Feb 12, 2016

Two dozen grizzly bears were captured in Park County last year

Of the 45 grizzly bears captured and relocated in Northwest Wyoming last year, most were in Park County.

Twenty-four grizzlies were caught in Park County, 16 in Sublette County, seven in Fremont County and two in Teton County, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s 2015 report, “Grizzly Bear Management, Capture, Relocations, and Removals in Northwest Wyoming.”

Brian DeBolt, Wyoming Game and Fish Department large carnivore conflict coordinator in Lander, performs a BIA (bio impedance analysis or body fat composition) on a bear. Photo courtesy Wyoming Game and Fish
The majority of captures were lone grizzlies of all ages, but two family groups also were caught. That included a sow and two cubs that were caught snacking at the Cody landfill.

Of the two dozen grizzlies captured in Park County last year, 12 were relocated to Teton County while Park County received one bruin from Teton County, the report says.

Out of 242 documented conflicts last year, Game and Fish captured 28 black bears and relocated 18, said Brian DeBolt, Game and Fish large carnivore conflict coordinator in Lander. Ten were lethally removed.

Across the state, 17 grizzlies were put down in 2015. While the data he cited covers the entire state, the grizzly conflicts are concentrated in Northwest Wyoming, DeBolt said.

“In 2014, out of 164 documented grizzly bear conflicts, we captured 22 grizzly bears in 23 capture events and 14 were relocated,” DeBolt said. Eight were lethally removed.

Game and Fish relocates and removes black and grizzly bears as part of routine management operations. Capturing and relocating bears where conflicts occur is common throughout the world, according to Game and Fish.

“Many bears find a ‘niche’ somewhere and stay out of trouble. Relocation is an effective, non-lethal tool to prevent/mitigate conflicts with both black and grizzly bears,” DeBolt said.

Relocation of grizzlies reduces the chance of property damage, lessens the potential for bears to become food conditioned, allows bears to forage on natural foods, remain wary of people and provides a non-lethal option when and where it is appropriate, said Brian Nesvik, Game and Fish chief of the Wildlife Division.

Game and Fish staff prepare the report and submit it to the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Interim Committee.

In 2005, the Wyoming Legislature enacted House Bill 203, which created a grizzly bear relocation statute requiring the department to provide notification to the county sheriff of the county to which the grizzly bear is relocated within five days and shall issue a press release to the media and sheriff in the county where each grizzly bear is relocated, according to the report.

The full report is available at http://tinyurl.com/j88vorw.

COLLARED BEARS

All relocated independent grizzlies more than 2 years old were fitted with radio-tracking collars to monitor their movements after release, according to the report. Attempts to obtain locations on marked grizzly bears through aerial telemetry were made approximately every 10-14 days.

There are roughly 62 grizzly bears with active radio-collars in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) now, so it is difficult to document the number of problem bears returning to the scene of their problems, DeBolt said. Some bears return quickly to their capture location, exhibiting conflict behavior, and are captured again.

“Many bears find a ‘niche’ somewhere and stay out of trouble. Relocation is an effective, non-lethal tool to prevent/mitigate conflicts with both black and grizzly bears,” DeBolt said.

Grizzly bears are relocated in accordance with state and federal laws, regulations and policy. More information about how the Game and Fish manages grizzly bears is available at http://tinyurl.com/jjkhbp6.

EXPANSION AND EDUCATION
Long-term trends in the number of conflicts is likely a result of grizzly bears increasing in numbers and expanding into areas used by humans, on public and private property, including land used for livestock production, Debolt said.

As the ecosystem's grizzly population continues to grow and expand in distribution, bears encounter food sources such as livestock and livestock feed, garbage and pet food, resulting in increased property damage and threats to human safety.

Conflict prevention measures, such as attractant storage, deterrence and education are the highest priority for the Game and Fish Department. Through the Bear Wise program, Game and Fish employees continue to educate the public about how to proactively live and recreate in bear country to avoid conflicts. More information is available at http://tinyurl.com/zylqfzz.

Feb 11, 2016

Cody school employee alleged to have had sex with student

A 24-year-old Powell man is alleged to have had a months-long sexual relationship with a 16-year-old he reportedly met during his then-job with the Cody school district.

Ryan C. Swanson, who’s been jailed since his Dec. 17 arrest, stands charged with five felony counts of third-degree sexual abuse of a minor.

