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Grand Teton grizzly ‘Blondie’ loses cubs

JACKSON (WNE) – Grizzly 793, known as “Blondie” by wildlife watchers, has lost her three cubs born this year.

That’s according to Grand Teton National Park, which confirmed rumors that had been circulating on social media for days. Justin Schwabedissen, the park’s bear management specialist, said Thursday that officials saw the 15-year-old bear and her offspring di lei the night of June 10 in the dark near Pilgrim Flats. But the following morning, park officials started receiving reports of a grizzly fitting 793’s description that no longer had cubs.

Schwabedissen said that 45% of cubs less than a year old – known as “cubs of the year” – die, and that depredation by a male grizzly is a “common” cause of mortality.

He and Grand Teton chief of staff Jeremy Barnum suspected that a male grizzly had gotten to 793’s cubs as well, having seen one in the Pilgrim Flats area the night of June 10.

Grizzly bears are territorial, and males see grizzly cubs as potential threats or competition, Barnum said.

“As we see grizzlies in the park expanding into what was their traditional habitat, bears are going to bump up against each other,” he said. “This is their natural way [to] address their territorial competition. “

Blondie, Schwabedissen said, has had four litters of cubs. She has lost three of them so far.

Gillette schools OK girls wrestling

GILLETTE (WNE) – The Campbell County School District has added girl’s wrestling as an official school sport for the upcoming school year.

School board members voted unanimously Tuesday to make the girls wrestling program official at Campbell County High School and Thunder Basin High School.

Girls have participated in high school wrestling for some time, but they have had to compete with and against boys. The new program will create a division specifically for girls to compete against one another, although they will continue to be part of the wrestling team with boys, similar to sports like track and cross country, said Alex Ayers, district superintendent.

Ayers said the high school athletic directors, who were not at the meeting Tuesday, supported adding the new program.

“I will tell you that the cost of doing that will be relatively small,” Ayers said.

The Wyoming High School Activities Association Board of Directors approved girls wrestling as a sanctioned school sport in April. The winter sport will take place alongside the boys wrestling season in its inaugural 2022-23 school year.

Ayers said other districts in the state have added the girls wrestling program and that there’s excitement for the additional opportunities the new classification provides.

“I think there are some girls that would be interested – I know there are – that don’t want to wrestle against boys,” Ayers said. “That will be the group of people that will be very interested in this new sport.”

Teton County Health Department to start tracking tourist COVID

JACKSON (WNE) – Even with an airport closure and lower numbers of tourists, Teton County is at a high risk for COVID-19 sooner than it has been the past two summers.

With that shift comes questions about why the coronavirus – now a more transmissible version of the omicron variant – is circulating through the community. It comes about two months after the BA.2 subvariant fueled a surge in cases on the East Coast.

St. John’s Health is handling a slight increase of people hospitalized with COVID, with about 50% of those patients coming from outside Teton County.

On Tuesday, though, there were no hospitalized COVID patients, according to Chief Communications Officer Karen Connelly. The hospital stopped reporting its daily COVID census in mid-April.

While it’s difficult to say exactly what’s driving the slight COVID surge, local health officials note the more transmissible strain of the omicron variant, which is circulating at a time when more community members are comfortable traveling and attending larger gatherings.

High school age children, for instance, were overrepresented in last week’s case count, likely because of graduation events.

Grand Teton National Park began requiring masks indoors on Monday. Teton District Health Officer Dr. Travis Riddell has not yet issued a community mask order.

Shane Yu, a contracted epidemiologist for the Teton County Health Department, said “Essentially we have a decent count on out-of-state visitors who test positive, but not an easily accessible count for those from other Wyoming counties who test positive in Teton County . “

Many Jackson Hole residents are also frequent travelers. And with mask restrictions lifted on airlines and in most other public settings, there’s an even greater possibility of locals bringing back the virus.

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