HUNTING/FISHING — A good lineup of hunting and fishing seminars is scheduled in the background of 250 exhibitors at the Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show that runs Thursday-Sunday (March 20-23) at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.
Programs cover elk calling and archery techniques, bowhunting for whitetails, spring turkey hunting, fly fishing the Clark Fork River, fishing for sturgeon and chinook, Bass Fishing 101, trout and warmwater fishing and angling in the Columbia Basin.
New this year, several key programs will be presented by Washington Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries and wildlife biologists, all of whom also are hunter and anglers:
Click “continue reading” for details and the full seminar schedule:
PREDATORS — Wolves are in the news and on the agenda this week
In Idaho today:
Idaho’s Senate Resources and Environment Committee scheduled a hearing of House Bill 470, legislation authorizing Gov. Otter’s “Wolf Control Board,” today, March 14, at 1:30 p.m. (MDT). Today, the committee will vote on whether to send HB 470 to the Senate Floor. Stream the hearing LIVE Here.
The state Fish and Wildlife Commission on Thursday adopted regulations to implement a law that allows landowners to shoot threatening wolves on sight, without a hunting license. Senate Bill 200, which passed last year, allowed landowners to kill wolves that threaten their property without having to buy a permit or hunting license. Commissioners determined wolves were a “potential threat” when they were threatening people, pets, or livestock on private property. Landowners have 72 hours to report such kills to the agency.
Collared wolf OR-17 leaves Oregon, where it was protected, crossed into Idaho and was legally shot by a hunter. See story.
State biologists spays wild wolf after romp with loose dog. See story.
WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Washington Senate's Natural Resources and Parks Committee took the time to hold confirmation hearings on three Fish and Wildlife Commission members, but they never bothered to vote yea or nay.
But the way the commission operates, members appointed a governor can continue serving until they quit or are asked to leave by another governor if the legislature doesn't act.
Chairwoman Miranda Wecker, appointed by a previous governor, and Bob Kehoe and Jay Holzmiller, appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee, will continue to serve on the commission at the same status as Larry Carpenter, Conrad Mahnken and Jay Kehne, who were approved by the House last year.
Gov. Inslee has not said whether he plans to fill the remaining open position on the nine-member panel.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — “I had a rare treat today (March 13),” says J. Foster Fanning of Curlew. “Came across a family of four river otters enjoying the warm, late winter's afternoon and nearly ice-free Kettle River upstream from Curlew, Wash.
“While they were curious about the photographer, they were also shy. Took a bit to get a few good images.”
Click “continue reading” to see his treat multiply.
UPDATE, March 14, noon: The Forest Service just announced that all of its systems are not up to speed and the over-snow maps mentioned in the following announcement will not be available until Monday, March 17.
WINTER SPORTS — Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests announced today that the Clearwater Over Snow Vehicle Use Maps (OSVUMs) are available to the public at Forest offices and online. A
At this time full implementation of the closures will begin. OSVUMs are the winter travel map for the Clearwater National Forest. The Clearwater Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) designating forest roads, trails and areas open to motor vehicle use has been available since November.
Read on for more details.
FISHING — Washington Fish and Wildlife officials are taking public comment on a proposal to buy 80 acres of land to establish a public fishing access at Chapman Lake in Spokane County.
Once a popular fishing destination, the 128-acre lake near Cheney has been inaccessible to the public since 2011, when the private resort that provided access was closed.
The state has helped maintain the kokanee fishery on the prospect that public access could someday be restored, said John Whalen, regional fisheries manager.
The property owner has offered to sell 80 acres for an access, he said.
The property is bordered on three sides by Washington Department of Natural Resources land.
Submit public comments by March 21 by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Google Maps is making a splash today with another innovation in the way the service continues to revolutionize the way we see the world.
Google's pioneering Street View cameras have taken users to narrow cobblestone alleys in Spain using a tricycle, inside the Smithsonian with a push cart and to British Columbia’s snow-covered slopes by snowmobile.
In 2012, they put the technology in a backpack to showcase through the Internet the most popular hiking trails in Grand Canyon National Park.
Today, Google Maps has launched a new “river view” version of Street View that takes viewers through 286 miles of the Colorado River, including stunning views of the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, as seen from aboard a raft.
American Rivers staff joined Google Maps on an eight-day rafting trip through the Grand Canyon last August to take photos of the river. The Street View camera, on a special mount built for the raft, captured a full 360-degree photo sphere every few seconds.