Cody police say both Swanson and the girl acknowledged the sexual relationship in December
interviews.

Ryan Swanson
The charges allege Swanson took “immodest, immoral or indecent liberties” with someone under the age of 17 while being four or more years older. Each count relates to a different location where Swanson allegedly had intercourse with the girl. That includes an alleged encounter at a school facility, when school was not in session.

Swanson worked for the Cody district for about a year as a part-time sound and light technician. The district terminated Swanson from his position after his arrest, said Park County School District No. 6 Superintendent Ray Schulte.

At a Jan. 20 preliminary hearing, Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters allowed Swanson’s case to proceed toward a trial in District Court while lowering his bail from $50,000 to $20,000 cash.

“He’s compassionate, caring and a helpful person,” Swanson’s defense attorney, Tom Sutherland of Casper, said in arguing for a lower bond. Sutherland submitted a packet of letters attesting to Swanson’s good character, written by family members, people he’s worked for and one of his former professors at Northwest College.

The defense attorney said an order for Swanson to stay away from the alleged victim would be enough of a safeguard for the community.

“There’s only one allegation by one student he was around — and he was around hundreds of students at this job at the high school,” Sutherland said, asking for a $25,000 surety bond.

Judge Waters said that, after listening to Cody Police Detective Ron Parduba’s recounting of the case at the preliminary hearing, he was “a little less concerned about some of the issues.”

However, he also warned Swanson that, in addition to the age difference, it’s generally illegal for someone to have sex with a person if they’re in a “position of authority” over them.

“This kind of situation, one is playing with fire, big time, as you’ve discovered,” Waters told Swanson. “And that does cause the court concern about that public safety element. I understand it’s just one student, but it was a student at the high school over which you weren’t necessarily a teacher, but certainly (a student) you were in a position to be around and be working with.”

Law enforcement isn’t exactly sure when the alleged sexual encounters occurred, but believes they took place sometime between early July and mid-December 2015.

“This kind of situation, one is playing with fire, big time, as you’ve discovered,” Judge Bruce Waters told Swanson.

The girl’s relationship with Swanson apparently drew her pastor’s concern in July, according to an affidavit from Parduba submitted in the case. The affidavit says the pastor made the girl tell her parents and she told them she would stop talking to Swanson. The pastor also contacted superintendent Schulte, who, in turn, contacted police.

While expressing concern that the relationship was inappropriate, the pastor apparently didn’t express any knowledge that it was sexual; he also would not divulge the girl’s name to authorities, Parduba wrote.

Schulte told the Tribune he later followed up with Cody police about their investigation, “at which point the investigator told me he didn’t find anything.”

Schulte says he told Parduba the school district planned to speak with Swanson before the start of the school year, and Parduba asked if he could sit in on that interview.

“I said, ‘Well, you did your investigation. I don’t know why you’d need to sit in on our meeting,’” Schulte recounted to the Tribune.

Detective Parduba recalls it differently. He wrote in his affidavit and testified in court that he’d asked Schulte to notify him when the school interviewed Swanson — so that he could attend — and that Schulte never let him know.


Whichever the case, Schulte and Cody High School Activities Director Tony Hult ended up confronting Swanson without Parduba.

“Swanson said he was just being friendly; texting with the kids,” Parduba wrote of Hult’s later recollection of the conversation. “Swanson told them it might have been inappropriate in talking to the girl too much and that he would stop.”

The girl later told authorities she and Swanson did start as just friends, but things apparently became sexual sometime over the summer break, the affidavit says.

In early December, the girl reportedly told a teacher’s assistant she was sleeping with Swanson and the assistant notified his supervisor. Schulte again notified Cody police, who conducted a series of interviews.

One of the girl’s friends provided Parduba with a text Swanson reportedly sent to the girl, “describing a number of sexual acts he would like to do to her,” the affidavit says.

When Parduba searched the girl’s phone, “the one message that I got was Ryan (Swanson) telling her to delete all her messages and her texts between the two of them,” the detective testified at last month’s hearing.

The teacher’s assistant said the girl told him Swanson had been abusive, but the girl later told Parduba that Swanson had never mistreated her and always was very nice, the affidavit says.

Authorities arrested Swanson at Cody High School on Dec. 17.

In an interview with Cody Sgt. Jon Beck after his arrest, “Mr. Swanson told Sgt. Beck ... that he did in fact have a sexual relationship with the victim,” Parduba testified. Differing from the girl’s account, Swanson apparently did not recall an encounter on school property, Parduba indicated.

