Mountain News: Bears look for food in this very warm winter 

click to enlarge WWW.SHUTTERSTOCK.COM - Bear witness Warm weather is leading Colorado bears not to hibernate, leading some to enter communities looking for food instead.
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  • Bear witness Warm weather is leading Colorado bears not to hibernate, leading some to enter communities looking for food instead.

DURANGO, Colo. — Bears have been out and about in Durango and other towns in Colorado's San Juan Mountains. In Durango, the city has continued an emergency law that seeks to get residents to secure their trash so that it's not an attractant to bears.

"It's not winter out there, and yearling males are being spotted in alleys of Durango," said City Councillor Sweetie Marbury in support of the law.

Last year, 25 bears were killed in Durango after running into trouble, noted the Durango Herald. Most of those bears got into trash, attacked livestock, or broke into vehicles.

In September, the city enacted a law that eliminated a courtesy warning for those who failed to secure their trash. Instead, the first offense produces a $100 fine, and each subsequent violation is worth $200. The law has netted 25 offenders.

A bear has also been wandering around adjacent to the ski slopes of Telluride, at a subdivision called Ski Ranches.

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife pointed out that bears, although they normally den for the winter by mid-November, are not true hibernators. As such, they will get out during warmer spells in winter to look for food.

January has been three degrees Celsius warmer than the 30-year average, said the Herald, citing National Weather Service data. In addition, last year provided poor food for bears in the region.

Bryan Peterson of Bear Smart Durango said bear sightings during mid-winter used to be unheard of. Not so in recent years, "If bears are finding human food, they'll stay out longer than normal," he said.

Trump's Tahoe dalliance, and Putin's men in Aspen

ASPEN, Colo. — Mountain towns were in the news last week for salacious reasons. Most prominent was the report that a representative of Donald Trump had paid $130,000 to a former porn star in 2016, shortly before his election as president, to ensure she kept her lips buttoned.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the porn actress, Stephanie Clifford, and Trump had an affair after they met at a July 2006 celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe. That was a year after Trump married his current wife, Melania. The Journal had previously reported that Clifford had been in talks with "Good Morning America" during the fall of 2016 about an appearance to discuss Trump.

Then there's the case of multimillionaire Will Browder, who in July 2014 was leaving a conference held at the Aspen Institute when strangers approached him. The stranger tried to hand him a subpoena related to a criminal case brought by the Justice Department. Browder recoiled and sprinted for his car. He said that as one of the fiercest critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he thought the process servers might have been "KGB assassins."

Or so was the testimony given to congressional investigators this past summer. The international intrigue came to light as the result of a transcript released by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. All of this has to do with the series of unsubstantiated reports about Trump's alleged actions related to Russia before the 2016 election.

The Aspen component of the case is too complicated to be distilled into a few paragraphs. The Aspen Daily News competently told the story.

The real simple message is that Aspen remains a meeting ground for those of power and influence. As a convener of conferences that draws a broad array of those players from Washington, New York and elsewhere, the Aspen Institute is without parallel in mountain resorts.

Aspen warily agrees to allow security measures

ASPEN, Colo. — Trucks carrying explosives have been used by terrorists to kill people in New York City, London, and in France. Could it happen in Aspen?

That disquieting thought had been parsed in detail as the town prepares to build a new police headquarters. Richard Pryor, the police chief, told elected officials that he's not paranoid. "I don't think people are necessarily out to get the Aspen Police Department." Just the same, he said, security around the new building must be considered.

The federal government advises bollards, large-diameter trees, and a concrete bench. Bollards are sturdy, short vertical posts. Think of a fire hydrant but taller and narrower.

The Aspen Daily News reported that the council warily accepted the need for heightened security measures such as would be necessary to stop a Ford F-250 pickup barrelling at 50 km/h toward the new police building, but bollards seem to be off the list. Instead, there are to be less overt and still unspecified protective mechanisms. Federal standards are '"very un-Aspen-like. It's not what we want," said Councillwoman Ann Mullins.

1,000 a year ago in Jackson; how many marcher this year?

JACKSON, Wyo. — A year ago this Saturday, only days after President Donald Trump's bombastic inauguration speech, women's marches were held across the country, including in a few ski towns.

In Jackson, the march drew 1,000 people, impressive given the local population: 23,125 in Teton County. Teton County is more or less the same as Jackson Hole.

Another march is planned for this year. It remains to be seen whether this symbol of defiance will attract nearly as many.

