Aug 31, 2015

Cody motorcyclist dies in Saturday morning crash outside Powell

A Cody man was killed Saturday morning when his motorcycle collided with a Suburban at an intersection just west of Powell, the Park County Sheriff's Office says.

In a Monday morning news release, the sheriff's office identified the motorcyclist as Edward Eugene Miller, 76, of Cody.

The 2000 Honda motorcycle was headed west on Lane 9 when — at the lane's intersection with Road 11 — a northbound Suburban driven by Morgan W. Christensen, 27, of Billings, pulled out in front of Miller's bike, the sheriff's office said.

Miller collided with the Suburban's front passenger side at a speed of 45 to 50 miles an hour and was thrown off the bike, the sheriff's office said.

A Powell Valley Healthcare EMS crew responded to the scene, and Miller — who was not wearing a helmet — was pronounced dead at Powell Valley Hospital, the sheriff's office said.

The crash was reported at 11:13 a.m.

According to the sheriff's office, Christensen initially stopped for the stop sign at Road 11's junction with Lane 9. However, Christensen did not see the oncoming motorcycle at first and drove forward, the release said. At the last minute, Christensen spotted the approaching bike, applied the brakes and stopped partway into the intersection, where the collision occurred, the sheriff's office said.

No citations have been issued, though the sheriff's office said the crash remains under investigation.

In addition to the EMS crew, sheriff's deputies and Powell Volunteer Fire Department personnel responded to the scene.

Aug 29, 2015

More than 140 acres burned along South Fork Highway, Cedar Mountain in Saturday fire

A Saturday afternoon fire burned more than 140 acres along the South Fork Highway and the eastern side of Cedar Mountain, officials say.

The area is just southwest of Cody. Authorities are investigating how it started.

Part of the burn area, as seen from the highway around 5 p.m. Cody News Co. photo by Matt Naber

The Park County Sheriff's Office announced around 7:15 p.m. Saturday that fire crews had contained the fire and that the South Fork Highway which had been intermittently closed during the fire had been reopened.

"Fire personnel are still on scene and parked along the highway dowsing hot spots, so motorists are urged to use caution when traveling in this area," the sheriff's office in a Saturday night post to its Facebook page, adding that, "Fire personnel will continue to monitor the fire scene throughout the night and into tomorrow (Sunday)."

Roughly 143.5 acres were burned in the so-called Red Lakes Fire, according to data from the Cody Interagency Dispatch Center.

The blaze was first reported at 1:15 p.m. Saturday, near 167 Road 6WX, as an agricultural burn that had gone out of control. The sheriff's office's Facebook updates on Saturday afternoon and night initially described it as having been an out-of-control burn, but hours later, the agency said the cause actually remained unknown.

"There are now conflicting reports as to exactly how the fire started, therefore the investigation continues," the Park County Sheriff's Office posted around 11 p.m.

Firefighters with the Cody and Powell fire departments and Bureau of Land Management worked the blaze, as did air tankers from Billings and a helicopter.

Power lines and poles were burned in the fire, so the sheriff's office said area power outages were possible.

(Editor's note: This post has been updated as new information became available, including about its size and cause.)

Traffic was being limited around 5 p.m. Cody News Co. photo by Matt Naber

Aug 28, 2015

North Fork camping restricted due to high amount of bear activity

Unusually high bear activity has prompted Shoshone National Forest officials to temporarily ban tents and other soft-sided camping at three North Fork sites.

Until further notice, only hard-sided camping will be allowed at the Big Game, Elk Fork and Wapiti campgrounds, Shoshone official announced Friday afternoon. That means no tents or pop-up campers are allowed at those sites.

The Big Game Campground and two others are now open to hard-sided camping only. File photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service
Wapiti District Ranger Sue Stresser said forest managers are imposing the restrictions in the interest of public safety. Forest managers cited the large amount of recent bear activity along the North Fork of the Shoshone River.

Tent camping is still allowed at two North Fork sites: the Rex Hale and Clearwater campgrounds. Forest managers have decided to keep them open for an extra week, until Sept. 15.

Stresser encouraged campers to check the Shoshone's website for updates on the status of the forest's campgrounds.

Yellowstone's East Entrance temporarily closes after discovery of unexploded ordnance

UPDATED: The East Entrance to Yellowstone National Park was closed for a short time on Friday while crews removed an unexploded ordnance from Sylvan Pass.

The road closed around 3:30 p.m. after the explosive was discovered near the road and was able to be reopened several hours later.

The East Entrance closed for a few hours. File photo courtesy Jay Elhard, National Park Service
Explosives are regularly used on Sylvan Pass in the winter months to trigger avalanches under controlled conditions, said Julena Campbell, a public affairs officer for Yellowstone.

“Occasionally, one doesn’t go off, and they do a controlled search for those each spring when the snow melts, and they go out and look for any that have not exploded,” Campbell said. “They take care of those before they open the road to visitors. But occasionally, they miss one.”

She added that things like melting snow and small landslides also can uncover ordnances.

“It’s not uncommon to have a few out there,” Campbell said.

A team from Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana, responded to Sylvan Pass to destroy the device. Things apparently went according to plan.

“When we got the news, they said it would be closed for a couple of hours,” Campbell said while the gate was closed. “Obviously, it’s not something you can really control.”

For road updates, visit

Aug 27, 2015

Local artists help transform vintage Airstream trailer into work of art

A one-of-a-kind Airstream trailer that celebrates the history of America's national parks will make a stop in Cody next month.

The vintage 1948 Airstream trailer is set to be finished and on display at the By Western Hands event, scheduled for Sept. 23-27 in Cody.

The camper's owner, former Grand Teton National Park Ranger Doug Leen, will use the trailer to promote national parks and their rich history during a tour across America.

Powell artist Janet Bedford was charged with transforming the Airstream trailer into a literal work of art.

Bedford has painted the trailer's concave interior walls into a colorful canvas depicting scenes from national parks across the country.

A painted scene in the airstream trailer shows the Grand Tetons and Monument Valley. Cody News Co. photo by Matt Naber

At 19 feet long, it’s just big enough to accommodate a bed, kitchen, shower, toilet and table without having to step outside to reconfigure furniture.

“They are beautifully engineered, but on the inside they are plain and feebly built,” Leen said. “The frame was good, but the whole trailer is an axel-up restoration.”

The trailer originally didn’t have a bathroom or shower, but it does now — along with an air conditioner, flat-screen TV, stereo and new furniture.

The furniture was built by Lester Santos of Santos Furniture in Cody, an old friend of Leen’s, who recommended Bedford for the interior painting, Leen said.

Leen provided Santos with the specifics on how to use every square-inch of the trailer’s interior so that it now has a shower and restroom and modern amenities such as a stereo, anti-theft system and flat TV while maintaining the “old character of the Airstream,” Santos said.

“We wanted to keep the look and feel of it,” Santos said.

