Sep 25, 2015

Film series brings diverse movies to Cody area

The story of the unsung musicians who backed up major stars of the 1960s and 70s will kick off the six-part fall season of the Northwest Wyoming Film Series on Tuesday.

“The Wrecking Crew” is a documentary about the group who played for such singers as Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, The Monkees, The Byrds and The Beach Boys. It will be shown at 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Big Horn Cinemas in Cody.

The next three movies will be “The Wolfpack,” “Timbuktu” and “Salt of the Earth,” with the final two movies announced later.

“We’re delighted once again to offer signature movies in a shared viewing experience for people who wish to see films other than those produced for a mass market,” said Richard Wilson, NWFS board member. “The board viewed an assortment of trailers before choosing the six films that will comprise the fall season. The series promises to provide variety and inspiration.”

The second movie, a documentary called “The Wolfpack,” follows the lives of six brothers who grew up confined to their apartment in New York City and who coped by watching and reenacting movies.

Wolfpack film poster by Source. Licensed under fair use via Wikipedia
In “Timbuktu,” a proud cattle herder and his family live tranquilly until the fundamentalist reign in the nearby, ancient city disrupts their peace.

“Salt of the Earth” follows the career of Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado from his coverage of international incidents to his journey in search of Earth’s beauty.

Memberships for the fall series of six films and winter/spring season of eight films are available at $20 per person. Checks should be made out to NWFS and mailed to P.O. Box 1004, Cody, WY 82414.

Ticket prices at the door for each feature will be $6 for NWFS members and $10 for non-members. Memberships will also be sold in the theater lobby preceding the films.

Members will receive weekly emails about the upcoming films. Information about the series will also be available at and on the NWFS, Northwest Wyoming Film Series Facebook group

NWFS formed in January 2012 and organized its first season that winter/spring in collaboration with Tony Beaverson of Big Horn Cinemas. The NWFS board members are Richard Wilson and Harriet Bloom-Wilson, Jan and Lee Hermann, Anne Young and Jim Nielson, and Peter and Buzzy Hassrick.

Cody items could be among Wyoming's top 10 historical artifacts

With your help, a couple items from Cody's olden days could make the list of Wyoming's top 10 historical artifacts.

A collection of tags worn by workers during construction of the Corbett Tunnel (which carries irrigation water west of Cody) and a 117-year-old instrument used to survey the original location of Cody are among 25 entries up for consideration in an online vote.

The Wyoming State Historical Society and the University of Wyoming Libraries picked the top 25 artifacts in celebration of Wyoming’s 125th year of statehood. They built the list after combing through documents, books, fossils, clothing, artwork and other items that were submitted by museums all across the state.

Each artifact showcases a unique aspect of Wyoming history and offers tremendous educational opportunities, the State Historical Society said in a news relase.

You can see the artifacts and vote for your top 10 here. Voting ends Wednesday.

These tags were worn by workers during construction of the Corbett Tunnel. Photos courtesy Wyoming State Historical Society
The 10 Corbett tags, dated 1906-08, were worn by workers during construction of the 3.3-mile Corbett Tunnel, part of the U.S. Shoshone Reclamation Project.

The Shoshone Irrigation Project was the first irrigation project completed in Wyoming, and one of the first in the United States. It resulted in a water-delivery system that would irrigate over 107,000 acres of semi-desert land in the northern Big Horn Basin, according to the entry. 

This was used to survey the town site of Cody in 1898.
The Shoshone project employed 1,500 workers who earned 30 cents per hour, the entry states. That’s approximately $7.25 per hour by today’s standards accoring to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator.

“Often battling extreme seasons and high water, these vigorous workers (became) the unsung heroes of the greening of Northwest Wyoming,” the online entry states. The state’s development was directly impacted by this brilliantly designed and engineered water delivery system. The land and its people still continue to thrive 106 years after its completion.”

Some of the other 25 entries include:

• The instrument used by Charles E. Hayden to survey the town site of Cody in 1898. 

• A branding iron for the OW Ranch.

• A sheepherder’s wagon.

• “Clovis Point” spearheads found with mammoth bones.

• Weekly ration tickets given to American Indian families on the Wind River Reservation.

The original painting for the Wyoming state flag.
• An 1890 speech by the Hon. Joseph M. Carey asking Congress to admit Wyoming as a state.

• A 147-year-old mill from South Pass.

• A handwoven horsehair bridle made by a prisoner at the Wyoming Territorial Prison.

• A missile shell marking FE Warren Air Force Base.

• Panels from a Chinese temple in Evanston

• Stereo views of the Oregon Trail

• An apatosaurus skeleton

• The original painting for the Wyoming state flag designed by Verna Keays in 1916 when she was 23 years old.

The top 10 artifacts will be announced later this fall.

For more information, contact Linda Fabian of the Wyoming State Historical Society at 307-322-3014 or

Judge declines to reduce sentence of man who kidnapped, raped Cody girl

A judge has declined to reduce the sentence of a Montana man who kidnapped and raped a 10-year-old girl in Cody in 2012.

Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Steven Cranfill ordered Jesse P. Speer, 42, to continue serving a sentence of life in prison — plus 30-50 years — for his crimes.

Last November, Speer’s court-appointed defense attorney, Travis Smith of Cody, had asked the judge to hold a hearing where he could argue for a lesser sentence.

On Aug. 28, some nine months later, Cranfill denied the request for a reduction without holding a hearing or receiving additional information.

Jesse Speer, before his 2013 sentencing. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
“The court believes the sentence Mr. Speer has received is reasonable under the circumstances and therefore (it) will not be modified or reduced,” Cranfill wrote, reciting boilerplate language that he typically uses when he denies a request for a lesser sentence.

Speer reportedly tricked the 10-year-old child into approaching his SUV outside the Park County Complex in October 2012; he forced her inside his vehicle at gunpoint when she hesitated. After the girl bloodied his nose, he tied her up, drove her to the Carter Mountain area, sexually assaulted her and abandoned her there. Hunters found her and brought her to safety hours after her kidnapping.

“You stripped away the innocence of youth and inflicted upon her four hours of darkness and depravity that no human should experience, let alone a 10-year-old girl,” Cranfill told Speer at his November 2013 sentencing.

The girl’s recollection of the crime, combined with surveillance camera footage and DNA evidence, all helped implicate Speer.

Park County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Skoric hadn’t taken an official position on Speer’s request for a hearing because he had expected additional documents to be submitted, such as how Speer is doing in the penitentiary.

The prosecutor said he likes to see all the relevant information before taking a position, though “certainly when we went in and argued the sentence in the case, we felt that was an appropriate sentence,” Skoric said.

Cranfill imposed the life-plus-30-year sentence at Skoric’s recommendation.

Smith, Speer’s attorney, had asked the judge to impose a 30- to 50-year sentence. That would have given Speer the chance to one day be released on parole. For comparison, Smith had noted that a Casper man received a 44- to 50-year sentence for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 2-year-old. A Cody man technically got a lesser sentence than Speer (life in prison) for murdering his wife in 2011.

Smith declined to comment on his recently-rejected request for a reduced sentence for Speer.

Sep 24, 2015

Clark corn maze and pumpkin patch set to open Saturday

Over the summer, a corn field of a different sort grew in Clark. Unlike the straight, even lines in most local fields, these corn rows twist, turn and trail off in dead-ends. The disorderly rows were intentionally planted that way to confuse those who venture into the corn maze.

"A lot of people have said they can't wait,” said Bridget Gallagher of Clark.

The Gallaghers’ Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch open to the public on Saturday, providing a variety of autumn-themed activities for kids and adults.

From Cody, take the Belfry Highway to Edelweiss and turn left on Road 1AB. Follow the signs to the corn maze.

Bridget Gallagher is pictured in the maze last week. Cody News Co. photos by Tessa Schweigert

Gallagher said she and her husband, Cecil, wanted to create a place where kids of all ages could have fun. The couple has nine children, ranging in age from 5 to 19.

"As we're constructing this, that's what we've been thinking about — 'If we brought our family here, is it something everyone would have fun doing?'" she said. "That's hard to find."

Their older kids wanted to make sure it was a difficult maze, she said. Recently, two 20-year-olds who work with the Gallaghers tried to make their way through the maze.

