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Pee-yew - who let the skunk into the house?

HAILEY, Idaho - Police in Hailey, located down-valley from Ketchum and Sun Valley, have three traps for skunks. They're all in use - with seven people waiting.

HAILEY, Idaho - Police in Hailey, located down-valley from Ketchum and Sun Valley, have three traps for skunks. They're all in use - with seven people waiting.

It is, reports the Idaho Mountain Express , a smelly season for skunks, possibly because of a bumper crop of voles, one of the things that the omnivorous skunks eat. The result, says the newspaper is that many an evening of late has been marked by a "wafting, rank, and slightly sweet smell."

"My dog has been sprayed two times in one day," said local resident Irene Robinson. "If you have ever been on the receiving end of this sort of attack, it is debilitating. It stopped me dead, and I had to retch. So foul - you cannot imagine."


Three wolves killed

CAREY, Idaho - Three wolves were killed by federal wildlife agents recently on a ranch near Carey, which is about 64 kilometres from Ketchum and Sun Valley. They had, wildlife biologists concluded, killed a calf.

The rancher also accused the wolves of killing his sheep, although government biologists concluded that coyotes, instead, were to blame.

But a wildlife advocate who had been tracking the wolves disputed whether the wolves had any blood on their paws at all. "There's no third-party verification that the depredation was actually by wolves," Natalie Ertz told the Idaho Mountain Express .

She reported hearing the wolf pack 13 kilometres away just a few hours before the livestock killing occurred. Wolves can trot at speeds up to 10 mph, but she said it was unlikely the wolves made the trek.

The alpha female of the pack survived the shooting, the third such "control order," as the killings are called, that she has survived. Although losing two toes and suffering a severe injury that has left her with a limp, she has also survived three coyote traps.


Wolves kill more cattle as they go south, east

JACKSON, Wyo. - Authorities have killed 19 wolves in Wyoming so far this year, compared to 73 wolves in 2008.

The wolves had been responsible for the deaths of 20 cattle, 28 sheep and a dog, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency report studied by the Jackson Hole News & Guide . Also, a horse was put down after it broke a leg suffered when chased by wolves. Six other horses have been injured by wolves.

Wolves tend to cause more problems the farther south and east they are from Yellowstone National Park, according to Mike Jimenez, as these areas have less dense wildlife populations and more livestock.


Albino hummingbird flaps way into Salida

SALIDA, Colo. - An albino hummingbird was seen - and photographed - in Salida. A local Audubon Society representative told the Mountain Mail that it was only the third albino hummingbird documented in Colorado.

"Pure albino hummingbirds, like this one, are pure white, with pinkish bill, feet and eyes as a result of having no melanin pigment in their skin, eyes or feathers," said SeEtta Moss.


Bigfoot in Banff?

BANFF, Alberta - Banff National Park will soon be on the Discovery Animal Channel show "Finding Bigfoot." A bigfoot research organization called Sylvanic claims to have documented a bigfoot in Banff and Kootenay national parks through hair samples and on video. An episode of the TV series will investigate those claims.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook observes that the publicity might well draw tourists. "We're always thrilled when people want to come and explore the landscape, but this is certainly a new twist to it," said Julie Canning, chief executive of Banff Lake Louise Tourism.

The newspaper notes that there were rumors of a sighting of an ape-like bipedal bigfoot, also called sasquatch, in Canmore, just outside Banff National Park. Sightings of a Bigfoot were also reported on the shores of Lake Minnewanka. The latter sighting was later confirmed as a hoax.


John Denver summit?

CARBDONALE, Colo. - Old-timers are now speaking out against a proposal to name a portion of Mt. Sopris, the stately two-summited peak that presides over the Roaring Fork Valley, in honour of the late singer John Denver.

A woman from metropolitan Denver proposes the name for the east summit of the 13,953-foot peak. It has little chance of happening, however, as the authority in such matters, the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, invariably wants to know what local governments have to say.

The most important local government in this case, the Pitkin County Board of Commissioners, first heard the idea several years ago. Their response, says Dorothea Farris, a county commissioner then, was: "You've got to be kidding me."

Farris, a former school teacher in Aspen and a long-time member of the Aspen School District Board of Education, worked with Denver, who made a special effort to teach school kids in Aspen about the outdoors. She believes that Denver would have wanted no part of having even a portion of the peak named after him.

Denver died in 1998 when a small plane he was piloting crashed along the coast of California.

Other long-time locals of the valley consulted by The Aspen Times had similar sentiments. "I think it's a bunch of bull," said Jerry Gerbaz, 73, a native of the Roaring Fork Valley. "We have his music. What more do we want?"

The peak is named after Richard Sopris, an early explorer and gold-seeker in the vicinity who later became mayor of Denver. The peak has two summits, identical in elevation if a half-mile apart.


