Doug the cougar dies near Banff

BANFF, Alberta – A cougar that researchers somewhat affectionately called “Doug” died recently, its body discovered by a canoeist in the Bow River. Unlike so many carnivores in the Banff-Canmore area, it had died more or less naturally, of old age or perhaps falling through the ice while chasing an elk.

The mountain lion had occasionally lived and hunted on the periphery of human settlement in the Banff area for a number of years without incident, testament that carnivores and people can coexist, said researchers.

Ironically, it was the killing of a cross-country skier by a cougar near Banff in 2001 that caused wildlife researchers to become familiar with Doug. They decided they needed to better understand the behavior of the reclusive cats. To do this, they attached radio monitors to 12 cougars. One was chased by tracking dogs up a series of Douglas fir trees, and hence the name, Doug. Researchers discovered that Doug hunted in the most unlikely places, close to developed areas.

Steve Michel, human-wildlife conflict specialist in Banff, explained that it’s often younger males, both bears and cougar, who cause trouble with people because they haven’t honed hunting skills or developed the maturity of an adult.

Banff officials believe the cougar’s existence has proven the effectiveness of their management strategies involving wolves, cougars and people, all of which compete for turf.

“There is no question that, in very rare circumstance, cougars can pose a threat to people and domestic animals,” said Michel. “But this is also a good example of how rare those situations are, and just because a cougar is around and using an area close to people doesn’t mean he is going to get into a conflict with people.”

Sun Valley Resort rebranding itself

SUN VALLEY, Idaho – Tim Silva, with his first season under his belt as general manager of the Sun Valley Resort, has been trying to nudge some life into the perhaps stodgy image.

The ski mountain infrastructure needs no upgrades at the moment, he told several hundred people at a luncheon. “They’ve been on quite a binge here,” said Silva, who arrived at Sun Valley last year after stints at California resorts. But, he suggested Sun Valley does need easier access, broader demographic appeal and a firmer brand identity.

In a sense, none of what Silva said was new. Others in Sun Valley and Ketchum have been saying the same thing for years. For example, the resort community at Ketchum and Sun Valley has been stewing over a new airport that would be farther from the resort than the existing airport, but with improved reliability.

Demographics also remain problematic. On Bald Mountain, the prime venue for Sun Valley resort, the average skier’s age is 53. Snowboarders make up just 9 percent of the resort’s visitors.

As for branding, he said Sun Valley needs a precise brand that clearly and immediately tells people what defines Sun Valley. The personality of Sun Valley isn’t clear, he said, and neither is the brand.

Aspen’s legendary sheriff calls it quits

ASPEN – Bob Braudis, sheriff of Pitkin County since 1986 and a pal of the late writer Hunter S. Thompson, has decided to call it quits. He will, reportsThe Aspen Times, “hang up his badge to write, travel and nurture his inner activist.”

Braudis arrived in Aspen in 1969 and became known for his approach to law-enforcement in which he saw police work as integrating with the community, not just chasing crooks.

“He has caught sporadic flak over the years,” observesThe Aspen Times, “for his decision not to conduct undercover drug investigations and the limited assistance to federal drug officers. But Braudis’ ability to come across as just another guy, rather than a heavy-duty cop, endears him to lots of people.”

He said he didn’t understand why, but he knew that his law enforcement philosophy appeals to everyone from wealthy conservatives to ski bums working three jobs.

Braudis told the newspaper he wants to spend time in Mediterranean climates and also Florida during winter months. He also wants to write, speak and provide guidance to younger people working on social justice issues.

With another author, he wrote a book reminiscing about Thompson and said he enjoyed the discipline the writing assignment forced.

Pitkin County to regulate solar panels

ASPEN –Pitkin County commissioners have decided it’s time to regulate freestanding solar collectors.

The Aspen Times reports glare from solar panels and aesthetics of clusters of solar panels – including height – will be the major considerations.

“We can’t have a laissez-faire (approach) just because it’s good for the environment,” said Commissioner George Newman.

The county gets 50 applications per year, mostly for roof-top solar, but planning officials expect a surge once the economy rebounds. “I would hypothesize that when the economy turns around, every new house will have a solar (system) of some kind” said Lance Clarke, assistant community development director.

But another idea is for homeowners to leave their yards and roofs as is and invest in a solar farm, where panels can be tended more efficiently. A company called the Clean Energy Collective proposes to build such farms down-valley from Aspen in the Basalt and Carbondale area.

Telluride gets backup transmission

TELLURIDE – After a decade of wrangling and some scary power outages, Telluride will get a new electrical transmission line from the outside world later this year.

Just last Christmas, the lights went off, putting the high-end holiday crowd into candlelight and cold cuts. But the gnawing fear of some in Telluride was that everything might get shut down for days.

Two transmission lines reach Telluride. One is vulnerable to avalanches and wildfires, and the second is 60 years old, near the end of its productive life.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission, the wholesale cooperative provider, wanted to replace the old line, but the proposed routing involved lines across the rolling, calendar-perfect mesas near Telluride. Homeowners there wanted the line put underground, and ultimately that is what will happen.

Burying lines costs considerably more, however, and that’s where compromises were finally struck, report theTelluride Daily Planet.

Crime defies expectation in Idaho

 KETCHUM, Idaho – When the Great Recession started, cops in Ketchum and the Wood River Valley expected a jump in crime. Instead, the number of criminal court filings dropped 29 percent last year and it looks like the lower crime rate has continued into this year, reports theIdaho Mountain Express.

“We have fewer seasonal workers, a smaller transient construction workforce, and fewer people who have no vested interest in the community,” said Jim Thomas, a prosecuting attorney.

Jeff Gunter, police chief in Hailey, said he has observed fewer vehicles on the highway and increased vacancies in some apartment complexes.

“You’d think that there would be an increase in theft crime because of high unemployment, but we haven’t seen that,” Gunter said.

Last year, a similar phenomenon was observed in Jackson, Wyo.

Developers resurface in Aspen and Vail

EAGLE —Real estate prices continue to slide, unemployment mounts, but developers have been looking forward to better times. Newspapers in the Aspen and Vail areas have been reporting proposals for new housing projects. Largest of them would be a project of 2,000 homes at Wolcott, located between Avon and Eagle.

The idea has been talked about since the 1990s, but the application has now been filed to build the houses, stores, restaurants – even a school, church and fire station – along I-70. The vision of developer Rick Hermes is for a community of 4,000 - 5,000 people on what now constitutes some of the last ranch land along the I-70 corridor in the Eagle Valley.

– Allen Best




In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows