Nov 12, 2015

Cody woman re-arrested for another altercation over her cat

For the second time in two weeks, a Cody woman has been arrested on allegations that she angrily (and falsely) accused a neighbor of stealing her cat.

On Monday, a judge ordered Maureen "Michelle" Nesbit, 68, to be held in jail for the time being and to undergo a mental evaluation.

Maureen Nesbit
Cody police arrested Nesbit on Sunday afternoon on a charge of breach of peace. Charging documents indicate that the circumstances were nearly identical to Nesbit's Oct. 27 arrest, when she allegedly screamed at a neighbor and kicked his door because she believed he had stolen her cat. (She later found the animal in her apartment, telling police she still believed the neighbor had stolen it, but had put it back.)

Nesbit had been arrested after the October incident as well, but was released from the Park County Detention Center on Nov. 4 when a family member posted $750 bail.

However, on Sunday — just four days after bonding out — the situation repeated itself.

Once again, Nesbit called Cody police to report that her neighbor had stolen her cat and once again the neighbor called to report Nesbit was disturbing him.

Responding Cody Police Officer Scott Burlingame first went into Nesbit’s apartment in the Pioneer Avenue complex.

“As soon as I walked in, I saw Nesbit’s cat,” Burlingame recounted in an affidavit filed in support of the new misdemeanor charge. “I told Nesbit her cat obviously had not been stolen as it was in her apartment."

The neighbor told Burlingame he'd heard a noise in the hall and opened the door to find Nesbit standing there. The neighbor said Nesbit became very angry, yelled at him and accused him of stealing her cat, Burlingame wrote.

“I told Nesbit her cat obviously had not been stolen as it was in her apartment,” recounted Cody Police Officer Scott Burlingame.

Meanwhile, a friend of the neighbor’s told police that Nesbit accused him of pumping “poison gas” into her apartment and swore at him as he took out his trash. The friend said Nesbit aggressively “came at me” before he told her to go back to her apartment, Burlingame wrote.


For her part, Nesbit told the officer she’d just been standing in the hall when the neighbor opened his door.

“I was walking down the hall, looking for my cat,” Nesbit started to explain to Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters on Monday.

“Let's not talk about the facts of the case,” Waters interjected, noting that any statement Nesbit made in court could be used against her. “You want to save that for your attorney.”

Nesbit has pleaded not guilty to the two counts of breach of peace stemming from the two incidents.

Waters revoked Nesbit's bond in the original case — because she allegedly disobeyed conditions requiring her to stay away from the neighbor and obey the law — and set her bail at $2,500 cash in the new one.

In ordering a mental evaluation, Waters said there’s reasonable cause to believe that Nesbit “has a mental illness or deficiency” that makes her unfit to proceed in the case.

Contraceptives providing cheaper way to manage wild horse herds

More than 58,000 wild horses live on 31 million acres of public land and about 45,000 live in long-term holding facilities — costing taxpayers millions of dollars per year, according to the Bureau of Land Management. In the wild, they compete with livestock and wildlife for forage; and if herds grow too large, they can ruin the environment.

To keep herds in check, there are two options: round them up or shoot the mares with a dart loaded with a contraceptive vaccine.

PZP fertility control is used on smaller wild horse herds, such as those in the Pryor Mountains. Cody News Co. file photo by Gib Mathers
Jay Kirkpatrick, Kimberly Frank and Robin Lyda of the Science and Conservation Center in Billings gave a presentation on vaccination and held a question and answer forum with about 30 members of the public at the Park County Library on Nov. 5.

The Science and Conservation Center produced the federally approved Porcine Zona Pellucida Contraceptive Vaccine, or more commonly known as PZP. They are a 501c3 nonprofit on a mission to apply non-lethal methods of wildlife population control.

“We have trouble separating symptoms of the problem from the problem,” said Kirkpatrick, the center’s reproductive physiologist who helped develop the vaccine. “Those are symptoms of a problem — the problem is reproduction. You can remove horses until the cows come home, but you won’t solve the problem, you are addressing symptoms.”

The Wild Horse and Burro Act requires population control, but laws and public opinion restrict what can be done to control herd populations, Kirkpatrick said. And this comes with a hefty price tag.

Each year, wild horse long-term and short-term holding facilities have a combined cost of $49 million, according to the BLM.

“Those are symptoms of a problem — the problem is reproduction,” Kirkpatrick says of horse overpopulation. “You can remove horses until the cows come home, but you won’t solve the problem, you are addressing symptoms.”

A big problem vaccination faces is lack of understanding, said Lyda, chief scientist for the center.

“If someone doesn’t understand something, they say it is not so,” Lyda said. “Then there is politics, influence from money being given to people gathering horses ... the majority of the problem is basic governmental, not wanting to support wildlife contraception.”

Wild horses are often rounded up and placed into long-term holding facilities because wild horse herds are required to be kept within a sustainable size so that the herd can remain healthy.

“Nothing is more genetically devastating than a round up and removal,” Kirkpatrick said.

Roundups aren’t perfect. Sometimes horses are injured or die in the process. They also are not a permanent solution, the wild horses will continue to breed.

But, when breeding is managed so that horse births and deaths were equal, then round ups are not needed.

The center makes about 150-200 doses of the vaccine per week and charges about 60 percent of what it costs to make, Lyda said.

The center also does quality control for the vaccine, trains personnel how to use it and keeps a database for all animals treated by the drug.


The way PZP works is no different from a standard vaccination that’s commonly used on humans, pets and livestock.

“But, it is safer and more efficient,” Kirkpatrick said. “It beats the Dickens out of flu vaccine.”

In this case, the vaccination prevents fertilization from occurring for anywhere from a year on up to 10 years, depending on how the mare reacts to the vaccine, Kirkpatrick said. The average timeframe is 4 years.

“Boosters are needed because some mares respond differently,” Kirkpatrick said. “Our rule of thumb is the first 3 years is to prime them, boost them and boost them and then you can start skipping years.”


Eventually, the vaccine wears off and the mare is able to be fertilized. This is the same as when a tetanus shot has worn off and another is needed.

The only change PZP causes is it extends the breeding season by two weeks, Kirkpatrick said. But, some mares will breed late no matter if they were or were not treated.

Sterilization is not good for herd health since only a few horses would breed and that does not promote a long-lasting and healthy herd.

The cost for removing wild horses varies by location and herd size. In the Pryors, a helicopter round up cost $2,165 per horse and water or bait trapping cost $1,400 per horse.

Meanwhile, it cost about $106 per horse for a contraceptive application with a vaccination dart.

Not only was the vaccination cheaper and hands-off, it also:

• has a 95 percent efficacy rate
• is reversible
• does not impact current pregnancy
• does not alter social behavior
• does not effect ovarian function

Application of the vaccine on the wild horse herd on Assateague Island from 1994-2004 reduced the herd size from 175 to 99 without using round ups. There was also a decrease in adult and foal mortality and improved body condition scores.

“Self-regulating is delusional,” Kirkpatrick said. “They self-regulate because so many die, there is nothing for them to eat. They destroy the range and then they starve to death.”

Wild horse herds are required to be preserved because they are regarded as a cultural and historical resource, Frank said

“Self-regulating is delusional,” Kirkpatrick said of wild horse populations. “They self-regulate because so many die, there is nothing for them to eat. They destroy the range and then they starve to death.”

On Assateague Island, legislation required the herd be kept at a sustainable size. But, the National Park Service did not want the horses to be touched, rounded up, or removed, Frank said.

So, the vaccine was applied with a dart gun.

“The public loves it because there is nothing horrible happening to the horses,” Frank said. “But, we are getting smarter horses, they are learning how far 20, 30, 40 yards is. It gets more difficult.”

The dart gun method would be harder to do with larger herds, but not impossible. Shooters would need to identify the horses and vaccinate 65 percent of the mares. One way of making this easier would be to bait a few horses into an area and do a few at a time, Kirkpatrick said. But, they would need held for a couple of weeks after for a booster shot and that gets complicated too.


From 2004-13, the average age of death for the Assateague wild horses increased from 17 years old to 26 years old. Prior to any management practices in 1994, the average age at death was less than 7 years old.

While round ups provide an immediate herd size reduction, vaccinations take a few years to impact herd size since it requires waiting for older horses to die.

In the McCullough Peaks, the herd growth rate was 14.88 percent per year before contraceptives were applied from 1971-2011. After contraceptives were applied, the growth rate dropped to 4.23 percent per year in 2012-14. Then in 2014, the herd did not increase in size.

