Thermal imaging offers high-tech look at wolf disease

A high-tech method for detecting disease in domestic cattle is helping researchers in Yellowstone National Park learn more about how sarcoptic mange affects gray wolf survival and behavior during the park’s long, cold winters.

Mange is a contagious disease among canines caused by mites that burrow into the skin, resulting in infections that bring irritation, persistent scratching and fur loss. Mange alone isn’t necessarily fatal, but it can leave wolves more vulnerable to dehydration, malnutrition and hypothermia.

Zinke’s early votes not encouraging


During his run for Montana’s U.S. House seat, Ryan Zinke often seemed uncertain about exactly what positions he held. That’s a bad trait in a candidate but not necessarily in a congressman. Issues before Congress can be complicated, and remaining open to evidence is more helpful than going to Washington with a closed mind.

So it was reasonable to hope that now-Rep. Zinke would prove a more flexible and pragmatic House member than his predecessor. But early returns are not encouraging. Continue Reading →


Doc Harper’s adds a splash to downtown Billings


A week later than planned, Doc Harper’s martini bar had a “soft opening” Wednesday, throwing open its doors at 4 p.m. By 5, the place was jumping, with nearly every seat on the main level taken and more people sitting in the mezzanine.

“I called some friends and texted some kids, that’s all,” Barb Harper said. “I’m amazed at all the people here.” Continue Reading →

A lesson for landowners: How to deal with an oil spill


Ah, memories. In July of 2011, my farm was flooded in oil from an Exxon pipeline that burst under the Yellowstone River. Landowners along the river grouped up pretty quickly since many of our families lived there for decades and together we went through months of dealing with cleanup workers, water and soil testing, chronic coughs and stress. Now we sit back and watch you go through an oil spill. Although the circumstances are different, I can tell you these things shake out the same way, all over the country. Continue Reading →

Cowboy singer playing rare Billings show Friday

Bruce Anfinson, a cowboy-country singer from Helena, has played music in Germany, Taiwan, Japan and Costa Rica, and a tune he wrote is the theme song for the Montana PBS show “Backroads of Montana.”

He’s played with scores of big-name musicians, jammed with Doc Watson and appeared on “Mountain Stage,” the American Public Radio program broadcast from Charleston, West Virginia. Continue Reading →

Laurel’s Owl Cafe revives bluegrass Saturday breakfast


LAUREL—Next to the cash register at the Owl Café, there is a framed menu from the restaurant’s grand opening on Aug. 13, 1916. At the bottom of the menu it says: “Patrons will be entertained with music.”

Now, just shy of 100 years later, new owner Kathy Boyd can make the same promise, at least on Saturday mornings. She has revived the “bluegrass Saturday breakfast” tradition that made the Prairie Winds Café in tiny Molt, 25 miles northwest of Billings, so popular from 2001 until it closed in 2013. Continue Reading →

You fight fire with fire, you only get burned


When I was in high school in Minnesota in the 1970s, Mr. Manion, my friend’s father, used to brag about how he sent a portion of every paycheck to a strongly religious overseas terrorist organization.

Oddly enough, the only other thing I remember hearing him brag about was having met Sen. Joe McCarthy, the serial fabulist and anti-Communist crusader from Wisconsin. (“Kiss the hand that shook the hand,” Mr. Manion liked to say.) Continue Reading →

Backers of local option tax pin hopes on 2015 Legislature


It’s awfully early in the 2015 Montana legislative session to be optimistic about anything, but Jani McCall thinks this might just be the year lawmakers finally authorize cities and towns to pursue local sales taxes.

“I think it’s going to be a tough haul,” McCall said, “but I think if there was ever an opportunity to do it, this will be the session to do it.” Continue Reading →