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Hucks and chokes

Huckleberries heading in the right direction to the shortened list of missing people in Montana, and especially to Misty LaPlant, the new missing persons specialist who’s been steadily working her way through the list. By following up on specific cases, LaPlant has reduced the names on the list from 179 to 148 in less than 10 weeks. Notably, the number of Native Americans on the list has gone from 56 to 35. While these numbers are still too high, LaPlant’s work means Montana is keeping better track of missing person cases, and offers hope the remaining missing will soon be found.

A scoop of chokecherries atop a “paddlehead” to the recently discovery of chronic wasting disease in a bull moose killed near Troy in late October. This marks the first known case of the disease in a moose in Montana. Meanwhile, at least 30 deer have tested positive for CWD in a newly created management zone in the Libby area. The disease is not considered harmful or transmittable to humans or livestock, but is fatal for infected deer, elk and moose.

Fifty helpings of huckleberries to Missoula County employee Jerry Marks, who has battled noxious weeds throughout the county since 1969. The 78-year-old Marks has seen the Weed District and Extension office grow from a few interns into a team of up to 30 people in peak summer season, while helping to develop new programs and better management methods along the way. Before wrapping up his career in public service, Marks expects to see the launch of a project he has long hoped for – the building of a new department headquarters at the Missoula Fairgrounds with experimental gardens, a demonstration kitchen and “exploratorium,” among other features.

A securely latched enclosure of chokecherries to whoever opened a gate on the Bitterroot Bison ranch Monday afternoon and allowed about 30 bison to wander onto the Eastside Highway north of Stevensville. Two bison were struck by a pickup truck that was totaled in the accident. The condition of the driver was not made public, but one bison was killed in the collision and another had to be euthanized. The rest of the bison were rounded up and safely returned to the ranch, where the owner says he will now have to take extra measures to make sure gates are locked.

Nonperishable jars of huckleberry jelly to the Washington Foundation for stepping up once again in support of the Montana Food Bank Network. This year, the philanthropic organization for the Washington Companies managed to top last year’s generous donation of $209,000, boosting its gift to $229,000. The money will be shared by 79 food banks and homeless programs across the state to help make the holidays a little less hungry for more than 100,000 Montanans.

Meanwhile, the Missoula Food Bank is still accepting donations of money and nonperishable food for the annual Can the Cats Canned Food Drive, a friendly competition between Missoula and Bozeman in the weeks leading up to the much-anticipated Brawl of the Wild football game. For more information, visit http://missoulafoodbank.org/contribute/canthecats. Huckleberries to everyone who helps Missoula meet its goal of 406,000 pounds of food and $406,000 in donations.

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