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Outdoors blog

Archive for December 2010

Spokane shines in outdoor spotlight

ACTIVE OUTDOORS - 2010 will go down as the year Spokane finally got some national recognition as an outdoor town, even though it was a bit naïve and understated.

Generally falling just under the national radar, Spokane was been exposed as one of the nation's top places for outdoor enthusiasts to live in Outside magazine's August issue.

The magazine ranked Boise as the nation's top outdoor town for skiers, paddlers, cyclists and runners.

Spokane was listed as runner-up to Ashland, Ore., for trail-running.

But in reading the text, it's clear that Spokane is second to none in that category. For instance, the editors shortchanged us, saying the 75 miles of trails in Riverside State Park start “just five miles from town.” Huh? The trails start IN town near Albi Stadium and SFCC.

That barely scratches the surface of options ranging from South Hill Bluff trails, Spokane Valley's Beacon Hill - and just ask the local high school cross-country teams about the trails on the north side near the Little Spokane River and elsewhere.

Region’s bighorns slammed by disease

WILDLIFE — Bighorn sheep took a big hit in the Yakima region as well as in Western Montana in 2010, and no one can say the carnage is over.

Pneumonia killed many of the bighorns outright while wildlife managers shot and killed even more to help curb the spread of disease.
 
The outbreak in Washington occurred in the Umtanum herd near Yakima. Of the 300 Umtanum sheep, going into the outbreak in 2009, 42 were found dead and 69 were shot and killed.
 
With the statewide bighorn population at about 1,600, biologists will monitor the Umtanum herd and hope for the best this winter.
 
“Lamb production was not good, and we know we'll see more sick animals, but we hope the disease will at least hold the course,” said Donny Martorello, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department bighorn manager.
 
In Western Montana, around two thirds of several bighorn herds were wiped out by pneumonia and culling by state wildlife officials trying to thwart the spread of disease.

Sockeyes make splash in 2010

FISHERIES — Sockeye salmon were big news in 2010.

  • Around 34 million sockeye salmon returned to British Columbia's Fraser River this year – the most since 1913 – compared with last year’s 1.7 million – the lowest in more than 50 years.
  • The Columbia River ushered in 386,524 sockeyes, the most since Bonneville Dam started operating and fish counting started in 1938. The abundance of fish attracted a new crop of anglers to the Upper Columbia.
  • About 1,700 sockeyes made the 900-mile journey from the Pacific Ocean up the Columbia, Snake and Salmon rivers to Idaho's Sawtooth Hatchery or Redfish Lake Creek.That's the most sockeye known to have made the migration since 4,361 were counted swimming up Redfish Lake Creek in 1955.
In the 1880s, before dams inhibited passage, about 25,000-35,000 sockeye salmon returned to five Sawtooth Valley lakes.
 
The species hit rock bottom in 1990, when zero sockeyes made it beyond Lower Granite Dam, the last Snake River Dam before the fish reach Idaho.
 
The stock was federally listed as endangered in 1991. Between then and 1998, only 16 wild sockeye salmon returned to Idaho.
 
A captive breeding program at the Eagle Fish Hatchery saved the run from the brink of extinction.
 

Region’s wolf status surveys underway

ENDANGERED SPECIES — From land and in the air, wildlife biologists from Idaho, Montana and Wyoming have been surveying wolf packs and tabulating data from the year to come up with wolf status reports for 2010.

At least 1,706 wolves in 242 confirmed packs were documented in the Northern Rockies at the end of 2009. 

State reports for 2010 populations and the impact they had on livestock are likely to be released on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northern Rockies gray wolf web page in March.

Click here to view a map of the confirmed wolf-pack status at the end of 2009.

Panhandle otter trapping quota reached

TRAPPING — The Panhandle Region's River otter harvest quota of 15 was reached at 10 a.m. Tuesday, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game said. 

The otter season for the entire region closes at 10 a.m. on Friday, according to the rules requiring the closure 72 hours after the harvest quota has been met.
 
Trappers will be allowed to keep otters trapped within this period provided their personal quota of two has not been reached. 
 
Any otters trapped in the Panhandle Region after 10 a.m. on Friday must be surrendered to IDFG for a $10 reward.

Nordic skate skiing primer

Former Spokane residents Torsten Kjellstrand and his son, Bjorn, reach to their Swedish roots to demonstrate a few basic skate-skiing techniques to try on the groomed cross-country ski trails.

New Panhandle goat hunts planned

HUNTING — A slight decrease in Panhandle Region moose permits is proposed for 2011, but hunters will could get the spice of two new mountain goat hunts.
 
These and other 2011 Idaho trophy big-game hunting proposals have been released for public comment through Jan. 14.
 
While moose tags will be increased in a few Panhandle units, they'll be reduced in others according to the proposals for a total of three fewer bull moose tags and five fewer antlerless moose tags, said Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager.
 
On the other hand, the Panhandle is proposed to have two additional goat hunts — one in Unit 1 and one in Units 7 & 9 — with one permit each.
 
The Panhandle has more than 200 mountain mountain goats, Hayden said.

Late AK hunt could ruin Christmas 2011

HUNTING —  This photo was just received with no elaboration from concerned big-game hunters and Santa fans in the far north. Stay tuned.

It’s Whale Watch Week on Oregon Coast

WILDLIFE WATCHING — While Eagle Watch Week is underway at Lake Coeur d'Alene's Wolf Lodge Bay, Oregon has begun Whale Watch Week on the state's Pacific coastline.

Gray whales have started their winter migration from their feeding areas off Alaska to their calving and breeding waters along Baja California.
 
Volunteers are staffing about two dozen parks and other sites along the Oregon coast. The locations are marked with signs saying, “Whale Watching Spoken Here.”
 
Dave Newton with the Depoe Bay Whale Watching Center says an estimated 18,000 whales are migrating. They travel 3-to-5 miles offshore, so visitors are advised to bring binoculars.

GAO scrutinizes BLM land purchases

PUBLIC LANDS  This initial brief report, which just moved on the Associated Press wire, may be of particular interest in Washington, where BLM has consolidated its land holdings into several large acreages popular with sportsmen on the East Side of the state.

Here's all there is to the story so far:

LOS ANGELES — Government officials say the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has mishandled a mandate to exchange land with the states of California and Washington.

The Government Accountability Office report released Monday says the BLM has been selling some properties and purchasing others, rather than completing the straightforward trades they’re permitted to perform.

It says that doing so circumvented the U.S. Congress’ authority, since it bought land outside of Congress’ appropriations process.

The GAO also says the agency may have missed out on revenue by directly selling land to interested buyers instead of putting it out to competitive bid.

A BLM spokesman did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Week’s wildlife enforcement highlights

WILDLIFE COPS — Patrolling for illegal snowmobilers in caribou country, tracking down the source of sick farm-raised Idaho elk dumped in Washington, dealing with moose in yards and haystacks — all in a week's work for Washington Fish and Wildlife Department enforcement officers on the far East Side of the state.

Read on for highlights.

Wallowa kokanee top fish for 2010?

FISHING — As I research the top outdoor stories of 2010, the series of record kokanee caught this year from Oregon's Wallowa Lake comes readily to the surface.

Can anyone in the Inland Northwest top the story of Ron Campbell of La Grande, Ore., who landed a 9.67-pound kokanee on June 13 in the northeastern Oregon lake?

The fish was later verified by the International Game Fish Association as the world record in two categories:  the 22-year-old all-tackle record and the largest fish recorded in the 12-pound test line class.
  

Get nordic ski lessons in progression

NORDIC SKIING —  In addition to the normal offerings of one-day cross-country skiing and snowshoeing clinics, a new cross-country skiing progressive series course for novice skiers is being offered at Mount Spokane by Spokane Parks and Recreation.

In three separate sessions, participants learned proper beginner techniques and advance to intermediate techniques and then an intro to skate skiing. 

The sessions are scheduled for Jan. 12 and 15 and Feb. 6.  The $99 cost includes all equipment if needed.

Sign-up: (509) 625-6200 or online.

Digging clams is holiday tradition

SHELLFISHING —  Clam diggers can ring in 2011 with a three-day razor clam dig on Washington’s coastal beaches over the New Year’s holiday.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife approved the series of evening digs this week after marine toxin tests showed that the clams on all five coastal razor clam beaches are safe to eat.

All of those beaches – Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch – will be open for clam digging Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, from noon to midnight. One beach, Twin Harbors, will also be open from noon to midnight on Jan. 2.

Kalaloch is within Olympic National Park.