Swanson is set to enter a plea to the five charges at a Feb. 24 arraignment.

~ By CJ Baker

Congressional candidate Rex Rammell lays out goals, discusses his past

Voters in the Big Horn Basin may be unfamiliar with Republican congressional candidate Rex Rammell and a quick Google search paints what he considers to be a misleading picture of his character — allegations of poaching, jury tampering and defying authority.

“That is the only thing I am worried about, if people do that, they will get one side of the story and it is not the friendly side,” Rammell said. “Anybody that puts up a fight against government these days, you can expect hell if you put up any kind of a fight at all. Our society is such a police state any more — they don’t like resistance.”

Rex Rammell
Rammell ran an elk operation in Idaho and an order was issued to kill his elk that had escaped his property. One was killed in front of him, he said.

“I sat on the elk and I told (Idaho) Fish and Game they couldn’t have her,” Rammell said, adding that he was acquitted six months later.

The only ding on his Rammell’s record is for hunting in the wrong zone (a misdemeanor), he said.

“I had a license and a tag, my tag wasn’t valid in that area — that is hardly poaching,” Rammell said. “Where I come from, if you don’t have a violation, you haven’t been in the woods. They have the dumbest rules.”

Rammell hails from Tetonia, Idaho, on the Idaho/Wyoming border. While in Idaho, he ran for U.S. Senate in 2008, governor in 2010 and the Idaho House of Representatives in 2012. He was defeated in all three elections and moved to Wyoming to work as a veterinarian.

“I have never done anything in Idaho that I am ashamed of, or in Wyoming,” Rammell said, noting he was arrested twice — once for the elk incident and another for handing out informational papers on to a jury outside of the courthouse during his Idaho Fish and Game trial. The papers provided details on how juries can ignore the judge’s orders, he said.

“The judge wasn’t going to let me present a defense,” Rammell said, noting the defense he had lined up was an Idaho law that you can’t be charged with a crime when there was no criminal intent. “I was trying to get them to do a jury nullification on my trial so I could have a defense and I got arrested for it.”

Rammell’s charges were reduced from jury tampering to contempt of court and he paid a fine so it’s not on his record, he said.

“Most people go to (Washington) D.C. and become criminals and I already have that behind me — all those things were in some form of protest,” Rammell said.

This image appears on Rex Rammell's campaign website.
He attributes the negativity surrounding his online presence and his failed campaigns in the past to fighting government authority.

“I have always supported killing wolves and I still do,” Rammell said. “I think they were dropped on us illegally and if I had authority I would have every one of them killed.”

His stance on wolves spurred an unexpected headline claiming he wanted to hunt for President Barack Obama, he said.

During a speech about wolf hunting, he said he asked the crowd if they were ready to hunt for wolves and a member of the crowd said she would like a tag for Obama.

“It took me by surprise and I said I would buy one of those and the next thing I knew the headlines were ‘Rammell wants a hunting season on Obama’ and I had to explain what happened there — I got more votes from that because people thought it was funny,” Rammell said. “The FBI called me up and asked if I was serious and I said it was a joke. I don’t like the guy, but I don’t want him assassinated. It is really easy to make the headlines unintentionally ... they will distort the meaning of what you do or did that is just politics.”

“Most people go to (Washington) D.C. and become criminals and I already have that behind me,” Rammell quipped. “All those things were in some form of protest.”

He said he moved to Wyoming to ignore politics and work as a veterinarian.

“Liz Cheney is being pounded for being a carpet bagger and people ask how I am different, but the difference is I never left the West,” Rammell said.

Then in December, he heard Cynthia Lummis was not seeking re-election and decided he would give politics another shot, he said.

“The honest truth is we need someone willing to fight and take a risk. Thomas Jefferson said ‘when injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty’ and that has been my mantra all my life actually. I think a congressman willing to fight would be a nice change,” Rammell said. 

Now he’s trying to finish what he started trying to do in Idaho — turn over federal lands to the state.

“Returning public lands to the state would be the greatest thing to ever happen in the West,” Rammell said, adding that it would impact marriage, abortion and gun rights as well as education and industrial sectors. “I am a one-issue candidate, but it rolls over into many issues.”

Rammell said he believes Wyoming would not be in its current financial situation if the state controlled the land.