Meanwhile, students gathered in the antlers-adorned town square in Jackson on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to talk about bridging divides. Students shared their thoughts, reported the Jackson Hole News&Guide, as did elected officials.

"An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to recognize the broader concerns of all humanity," said Town Councillor Don Frank.

Sign at site of fatality: Don't text and drive

BEND, Ore. — A sign has been installed along a road in Bend with a simple message: "Don't text and drive."

The sign will be in memory of Forrest Cepeda, a 16-year-old boy who was riding his bicycle to a friend's house in 2011 when he was hit by a 28-year-old man who was texting while driving. The driver was texting two people, one of whom was sitting next to him, shortly before hitting the boy, noted the Bend Bulletin.

Nationally, nearly 3,500 people were killed and more than 391,000 injured in crashes involving distracted driving in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

How to protect historic buildings

BANFF, Alta. — Plans to tear down an older building in Banff has town officials talking about how to protect buildings considered important to the community heritage.

The building, ordinary or even dowdy in appearance, was a private school from 1922 to 1947 operated by Margaret and Henry Greenham. Cultural activities of the Greenhams here and elsewhere contributed to establishment of what is now called the Banff Centre.

In 1944, the daughter of the British-born actress Vivien Leigh — who had become famous in 1939 for her role as Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind" — was schooled there. There's no evidence that Leigh herself spent much time in Banff. The daughter was the product of Leigh's first marriage.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook reported that town officials are talking about such things as density bonuses being provided to developers willing to spare destruction of important but aging buildings.

Building likely to topple

WHITEFISH, Mont. — No buyer has emerged with the US$1.7 million asking price of a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building in downtown Whitefish. The structure will almost certainly be demolished, reported the Whitefish Pilot.

The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012. The national designation, however, doesn't preclude the building being demolished, said Barbara Gordon, executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. "Most preservation work happens on the local level."

The famous architect designed the 5,000-square-foot building in 1948. A three-storey mixed-use commercial building has been approved as replacement.

Navajo now own chunk of land

WESTCLFFE, Colo. — The Navajo Nation has added another ranch to its holdings in south-central Colorado. Two recent purchases, the Boyer and Wolf Springs ranches, gives the Arizona-based people 28,844 acres along the eastern flanks of the Sangre de Cristo Range. The closest towns are Westcliffe, to the north, and Walsenberg, to the east.

The Wet Mountain Tribune said the Navajos find the land valuable because of its proximity to Tsisnaasjini, a mountain sacred to them as sort of a corner of their homelands. Colorado's fourth-highest mountain, it's known to peak-baggers as Blanca Peak. It is seen most easily from the San Luis Valley, on the west side of the peak.

Jonathan Nez, the vice president of the Navajo Nation, told the Tribune that the high elevation of the ranch might be used to develop an athletic program. "We have some remarkable athletes on the Navajo Nation," he said, "and this would be a great opportunity to train our youth and celebrate health and wellness."

Dry winter in Taos

TAOS, N.M. — The weather story this winter in northern New Mexico is much the same as in other parts of the West, except perhaps more extreme. But the real story may be that this sort of warm and dry conditions may become more common continuing into the 21st century.

Taos Ski Valley had 15 of its 111 trails open as of last week, those being primarily the result of snowmaking. The ski area had received only 22 centimetres of natural snow in the prior two months, according to the Taos News.

La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean commonly create snow-shy winters for the more southerly resorts. But the long-term trend isn't great either.

Climate models have predicted the Rio Grande — the river flows through Taos — will be among the areas hardest hit by warming temperatures during the 21st century. Put simply, the Southwest will get warmer and drier. Winters such as this will become more common.

"We would not blame global warming for three months of no rain in New Mexico... but we expect to see the trend throughout the century," climatologist David Gutzler told the Taos News.

The Rio Grande originates in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. At its headwaters is the Wolf Creek Ski Area, which often leads Colorado ski areas in snow accumulation. The snowpack in the basin as of Jan. 11 was only 31 per cent of normal, reported the Alamosa Valley Courier. The only basin in worse shape in Colorado was the San Juan, which includes Durango, which sat at 27 per cent of normal.

From a Colorado perspective, the only silver lining — and a thin one at that — is that with so little water flowing in the Rio Grande, Colorado won't have to worry about ensuring more goes downstream to meet the inter-state compact requirement governing the river's allocations. "We can use the water we have in the San Luis Valley, but that's not going to be a whole lot," Craig Cotton, a state water engineer, told the Courier.

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