Fish at heart; man as island; port-a-potty convo

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

 

CALIFORNIA
What do salmon, mollusks, crustaceans, and bees — yes, bees — have in common, other than not having all that much in common? Well according to a California court, they are all really fish at heart. In 2018, a trio of conservation and food safety groups wanted to protect our pollinating pals. Unfortunately, the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) lacks a space for bees and other non-marine invertebrates. So, the bee advocates resorted to some nifty legalese, arguing that CESA’s definition of “fish” could actually include any invertebrate —air-breathers and sea-suckers alike. We might add some politicians to that list, too. After some back-and-forth in the state courts, the 3rd Appellate District settled the matter in late May, allowing the California Fish and Game Commission to list bees in their rightful place: As protected fish. And now we know how Bumblebee Tuna got its name.

WASHINGTON
For the last half-century, Marty Bluewater has been the sole inhabitant on a 380-acre island in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Well, the sole human inhabitant. According to 1889 Magazine, Protection Island has many other longtime residents: Puffins, gulls, rhinoceros auklets, bald eagles and other feathered species. And that’s just the birds; seals, sea lions and deer have also made themselves at home. At one point, sea otters even holed up in Bluewater’s septic tank. (No connection to “woman in port-a-potty,” see story below.) The diverse tenants have the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to thank for their Shangri-la, because  in 1988, it was officially protected as a national wildlife refuge.

So how did Bluewater become the only two-legged resident?

He bought some lots for $7,000 in 1971, built a cabin and learned how to live off the grid. Back then, a dozen other homes were on the island. KREM reported that when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife decided to designate it a sanctuary, the people were given the option of staying forever, but Bluewater was the only one who chose “life use.” After he passes on, the federal government will take ownership. John Donne said, “No man is an island,” but Bluewater just might be an exception. After 50 years, we think he’s earned it.

THE WEST
Who knew that coyotes and wolves hate flashy disco lights? WyoFile reported on an “across-the-West depredation reduction demonstration project,” in which livestock owners equip animals with motion-sensor LED ear tags to keep predators from eating into the owners’ profits, not to mention their animals’ bodies. Wildlife conflict-reduction researchers retrofitted small solar lights — the kind that decorate a car’s rim — to attach to the tags.

Similar solutions have been tested elsewhere, often to protect animals from motorists. The Finnish Reindeer Herders, for example, paint reflective paint on antlers. And a New Brunswick artist proposed the “Vamoose Animal Alert System”; reflective pinstripes painted on highways to help drivers avoid moose. The dissertation of Aaron Bott, a Utah State Ph.D. student who is researching wolves, includes a chapter on the whopping 4,000 flashtags installed on livestock in Western states. We relish the thought of happy cows boogieing all night to the tune of Stayin’ Alive.

WASHINGTON
In June, we recounted a story from The Kitsap Sun about a California woman who fell into the pit of a Washington outhouse while attempting to retrieve her phone. It was a mishap heard across the news wires. The (Port Townsend) Leader followed up with the transcript of the 911 call she made from inside the pit, accurately noting that “she lost her balance, but not her sense of humor”:

Dispatcher: “911. What’s your emergency?”

Caller: “Hi. I can’t believe I’m this person. Um. I’m stuck in a port-a-potty.”

Dispatcher: “In a port-a-potty?”

Caller: “In a port-a-potty …And my phone fell down and then I slipped into it. And I’ve been trying to get out. And I just need a lift.”

The caller epitomizes “grace under pressure,” and then some.

Caller: “I can’t believe I’m this person.”

Dispatcher: “It happens.”

Caller: “I just need some strong man to come lift me out, cause I can’t do it. (Laughter.)”

Caller: “Yeah, OK. But, I mean, you’re not injured? You’re just stuck in there, correct?”

Caller: “I’m not injured, I’m just stupid.”

At one point, the dispatcher attempts to make small talk, inquiring politely: “So, other than this, how are you liking Washington so far?”

“Otherwise, it’s beautiful,” the woman replies, adding, with commendable honesty, “This is possibly the worst view I’ve seen.”

The 911 dispatch transcript is well worth a read, we promise.   

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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