When round ups began on the McCullough Peaks herd, the herd went from an annual growth rate of 15 percent in 18 months to about 50 percent. Part of the increased growth was because of increased foal survival, Kirkpatrick said. With contraceptives, foal survival rate was around 85 percent.

Of course, projects of this magnitude require the help of volunteers, known as non-governmental organization partnerships, such the partnership between the Cody BLM office and FOAL.

Nov 10, 2015

Investigation finds no wrongdoing in shooting of military/service dog; owner 'disgusted'

A bicyclist appears to have only acted in self defense when he fatally shot a Powell man’s military K9/service dog last month, the Park County Sheriff's Office concluded.

Late Thursday, the Sheriff’s Office announced it had closed its investigation into the Oct. 10 shooting of the Belgian Malinois named Michael. Michael, a bomb-detecting K9 who was 9 years old, served two tours of duty in Iraq with owner Matthew Bessler. When the two returned from the war, Michael served as a psychological service animal to Bessler, who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.

In this file photo, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Bessler is pictured in Iraq with Mike, the dog he adopted after the pair served together in the U.S. Army. Courtesy photo
The dog’s exceptional story of service was featured in the Washington Post this summer and

Michael’s violent death became international news.

The Powell man who shot the dog — 59-year-old Jeffery Brandt — said he did so after Michael attacked him on Road 5, near Bessler’s home, east of town.

Brandt was the only witness to the incident. Bessler — who was out of town at the time — publicly questioned his account. Bessler said he’s “disgusted” with the Sheriff’s Office’s conclusions, believes they’re “one-sided” and still has questions. He’s ordered a private necropsy on Michael. The Sheriff’s Office spent the past couple weeks looking into various questions Bessler raised, interviewing Bessler’s neighbors and following-up with Brandt.

In a seven-page summary of its findings, released Thursday night, the Sheriff’s Office wrote that, “We have determined to accept the descriptions of the reported attack by Michael as described by the victim, Jeffrey Brandt to be factual. Therefore, there will be no charges filed.

“As stated by Sheriff (Scott) Steward, if you feel your life is in danger or you feel threatened by an animal, you can act against it,” the report says.

Brandt — who like Bessler is an honorably discharged U.S. Army veteran — has continually expressed remorse about Michael’s death since the incident and has said he hadn’t meant to kill the animal, according to the report.

“The physical evidence seems to back up this claim,” the Sheriff’s Office concluded.
Brandt lives not far from Bessler’s house and he told the Sheriff’s Office he was finishing up a 30-mile bike ride when the dog came out of Bessler’s yard. Some other dogs reportedly approached Brandt, but only Michael acted aggressively, Brandt told the Sheriff’s Office.

“He stated that he ‘was genuinely in fear of his life and well-being, and Michael was definitely in full attack mode and not backing down at all,’” the report says of Brandt's account.
Bessler was out of town on a hunting trip that day and his roommate, Jody Church, had been caring for Bessler's dogs. Church later told the Sheriff’s Office he had locked them behind a fence before taking a trip to Cody and didn’t know how they would have gotten out.

Brandt said he had no way to outrun Michael.

“He stated that he ‘was genuinely in fear of his life and well-being, and Michael was definitely in full attack mode and not backing down at all,’” the report says of Brandt's account.

Brandt got off his bike and put it between him and Michael, he told the Sheriff’s Office. The dog then began circling Brandt, at one point lunging through the center of the bike, he told the Sheriff’s Office.

Ultimately, Brandt grabbed his 410 Taurus Judge pistol from a holster mounted on his bike — a weapon he said he generally carried to kill snakes — and fired one shot at Michael's right rear hind quarter. The dog then retreated, according to Brandt.

Several of the pellets from the No. 6 birdshot hit Michael in the front right chest, the report says,
indicating the dog was shot at a broadside angle and not — as some people have assumed — as it was running away.

Neighbor Jessica Klein came out of her house after hearing the shot. She saw Brandt standing in the road with his bike on the ground and Michael limping away, according to the report.

Brandt reportedly told Klein he was OK, but “shook up;” he told a deputy the same thing about 20 minutes later.