The project was launched in partnership with American Rivers, a Washington D.C.-based environmental group. This marks the first time Google Maps has used its street view technology on a major whitewater river in the USA, but the cameras already have been mounted on jet boats for use on other rivers.
“Making Street View imagery available of the Colorado River is a tremendous opportunity for us to drive interest for this historical and natural landmark,” said Google's Karin Tuxen-Bettman. “We hope this inspires viewers to take an active interest in preserving it.”
The 1,450-mile Colorado River, which passes through seven states, is the main river of the Southwest.
American Rivers named the Colorado River America’s Most Endangered River in 2013 because of the threat of outdated water management, over-allocation and persistent drought.
BOATING — Mandatory watercraft inspection stations have barely opened for the season in Idaho, and they already have reported finding the year's first boat fouled with quagga mussels, a potentially devastating invasive species.
The boat was checked at the Cotterell Port of Entry station on Interstate 84 near Burley.
The program aims to inspect boats that are entering the region from mussel-infested states. The boat intercepted at the Cotterell inspection station recently spent time in Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Lake Powell, operated by the National Park Service, recently was identified as infested with quagga and zebra mussels.
The National Park Service still does not require decontamination of watercraft leaving its facilities with mussel infestations, even though it means possible introduction of these invasive species to the clean waters of the Pacific Northwest. This also indicates that potentially infested boats are being transported outside of the traditional boating season, which is a concern for Pacific Northwest states.
Since Idaho initiated its watercraft inspection program in 2009, nearly 200,000 boats have been inspected. About 100 mussel-fouled boats have been intercepted and decontaminated before they launched into Pacific Northwest waters, the Idaho Department of Agriculture reports.
“Idaho’s watercraft inspection program underscores the importance of preventing these mussels from becoming established in Idaho’s waters,” Agriculture Director Celia Gould said. “All of Idaho’s waterbodies have tested negative for these species, but they have been found in waters of other western states, and are causing severe economic and environmental harm in other regions of the country. We continue to work with our regional partners to prevent these fouled boats from launching in Pacific Northwest waters.
“Catching mussel-fouled boats so early in the season is a real wake up call. The more the public is educated about these invaders, the more enthusiastic and vigilant they are in joining efforts to keep them out of the Pacific Northwest.”
Idaho law requires all boaters must stop at the stations, such as the one on Interstate 90 near Fourth of July Pass.
Watercraft inspectors are looking for high-risk boats that have been in quagga- and zebra-mussel impacted waters such as Lake Powell, Lake Mead, Lake Havasu and Lake Pleasant.
If you have launched in a mussel-infested waterbody in the last 30 days, you must have an inspection before you launch in Idaho. For a complete list of infested waters, a five-year summary of inspection efforts, and a list of Idaho inspection stations, see: www.invasivespecies.idaho.gov
Read on for recommendations for boaters:
PUBLIC LANDS — Washington State Parks have a fee-free access day coming up.
Here's the list of 11 days in which the Discover Pass is not needed for vehicle entry in 2014:
Remember, Mount Spokane is a notable exception during winter season, when the Discover Pass is not valid. Until April 1, visitors are required to have a Sno-Park vehicle permit at Mount Spokane unless you are a patron of the alpine ski area on days the ski area is open.
Federal land fee-free entry days also are scheduled in 2014 to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged.
BOATING — The level of Lake Roosevelt is near the elevation of 1,272 feet today, March 12, and lake levels are expected to remain between 1,270-1,273 for the next week., according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
However, a significant drawdown is expected based on current snowpack levels, and that's not great news to anglers who enjoy the trout and kokanee fishing at Lake Roosevelt. The amount of carryover fish — the beauties anglers have been catching this winter — can be sharply reduced by big drawdowns that flush fish over Grand Coulee Dam and out of the reservoir.
Grand Coulee Dam is being operated to meet power demand and the minimum tail water requirement of 11.5 feet below Bonneville Dam for chum and the 65 kcfs minimum Hanford Reach protection flows below Priest Rapids Dam.
The March Water Supply Forecasts show the inflow forecast for Lake Roosevelt is 98% of average. The forecast for the Dalles is 102% of average. This forecast reflects the significant precipitation that was received during the month of February.
The following are flood control elevations for Lake Roosevelt:
The next Water Supply Forecast will be updated the week of April 7 and flood control elevations may change.