The artwork is on every wall inside the trailer. Cody News Co. photo by Matt Naber
Bedford’s paintings reminded Santos of the vintage posters Leen was working with, Santos said.

“I had to repaint the interior anyway, and thought I’d do a diorama and blend the furniture in with the art design,” Leen said. “And, really do it up right — I liken this to the chapel of Airstreams, and Janet is the Michelangelo of Airstreams.”

Comparing Bedford to Michelangelo seems appropriate, since her painting goes up and around the trailer’s ceiling.

“It has all been a challenge,” Bedford said earlier this month. “The hardest part was painting an eagle in the sky; controlling my hand like that was really hard. I wanted it small, like it was way up in the sky — I kept at it, touched it up a bit.”

Leen’s trailer was brought to Bedford at the end of April, and she’s been working on it since then, she said.

Powell artist Janet Bedford is turning a vintage Airstream trailer into a work of art. Cody News Co. photo by Matt Naber

The amount of time Bedford spends painting the trailer’s interior depends on weather, typically in stints of a few hours on up to six hours.

“When it is hot out, that thing is like an oven,” Bedford said. “I’ll go back out when it is past the hottest part of the day, but then the light gets to be tough.”

Bedford’s work was cut out for her, as the inside of the trailer wasn’t exactly a blank canvas; she is painting around the custom-made furniture.

“I’ve been working very carefully — things like the curtain rods are riveted, and they are sharp,” Bedford said. “Just being careful — lots of blue tape. Even working under the sink gives me a stiff neck.”

The trailer features a sunrise scene at the front end near the chandelier and a Native American design near the sink. To the right of the door, there’s a scene of Monument Valley across from a view of Grand Teton — providing an impossible view of some of the country’s most picturesque locations all at once.

“I liken this to the chapel of Airstreams, and Janet is the Michelangelo of Airstreams,” said Doug Leen.

The bedroom in the back is a night scene of the Grand Canyon with a stormy sky and a cowboy campfire with the Airstream trailer nearby. But something was missing.

“I put in the Sleeping Giant mountain that looks like a person snoring and I kept thinking, ‘It isn’t right to not have Yellowstone,’” Bedford said as she explained her collaboration with Leen. “I envisioned, since it was the bedroom, doing Old Faithful in the moonlight, and he came back with, ‘How about Old Faithful in the moonlight?’ We were definitely on the same page.”

Bedford’s been painting, sculpting and doing artwork of all varieties since childhood, but this is her first time painting a trailer. Her works can be found on display in the area, including the panther statue in Powell High School, so she’s no stranger to a challenge.

“The difference is dealing with the curves — it curves in more than one direction at a time, and dealing with the rivets, I have to make them not show too much,” Bedford said.

Ranger Doug Leen Courtesy photo
Painting on concave walls makes perspective tricky as well. When viewed straight ahead everything looks in line, but as the vantage point shifts to the side, the curved surface becomes more noticeable.

“You have to choose which spot is going to be the best, most frequented,” Bedford said. “Anything vertical is only vertical in one spot, but move to the side and it all goes askew.”

Leen will use the trailer as he tours the country, discussing national parks’ history.

Leen, currently of Alaska, is returning to his campfire roots after 32 years as a dentist, inspired by an unexpected find that led to more national park discoveries.

Back when he was still a park ranger in the Grand Tetons, he found an old Jenny Lake poster from the 1930s that was in a burn pile.

That poster turned out to be one of only 14 designs the Work Projects Administration made following the Great Depression under The New Deal.

The poster series promoted everything from safety tips to encouraging visits to America’s national parks.

A poster from the early 20th century promoting national parks. Image courtesy Library of Congress
“They were just meant to educate and motivate people,” Leen said.

But World War II struck, and the national park poster series stopped before all the parks could get the same artistic treatment. It was never picked up again.

Over the years, posters were thrown away, re-purposed, lost and memory of them faded like the posters themselves.

The WPA hired artists and screened millions of posters for everything from reminding people to wear hard hats to brushing their teeth. The park poster series originally had 2 million copies, and only 2,000 are known to exist today, Leen said.

“So, 99.9 percent of the public poster art has been lost forever,” Leen said.

Leen found a set of black and white photos of the poster series in the archives at Harper’s Ferry National Park and restored the entire set. When he finished, the National Park Service asked him to make posters in the same style as the original 14, Leen said.

Now Leen is taking the posters on the road for the National Park Centennial with campfire and auditorium talks about the Work Projects Administration and its impact.

“I am going to be the Johnny Appleseed of the WPA,” Leen said. “I will give a talk anywhere people will listen.”

Of course, he will be hitting the road in style, with his sleeping quarters being a literal work of art on wheels. Leen will be in Jackson for the Western Design Conference on Sept. 9-13 and in Cody on Sept. 23-27 for By Western Hands.

For more information and to check out the latest schedule of talks, go to or

Cody man arrested after Wednesday stabbing

A Cody man has been arrested in connection with a Wednesday evening stabbing on E Avenue.

Jason Johnson, 46, is being held in the Park County Detention Center on suspicion of felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor breach of peace, Cody Police Chief Perry Rockvam said in a Thursday news release.

Rockvam said that around 7 p.m. Wednesday, police were dispatched to a report of a man  later determined to be Johnson  who was "yelling and screaming and attacking furniture with a knife."

Responding officers found Johnson and several other people outside the home. Inside, they found the 54-year-old homeowner lying on a bed with a stab wound to his chest, Rockvam said.

An ambulance took the man to West Park Hospital, while Johnson was arrested, Rockvam said.

Johnson is expected to make his first appearance in Park County Circuit Court Friday morning.

Aug 26, 2015

Cody teacher arrested on allegations she slept with a student while teaching in Douglas

A Cody teacher was arrested Monday on allegations that — while she was a teacher in Douglas in late 2013 and early 2014 — she had sex with a 17-year-old high school student.

The Cody Police Department, joined by Converse County Sheriff’s Department personnel, arrested 34-year-old Katie Marcus around 8:30 a.m. at Sunset Elementary School, where she has been a special education teacher.

Marcus is charged with two felony counts of third-degree sexual abuse of a minor in Converse County. They relate to two alleged encounters with the teen sometime between November 2013 and January 2014 in Douglas.

Charging documents filed on Monday indicate that, although being close to two years old, the allegations were brought to law enforcement’s attention just last week; school superintendents in Douglas and Cody said they did not know about them until Marcus’ arrest.

Court records say the allegations came to light just last week, when one the teen's peers spoke to a counselor about the past relationship.

While youth are legally able to consent to sexual contact at the age of 17 in Wyoming, Marcus is charged with a crime because the Converse County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is alleging she held “a position of authority” in relation to the high school student. At the time of the alleged encounters, Marcus was working for the Douglas school district as an elementary-level special education teacher.

