Perhaps most folks living here aren’t aware of it, but Cody Country can be a dangerous place to live. Aside from the intermittent high winds, which can reach hurricane strength on occasion, there’s the occasional earthquake in the backcountry and the deceitful roar of the spring snowmelt as high water tears down the Shoshone River. For the tourists and inexperienced backcountry users and all too often even the experienced residents, there’s the occasional mauling or death by grizzly bear that stalks the front ranges, sometimes even arriving in our fair town.

Experiences shift from dangerous to adventurous, depending on your attitude, to the toxic. There’s also the matter of the dangerously high mercury levels in the trout in the North Fork and, I assume, as a result of fish migration, Buffalo Bill Reservoir. Mercury levels have been recorded that are uncommonly high, especially in the larger specimens, and it’s naturally occurring. Apparently the mercury literally comes out of the ground anywhere from inside Yellowstone Park and its unstable underground springs, geysers, hot pools and mineral beds, to the drainages of a multitude of smaller streams that originate in the high country and feed into the North Fork.

Likewise, our backcountry is laced with lead deposits, among other minerals, elements and rare earths. An excellent example is the well-named Galena Pass up in the Sunlight country. Galena is the formal name for lead and it occurs naturally in this area. There is more, but it stands to reason that if just those two toxic elements are present in the ground around here, that free-ranging wildlife will ingest it occasionally, possibly absorbing it by association. As in what happens to the eagle that makes a habit of preying on marmots that have spent years eating grass and other vegetation growing over a lead ore deposit?

As far as really toxic elements present in our local countryside, it wasn’t much over 60 years ago the uranium boom was in full swing across the basin and throughout the foothills. Over above Lovell, in the Big Horn foothills, only a scant 80 miles away, older open claims lie unprotected, radiating into the surrounding country or did back when I roamed that backcountry. Doesn’t common sense suggest that is detrimental to the general health of the resident population of critters living there? What happens to the owl or eagle that eats a mouse that glows in the dark?

Granted, the areas of special interest are, or were, 35 years ago when I roamed that country, remote, with difficult access, signed as dangerous due to radioactivity and off limits to trespass. Unfortunately, critters can’t read warning signs. Nor do deer, coyotes, antelope, mountain lions, bunnies, mice and marmots understand what a painted skull and crossbones on a piece of weathered wood mean.

And please don’t tell me about lead poisoning in the half dozen eagles down at the bird lady’s rehab center. I don’t doubt that they are real and also that she is genuinely concerned. But my concern is more about why a wind-powered electric farm over by Laramie is allowed to kill 52 eagles a year. I know this because a reader with that special interest sent me copies of the documents so attesting, several days before the same information appeared in an area newspaper.

Add in all of the rest of known legal or even the unknown kills by northern tier wind farms of bald eagles and golden eagles, not to mention the killings of multitudes of various raptors by those high voltage electric lines that crisscross the sage prairies of our state and yes, even by the highway traffic deaths and injuries.

Apparently the edicts of the Endangered Species Act are only enforced or brought to public attention when some animal rights attorney sees a paycheck in the mix. Or when some group of government biologists senses an avenue to help guarantee their future paychecks by protecting or restoring species that may or may not be in trouble. Using whenever necessary, fake science to back their play.

Then there’s that matter of animal rights groups preying on the gullibility of an urban population divorced from the natural world to raise mega-millions for their own selfish uses, but that’s an entire column by itself.

The sorry truth is that it’s a lot easier for the antis to blame hunters and lead bullets for all of their problems than to pass intelligent, protective laws stipulating construction techniques and management practices that actually protect non-game wildlife and to put conservation practices in place that enhance the odds for non-game species, survival.

Wasn’t that what the ESA was originally proposed to do, before the animal extremists and the profiteers hijacked it?

(6) comments

XMonkey

While I'm not disagreeing with some of Mr.V's contentions, let's not forget that our modern infallible god, viz, "science-based knowledge" brought us some of the very pollutants that you decry in your response. And we're all part of the problem. How? Well, let's start by listing all the pollutants caused by the production of, use of, and disposal of, computers, and take it from there...