"We sent them in, and they had nothing to guide them; they got lost for about an hour," she said with a laugh.

With columns of corn towering at 8-9 feet above the paths, it’s easy to see how you could get turned around in the maze.

"It's definitely not for people who are claustrophobic,” Gallagher said.

While maze maps won’t be available, there will be signs posted at several junctions where folks can answer agriculture-related questions. If you answer the question correctly, it will lead you on the right path.

"That will kind of be a guide, too, if someone gets lost. They can come back to a sign and know they were there before,” Gallagher said.

The maze only has one entrance and one exit.

In addition to the six-acre corn maze, families can enjoy hay rides, a hay bale maze for younger kids, a straw bale pyramid, concessions, pumpkin bowling and more. The two-acre pumpkin patch has around 1,200-1,500 sellable pumpkins, ranging in price from $1 to $12, depending on the size.
Corn mazes are unusual in this corner of northwest Wyoming, so folks often drove to mazes in Montana.

Before starting the maze, Gallagher gauged public interest to see if people would drive from Powell, Cody and other communities to a corn maze in Clark. Gallagher posed the question in a local Facebook classifieds page, and more than 200 people responded with “yes” in one day.

“There's been a lot of support from Powell and Cody,” Gallagher said.

Clark residents also are excited about the corn maze and pumpkin patch.

"It will be good for the community, to get some positive news going for Clark," Gallagher said.
The Gallaghers have talked about doing a corn maze for a few years.

"This year, the timing was just right and we were ready to do it,” she said.

The Gallaghers plan to have the maze open every weekend through Halloween, even in inclement weather.

"We're going to be here. It's kind of that time of year when you just have to go with the flow," she said. “It could be 80 degrees or 30 — you just never know.”

Surrounded by straw bales, the pumpkin bunker is keeping the orange orbs safe from deer that frequented the nearby pumpkin patch. The 2-acre patch in Clark contains hundreds of pumpkins.

In addition to being open to the public on weekends, the maze/pumpkin patch also is open for field trips, youth groups, homeschool groups and birthday parties from Tuesdays through Fridays. For more information, contact Gallagher at

Prosecutors drop charge against Cody woman in designer drug manufacturing case

Prosecutors have dropped their case against a Cody woman who’d been accused of helping her husband distribute designer drugs in 2012. The decision came after Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Robert Skar ruled that most of the evidence against Sara L. Meng, 27, was improperly obtained and inadmissible in court.

In late August, the Park County Attorney’s Office agreed to dismiss a felony charge alleging a role in the manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance.

One of Meng’s defense attorneys, Michael Messenger of Messenger & Overfield in Thermopolis, said they were “pleased that the state recognized that it was time to resolve the charge against Mrs. Meng.”

Messenger noted that Meng had been out on bond for nearly three-and-a-half years, “much the same as if she had been on probation, leading a worthy, productive and law-abiding life.”

Messenger said “she was primarily ignorant of the activities of her husband, who had previously plead guilty and stated that she had no knowledge (of) the matters for which she was charged.”

“She was primarily ignorant of the activities of her husband, who had previously plead guilty and stated that she had no knowledge (of) the matters for which she was charged,” said Michael Messenger, an attorney for Sara Meng.

Her husband, 29-year-old Nicholas A. Meng, had manufactured and distributed illicit party drugs and recruited high schoolers to help him.

Nick Meng admitted his guilt in late 2013 and received a six- to 10-year prison sentence on five felony drug charges. His sentence is not affected by Judge Skar’s ruling.

Nick and Sara Meng

Police in Utah caught on to Nick Meng’s scheme in early 2012, when he agreed to sell $4,500 worth of the party drugs ecstasy and gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) to a buyer in the Salt Lake City area.

That would-be buyer was actually working with the Utah County Narcotics Task Force, and when Nick and Sara Meng arrived in Utah on Feb. 2, 2012, police arrested them. In the Mengs’ vehicle, authorities found roughly 1,000 pills of supposed ecstasy (they turned out to be caffeine pills) and a gallon of GHB.

