Killer bears, and the humans who track them down

Freelance journalist Jessica Grose has a fascinating "long read" in Slate this week (and I'm not kidding about the long part, 8,000 words!) about Bear True Crimes: wild bears in and around Yellowstone National Park who, for one reason or another, attack humans.

Why does this happen? What's it like for the humans who survive? Who investigates the attacks, all CSI-style with DNA analysis and whatnot, and figures out what to do with the problem bears? Is it right to kill them?

Grose's report begins with the story of a mother bear who attacked campers in late 2011. Snip:

The euthanization of the bear known as “the Wapiti sow” was the culmination of a series of horrifying events that had gripped Yellowstone for months, and alarmed rangers, visitors, and the conservation biologists tasked with keeping grizzly bears safe. In separate incidents in July and August, grizzlies had killed hikers in Yellowstone, prompting a months-long investigation replete with crime scene reconstructions and DNA analysis, and a furious race to capture the prime suspect. The execution of the Wapiti sow opens a window on a special criminal justice system designed to protect endangered bears and the humans who share their land. It also demonstrates the difficulty of judging animals for crimes against us. The government bear biologists who enforce grizzly law and order grapple with the impossibility of the task every day. In the most painful cases, the people who protect these sublime, endangered animals must also put them to death.

Read Grose's "A Death in Yellowstone: On the trail of a killer grizzly bear," then read her interview with a woman who was attacked by a grizzly and lived to tell the tale. There's an interview with Grose about the reporting project at The Awl.

When I traveled to this area with Miles O'Brien for a PBS NewsHour piece about wolves last year (watch the video!), we visited the very room where some elements of the Wapiti Sow case would be managed just months later. It's the Office of Bear Management.

(Photo: "Growling Grizzly Bear with Snow," by Dennis Donohue, via Shutterstock)

Wyoming's aircraft carrier dreams dashed

Wyoming's legislature has defeated its House Bill 85, on third reading, thus ending the state's plan to investigate buying an aircraft carrier (and equipping a military) to defend the state should the USA collapse. Cory

Wyoming state reps propose bill to investigate buying an aircraft carrier in case the USA collapses


Wyoming state representative Lorraine Quarberg (R-Thermopolis) has proposed Wyoming House Bill 85, which will prepare Wyoming for the day that the USA collapses. It includes an amendment proffered by Rep. Kermit Brown, which establishes a task force to investigate "conditions under which the state of Wyoming should implement a draft, raise a standing army, marine corps, navy and air force and acquire strike aircraft and an aircraft carrier."

The state does not have a whole hell of a lot of water, to be honest. It appears that its largest lake is Yellowstone Lake, which on average is about 140 feet deep. (Yes, it's in a national park now, but that wouldn't matter, would it?) The draft of a Midway-class carrier, which you can probably find on eBay for cheap, was only 33 feet; even the biggest carrier available (Nimitz-class) only needs about 40 feet of water to float. So yes, assuming they could find one and figure out a way to get it in there, the people of Wyoming could potentially have their own aircraft carrier. It might not have much room to putt around in, but still.

I wouldn't get too cocky, though, even then. Dry as they are, most if not all the neighboring states seem to have at least one lake that could float a carrier, and since Wyoming has the fewest people of any U.S. state, it'd be heavily outnumbered, too.

Wyoming to Consider Buying an Aircraft Carrier

(Image: Modellbaumesse-Köln_2008-11-08 14-56-20, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from schwenke's photostream)

Wyoming's corporation mills manufacture privileged artificial "people" to order


Dan "Mediactive" Gillmor sez, "Looks like corporations (i.e. the people who control them) have more rights to privacy in America than regular citizens. This terrific investigative piece by Reuters (co-reported by one of my colleagues at Arizona State University) exposes yet another dirty secret of corporate America's power over federal and state governments. They don't need to go to the Caymans and other such havens to create nearly impenetrable secrecy. They can do it right here at home by using pathetically weak state laws -- plainly weak by design -- to hide sometimes sleazy doings. It's yet another example of the way the deck has been stacked by corporate America in its own favor."
A Reuters investigation has found the house at 2710 Thomes Avenue serves as a little Cayman Island on the Great Plains. It is the headquarters for Wyoming Corporate Services, a business-incorporation specialist that establishes firms which can be used as "shell" companies, paper entities able to hide assets.

Wyoming Corporate Services will help clients create a company, and more: set up a bank account for it; add a lawyer as a corporate director to invoke attorney-client privilege; even appoint stand-in directors and officers as high as CEO. Among its offerings is a variety of shell known as a "shelf" company, which comes with years of regulatory filings behind it, lending a greater feeling of solidity.

"A corporation is a legal person created by state statute that can be used as a fall guy, a servant, a good friend or a decoy," the company's website boasts. "A person you control... yet cannot be held accountable for its actions. Imagine the possibilities!"

Among the entities registered at 2710 Thomes, Reuters found, is a shelf company sheltering real-estate assets controlled by a jailed former prime minister of Ukraine, according to allegations made by a political rival in a federal court in California.

Special Report: A little house of secrets on the Great Plains (Thanks, Dan!)