YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
A bison can weigh more than 1,000 pounds, so when one died recently in Yellowstone near Soda Butte Creek across from the Lamar River, its huge carcass became a prize destination for grizzlies, wolves, crows, magpies and ravens. Dillon, Mont., photographer Pete Bengeyfield, who happened upon the bloody buffet early, said that in 20 years he’d never seen anything like it. In the starring role was a large male grizzly, which clambered on top of the bison and stood up as if to say: “This is my bison, you better stay back,” reports the Billings Gazette.
His macho display, however, failed to deter a grizzly sow with three cubs, who kept trying to approach for a meal. Meanwhile, five wolves waited “for an opportunity to dash in for a stray morsel of flesh to satisfy their own hunger.” Bengeyfield photographed the evolving scene, which wasn’t far from a road, over three days in September. He wasn’t alone: By the time it was over, some 125 other park visitors also watched the wildlife jockey for access to the delicious bison.
Is there no limit to what happens in Las Vegas? That’s probably a dumb question. Here’s what’s currently topping our list for egregious excess: Pankaj Malani and Avnie Petel’s recent $9 million wedding on the Las Vegas Strip in front of 600 guests. Flowers alone cost $150,000, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal, but the show was stolen by a 9,000-pound, 47-year-old elephant called Tai, which walked up the driveway of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino. The elephant wasn’t crashing the wedding; Tai can be hired for $10,000 from the California company Have Trunk Will Travel. Afterwards, wedding planner Tory Cooper observed, “I think we are out of the recession.”
In Hotchkiss, a town of some 1,200 people, the “Marshal’s Report” in the North Fork Merchant Herald noted the reason for the unusual — and illegal — firing of a gun within town limits: A man “facilitated the removal of a large wasp’s nest from a tree by shooting it down.” The gunshots understandably alarmed some neighbors, as well as startling the wasps. On another day, proceedings at the town court were “short and uneventful,” although Judge Lynn French volunteered a personal note: His 97-year-old mother, he said, had “unilaterally decided that she should give up driving.”
An orange tabby cat who wears a natty sweater vest has been mayor of Talkeetna for the last 16 years. After a dog recently attacked Mayor Stubbs, however, “townsfolk are being forced to contemplate regime change,” reports the Wall Street Journal. Animal mayors are not as uncommon as you might imagine. “A beer-drinking goat named Clay Henry presided over Lajitas, Texas, until his death in 1992, after which he was succeeded by two other goats.” And in Eastsound, Wash., dogs have been elected to office “in every year except in 2011, when a dairy cow named April defeated four canines, a rabbit and cat.” Mayor Stubbs, said to be convalescing slowly, has had a sometimes challenging tenure. Five years ago, teenagers sprayed the cat with BBs, and last year, he tumbled into a kitchen fryer, though fortunately, the oil was cold. If Stubbs succumbs, says Sassan Mossaner, owner of the Denali Brewing Co., it will be hard for everyone: “Those are difficult paws to fill.”
It took millennia to shape the weirdly eroded red rock formations in Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park. But it took Glenn Taylor just a minute or so to deliberately topple one 170-million-year-old boulder from its sandstone pedestal. Then, in a monumental display of hubris, the Boy Scout leader from Highland, Utah, posted his gleeful vandalism on Facebook. Before the video was removed, more than a million viewers watched him do the deed, then jump around laughing while he high-fived his young son and a fellow Boy Scout leader. (Both men have since been ousted from their duties.) Their antics failed to amuse Utah State Parks spokesman Eugene Swalberg, who told The Associated Press, “This is highly, highly inappropriate. This is not what you do at state parks. It’s disturbing and upsetting.” Taylor, who may face criminal charges, told the Deseret News that he was merely protecting other visitors from the “loose” rock, though the video clearly shows he had to strain to force the mushroom-shaped rock off its support.
The video may also affect a lawsuit: Taylor claims that he seriously injured his back in a car accident four years ago. But as the man he’s suing, Alan MacDonald, said, “In the video, I see a big strong guy who steps up to a 2,000-pound rock and dislodges it, and I just think to myself, ‘That guy doesn’t have a bad back.’”
Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). Tips of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared, firstname.lastname@example.org.