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Heard Around the West

Brief by Betsy Marston

Miscellaneous – February 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine

You’ve probably heard about the lion who escaped from a Florida zoo. Well, recently a collection of Western wildlife and livestock have also evaded pursuers for brief, shining moments.

Thanks to a missing lock on one door and another door mysteriously left open, nine buffalo escaped from an enclosure at the zoo in Oakland, Calif., reports AP. After they were spotted munching on poison ivy and native grasses, zoo workers lured them back just 45 minutes later. Tip for Yellowstone Parkies: The lure was a trail of Wonder Bread.

Another AP story tells a tale so strange that Ripley’s Believe It or Not might have devoted a page to it.

No one knows what a coyote did to annoy a band of crows, but the birds dived at the animal as it ran along a downtown street in Seattle, Wash., during midday. A passerby says the coyote ducked through the open door of a federal building to escape.

Not a bad move, until the coyote ran into an open elevator and “the door closed and trapped it.” The urban coyote then cowered alone for two and a half hours until animal-control workers, described as having “captured” the elevator, lowered a cage onto the animal. No word on the determined crows; the coyote was released in a wooded part of King County.

In West Valley City, Utah, an emu leapt from his pen and ran down city streets at midnight, hoping, perhaps, to stretch its legs. The big bird, a slightly smaller cousin of the ostrich, wasn’t about to cooperate when five men, wielding rope and flashlights, caught up with it.

Animal control officer Stan Larsen tried to grab the neck of the four-foot-tall bird, only to have the animal unleash its sharp bill, ripping both back pockets off Larsen’s pants and then shredding them down the front. “I have roped a buffalo, chased a bull and wrestled a couple of pretty good-sized pythons,” Larsen told AP afterward. “This is the first time I tackled an emu.”

Intruding animals (from our point of view) include a beaver that makes nightly visits to a condominium in Billings, Mont. It appeared after city crews spent two weeks clearing trees from the banks of an open storm ditch where the animal had made its home. Apparently hungry and certainly displeased, the displaced beaver toppled a poplar tree at the home of Kathy Stephens. She now worries the animal will take down her utility pole, reports the Billings Gazette.

Maybe the chamber of commerce hired him to put the town briefly on the map. Or maybe he was the real thing, a cowboy in from the range with a powerful thirst. In any case, he wasn’t breaking any laws, the Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune reports, by riding from bar to bar, tying his horse to parking meters and light poles while he was inside working on his thirst.

He wasn’t breaking laws, but he was breaking the unwritten codes of the New West. Locals worried the horse might dent their cars and pickups (do horses carry collision insurance?), and bartenders complained the rider was belligerent. After police told him to mosey on, the cowboy cussed a blue streak, but then rode off into the sunset.

Betsy Marston is the editor of High Country News, a bi-weekly newspaper based in Paonia, Colorado, covering natural resource and community issues in the West.