NEWS BRIEFS for Friday, June 26, 2020

Uinta County COVID outbreak slows

EVANSTON (WNE) — Uinta County’s COVID-19 outbreak appears to have slowed this week, as only nine new confirmed cases have been reported since Monday, June 22. That brings the county’s total to 128 confirmed with another 34 probable, with 62 of the confirmed and 9 of the probable cases recovered, according to data from the Wyoming Department of Health. 

While definitely welcome news, public health officials aren’t yet sure if it signals the end of the local spike. 

Uinta County Public Health Nurse Manager Kim Proffit said, “It’s too soon to tell, but I have optimistic hopes that with the contact tracing, quarantining and isolation and the increased community effort and awareness, we are seeing a taper off.” 

Proffit said there are 59 confirmed positive and another 19 probable active cases. To date, there have been six total hospitalizations among Uinta County residents, at both local and out-of-state facilities, with three individuals hospitalized as of Thursday, June 25. 

For several weeks after the first local case was confirmed on April 1, the county’s positive percentage rate — meaning the percentage of all tests conducted that were positive — was at right about 1%. With the June spike, the county’s positive test rate jumped to around 18% for those couple of weeks and around 6% cumulatively. 


Black bear killed near Dayton

SHERIDAN (WNE) — A young male black bear was shot and killed at a rural residence outside Dayton June 23.

The bear had made multiple visits to the residence during the day and night of June 22, entering the garage, damaging a barbecue grill, attempting to get inside the home and climbing on a vehicle.

The homeowner had tried unsuccessfully to discourage the bear but it returned repeatedly to the home and a neighboring residence over several hours.

WGFD personnel and a Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office deputy responded to the homeowner’s report on the evening of June 22 and set a trap to remove the bear. Game and Fish and the homeowner discussed options for protecting people and property if the bear returned.

The bear avoided the trap, making additional attempts to enter the home throughout the night and damaged construction equipment housed on-site.

The bear reappeared mid-morning June 23 and was behaving aggressively. A construction worker at the residence shot it after it continued to approach him and others as they yelled and tried to scare the bear away.

“The bear’s aggressive behavior was unusual and posed a threat to human safety,” said Sheridan Region Wildlife Supervisor Craig Smith. “It showed no fear of humans and was very bold in its effort to get into the garage and residence.”


Former Goshen court clerk to be sentenced for theft from office

TORRINGTON (WNE) — Former Goshen County Clerk of District Court Kathi Rickard, who pleaded guilty to two counts of felony theft in April, will learn her fate on July 16 at 1:30 p.m. 

Rickard was originally charged with six counts for stealing in excess of $200,000 from her office’s account from 2014 until 2018. As a part of a plea agreement, four of those counts were dismissed. 

According to the agreement, Rickard is responsible for paying $125,400 in restitution. If the amount is paid in full prior to her sentencing hearing, special prosecutor Spencer Allred agreed to ask for no more than two years imprisonment. If it’s not paid, the state could ask for more. 

Had the matter gone to trial and Rickard been found guilty, she could have faced 10 years in prison for each count – or a total of 60 years. 

The charges against Rickard were the result of an investigation by the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, which was initiated after checks issued by the court were returned for non-sufficient funds. 

Agent Michael Carlson filed the affidavit of probable cause in the case after conducting a lengthy investigation into the court’s records.  

During the course of the investigation, Rickard allegedly admitted to taking “some of the money,” the affidavit said.  

Rickard told Carlson she knew she wasn’t authorized to take the money.  

“She claimed she had intentions of paying the money back,” the affidavit said. “Rickard claimed to have made cash deposits, as repayments, into the court accounts.”


Sage grouse import to Jackson denied

JACKSON (WNE) — A team of scientists tasked with overseeing Jackson Hole’s struggling sage grouse has been denied a request to import birds from outside the valley this summer as a precaution to avert a total population collapse.

For much of the last year, the multiagency volunteer Jackson Sage Grouse Technical Team had been making plans for an emergency import of the chicken-size birds, which have dwindled to fewer than 50 known males in the valley.

But putting that plan into action — which team members widely agreed was urgent — hit a stumbling block earlier this month when it didn’t pass muster with the statewide Wyoming Greater Sage Grouse Adaptive Management Working Group.

“The [working group] did not feel it was prudent to accelerate relocation of birds from another core area in 2020,” Bob Budd, who chairs the umbrella group, the Wyoming Sage Grouse Implementation Team, wrote to the technical team in a June 16 letter. “It is unclear if the habitat in the relocation area is adequate to support new birds.”

Budd said he found the local team’s report to be “thorough, thoughtful and well-intentioned” and agreed with other recommendations before conveying reasons why the statewide group wouldn’t OK a 2020 translocation. He cited uncertainty about impacts on the proposed source population, which was to be from the Green River Basin.