Idaho isn’t one of those attention-seeking, overly-dominant states (*cough* Texas…California… *cough*); we tend to like to keep to ourselves and enjoy our state’s bounty in peace and quiet. In fact, to the rest of the country, the mysterious “Potato State” is probably America’s most secretive locale; a place of mountains and valleys… and, you know, something vaguely Iowa-like. Maybe?
Of course, for those who live here, we know that Idaho is not at all midwestern or Iowan or Ohioan or anything in between. But for better or worse, there have been a few rare occasions when Idaho has made its fair share of unusual headlines… just not for the reasons you might expect.
1. The time aggressive goats shut down an entire trail system...
Take note: Idaho's wilderness areas are
not private petting zoos.
In late 2015, the New York Times and just about every other major publication and news outlet in the country nabbed onto the Gem State's now-famous "goat problem." Like many of Idaho's rockiest, tallest mountains, Scotchman Peak in Northern Idaho is home to large numbers of mountain goats; and, in true wilderness fashion, these aren't your typical bouncing barnyard miniature goats. Nope! Mountain goats are quite huge - anywhere up to 300 pounds, with natural instincts that shouldn't be toyed with.
In September, it was reported that overly-handsy visitors were approaching and/or attempting to feed these wild animals, which prompted a number of attacks. In response, the U.S. Forest Service was forced to close the entire trail network. The temporary closure allowed time for the goats to find other sources of food, rather than expect handouts from humans. No food = no need to charge (so long as you keep your distance, that is).
As an added side note, the traditional mountain goat isn't a goat at all, by definition. It is officially called a "goat-antelope." The more you know.
2. A sassy entrepreneuer's crazy marketing scheme...
The obtrusive yellow signs that dotted old Highway 30 in the 50s definitely broke up the monotonous sagebrush landscape and entertained motorists, but with only two of them remaining, do you know the full story about Farris the Stinker's infamous "horrible dignified" signs that became an "Only in Idaho" phenomenon?
When "Fearless Farris The Stinker" (Farris Lind) opened his first gas station at the age of 20 and offered prices well below the competition, he was instantly labeled a stinker - a name which stuck and led to his chain's name and memorable skunk logo. The witty, sarcastic, and oddball signs were a successful old-school marketing tactic in their day: Farris's stations quickly grew in popularity, although not as fast as his signs did.
In fact, you're probably familiar with the "Petrified watermelons. Take one home to your mother-in-law" sign near Idaho Falls, but over a dozen others kept popping up in the most unexpected of places. "This is not sagebrush; you're In Idaho clover," "Don't just sit there, nag your husband," and "Is your clutch slipping? Let us check your rear-end," were just a few of the historic signs... and boy, did they make quite a few national headlines.
3. The whole "mailing-a-person" fiasco...
The launch of the Parcel Post in 1913 was a welcome service, especially for rural Americans, and the growth of the service was phenomenal in its first few years. During the first six months of operation approximately 300 million parcels were mailed, and as time went on, weight limits continued to increase.
One of the oddest postal packages ever sent was "mailed" from Grangeville to Lewiston - a little over an hour's drive by modern car - on February 19, 1914. The 48.5 pound package was just shy of the recently instated 50 pound limit... but strangely enough, the package also had a name: May Pierstorff, a six year old girl.
May's parents wanted to send their daughter to visit her Lewiston grandparents, but were hesitant to pay the high train fare. Since there were no provisions in the parcel post regulations specifically prohibiting the sending of a person, they decided to "mail" their daughter. And no, May was not boxed up or bubble wrapped for the journey. The postage total was a paltry 53-cents in stamps, which were then attached to May's coat. She traveled the entire distance to Lewiston in the train's mail car and was delivered to her grandmother's home by the mail clerk on duty. Of course, as a result, regulations against mailing people were added to the fine print, which is a shame given today's gas and airline prices.
4. An angry mountain man on the loose...
Claude Dallas, a well-known mountain man living off the land in Owyhee County, Idaho, defied state hunting laws by poaching animals. When two Idaho game wardens attempted to arrest him, he killed them, hid the bodies, and went on the run for a few years. After being caught and sentenced, he later escaped and was on the run for another year before being caught yet again. He was released after 22 years for good behavior.
5. An illegal wild lion compound that took a dangerous and heartbreaking turn…
The average person knows that lions, tigers, and bears (oh, my!) belong free in the wild - not locked in a Southeast Idaho backyard compound. And certainly, not one housing over two dozen of the savannah creatures.