Unlike all other offenses, Wyoming law protects the identities of people charged with sexual crimes in public records until and unless their case gets past a preliminary hearing in Circuit Court and advances to District Court. For that reason, public court records in the case have redacted the name of the defendant and information that might identify her and Cody Police Chief Perry Rockvam refused to name the woman police arrested at the school. However, Cody News Company has independently learned that Marcus is the defendant from multiple sources of information.

Public records show Marcus made bail — which had been set at $50,000 cash — and was released from the Park County Detention Center on Monday. Cody News Company was unable to learn whether Marcus has retained an attorney.

Park County School District No. 6 Superintendent Ray Schulte declined to comment on Marcus’ employment status on Wednesday, but said “she’s not currently on the job.”

Marcus joined the Cody district in July 2014.

Cody schools superintendent Ray Schulte said Wednesday that Marcus is “not currently on the job.”

Schulte said he first learned of the case when Cody police “showed up Monday morning and wanted to visit with one of our employees.

“There was no indication ahead of time this was coming,” he said.

The allegations apparently surfaced because of a photo the then-17-year-old took and shared of he and the woman together in a bedroom. The woman — who Cody News Company is identifying as Marcus — was apparently half-naked in the photo, says an affidavit from Converse County Sheriff’s Office that Investigator Keri McNare filed in support of the case.

The public version of the affidavit is heavily redacted, making it difficult to determine exactly which statements were made by which people. However, it appears the teen had sent the picture to a friend, who showed it to another friend roughly a year ago, who reported the information to a counselor, who, in turn, contacted Converse County law enforcement Aug. 19.

On Friday — two days after getting the information — McNare interviewed the former high school student.

He told the investigator that Marcus approached him after a December 2013 sporting event and said “that he looked good and played good,” McNare recounted.

The teen told an investigator that things began when Marcus approached him after a sporting event.

They exchanged messages on Snapchat and Marcus said she wanted to hire him to do some chores, McNare wrote of the teen’s account.

The teen said he later went to Marcus’ house and she gave him five or six glasses of wine, McNare recounted.

The teen said the two had sex that day — when he took the picture and sent it to a friend via Snapchat — and again a week or so later, McNare wrote. The teen said Marcus told him not to tell anyone about it, McNare wrote.

If Marcus was interviewed by law enforcement prior to her arrest, that information is not included in charging documents.

Marcus worked for Converse County School District No. 1 from the fall of 2007 to the spring of 2014, said district superintendent Dan Espeland. She began as a paraprofessional before becoming a special education teacher — working with kindergarten through third grades — in the fall of 2011, Espeland said.

The superintendent said he learned about the case on Monday.

Speaking generally, he said the district has always taken student safety seriously and has policies in place to try to protect children.

“It’s just like the laws out in society that are there to protect our society: some people choose not to obey the laws,” Espeland said.

“The person who orchestrated the hiring of Katie Marcus is no longer in a position to do that type of work,” Schulte said.

Schulte, the Cody superintendent, noted that the allegations stemmed from before Marcus' time in Park County.

“I don’t have any reason to believe that students in Cody were ever in jeopardy of anything,” Schulte said.

Speaking to the district’s hiring processes, Schulte added that “the person who orchestrated the hiring of Katie Marcus is no longer in a position to do that type of work.”

Aug 25, 2015

Annual pilgrimage to Heart Mountain internment site highlights lessons from the past

A newly dedicated root cellar and a recently relocated barrack are among the latest features at the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center. They are reminders of a dark chapter in America’s past that brings former incarcerees, their families and others back to the former Japanese-American internment camp each year.

"We welcome those who come here on the pilgrimage. ‘Pilgrimage’ was usually a journey to a foreign land, but the journey of your forbearers was a journey to a foreign place in your own land," said former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson of Cody.

University of Wyoming American studies professor Eric Sandeed chats with former Heart Mountain internment camp incarceree Michel Kuwahara Saturday morning. Kuwahara was incarcerated as an infant and was filmed along with his family at the internment camp. Footage of Kuwahara is often used in Sandeen’s classes. Cody News Co. photo by Matt Naber

Over the weekend, the annual pilgrimage brought back a familiar panel of guest speakers, including former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, Simpson, Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation Chair Shirley Ann Higuchi, HMWF Vice Chair Douglas Nelson, and HMWF Executive Director Brian Liesinger to reflect on the past and look to the future.

“We collect the experiences, the stories and lessons attached to these places and items, only with those can we tell the Heart Mountain story,” Liesinger said as he welcomed the crowd of a few hundred guests on Saturday. “Only with those can we stress the importance of preventing it from happening again.”

Mineta encouraged everyone to look to the past while building for the future to ensure something like the internment camps never happens again.

He recalled the events following 9/11 when discussion was held in Washington, D.C., and across the country about possibly rounding up Arabian-Americans and Muslims — a reminder that lessons of the past are easily forgotten and history can repeat itself.

"It amazes me that people don’t know that history of our country and when they hear it, they are intensely interested and shake their heads that something like that occurred in the United States," Mineta said.

“When racism rears its head, terrible things happen,” Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation Executive Director Brian Liesinger said.

About 400,000 people drive by the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center each summer, Simpson said. Without the efforts of the foundation, its donors, researchers and benefactors, each new generation of Americans might not know what happened to Japanese-Americans during World War II, speakers said.

“When racism rears its head, terrible things happen,” Liesinger said. “We must use the wrongs of the past to value the rights and liberties of everyone today.”

Simpson and Mineta formed their life-long friendship while Mineta was incarcerated at Heart Mountain and Simpson was a local Boy Scout. They went on to serve in Congress, the board of the Smithsonian and many other government activities.

Steven Arita, a Heart Mountain/Gila River internment camp descendant, looks at a photograph at the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center on Saturday. Cody News Co. photo by Ilene Olson
"Norm bears not a shred of bitterness, sadness yes, but bitterness no,” Simpson said. “Hatred corrodes the container it is carried in.”

Although they were imprisoned on their homeland, the incarcerees kept busy by working together to create infrastructure, such as the newly dedicated root cellar.

Heart Mountain incarceree Eiichi Edward Sakauye led the construction of the root cellar in 1942 and 1943. Now, more than 70 years later, it was dedicated as part of the interpretive center and a plaque was presented to his daughters, Carolyn Sakauye and Jane May.

“It is an important symbol to us — the collaboration and cooperation the foundation has done,” Nelson said, noting it would not have been possible without the cellar being donated by its former owners. “This is an extraordinary example of the kindness and generosity of our Park County neighbors that has made everything we do possible.”

The root cellar is not stabilized enough yet for visitors to walk around inside the 300-foot long cellar, but that is the ultimate goal for the cellar, Nelson said.

“It is one of the huge ones,” Nelson said. “It is an awesome structure.”

Sakauye’s root cellar provided storage space for the crops harvested inside the camp to feed its 10,000 residents — the third-largest city in Wyoming at the time, Nelson said.

