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 http://erader.zenfolio.com/

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 www.myrtlebrooks.com 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.

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