Wild Time in Wild Wyoming When it Comes to "Wild" Life

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Bill Sniffin
Bill Sniffin

God bless Wyoming and keep it wild. – Last diary entry by 15-year old Helen Mettler in 1925.

Based on somenews stories there is no shortage of “wild” events occurring around Wyoming in recent months that have caught my attention. Four come to mind:

  • How do you describe being chewed on by a grizzly? How about like sticking your head into “a cement mixer full of razor blades?”

That was the description given by Nic Patrick of Cody who nearly had his head bitten off by a sow grizzly bear last summer on the South Fork of the Shoshone River.

According to Powell Tribune, Patrick, 65, is showing a lot more respect for his assailant than most of us.  He reportedly has accepted that he was in the bear’s territory and should have taken more precautions.

After five surgeries he has a pug nose now (soon to have a prosthetic nose) plus lots of welts and scars on his head, face and all over his body.

The incident occurred at a place he calls Grizzly Junction where four game trails converge near his South Fork ranch.  He was checking an irrigation gate when he heard his dog yelp. He walked around the corner and saw a sow with two cubs just 25 yards away.

In a flash the bear was on him, hence the cement mixer description.

Patrick got into the fetal position, and the chomping and biting and munching began.  Finally, the bear was satisfied and left.  Patrick struggled to his feet and walked a quarter mile back toward the house. He stopped in a shed to get a rag to cover his mutilated head so as to not scare his wife, daughter, son-in-law and four grandkids.

He still supports grizzlies being in the area but says people need to pack bear spray and learn how to use it.  He suggests practicing with inert canisters before hiking into grizzly country. If not, “It’s a pretty steep learning curve when you need it,” he concludes.

  • Although the grizzly appears to be at the top of the Wyoming food chain, mountain lions and wolves are prominent players in the backcountry.

In Jackson, Game and Fish biologists were not happy when they saw a wolf had killed five mountain lion cubs. The Teton Cougar Research Project had mothered the cubs.

A lion being tracked for six years by the Kelly institute was recently documented to have killed a wolf.

Sometimes, even in nature, an eye-for-an-eye may occur more often than people originally thought.

The lion was well known by Mark Elbroch, biologist for the project. The Jackson Hole News and Guide reports quoted him: “The wolf killer is a 101-pound female that lives in the Gros Ventre headwaters. She is a funky-looking, overly feral cat that is as smart as they come and nearly impossible to catch.”

Elbroch said it was more common for wolves to kill lions than the other way around.

There have been three documented cases of lions killing wolves in recent years, one of which was a wolf named B-4. She was one of the very first wolves introduced to Yellowstone.

Nature can be a cruel place even to the cruel.

  • And if you mess up and cause a big fire in nature, the government can be cruel in exacting its revenge, as a Jackson man recently discovered.

James G.  Anderson Jr. received a notice that he owed $6,309,394.94 for his part in causing the Horsethief Canyon wildfire that burned five square miles of forest just outside of east Jackson.

The Wyoming Business Report said Anderson is accused of burning trash in a rusted out barrel in the back of his property. The wind came up and the fire got out of control and headed into the neighboring national forest.

At its peak, the fire employed 650 people, nine helicopters, 40 fire engines and three bulldozers.  Jackson was threatened but narrowly escaped thanks to a herculean effort. The Forest Service said the actual cost to the many agencies was over $9 million.

  • And someone who was relentless in helping to keep Wyoming wild was the late U. S. Sen. Craig Thomas.

His wife Susan, who is director of the Thomas Foundation, is encouraging applications for at-risk students to apply for scholarships.

It is an effective program and one that might tame some of our wilder young people who need to get important training for future jobs.  She says the foundation mentors the students throughout the process.

Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at www.billsniffin.com.  He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written four books. His most recent book is “Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders” which is available at www.wyomingwonders.com.

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