Dan Ayres, state coastal shellfish manager, is expecting a big turnout, noting that more than 22,000 razor-clam diggers have flocked to Washington beaches during previous New Year’s Eve openers.

“Razor clam digging has become a New Year’s tradition for thousands of Washingtonians,” he said. “We’re pleased that the tides allowed us to offer another holiday dig this year.”

Skiers run amuck at White Pass

SKIINGAll that new terrain on White Pass’ Paradise Basin expansion apparently is not enough for some ski area guests.

In the first 10 days Paradise Basin was been open this season, 14 people got lost outside the boundary, according to the Yakima Herald. Three skiers, each alone, were rescued by the White Pass Ski Patrol. Each has to pay the ski area’s well-advertised $500 rescue fee plus any incidental rescue costs. Others have made their own way to safety.

“They don’t even know where they are,” ski patrol leader Chris Talbot said, noting that two of the rescued skiers used their cell phones to call for help. “They can’t describe how they got out (of the ski area); they’re completely clueless.

“They say things like, ‘I skied off the end of the run and got into the trees, and now I’m in some huge bowl that looks like it’s something out of (ski-film impresario) Warren Miller.’ ”


  

Holiday avalanche danger rated moderate

WINTER SPORTS — Be careful out there.

Avalanche conditions for the entire Idaho Panhandle National Forest Advisory Area are rated as moderate on all aspects greater than 30 degrees above 5,000 feet, Forest Service experts reported today.
 
Natural avalanches are unlikely, human triggered avalanches are possible, they advised.
 
Avalanche conditions are rated as considerable on wind loaded pockets above 6,000 feet above 35 degrees. Natural avalanches are possible and human triggered avalanches are probable.
 
Read on for the entire advisory issued for today through Dec. 26 in areas OUTSIDE of controlled ski management zones.

Othello cancels Sandhill Crane Festival

WATCHABLE WILDLIFE — The 2011 Othello Sandhill Crane Festival has been canceled.

Organizers told The Columbia Basin Herald there weren't enough volunteers for the event, which usually has been held in March for the past 13 years.

The festival celebrated the arrival of the migrating birds at the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge. It soared in popularity a few years ago, attracting expert speakers and filling tour buses with wildlife watchers

Organizers are looking for volunteers to bring the Othello Sandhill Crane Festival back in 2012

Bald eagles set record at CdA today

WILDLIFE WATCHING — “I can hardly believe it myself, but the total today was 254, well over the record!” said Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist on Thursday after completing her weekly survey of bald eagles at Wolf Lodge Bay.

In the more than two decades BLM has been surveying the annual eagle congregation, the previouis highest count was 156 eagles in December 2004.
 
The 254 birds counted today compares with 104 at the same time last year, Hugo said. And it's a huge leap from the 117 she counted just last week.
 
“I looked at my total and wondered if I'd done something wrong,” she said. “Maybe I lost track of time, but no, my time was the usual 2.5 hours.”
 
Viewing conditions were good but not perfect, since there was still some snow on trees which makes it harder to single out the white heads of the adult eagles.
 
The immature eagles under 4 years old have dark heads.
 
The eagles congregate in winter to feast on spawning kokanee. Hugo said the numbers of the land-locked sockeye salmon look strong, so the eagles shouldn’t be leaving too soon.
 
The eagle gathering usually peaks around this time, perfect for holiday break wildlife watching.
 
Wildlife biologists and Audubon Society volunteers will be staffing displays and spotting scopes for the annual Eagle Watch Week at the Mineral Ridge boat ramp and also at the Mineral Ridge trailhead off I-90's Wolf Lodge Bay exit Sunday through Jan. 1 from 10 a.m.to 3 p.m.

America’s Great Outdoors Act foiled

PUBLIC LANDS — A last-ditch attempt to get a package of wilderness measures and public lands bills through Congress died this week on a single vote cast by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

“These bills were bi-partisan, non-controversial, and critical for all regions of the country,” said Reid spokeswoman Regan Lachapelle in an e-mail.
 
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had bundled dozens of the 110 public land measures into his “America's Great Outdoors Act,” which rolled out last week. It was scuttled Monday in the face of Republican opposition even though most of the bills had bipartisan support in their states.
 
Reid's package included proposals to designate more than 300,000 acres of new wilderness, establish new national parks and monuments and protect critical watersheds, forests and endangered species.
 
See the New York Times story summarizing the bill's demise.

Which hunting dog do you have?

HUNTING — I went out chasing pheasants through the countryside this week with a buddy who has a Labrador retriever — about 100 pounds of brute force. 

Pheasants, Angus bulls and taut barbed-wire fences all fear this dog.

Maybe you can pick him out of the photo lineup above.

Birder applies binoculars to Mount Spokane

BIRDING — Most people visiting Mount Spokane this month are focused on frolicking in the snow, whether it's on skis, snowshoes, inner tubes or snowmobiles.

But there's a lot more life in the winter mountain forest than most visitors realize — unless you head up with a serious birdwatcher, such as Terry Little.
 
“I took my wife cross-country skiing this morning on Mount Spokane,” he reported a few minutes ago by e-mail. “She skied; I drove. But I did have a little time to do some high-mountain birding.
 
“As usual, one has to be patient and persistent when birding in the mountains, especially in the winter. But here is what I found (mostly about 1/2 mile past the parking lot for the snowmobilers on the way to ski lodges):
 
Sharp-shinned hawk, northern pygmy owl, hairy woodpecker, common raven, gray jay (2), chestnut-backed chickadee, Mountain chickadee, red-breasted nuthatch, pine grosbeak (15), Cassin's finch (1), red crossbill (2), pine siskins (10).
 
Little also reported seeing bald eagles, northern rough-legged hawks and American kestrels in the fields at the Peone Wetland as he traveled from the mountain.

Bats taking a beating from fungal disease

WILDLIFE — It hasn't been detected yet in the West, but a flesh-eating fungus known as white-nose syndrome is devastating bat populations in the eastern half of the United States.

In the past four years, more than one million bats from at least seven species are estimated to have died from the disease named for the way it covers their snouts like baby powder.
 
This year, as white nose sweeps west from Northeast states such as Virginia and Pennsylvania to Oklahoma, scientists are bracing for the worst. The impact on crops and native plants has not been assessed as the helpful insect-controlling bats are decimated.
 
See maps and read the latest in today's Washington Post story.

Barbed hooks allowed on Columbia River

FISHING — Starting Jan. 1, anglers will be allowed to use barbed hooks for fishing for Salmon and steelhead on the Columbia River, from the mouth to McNary Dam.

Washington is putting the rule into effect to avoid confusion with Oregon's rule.
 
But let's be clear about another thing:  Using barbless hooks puts less stress on the fish we catch and release and improves their survival. 
 
Man-up, anglers, and keep using barbless hooks.

Kayakers detail crocodile tragedy

PADDLING — The three world-class kayakers were in the middle of Lukuga River in Congo on Dec. 7. The remote stretch was about 100 feet wide, and the two Americans were paddling so close to South African guide Hendri Coetzee their blades would touch if they got out of synch.

Coetzee was in the center, Ben Stookesberry, 32, of Mount Shasta, Calif., was a little in front on the left, and Chris Korbulic, 24, of Rogue River, Ore., was a little behind on the right.
 
“I glanced over to measure that we were not paddling towards or away from each other. And just in my periphery I saw the crocodile come out of the water, and he got onto Hendri’s left side — just the left shoulder with its mouth,” Korbulic said in an interview for an Associated Press story released today.
 
Talking to villagers later, they figured the crocodile was at least 15 feet long and weighed up to 2 tons.
Stookesberry and Korbulic watched the overturned boat shaking for about 20 seconds as the crocodile pulled Coetzee from the tight-fitting cockpit.
 
Realizing they could do nothing, they paddled as fast as they could less than a mile downstream to a village, where they caught Coetzee’s boat as it floated by, without even a scratch to tell how he had disappeared.
 
Coetzee’s body has never been found, and he is presumed dead.
 
Continue to see the entire Associated Press story.

Glacier, Waterton superintendents urge action on lands bill

NATIONAL PARKS — An alliance of veteran superintendents from Glacier and Waterton Lakes national parks has written a letter encouraging swift government action on a public lands bill to protect the parks.

The joint public letter, signed by six former Glacier superintendents and two former superintendents of Waterton Lakes, comes in the final days of Glacier's centennial year, and as Congress considers a bipartisan omnibus bill aimed at protecting the country's land, water and wildlife resources.
 
The legislation, called America's Great Outdoors Act of 2010, encompasses more than 110 individual bills and includes several key protection measures for both Glacier and Waterton Lakes.
 