“He made sure Heart Mountain’s cellars were kept and fully stocked,” Nelson said. “It was an extraordinary achievement.”

Prosecutor says he won’t seek death penalty in at least one Badger Basin murder case

If he gets a conviction, Park County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Skoric says he’ll seek a sentence of life in prison — and not the death penalty — for a woman charged with participating in a plot to murder her boyfriend in 2014.

On Friday, Skoric filed a one-sentence notice in Sandra Garcia’s case stating “that the state does not intend to seek the death penalty for this particular defendant.”

Garcia, 27, is one of three people charged in connection with the murder and subsequent decapitation and mutilation of Juan Antonio Guerra-Torres in January 2014.

Sandra Garcia
Sandra Garcia is alleged to have asked her brother, 29-year-old Pedro Garcia Jr., to find someone to kill Guerra-Torres, her longtime boyfriend. Pedro Garcia Jr. allegedly recruited/hired John L. Marquez, 51, to commit the murder.

On Monday, Skoric declined to elaborate on his decision in Sandra Garcia’s case and declined to say whether he’s made a decision about what punishment he’ll pursue for her two co-defendants.

The Garcia siblings are each charged with felony counts of aiding and abetting first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

Marquez is charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. He’s alleged to have fatally shot and then dismembered Guerra-Torres. Guerra-Torres' mutilated body was found along a remote road in Badger Basin a few days later.

The allegations and charges are largely based on an account of the crime that Pedro Garcia gave to law enforcement this past March; Sandra Garcia and John Marquez's preliminary defenses have included questioning Pedro Garcia’s credibility.

All three defendants have pleaded not guilty and are presumed to be innocent.

At the request of Sandra Garcia’s defense team, District Court Judge Steven Cranfill had effectively given Skoric a Friday deadline to decide whether he was going to pursue the death penalty in that case.

The defense attorneys representing Pedro Garcia and Marquez haven’t made that request, so Skoric has no current deadline in those cases.

The death penalty is extremely rare in Wyoming; the state has executed one person since 1965.

Criminals hit local credit union's customers; cards reissued as precaution

Several dozen members of Sunlight Federal Credit Union had money temporarily siphoned from their accounts by out-of-state criminals last week. The credit union — which has locations in Powell, Cody, Worland and Sheridan — took the precautionary step of reissuing all of its members’ debit cards in response.

Rather than trying to block certain transactions in certain states, “we thought it was a better thing just to ... shut them all down and start fresh,” Sunlight Federal Credit Union President Cindy Bennett said Monday of the proactive approach.

Roughly 50-60 members had unauthorized purchases, apparently made with counterfeit debit cards, Bennett said. The credit union has already replaced the money in each of those affected member’s accounts. Bennett also noted it was the cards, and not the accounts themselves, that were compromised.

Around a half-dozen people reported the fraudulent charges to the Powell Police Department and the Park County Sheriff’s Office between last Tuesday and Friday.

“Apparently, most of it occurred in the Houston, Texas, area,” Powell Police Lt. Alan Kent said.
Because the illegal purchases took place so far away kind of ties the hands of police, but “what we’re going to try and do is see if we can’t find a local agency down there (in Texas) to work with us — and maybe they can have boots on the ground and go do some of the legwork,” Kent said.

As Bennett understands it, the perpetrators of the scheme created some bogus debit cards and “got lucky” in managing to insert the numbers of some Sunlight Federal Credit Union’s accounts. She’s been told by experts that there’s been a bigger push in that type of fraud because more secure, microchipped cards are being implemented around the country.

“Apparently, most of it occurred in the Houston, Texas, area,” said Powell Police Lt. Alan Kent.

There was some confusion online and in the community last week because, around the same time that criminals were targeting Sunlight’s members, Pinnacle Bank happened to be reissuing a couple hundred of their debit cards around the state.

The incidents were unrelated.

Carmen Duncan, Pinnacle Bank Vice President for Wyoming in Cody, said one of the bank’s fraud protection services had given them a list of possibly compromised cards; Duncan said the cards appeared to have been compromised when a national merchant suffered some kind of data breach.

While no fraudulent charges had been made on any of Pinnacle’s cards in Wyoming, other cards on the list had been misused in some states, Duncan said. Pinnacle opted to reissue all the possibly compromised cards as a precaution.

“It’s pretty routine for us,” Duncan said of replacing cards due to fraud.

New, small wildfire burning in Yellowstone's backcountry

Recent smoke that clouded Yellowstone National Park came from fires many miles to the west, but the park now has a small wildfire of its own.

The 5L4 Fire, started by lightning, is burning in a remote area at the southern end of Yellowstone Lake.

This new fire is burning at the remote, southern end of Yellowstone Lake. Photo courtesy Yellowstone Natoinal Park
The fire was estimated at three to five acres as of Tuesday, the park service said. It's located on the Promontory Peninsula in a roughly 1,500 acre area between spots that burned in 2013 (the Alder Fire) and 1988 (the Snake Fire).

"While the fire is visible and growing actively through torching and spotting, it is not threatening any roads or structures," the park service said in a Tuesday release. "It is anticipated that the fire will naturally confine itself to this area of the peninsula and will be monitored by park fire crews and allowed to play its natural role in the ecosystem."

Three backcountry campsites in the area fire namesake 5L4, 5L3 and 6A1 have been temporarily closed because of the fire.

The weather service says Tuesday should bring elevated fire danger across Yellowstone and the Cody area, with relatively dry, unstable conditions and possible thunderstorms.

To date, 2015 has been a quiet year for fires in both Yellowstone and the neighboring Shoshone National Forest.

(This post was updated with new information on Tuesday.)

A very rough approximation of the location of the 5L4 Fire.

Aug 24, 2015

Game and Fish wants input on managing brucellosis in local elk

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is looking for feedback on a new plan aimed at slowing the spread of brucellosis in parts of Park and Big Horn counties.

The department will host a public meeting next week on its draft brucellosis management action plan for the Clarks Fork elk herd. The meetings starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the basement of Cody's Big Horn Federal Bank.

“The Clarks Fork (plan) outlines strategies for minimizing the risk of brucellosis transmission from elk to elk and from elk to cattle,” said Wildlife Management Coordinator Tim Woolley in a news release. “Attending the meeting will provide an opportunity to learn what steps Game and Fish is taking on strategies to reduce elk-elk and elk-cattle transmission of the disease and provide input on the draft plan for this elk herd.”

A map of the Clarks Fork Elk Herd Unit from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
The Clarks Fork Elk Herd Unit runs between the North Fork of the Shoshone River/Sunlight Creek Divide north to the Montana state line, and the area west of the Bighorn River and north of U.S. Highway 14-16-20 to the Yellowstone National Park boundary. It contains hunt areas 51, 53, and 54 and, in the average winter, roughly 3,700 elk.

