Heard Around the West | VailDaily.com

Heard Around the West

Jonathan Thompson
Writers on the Range


There’s a lot to worry about on public lands, including the oil boom, climate change, wildfires and a multitude of environmental scourges. Now a bird advocacy group wants the Interior Department to deal with a dangerous invasive species — the soft-and-cuddly, remorseless serial killers that roam the landscape, slaughtering wildlife and endangering human health.

Seriously. According to a study by the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published in Nature last year, “un-owned,” or feral, cats kill some 12.3 billion mammals and 1.6 billion birds each year. They also spread diseases. Your own Mrs. Fluffpaws and other pets like her are responsible for some of the carnage, but feral cats are to blame about 90 percent of the time.

The American Bird Conservancy recently urged Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to develop “policies that will ensure public lands are not degraded by the presence of cat colonies.” Groups like the Alley Cat Allies and Divine Felines say any solution should include the trap-neuter-release method of population control. But the Conservancy says that’s not enough. Instead, it advocates “removal.”

Wildlife Services, the federal agency that would do the removing, is already involved. By killing more than 1,000 feral cats in 2012, the agency — which is under the Department of Agriculture, not Interior — presumably saved hundreds of thousands of birds. Of course, that same year the agency killed more than 3 million other birds. It’s a sort of morbid, fuzzy, feathery math, if you will.


And, no, it was neither Wildlife Services nor obsessive bird-lovers that shot a feral cat with an arrow in southern Utah recently.

The cat — now named Quiver — is reportedly healing from a wound in its face. Locals raised nearly $10,000 as a reward for information. As of Feb. 13, a juvenile suspect was in custody.


If climate change melts Colorado’s skiing along with its snow, the state now has a backup plan: legal marijuana.

Though the drug has only been legit since Jan. 1, Colorado’s marijuana tourism industry is already budding, so to speak. On the first day of over-the-counter sales, locals and out-of-staters flocked to retail weed shops, waiting in long lines and spending a total of $1 million that day alone.

Businesses have sprouted to court THC tourists: Take My 420 Tours, which promises “high-end, all-inclusive cannabis adventures,” for example, and Get High Getaways, “Denver’s coolest bed and breakfast,” which offers round-the-clock driver service to “keep you safe, so you can focus on fun and relaxation.”

Marijuana boosters in Pueblo County want to make that old steel mill community into the Amsterdam of the West, and entrepreneurs in Silverton believe that marijuana tourism may provide an economic buzz to a community that has struggled since mining vanished more than 20 years ago.

But not everyone is down with the idea. “Let’s put it this way,” Jack Rink, president of the Pueblo Economic Development Corp., told the Pueblo Chieftain. “If I were a CEO looking for a location to move my company, that’s not an image that would attract me.” Silverton’s town board OK’d retail marijuana sales in town only to get hit with a local petition drive that puts the question to the voters (who overwhelmingly favored legalization during the statewide vote). One local denounced pot as a gateway drug, according to the Silverton Standard, accusing the recreational marijuana industry of trying to perpetuate itself by addicting kids by way of marijuana-infused cookies, candy, soda and brownies.

It’s not just kids at risk: It’s dogs and cats, too. The Animal Poison Control Center recently reported an increase in THC poisoning in pets, which reportedly become lethargic and unmotivated after eating pot brownies or drinking bong water. Perhaps Wildlife Services should look into it: Some THC-enhanced kitty chow might help mellow out those otherwise fierce feral cats.


In other news, a 100-pound pet tortoise that wandered away from home in Arizona a year ago was reunited with its owner. It was found 30 miles from home.

Reed College students took advantage of a rare Portland snowstorm to build a colossal three-foot-wide snowball that weighed between 800 and 900 pounds. Two math majors then rolled it downhill, and it struck an apartment unit, putting a major dent in the wall, according to Reed Magazine. No one was injured.

Salt Lake County, Utah, “is looking to make it more difficult for prostitutes to masquerade as reiki practitioners in the unincorporated area,” according to the Salt Lake Tribune. And a lawmaker and retired science teacher in that state proposed exempting carbon dioxide and other “natural gases” from regulation. “We are short of carbon dioxide for the needs of the plants,” said Rep. Jerry Anderson, a Republican.

Jonathan Thompson is a senior editor at High Country News (hcn.org), working in Durango, Colorado.

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