Continue for more details, or read the full Missoulian story here.

Forest plan sweetens Lochsa land swap deal

NATIONAL FORESTS — Officials with the Clearwater National Forest are floating a plan to buy a big chunk of private timber land in the upper Lochsa River basin as one way to curry public favor for a land exchange with a private company.

The proposed purchase is one of several options outlined in an environmental impact statement issued by the agency this month on the Upper Lochsa Land Exchange.

Get ready for public open house meetings:

  • Jan. 11 at Latah County Fairgrounds in Moscow, 1 p.m.-7 p.m. 
  • Jan. 12 at Clearwater National Forest Supervisor's Office, 1 p.m.-7 p.m. 
Read on for the Associated Press story with more details.

Selkirk Nordic Series tests skiers

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING – Cross-country skiers can test their performance over the course of the season and take a stab at winning cool prizes by entering the three-race Selkirk Nordic Series.

First event is Jan. 22 – the 5- or 10-kilometer Cougar Gulch event at Schweitzer.
 
Second race is a7K freestyle, the Chewelah Peak Challenge on Jan. 29 at 49 Degrees North.
 
Final race is the biggest race in the region, the classic Langlauf 10K, Feb. 13, at Mount Spokane.
 
Selkirk Nordic Series participants accumulate points toward the final standings. Skiers must ski at least two races to qualify.
 
The top three men and women will receive Sporthill warm-up jackets.
 
The top man and woman will receive a Garmin GPS monitor.
 
The series is sponsored by Fitness Fanatics, Mountain Gear, Sporthill, Garmin, Spokane Parks & Recreation Department and the race venues.

Clark Fork River back in its channel

RIVERS – Milltown Dam was breached in March 2008, allowing Montana’s Clark Fork River to flow free just above Missoula for the first time in a century.  But it wasn’t allowed to run freely in its restored channel until last week.

As The Missoulian story reported, “After five years of being dammed, diverted, diked and dirtied, the big river got to flush away the final ghost of Milltown Dam on Thursday.

“This will never be quite the same after today,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Milltown project manager Diana Hammer said as the river shifted course. “Of course, how many times have we said that here, every year for the past five years? It's getting hard to explain. There are so many things that aren't here anymore.”
 
Now, with the removal of 3 million tons of toxic sediment, the planting of nearly that many trees and bushes and the transfer of 415 acres of floodplain, the state of Montana can slowly make plans for a future park, the river can continue healing, and the fishery can bloom.
 
Over the next five or six months, Envirocon and Helena Sand and Gravel workers will finish erasing traces of their work in the floodplain. They will restore the bypass channel to a more natural appearance, although it will continue to function as a high-water side channel in future floods.

Outdoors making most of shortest day

HUNTING — I've endured some long days in the field this season with little to show for hours of follownig Scout, my English Setter, through the Palouse.

But today, the shortest day of the year, was the best of the season: Scout tallied 18 points on pheasants, three of them roosters. Three shots, a limit and home in time to come to work before anyone missed me.

I plan to spend the longest night of the year savoring stir-fried fresh pheasant breast, red wine, my kids coming home for Christmas break, and a dog-tired dog by my feet. 

Good way to recover from staying up late last night to watch the total lunar eclipse. 

Thanks to Hans Krauss for the photo from his perch in the Valley. 

State Parks confronts crisis management

STATE PARKS — With the governor’s budget proposal leaving now General Fund money for Washington State Parks and Recreation, officials have called a special meeting for Wednesday, 10 a.m., at parks headquarters in Olympia.

The agenda  includes discussion of the plan to merge parks and rec with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Recreation Conservation Office into a mega-agency called the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Consolidation could eliminate the citizen commissions and relegate them to advisory status, while a single director of the new agency would report to the governor.

The governor’s budget also proposes removing General Fund tax support from the State Parks budget, which would force the agency to raise operating revenue through user-based fees.

Currently, most fees are paid by the 7 percent of visitors who camp and stay at overnight lodgings in state parks.

Under the proposed system, the public might have to shell out $5 or $10 just to enter a state park.

Public comment can be sent by e-mail to public.information@parks.wa.gov.

Jerks use wildlife as blowgun fodder

WILDLIFE — Last week I shared a photo of a wild turkey feeding and gettng along somehow in North Spokane, even though it had been skewered with an arrow by a less-than-worthy archer.

Today we get an even grimmer report from Billings, where wildlife photographers have documented at least five ducks at the Montana city’s Riverfront Park have been hit with arrow-like blowgun darts.

Blowgun makers say darts can be fired up to 400 feet per second from 6-foot blowguns, some equipped with laser sights.

Bill Pirami gave The Billings Gazette a photo showing a 6-inch, stainless-steel blowgun dart sticking through the duck’s head.

A Parks official says shooting isn’t allowed at the park, and that blowguns are not an authorized hunting weapon.

Biologist sheds light on wolf behavior

WILDLIFE — Wolves are not bloodless killers, but they can appear to be, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Russ Morgan.

Wolf kills can appear perplexing because often they barely have a scratch.

The state’s wolf program coordinator explained why — and much more — during a recent presentation about wolves at a meeting of the Union/Wallowa county chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association. The following story was reported by Dick Mason of the LaGrande Observer.

North Idaho debates whether to bite the hand that feeds bears

WILDLIFE — Safety concerns have prompted North Idaho wildlife officials to urge Bonner County commissioners to pass an ordinance banning the feeding of bears and other wildlife.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game said the county logged 770 nuisance bear complaints from the public this year, about 740 more than any other county in the state. Bonner County has some of the best bear habitat in Idaho.

“It’s a public safety issue and it’s a bear safety issue,” Becky Haag, an environmental biologist with Fish and Game, told the Bonner County Daily Bee. “We’ve been asking and that’s the problem. I think we’re seeing that that’s ineffective, unfortunately. Asking people to do things nicely isn’t working.”

Authorities said many of the calls involve property damage to buildings, boats and vehicles, but no injuries have been reported to humans so far.

Eagle-killers sentenced in Yakima

WILDLIFE CRIMES — Two Yakama Nation tribal members have been sentenced to six months in federal prison for killing and selling more than 100 bald and golden eagles.

Alfred L. Hawk and William R. Wahsise, both in their 20s, pleaded guilty to taking, selling or transporting eagles. They were sentenced Friday in federal court in Yakima.

Prosecutors say they killed more than 100 eagles around the reservation.

The Yakima Herald-Republic reports the poverty-stricken men relied on subsistence hunting, but they are now barred from possessing guns.

Buck by moonlight at Priest Lake

WILDLIFE —  Priest Lake’s resident blogger Pecky Cox used her every-ready camera to capture this whitetail buck against the moon beams reflecting off the water. The photo is posted on her “As the Lake Churns” website.

Some poachers can’t be overlooked

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT – While patrolling the Horseshoe Lake area, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department Officer Paul Mosman had one of those rare “game warden moments.”

“It started when he pulled in behind a likely looking truck parked at an access gate and just happened to notice a man nearby quickly toss a turkey carcass into the wood line before walking down to greet the officer,” reported Capt. Mike Whorton in Spokane. “Officer Mosman utilized his years of training and experience to deduce that this might be a clue to follow up on.

“After a few minutes of license checks and discussion about archery deer hunting, Officer Mosman made his way up to the turkey and found not one but four steaming hot turkeys in various stages of field dressing.  One of the men ultimately confessed to shooting all four.

“His excuse was that he only meant to poach one (and then go into town to buy a turkey tag) and had been surprised when four birds started flopping around after he shot.”

He was cited on several counts and his shotgun was seized for forfeiture.

Read on for other highlights from last weeks wildlife enforcement patrols.

O say can you see: lunar eclipse tonight

SKYWATCHING – On the fat chance that the clouds will disappear, the heavens will giving us a reason to stay up late tonight.

A lunar eclipse is set to begin about 10:30 p.m., when the Earth¹s shadow begins to pass over the surface of the moon, the penumbra phase. The total eclipse begins about 11:40 p.m. and will last until about 12:50 a.m., the Tacoma News-Tribune reports.

Totality, the time during which the moon is completely within the Earth’s dark umbral shadow, will last just about 72 minutes, according to NASA. During the last total lunar eclipse on Feb. 21, 2008, totality lasted 50 minutes.

The moon will finally come out of the Earth¹s penumbra shadow at 2:01 a.m.

Read on for viewing tips.

2010 hunting reports filed, bring on 2011

HUNTING — I just filed the last of my 2010 online hunting reports. 

