By on October 20, 2015

151014TOUMilitary K9 Gunned Down in Powell

A specially trained service dog was shot and killed by a Wyoming man last week after the 10-year-old Belgian Malinois allegedly accosted a cyclist in Powell.

The dog earned a Bronze Star serving in the U.S. Army as a combat dog and in bomb detection. Since returning from Iraq, the dog, named Mike, had been helping Matthew Bessler transition into a normal life by providing comfort to the serviceman who suffers from PTSD and a TBI (traumatic brain injury).

Bessler was out of town when the bicyclist had an altercation with the dog.

“If the guy was actually fending the dog off with a bicycle, (Mike) would have really been barking, and there was no barking,” Bessler told the Powell Tribune. “All there was was just a shot. The guests who were at the house, they said the same thing. There was no barking. It was just a gunshot.”

The 59-year-old Powell man who shot Mike has not been cited. Bessler has asked for a burial with military honors.

‘Oil’ Vey: Good News and Bad News

Wyoming continues to experience an anomaly when it comes to oil production. With worldwide prices at half what they were this time last year – $46 a barrel – a slowdown in drilling has certainly been the case in the Cowboy State. However, production from fewer wells soared to a 23-year high over the past summer even as new oil drilling fell to its lowest rig count since 1999.

Still, with little new drilling in the Cowboy State lately, “it’s just a matter of time before oil production follows suit and declines as well,” Robert Godby, a University of Wyoming associate professor of economics, told ABC News. “Wyoming’s economy already is feeling the effects of drilling rig crews packing up and moving out. Vacancy rates are up in places where drilling was occurring as drilling crews have left.”

Getting on the Grid Out West

A sharing of renewable energy sources in the West – like Wyoming’s wind and California’s sun – could save wasted electricity and cut costs.

A study released last week states that a regional integrated power grid in the West could reduce energy costs by roughly $9 billion over the course of 20 years, as well as significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Linking western states together in a power grid beginning with California Independent System Operator and PacfiCorp, the two largest grid operators in the West, would allow power generated by one source to be used where it’s needed most. The study, conducted by Energy+Environmental Economics, is being considered for implementation.

Typically, if Wyoming was experiencing a particularly blustery day while California was basking in sun, energy generated by the two renewable sources was wasted once every house had its share of electricity. Combining grid operators and adding a total of 11 western states to the grid would help better distribute the power.

Tourist Trap?

“Sometimes it seems humans just can’t do anything right.” That was the gripping lede in Karen Kaplan’s piece for the LA Times titled “How ecotourists actually make things worse for wildlife.”

An ecological study published in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution offered a plethora of reasons tourists who flock to see and support wildlife may actually be doing a whole bunch of bad with the good. The report listed several ways well-intentioned visits can backfire.

Researchers found that many animals were becoming desensitized to human presence to the point their “flight initiation distance” was lowered – meaning animals didn’t feel scared enough to run until humans were much closer to them.

Several national parks throughout the world were part of the study including Grand Teton.

“When ecotourists venture into the wild, they create what amounts to a ‘temporary human shield,’” the study authors wrote. Evidence for this comes from Grand Teton National Park, where the more tourist traffic there was, the less time pronghorn sheep and elk spent in “alert postures.” The animals also gathered in smaller groups when more tourists were nearby.

With Yellowstone National Park visitation for 2015 already shattering previous records at 3.8 million and counting, the study is food for thought. PJH

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