Rep. Betty Olson (R-28/Prairie City) hates mountain lions. She also hates coherent essays, as I have the pleasure of reading each week in the pile of random observations she submits to the Black Hills Pioneer. But if you squint hard enough at her writing, you can make out the framework of her next big legislative push: anti-spider legislation. Roll with me here.
Exhibit A: On August 14, Rep. Olson recounts the harrowing tale of a home-invading mountain lion up the road in Baker, Montana. A puma went booma through a glass door, hung out in a downstairs rec room, demonstrated remarkable resistance to a tranquilizer dart fired by authorities (a subtle reminder from Rep. Olson that government doesn't work), then made a break for it, only to be shot under a porch down the street. (Tom Lutey of the Billings Gazette gives an excellent account here.)
Rep. Olson jumps to a critique of a South Dakota Game Fish & Parks "listening meeting" (I hear mockery in Betty's quote marks) last month, where our trusty outdoor officers held lots of small group conversations to give folks a chance to speak their piece on mountain lions. Olson complains:
There were no open microphones and they didn't take public testimony. I'm sure it was a coincidence that the meeting was held the same week as the bike rally in Sturgis, but I and lots of other folks didn't care to fight the motorcycle traffic just to tell GF&P what they've already heard on numerous occasions [Rep. Betty Olson, "Mountain Lions and Losses," Black Hills Pioneer, August 14, 2012].
Her point made, Rep. Olson turns without segue to obits, including two fatal highway wrecks. Mountain lions were involved in none of those deaths.
Exhibit B: On August 21, Rep. Olson riffs on Californians for criticizing their state Fish and Game Commission president Dan Richards for legally killing and eating a mountain lion in Idaho. (Hey, why not? I've eaten mountain lion, and it's tasty!) She then warns Californians and the rest of us that mountain lions will gladly return the favor:
Evidently, Californians feel that mountain lions are just huggable kitties. You occasionally read about mountain lion attacks in that state. Just last month, a 65-year-old camper was attacked in his sleeping bag by a mountain lion and seriously injured.
California mountain lions not only attack, on occasion they kill. There have been three fatal mountain lion attacks in California since 1990. A jogger, a hiker and a mountain biker were the victims. Six Californians have died from mountain lion attacks since 1890 [Rep. Betty Olson, "Fair Time and the End of Summer," Black Hills Pioneer, August 21, 2012].
Olson urges readers to contact our Game Fish & Parks Department and demand fatwa on mountain lions. She then turns to the pleasure of brunch at the Eggebos'. No word on whether Eggebos served mountain lion.
Exhibit C: Tonight, September 11, Betty Olson writes that Louise Jenson told her that Betty Clark said that her daughter Laurie almost ran over a mountain lion by Sturgis last week. Olson says two less swift cougars have recently been killed on the roads near Sturgis.
But Olson also mentions grim arachnid danger in our midst:
Mike Patterson, 61, from Harding passed away last Tuesday from complications from a spider bite. Mike's memorial service was held on Friday at the Harding Church [Rep. Betty Olson, "Fire Danger High," Black Hills Pioneer, September 11, 2012].
There you have it: spiders have now killed more South Dakotans than mountain lions have this year. Or ever.
Rep. Betty Olson and her fellow legislators love to chase varmints. Clearly, if we are responding to the demonstrated risk wildlife poses to South Dakota citizens, it behooves Betty Olson to draft legislation to wage war on deadly fuzzy public enemy #1: spiders!