If you hunt in Washington or Idaho, the reports are mandatory. It will save you grief to do it before the end of the year. You’ll avoid delays and hassles when you go in to buy a hunting license and tags next year. 

Moreover, Filing the reports helps wildlife managers assess and manage game populations.

Hunters are among the most regulated outdoor sportsmen. And for the most part, they understand why it has to be that way.

Spokane group has cure for kids with ‘nature deficit disorder’

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NATURE — Saturday’s snow storm contributed to the adventure for about 100 kids 8-12 years old on a Sierra Club’s Inner City Outings boat cruise to view the annual gathering of bald eagles at Lake Coeur d’Alene.

“We spotted between 80-100 eagles perched and watched a dozen or so catch fish,” said Chris Bachman, ICO director in Spokane. “This despite the blizzard we encountered which just added to the experience. Lots of kid and adult smiles.”

The eagle cruise is just one of about 16 trips ICO organizes to help provide kids with outdoor experiences that connect them into real-world knowledge and serve as a healthy alternative to violence, alcohol, drugs and boredom.

Chris Bachman, who won a national Sierra Club award in September for working with youth, is featured in Monday’s S-R print edition story as he talks about his devotion to getting kids in the outdoors.

Read on for a few insights he offered that won’t make the paper.

George Orr leaving Wildlife Commission

 WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — George Orr, the always quotable Washington Wildlife Commissioner from Spokane, announced today that he will be leaving the commission when his term expires next year.

Orr, a retired fireman and former state legislator, made the announcement during a commission conference all meeting called for other matters.

“I told the commission today that I’m not going to reenlist,” Orr said. “I’ve served God and country pretty handily since 1960: went into the military, served on school boards, union offices, PTA and elected and appointed offices around the state. Now it’s time to spend time with my wife and good buddy, and perhaps spoil my grandchildren a little more.

“Something else might come around later, but for now I’m not reenlisting.”

Orr’s announcement came four days after Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed eliminating the wildlife commission or making it merely an advisory group instead of a policy-making panel responsible for hiring and firing the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department director.

Elk baiting nets poachers $9,600 in fines, photos catch them in the act

POACHING — A year of patience and a cold stake out paid off for Idaho Fish and Game Department agents this week.

Three people found guilty of baiting elk in Idaho’s Boundary County were issued fines totaling $9,600.

Following a baiting activity investigation on that started in December 2009, Idaho Fish and Game officers hid in the woods this month on the Bonners Ferry–area property of Richard Raine. The agents were able to photograph Raine’s daughter, Barbera Johnson of Sacramento, Calif., working with Robert Johnson of Sacramento to put out feed to lure elk.

According to IFG officer Greg Johnson, agents later witnessed Barbera Johnson, who did not have a hunting license, kill a 6-by-7 point bull elk.

Back with a search warrant and help from Border Patrol and Idaho State Patrol on Dec. 12, the agents discovered a cow elk killed by Robert Johnson.

On Monday, he pleaded guilty to killing elk over bait and possessing two illegally killed elk and issued fines totaling $5,600. Barbera Johnson was fined $3,000. Both lost their hunting privileges for five years.

Raine was fined $1,000 for his part in processing the illegally killed elk.

Ski-joring North Idaho style: Giddyap

SKIING — Photos of a skier getting air — water-skier-style — behind a horse was the Huckleberrys parting shot for Thursday, and it’s a soaring wintery start to the outdoors blog for Friday.

Get the scoop — (does the skier need a clean-up shovel?) — and more photos here.

Video: Into a black bear’s winter den

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Bring any kids in the house over to watch this entertaining video of a Canadian TV humorist joining bear biologists as they crawl into a winter den to put a radio collar on an almost hibernating black bear. 
 
Hint:  They find three little surprises.
 
Just before going into the den, CBC host Rick Mercer had a few question’s for the bear biologist:
 
“What’s the life expectancy o a black bear?”
 
“They’ll live into their 20s.”
 
“What’s the life expectancy of a bear expert?”

This week’s CdA eagle count: 117

WILDLIFE WATCHING — BLM biologist Carrie Hugo counted 117 bald eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay area of Lake Coeur d’Alene during her weekly count on Wednesday. 

The 117 birds — 85 adults with white heads and 32 immature birds — is up from 89 counted last week.

Last year at this time, BLM surveyors counted a total of 97 bald eagles.

When quail don’t fly

HUNTING — I was pretty confident going into today’s hunt.  I had a shotgun and an English setter that covers real estate like the wind.

But the valley quail didn’t fly.

Instead, they challenged us to a footrace through the Lincoln County sagebrush.

The birds won, by a mile.

Board CdA boats to view bald eagles

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A scenic boat cruise is one of the more enjoyable ways to view the annual winter bald eagle gathering at Lake Coeur d’Alene’s Wolf Lodge Bay.

Here are a few options;

Dec. 26-Jan. 2: Coeur d’Alene Resort 2-hour cruises start at 1 p.m. Cost: Adults $20, over 55 $18, kids $12, under 6 free.

Sign-up: (800) 688-5253

Jan. 1: Spokane Parks and Recreation van trip and 2-hour cruise for adults. Participants meet at Corbin Center, 827 W. Cleveland, at 11:30 a.m. and return after a no-host meal at 5 p.m. Cost, including guide and transportation, $38.

Sign-up: 625-6200 or online.

Owl carving stolen at 49 Degrees North

NORDIC SKIING — Etta, the owl beautifully carved out of cedar, has been stolen from its perch overlooking the the Hoot Owl nordic ski trail at 49 Degrees North.

“Please put out the word,” said Keith Wakefield, who helped design and create the ski area’s nordic center. 

Maybe someone will spot the sculptured owl and persuade the sleaze bag thief to return it, he said.

Etta should be easy to spot, he said. She’s 27 inches tall and even though she’s made of lightweight cedar, the sculpture weighs about 30 pounds.

Ferry County trail gets $100,000 grant

TRAILS — A $100,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Transportation will help put railings and other safety features on a 770-foot trestle — one of the jewels in the rough of the rail trail that runs 33 miles from Republic to the Canada border.

The Ferry County Rail Tail Partners group, which received the information this week, is planning a small celebration to be held in conjunction with Rail Tail Ski Day, set for Jan. 15 in Curlew.  Activities includ free ski clinics and gear us, along with snowshoeing.

These types of state transportation enhancement funds will be vital for developing the trail into a facility the communities can enjoy and will also draw much needed recreational tourism dollars to the area, said Bob Whittaker, FCRTP president.

The trail runs along a scenic route past Curlew Lake State Park as well as along the Kettle River.

Early reaction to Wildlife merger plan

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The buzz is growing over Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budget-cutting proposals that would, among other things, merge the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department to into a new mega agency and reduce the Fish and Wildlife Commission to an advisory role or eliminate it all together.

If the plan goes through, wildlife policy would be carried out by a governor-appointed director of a new Department of Conservation and Recreation.

“The voters gave the governor no choice in this budget crisis but to make big changes,” said George Orr, Fish and Wildlife commissioner from Spokane. “I think they’re likely to abolish the commissions and then cherry pick the good policy makers into some advisior committies that can give agency staff good advice without wasting a lot of time.”

More reaction follows….

Wild turkeys toughest bird around

WILD FOWL — In a testament to the species’ hardiness, reports of white wild turkeys among the region’s big wintering flocks are fairly common.

First, one must marvel that there are big wintering flocks after two bad winters in the past three years followed by this year’s unusually wet spring nesting conditions.

Then, to see white wild turkeys surviving through spring, summer, fall and into winter reinforces the bird’s top survivor status.

Albinism and white phases occur in many species, including skunks. But nature tends to be harsh on these aberrations. Lacking the natural camouflage, predators key in on them easily, although they might have some sort of advantage in the scattering of weeks when snow is on the ground. 

Sadly, another sign of their toughness is the beating they take.   Evan Johnson sent me the two photos accompanying this post.  — the white turkey and the normal wild turkey feeding among its flock with an arrow through its breast.

The only thing worse than the shot and the arrow choice some archer made is his unwillingness to do what it takes to finish the job on a noble bird.

Fish, Wildlife panel could be axed

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is on the chopping block in Gov. Chris Gregoire’s Tuesday proposal announced to consolidate state agencies and eliminate boards and commissions to save nearly $30 million.

Among other mergers, a new Department of Conservation and Recreation would be formed by combining the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the State
Parks and Recreation Commission, the Recreation and Conservation Office and the law enforcement unit of the Department of Natural Resources.

Traditionally, fish and wildlife management policy has been set by the commission, a panel of nine members appointed by the governor. The commission has had the power to hire and fire the Fish and Wildlife Department director.