“Wyoming is going to go broke without the mineral industry,” Rammell said. “I am from Gillette and people are freaking out there, losing their jobs and worried there’s not enough money to run the county. If we owned the ground, then confidence would come back in the coal industry and we could determine our own future on that and oil and gas — it is a big issue that impacts a lot of people and industry.”

Commissioners put freeze on all Park County hires

Park County commissioners have implemented a hiring freeze, requiring that no one be hired — even to fill existing positions — without their approval.

“No additional employees, period, end of story, and if you need to replace somebody that’s currently hired, you’ve got to come before us,” Commission Chairman Tim French summarized of last week's decision.

The freeze is an attempt to be proactive as the county government braces for a drop in funding for the next budget year, starting in July. Commissioners fear they’ll have to trim spending by 15 percent or more. Those cuts, which follow smaller cuts in recent years, would be harder to make if the county intends to keep all of its current employees; their wages and benefits make up around 43 percent of the county’s $26.6 million budget this year.

“I think every department should be looking at ways to tighten things up, because we’re headed into some pretty tight times,” said Commissioner Lee Livingston.

Commissioners said they’d much rather lower their personnel costs through attrition — that is, by not replacing employees who leave the county — than by letting people go. They urged the county’s other elected officials and department heads to think hard about what full-time, part-time and temporary positions are really needed before filling those jobs.

“Business as usual is no longer here in Park County and we have to make significant, detrimental changes,” Commissioner Loren Grosskopf said before the Feb. 2 vote. “We don’t have any choice.”

If the county’s departments are unable to come up with enough cuts and reductions on their own, commissioners could face tougher-than-usual decisions.

“Is it making the public wait a little bit longer in the treasurer’s office, or does that mean the sheriff doesn’t have anybody to run detention?” Grosskopf asked rhetorically. “I mean at some point, this could be a real slippery slope to determine what’s a critical need.”

French voiced similar concerns.

“It’s going to be, ‘well, is the sheriff’s guy (or) gal more important than your nurse? Is the nurse more important your assessor out there in the field?’ How far do we want to go?” he asked.

“I think that’s what we’ve been asked to do by the people of the county,” Commissioner Lee Livingston responded. “It isn’t going to be easy.”

Park County Public Health Nurse Manager Bill Cramptom received the commission's blessing to fill a vacant position. Cody News Co. photo
The first hire to be considered under the freeze — replacing a nurse who left the public health department — received commissioners’ approval after some questioning on Feb. 2.

Park County Assessor Pat Meyer said the county’s property tax base (and, in turn, property tax collections) will likely sink to 2006 levels. Meyer described it as something that can be worked out and noted the county has had big drops in revenue before.

“The hiring freeze is fine,” he said. “I just don’t want us to jump the gun too much.”

Livingston saw the freeze as simply the way a business should be run. If you have a need and the money to fill a position, you do it; if not, you don’t, he said.

“I think every department should be looking at ways to tighten things up, because we’re headed into some pretty tight times,” Livingston said.

Feb 10, 2016

Cody's Ms. Wyoming USA Universal promotes Big Brothers Big Sisters

A little time can make a big difference in a kid’s life, so Ms. Wyoming USA Universal 2016, Robyn Beadles of Cody, is centering her platform around Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“I may be one person, but I can be the one person that can make a difference in someone’s life,” Beadles said. “That is my goal through this whole thing is trying to change someone’s life; because once that cycle is broken in her life, she can blossom and do that to someone else.”

Ms. Wyoming USA Universal 2016 — Robyn Beadles of Cody — recently began volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Cody News Co. photo by Matt Naber
The organization pairs up “Bigs” and “Littles” based on their interests and matches are only made it they have a good fit, said Nikki Schleich, program director at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Wyoming. This branch of the national organization covers Park, Big Horn, Fremont, Hot Springs and Washakie counties.

It took about a month to make the match, and Beadles was paired up with a little girl with behavioral issues at the beginning of the year. Since then Beadles’ “Little” has improved academically, socially and increased her self confidence.

These big changes spurred from the little things — having lunch together, going ice skating or swimming, making jewelry and visiting museums.

“I try to expose her to the community as much as I can,” Beadles said. “The deal is if she does well in school and is passing and listening, then it is a reward to hang out with Ms. Robyn.”

Beadles also helps her Little with her social skills by having her interact with her kids, she said.