Gunrunner Auctions

Thanks Bob for reminding folks that it is extremist, if not madcap to believe that eagles and other raptors are somehow getting lead from hunters' gut piles (we don't shoot animals in the guts anyway, so go figure). The antis made that up YEARS ago so they could steal children's lunch money for such causes.... Those of us that know about the construction of the modern rifle bullet and ballistics KNOW it's bunk (most modern rifle bullets mostly contain copper and polymer) - now I suppose one of the armchair tin hat experts will say copper is killing the eagles). If there's enough lead to kill an eagle in a carcass then why isn't there a circle of predators laying around every elk carcass last gasping? Ha! This is so entertaining. What will the antis dream up next to TRY to stop hunting?

As Bob states, if these eagle "doctors" or whatever they are called REALLY cared about raptors they would start stealing children's lunch money to have these infernal and ungodly looking turbines or whatever they're called (all the electricity goes out of Wyoming anyway while they crud up the environment) dismantled and packed out of the Shirley Basin and Glenrock for good. Totally ineffective and they kill LOTS of raptors and game birds. What a joke.

Fox Blue River

Every bullet I have ever bought has a lead core, except steel shot waterfowl shotgun shells. This must be one of your alternative facts like when you tell us how school kids aren't allowed to have fun or that Japanese people loved being put in to camps and losing their life savings. Also, you might want to read up on how a power grid works.

DeweyV

Mr. Meinecke --- you really should stick with what you know, instead of drifting off into fields well beyond your expertise and constricted expanse of science-based knowledge.

I would counter your blue sky assertions about both mercury and lead. If there is indeed a degree of mercury in local waters above expected background levels , it almost certainly did not come from Yellowstone hot springs or other geothermal activity . Mercury comes into the environment and especially waters either from particulates in the air ( think grit from coal fired powerplants or industrial emitters like giant smelters in Utah ) or from the cremains of wildfires large and small entering the ecosystem at many points of contact, usually in runoff.

Galena is not the common name for lead. Galena is the name of the cubic crystalline mineral better called lead sulfide. Lead does not exist all by itself in nature. if you do find a piece of unfettered lead in the wild , it came from a bullet, and fisherman's sinker , an old car battery , oil field tankage , a diver's weight belt , or some other manmade unnatural thing. Your notion that Marmots feeding on vegetation near exposed ore bodies are somehow infused with lead is patently absurd. On the other hand, Eagles and Swans dying from ingested lead shot or sinkers from outdoorsmen's blood sport wanton detritus is quite real as you begrudgingly state, however disporportionately so. Please feel free to cite your hard evidence if you disagree. I have never seen a two headed six legged frog anywhere near the Copper Lakes, but aquatic life in the Shoshone River across from town below the old Husky Refinery and the Cody city dump produced some bizarre mutations beginning in the Eisenhower years.

One thing I do know is that both mercury and lead in the aqueous environment is toxic on many levels, especially as a neurotoxin. Never mind the buckets of hardware store paint used throughout the 20th century were loaded with lead, as was most of the plumbing in the basement right alongside all that asbestos. Ditto the leaded gasoline we all burned so cavalierly till all those pesky EPA rules and regulations brought a sudden end to our internal combustion miscreance. But not before millions of gallons of tetraethyl lead gasoline additive got into the evironment and is still there... somewhere. Hint: only fools eat liver these days...

... and there isn't enough space in this newspaper or online to engage you on that whole Raptors vs. Wind Turbines folderol. That will have to wait for another day . I'm running out of enthusiasm for debate here. In the meantime you and your invisible little friend- the squire Sancho Panza -can get back to tilting at windmills...

Fox Blue River

Dewey I like you.

Fox Blue River

So is lead poisonous or not? You seem to contradicts your article from last week. Also you have degrees in biology or ecology right? Why does Cody Enterprise print this guy's rambling and then not print responses criticizing his cherry picking of science?

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