Under the new system, the Conservation and Recreation director would be part of the Governor’s staff.

“It’s hard on my ego to say I don’t’ think we need smart guys like me to write policy,” said George Orr, Fish and Wildlife commissioner from Spokane. “But the governor’s trying to make ends meet in tough times. For now, it probably makes sense.”

Fish and Wildlife commissioners are volunteers. The commission budget is nearly $150,000 a year, he said.

“People say they want to keep political decisions out of fish and wildlife management,” he said. “But the reality is that politics enter into just about every decision we make.”

F&G diretor fined $500 for trespassing

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — Idaho’s top fish and game official has pleaded guilty to one count of trespass to hunt and ordered to pay a $500 fine, the Associated Press reported this afternoon.

Idaho Fish and Game Director Cal Groen told a judge Tuesday he wasn’t hunting on the property near Elk City on Oct. 13, but just assisting others tracking an elk. Groen said only after crossing on to the land did he realize it was private and closed to public hunting.

The Lewiston Tribune reports Groen was also given a withheld judgment by Magistrate Randall Robinson. The 63-year-old director was charged with three others for crossing on to the property without permission.

Groen has said his partners previously hunted the land but were unaware it changed ownership. Groen says the lesson is hunters can’t assume they have permission to hunt on private land.

Bear barks up wrong tree

WILDLIFE — Hunting from a tree stand puts a hunter’s scent above the ground, where critters often come and go without a clue that a human is present.

Sometimes the critters don’t come and go, through.  Sometimes they just keep coming.

Check out this video of a curious black bear that takes a step too far.

Anyone who’s caught kids or dogs where they know they shouldn’t be will recognize the look on this bruin’s face.

MT student won’t be expelled over gun

GUNS — A Columbia Falls High School student who inadvertently brought an unloaded rifle to school in the trunk of her car will not be expelled, the Associated Press reports.

The school board made its unanimous decision Monday night, and the 16-year-old honor student and varsity cheerleader was allowed back in class today.

The junior was suspended Dec. 1 after contraband-sniffing dogs were brought to school and she told administrators she had forgotten the rifle she put in her trunk after a weekend hunting trip.

Monday’s disciplinary hearing had to be moved to a school gymnasium to accommodate the nearly 150 people who attended, some of whom waved signs criticizing school officials’ handling of the case and decrying federal gun laws.

Dean Chisholm, the board’s vice chairman, said the incident appears to be “an unintentional act by a young lady who regrets it, who understands the policy.”

Glacier National Park records busiest year

PARKS — Glacier National Park’s Centennial year has become its busiest.

Even though November’s visitor count was down 14 percent compared to the same time last year, the 13,000 visitors last month were enough to push this year’s total visitation past the 1983 record year, according to the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell.

From January through November, 2,216,019 people entered Glacier. That’s nearly 10 percent more than the number of visitors during the same period last year and exceeds the 1983 record of 2,203,847 visitors.

Park spokeswoman Amy Vanderbilt says relatively affordable gas prices and strong interest in national parks among regional travelers boosted Glacier’s numbers this year.

Moose in the yard? Chill

WILDLIFE — Winter weather is tempting moose to wander into towns and neighborhoods to nibble tender landscaping plants.

In most cases, Idaho  Fish and Game Department officers recommend giving the moose a day or two to find its way back into the wild.  “It found its way into town; it can find a way out,” said officer Mark Rhodes. “That is the favored option.” 

Idaho and Washington wildlife agencies would rather avoid responding to moose complaints, partly because it takes a ton of time out of the schedule of already overstretched officers, and partly because it’s dangerous for the people involved and for the moose.

The drugs administered by a tranquilizer gun can be fatal if the moose is especially agitated or its weight misjudged, Rhodes said.

If you encounter a moose, IDFG says you shouldn’t approach it. Keep your distance, and keep dogs away.
 
Every case is different, but the officers would prefer not getting a call unless the moose has been given time to leave or if it’s posing a significant danger. Rhodes said.

Poachers keep wildlife officers busy

POACHING PATROL — Washington Fish and Wildlife Department enforcement officers in the Spokane Region seem to be answering an increased number of serious poaching calls, Capt. Mike Whorton said today.
Recent examples include…

Spring chinook forecast looks good

FISHING — The 2011 spring chinook salmon run into the Columbia river should be a good one, although not in the sensational range of the run that moved upstream this year.

State and federal fisheries experts last week issued a preliminary forecast of 158,000 springers moving into the system, down from 307,348 counted over Bonneville Dam this year.

The Snake River portion of the forecast run is 91,100, down from nearly 170,000 that arrived this year.

While the 2011 run looks to be short of the 2010 run, it figures high among runs in the past 20 years or so, Oregon Fish and Wildlife fish managers say.

The 2011 run, if it comes in as forecast, would be the sixth largest spring chinook run since 1979. It would be above the long-term average and median, but below the most recent 10-year average and about the same as the most recent 10-year median.

Tonight: Free programs feature wilderness, exploring

PROGRAMS — The Spokane Mountaineers are featuring two programs tonight featuring some excellent outdoor photography.

  • Tim Coleman of Conservation Northwest will discuss the Columbia Highlands Initiative and proposals for wilderness areas in the Okanogan and Colville National Forests.
  • Jon Jantz of WILDLIGHT Photography, a Washington climber, traveler, explorer of wild places & all around dirt-bag, presents To The Hills, a series of forays into the BC Coast Range eventually leading to the construction of one of the first trails to access the alpine in the Mount Waddington Region.

The programs will be presented starting at 7 p.m. at Mountain Gear Corporate Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield.

Directions: Near Felts Field, go North on Fancher from Trent and turn right on Mansfield just before the tracks.

Other predators benefit from focus on wolves

WILDLIFE — While the Rocky Mountain reigon’s wildlife control agents are forced to focus on wolves, coyotes, grizzly bears, black bears and mountain lions are making a killing on livestock.

“Our wildlife control people spend so much time with wolves that they’re being taken away from the other predators and our ranching industry is getting hammered,” Montana state Sen. Greg Hinkle (R-Thompson Falls) said in a Sunday story by The Helena Independent Record

For example, in Montana:

  • Coyotes killed 1,348 calves in 2010, up from 111 calves in 2006. They killed 2,488 lambs and 422 adult sheep this year, up from 698 lambs and 135 adult sheep in 2006.
  • Grizzly bears killed 32 calves in 2010, up from five in 2006. They killed 12 lambs and 29 adult sheep in 2010, up from no lambs and two adult sheep in 2006.
  • Mountain lions killed four calves in 2010, up from two calves in 2006. They killed 91 lambs and 36 adult sheep in 2010, up from nine lambs and 14 adult sheep in 2006.
  • Wolves killed 454 calvs in 2010, up from 51 calves in 2006. They killed 48 lambs and 728 adult sheep in 2010, up from six lambs and 22 adult sheep in 2006.

Read on for more context from the Helena Independent story.

Wolverines judged needy of Endangered Species protection

WILDLIFE — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the wolverine should be to be added to the list of endangered and threatened species, the Associated Press reported this morning.

But, the federal agency adds, adding the wolverine now is precluded by higher priorities — that is, other species considered in greater danger.

The agency says in a decision posted Monday that the small mammal known for its ferocity will be added to the candidate species list.

This still could have an impact on snowmobiling and other backcountry activities.

The Fish and Wildlife Service says wolverine’s range in the U.S. includes portions of Montana, Idaho, Washington, Wyoming, Colorado, Oregon, Utah and California.

While Washington State has experienced a flurry of wolverine activity in recent years, fewer than 500 wolverines survive in the lower 48, and a recent study found that just 35 individuals are breeding successfully in the western United States, according to Conservation Northwest.

Since 2005, federal researchers have been tracking seven wolverines in the North Cascades, and have learned that Washington’s wolverines have significantly larger home ranges than wolverines elsewhere.  Other sightings have been reported from Mount Baker near Bellingham to Mount Adams in southern Washington. 

Two years ago, the agency found the wolverine was not eligible for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. Environmentalists sued, and last year the agency agreed to issue a new finding.

If Christmas was during the rut…

WILDLIFE — Here’s one of the hazards Santa would have to endure if Christmas has been scheduled a month earlier.

Simple shelters go up for snowshoers

WINTER SPORTS — You have to love the spirit of the Panhandle Nordic Club and the volunteers who have helped develop the Fourth of July Pass ski and snowshoe trails.