Get links to river flows in this region at The Spokesman-Review Outdoors topics page.
Get daily Lake Roosevelt level forecast by phone, updated daily at 3 p.m: (800) 824-4916.
Check out this NOAA site with Roosevelt levels and a list of boat launching elevations on the same page.
CONSERVATION — The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) is looking for volunteers to evaluate grant applications and help decide where the next parks, trails and boat launches will go in the state, as well as help prioritize farmlands to conserve.
Volunteers will serve on advisory committees that will rank grant proposals in the spring and summer for farmland preservation and all types of recreation around the state.
“This is a great opportunity for people interested in the outdoors,” said Kaleen Cottingham, RCO director. “The volunteers get to see firsthand what will be happening around the state – what great new parks and trails will be proposed – and help the state decide the wisest places to invest state and federal dollars.”
Volunteers with expertise in project design or project management, landscape architecture, planning or engineering, permitting or property acquisition especially are encouraged to apply. Volunteers serve 4 years. Applications for the advisory committees will be accepted until the positions are filled.
Parks: Seven volunteers are needed to evaluate grant proposals in two different park grant programs.
Farmlands: Two volunteers are needed to evaluate grant proposals to preserve working farms in the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program’s Farmland Preservation category. Volunteers should be farmers actively managing farms or rangeland. They will serve on the Farmlands Preservation Advisory Committee. Learn more about this committee.
Trails: Three volunteers are needed to evaluate grant requests in two different trail grant programs.
Boating: Four volunteers are needed to evaluate grant requests in two programs that provide money to acquire or develop land for boating facilities. The volunteers should be active in motorized recreational boating. The volunteers are needed to evaluate grant proposals in the Boating Facilities Program and the Boating Infrastructure Grant program. Learn more about this committee.
Information: Lorinda Anderson at 360-902-3009
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Birders are spreading word daily of spring arrivals to the Inland Northwest and bluebirds are some of the most delightful to the eye.
The Idaho Fish and Game Department says the public can help make up for the loss of dead trees bluebirds and other cavity nesting birds need for pulling off broods this season by putting up bird nesting boxes in appropriate areas.
The department and offers volunteer-built bluebird houses for a donation of $5 at the Coeur d'Alene office, 2885 W. Kathleen Ave., as well as detailed plans for people who'd like to build their own bluebird boxes to the specific dimensions that have been found to be best for the birds.
Studies have shown that bluebirds are already looking for nest sites and are most likely to adopt a nest box that's in place by late March. However, some of the birds will be looking for nest sites as late as mid-May, says Phil Cooper, IFG spokesman for the Panhandle.
Two species of bluebirds live in Idaho: the western bluebird and the mountain bluebird, which is Idaho's state bird. Both are slightly smaller than robins.
Thoreau said, “the bluebird carries the sky on his back,” Cooper said, noting that the males of all the North American bluebird species sport brilliant blue backs.
Read on for more details about bluebirds and bluebird nest boxes in this region:
ENDANGERED SPECIES — The saga of wolf recovery in Washington has taken a strange tryst.
A large domestic guard dog that took a month-long romp on the wild side in Pend Oreille County forced Washington Fish and Wildlife officials to capture and spay an endangered female gray wolf on Saturday.
“Our goal is restoration of a native wolf population not in producing a generation of hybrids we'd have to take care of in another way later,” said Donny Martorello, the department's carnivore manager in Olympia.
The wolf was one of two females in the new Ruby Creek Pack that biologists have been tracking with GPS collars since July.
The unusual action came after biologists learned that an Akbosh sheep dog climbed a 7-foot-tall fence from its yard near Ione and disappeared with the two female wolves for more than a month during February when wolves go into heat.
“If there had been a male wolf in the group, the dog would have been killed instantly,” Martorello said. But the two females tolerated him and breeding occurred, he said.
Biologists easily tracked the GPS signal and used a helicopter to shoot tranquilizers and capture the wolves. One female was pregnant; the other was not, he said. Both were released in the Pend Oreille River area.
“Spaying (the pregnant wolf) was a better alternative than trying to go out and kill all the pups after they're born,” he said.
The dog had run off with the wolves for about a week in early January, but biologists were able to monitor the wolves and tell the dog's owner when they were back near the home. The homeowner was able to call the dog in.
“We were already suspicious,” Martorello said. “Dogs and wolves usually don't mix.”
