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Wyoming News Briefs: December 19, 2019

Yellowstone investigates deaths of wolves hit by car

JACKSON (WNE) — A hit-and-run collision that took the lives of two habituated Junction Butte Pack wolf pups is being investigated by Yellowstone National Park.

The incident took place Nov. 19 between Tower Junction and the Northeast Entrance, but it was announced Wednesday by park officials.

“A necropsy confirmed the black male and female pups died from a vehicle strike,” park rangers said in a statement.

Investigating rangers were not made available for an interview Wednesday.

The Junction Butte wolves raised a litter near a popular hiking trail last summer, and the den site was accessible and visible. To keep visitors and wolves apart, the park closed the den and surrounding area to the public.

Yellowstone officials charged that violations of the area closure and people infringing on a 100-yard viewing limit caused the wolf pups to become habituated, and in response park staff tried several times to haze the animals to foster a fear of humans. The hazing didn’t have the desired effect, the park said in a statement, and the habituation arguably played a role in their deaths.

“Having studied these pups since birth, I believe their exposure to and fearlessness of people and roads could have been a factor in their death,” Yellowstone senior wolf biologist Doug Smith said in a statement. “Visitors must protect wolves from becoming habituated to people and roads.”


Shooting suspects charged with attempted murder, accessory

CHEYENNE (WNE) — The two suspects arrested in the Dec. 11 shooting of a North Dakota man in a local hotel parking lot had their initial appearance Wednesday morning in Laramie County Circuit Court.

Isaac Darnell James, 26, of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, is charged with attempted first-degree murder. This charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, or death.

Terence Terrell James, 27, of Cheyenne is charged with accessory, aid and abet attempted first-degree murder and simple battery. The maximum penalty for these charges is life in prison.

Terence James’ bond was set at $1 million cash, and Isaac James is being held without bond. Their preliminary hearing is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Dec. 27.

According to court documents:

On Dec. 11, Cheyenne police responded to the TownePlace Suites by Marriott hotel parking lot with the reports of someone being shot. When police arrived, they discovered Genaro Bojorquez, 35, of North Dakota shot in the back.

The bullet traveled through Bojorquez’s neck and spine, which severed his spinal cord. He is expected to be paraplegic for the rest of his life due to the shooting.

Terence and Isaac James were arrested Monday during a traffic stop at West Seventh Street and Thomes Avenue. When they were initially interviewed, they denied being in Cheyenne on Dec. 11 or knowing anything about the shooting.


Northwest College moves closer to four-year degree

POWELL (WNE) — Northwest College is a step closer to offering a bachelor of applied science degree.

In what President Stefani Hicswa called “a historic moment in the history of Northwest College,” the board of trustees voted unanimously last week to move forward with the new program.

Some question remains if the entire approval process will be complete in time to begin taking students into the program by the fall 2020 semester as was originally planned. But when the program is up and running, the college estimates about 12 to 24 students in the first cohort, with as many as 48 active in the program in future years.

Now that the NWC board has approved the program proposal, NWC will seek approval from the Wyoming Community College Commission. If the commission approves the program, NWC will then need permission from the college’s accrediting body, the national Higher Learning Commission, before the program can be offered.

After the HLC approves the proposed program, the commission will need to make a visit to the NWC campus “to make sure we are ready to offer this level of curriculum,” Hicswa explained.

Gerald Giraud, vice president for academic affairs, said the scheduling of that visit creates uncertainty as to when the college has the full go-ahead to begin offering the program.

“We hope for the fall, but it’s dependent on other people,” he said.


Cody adds softball as high school sport

CODY (WNE) — Summer Nielson, a Cody Middle School sixth-grader, said just before the vote that it’s her dream to play high school softball.

After a few more comments in support of a program, her dream, and the dream of many in the community, came true.

A push that started in the fall of 2018 came to fruition Tuesday night when the Cody School Board unanimously approved adding softball as a varsity sport at the high school.

Athletic director Tony Hult said the inaugural season would start spring 2021 and include 12 teams, likely six split into two conferences for an all-class sport, similar to tennis. The estimated first year cost is $44,000, with second year costs likely lower with fewer supplies needing to be purchased.

“The cost is outweighed by the Cody girls’ opportunity to play a high school sport and possibly earn a college scholarship,” Cody Pride board president Erin Evans said. “This push has been assisted by many in the community. And the girls were able to learn how to participate correctly in the process to make a change.”

As they were in 2018, before a board with four different faces, the girls who see high school softball in their futures were at the forefront.

Sky Nielson, a third-grader at Wapiti School who stood on a chair to deliver her concise comment, said she really wants to play high school softball someday.