Thursday Briefs


March 31, 2022

USDA confirms avian influenza in Wyoming

GILLETTE (WNE) — A case of bird flu has been found in Johnson County, prompting a warning to people who have chickens, turkeys or other birds to take steps to protect their birds.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza — HPAI or also called avian influenza or bird flu — is a highly contagious viral disease that can infect chickens, turkeys and other birds and can cause severe illness and/or sudden death in infected birds, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The bird flu was found in a non-commercial mixed-species backyard flock (non-poultry) in Johnson County.

"Anyone involved with poultry production from the small backyard chicken owner to the large commercial producer should review their biosecurity activities to assure the health of their birds," according to a press release.

Health officials say they don’t know of any people who have caught the bird flu in the U.S., and the disease doesn’t present an immediate public health concern. The virus can spread from infected birds to people, but such infections are rare and haven’t led to sustained outbreaks among humans, an Associated Press report said.

The USDA encourages poultry owners to attentively monitor their birds for symptoms of HPAI, which include coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge and other signs of respiratory distress. Other signs include lack of energy and appetite and decreased water consumption and egg production along with soft-shelled or misshapen eggs. They also might show signs of incoordination and diarrhea.

If people see those symptoms in their birds, they should immediately contact their veterinarian. They also can contact the Wyoming Livestock Board at 307.777.8720 or 307.777.6440.

This story was published on March 30, 2022.


Chemicals in sewer result in downtown Powell evacuation

POWELL (WNE) – Multiple businesses along Clark Street and Powell City Hall were forced to evacuate early Wednesday afternoon due to fumes coming from the sewer system.

The Powell Volunteer Fire Department was paged to the area shortly before 12:30 p.m. for a report of something that smelled like natural gas, coming from an unknown source.

Around 1 p.m., employees at city hall began smelling the odor, which they thought at first to be natural gas. City hall was evacuated while the source was investigated.

City Administrator Zack Thorington said he was told by police and fire department officials that some chemical, possibly kerosene, was dumped into the city sewers.

“We evacuated and closed city hall for 30 minutes to fumigate, so our staff didn’t have to inhale it,” said Thorington.

All the doors and windows to the building were opened, and Thorington added water to the floor drains in case the traps were dry, to prevent more fumes getting into the building. City hall was then able to reopen, and city staffers returned to work.

“I would like to express my concern with this sort of behavior,” Thorington said, “and remind businesses and the public that it is illegal to dump chemicals, such as fuels (into the sewer).”

This story was published on March 31, 2022.


Weston County sees uptick in sexual assault reports

NEWCASTLE (WNE) — On the heels of one sentencing in a sexual assault case on Feb. 28, the Weston County Attorney’s Office is preparing to take another case to a jury trial in April. Reports of sexual abuse in the community also continue to roll in.

“It looks like we have six cases, where we are at some point in the case process, in the last few months,” Deputy County Attorney Jeani Stone told the Weston County commissioners on March 15.

Stone later told the News Letter Journal that these six most recent cases involve 10 different victims.

“(In) a couple of our cases, the sexual abuse happened years ago,” Stone said.

She noted that new victims can surface when feelings are reignited if an individual is accused by someone else.

According to Sheriff Bryan Colvard, Weston County has seen an increase in sexual abuse reports over the past year, most of which are old incidents that people are now reporting.

Wyoming has no statute of limitation on sexual abuse charges, according to both Colvard and Stone, meaning that perpetrators can be charged with the crime at any time.

Stone said a majority of the cases involve individuals the victims know.

“Sexual abuse is not a stranger crime. Statistically, one in five girls are going to be sexually abused, and one in 10 boys will be,” she said.

“Everyone is supposed to step forward if they suspect child abuse, that includes sexual assault,” Stone said.

Signs that a child may have been abused include acting sexualized, bed wetting, nightmares, drawing sexual images and acting out sexually, among other symptoms. A full list of symptoms can be found at

This story was posted on March 30, 2022.


Application period opens Friday for elk shed antler hunt

JACKSON (WNE) — An application process has been added for those interested in participating in this year’s antler hunt on the National Elk Refuge.

The application period begins Friday and runs through April 15 for people who would like to search for shed antlers at the event beginning May 1.

“As in years past, participants will be placed in sequential order and led, via motorcade, by the JPD to the Elk Refuge Road,” a town of Jackson press release said. “Shed antler collection and the refuge road will remain closed until 6 a.m. on May 1 when the hunt begins.”

Jackson Police Chief Michelle Weber told the Jackson Hole Daily that the new application process is just another layer of organization added to help the antler hunt run smoothly.

For years, Weber pointed out, people would park and camp out along Broadway Avenue in East Jackson for days leading up to the event, “and then you had to worry about people going to the restroom and garbage being left in people’s yards, and ... parking complaints all night long.”

“And so that was kind of how, a couple years ago, that’s what led us to go, ‘OK, let’s consolidate everybody at least in the fairgrounds,’ ” she added.

Having vehicles line up in a queue at the Teton County Fairgrounds the past couple of years has helped, Weber said, but this new system will prevent them from arriving on the grounds days ahead of time, a drain on JPD resources.

Now, they will arrive April 30 and line up according to their assigned numbers — with 1 to 50 in the first group, 51 to 100 in the second, and so on — before being led to the refuge the next morning.

For more information, visit

This story was posted on March 31, 2022.


Police seek help finding missing woman

GILLETTE (WNE) — Police are looking for Irene Wairimu Gakwa, a 32-year-old woman who is missing from Gillette, according to the City of Gillette Facebook page.

Her brother, 38, reported her missing on March 20 when he told police that she had not been in contact with family for the past 14 days, said Police Deputy Chief Brent Wasson.

Her phone is no longer pinging on the network, and she was last heard from on March 4, according to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation website.

Gakwa is a Black woman who is 5-foot-1 and about 100 pounds.

Anyone with information on her is asked to call the Gillette Police Department at 307-686-5250 or Wyoming DCI at 307-777-7181.

This story was posted on March 30, 2022.


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