Wildlife officials advised the dog owner to restrain the dog for the rest of the winter. While dogs can come into heat throughout the year, wolves generally come into estrus only in January and February, Martorello said.
“But when those females came back in a few days, one must have been in estrus because that big, intact dog climbed a seven-foot orchard fence and took off with them from mid-January through February,” he said.
BOATING — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has closed five water access sites along the Columbia River behind Wanapum Dam, where the water level has been drawn down in response to a cracked spillway.
The closures affect the Yo Yo, Old Vantage Highway, Sunland Estates, Buckshot and Frenchman Coulee/Climbing Rocks water access sites plus roads from nearby wildlife areas.
WDFW officials said they closed the sites and are preventing access to the beach and exposed riverbed in WDFW wildlife areas along the river to protect public safety, fish habitat, and archeological and cultural resources.
The reservoir behind the dam was lowered by about 26 feet after divers discovered a 65-foot-long fracture Feb. 27 along one of the dam's spillways. As a result, the water level behind the dam is at its lowest point since the Grant County Public Utility District facility began operating in 1964.
Jim Brown, WDFW regional director for north-central Washington, said the reservoir level is so low that boaters can't reach the water with their trailers, and some newly uncovered areas near the shoreline present quicksand-like conditions.
WDFW also has closed the lower ends of roads that lead into the reservoir at the Colockum and L.T. Murray wildlife areas in Kittitas and Chelan counties, and at the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area in Grant County. The upland portions of the wildlife areas above the ordinary high-water level remain open to the public, Brown said.
“For their own safety, we're asking people to please stay off the beaches and any other areas that were under water before the drawdown,” he said.
Brown said the closures will be in effect until further notice and are being coordinated with the Grant County PUD. He said signs are being installed to inform the public, and WDFW law enforcement officers will be enforcing the closures in cooperation with local sheriff's offices. Grant County PUD is restricting access to the river on other nearby lands.
When the closures are lifted, information will be posted on the WDFW website: wdfw.wa.gov . Further information about the incident is available from the Grant County PUD at www.grantpud.org/your-pud/media-room/news .
ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has documented a minimum of 64 wolves in eight packs, including four breeding pairs for 2013, compared with 46 wolves in six packs with six breeding pairs in 2012.
The survey results are in the just-released final 2013 Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Annual Report , which includes the 2013 update for Oregon’s Wolf Population.
FISHING — The fish are still on their way, but the Washington is announcing spring chinook and steelhead seasons on the Wind River, a popular Columbia River tributary. Here are details from the Department of Fish and Wildlife:
Action: The daily catch limit will be 2 chinook or 2 hatchery steelhead or one of each at various times and locations on the Wind River.
Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge: Open March 16 through July 31.
Anglers with a two-pole endorsement may fish with two poles for salmon
and steelhead May 1 through June 30.
below Shipherd Falls: Open April 1 through July 31;
Carson National Fish Hatchery (except closed waters from 400 feet below to
100 feet above coffer dam): Open May 1 through June 30.
Species affected: Chinook and steelhead
Other information: Release wild chinook downstream from Shipherd Falls. Release all trout other than hatchery steelhead. Minimum size 12 inches for salmon and 20 inches for steelhead.
When fishing for sturgeon or other species, only one pole per angler may be used.
The area from the railroad bridge upstream to Shipherd Falls will be closed to all fishing from March 16-31 to protect wild steelhead when salmon abundance is low.
Reason for action: The 2014 Wind River spring chinook returns are expected to be slightly higher than the recent 5 year average and more than twice last year’s actual return. Surplus hatchery origin fish are available for harvest.
PUBLIC LANDS — Progress!
Groups reach agreement on protecting Idaho area as national monument
The Idaho Conservation League, Wood River Bicycle Coalition, International Mountain Bicycling Association and The Wilderness Society have hammered out a proposal to submit to President Obama on designating the Boulder-White Clouds as a national monument in Idaho.
— Idaho Statesman
FISHERIES — This isn't the first study to find that hatchery-reared salmonids tend to be inferior in one way or another to wild trout, steelhead and salmon, but it's the latest.
The report is released a day after Washington designated three steelhead rivers to be sanctuaries for wild fish by ending hatchery releases.
Following is the just-released story by Washington State University science writer Eric Sorenson regarding the latest research:
Washington State University researchers have documented dramatic differences in the swimming ability of domesticated trout and their wilder relatives. The study calls into question the ability of hatcheries to mitigate more than a century of disturbances to wild fish populations.
