Mountain Town News
By Allen Best
BANFF, Alberta – Banff councilors have ended the night-time ban on skateboarding. But they remain concerned whether skaters will take the necessary precautions to avoid being hit by cars.
“Not as a mayor, but as a mom, please be safer, please obey lights and signs, and get a light,” said Mayor Karen Sorenson.
Mark Carroll, a skateboarder of 27 years, told the council that many residents employed by bars and nightclubs use skateboards as their primary mode of transport to and from work, often finishing a shift around 2 a.m.
“They choose an environmentally friendly mode of transport, which doesn’t require fuel or a parking space, yet they are told they can’t skateboard home,” he said. “Skateboarding deserves respect as a viable form of healthy, green transportation.”
The Rocky Mountain Outlook reports that councilors tinkered with mandating lights, but deferred that discussion to a broader one about lighting requirements for all non-motorized vehicles.
Predicting altitude sickness
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. – Will a simple blood test soon allow doctors to determine who will get sick at high altitudes? That’s the goal of experiments being conducted by the Altitude Research Center at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. So far, there’s some evidence that just such a test is possible, according to a report in the Daily News.
In a recent 28-person study, Dr. Robert Roach, director of the research center, found that a blood test “almost perfectly predicts who gets sick and who doesn’t.”
The Summit Daily News reports that additional research was conducted last week, when 25 volunteers from Texas flew from Dallas to Denver, jumped on a bus to Summit County, and then immediately ran two miles as fast as they could at the local high school track, which is at an elevation of about 9,300 feet. They also ran two miles in Dallas.
Roach is measuring oxygen level and keeping track of those who show symptoms of altitude sickness. At the end, students will give blood samples. Researchers then try to identify genes that predict who does well at altitude, and who doesn’t.
This is the fourth of six research groups in Roach’s effort to isolate genes that predict performance in thin air. “If we can predict mountains sickness from a low-altitude blood test, that would change the world,” he said.
The research is funded by a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense. The government wants to find ways to swiftly overcome acute mountain sickness, which often strikes troops serving in Afghanistan.
CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Here and there were nods of sympathy in ski towns to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
A rally last weekend in Aspen drew 10 people. Across the Sawatch Range, a similar small gathering occurred in Salida.
“I was laid off a year ago, and I’m a single father with a 4-year-old child struggling to make ends meet,” Jeffrey “Mo” Shacklett told the Mountain Mail.
“Our point is that 99 percent of the people who do the work are up in arms that 1 percent of the people make the most money and make the decisions in this country, and they are not giving jobs to people,” Shacklett said.
Taking stock of the protests, Crested Butte News editor Mark Reaman finds a trickle-down effect from the avarice of money managers that is now making life more difficult in his ski town.
“Most reasonable people would agree that Wall Street suits had a hand in essentially wrecking the economy three years ago,” he writes, before citing a litany of abuses.
“How many people have been held accountable? None. Not one. But the taxpayers bailed them out and now a lot of those taxpayers can’t find a job,” he charged. “The bailout was touted in part with the hope and intent of seeing some cash flow back into the general economy to fuel some job growth. Instead, Wall Street types paid themselves rather large bonuses, bought back their own stock and now are holding on to large amounts of cash instead of reinvesting it.”
“If people can’t afford to come here on vacation, we all get hurt,” he added. “Maybe these occupiers of Wall Street are on to something. Good on ‘em.”
Who killed Grizzly No. 8?
LAKE LOUISE, Alberta – Who’s to blame for the death of No. 8, a grizzly bear in Banff National Park? Parks Canada killed the 6-year-old bear in late September after it stalked a mountain guide and his client, forcing them to climb a tree.
According to Parks Canada wildlife managers, this summer alone No. 8 chased cyclists, charged a wildlife officer armed with a shotgun, and even held a grain train hostage, although how that’s done isn’t exactly clear.
Managers told the Rocky Mountain Outlook they devoted hundred of hours, using aversive conditioning to try to keep him out of trouble and, with the help of a radio collar, were able to track his whereabouts constantly.
“He truly believed he was the big bear and he could do anything he wanted to,” said Hal Morrison, a human-wildlife conflict specialist in the Canadian Rockies.
Morrison said that the availability of grain along the Canadian Pacific railway had conditioned him to people, yielding a more aggressive stance.
The bear had lost 20 pounds in the last few months, because of a poor berry crop, but appeared to be in very good health.
But a local conservationist points the finger at Parks Canada and its policy of wanting to encouraged more use of Banff and other national parks. “The bottom lien from decades of research is that as you increase human activity, from hiking to industrial development, you negatively impact grizzly bears,” said Jeff Gailus, author of “The Grizzly Manifesto.”
“Like Frankenstein, bear No. 8 was something we created,” said Gailus. “He became habituated because he had to live among so many people, and he became food-conditioned because of sloppy campers and residents and grain on the railway tracks.”
The guide, Barry Blanchard, said he was devastated by the killing of the bear.” I understand why, but I also know that he was just being a bear. I’m sad.”
Bears may have killed to eat
JACKSON, Wyo. – John Wallace, 59, was killed by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park during late August. What caused the grizzly to set upon Wallace man hasn’t been determined, and may never be clear. What was evident, however, was that he had been partially eaten —and analysis of hair and scat left at the scene shows there were four bears there.
One of the four bears, which killed another hiker this summer, has since been killed. But that leaves three bears still at large that may have killed Wallace not because of a surprise encounter or to protect a food source, but simply to eat him.
In reporting this, the Jackson Hole News&Guide notes that grizzlies may have killed humans in order to eat them several times in recent years. One occurred just outside the park in 2010, when a sow with three cubs dragged a camper from a tent. The cubs were found to be malnourished. There were also cases in 2006, 2004, and 1983 – altogether, just seven clear cases of predation since the park was created in 1872, spokesman Al Nash told the newspaper.