In 1995, dozens of ramshackle cages made up a makeshift hoarding ground in Lava Hot Springs - Ligertown, as it was called. But it was an ordinary, quiet September day when somewhere around 30 full-grown African lions, tigers, and cross-bred ligers burst out of their confines. The shoddy conditions consisted of pallet and chain-link cages, networked together by a series of tunnels and multiple sheds. Horrific living conditions and pages of violations were reported over the years.
Panicked officials closed down the local schools and warned residents to stay inside. While no one was injured or attacked - except for the two compound owners themselves - 15 of the big cats were sadly killed. The police department cited a lack of access to proper tranquilizers and personnel to handle the situation humanely. Meanwhile, five cubs found onsite were transported to a shelter.
But the story only gets crazier from there. An unexplained sign at the compound declared: "Ligertown Church of the Guardian Alien. An Equal Opportunity Cult." Multiple dead lions were found strewn by the highway days before.
6. That time snakes took over a home in Rexburg...
The spacious home in the Rexburg countryside was thought to be a steal back In 2009, until new homeowners Ben and Amber Sessions discovered their dream home to be a living, wriggling nest. Infested with literally
thousands of rank-smelling (but harmless) garter snakes. The slithering reptiles were even inside the walls, where the couple could hear them moving at night. Only two short years later, they abandoned the home. The Snake House came on the market again while experts attempted to manage the infestation -- widely known across the country in part due to Animal Planet's coverage. Today? Well, the site has quite a reputation.
7. The day a semi full of bees created mayhem on the freeway...
In 2015, a semi hauling agricultural bees overturned on U.S. 20 near Island Park, swarming the air with millions of the flying pollinators. Traffic was at a standstill and backed up for miles, and drivers were cautioned via radio and interstate signs to keep windows rolled up as authorities were brought in. Over 400 hives were on board the truck, which fishtailed before tipping over. The bees were being transported from Washington to Montana for private farm pollination.
Curious? You can watch a drone video of the aftermath
. And no, that noise is not coming from the drone.
8. That time an Idaho man stopped to "relieve himself" and started a wildfire instead...
When nature calls... things don't always go as planned. In what would turn out to be the most hilarious set of headlines in Idaho's history, one unsuspecting cyclist who stopped to heed the call of nature wound up starting a fire in the Boise foothills instead. The situation (which, according to the BLM, has happened once before) arose when the cyclist attempted to burn his toilet paper, rather than bury it or pack it out. But in the middle of Idaho's dry season, the sparks quickly grew into a 70-acre brush fire. Oops.
9. Back in the day when flying beavers filled Idaho's skies...
In 1948, a glimpse at Idaho's horizon might have revealed dozens of small wooden boxes, held aloft by parachutes, drifting slowly downward. Each airhole-laden box contained a pair of beavers, and the process was meant to redistribute the beaver population into needed areas to foster natural habitat maintenance. Fun Fact: the first beaver parachuted into the Frank Church Wilderness was named Geronimo.
Curious? You can check out the vintage
Idaho Fish and Game video
10. The Bigfoot video that broke the internet...
Near the end of 2016, a drone video caught viral attention when it seemed to show a sasquatch-like creature running through a field in Idaho. Within days, it had been featured in dozens of news stories and effectively gone viral. The clip appeared to show a hairy figure booking it near Hawkins Reservoir in Southeast Idaho. So far, the
has been viewed nearly a million times.
Of course, it was all a hoax, which a follow up video made undeniably clear. However, that didn't stop a Moscow woman from claiming later that year that she crashed her car because she thought she saw Bigfoot in her rearview mirror.
Bonus: No daily news roundup is complete without Snuggie-clad goats, though, right?
In true unfashionable fashion that is surprisingly adorable, two Snuggie-wearing goats were found by police casually wandering through downtown Nampa in 2017. No doubt they were cozy warm thanks to their stylish frocks! An alert was put out and the owners found, so no harm came from the unusual sight. But wait! There's more.
Uniquely, Idaho has a definite reputation for animals on the loose. In 2015, a farm turkey traipsed across the entire city of Boise for nearly two weeks, causing traffic mayhem and waking up sleeping residents with perpetual gobbling. Then, of course, there was the 3-foot alligator that was found in the Boise River in 1993 - thought to be a "pet" that someone realized was a little too much to handle on a typical leash and intentionally set free. Then, in 2018, homeowners were shocked to see over 100 goats suddenly running amok in the middle of Boise - enjoying a Ferris Bueller-esque day off after having gone rogue from their assignment: munching noxious weeds at a local pond.
With headlines like these, you can just call us the Florida of the West coast! We’ve written about some of Idaho’s strangest events, historical facts, and headlines before, but for the sake of this being a family-friendly site, we’ve omitted a few notable incidents. (We’ll leave that for your own personal research!)
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