“I told them, ‘you come from a great home, but some kids don’t get a home like you get, so we need to make them feel special,’” Beadles said.

Beadles recently threw her Little her first birthday party ever and it was the happiest anyone had seen her before.

“She has never been a happy and content child, we want to see her be a happy and content child,” Schleich said.

Her Little loves animals and wants to be a veterinarian, so Beadles plans on taking her to Yellowstone and they will be volunteering at an animal shelter and taking a trip to the animal refuge in Red Lodge, Montana, she said.

“I want her to follow her dreams,” Beadles said. “It just makes me feel good to make a difference in her life.”

Big need in Big Horn Basin
Park County has 39 matches and 15 children on a waiting list — 13 of which are boys ranging from 6-13 years old.

“It is harder to recruit mentors than it is to recruit mentees,” Schleich said, adding that inquiry calls come in daily about possible kids who could benefit from the program.

“They are all different,” Schleich said. “Some are super active and into sports, others like video games and science experiments — we’ve got something for everyone.”

Mentors need to be 18 years old or older, able to make a one-year commitment to spend time with their Little, pass a background check and just have an interest in being a friend to a kid who needs something to look forward to every week.

“With men, I feel they are worried they will take on a fathership role and we don’t want that — just there to be a buddy, like a little brother who needs a positive influence,” Schleich said. “The majority of our kids come from troubled backgrounds.”

The reservation most have is it is such a time commitment, Schleich said.

“We have found that short amount of time makes a huge impact on a child’s life,” Schleich said.

Typically, Bigs spend an hour a week or two hours every two weeks with their Little, but Beadles ups the ante and spends about 15 hours a week with her Little.

According to Big Brothers Big Sisters, after 18 months of spending time with their Bigs, the Littles were:

• 52 percent less likely to skip school
• 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs
• 37 percent less likely to skip a class
• 33 percent less likely to hit someone
• 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol

It’s not just the Little who benefits from the program, Beadles said.

“She changed my life and I changed hers,” Beadles said. “I have never been around children like that and it opened my eyes that there are troubled children out there and people turn a blind eye to that.”

With Big Brothers Big Sisters as her platform, Beadles intends to draw attention to the organization’s events such as Bowl for Kids Sake which is set for April 15 for high school and college students at Classic Lanes and then the adult tournament on April 16 in Cody.

“We are always planting for little seeds to bloom,” Beadles said. 

For more information on Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Wyoming, visit facebook.com/bbbsnwwy.

Feb 8, 2016

Robbery reported at Cody car wash

A woman was reportedly attacked and robbed of money and prescription pills during a Wednesday morning incident at a Cody car wash.

Cody police are investigating the crime, which reportedly occurred around 3 a.m. Wednesday. It was reported to authorities Thursday morning.

The woman told police she was attacked from behind as she vacuumed her car at Yankee Carwash on Big Horn Avenue.

According to a Monday news release from Cody police, the woman said a white male — wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and black pants — grabbed her and demanded the money in her purse. After giving him the cash, she said the male hit her multiple times and ripped away her purse.

“During the struggle, a bottle of prescription medication fell from the victim’s purse and spilled onto the ground,” Cody police spokesman John Harris said of the woman’s account. “The male grabbed some of the pills off of the ground then fled in an unknown direction.”

The woman described the male as approximately 5’10” tall and 165 pounds.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Cody Police Officer Eric Wright at 307-527-8700 or to make an anonymous online report at http://tinyurl.com/CodyPDtips.

Dog shot in Wapiti; sheriff's office investigating

Authorities want to know who shot a dog in a Wapiti subdivision Friday morning.

The Park County Sheriff’s Office says someone driving along Green Creek Road apparently shot a black Lab/Corgi mix that was near the road. The dog was not behind a fence and was about 75 yards from its owner’s home, the Sheriff’s Office says.

The incident occurred around 11 a.m. Friday.

One of the home’s residents told a deputy he heard a gunshot and then the dog yelping, the Sheriff’s Office recounted in a Monday news release. The resident then saw the animal running toward him, yelping in pain and bleeding from a bullet hole in its rear right leg, the release said; the man — who spoke to the deputy Friday afternoon — didn’t see the vehicle or person who’d fired the shot.

The dog was taken to a local veterinary clinic for treatment and later released, the Sheriff’s Office said; the bullet reportedly passed through the animal’s leg without causing major damage.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office at 307-527-8700.

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