NEWS BRIEFS for Thursday, October 3, 2019


UW freshman class size second only to 2018

LARAMIE (WNE) — The University of Wyoming has enrolled the second-largest freshman class this fall, according to figure released Wednesday concerning “Census Day,” the 15th day of classes that’s the marker for enrollment figures.

Despite being the second largest class, this year’s class has 89 fewer students than the record-breaking class of 1,849 that came to the university in the fall of 2018. This year’s figure is a nearly 12% increase from fall 2014.

According to Wednesday’s figures, the number of people receiving degrees and certificates from UW in the 2018-19 academic year topped 3,000 for the first time. The 3,031 total degrees included 2,228 bachelor’s degrees, also a new record, and an increase of more than 100 from the year before, according to the university.

However, record numbers of graduates means that UW’s overall enrollment actually declined this year after two years of growth. According to census data collected on the 15th day of classes, 12,249 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled at the university, compared to 12,450 last fall.

The 15th class day is used as the university’s official enrollment figure because it follows both the class drop/add deadlines and the first due date for tuition and fee payments.

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Record rain slows Big Horn County beet harvest, but factory able to operate

LOVELL (WNE) —A record-setting September for precipitation in north Big Horn County has left many sugar beet farmers in a quagmire as the 2019 Western Sugar Cooperative campaign is scheduled to pick up steam. 

But so far farmers have been able to dig enough beets to keep the factory running. 

According to Dave Lipson of the National Weather Service office in Riverton, Lovell received a record 2.91 inches of precipitation in September, breaking the previous record of 2.81 inches set in 2016. 

“September 2019 was the wettest September ever since we started recording data in 1898,” Lipson said. 

That word jibes with what longtime Western Sugar Senior Agriculturalist Mark Bjornestad has observed. 

“In 2011 we had some moisture in September like this one, but I think we’re pushing three inches,” Bjornestad said. “This is the wettest September I can recall since I moved back here in 2002. Typically we’ll get a storm in September, but this is the third or fourth event we’ve had (the weekend rain). It’s crazy.” 

The rains make harvesting difficult, Bjornestad said, but so far – since it’s been early harvest – the factory in Lovell has been operating steadily since operations began on September 16, with digging getting going about two days before that. 

“We’ve maintained a sufficient supply for factory operations,” Western Sugar Vice President of Agriculture for the North Region Randall Jobman said Tuesday. “We’ll open all stations for regular harvest Friday. We harvest around rainstorms. We harvest when we can. We’ve been able to do that.”

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Escaped honor farm inmates captured

NEWCASTLE (WNE) — The Wyoming Department of Corrections has confirmed that both of the two inmates who escaped from the Wyoming Honor Conservation Camp on Sept. 22 have been apprehended. 

A press release dated Sept. 30 indicated that escaped inmate Jason Green was apprehended in Mesquite, Texas. 

“According to a public safety announcement on the Mesquite Police Department’s Facebook page, police responded to a suspicious person call in the early morning hours of Sunday, Sept. 29,” the release states. “Police observed two individuals running from the location on foot. Green was captured but the other individual (believed to be Simpson) got away.” 

Escaped inmate Robert Simpson remained at large until Tuesday, when he was apprehended in Dallas, Texas, according to the DOC. 

No other details were available at press time about Simpson’s capture other than that Texas law-enforcement officials had confirmed his capture. 

Simpson and Green escaped from the minimum-security camp on the evening of Sept. 22, taking with them a dog named Shadow. The whereabouts of the black Lab-mix that was stolen from the camp’s Project LOVED canine program remains unknown.  

The Sept. 22 escape is the second this year from the camp, located north of Newcastle. This latest escape was longer lived than the June 24 escape of James Michael Kennah, age 42, who was gone for a few hours before being apprehended near Wright. According to WHCC Warden Todd Martin, the inmates initially headed west on foot after leaving the facility. Authorities believe the two men stole a City of Newcastle truck in Newcastle and drove to Laramie that night. Their inmate uniforms were also found in the vicinity of the stolen truck. 

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BLM to begin wild horse gather at Fifteenmile

THERMOPOLIS (WNE) — The Bureau of Land Management announced Tuesday that it will conduct a wild horse gather operation in the Fifteenmile Wild Horse Herd Management Area (HMA) on or about Oct. 17. This operation is in line with the BLM’s commitment to maintaining healthy wild horses on healthy, productive public rangelands.

The Fifteenmile HMA is located approximately 35 miles northwest of Worland, in Washakie, Big Horn and Park counties. Based on recent aerial surveys, the BLM estimates that the HMA’s population is approximately 700 horses, while the appropriate management level (AML) is 100–230 horses. 

In addition, the horses are moving outside of the established HMA into areas not identified for their management.

