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 www.fs.usda.gov/shoshone 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 www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/parkroads.htm.

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.”


RANGER OF THE LOST ART
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 www.rangerdoug.com or www.facebook.com/rangerdougsenterprises.

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.

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