Weekly News Roundup: Friday, June 18

Miss the headlines this week? Learn more about elevated E. coli in area creeks, fire danger and bear activity on Togwotee Pass.
Night operations on the Pine Gulch Fire in Colorado. ( Kyle Miller, Wyoming Hotshots, USFS)

by | Jun 18, 2021 | News

Search Continues for Irishman Cian McLaughlin

Search operations remained underway for Cian McLaughlin in Grand Teton National Park as of Friday morning. McLaughlin is a 27-year old Jackson man originally from Ireland who was last seen on the Garnet Canyon Trail in the park around 3:45 p.m. on Tuesday, June 8th. Ground search efforts have included more than 50 park staff, five dog teams and Teton County Search and Rescue volunteers. Aerial searches by helicopter have also been underway throughout the week. The National Park Service is urging anyone who might have information about McLaughlin’s whereabouts to call its tip line at 888-653-0009.

The park’s public information officer for this case, C.J. Adams, says search efforts have been underway since last Sunday morning. Adams describes McLaughlin as about 6 feet tall and 180 pounds. He has long brown hair, brown eyes, and an Irish accent, and he was wearing shorts, a bucket hat and a white tank top when he was last seen. Adams also reminds folks to hike in groups whenever possible, and to make friends and family aware of your whereabouts if you decide to venture into the wilderness.

Grizzly on Towgotee Pass 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is asking the public to stay away from Togwotee Pass for the rest of June while a well-known grizzly bear family is hazed anytime they come near the road. The main bear in question is Grizzly 863, also known as Felicia. Felicia has two cubs this year, and co-founder Trevor Bloom of Guides of Jackson Hole says the sow is likely keeping them near the road in order to protect them.

“She’s just demonstrating that roadside behavior while she has cubs to protect the cubs from infanticide or bigger males coming and killing her cubs because the males don’t like the attention. And that’s what Grizzly Bear 399 has been doing for the 25 years of her life. But the fact that Felicia, 863, is doing that outside of a national park and alongside a highway is creating a lot more commotion.”

Bloom says he thinks the situation on the pass is more of a human problem than a wildlife problem because folks are parking illegally or failing to follow the rule of staying at least 100 yards away from the bears even if they’re in a vehicle. Still, Fish and Wildlife will be hazing the bears from dawn until dusk to try and keep them away from the road. 

A Year of Pandemic Relief Comes to an End 

The Presbyterian Church of Jackson Hole hosted its final free take-home dinner after having served meals to local community members for more than a year. The program began during COVID-19 to provide some financial relief and a home-cooked meal to anyone who needed it, and cook and organizer Caroline Cox said she helped provide over 20,000 plates to the Jackson Hole community. 

It was kind of some dark times. And so I think, again, to just to have a hot meal that you can just drive up for and for your whole family like they were picking up for, you know, multiple families. So you could see it was really going to where it needed to go.”

Cox also says she only had to repeat a meal once, and that she was taking donations from all over town, from Ricotta Cheese from Whole Food Rescue to an Elk shot on the refuge. She remembers cooking 14 turkeys during Thanksgiving season, and managing several volunteers, many of whom are over 60 and in the high-risk group for reacting strongly to COVID-19.

Elevated Levels of E. coli Along Portions of Fish and Flat Creeks

The Teton County Health Department announced Tuesday that signs will be posted this week along portions of Fish and Flat creeks warning recreators of elevated levels of E. coli bacteria in the water. The health department says most strains of E. coli are harmless but that children, infants, the elderly and people with severely compromised immune systems face a greater risk from some strains of the bacteria. 

Federal Agents Raise Fire Danger in the Region to High 

Federal agents have elevated the fire danger in Grand Teton National Park, Bridger-Teton National Forest, The National Elk refuge, and other surrounding areas to high. This means conditions are right for blazes to start and spread into out-of-control situations quickly. Danger levels were also raised recently in Yellowstone, and two fires near Buffalo and Pine Haven, Wyoming have already destroyed hundreds of acres accross the state. Governor Mark Gordon spoke in a press conference last week about how dangerous he expects this year’s wildfire season to be. 

“Fire is a very real danger, and this summer where we’ve had so many dry areas in the state, dry areas in the west, really compounds the problem where we saw Wyoming’s largest fire, the Mullen fire, and others. It just  speaks to how important it is to be prepared.” 

June of this year has been unseasonably hot and dry compared to years past, according to local meteorologists, making drought and dry vegetation conditions common. Local firefighters are reminding residents and visitors to practice general fire safety techniques, such as not leaving campfires unattended, not setting off fireworks, and fully putting out lit cigarettes.

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