Creating management plans was one of the top recommendations from the governor’s Brucellosis Coordination Team a panel of cattle producers, scientists, wildlife professionals, veterinarians, and lawmakers who were assembled in 2004. They made multiple recommendations aimed at reclaiming and retaining class-free brucellosis status for Wyoming’s cattle.

Brucellosis is a bacterial disease, primarily found in elk and bison, that can cause animals to abort their young. The disease can infect and harm people, but the more common concern is its spread to cattle.

Representatives from the Wyoming Livestock Board and/or USDA-APHIS-Veterinary Services plan to attend Tuesday's meeting. They'll offer input on the management options, discuss the brucellosis Designated Surveillance Area and answer any technical questions.

The draft Clarks Fork elk herd brucellosis management action plan is available online.

Big Horn Federal Bank is located at 1701 Stampede Ave.

Aug 21, 2015

Mountain lion relocated from Shell to Clarks Fork Canyon area

A young mountain lion was recently relocated to a remote spot in the Shoshone National Forest after causing some trouble in the Shell area.
Before capture...

Greybull Game Warden Bill Robertson and Wyoming Game and Fish Large Carnivore Biologist Luke Ellsbury captured the male after reports that it had been hanging around a house. It also killed a cat belonging to Shell residents Glen and Lee Leavitt, the Greybull Standard reported.

...after capture. Photos courtesy Wyoming Game and Fish Department
“Was I scared? Yeah, a little, just because he (the mountain lion) was so brave,” Glen Leavitt told the Greybull Standard. “He wasn’t scared of anything.”

The yearling lion appeared to be in good physical shape and was taken to the Clark Fork Canyon area, the Game and Fish said in its July newsletter.

Aug 20, 2015

Sympathetic to low price of oil, Park County cuts Marathon a break on rent

Amid tough times in the oil and gas industry, Park County is giving a small break to the area’s largest minerals producer.

County commissioners recently gave Marathon Oil Corporation a discount on the space the company rents from the county.

Marathon is also reducing the physical size of its Cody office — located inside the Park County Complex — to trim the company’s costs.

“Due to oil prices being down nearly 70 percent, we’re facing several challenges,” Marathon attorney Kirby Iler told commissioners Aug. 4.

Marathon previously owned the Park County Complex. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
At the company’s request, the commission provided Marathon a two-year reprieve from the annual 2.4 percent rate hikes they typically demand of the county complex’s tenants.

That decision could save Marathon (and cost the county) somewhere in the neighborhood of $22,500 over the new five-year lease, although the actual figure depends on how the region’s cost of living changes in the coming years. The new deal would amount to not much more than a 2 percent discount for Marathon Oil Corp., with the county still collecting around $1.023 million over the five years, if costs of living continue rising at their current pace.

Marathon will pay a little more than $12 per square-foot each year for space in the building that the company once owned.

“It’s a good relationship and we just hope for your sake — and our assessed valuation’s sake — that oil comes back up in price,” Commissioner Tim French said during the discussion. “I’m sure it will at some point, but, you know, tough situation right now.”

Marathon has been leasing about 19,200 square feet in the complex, but by the start of 2016, the company will give up roughly 2,950 square feet on the third floor and consolidate on the second. It will remain the largest renter in the complex.

A company banner in the complex commemorates Marathon's century-long presence in Wyoming.
Legacy Reserves LP — another oil and gas company housed in the complex — plans to expand their office by taking over the third floor space Marathon is vacating.

French asked if Marathon really wanted to give up the square footage, wondering what will happen if the oil market rebounds.

“The way it’s going right now, unfortunately, at least looking forward, things ... seem like they’re going to stay somewhat stable where they’re at for some time,” Iler responded. “And that’s something that’s been a hard decision.”

A multi-national corporation, Marathon is currently focusing its resources on three “high return areas” in the United States: the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas, the Bakken Shale in North Dakota and eastern Montana and the Oklahoma Resource Basins.

Iler said if Marathon ends up needing more room in Cody in the future, the company will hope “that somehow the good Lord gives us the space.”

“But for right now, we just didn’t feel right coming to you and asking for ... the rent to remain constant, and at the same time not doing other things we can to control costs,” Iler said.

Across the company, Marathon slashed roughly 400 jobs from its payroll in early 2015, saving roughly $100 million a year, Marathon Oil CEO Lee Tillman recently told analysts and investors. The company’s Wyoming workforce was included in the cut-backs.

Marathon attorney Kirby Iler distributes copies of some remodeling plans for the company's space in the Park County Complex. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
“In this uncertain commodity price environment, we’ve been laser-focused on rigorous cost control to help protect our margins,” Tillman said in a statement about the company’s earnings for April through June. The company posted a $386 million loss for the second quarter.

Noting the other tenants at the complex, Commission Chairman Joe Tilden initially expressed some reservations about giving Marathon a discount.

“We need to be treating everybody the same, and so far we haven’t waived any of the price increases. That’s my only concern,” Tilden said, adding, “You guys have been great renters and we love Marathon — because you do bring a lot of money into the county and those types of things — but we do have to be consistent throughout the entire county.”

Commissioner Bucky Hall said it was a good point, but he countered that the county doesn’t have to be fair.

Both he and French noted Marathon’s long-standing presence in Park County and pointed out that Marathon gave the county a substantial discount when it sold the complex to the county in 2005.

“We need to be treating everybody the same, and so far we haven’t waived any of the price increases. That’s my only concern,” Tilden said. He later went along with a discount.

The discount on the complex space was a compromise from Marathon's original proposal.

The oil company had asked the county to pause the annual 2.4 percent rate hikes for two years, then simply resume them in 2018.  Instead, the rate in 2018 will be adjusted for the change in the cost of living between 2016 and 2018, then go up by 2.4 percent in the years after that.

If prices follow recent trends, Marathon will save somewhere around $22,500, as compared to the $34,000 the company would have saved under its initial proposal.

“I think we’re all sympathetic about the price of oil, and it’s certainly impacted Park County as much as it has Marathon,” Commissioner Loren Grosskopf said in proposing the compromise. Grosskopf said he wished the county could get a break on its increased utility and maintenance costs.

The lease runs through Aug. 1, 2020.

Marathon will continue to get the first chance to rent any space that becomes available in the building.

Smoke coming from northwestern states; no wildfires on the Shoshone

With the amount of smoke in town, you might be tempted to assume there's a wildlife burning nearby. In actuality, the haze is coming from points well northwest of here.

Satellite images taken Thursday show blazes in Washington and Idaho putting out a lot of smoke that's drifting into Wyoming, including Cody and Powell.

Fires in Washington are producing a large amount of smoke. Image taken from NASA's EOSDIS "Worldview" tool.

With the smoke so thick, the Shoshone National Forest put out a Thursday afternoon news release just to clarify there were not any fires inside the forest's 2.4 million acres.

