CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns — who was called a poodle by Gov. Jim Justice, who then compared himself to a grizzly — has signed on to sponsor a bill authorizing the use of dogs to track a mortally-wounded bear.

Ryan Ferns

The bill also relates to tracking deer, which is a practical matter outside the scope of the original metaphor unleashed by Justice during a special “Talkline” Town Hall on Feb. 24.

Justice, a Democrat, was asked to respond to critical tweets by Ferns, a Republican, when he described the Senate majority leader’s behavior as that of a barking poodle destined for comeuppance at the hands of Justice, characterized as a grizzly.

The bear-tracking bill, introduced today, has been referred to the Senate’s natural resources committee. Besides Ferns, it was sponsored by Senators Mark Maynard, R-Wayne, and Glenn Jeffries, D-Putnam, neither of whom was part of Justice’s woodland allegory.

The proposed change to state code states: “Notwithstanding any provision of this chapter to the contrary, a person who is legally hunting and reasonably believes he or she has mortally wounded a deer or bear may either personally, or by engaging a dog handler, use a leashed dog to track and locate the mortally wounded deer or bear. The hunter or the dog handler shall maintain physical control of the leashed dog at all times.”

During the Feb. 24 radio town hall, Justice was asked to respond to some legislative criticism. “Talkline” host Hoppy Kercheval read aloud a statement by Ferns from Twitter.


Jim Justice

Justice began to respond, “Senator Ferns, you know, he’s been tweeting and doing this forevermore and to be perfectly honest if that’s what he wants to do that’s what he wants to do..

“I hate to say this, but it’s just the fact. I’ve done more in my little finger for West Virginia and West Virginians than Ryan Ferns has done. I know he’s ambitious about his political career. I don’t need to be ambitious about my political career. I don’t need to be sending out tweets.”

Justice then continued the metaphor: “It’s almost like a grizzly bear walking through the woods and then a poodle walking behind him, barking and nipping and all this kind of stuff, for nothing,” Justice said. “And basically, at some point in time, if I’m the poodle I’m concerned that the grizzly bear is going to get tired of all the tweeting and the little crap that’s going on and turn around and eat your ass.”

That Friday morning, Ferns, who represents Ohio County, said he was in a committee meeting to confirm some of the appointees to Justice’s administration when he started hearing about the poodle comment.

From there, Ferns went to the Senate floor session and spent the afternoon in more committee meetings.

By that Saturday morning, Ferns had plenty of time to process the governor’s remarks and tweeted again.

Justice repeated the bear and grizzly metaphor on Tuesday morning during an appearance on broadcaster Howard Monroe’s morning Watchdog radio program:

“Go back to the number of tweets that are just low blows for no reason at all. I didn’t bring up this thing about the poodle and the grizzly bear. I have never tweeted anybody. I never said anything. Hoppy said to me on his show, ‘Does this bother you?’

The governor continued, “Honest to God, when he asked me about that I couldn’t think of anything better than me just kind of wallering through the woods, you know, the grizzly, and here’s this little thing behind me, just yip-yip-yip, and that’s all I’ve heard. Just yip-yip-yip, no real ideas, no solution to anything.

“At some point in time, the grizzly is going to get tired. Because he doesn’t pay a lot of attention to the yip-yip-yip. But at some point in time, he’s going to turn around and eat the little poodle’s ass. And that’s what he’s going to do. That’s what you expect me to do. I am going to lead.”

HOPPY KERCHEVAL: Governor’s barbs could hurt his bills

When it comes to the big issue of reaching a consensus with the Legislature over the state budget, Justice said compromise only goes so far.

“We don’t need to just compromise on something that is just for the sake of saying ‘You like snow and I like the desert, so therefore let’s live in Iowa,” Justice said. “If I have something that’s plain ignorant or on the other side the same thing, we don’t need to split the baby just because we’ve got two ignorant proposals.”

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