Missoula’s vermin, both furry and corporate 

Ah, ‘tis that time of year. Hot cider, pumpkin pie, rosy-cheeked kiddies kicking through piles of fallen leaves. Bears marauding the streets of northern towns like Hot Springs, converting the orchards and trash bins of honest country folk to winter fat and repaying the favor with huge piles of apple-flecked scat. Time for all the cute little animals to go beddy-bye for the winter.

It was brought to our attention late last month that certain of Missoula’s furry denizens had not been spotted in some time—a colony of Columbia ground squirrels in John Toole Park between the Higgins and Madison bridges. This absence caused no small degree of consternation among Missoula’s faithful urban wildlife lovers, prompting worrisome speculation that perhaps the city had relocated the cute little buggers or, gasp, treated them to strychnine hot toddies.

Not to worry. Our sources tell us that the ground squirrels probably just tucked in earlier than usual (and why not? It has been a hell of a long year, eh?), and that they have not been poisoned, relocated or otherwise badgered—hardy har!—into leaving their river-view dens.

“We would have been notified, I would think,” says animal control supervisor Paula Nelson. “To the best of my knowledge, no one has done any exterminating [on city property], nor have we been asked to do any kind of extermination.”

Ground squirrels are unprotected under state wildlife laws and can be “killed, captured, or otherwise controlled” without notifying the state game department.

Careful, though—they’ve got big sharp pointy teeth.

•••

And speaking of nascent threats against Montana’s most valued and cuddly creatures, members of our Media Watch Department—who even as we speak are fortifying their millenarian compound out in Twodot—have just spied a feature article in this month’s edition of American Journalism Review about none other than Lee Enterprises, the Davenport, Iowa-based corporation that has been gobbling up Montana’s small-town newspapers faster than a mountain lion chomps down those dozy, soft-bellied Columbia ground squirrels. Awww.

The piece was crafted by AJR meta-journalist Alicia C. Shepard and includes insights from all of the major players in the shoebox diorama that is Montana’s print media landscape. And what a show it is.

Hear pundits like Billings Outpost editor David Crisp sound off on the state of independent journalism in Big Sky Country. See long-time Lee foe and Treasure State Review chief Nathaniel Blumberg detail his thoughts on the monolithic corporation in his own words. And look on in awe as Missoula Independent publisher Matt Gibson articulates his views on the duties—and opportunities—that Montana’s free media outlets face today. The issue will be on newsstands through the month of October. If you give a whit about your hometown’s most cuddly news source, you’ll pick up a copy and read it.

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