NEWS BRIEFS for Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020

Hunters, guide found not guilty of wasting elk

CODY (WNE) — Two out-of-state hunters and a local guide have been found not guilty for wasting elk, a jury determined Friday night at the Park County Courthouse.

It took the jury three hours to render its not guilty verdict.

The verdict came at the end of a week-long circuit court trial that centered around two cow elk that were left on the ground deceased on public land near Heart Mountain after being shot.

Tyler Viles of Cody, Blendi Cumani of North Dakota and Roland Shehu of Pennsylvania were accused by Wyoming Game and Fish of leaving two elk crippled and another two cow elk carcasses unclaimed, although the two elk found crippled by Nature Conservancy ranch manager Brian Peters were, by closing statements, not part of the case.

Viles, a Cody guide, faced two counts for this charge, while Cumani and Shehu faced one each.

In closing statements Friday afternoon in front of judge Bruce Waters, the three defense attorneys – county defense attorney Travis Smith and attorneys Brigita Krisjansons and Joseph Darrah – all argued the state’s case was built on circumstantial evidence that left far too much doubt. They also questioned the investigation of game warden Chris Queen.

“The state’s case is a complete circumstantial evidence case,” Smith, representing Viles, said. “Ask yourself if that is the kind of circumstantial case you would want to fight and defend yourself.”


Three Cody students test positive for COVID-19

CODY (WNE) — While COVID-19 numbers in Park County continue to be low, with wastewater testing similarly showing a low rate of infection, three more positive cases – all Cody High School students – were announced within the Cody School District.

Superintendent Peg Monteith said in a Facebook comment that four students have been quarantined.

Park County Public Health Officer Dr. Aaron Billin reported the case Wednesday, as well as Powell School District’s first case, a day after reporting just seven active cases of coronavirus in the county, four of those in Cody and three in Powell.

Wastewater testing performed by the City of Cody is also displaying a positive state of the virus, with just .2% of people in town showing signs of the virus, down 50% from the week before.

There have been 172 cases among permanent and temporary Park County residents – 165 have recovered – and county hospitals have tested another 20 positive cases from people outside the county.

The Cody School District in a Wednesday Facebook post asked people to assist in stopping the spread by wearing masks when in close proximity. The district also advised that following a positive test contact tracers would reach out to families and public health and will order either isolation or quarantine.


Wyoming, South Dakota launch joint tourism campaign

GILLETTE (WNE) — As Americans begin to travel again and road trips to the great outdoors emerge as the preferred way to vacation, South Dakota and Wyoming have joined forces to promote travel to their states with the Black to Yellow tourism campaign.

Running through September 2020, the campaign seeks to entice travelers to hit the road, traversing the scenic routes that wind from South Dakota’s majestic Badlands National Park to Wyoming’s iconic Yellowstone National Park.

“South Dakota is open for those ready to travel,” said South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem in a press release. “Folks from every corner of the country are road tripping to South Dakota’s great places and open spaces. Our partnership with the Wyoming Office of Tourism will help expand our message and attract adventurers looking to explore the beauty of America’s most treasured landmarks.”

“Wyoming’s unparalleled wide-open spaces give travelers an abundance of opportunities to explore and to do so safely,” said Wyoming’s Governor Mark Gordon. “Wyoming and South Dakota’s new road trip campaign will truly showcase the pioneering spirit, a rich history, and western hospitality both states have to offer.”

To help travelers plan their trip, the states have put together itineraries that explore their most well-known attractions and lesser-known gems.


Bighorn National Forest relaxes fire restrictions

SHERIDAN (WNE) — Bighorn National Forest supervisor Andrew Johnson has lifted stage 1 fire restrictions in the national forest.

Stage 1 restrictions were implemented July 20 in response to hot and dry conditions in the forest when fire danger was rated extreme. The high number of abandoned campfires found on the forest were also a deciding factor for implementing the restrictions.

Recent precipitation and cooler temperatures have reduced the fire danger to moderate.

“Hot weather is likely to return by next weekend, so we should not become complacent,” Johnson said. “The security of campfires remains the single largest factor in issuing restrictions; please make sure your campfires are out and always leave someone in attendance of them. We’ll have warm and dry days into the fall season. While the grasses are wet, the timber fuel types are still dry from the lack of moisture this summer.”

Lifting the restrictions means campfires are now allowed outside developed recreation sites.

The fine for an abandoned campfire is up to $5,000 or six months in jail. Violators can be held liable for the costs of suppressing a wildfire if the campfire escapes.


COVID-19 forces Newcastle football team to cancel game

NEWCASTLE (WNE) — After dropping a close one in their zero week game against the Bison of Hot Springs, S.D., the Newcastle Dogies had just begun to prepare for their Sept. 4 week one non-conference matchup against the Buffalo Bison. 

However, they were derailed with news they did not want to hear at all, let alone so early in the season.

On the afternoon of Sept. 1, NHS was notified by Hot Springs that one of their football players had tested positive for COVID-19. 

Newcastle school officials, along with head coach Matt Conzelman, made the determination to cancel practice on Tuesday afternoon and to send players home as decisions were made moving forward.

It was business as usual on Wednesday, Sept. 2, and practice was held, however when a member of the Dogie squad began to experience symptoms that may indicate infection on Thursday, practice was again cancelled for the day.

The player remained home on Thursday and Friday, Sept. 4, while a few others who may have also been in contact with the Hot Springs player did not attend school on Friday and the decision was made to cancel the contest in Buffalo on Friday as well.

“We wanted to err on the side of caution because we didn’t know the results of our guy’s test yet,” Conzelman began. “It was disappointing because I really wanted to play that game to see where we stood against Buffalo, but it wouldn’t have been responsible to do so.”

The Dogies are back in action to prepare for the Weston County Civil War this Friday.