Kristy Bellinger, who did the study for her work on a Ph.D. in zoology, said traditional hatcheries commonly breed for large fish at the cost of the speed they need to escape predators in the wild.
- See Bellinger discussing her research in this YouTube video.
“The use of hatcheries to support declining wild salmon and steelhead is controversial,” said Bellinger. “They have a role as being both a part of the solution in supplementing depleted stocks and as being a hindrance to boosting natural populations, as they often produce fish that look and behave differently from their wild relatives.”
Bellinger conducted the study with Gary Thorgaard, a nationally recognized fish geneticist and professor in WSU’s School of Biological Sciences, and her advisor, Associate Professor Patrick Carter. Their work is published in the journal Aquaculture.
The study used a sort of speed trap for fish, a meter-long plastic tank filled with water and fitted with electronic sensors. Over 10 weeks, Bellinger repeatedly ran 100 clonal (genetically similar) hatchery-raised and semi-wild rainbow trout through the tank, clocking their speed and monitoring their growth from week to week. The clonal rainbow trout were propagated on the WSU campus.
The domesticated fish tended to grow faster. But while increased size is generally seen as a sign of fitness, the researchers saw that wasn’t the case as far as speed is concerned. “The highly domesticated fish have bigger body sizes but slower swim speeds compared to the more wild lines that are smaller,” said Bellinger. “It is intuitive to think that the more you feed them, the more they’re going to grow, the faster they’re going to be, and that’s what we see within each clonal line. However, between the lines, the domesticated fish were larger but slower sprinters.”
Over the past century, hatcheries have become a mainstay of recreational fishing, providing millions of trout and other salmonids to lakes and streams. More recently, hatcheries have come to be seen as tools in conserving native stocks. The state of Washington has more than 200 hatcheries, with most producing salmon and steelhead, an ocean-running trout, and about one-fourth producing trout and other game fish.
Hatchery managers, said Bellinger, tend to select for large fish.
“Fish managers want the biggest bang for their buck,” she said. “But if increased size is a tradeoff of sprint speed, as our data show, then we assume hatchery fish are being picked off by predators due to their slower speed, which makes the process of supplementing native fish with hatchery fish an inefficient tool for conservation and a waste of money.”
The research was funded in part by grants from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
HABITAT — Weed control on private lands is important to everyone with an interest in wildlife and wild lands.
Property owners can find out how to manage weeds and sign up for neighborhood cost-share assistance on Saturday, March 22, at a workshop offered by WSU Pend Oreille County Extension and the Pend Oreille County Weed Board.
This annual event, the Weeds, Neighbors and Cinnamon Rolls Workshop, will be held at Camas Center for Community Wellness, 1821 N. LeClerc Rd, Usk, WA from 8:30 am-2:30 pm. Thanks to sponsorship by Kalispel Tribe Department of Natural Resources, Centaurea, Inc, and Wilber-Ellis Company there is no admission charge, but participants are asked to pre-register by phoning 447-2401 or emailing email@example.com to reserve handouts, lunch, and their share of locally-produced refreshments.
Speakers for the workshop include Jon Paul Driver of WSU Western Risk Management Education on composting and weed management; Joel Fields of Wilber Ellis Company on pasture and hay weeds; Matt Berger with Kalispel Department of Natural Resources on herbicide resistance and new aquatic weeds; Aaron Brown of Washington State Department of Agriculture on pesticide licensing: and Sharon Sorby, Jan Rice and Loretta Nichols, Pend Oreille County Weed Board staff on tools and strategies for noxious weed management.
Class participants will receive their 2014 Neighborhood Cost Share application early. Four recertification credits are available for both Washington and Idaho pesticide applicator license holders.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — In the past week, readers have forwarded me several stories and videos, such as the one above, glamorizing the benefits gray wolves have provided in restoring the ecosystem of Yellowstone National Park since the species was reintroduced in 1995.
The information has been well reported for years and the video is basically correct, according to scientists. And for the record, I am fascinated by wolves, too.
But when the glorification of the wolf is digested alone without the salad and the side dishes of other research and realities, it can lead to indigestion, regurgitation and a less than healthy oversimplification in the public arena.
So let's thank the New York Times for giving another scientist a chance this week to call time out and feed all of us who are interested in wolves from one angle or another some food for thought.