Eugene, Oregon, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. Oregon is a major producer in the U.S. truffle market, and the Joriad Championship is North America’s only truffle dog competition. For those new to the truffle game, the little delicacy is a strong-smelling fungus that grows underground. Specially trained animals are used to dig them up; if you’re Nicolas Cage, it’s probably a pig, but sometimes it’s a dog. Truffles have long been a treat; the ancient Romans believed that they were the result of lightning striking damp earth, while modern-day Italians refer to them as “fairy apples,” hinting at their magical qualities. Chefs around the globe agree that truffles are among the most sought-after gastronomic “gems,” making the Joriad Championship, in the culinary sense, an unusually tasty gold rush. In just one hour, six dogs snuffled up roughly $1,000-worth of the fabulous fungus. “Our mechanism to lift Oregon truffles into the pantheon of delicacies was to introduce truffle dogs,” said Charles Lefevre, of the Oregon Truffle Festival. This year, Mia, a Lagotto Romagnolo from McMinnville, Oregon, took the championship after rooting out 35 truffles in 60 minutes. When Mia was asked how winning the Joriad feels, she replied, “Truffle hunting is ruff-ruff.” Or at least that’s what we think she said.

CALIFORNIA
What has 2,000 quills, a prehensile-tail, and an almost-40-foot circumference? Why, it’s an extraordinary porcupine puppet named Percy, of course. Percy is said to stand nearly two stories tall and rejoice in a nose the size of a Volkswagen. ABC News reported that a joint project of the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and Jim Henson’s Creature Shop will help celebrate the opening of the zoo’s new Wildlife Explorers Basecamp. If you’re wondering, “Do you mean the Jim Henson, of Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and The Dark Crystal?” you would be correct: Yes, that Jim Henson, pioneer and award-winning innovator of puppetry and animation. “We’ve done some fantasy creatures a little bit bigger, but in terms of duplicating an animal, it’s the biggest we’ve ever done,” said Peter Brooke, creative supervisor for Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. Don’t worry about getting too close; those quills might look sharp, but they’re only foam rubber.  

Tiffany Midge is a citizen of the Standing Rock Nation and was raised by wolves in the Pacific Northwest. Her book, Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s (Bison Books, 2019), was a Washington State Book Award nominee. She resides in north-central Idaho near the Columbia River Plateau, homeland of the Nimiipuu.

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

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