“Sara Meng admitted to investigators that she knew the gallon of clear liquid in the back of the truck was GHB. Sara Meng also advised that she and Nicholas were going to the Salt Lake area to sell the pills and the GHB for a few thousand dollars,” Cody Police Detective Sgt. Jon Beck would later write in a court filing.

Beck got a warrant to search the Mengs' 22nd Street home from Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters and at the home, Cody police found needles, syringes, vials, a chemistry set, a pill press, annotated drug recipes, records of money transfers, roughly 90 grams of illegal or prescription-only steroids and 4.5 grams of GHB in powdered form. Beck later intercepted 500 grams of methylone (a drug similar to ecstasy) that had been shipped to Nick Meng from China.

Cody police also interviewed five young people they knew to have associated with the Mengs.

“Information obtained from the interviews indicated that (Sara) Meng had knowledge of the transactions and was present when (Nick) Meng was making deals over the phone and would get the methylone out and weigh the substance, getting specific quantities for customers,” Beck alleged in one filing.

“Information obtained from the interviews indicated that (Sara) Meng had knowledge of the transactions and was present when (Nick) Meng was making deals over the phone and would get the methylone out and weigh the substance, getting specific quantities for customers,” Cody Police Detective Sgt. Jon Beck wrote in one application for a search warrant.

Nick Meng reached a deal with prosecutors and wound up going to prison in December 2013, but Sara Meng pleaded not guilty and her case dragged on.

In late February — more than three years after the Mengs’ arrests — Sara Meng’s lawyers asked Judge Skar to suppress the evidence that was seized in the initial search of the Mengs’ home.

Defense attorneys Brandon Vilos and Messenger conceded that Beck’s application for a search warrant indicated that Nick Meng was selling illegal drugs. However, they argued Beck failed to offer any evidence connecting the crime to the Mengs’ home.

“The affiant (Beck) never suggests any reason why the premises would likely have the paraphernalia or illegal drugs that are described in ... the affidavit,” Vilos and Messenger wrote. “There is not even a conclusory statement suggesting that by virtue of the affiant’s experience and training, he believes the fruits of the crime will be found in the home.”
At a May hearing, Judge Skar suppressed the evidence seized at the Mengs' home in 2012.

Over the objections of Deputy Park County Prosecuting Attorney Sam Krone, Judge Skar agreed with the defense, effectively ruling that Judge Waters should not have approved the warrant.

“There is no nexus in the affidavit supporting the search warrant which connects the criminal activity alleged against the defendant to the residence to be searched,” Skar wrote in June.

“Personal (drug) use by Nicholas Meng was not a sufficient nexus; otherwise, the court would have to speculate and then must ask whether neighbors’ and relatives’ houses should be searched as well.”

Skar later suppressed additional evidence (including phone and computer records) that was obtained from additional searches that came about only because of the first, improper search.

Krone said that left little of the case — namely some statements gathered in interviews — still standing.

“We didn’t have enough to prosecute the case after the court suppressed the results of the warrants,” he said.

Krone added that Nick Meng “was always the main focus” of the investigation and “I’m really happy that we were able to acquire the conviction and get a sentence on him.”

“We didn’t have enough to prosecute the case after the court suppressed the results of the warrants,” said Sam Krone, a deputy Park County prosecutor.

Sara Meng did receive a misdemeanor conviction in Summit County, Utah, for her role in the failed delivery of the bogus ecstasy and GHB.

In addition to a brief stay in jail, she received a year-long sentence of unsupervised probation for attempted possession of a controlled substance or a counterfeit of a controlled substance. About a year of jail time and a $2,500 fine were suspended and dismissed when she successfully completed the probation, court records show.

Kourtney Kardashian visits Yellowstone National Park

Fall in Yellowstone National Park offers some unique opportunities to see a bear, an elk, a moose or ... a Kardashian?

On Wednesday night, reality TV star Kourtney Kardashian posted a photo on social media of her and her son looking out over a group of bison lounging in a Yellowstone valley. (To the celebrity's credit, she appeared to be a safe distance away from the buffalo.) Kardashian also added a video of a geyser.

Kourtney Kardashian's post about her Yellowstone visit made some versions of Twitter's front page.
Reactions to her posts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook included a number of people praising the beauty of Yellowstone and Wyoming.