Shoshone spokeswoman Kristie Salzmann, based in Cody, said forest personnel had heard a smattering of comments around town about the smoke's origins and wanted to preempt any thoughts that it was coming from somewhere on the Shoshone.

Salzmann said there are more than 90 large, uncontained wildfires burning across more than a million acres in Oregon, Idaho, California, Washington, Nevada, Texas and Arizona.

The state of Washington has asked for help in fighting its fires, and on Thursday, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead announced he's sending two UH-60 helicopters equipped with aerial firefighting equipment. Each helicopter includes a crew of three, with a two-person maintenance crew joining them.

“We want to do all we can to help keep people and property safe,” Mead said in a statement. “Wyoming crews are well-trained and able to help.”

The crews will be based at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Washington. The deployment is expected to last around 16 days, but the crews can be recalled at any time if a need arises in Wyoming, the governor's office said.

“The National Guard is based on partnerships,” said Maj. Gen. Luke Reiner, Wyoming's adjutant general, in a statement. “When one of our partners needs support in times of need it is important to step up and assist.”

Did you see that bison-tourist photo? Here’s the story behind it

A photograph of a tourist reaching toward a bison in Yellowstone National Park was widely shared on social media and by a couple local news outlets in recent days. Unfortunately, the photo often was shared without attribution to photographer Ed Rader and without much other information.

Rader said in an email that while he posted the shot to his Instagram account last week, he actually took the photo on his first trip to Yellowstone, back in 2013. Believe it or not, he snapped photos of both men approaching and posing with the bull.

The men thought they were safe... Photo courtesy Ed Rader

...feeling comfortable enough to each take turns approaching the male bison. Photo courtesy Ed Rader

“Those were the first buffalo we saw,” Rader said. “Those guys caused quite a ruckus with other visitors. One fellow yelled at that and told them they were idiots.”

After the men finished taking turns touching the bull and photographing one another, Rader spoke with them.

“One told me that they were never in danger because the bull (an alpha) showed no signs of aggression,” he recalled. “They were right about the second part but obviously they were in danger.”

That lesson is sometimes learned the hard way: Five visitors have been gored by bison in Yellowstone after getting too close to bison this summer.

Park visitors are supposed to stay at least 25 yards away from bison.

Rader is a professional photographer who lives in Silicon Valley. More of his work can be viewed at

Aug 19, 2015

British couple injured Friday, Star Valley man died Monday in motorcycle crashes on Beartooth Highway

A Wyoming motorcyclist died in a crash on the Beartooth Highway and his passenger was hospitalized with injuries on Monday afternoon. It was the highway's second significant motorcycle wreck in four days, as a couple from Great Britain were injured in a Friday morning crash.

Matthew S. Wickel, 50, of Thayne, died at the scene of Monday's incident and passenger Dawn Patterson, 58, of Grand Blanc, Michigan, had to be flown to a hospital.

The Beartooth Highway. File photo courtesy Ben Townsend under CC-BY
That crash occurred at 2:50 p.m., approximately 5 miles south of the Montana border (near milepost 30) on U.S. Highway 212, said a news release from the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

Wickel was riding his 2002 Harley-Davidson west, amid rain and snow. Wickel lost control of the motorcycle, crossed the centerline, left the highway on the south side and went down a small hill, the Highway Patrol said.

Wickel and Patterson were both thrown from the motorcycle. A medical helicopter flew Patterson to a Billings hospital.

Neither Wickel nor Patterson was wearing a helmet, the patrol said. The agency said it's investigating speed and weather as contributing factors in the crash.

In Friday morning's incident, Christopher M. Higgins, 71, and his wife, Susan J. Higgins, 63, were injured after he failed to make a hairpin turn, the Park County Sheriff's Office said in a news release.

The crash was reported at 11:12 a.m. Friday, the sheriff's office said.

The British couple, riding a three-wheeled 2011 Harley-Davidson, had been about five miles north of the Beartooth Highway's junction with the Chief Joseph Highway (near milepost 15). Witnesses told the sheriff's office that Higgins was headed south, when he didn't make a right-hand curve. The Higginses went off the left side of the road, down a steep embankment and onto a boulder field about 20 yards away.

Higgins and his wife, who were both wearing helmets, were taken to West Park Hospital.

An ambulance from the hospital, as well as Park County sheriff's deputies, the Cody volunteer fire department, an ambulance from Cooke City, Montana, and a ranger from Yellowstone National Park had all responded to the scene.

Wickel's death marked the 92nd highway fatality in Wyoming for 2015. There were 97 highway fatalities as of the same date last year.

Cody teen and dogs uninjured in rollover near Ralston

A Cody teen and his dogs ended up OK after a Monday morning rollover southwest of Ralston, on U.S. Highway 14-A.

Tristan Heath of Cody was taking his family’s dogs to a veterinarian in Powell when, around 6:45 a.m., a deer ran in front of his Chevrolet SUV.

“I swerved to keep from hitting the deer,” he said. “I missed the deer, but I paid the price.”

Heath lost control of the vehicle, which left the right side of the highway and rolled.

Wyoming Highway Patrol Trooper Dan Walker surveys the scene of the crash, west of Ralston. Cody News Co. photo by Ilene Olson
While the vehicle suffered some damage, Heath and the dogs were uninjured.

Heath called his parents. His mother took the dogs the rest of the way to the vet while his father waited with him at the accident scene.

“It was pretty scary,” Heath said. “I’m just glad I’m OK and the dogs are OK.”

Aug 18, 2015

Local law enforcement finds 13-year-old runaway in Cody

Personnel from the Park County Sheriff's Office and the Cody Police Department helped reunite a runaway Riverton teen with her family on Tuesday.

Park County law enforcement had been asked to be on the lookout for 13-year-old girl around 10 a.m., according to a news release from the sheriff's office. Although too young to legally drive, she reportedly was driving a red 2002 Pontiac from the Riverton area.

Shortly before noon, the teenager's sister called Park County dispatchers to report she'd just received a message from the girl that said she was at the Cody McDonald's. Dispatchers immediately passed the information on to the officers on patrol.

Minutes later, the Cody Police Department's code enforcement officer spotted the girl's red Pontiac heading east on the the Greybull Highway, past Choice Aviation. The code enforcement officer began following the vehicle while a sheriff's deputy responded.

The teenager eventually turned south on Wyo. Highway 120, heading toward Meeteetse. A sheriff's deputy arrived at 12:12 p.m., pulled the teen over at milepost 70 and took her into custody.

She was eventually released to her mother, the sheriff's office said.

Motorcyclist recounts run-in with bruin: ‘All of a sudden, the wife yelled, “Bear!”’

They hadn’t seen a bear all day.

Vincent and Donna Doser had spotted bison, elk and other animals as they motorcycled through Yellowstone National Park. But as they exited the park’s Northeast Entrance on Aug. 10, Donna remarked to her husband that they could see more bears in their home state of Florida.