They help maintain the trails. They bake cookies to give to the I-90 snowplow drivers as a thanks for plowing a wider parking area at the pass. They’ve made maps of the area available on their website. They organize trips, programs and events and much more, including tending to several shelters at the pass for all to enjoy.

The latest is a snowshoers’ hut on the Twisted Klister trail system. “It’s still a work in progress,” said club stalwart Geoff Harvey. “It needs at least one more tarp, a door system and the stove installed.”

But it’s getting there.

“On Friday, its snowed all day at the site, leaving a wet three new inches of snow on about a foot and a half,” he reported, noting that the warm rains that followed would certainly have eroded some of that base.

Weather bleak at Mount Spokane nordic area

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING — The great skiing conditions of Saturday deteriorated today into a slushy slog at the Mount Spokane nordic ski trails.

To add insult to injury, the power was lost to the Selkirk Lodge this morning.

The trails couldn’t be groomed Saturday night because of the wet-snow fall and deteriorating conditions.

Until the weather chills….

Snake River shores hot for steelhead

FISHING – A cold winter wind was blowing down the Snake River today, but the steelhead fishing was hot.

With the able assistance of his 10-year-old son, Josh, shore angler Tim Wills landed this bright steelie around 1 p.m. near the Wawaiwai boat launch.  The Wills landed limits of steelhead, some of them ranging well over 15 pounds.

Wills said he’s been fishing the Snake from shore 27 years.  Although he started in September, the fishing had been slow until just recently. He suspects the cooler water temperatures are helping the shore anglers out in the reservoir waters upstream from Lower Granite Dam.

His fishing technique was simple and effective:  Orange-dyed shrimp fished 10 feet below a bobber cast out 40 feet from shore.

Snowy owls make annual visit to region

BIRDING — They come just a few at a time from their home in the arctic, but they stand out like NBA players on a grade-school tour bus when they arrive in Lincoln County each winter.

Snowy owls are always welcome sights to Inland Northwest birdwatchers. The birds have a calm demeanor as they perch on fence posts and power poles over the wheat fields and scablands west of Spokane.

Greg Falco of Sprague said he drove 50 miles on Thursday without spotting a snowy owl.

But Buck Domitrovich was able to spot one southeast of Davenport near Morrison and Jannett roads.

He managed to get the nice photo above as the weather finally cleared from its doldrums and made a brilliant day for birding.

Stevens County sets hearing on OHV laws

OFF-ROADINGThe controversial issue of making it legal to ride ATVs and other non-highway-suitable vehicles on more public roads is back on the front burner in Stevens County.

Amendments to OHV Ordinance 06-2009 is set for discussion at a special Dec. 20 County Commissioners hearing, 6:30 p.m., at the Loon Lake Old School House.

Insiders say this is Commissioner Merrill Ott’s last effort to pass the ordinance amendments before he is replaced in January.

Maps and the list of roads proposed for opening to OHVs are posted on the Stevens County website.

Some residents contend the ordinance would make it easier for unethical riders to access public and private land where they are not allowed to ride.

Info: Stevens County Commissioner’s office  (509) 684-3751.

Highway underpass a hit with critters

WILDLIFE — A month after a wildlife underpass opened under Idaho Highway 21 east of Boise, the animals seem to be getting the hang of it, according to the Idaho Statesman.

Boise River Wildlife Management Area manager Ed Bottum says the animals almost immediately began using the tunnel, and a motion-sensor camera has caught images of deer, elk and even a fox using the underpass.

Animals tend to use the pathway more late and night and early in the morning and tend to shy away during heavy traffic times, when it would be more noisy in the tunnel, he said.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game hopes the $800,000 tunnel will save some of the up to 100 mule deer and 10 elk that are struck by vehicles on Idaho 21.

Turkeys gone, no shots fired

NUISANCE WILDLIFE — I have a gift to offer the region’s rural residents who are being besieged by wintering turkeys that are congregated in flocks and fouling barnyards.

Just invite me to come out with my one remaining 2010 turkey tag and I can virtually elminate the entire flock without firing a shot.

It happened again yesterday.  A man, who’s had up to 200 turkeys at a time all around his Mount Spokane-region place in the past month, asked me to come out and use my tag to help thin out the flock.  

“All you have to do is walk out on the deck and pick one out,” he said. “They’re taking over the place.”

So I went out and my mere presense sent the turkey’s packing.  The big flock that’s been there every day for weeks was gone.  One wild-ass turkey came in within 75 yards and ran off for no reason.

After enjoying coffee, cookies and some good hunting stories in his kitchen, I shook his hand at roosting time and left, proud to have once-again shared my talent for the benefit of sportsman-landowner relations.

Barker Bridge squanders river’s potential

SPOKANE RIVER — The City of Spokane Valley and the entire region apparently got short-changed in the $11 million Barker Road Bridge construction project.

City officials turned their backs on citizens and agencies that tried to work from the beginning of the project to improve public access to the river.   As these photos show, the post-construction site is eroded and the river access is even worse that it was BEFORE the city spent $11 million.

Anglers can forget launching a drift boat here.    Now that the City of Spokane Valley is walking away from the project, you need courage just to launch a canoe at Barker Bridge.

Currently there’s room to park on the sides of the bridge, but as the population grows and traffic increases, it’s likely that those parking areas could be eliminated and access rendered virtually impossible.

Is this a way to take advantage of the potential the Spokane River has for improving quality of life and promoting this area as a place to live, work and visit?

I covered this more thoroughly today in my column, Valley’s new Barker Bridge erodes soil, high hopes.   

However, there’s much more to this and the chronic way the city and state agencies – and maybe Avista? —  fail to improve the river and access and the way they fail to even protect what it gives us naturally.

Read on for more details.

Northwest kayakers with guide killed by crocodile

KAYAKING — Associated Press in JOHANNESBURG reports a pair of Northwest kayakers watched in horror as a crocodile snatched their guide from his kayak while he led an expedition from the source of the White Nile into the heart of Congo.

South African Hendrik Coetzee, 35, an acclaimed outdoorsman who wrote movingly about testing himself against nature, is presumed dead after the attack. His body has not been recovered.

The two Americans — Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic — paddled unharmed to safety after the Tuesday morning attack on the Lukuga River in Congo. They expect to return home to the U.S. shortly.

Korbulic is from Rogue River, Ore., and Stookesberry is from Mount Shasta, Calif.

The stretch of river where the trio was traveling is notoriously dangerous because of its whitewater, and the high density of crocodiles and hippos.

Why not let dogs track wounded game?

HUNTING – While we don’t have good statistics on the number of big-game animals wounded and lost by hunters, no one would doubt that it’s significant.  The number might even be staggering.

So why do Washington and a few other states prohibit hunters from using trained dogs to follow scent and blood trails to help retrieved wounded game?

My bird dogs have retrieved many pheasants and quail  I’d never have found.  What if a bowhunter could go back to the rig and get a hound or wirehair or beagle or any tracking dog to help locate his wounded elk?

Del Peterson of Yakima, a retired Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife employee and gun dog breeder, is asking the same question.  Read on to get his drift.

Teen hunter forgot gun in car, faces expulsion from school

HUNTING — A 16 year-old honor roll student and cheerleader from Columbia Falls, Mont., faces expulson from high school after she told school officials after she arrived for classes that she’d forgotten to remove her hunting rifle from her car after a Thanksgiving weekend hunt.

Even though the rifle was unloaded, in its case and locked in the trunk of her car, and even though she brought the oversight to the attenion of the school authorities, she’s likely to be a victim of the school’s no tolerance policy on guns, according to Mac Minard, Montana Outfitters & Guides Association executive director.

Huckleberries story plucker Dave Oliveria has the story.

Idaho criticized for roiling OHVers

OFF-ROADING — The supervisor of the Nez Perce National Forest has criticized the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, contending the state agency tried to rile up off-road vehicle riders over a proposed plan that could limit their access to the forest’s trails.

An e-mail exchange that’s emerged and reported by the Associated Press shows Supervisor Rick Brazell criticized a Nov. 3 letter that the state agency sent to off-highway vehicle riders encouraging them to comment on a proposed travel management plan.

Brazell moved to the Nez Perce/Clearwater national forests last year after earning a reputation on the Colville National Forest for bringing disparate groups together for compromises.

In his e-mail to Idaho Parks, Brazell questioned what he called “using a state database to get folks upset without giving the whole story.”

Parks director Nancy Merrill responded, saying the letter was to inform riders, not lead them to conclusions.

The Idaho Conservation League says it fears the correspondence may show Merrill’s agency favors one recreation group over others: Hikers, horseback riders, anglers and hunters concerned about wildlife habitat affected by trails.