Brandt said he felt bad the dog died and felt bad for Bessler, the report says.

One of the things that upset Bessler was that Brandt never contacted him to apologize — a decision the Sheriff’s Office is defending.

The Park County Sheriff's Office withheld Brandt’s identity until Thursday, correctly predicting there would be a public backlash against the shooter.

A service for Michael will be held Wednesday, Nov. 11, at 1 p.m. at the Yellowstone Building at NWC. Courtesy photo
“It seems only prudent that Brandt would not reach out (to) Bessler, thereby divulging his identity,” the sheriff’s report said.

Online comments on the various news accounts of the incident drew plenty of threatening remarks toward Brandt, and Brandt reportedly did not sleep well in the weeks after the shooting.

One of Bessler’s primary objections to Brandt’s account of the attack was that Michael was a gentle dog that stayed on his property and “would never attack someone.”

The Sheriff’s Office says it doesn’t doubt Michael was a caring and faithful companion to Bessler and notes the two “served this country with pride and distinction.”

However, the Sheriff’s Office says it’s also convinced Michael “occasionally displayed aggressive tendencies towards strangers.”

Bessler takes issue with the image the report paints of his dog and says Michael was not trained to attack.

In support of that conclusion, the report specifically mentions an April 22 altercation between Michael and a man who worked for Bessler’s neighbors, Rick and Klodette Stroh.

That man, 70-year-old Steve Edwards, had wanted to ask Bessler about some damage some dogs had done to the Strohs’ irrigation pipe.

Edwards said that when he walked on to Bessler’s property to speak with him, Michael came across the yard and lunged for his throat. Edwards told the Sheriff’s Office he threw up his arm and Michael bit into it, biting through his work coat, shirt and long-johns. Edwards described being jerked around by the dog until Bessler, a short distance away, called it off.

Bessler said Edwards was looking in his truck when Michael attacked, a claim Edwards denies. 

Bessler also says Michael only “nipped at” Edwards and lacked the teeth to hurt him — although Klodette Stroh told the Sheriff’s Office she saw and treated Edwards’ bloody elbow and Edwards showed the Sheriff’s Office a torn coat.

No citations were issued in the April incident.

To further support its conclusions about the Oct. 10 incident between Brandt and Michael, the
Sheriff’s Office’s report cites general information about Belgian Malinois, including their skill at chasing people down.

Bessler, however, takes issue with the general image the report paints of the breed and says Michael was not trained to attack.

“It completely ruins the image that the dog is a loyal, good-looking, fun, happy-go-lucky companion, a good companion animal that is ... protective of their owners,” Bessler said, adding, “I just really feel that that discredits Mike.”

Bessler said he’s disgusted with the legal system and feels the Sheriff’s Office failed him.

The sheriff’s report describes the shooting as a “tragic situation,” with “no winners here, only losers.”

A memorial service for Michael will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Yellowstone Building at Northwest College.

A burial ceremony with military honors will be take place at the Crown Hill Cemetery in Powell immediately following the service. All are welcome to attend, Bessler said.


Nov 9, 2015

Cody man catches ‘jackalope fight' on camera; photos go viral

It's not everyday that you see sparring jackalopes.

But JR Robison of Cody was "lucky" enough to capture the rare event on Saturday and posted a series of photos on his Facebook page.

"BIG Jackalope fight in the front yard this morning," he wrote.

Jackalopes lock antlers in this photo captured near Cody. Photo courtesy JR Robison
 The post soon went viral with more than 2,300 shares as of Monday morning. Robison said he was "completely surprised" by the number of shares.

Another angle of the fight. Photo courtesy JR Robison
Many Facebook users shared in the fun, posting tongue-in-cheek comments.

"Those little buggers will attack you if you're not sneaky enough," wrote Rod Morrison, remarking that it's the closest he's ever seen anyone get to a buck fight.

Others noted it is jackalope rut season, and marveled at Robison's luck at capturing the moment.

"Have not seen a jackalope rut since the 80's....," wrote Barry Hess. "Thank God Obama saved them from extinction."

The post made others scratch their heads.

"I thought jackalopes were a fake animal," one Facebook user wrote.
 
"So are those real because I just Googled jackalope an it's says it's an American fokelore," another commented. "What the hell I'm sooooo confused."

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