Two countries, both alike in landscape, in fair Montana is where we lay our scene…

In the grand tradition of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Canadian lynx and U.S. bobcats have thumbed their whiskers at their respective nations’ feud and gotten together to make sweet, sweet love. With Americans hating Canadians (over the possibility of importing mad cow disease and SARS, and envy over pending pot legislation) and Canadians hating Americans (because we’re Americans), it’s good to know that species from different nations, cultures and socioeconomic strata can muster a love stronger than any stigma.

After a hair sample was collected last year in Minnesota and examined by USDA Forest Service scientists in Missoula at the Rocky Mountain Research Station, the scientists discovered this month the first evidence of “hybridization between the bobcat and Canada lynx in the wild.” Just as wolves and dogs and horses and donkeys can feel the love and sire offspring, lynx and bobcat can too. But the scientists don’t know yet if it’s a love that will last—they haven’t been able to determine if the hybrids are sterile. Scientists also can’t figure out what factors led to the two animals getting together (to make sweet, sweet love) in the first place.

Here at the Indy we like to think that just as Romeo and Juliet’s attraction stemmed from parental disapproval—so did the cats’. It makes sense that after Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s communications director Francoise Ducros called Bush “a moron” and Canada refused to back Bush’s war, the cats would say “screw it,” and…well…screw.

Then again maybe the felines are just pissed off about the United States playing god, now that researchers at the University of Idaho have cloned a mule using a cell from a mule fetus and an egg from a horse.

Whatever the reason, there may be major implications for lynx ecology and conservation. We can only hope that this lovers story doesn’t end like Shakespeare’s.

•••

What does it cost to fail to transform a Butte into a Branson? Apparently at least $50,000.

According to the Billings Gazette, the Florida-based Foxx Industries spent more than $50,000 during the 2003 session lobbying the Legislature to legalize wide-open gambling and set the stage for an endless string of Hall & Oates reunions.

According to a report filed with the state political practices commissioner last week, Foxx Industries spent $45,000 on lobbyists, $883 to wine and dine legislators and $4,500 on advertising the scheme know as “Destination Montana.” The plan, which seemed a bit far-fetched (who’s going to golf on the three proposed professional courses in January?), hoped to recreate Butte’s days as a rockin’ party and play town with an amusement park, a couple dozen music venues, a sports stadium and thousands of classy (and not so classy) hotel rooms.

Fearing they might see their own winnings dwindle if Butte became the big destination in Montana, the Gaming Industry Association of Montana, the Montana Coin Machine Operators Association and the Flathead Business and Industry Association spent about $30,000 to kill the project.

But the death of the project doesn’t mean that the dreamers in Florida won’t be coming back to spend more during the 2005 session. Like a flamingo rising from the ashes, the group has plans to try again next session.

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