Kardashian indicated she was staying at the Lone Mountain Guest Ranch, a high-end dude ranch in Big Sky, Montana, that's about an hour from Yellowstone's west entrance.

The Kardashian family — including Kim, Khloe and Kourtney — visited Big Sky in February, drawing headlines when Khloe and Kim slid off an icy road and into a ditch. (They made the news again when it came out that the producers of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" tried to get a dog sled tour operator in Bozeman to offer his services for free in exchange for the publicity of being on the show.)

While Yellowstone drew more than 3.1 million visits between January and August, the park can't keep up with the Kardashians' popularity on social media. For example, @kourtneykardash boasts over 25.1 million followers on Instagram more than 350 times as many as @yellowstonenps, the park's official account.

Sep 23, 2015

'National treasure' Al Simpson honored at Wyoming attorneys' gathering

Former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson was honored by the Wyoming State Bar's outgoing president earlier this month as a “great Wyoming lawyer and a national treasure” and “a true rock star”.

Immediate Past President Brad Bonner of Cody presented Simpson with the “President’s Award” at the bar's annual gathering, held Sept. 9-11 in Jackson. Bonner picked Simpson because of the special impact Simpson has had on his life, his nearly six decades as a Wyoming lawyer and his extraordinary public service to the state and nation, among other reasons.

Former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson
“I'm very lucky to be able to present this award to a very dear friend who also has been my mentor for a professional lifetime,” Bonner said in his remarks.

He recalled getting seriously burned at a college kegger in 1986 — and getting an unexpected call from Simpson in Washington while he recovered.

“It was a pretty cool call to receive at a time when I could really use it,” Bonner said. “Somehow, he delivered the message that he could identify with a Park County boy drinking too much and getting in trouble.”

The then-Senate Minority Whip invited Bonner to join his staff a year later.

“I had a front-row seat to what it really meant to be a statesman,” said Bonner, a Powell native. “I saw first-hand the value of standing for principle when it matters, but also the critical importance of being able to reach across the aisle and find common ground.”

One of the lessons was the Simpson mantra that “‘Compromise’ is not a dirty word.”

“It was the best mediation training I’ve ever received,” Bonner said. “And how much do we yearn today for more who would represent us like that?”

Simpson is a partner in the law firm of Simpson, Kepler & Edwards, the Cody, Wyoming, division of Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, P.C. and has been a member of the bar since 1958.

Bonner, of Bonner Law Firm and Yellowstone Mediation, is currently one of Simpson’s neighbors in Cody.

Another Cody attorney, Jodie Thompson, was also recognized at the lawyers' gathering.

Cody attorney recognized for pro bono work

A Cody attorney was recently named a “champion of justice” for the many hours of uncompensated work she put in to represent a child’s interests in court.

At the Wyoming State Bar's Sept. 9-11 meeting in Jackson, Basin Authority Executive Director Jodie Thompson received a “Champion of Justice for Legal Services Award.”

Thompson had agreed to serve as a guardian ad litem in a domestic relations case, pro bono, and it
“proved to be a very difficult matter, spanning nearly four years,” the Wyoming State Bar explained in a news release announcing the award.

Jodie Thompson
“Thompson represented the best interests of the minor child throughout the lawsuit and committed considerable time and effort to the representation,” the release said.

Attorney Jay Vincent and Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Robert Skar, who were both involved with the lengthy case, nominated Thompson for the award.

Thompson said serving as a guardian ad litem and representing a child's best interests is a “pretty heavy duty,” where you have to try to look at every aspect of a child’s life.

“I think it’s particularly difficult, because you’re making a recommendation to the court that could effect that child for the rest of their life,” she said.

Thompson said the award was “incredibly nice” and she felt “very honored,” but “nobody does pro bono work seeking any attention or recognition for it.

“They do it because they want to help other people that can’t help themselves and that need legal counsel but can’t afford it,” she said.

She encouraged other attorneys to take on pro bono cases.

“There’s definitely a big need for it in Wyoming and I try to do my part,” she said.

Thompson’s other volunteer work includes helping other women through P.E.O. and helping out Cody’s schools and she says everyone can give something of themselves.

“This just happens to be what I can give,” she said.

