A cat-eat-dog world? Not so much.

Researchers tell the Jackson Hole News&Guide that they have clear-cut evidence it happened recently in the headwaters of the Gros Ventre River. There, they found that a 101-pound female mountain lion, which they had had been following for the last six years thanks to a radio collar, had killed and eaten a yearling wolf.

The biologist saw lion tracks, then blood, then a jet-black pelt at the base of a subalpine fir tree. They also knew the wolf, which they say was born earlier this year but was already larger than a coyote.

Mountain lions usually flee when confronted by wolves, researchers tell the News&Guide. When they do tangle, the wolves almost always come out on top.

Confirmed exceptions are rare: a 2003 case in the Paradise Valley north of Yellowstone National Park, and a 2006 case in Alberta’s Turner Valley. In 2002, two other wolf deaths at the fangs of lions were also confirmed in Montana.

Meanwhile, mountain lions nabbed a horse and a dog in the Canmore-Banff area.

A 3-foot-tall miniature horse was killed at the Rafter Six Guest Ranch, near Canmore. The killing was not witnessed but was within close proximity to the main lodge.

“It’s like losing a member of family. They were just pets,” Rafter Six owner Stan Cowley told the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

Last year, a lion pounced on a large horse, but the horse escaped by running through a barbed wire fence. Cameras showed the cougar was 3½ feet tall. Instead of the horse, the lion downed a white-tail deer.

In Canmore, a cougar killed an off-leash dog. The Australian shepherd was being walked along a golf course in a wildlife area when the dog chased a squirrel into the forest. Wildlife officers tell the Outlook that the dog ran into the cat, which acted defensively. The dog never saw it coming.

Elsewhere, coyotes are proving just as dangerous to canine companions. Sir Willie Great White Whippet Goode had a long, long name for a dog, but a too-short life. While being walked on a trail in the Lake Tahoe area, the dog took off – and was devoured by coyotes.

“It was really horrific,” one of the dog’s owners told the Tahoe Daily Tribune.


Hunter’s itchy finger proves guilty

JACKSON, Wyo. – Confronted with 400 or 500 elk as dusk approached, a hunter in Jackson Hole shot and shot again – how many times, he can’t remember. But he hit three more than he was permitted to take. So he fled.

Removed from the scene, he thought better of his actions and notified wildlife authorities. The hunter, a preacher at a church in Thayne, Wyo., told the Jackson Hole News&Guide that he can’t justify what happened. Contritely, he pleaded guilty and is to pay $1,280 for his offenses.

Elsewhere in its pages, the News&Guide tells the fascinating story of a man found guilty of shooting a grizzly bear. The hunter killed the grizzly in September 2012 and claimed he thought it was a black bear.

But the law under which he was charged was fairly simple: not whether he thought he shot a black bear, but whether it was a grizzly. As such, the jury took just minutes to convict him.

Before they did, there were two days of argument. The pivot for the arguing is what constitutes “reasonable doubt.” The hunter’s lawyer argued that black bears and grizzlies do interbreed sometimes, and it’s possible that was the case here.

DNA tests conducted by state and federal wildlife officials showed there was a 98 percent chance that the bear’s hide came from a grizzly. But that same evidence showed 97 percent chance that the DNA came from a polar bear, said the hunter’s lawyer.

Responding to that argument, the prosecuting attorney had fun. The hunter’s attorney “suggests that there’s some possibility that somebody maybe captured its bear’s mama and forced a male black bear on her,” said Teton County Prosecuting attorney Clark Allan. “Is that a reasonable thing to think? I might be a trained baboon up here in a suit. Is that a reasonable thing to think?”


After 9 a.m., it’s all downhill on Baldy

KETCHUM, Idaho – Add Sun Valley to the list of resorts that have adopted policies restricting uphill travel. The Idaho Mountain Express reports that people will still be allowed to head uphill, except between the operating hours of 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

“We have experienced a dramatic increase in the number of uphill enthusiasts on the mountain,” said Peter Stearns, director of mountain operations. Kurt Nelson, the district ranger for the U.S. Forest Service, said he has seen 200 to 300 people per day trekking up Baldy, the primary venue of the Sun Valley Resort, on skis or snowshoes, some with dogs.

While going uphill at night, when grooming operations are active, can also pose dangers, Sun Valley will impose no restrictions. “I’m an access guy,” said Stearns.

In an editorial, the Express blessed the new policy as “reasonable.” Ultimately, the best solution is a designated and conflict-free winter route for uphill users.