Names should honor those with associations

JACKSON, Wyo. - Examining the map, Todd Wilkinson finds plenty of places in the Yellowstone region whose namesakes had an entirely fleeting, even detached relationship to the region.

Mary Bay, in Yellowstone Lake, for example, was named for the girlfriend of a surveyor. And Craig Pass, between Old Faithful and the south entrance to the park, honors the maiden name of the first tourist. And, of course, the map in the Yellowstone region - and also in the Colorado Rockies - is rife with names of Civil War generals who later led campaigns against Indian tribes.

What did they really do to deserve being remembered? asks Wilkinson, writing in the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

A better policy would be one that imbues points of geography with more relevant and contemporary meaning. For example, he points to troubadour James "Walkin' Jim" Stotlz, who died a year ago.

"Few hikers in the last 24 year had slogged more backcountry miles and climbed as many regional summits as Stoltz did. He knew the vast stretches of our wild backyard intimately, far more insightfully than any member of the Hayden or Washburn expeditions who passed through Yellowstone 140 years ago," says Wilkinson.


Old sneakers to stay hanging in Park City

PARK CITY, Utah - Something called Shoe Tree exists in Park City's original residential neighborhood, now called Old Town. Various shoes dangle from its branches, something of an ad hoc statement of surrealism.

Locals mostly seem to be fond of it. When a real estate development was built at the site several years ago, developers took care to leave the tree in place.

"It was funky. It was historic. It had been there a long time," explained Harry Reed, a member of the development team. "We wanted them there. They were part of the atmosphere then. They still are."

But Janet Kaul, who has been visiting Park City since 1974, finds nothing interesting about the Shoe Tree, which has now become a row of trees decorated with dangling sneakers, clod-hoppers and other assorted footwear.

"It looks like a trash heap," she told the city council. "I, for one, don't think old tennis shoes are a real romantic idea."

The city officials, however, refused her proposal to conduct more than the occasional thinning.

The Park Record interviewed a local resident who said the tradition started in either 1969 or 1970 when his brother, a veteran of Vietnam War, visited him in Park City - and wincing from the pain of blisters on this heels, he removed his combat boots and bathed his feet in a stream. As he did so, the local resident took the boots and pitched them into the tree - where they remained for four or five years.

"I thought the city would come and say this isn't right, you've got to take them down," he said. "I'm surprised (the Shoe Tree) is still there."


Mac & cheese as Aspen drums up special events

ASPEN, Colo. - Macaroni and cheese may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Aspen. Just the same, the very first Aspen Mac & Cheese Festival will be held this coming weekend, with up to 19 restaurants participating in this decidedly niche festival.

Keith Bulicz, a city employee charged with organizing the festival, said he Googled in search of something comparable, and could find nothing of the sort across the United States.

The festival is being underwritten by a $1,500 grant from the city government, which during the last two years has been deliberately seeding more unconventional festival ideas during the shoulder seasons, in an effort to grow the tourism economy even as the real-estate market slumbers.


Buyers want smaller as market stays soft

TELLURIDE, Colo. - Real estate activity in mountain resorts has mostly improved this year, but not consistently so. From both Aspen and Telluride come reports of ups and downs -especially after the July decision by the Standard and Poors to downgrade the U.S. government's creditworthiness.

"Everything became dysfunctional in the government, and we saw people losing certainty," Telluride Properties broker Brian O'Neill told The Telluride Watch . "Then, couple that with the S&P downgrade as well as the international issues going on in Europe and Japan, (and) everybody started panicking."

July sales in Aspen were down 16 per cent compared to the same month last year, according to a report from Land Title Guarantee Co. The Aspen Times notes a roller-coaster year, with some months up, others down, but a general trend of strong improvement. Real estate sales are likely to exceed those in both 2009 and 2010 - and with a surge at the end, could exceed those of 2008.

Telluride properties have sold well, but the mansions in Mountain Village, located at the other end of the gondola, remain overpriced, even after reductions of 9 to 30 per cent from 2007 peak prices, said Mike Shimkonis, of Telluride Properties.

"The prices have dropped, but properties haven't moved. They probably need to go lower," he told The Watch .

More evidence that buyers are being careful? At Telluride and Mountain Village, they seem to be turning up their noses at vacation homes of more than 4,500 feet.


Race owner fined for using motor on course

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. - For certain actions, there must be consequences, the Forest Service has decided. The agency has fined the operator of a mountain bike race an undisclosed sum for using motorized means of clearing snow from a designated non-motorized trail.

The owner of the Firecracker 50 mountain bike race told the Summit Daily News that the snow was still five feet deep for long segments of the race course. He estimated it would have been 160 person hours to shovel by hand.


Allen Best can be found at .