Thompson has represented the state of Wyoming in child support issues since 1995.

Local attorneys were well-represented at the bar's gathering, with outgoing Wyoming State Bar president Brad Bonner of Cody also paying tribute to former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson.

Game and Fish busy relocating northwest Wyoming grizzlies

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is relocating grizzly bears regularly in this northwestern part of the state.

As of Sept. 16, Game and Fish captured and relocated more than 20 grizzly bears throughout northwest Wyoming so far this year, said Dan Thompson, Game and Fish statewide supervisor of the large carnivore management section in Lander.

In 2014, a total of 16 northwest Wyoming grizzlies were relocated, Thompson said.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is relocating grizzly bears on a fairly regular basis. Photographer Neale Blank snapped this bruin in May near Yellowstone National Park's Steamboat Point. Photo courtesy Neale Blank

Recent relocations include an adult female grizzly bear that was captured for killing livestock on a U.S. Forest Service grazing allotment west of Dubois last Wednesday. The bear was relocated to the Five Mile Creek drainage.

On Sept. 11, the Game and Fish captured and relocated an adult female grizzly with a cub for killing livestock on a U.S. Forest Service grazing allotment approximately 30 miles north/northwest of Pinedale. The bears were relocated in currently occupied grizzly bear habitat in the Clarks Fork River drainage, approximately 25 miles northwest of Cody.

Also Sept. 11, Game and Fish captured an adult male grizzly that was frequenting residential areas near Jackson. The bear was relocated in currently occupied grizzly bear habitat to the Five Mile Creek drainage, approximately 5 miles east of the East Gate of Yellowstone National Park, west of Cody.

“They’re playing bear roulette,” said grizzly advocate Chuck Neal of Cody.

Grizzly bear relocation is a management tool to minimize human-bear conflicts. The decision to relocate a bear and the site selection take into consideration the bear’s age, its sex and the type of conflict it was involved in, according to a statement from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department each time a bear was relocated.

Since grizzly bears are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the department consults with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the appropriate land management agency. Relocations are in accordance with federal laws and regulations, the statement said. When selecting a relocation site, Game and Fish makes every consideration to minimize potential conflicts with people and to maximize the likelihood of the bear’s survival, the department said.

The number and location of human-bear conflicts is influenced by the availability of unsecured attractants, natural food availability and abundance of bears and their distribution in relation to human use on the landscape, Thompson said.

Attractants include human food, horse feed, bird seed, etc., according to Game and Fish.

Bears can create conflicts after they have obtained food rewards. The department continues to stress the importance of keeping all attractants unavailable to bears. Reducing attractants reduces human-bear conflicts.

Livestock could be considered an attractant.

Buster Tolman, a Bennet Creek Ranch owner in Clark has lost cattle to grizzlies. Grizzlies will hunt elk, but elk can leave and livestock are easier to kill.  

Because they are legally hunted, black bears fear humans more and are less likely to kill stock, Tolman said.

“That’s the solution: to have a season on them (grizzlies),” he said.

The federal government owns grizzlies, but state government agencies, such as the Game and Fish Department, must manage grizzlies and pay ranchers for depredations, Tolman said.

“It shouldn’t be that way,” he said.

Perhaps the federal government should pay for livestock losses, Tolman said. Then taxpayers might get fed up paying taxes to cover livestock losses and pressure politicians to delist the animal.

“In the meantime, we have to suffer and pay the price,” Tolman said.

Neal opposes delisting.

The population must have the opportunity to expand, he said.  Relocating and keeping grizzlies confined to “currently occupied grizzly bear habitat” lacks vision, Neal said.

Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) grizzlies are an island population. That is, they have no links with species in other parts of the West, which could be detrimental to a robust genetic pool. Grizzlies must be allowed to expand into places like central Idaho — the largest roadless area in the lower 48 states, Neal said. From there, grizzlies can connect with bears in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area in western Montana.

There are hundreds of thousands of acres of quality habitat in Wyoming for grizzly expansion, such as the Wyoming and Wind River ranges where whitebark pine has not been so ravaged by pine beetles, Neal said.

A white bark pine cone. Photo courtesy Richard Sniezko, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
“They (grizzlies) can make it there easily if we just let them do it,” he said.