Low-end rentals scarce and pricey

ASPEN – The recession? Forget about it. It’s back to tight-as-a-drum housing in Aspen.

The Aspen Times tells about a 29-year-old woman who left town and, even in a situation with roommates, needs to come up with $3,000 for rent, minimum. That’s the cost of first and last month’s payments and a security deposit.

“And such places – which aren’t exactly posh – are hard to find,” explains the newspaper. In an editorial, the newspaper argues for the need for local governments to deliver more for-rent housing, parallel to the for-sale, deed-restricted housing.


Aspen cleans up carbon emissions

ASPEN – Aspen’s city government has cleaned house when it comes to carbon emissions. But can it now curb community emissions?

In 2005, the city adopted a climate-change manifesto called the Canary Initiative, with the declared goal of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases 30 percent by 2020. It has now achieved that, seven years early. In fact, the city has now reduced its municipal carbon footprint by 37.5 percent.

“I’m hopeful that the steps the city has taken will serve as a workable model for other communities,” said Mayor Steve Skadron.

For this year, electricity makes up 55.2 percent of city government emissions, natural gas 29 percent, gasoline 8.8 percent and diesel 6.5 percent.

But the other and more difficult prong of this 2020 goal is the community’s nongovernmental emissions. There, emissions have decreased 6 percent compared to the 2004 baseline.

Farther out, the community goal is 80 percent reduction by 2050.


Marijuana retailers plan for openings

BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge has five dispensaries of medical marijuana, and four of them are submitting applications that will, if approved, allow them to sell marijuana to the general public.

Currently, no medical marijuana can be sold to out-of-state residents; the only customers are those who have cards from physicians certifying they have conditions specified by state law.

“We get a lot of patients from out of state, who can’t get a card, no matter how much they might qualify, and we have to turn them down,” Caitlin McGuire, co-owner of the Breckenridge Cannabis Club, told the Summit Daily News.

One problem for retail marijuana stores, as it has been for medical marijuana businesses, is that they must work on a cash basis. “We can’t accept credits; we have to be cash only, because there’s a gray area on the legal side of it,” McGuire explained.
– Allen Best

Because marijuana is still illegal under U.S. law, banks – who are dependent on the federal banking system – have been leery of doing business with retailers of marijuana, whether it is for medicinal purposes or pure pleasure.

State law also bans open consumption of marijuana. Enforcement will be problematic in some cases, points out Shannon Haynes, the Breckenridge police chief. How can you distinguish a marijuana-laced lollipop from one confined to sugar?


Bless Me, Ultima may reappear on reading list

DRIGGS, Idaho – Bless Me, Ultima is still off the assigned reading list at Teton Valley High School, but it may return.

School district superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme had reluctantly withdrawn the book by Rudolfo Anaya after a noisy objection from what the Valley Citizen describes as a minority of parents. But in doing so, as Woolstenhulme acknowledged at a recent school board meeting, he had not followed district policy.

“I overstepped,” he said. “I did so because I saw (the book) as a disruption.”

But in so doing, he compromised the authority of English teachers. “I do not want to micromanage or interfere. I need to learn from the experience.”

Yet the community remains in disagreement about how much knowledge of the gritty issues of life to which high school students should be exposed. The book is set in New Mexico in the 1940s and contains more profanity than some parents thought was appropriate.

One parent expressed it this way: “I don’t need to do a lot of things to know they are inappropriate,” said the mother. Said her son: “To fully understand war, must I experience the horror of it?”

But another parent has this perspective about a vocal minority “inflicting” themselves into school curriculum. “What happens when the flat earth society shows up?” he asked.


Doesn’t bear know it’s past bedtime?

BASALT – A young bear has been wandering the streets of Basalt. A state wildlife officer tells The Aspen Times that the bear was likely disturbed in its winter den for whatever reason, and once fully awake, started scouting around, finding enough food to justify staying alert, despite the lower temperatures.


Highest grizzly toll in Alberta since 2003

JASPER, Alberta – This year, 29 grizzly bears were killed in Alberta, compared to 15 last year. It was the highest toll since 2003.

The Foothills Research Institute tells the Jasper Fitzhugh that the toll actually might be much higher, as these were only those bears that were found.

Among the bears that were killed were 3 found shot near industrial roads in west-central Alberta. The 3 all had radio-telemetry collars, which is why wildlife officers were able to find them. But puzzling the researchers was any motive for the killings. They weren’t killed for meat, fur or other materials.

In 2010, the Alberta government listed grizzly bears as a threatened species after a count found only 700 of them in the province.
– Allen Best

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