Out-of-this-world fest; territorial disputes; bear-family affairs

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

 

OREGON
Aliens and starships and lasers (oh my!) from a galaxy far, far away dropped in on downtown McMinnville for the 22nd annual McMenamins UFO Festival, May 13-14. The two-day festival—“for believers and skeptics alike”—featured speakers like Whitley Strieber, author of the bestselling book Communion; Politico correspondent Bryan Bender; journalist Alejandro Rojas; and ufologists Irena Scott and Kathleen Marden. While there was no shortage of little green men, other out-of-this-world activities included live music, dancing, street vendors, and the cherry on top of the proverbial flying saucer (or is it a giant floating eyeball? See ufofest.com), the alien costume parade — always a crowd favorite — and a costume contest for pets. Because there’s no denying that cats, particularly long-haired ones, make terrific tribbles for a Close Encounter of the Purred Kind. 

The Oregonian reported that the festival originated 22 years ago, when historian Tim Hill was researching the history of McMinnville’s McMenamins Hotel. He found an article and photographs dated 1950, on the front page of the McMinnville Telephone Register, which recounted how Evelyn Trent and her husband, Paul, saw a flying saucer hovering in the sky near their farm. Paul Trent snapped some photos that captured the attention of the Associated Press, and a media frenzy ensued. Realizing that 2000 marked the 50th anniversary of the sighting, Hills decided to launch a festival in honor of it. And the festival has been in orbit ever since, save for a brief hiatus, when, like so many other things, it vanished into the black hole of the pandemic.

WASHINGTON
It’s not every day that you come home to find a pair of bald eagles in your neighbor’s backyard, locked in a rumble like the Jets against the Sharks. Gee, where’s Officer Krupke when you need him? But that’s exactly — or almost exactly — what Seattle resident Kim McCormick witnessed and filmed. This was no quick schoolyard scuffle; McCormick told King 5 reporters that “the birds were clashing outside her neighbor’s home from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.” Emily Meredith, rehabilitation manager at PAWS Wildlife Center, said, “The fight was likely a territorial dispute between two male or two female bald eagles.” The birds rarely get that physical, although lengthy arguments do occur. “Usually, the eagles do a lot of posturing and communicating without engaging with each other to try to say, ‘This is my territory, go away,’” Meredith said. But once they get into it, the feathers start flying; the determined birds will stick it out until the very end, since giving in or letting go is seen as a sign of weakness. As bald eagles recover from their once-endangered status, fight reports have increased. “I think people are seeing it more and more as they fight for the prime territory to nest and forage,” Meredith said. Apparently, they call eagles “fierce” for a reason.

WYOMING
They grow up so fast: Jackson Hole News&Guide reported that Grizzly 399 and her four cubs have parted ways, with each youngster setting off into different areas of Grand Teton National Park. The famous fivesome emerged from their den over Easter weekend. Normally, grizzly cubs leave home after two years, and Grizzly 399’s cubs have been together since their birth in 2020. “This is fully what we were anticipating,” said Justin Schwabedissen, the park’s bear management specialist. “As the family group separates and these cubs go off on their own, we’re certainly concerned that some of these cubs may move south outside of the park and head onto private lands.” Two of Grizzly 399’s cubs — subadults now, actually — were spotted in the Solitude subdivision about 2.5 miles south of park headquarters in Moose. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is watching out for the bears, along with a legion of fans, photographers and wildlife advocates.

Meanwhile, Grizzly 399 appears to have re-entered the dating-and-mating game; no mooning over an empty nest for this lady. Wildlife photographers and bear watchers think that her suitor might be Grizzly 679, otherwise known as “Bruno,” but park officials have yet to confirm his identity. Three of the cubs attempted to “visit” with Grizzly 399 — do mama bears also get stuck with their kids’ dirty laundry? — only to be run off by the new suitor. Schwabedissen said, “We watched repeatedly as (the) male grizzly was chasing the cubs off.” Procreation is a complicated affair for most of us, and grizzlies are no exception; “courtship” in the wild isn’t all Valentine hearts and red roses.

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], or submit a letter to the editor

   

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