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Mountain News: Marijuana retailers plan for openings

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — Breckenridge has five dispensaries of medical marijuana, and four of them are submitting applications that will, if approved, allow them to sell marijuana to the general public.

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — Breckenridge has five dispensaries of medical marijuana, and four of them are submitting applications that will, if approved, allow them to sell marijuana to the general public.

Currently, no medical marijuana can be sold to out-of-state residents; the only customers are those who have cards from physicians certifying they have conditions specified by state law.

"We get a lot of patients from out of state, who can't get a card, no matter how much they might qualify, and we have to turn them down," Caitlin McGuire, co-owner of the Breckenridge Cannabis Club, told the Summit Daily News.

One problem for retail marijuana stores, as it has been for medical marijuana businesses, is that they must work on a cash basis. "We can't accept credit cards; we have to be cash only, because there's a gray area on the legal side of it," McGuire explained.

Because marijuana is still illegal under U.S. law, banks — which are dependent on the federal banking system — have been leery of doing business with retailers of marijuana, whether it is for medicinal purposes or pure pleasure.

State law also bans open consumption of marijuana. Enforcement will be problematic in some cases, points out Shannon Haynes, the Breckenridge police chief. How can you distinguish a marijuana-laced lollipop from one confined to sugar?

It's sometimes a cat-eat-dog world

JACKSON, Wyo. — It's a dog-eat-dog world.

A cat-eat-dog world? Not so much.

But researchers tell the Jackson Hole News&Guide that they have clear-cut evidence it happened recently in the headwaters of the Gros Ventre River. There, they found that a 46-kilogram female mountain lion, which they had had been following for the last six years thanks to radio-collared telemetry, had killed and eaten a yearling wolf.

The biologist saw lion tracks, then blood, then a jet-black pelt at the base of a subalpine fir tree. They also knew the wolf, which they say was born earlier this year, but was already larger than a normal-sized coyote.

Lions, also called cougars and pumas, usually flee when confronted by wolves, researchers tell the News&Guide. When they do tangle, the wolves almost always come out on top.

Confirmed exceptions are rare: a 2003 case in the Paradise Valley north of Yellowstone National Park, and a 2006 case in Alberta's Turner Valley. In 2002, two other wolf deaths at the fangs of lions were also confirmed in Montana.

Big cats claim small horse and a dog in Banff

CANMORE, Alberta — Cougars nabbed one horse and also a dog in the Canmore-Banff area.

A one-metre-tall miniature horse was killed at the Rafter Six Ranch, a guest operation in the Kananaskis Valley near Canmore. The killing was not seen but was within close proximity to the main lodge.

"It's like losing a member of family. They were just pets," Rafter Six owner Stan Cowley told the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

Last year, a cougar pounced on a large horse, but the horse escaped by running through a barbed wire fence. Cameras showed the cougar was over one metre tall. Instead of the horse, the lion downed a white-tail deer.

In Canmore proper, a cougar killed an off-leash dog. The Australian shepherd was being walked along a golf course in a wildlife area when the dog chased a squirrel into the forest. Wildlife officers tell the Outlook that the dog ran into the cat, which acted defensively. The dog never saw it coming.

And in the Tahoe area, it's a dog-eat-dog world

STATELINE, Nev. — Sir Willie Great White Whippet Goode had a long, long name for a dog, but a too-short life. While being walked on a trail in the Lake Tahoe area, the dog took off — and was immediately surrounded by coyotes.

When the owners got to the ridge where Sir Willie had disappeared, they found he had been ripped to shreds by coyotes. "We found them eating him. It was really horrific," one of the dog's owners told the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

Mountain lion sighted roaming

VAIL, Colo. — Doesn't it make sense on a ski mountain that has an area called Lionshead that there would be mountain lions?

And, as has occasionally happened in the past, a mountain lion or possibly mountain lions have been seen lately. Bill Andree, a state wildlife officer, told the Vail Daily the lion may have been passing through in search of elk or deer. Elk are plentiful there, even during winter, and deer can be found down the valley not very many miles.

Actually, the ski area is named after a nearby rock formation called Lionshead, so designated because it resembles the head of a male African lion.

Hunter has itchy fingers

JACKSON, Wyo. — Confronted with 400 or 500 elk as dusk approached, the hunter in Jackson Hole shot and shot again — how many times, he can't remember. But he hit three more than he was permitted to take. So he fled.

Removed from the scene, he thought better of his actions and notified wildlife authorities. The hunter, a preacher at a church in Thayne, Wyo., told the Jackson Hole News&Guide that he couldn't justify what happened. Contritely, he pleaded guilty and is to pay $1,280 for his offenses.

Elsewhere in its pages, the News&Guide tells the fascinating story of a man found guilty of shooting a grizzly bear. The hunter killed the grizzly in September 2012 and claimed he thought it was a black bear.

But the law under which he was charged was fairly simple: not whether he thought he shot a black bear, but whether it was a grizzly. As such, the jury took just minutes to convict him.

Before they did, there were two days of argument. The pivot for the arguing is what constitutes "reasonable doubt." The hunter's lawyer argued that black bears and grizzlies do interbreed sometimes, and it's possible that was the case here.

DNA tests conducted by state and federal wildlife officials showed there was a 98 per cent chance that the bear's hide came from a grizzly. But that same evidence showed 97 per cent chance that the DNA came from a polar bear, said the hunter's lawyer.

Responding to that argument, the prosecuting attorney had fun. The hunter's attorney "suggests that there's some possibility that somebody maybe captured its bear's mama and forced a male black bear on her," said Teton County prosecuting attorney Clark Allan.

"Is that a reasonable thing to think? I might be a trained baboon up here in a suit. Is that a reasonable thing to think?"

Doesn't bear know it's past bedtime?

BASALT, Colo. — A young bear has been wandering the streets of Basalt. A state wildlife officer tells The Aspen Times that the bear was likely disturbed in its winter den for whatever reason, and once fully awake, started scouting around, finding enough food to justify staying alert, despite the lower temperatures.

Highest grizzly toll since 2003

JASPER, Alberta — This year, 29 grizzly bears were killed in Alberta, compared to 15 last year. It was the highest toll since 2003.

The Foothills Research Institute tells the Jasper Fitzhugh that the toll actually might be much higher, as these were only those bears that were found.

Among the bears that were killed were three found shot near industrial roads in west-central Alberta. The three all had radio-telemetry collars, which is why wildlife officers were able to find them. But puzzling the researchers was any motive for the killings. They weren't killed for meat, fur or other materials.

In 2010, the Alberta government listed grizzly bears as a threatened species after a count found only 700 of them in the province.