The Dosers started down the Beartooth Highway and toward their Cody motel room when, “All of a sudden, the wife yelled ‘bear!’ and this black bear come running out ... shot right across the road,” Vincent Doser recalled in a Thursday interview.

The animal ran out of some tall grass and crashed into the left side of the Dosers’ motorcycle. The female bear collided with Vincent’s ribs and left leg, fracturing his ankle, and smashed Donna’s left leg.

Vincent was able to keep the motorcycle upright, but the pain forced the couple to stop a short ways away.

“I could barely get (the) kickstand down and shut the bike off,” Vincent recalled. “And we waited for help.”

The bear, meanwhile, laid out in the middle of the road, roughly three delineator posts behind the couple.

“It didn’t scare me at all, because I really thought she was dead. And we couldn’t move,” Vincent said.

A couple Canadian motorcyclists heading up the highway soon stopped to help, followed by others.
Roughly 20-30 minutes after the crash, after a small crowd of helpers had gathered, the “dead” bear stirred.

“Her cubs came out and started sniffing around, and by golly, she got up,” Vincent said. “She got up real slow and gimped across the highway — the way she was headed to begin with, the way she wanted to go.”

The cubs headed in the opposite direction.

From the size and color of the animal, Vicent feels certain it was a black bear.

“I’m glad it wasn’t a grizzly, because then you might have had trouble when it came to,” he laughed.

A passersby alerted authorities of the crash sometime around 5:45 p.m. and the Dosers were taken to West Park Hospital in Cody. They each got their left legs put in walking boots.

“Everyone there was very very helpful,” Vincent said, crediting the passing bikers, the paramedics, park rangers, Wyoming Highway Patrolman Scott Hall and some people in Cooke City who helped the couple load up their bike for transport the day after the crash.

“I mean it was just incredible, all the help that you get,” Vincent said.

“I’m glad it wasn’t a grizzly, because then you might have had trouble when it came to,” Vincent Doser laughed.

He spoke as he and his wife headed back to their home — and some new doctor’s appointments — in Lehigh Acres, Florida. The run-in with the bear scrapped their plans to continue on to California for another three weeks of vacation.

For Vincent, it was the second crash in his motorcycling career. (The other came at the hands of a Ford Explorer and “hurt a lot more.”) But he wasn’t swearing off of motorcycling just yet.

“It makes you think, but we do love the motorcycle, and it’s just so serene when you’re out there riding. It's just, I guess anything can happen, you know?” Vincent said. He did quip later that, “the next time we come back (to Wyoming), I think we’re going to just bring the car.”

Aug 17, 2015

Former employee charged with stealing from WyDOT

A Cody man has been charged with stealing thousands of dollars worth of items from the Wyoming Department of Transportation during the tail end of a two-decade career there.

Louis “Alan” Kousoulos — a former supervisor at WyDOT’s Cody shop who ran for governor in 2010 — is facing two felony charges of theft totaling $1,000 or more. The counts allege Kousoulos stole WyDOT property between 2008 and 2009 and between 2012 and 2013.

Kousoulos allegedly stole the items while working at WyDOT's shop in Cody. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
Charging documents assert Kousoulos took some items sitting around the shop, while other items he specifically ordered for himself, pretending they were for WyDOT business. As one example, Kousoulos is alleged to have purchased more than 10,000 plastic zip ties — at a cost to WyDOT of $2,279 — to help build a new house and garage.

A mechanic who worked under Kousoulos reported the allegations to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation in May 2013. The next day, DCI agents searched Kousoulos’ Cody home and seized a number of items they believed to be stolen property.

WyDOT records say that five months later, in September 2013, Kousoulos retired.

Kousoulos made his first appearance on the charges on Aug. 7 in Park County’s Circuit Court. He was allowed to remain free on his own recognizance while the case is pending.

Court records do not explain the roughly two-year gap between DCI’s initial 2013 investigation and the filing of the criminal charges in late June.

Park County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Skoric attributed the delay to white collar cases generally being a lower priority among limited resources, and he noted the lead investigating officer switched jobs.

“We get to them when we get to them,” Skoric said.

Park County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Skoric said the two-year delay between the investigation and the filing of charges was due in part to white collar cases being a lower priority for law enforcement's limited resources.

An affidavit from former Powell Police Officer Chad Glick filed in support of the charges says the mechanic came forward after noticing some suspicious invoices for zip ties. Kousoulos had reportedly ordered many more ties than the transportation department would need and most were the wrong size, the mechanic told Glick, who at the time was on assignment with a DCI task force. The mechanic said Kousoulos was using the zip ties at his new residence on Cody’s 29th Street, Glick wrote.

Other items — including a $513 hydraulic cylinder and a $64 snow shovel — also appeared to have been ordered only for Kousoulos’ use despite being billed for specific WyDOT equipment or projects, Glick wrote.

The mechanic also recalled a few instances where Kousoulos had taken things from the shop — including taking a two-cylinder hydraulic motor from storage, a 5-foot-long steel beam and a trailer axle that was considered scrap metal, Glick wrote.

Just before authorities searched Kousoulos’ residence on May 8, 2013, Glick had the mechanic place a recorded phone call in which he “warned” Kousoulos that WyDOT supervisors were probing whether Kousoulos had taken some zip ties.

Charging documents include this table that documents the alleged thefts.
“Kousoulos told (the mechanic) not to say anything” and to “do like he always has and to ‘play stupid,’” Glick said of the recorded call. Kousoulos said he was going to take the leftover zip ties at his house and “throw them upstairs before they (WyDOT officials) see them,” Glick recounted.

About 10 minutes later, DCI and a trooper with the Wyoming Highway Patrol searched the property. They found and seized the objects the mechanic had described plus some others, Glick wrote; DCI agent Darrell Steward counted 551 zip ties being used to secure some pipes from a radiant heating system in the unfinished basement.

After the agents left, Kousoulos contacted the mechanic and said “he was probably going to lose his job,” Glick wrote. Kousoulos said he’d admitted to authorities that he’d taken the zip ties, but asked the mechanic to say the longer ties — the ones the mechanic had said were not used at WyDOT’s shop — were used all the time, Glick recounted.

The officer estimated the total value of the stolen items at around $9,850, though the stolen two-cylinder motor may have been worth significantly less than the included $6,810 cost of replacing it with a modern, four-cylinder model.

Kousoulos retired from WyDOT on Sept. 4, 2013, according to department records, ending a career that began in April 1991.

Kousoulos ran for governor on a platform of saving the state money — suggesting specific cost-cutting changes at the transportation department.

When Kousoulos ran for governor in 2010, he told the Casper Star Tribune that as a shop supervisor for WyDOT, he regularly saw areas where the state could save money. He’d pledged to cut $1 million though equipment savings and employee changes.