The BLM Worland Field Office will remove approximately 600 wild horses to return the population to the low range of the AML. Horses that have moved outside the HMA boundary, including onto private and state lands, will be removed.

While the gather is underway, public lands will remain open unless closures are deemed necessary due to safety concerns. Because of low-flying aircraft, all drone use will be prohibited within 20 miles of the immediate gather area. Temporary road closures may also be necessary to permit movement of wild horses during gather operations.

Members of the public are welcome to view the daily gather operations, provided that doing so does not jeopardize the safety of the animals, staff and observers, or disrupt gather operations. The BLM will escort the public to gather observation sites located on public lands. Observers must provide their own transportation—the BLM recommends a four-wheel drive, high clearance vehicle. Those interested in viewing the gather must notify Sarah Beckwith at [email protected] or 347-5207.

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Central Wyoming College employee faces felony theft count after stealing more than $1,000 from offices

RIVERTON (WNE) — A Central Wyoming College maintenance employee was arrested after admitting to stealing more than $1,000 from college offices.

Thomas Apodaca, born 1962, faces a felony theft charge in Fremont County District Court, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

The Riverton Police Department investigation began Jan. 31 after CWC director of security Charles Carr contacted police about money vanishing from college offices.

After that date, Carr also placed surveillance cameras inside of CWC administrator Steve Barlow's office, from which money had been reported missing.

At 4 a.m. March 7, the "Nest" camera captured Apodaca exploring desk drawers in Barlow's office with the lights off while wearing white gloves.

Apodaca then located the camera and stole it as well.

He later told authorities he threw it away.

In a March 9 conversation between Carr and Apodaca, the latter admitted to several thefts over a one-and-a-half-year period, including:

  • $500 from professor Jeremy Nielsen's office
  • A counterfeit $20 bill from Barlow's office that Apodaca said he never knew was a counterfeit, with which he bought a lottery ticket at the Good to Go gas station near Riverton City Park.
  • $200, again from Barlow
  • $69 from Jeremy Nielsen's office desk
  • $200 more dollars throughout the course of his employment.
  • The "Nest" camera valued at $183

However, Apodaca reimbursed the college the $1,253 he recalled stealing, according to a letter and receipt from CWC human resource director Scott Miller.

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CWD reaches Wyoming Range

JACKSON (WNE) — A lethal ungulate sickness that is inexorably expanding westward across Wyoming has officially infected a famous population of mule deer that grow to trophy proportions in the Wyoming Range.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department sent word Wednesday afternoon that chronic wasting disease, or CWD, was confirmed early this week in a mule deer buck that was shot by a hunter Sept. 16 in the Willow Creek drainage south of Hoback Junction.

The hunter whose deer turned up positive for the infectious prion disease evidently came in from Greys River Road, because the animal’s lymph nodes were extracted by a Game and Fish staffer at the Alpine hunter check station.

Although deer hunting unit 152, where the buck was killed, is technically in the Wyoming Range, the herd that uses that portion of the Bridger-Teton National Forest is known as the Sublette Herd.

Chronic wasting disease is not entirely foreign to the area, but it is in the early stages of afflicting deer and elk in the Snake River watershed. A mule deer found dead in 2016 clear on the other side of the Wyoming and Salt ranges near Star Valley Ranch tested positive for CWD. Another infected animal was discovered near Pinedale the following year.

The incurable condition, which can persist outside animal hosts in grasses and soil, officially reached Jackson Hole last fall, turning up in a road-killed mule deer found near Kelly.

A human has never contracted CWD, but eating meat from animals infected with CWD is not advised.

The deer hunting season in the hunt area where the infected animal was found goes through Saturday.

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Wyoming begins preparing for 2020 census

CHEYENNE (WNE)  - With the state's first-ever census office set to open Friday in Casper, the initial steps in the process that help decide how much federal funding Wyoming gets each year have already begun.

The 2020 U.S. census will be the first to offer an online option. After the 2010 census saw lower participation in several western states, including Wyoming, the hope is the new option will encourage more participation, U.S. Census Bureau spokeswoman Jennifer Hillmann said.

"People are online practically all the time, or on their phones or on laptops," she said. "If they're sitting at their computer, they can do it. We also have a mobile-friendly online option."

Census efforts in Wyoming will also be boosted by the state's new office in Casper, which will have a grand opening Friday. Hillmann said the Census Bureau uses data to determine where to set up new offices.

From its Casper office, which will be the only one in Wyoming, the bureau will be able to monitor operations throughout the state, Hillmann said. About 300 jobs will be available in Natrona County, while the bureau is aiming to hire about 2,000 temporary employees to work statewide by the end of this year.

The bureau aims to hire local workers who know their communities best, Hillmann said.

Census participation in Wyoming dropped from 75% in 2000 to 69% in 2010, bucking the national trend that saw a rise in responses over the same period.

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