Idaho suspends wolf management plan

ENDANGERED SPECIES — In a telephone conference today, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission suspended Idaho’s 2008-2012 species management plan for wolves.

The 2002 Idaho Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, approved by the Idaho Legislature and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, remains in effect as the foundation for wolf management in the state, says a news release from the Idaho Fish and Game Department.

After a lawsuit moved gray wolves back onto the endangered species list, the 2008 plan is moot, said Clearwater Region Commissioner Fred Trevey. It is uncertain when federal protection will end and Idaho will get back full management authority. It is also unclear what conditions will exist when wolves are delisted.

The 2008 plan was developed when wolves were delisted for the five-year period during which the Fish and Wildlife Service would monitor progress of the delisted species.

The commission called for continued pursuit of wolf control actions under the Endangered Species Act for the protection of elk, moose and deer while wolves remain on the endangered species list.

Anti-wolfer faces felony elk charges

HUNTING — Tony Mayer of Twin Falls, Idaho, — founder of the anti-wolf website SaveElk.com — is charged with illegally killing a bull elk with antlers so large the crime qualifies as a felony.

A judge on Tuesday ruled that Mayer must come back to Blaine County 5th District Court to stand trial for felony elk poaching, according to the Times-News in Twin Falls.

Magistrate Judge Jason Walker ruled that the case against Mayer qualifies as a felony after elk horns from the animal he allegedly took were measured and found to be trophy size.

Mayer is accused of elk poaching in northern Blaine County on Oct. 3, 2009, three days after the close of the bow hunting season. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game started an investigation after Mayer posted photos of the elk on some websites.

An elk is considered a trophy animal if its horns receive a score of 300 or more, based on a series of measurements formalized by the Boone and Crockett Club. Idaho Fish and Game officials scored the horns at around 303.

Early-season avalanches claiming victims

WINTER SPORTS — The season’s first big snow storms had barely blanketed the mountains before this year’s first avalanche deaths were recorded in the West.

Three people already have been killed.

On Sunday, a Colorado backcountry skier died in a 15-foot avalanche in Clear Creek County between Denver and Breckenridge.

An in-bounds slide Nov. 22 at Colorado’s Wolf Creek Ski Area killed the ski patrol director.

A Nov. 27 slide triggered by a snowmobiler on the Utah-Wyoming border killed a 54-year-old man.

Good snow coverage always makes the lure of backcountry skiing, boarding and snowmobiling nearly irresistible. But try to play it smart.

Avalanche advisories, updated weekly, are a click away on the S-R’s Outdoors web page.

Avalanche awareness classes are being scheduled in the Inland Northwest. Check the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center website for updates and schedules for avalanche education classes.

Winter sport clinics and films in Sandpoint

WINTER SPORTS — The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks and Idaho Conservation League are sponsoring a winter backcountry film festival Friday and winter outdoor skills workshops on Saturday in Sandpoint.

Winter backcountry films will be shown at the Panida Theater Friday starting at 7 p.m.

On Saturday, the free workshops will run 9 a.m.-noon at the Sandpoint Community Hall, featuring Kevin Davis, Forest Service avalanche expert, and Dennison Webb and Erik Yost of Selkirk Outdoor Leadership & Education. The two workshops are designed as beginner (or refresher) courses in backcountry winter travel.

Check it out the details and schedule.

Video demonstrates airbags for bicyclists

BICYCLING — I don’t advise volunteering to be a crash dummy for the development of this product, but cyclists who don’t like to mess up their hair in sweaty helmets should take note of this video report.

Operator sought for Stehekin resort

NATIONAL PARKS — Managing a 21-room lodge can’t be easy anywhere, but would it be be more enjoyable in paradise?

Check out this story on the National Park Service search for someone to run the Stehekin resort at the wilderness end of Lake Chelan in North Cascades National Park.

Fish-Wildlife director hints at cuts

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — None of Washington’s state government agency heads is making any friends by suggesting possible program cuts in order to comply with voter wishes to reduce government — and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlfie Director Phil Anderson is no exception.

After the elections, and after a Governor’s directive for more budget cuts, Anderson outlined some of the programs WDFW was considering for reduction or elimination. The sobering list  included:

  • Closing up to 11 fish hatcheries.
  • Reducing the already short supply of enforcement agents.
  • Barricading some of the agency’s 700 access sites.
  • Raising some hunting and fishing license fees.

Sportsmen began to question the proposals and many started complaining, as one might expect. Anderson responded to those people in an e-mail sent last week.

Continue to read the full text of Anderson’s e-mail to sportsmen, which was passed on by a sportsmen to Northwest Sportsman magazine.

Hunter humor graces holiday card

HUNTING — Hunter’s I’ve surveyed believe this kid has a bright future, and photo admirers with a good sportsman-style sense of humor.

Gifts greenies are giving their kids

WILDLIFE EDUCATION — Here’s a list of cool educational stuff to consider getting a kid 4-9 years old for a holiday gift, regardless of whether you’re an environmentalist or someone who’s afraid of that title but still loves the outdoors.

The list that comes from imaginechildhood.com includes items designed to turn the outdoors into a classroom. With some parental nurturing, they’ll help kids understand how animals live and survive in the wilds, identify passing tracks, read about their living and migration habits, use a compass to document the direction they are travelling, and a pocket scope to watch the animals from afar.

Like most people, I already have most of the items in my house, including the worn copy of Owl Moon, which was a favorite children’s book in our family (for the parents AND the kids). I thought if it this morning as I walked the dogs before sunrise and heard a great horned owl hooting in the nearby ponderosa pines

Read on to check out the items, which are available online or in one form or another from area retailers.

County Commission ready to review Conservation Futures picks

CONSERVATION — At 9:30 this morning, the Spokane County Commissioners will hear the final recommendations in this round of nominations for Conservation Futures acquisitions.

The 36 nominations for Spokane County Conservation Futures land acquisitions have been winnowed to a top-10 list.

The commission plans to review the recommendations at the Public Works Building, 1026 W. Broadway.

Since nominations closed in late October, a seven-member county parks advisory committee scrutinized properties totaling 4,700 acres.

Following are the panel’s Top 3 choices:

  1. Knights Lake, 590 acres
  2. Dishman Hills, 160 acres
  3. Antoine Peak, 240 acres

Deer season’s over; it’s time to feast!

 

HUNTING — Nothing celebrates a successful hunting season more than putting the meat on the table. Hunters work hard for their game, and they pay respect to their effort and their animal when they take care to serve it with a flair.

“Venison is the crowning jewel of game meats,” says Todd Smith, Editor-in-Chief of Outdoor Life, which is running a special story package on game-meat cooking in this month’s magazine. “It’s a high-protein, low-fat meat.”

Read on to sample one of the recipes.

Hunters must file season-end reports

HUNTING — Washington Fish and Wildlife officials adding incentive to get hunters to file their manadatory post-hunt report forms by phone or online.

Hunters who file reports will avoid hassles when they try to buy a license next year — and they’ll have a chance to win one of nine 2011 special hunting permits.

Hunting activity reports are required for hunters who bought tags for black bear, deer, elk, or turkey. The reports must be filed by Jan. 10.

Read on for details and this year’s new reporting requirements.

187,000 acres designated for polar bears

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Obama administration is setting aside 187,000 square miles in Alaska as a “critical habitat” for polar bears, an action that could add restrictions to future offshore drilling for oil and gas.

The total, which includes large areas of sea ice off the Alaska coast, is about 13,000 square miles, or 8.3 million acres, less than an amount planned in a preliminary plan released last year.

Read the entire Washington Post story.

Wolves, griz face removal from Endangered Species List

WILDLIFE — The Obama administration is seeking to lift Endangered Species Act protections from two of the most iconic symbols of the American West, the gray wolf and grizzly bear, in moves likely to spark fierce resistance from environmentalists.

Read the entire Washington Post update.

Spokane pikeminnow angler earns 22K

FISHING — Spokane-area angler Ed Williams earned $22,374 in this year’s Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Program, according to information just received from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

This is an update from last week’s blog post revealing that the Bonneville Power Administration paid out $1.2 million in rewards to anglers who caught and removed pikeminnows from the Snake and Columbia rivers to reduce their predation on salmon and steelhead smolts.

Williams was seventh on the list of big-money earners this year, far below the record $81,000 earned by an angler from Gresham, Ore.  Anglers are paid $4-$8 per fish, plus bonuses.

Dan Geiger of Spokane earned $18,570 and finished 11th on the payout list according to the revised information. 

The next pikeminnow reward season begins in May.