Kousoulos received about 0.5 percent of the vote in the Republican primary, which was won by current governor Matt Mead.

A preliminary hearing, where a judge will determine if there’s enough evidence for the case to move toward a trial, has been set for Sept. 2 in Cody.

City officials: Please keep your sidewalks tidy

City of Cody officials are reminding folks that it's their responsibility to keep their sidewalks looking spic and span.

“If you go outside and you see that your sidewalk needs to be swept, if you would do that, that would encourage people to utilize the nice sidewalks that we have all along our corridors and in our residential areas,” Cody Public Works Director Steve Payne said during the Aug. 4 city council meeting.

Clean sidewalks boost Cody's appeal, city officials say. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
Payne said he brought up the topic after a citizen called to say, “Cody really shines when we all work together” and asked him to remind people of their sidewalk responsibilities.

Cody Mayor Nancy Tia Brown said she'd recently been asked to explain why locals take so much pride in their properties.

“My answer was, it’s been that way for a very long time, and the reputation builds and the expectation builds,” Brown said. “The pride in the way our city looks, I believe, is shared by most of our residents, and as a result, our city makes a stellar impression on people when they enter.”

“So, thank you all for doing what you do to make our city beautiful,” the mayor said.

Author to debut Yellowstone-themed fantasy novel in Cody

Myrtle Brooks will debut her fantasy novel, “The Geyser Girl of Yellowstone Park,” on Thursday at the Cody library.

The author talk starts at 2 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

"This book has been 50 years in the making," said Brooks.

She visited Yellowstone as a 10-year-old child and started a short story when she got home.

When she returned to the park in 2009, the memory came back to her and she wrote this book.

It is the story of a girl of mysterious origins adopted by Old Faithful Geyser and a buffalo named Flower of the Steam Basin. She takes a vow to protect Yellowstone's heritage and is forced to chose between her safety and her sworn duties.

Brooks says her goal is "to educate others, that it is equally essential for us to take care of the earth, as it is to be sustained by her."

"Tending a place such as Yellowstone is a stewardship not to be taken lightly, and is not reserved for those with uniforms and badges alone," she says on her website.

Myrtle Brooks is a pen name. The author lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she works as a postal clerk. This is her first novel.

Visit for more information.

Aug 16, 2015

Meeteetse Chocolatier featured in New York Times

A New York Times columnist recently described chocolatier Tim Kellogg as "the love child of Buffalo Bill and Willy Wonka."

The Meeteetse man wasn't thrilled with the description.

"He winced, explaining that while he knows he's a novelty, he hates being reduced to one," writer Frank Bruni recounted in a weekend column for the Times titled, "The Frontier Chocolatier."

Wyomingites know and love the Meeteetse Chocolatier. The business started in 2004 when Kellogg sold chocolate during the Cody Stampede as a way to raise money for a new bronc saddle.

Over the past decade, Kellogg worked with both cattle and chocolate. Earlier this year, he decided to focus solely on chocolate.

The New York Times writer praised Kellogg's chocolates.

"Everything I tasted — and I'm too ashamed to admit how much I tasted — was pure heaven, if heaven permits elastic waistbands," Bruni wrote, ultimately concluding that, "There's genius in them there hills."

For a town of roughly 330 people, Meeteetse is apparently quite the draw for New York journalists. This is the second time one of its residents has been featured in an article this week: The New Yorker published an article about bullfighter Dusty Tuckness on Monday.

Aug 14, 2015

Toledo Zoo to take cubs of euthanized Yellowstone bear

An Ohio zoo is giving a home to two grizzly bear cubs from Yellowstone National Park after their mother had to be euthanized.

The Toledo Zoo announced Friday that they expect to receive the twin cubs sometime this fall.

“We are glad to provide a home for these girls,” Toledo Zoo curator of mammals Randi Meyerson told the Toledo Blade newspaper.

The cubs' mother killed 63-year-old Lance Crosby of Billings while he was hiking in the park last week.
The Toledo Zoo. File photo courtesy Alex1961 via CC-BY-SA

Yellowstone officials euthanized the grizzly sow on Thursday and without their mother, the less than one-year-old cubs were unlikely to survive in the wild.

Park officials say they decided to put down the mother bear in large part because she had eaten a significant portion of the hiker's body and stored the remains for later; officials worried the bear and her cubs would have come to see people as a source of food and that future encounters could follow.

Crosby had been hiking in an area about a half-mile off the Elephant Back Loop Trail, not far from Lake Village and "less than a mile from employee residences in an area frequented by people," park officials said.

The Toledo Zoo already houses polar and sloth bears, but these will be the first brown bears at the facility in more than 30 years. The cubs will join more than 6,900 other animals split among 500 species

Meyerson told the Toledo Blade that the zoo had already been planning to create a brown bear exhibit and reached out to the National Park Service when it heard about the orphaned cubs. Zoo officials plan to consult with other facilities on how best to get the cubs acclimated to their new surroundings.

"It's exciting and we know we are up to the challenge," Meyerson told the Toledo Blade.

Yellowstone officials' decision to euthanize the grizzly bear drew a significant amount of criticism online, with many wildlife enthusiasts protesting that the mother grizzly was simply doing what grizzly bears do.

The criticism continued on Friday (including from those who wanted the cubs to instead go to a wildlife shelter and later be released), but there was also some gratitude.

"THANK YOU The Toledo Zoo for taking care of these cubs and providing them with a life after death. No winners here," Facebook user Beth Chapman posted to the zoo's page. "Can't think of a better place for them to grow up (aside from in the wild with their mama bear). So sad, all around."

More than 100 years old, The Toledo Zoo had nearly 1 million visitors in 2014.

Chief Joseph Highway paving (and delays) start Monday

Travelers on the Chief Joseph Scenic highway should expect some delays when a chip sealing project begins on Monday.

The project will improve about 6.8 miles of Wyo. Highway 296 (between mileposts 26.41 and 33.20), including the switchbacks on the Sunlight Basin side of the mountain. The project begins at the bottom switchback near Dead Indian Creek and climbs to the summit of Dead Indian Pass.

The chip sealing will include the switchbacks on the Sunlight Basin side. Dead Indian Pass photo courtesy Smallchief under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons
The prime contractor on the $2.72 million project is HK Contractors, Inc., of Idaho Falls, Idaho.

The work includes grading, a one-inch asphalt pavement leveling layer and a two-inch pavement overlay and a chip seal.

"We appreciate everyone's patience as we work toward completing this important project," said Todd Frost, WYDOT resident engineer in Cody, in a news release from the department.

Frost said traffic will be controlled by flaggers and pilot vehicles during construction. Motorists should expect delays of up to 20 minutes, he said.

The project is expected to wrap up by Sept. 30.

WYDOT officials say the project was made possible by revenue from the 10-cent fuel tax increase that was passed by the Wyoming Legislature in 2013.

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