By Allen Best
Too close for comfort
JACKSON, Wyo. – Wolves have been somewhat commonplace in a subdivision on the edge of Jackson, just five minutes from downtown. To the dismay of some, federal wildlife officials expected to kill the animals.
The Jackson Hole News & Guide reports that one of the homeowners in the Indian Trails subdivision posted video footage on YouTube of the wolves traveling within 30 feet of his home. James Peck told the newspaper that the wolves seemed to be using his property to travel from one space to another.
“They appeared to avoid humans,” he said. “They weren’t sniffing around the deck.”
Suzanne Stone, from the Defenders of Wildlife, said that hazing has succeeded in chasing wolves from residential areas near Ketchum, Idaho.
Hazing in that sort of situation rarely succeeds, said Mike Jimenez, the wolf manager of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He said his agency will use a helicopter and tranquilizer darts to track and capture three or four wolves that have been near homes.
Residents of the subdivisions where the wolves were seen say they don’t like to see the predators killed, but understand that Jimenez made the decision to err on the side of human safety.
“If the goal is the long-term recovery of wolves, then I think they need to avoid these kinds of public relations nightmares (such as) if a wolf jumps onto somebody’s porch and rips somebody’s dog to pieces.”
Wildlife managers say that acceptable ecosystem niches for wolves are already occupied in the region, and hence there is no place to transplant the too-close-for-comfort wolves.
From Ketchum, meanwhile, comes a story about a wolf that did get into somebody’s driveway. But the emaciated wolf was suffering desperately from an intestinal virus called parvovirus. Barely able to raise its head, it died in the driveway, reports the Idaho Mountain Express.
Climate debate continues
ASPEN, Colo. – The Aspen Chamber Resort Association is staying in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, despite the vigorous protests of some locals.
“The very fact that we’re affiliated with them is embarrassing,” said David Perry, senior vice president for the Aspen Skiing Co. He said that 55 percent of the U.S Chamber’s budget comes from anonymous donors, and speculated that the money comes from the oil and gas industry.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has lobbied against legislation that seeks to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
Membership in the national organization costs the local group $800 a year, reports the Aspen Daily News.
Battling white lies
HANOVER, N.H. – Ski areas exaggerate reports of new snow if they think they’ll get away with it, according to a study reported in the Feb. 17 edition of the Wall Street Journal that looked at data from 440 North American resorts.
Jonathan Zinman and Eric Zitzewitz, of Dartmouth College studied resort websites and found that each additional inch reported by the resort led to 61% more traffic.
Not so surprisingly, from 2004 through 2008, ski areas reported more new snow on weekends, when they make most of their money, than weekdays — almost 25% more. Such a pattern was not supported by data from weather stations or other objective sources.
Exaggeration was greatest at areas with the most expert terrain (which makes sense, because experts value fresh snow the most).
It wasn’t clear how many skiers were taken in by the tall tales. Judging by the number of website visits (the best measure of snow lust), consumers seemed to discount ski areas’ weekend snow reports by about as much as they were puffed up.
But in January 2009, SkiReport.com* introduced a new feature in its iPhone app that allowed skiers to post reports directly from ski lifts. At resorts that had iPhone coverage — AT&T, at the time — snowfall exaggeration promptly ended.
*Since the study, Vail bought the site and it now redirects to Onthesnow.com.
Linking of ski areas advances
PARK CITY, Utah – For decades, ski areas that straddle the Wasatch Range in Utah have mused about the potential to become linked. They’re relatively close together, with the resorts around Park City lying just a few miles east from Solitude, Snowbird and the others.
Now a bill has passed a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives that would make that easier to happen. The bill would allow the U.S. Forest Service to sell 30 acres of land deemed essential to allow this interconnection to occur.
While ski industry promoters in Utah last autumn proclaimed this as an idea with very little opposition, in fact significant doubts are now being voiced. Not only does a key environmental group object, but so does the mayor of Salt Lake City. The city draws its water from the canyons, and argues that expanded ski area development along the Wasatch could degrade the municipal water supplies.