Brazen bears terrorize Crested Butte

CRESTED BUTTE – Among Crested Butte’s many bear stories during recent weeks is that told by Paul Merck. He returned home late one evening to find a huge bear eating vanilla ice cream out of his refrigerator and freezer.

“He ate 2½ gallons of vanilla ice cream but left me the chocolate, ate a full thing of butter, yogurt and cheddar cheese,” Merck told theCrested Butte News. “But luckily he didn’t drink my beer.”

Merck told the newspaper that he instructed the bear to leave, and the bear complied, exiting the same window he had used to access the home. The bear managed to avoid breaking anything, although the kitchen was quite a mess.

Elsewhere in Crested Butte, a couple had put their children to bed and was watching television when they heard the door open. They said hello.

“When no one answered, I went to the top of the stairway and looked down and saw one of the biggest bears I’ve ever seen,” said Channing Boucher. “I screamed like a stuck pig as loud as I could. My kids were in the bedroom 4 feet away from that bear. My heart was coming through my shirt.”

Chased by the family dog, the 400-pound bear backed out of the door. Boucher told theNews that the bear left a stink. “They are the foulest smelling creatures that walk the earth,” he said. “He was in the house 10 seconds, and it just stunk.”

Still Boucher considers himself lucky. The door was open, and the bear wasn’t confused about how to get out. That was also the case when a bear crept into a house, apparently headed for the refrigerator.

“I screamed like a little girl. This bear’s head was massive, and it was just 7 feet away from me,” said Dawne Belloise, who had just put down the telephone. “He snorted and backed out really fast.”

Police tell the newspaper that at least 75 vehicles have been broken into this summer, as well as a dozen garages and at least five or six houses. Some $20,000 in property damage has been reported.

Some five or six bears are believed to be trying to grub food. Last year, the bears’ acquisition of human food was easier, retrieved from trash containers without difficulty. But a new ordinance requires greater efforts to make garbage inaccessible.

One thing is clear: the lever-style of door handles, which bears can open, will become more rare, being replaced by more conventional circular door handles.


Telluride tries to lure executives

MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – A big one got away from the Telluride community. Resort officials had hoped to lure a meeting of 400 high-level executives to Mountain Village for annual meetings during June and September.

Telluride ultimately lost to Scottsdale, Ariz. Was the glass half-full or half-empty? On the positive side, Telluride was a finalist among 50 resorts. For some in Telluride, the lesson learned was of the need for a high-quality, branded property, and for a larger, more diverse bed base.

TheTelluride Watch, however, notes that this need is disputed. “A portion of the community believes that until existing accommodations are filled to capacity, there is no need for additional hotel rooms. Other say the total number of rooms is beside the point if those available are not of a quality that people demand.

“The corporate market is seeking a more modern, updated, high-level product,” said Scott McQuade, the chief executive of Telluride Tourism.

Also working against Telluride was its remoteness. It’s easy getting to Denver, but then visitors must take another shuttle flight to Montrose, about 65 miles from Telluride, then rent a car or take a van to Telluride.

“It’s the package; that’s what these people are buying,” said Bob Delves, the mayor of Mountain Village. “It’s not just about being here; it’s also about getting here.”


Mountain towns serious about food

TRUCKEE, Calif. – Whether it’s mushroom festivals, anger about industrialized agriculture, or enjoying harvest delicacies, food seems to be much on the mind of mountain town people.

In Truckee, Calif., a group called Slow Food Lake Tahoe has partnered with other organizations to sponsor an educational program called “Harvest of the Month.” This year, students will taste tomatoes, bell peppers, Satsuma mandarins, beets, dried fruits and salad greens.

“We have learned that exploring and tasting fruits and vegetables is not only a great way to teach about nutrition, but also often results in children trying new foods and discovering they may even like them,” writes Maria Martin, a dietician, in theSierra Sun.

In Frisco, a workshop in canning and preserving was held at the High Country Conservation Center.

In Eagle, 33 people participated in a mushroom festival, scouring the local forests for truffles as well as the more commonplace boletus. Several local restaurants participated, offering meals built around mushrooms. Most unusual was a mushroom tasting hosted by a local coffee shop.

Wolf’s journey shows connectivity

CANMORE, Alberta – A wolf with a global positioning system device attached to her neck has documented what wildlife biologists have long known: individual wolves often travel long distances when looking for a mate, new hunting prospects, or both.

In this case, the wolf, an adult female, traveled 450 kilometers (280 miles) from Jasper National Park before being killed by a trapper near Sheridan Lake, B.C.

Even more amazing long-distance trotting was documented in recent years when wolves that originated in the Yellowstone ecosystem wound up in northern Colorado, one just west of Denver and the other near Beaver Creek and Vail. In the latter case, a global positioning device documented a travel of 450 direct miles (724 kilometers), although wildlife biologists estimate the wolf actually covered 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers).

Wolf expert Mark Hebbelwhite told theRocky Mountain Outlook that such journeys illustrate the importance of connectivity between ecosystems.

“This very day, there could be a wolf dispersing through the Canmore corridors from Banff to Yellowstone, and we would never know because the wolf passes through town overnight and is gone the next day,” he said.

But in Wyoming’s Jackson Hole, exactly the opposite problem was evident. There, three wolves had mange, a parasitic infection of the skin that causes the animal to scratch its hair off, leaving it exposed to the elements.

The wolves, federal officials tell theJackson Hole News&Guide, have been hanging around people’s houses. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a permit to the landowner to use rubber bullets to shoot at the animals, in an attempt to drive them off.

Rubber bullets, as a nonlethal deterrent, have been used for 10 years with mixed results.


Truckee schools install LED lighting

TRUCKEE, Calif.—By now, we’ve all become conversant with compact fluorescent light bulbs, that use much less electricity and have a longer useful life than the older, incandescent bulbs. Both translate into huge cost savings if you’re willing to shell out a little bit more money at the outset.

Now, an even more efficient lighting device, called LED (or light-emitting diodes), has been making its way into the marketplace. LEDs have been installed at the entrance to a middle school in Truckee, with the expectation that the school district will save $88,784 from this installation in electrical costs during coming years.

School officials plan to install LEDs through schools, in part to save money, but also because the light produced is more similar to light from the sun. As such, it is expected to create a better learning environment. After a lighting retrofit in Carson City, Nev., test scores improved 26 percent.


Mine drainage vexes  Summit County

MONTEZUMA – For many years, officials in Summit County have been vexed by what to do with the Pennsylvania Mine, a silver-producer from the late 19th and early 20th centuries located near the Continental Divide.

Waters coming from the mine, after washing across the fractured faces of rock created in the mining, are laden with heavy metals, creating problems downstream. Among the downstream users is the Keystone ski area.

TheSummit Daily News reports that more intense study of potential solutions by Trout Unlimited has revealed that a water treatment plan could cost $20 million to build and operate for 20 years.

Rancher ordered to pay for dog attacks

PARK CITY, Utah – A sheep rancher who used dogs to protect his livestock from predators has been ordered to pay restitution. In one case, a woman was bicycling near The Canyons when she was bit on the butt by a sheep dog. In another case, just a few days later, another bicycle rider, this time a man, claims his dog was attacked by a sheep dog.The Park Record reports that the sheep rancher was ordered to pay the woman $260 and the man $303.

– Allen Best