Whitebark pine nuts, extracted from the cones, are an important nutrition source for grizzlies and other wildlife such as squirrels and the Clark’s nutcracker.

Whitebark pine surveys on established transects — sample strips of land used to monitor the trees — indicated generally above-average cone production in 2014, according to an Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team report. Across some 21 transects, the average number of cones per tree was 20.

However, among some 190 trees that the team has monitored in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem since 2002, fewer than 50 are still alive, the report says.

Are grizzlies outgrowing their designated habitat?

There are an estimated 757 total grizzlies in the GYE this year — the same as last year, Thompson said at a May meeting for the team’s Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee meeting in Cody.

Monitoring and data suggest the population is showing density-dependent effects indicating the grizzly population is at or above carrying capacity, Thompson said.

“What we have documented in the last decade as the densities have increased is lower survival in dependent young. The lower survival was more related to density dependence/carrying capacity effects than other factors,” says the Game and Fish's Dan Thompson.

The average number in a litter declined slightly in 2014 to a mean of 1.92 cubs, according to the team’s numbers crunched since 1983. The highest was 2.4 in 1992 and the lowest 1.69 in 1983.

The average litter is about two cubs, Thompson said. He has seen as many as four, but not very often.

“What we have documented in the last decade as the densities have increased is lower survival in dependent young. The lower survival was more related to density dependence/carrying capacity effects than other factors,” he said.

“Game and Fish relocates grizzly bears as part of routine management operations,” Thompson said. Public safety is always of utmost importance, which is the reason the department responds immediately to human-bear and other large carnivore conflicts.

The public and federal and state grizzly bear managers have worked for decades to recover grizzly bears in Wyoming and in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. He thanked the public for all of their efforts and sacrifices to recover grizzly bears and for their patience and timely communication to report conflicts immediately so they can respond, Thompson said.

Sep 21, 2015

Local grizzly attack survivor featured by National Geographic

A South Fork rancher who was mauled by a grizzly bear 2013 — and who holds no ill will toward the animal — was recently featured by National Geographic.

While irrigating in June 2013, Nic Patrick hurried to the sound of his dog being attacked. He’d expected to find the dog battling a raccoon, but instead came upon a grizzly sow and her two cubs.

The sow attacked in a matter of seconds, inflicting arm and leg injuries and severe damage to Patrick’s face that required extensive reconstructive surgery. He recounted the attack and the lessons he learned in a National Geographic video that was posted online last week.

“I was really disappointed that I had set this up, because it was totally on me. I should have read the signs ... instead of just rushing into it,” Patrick says in the video. “It really wasn’t the bear’s fault. She wasn’t doing anything but what any good mother would do.”

The video accompanies a written National Geographic piece about how and why grizzly attacks happen.

A screenshot of National Geographic's video featuring Nic Patrick.
“Survival rates for bear attacks are high,” reads the subheading for the Sept. 18 article. “And those who have been mauled are often forgiving.”

The article, by writer Todd Wilkinson, quotes researcher Tom Smith of Brigham Young University as saying the vast majority of bear attacks are avoidable, but “humans have to take more responsibility.”

In a November 2013 interview with the Powell Tribune, Patrick said he wanted someone to learn something from his grizzly encounter.

“No matter what you’re doing, pay attention,” he said.

Shoshone forest planning controlled burns north of Cody

This fall, Shoshone National Forest managers plan to burn between 250 and 1,200 acres north of Cody to improve the forest's health.

There are two areas that forest managers plan to burn:
  • 100 to 700 acres near the junction of Wyo. Highway 296 and U.S. Highway 212. The fire is intended "to enhance wildlife habitat, promote aspen regeneration, and reduce hazardous fuels," the forest service said in a Monday news release.
  • 150 to 500 acres near Bald Ridge and Dead Indian Pass adjacent to Wyo. Highway 296. The fire will be used "to reduce hazardous fuels and enhance wildlife habitat," the forest service said.
Shoshone managers say that before starting the controlled burns, they'll post signs and notify adjacent land owners.

For more information about the projects, call the Wapiti Ranger District in Cody at 307-527-6921.

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