State Briefs

Man accused of harassing bison arrested

CASPER (WNE) — Authorities have arrested a man they say was caught on tape harassing a bison in Yellowstone National Park.

A judge revoked the bond of Raymond Reinke, 55, of Pendleton, Oregon, upon the request of a prosecutor who viewed a viral video of a man confronting a bison and running away. The man in the video, authorities say, is Reinke.

In the video, captured by Lindsey Jones of Elko, Nevada, a man steps in front of the bison amid cars that had stopped to apparently let the animal pass. The bison lowers its head and takes steps toward him. The man runs away before repeating the process again.

Reinke was cited for the incident before the video went viral.

Before the revocation, Reinke was free on bond following a July 28 drunk and disorderly conduct arrest. He told rangers he planned to visit Glacier National Park.

After the judge signed off on Reinke’s probation revocation, rangers in the park began looking for his car.

When rangers responded to the Many Glacier Hotel dining room for a disturbance, they found Reinke arguing with another guest and creating a disturbance, the National Park Service said.

He was also cited for failing to wear a seat belt on Monday.

Reinke was booked into Yellowstone jail on Friday and expected to appear in court the same day.

“We appreciate the collaboration of our fellow rangers in Glacier and Grand Teton national parks on this arrest,” Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk said in a news release. “Harassing wildlife is illegal in any national park.”

Reinke’s court-appointed lawyer was not immediately available for comment Friday afternoon.

Campbell County joins PILT lawsuit

GILLETTE (WNE) — Campbell County will join a class-action lawsuit against the federal government that alleges underfunding of the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The commissioners will officially join the lawsuit Tuesday at their regular meeting when they approve their consent agenda.

PILT are federal payments made to local governments that help offset losses in property taxes due to non-taxable federal lands in their boundaries. In fiscal year 2018, Campbell County received $773,973 in PILT.

In June 2017, Kane County, Utah, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. The class action alleges the federal government has underpaid counties’ PILT for fiscal years 2015-2017. Since then, hundreds of counties have joined the lawsuit.

Campbell County Deputy Attorney Carol Seeger said if the suit is successful, the county stands to get about $25,000 in PILT.

“This is an opportunity to get $25,000 you may not have gotten,” said County Administrative Director Robert Palmer.

With a class action lawsuit, the settlement already has been agreed upon, Seeger said, and every participating county “is going to be subject to whatever they feel your percentage would’ve been.”

While the county won’t have a seat at the table, it won’t cost the commissioners to participate.

“Is there any risk to being a part of this at all?” asked Commissioner Clark Kissack.

“Unless you want to initiate a lawsuit yourself, there’s no problem with joining,” Seeger said.

“Which we wouldn’t do for $25,000,” said Commission Chairman Mark Christensen. “It’d cost us more than we’d get.”

Campbell County joins 11 other Wyoming counties, including Sheridan, Converse and Crook counties, in the lawsuit.

Accidental alert sends rescuers into backcountry

JACKSON (WNE) — Rescuers hiked 14 miles in and out of Alaska Basin around 4 a.m. Friday to find a woman who didn’t realize she had accidentally activated her emergency device.

Teton County Search and Rescue was alerted after the 51-year-old Teton Valley, Idaho, woman’s inReach device sent out an alert for help.

Air Idaho flew over the location late Thursday night and saw lights flashing that they took for a distress signal, Teton County Undersheriff Matt Carr said.

“Because of the smoke and terrain they were unable to land,” Carr said. “But they saw lights so we sent a team in.”

The woman who owns the device was not answering on her Delorme inReach Explorer, and officers were unable to get in touch with the woman’s emergency contacts who were registered to her device.

“We made contact with her, and she had the beacon in her sleeping bag and had accidentally activated it,” Carr said.

The woman had no idea she had activated her device or had received messages back inquiring about her emergency.

A separate group nearby had an LED fence around their llamas, which is what Air Idaho mistook for a distress signal from above through the smoke.

Carr said the woman’s device was an older model.

“As a search and rescue community, we need to demand a little bit more out of these device systems,” Carr said. “Once you activate your device maybe a beep should alarm so you know you’ve put a request out.”