Multi-mountain ski passes almost gone

ALPINE SKIING — Only 20 of the multi-mountain ski passes being offered by Ski the NW Rockies are still available, the group says this afternoon.

The pass offers 25 lift tickets for $750 (plus tax). That’s $30 a ticket.

The lift tickets can be used one at a time, all in one day or in any combination at any of the NW Rockies mountains — 49 Degrees North, Lookout Pass, Mt. Spokane or Silver Mountain.

There are no blackout days and the tickets are fully transferable, making them valuable as employee perks, creating a ski club with friends or just using them all yourself. As a group deal, it’s hard to beat.

Info: (509) 621-0125 or click here.

Off-roader fined for mudding

FOUR-WHEELING — A 22-year-old Ellensburg man who was outed by disgruntled off-road vehicle enthusiasts was ordered last week to pay $2,000 to help restore a Reecer Creek meadow that he extensively damaged with his pickup.

Jose Mora Villanueva, 22, was charged in U.S. District Court in Yakima with damaging the land through off-road use of a vehicle, according to the Associated Press.

The case was filed in August after off-road enthusiasts reported to the Forest Service that they saw pictures of the damaged area posted on a Craigslist advertisement where Mora was trying to sell the truck.

Lingering osprey gets taste of winter

BIRDING — Snow buntings and a late-lingering osprey were in the birder buzz this weekend.

One person in the Inland Northwest Birders group reported counting 160 snow buntings during a cruise through Lincoln County.  These are the small birds — grey-brown backs, white fronts and black wing tips — that are commonly seen in flock on plowed gravel roads in Lincoln County during winter.

Meantime, an osprey was photographed near Rook’s Park in Walla Walla on Thanksgiving Day - “which makes it our latest date ever here in Walla Walla County, said MerryLynn Denny. 

The ospreys that are so common in the Spokane region depart in late summer or fall for far flung warmer destinations.

Indeed, an osprey hatched along the lower Coeur d’Alene River was tracked by GPS to where it wintered basking in the tropical warmth of Cuba in 2005.

Of the four chicks with transmitters, one wintered in the New Orleans area and one got to the coast and then made a beeline for Cuba. Idaho Fish and Game Department researchers lost track of the other two.

Poachers keep wildlife officers busy

HUNTING/FISHING — Spokane-area wildlife enforcement officers are still in high gear even though most big-game hunting seasons area winding down.

Here are a few highlights from the past week’s officer reports:

An anonymous tip led officers to a man who had five deer hanging in his south Spokane shop, and not a tag on any of them.  Busted.

In Lincoln County, an officer pieced together information from clues and tips from other hunters to track down a man who had illegally shot a large 6x6 whitetail buck.
Turns out the guy also was a convicted felon, who had not yet restored his gun possession rights.

A man road-hunting for pheasants in the Tekoa area — it’s been a tempting way to “hunt” as birds exposed themselves on the hard snowpack recently —  paid a price for carelessness. As he loaded his over-under shotgun, closed the action and shut the passenger side door, both barrels fired. “One round shot the victim in the knee and the other went through the door,” the report said. He was in surgery at Sacred Heart Hospital and apparently the wound was not life threatening, the deputy said.

Fishing pressure was light last week for the opening at winter fishing lakes, probably because the weather was too wintery, officers reported.

Wolf study strains MSU ties with wildlife agency

ENDANGERED SPECIES — An official with the state’s wildlife agency has told Montana State University’s president that cooperation between the two entities could end due to one of the school’s scientists challenging the agency’s conclusions on how significantly a proposed wolf hunt would reduce wolf populations.

Read on to see what the Bozeman Daily Chronicle found through a public records request.

Elk elude hunter, but not dino fossil

PALEONTOLOGY — Montana hunter Dave Bradt, 43, wasn’t able to tag the bull elk he wanted to shoot while bowhunting for elk in the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in September. Instead, he found the fossilized remains of an ancient sea creature, according to the Billings Gazette.

“I suppose now I’ll see some paleontologist posing with a record book bull elk,” he joked to outdoor reporter Brett French.

“Finally, the wife and kids are happy with what I brought home,” he said of the photos he returned with.

Read on for details about his find — likely a plesiosaur that roamed the earth some 75 million years ago.

Revival of rivers begins in 2011

RIVER RESTORATION — According to the conservation group American Rivers, 2011 will be the ‘year of the river’ because of the unprecedented number of major river restoration projects happening nationwide.

After more than a decade of ground work, two of the world’s biggest river restoration projects will begin next fall as two big dams are set to be breached on two rivers in the Pacific Northwest the Elwha River and the White Salmon River. These dams are the largest ever to be removed.

Other major dam removal efforts are proceeding on Maryland’s Patapsco River and Maine’s Penobscot River.

The projects will restore river health, revitalize native fish and wildlife, improve clean water, and deliver significant economic, social and cultural benefits, an American Rivers spokesman says.

FAST FACTS:

  • More than 600 dams have been removed in the United States over the last 50 years.
  • States with the most dams removed include Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Columbia barbless hook rule scrapped

FISHINGWashington salmon and steelhead fishermen will not be required to use barbless hooks in the Columbia River beginning Jan. 1, according to the Vancouver Columbian.

Phil Anderson, state fish and wildlife director, said Friday he will issue an emergency rule rescinding the barbless hook regulation scheduled to debut in 2011 to avoid Washington and Oregon having conflicting rules, reported Alan Thomas.

In February, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted a package of sport-fishing regulations that included requiring barbless hooks for salmon and steelhead starting in January between the ocean and McNary Dam.

Anderson said the hope was Oregon would adopt a matching rule. Barbless hooks make the release of wild fish easier and are believed to improve fish survival from handling.

But the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission in August adopted 2011 regulations without the barbless hook rule.

For now, Anderson said, “We’re going to encourage all anglers to use barbless hooks even though we don’t have a regulation, as well as other means of improving release mortality (like) using knotless nets,” he said.

 

Short hike plans fowled by bird dog

HUNTING — I meant to take a relatively brief hike today from the Snake River up to the canyon rim and back.  But I made the mistake of bringing my shotgun and following my English setter. 

I think we saw the whole freaking canyon, up-down and sideway.

The south-facing slopes are bare, a magnet to deer, birds, coyotes and hawks that are having a tough time making a living through the boiler-plate snow cover higher in the Palouse.

But the frozen Snake canyon slopes of the morning transformed to grease in the afternoon sun even though the air temps never got much above freezing.

Sidehilling was something between treacherous and thrilling. I virtually glissaded down 50 feet to my dog on point one time.

Happiness is 10 steps on level ground in chukar country.

I’m hurtin’, but happy.

My dog, Scout, is sacked out like a bear in winter.

Mount Spokane nordic groomer finally up and running

NORDIC SKIING — Whether on groomed trails or on the tracks skiers made themselves, the cross-country skiing at Mount Spokane State Park was stunning today.

The large Bombardier snowcat grooming was finally running well enough to smooth the snow on cross-country ski trails at Mount Spokane State Park. Park staff was slowed by numerous blowdown trees that had to be removed, but they were progressing fast.

Meantime, some skiers went beyond the groomed trails to take turns making their own tracks through the powder around Quartz and Shadow mountains. 

The snow-ghost trees were caked with white and the views stretched far to north to the white peaks in the Idaho Selkirks. 

Eagle gathering grows at Lake CdA

WILDLIFE — At least four 65 bald eagles are gathered in the Wolf Lodge Bay area of Lake Coeur d’Alene for their annual feast of spawning kokanee. 

BLM wildlife biologist Carie Hugo counted 39 adults and 25 immature eagles on Friday.

“I know I missed some of the adult birds during my count,” Hugo said.  “The adults, with their bright white heads, blend in easily with snow covered tree branches!  But the immature birds are all brown and stand out more against the snowy white trees.” 

Last year at this time Hugo counted only six eagles, and in 2008 only 35 were counted.  With early numbers like this, there should be ample opportunities to spot eagles during this
holiday season.

For easy access to viewing sites, drive east of Coeur d’Alene on I-90 and take the Wolf Lodge Exit.  Start looking as you ease around the bay.

Conservation Futures nominations ranked, forwarded to County Commission

CONSERVATION — The 36 nominations for Spokane County Conservation Futures land acquisitions have been winnowed to a top-10 list to be considered by the County Commissioners on Tuesday.

The commission plans to review the recommendations at 9:30 a.m. at the Public Works Building, 1026 W. Broadway.

Since nominations closed in late October, a seven-member county parks advisory committee scrutinized properties totaling 4,700 acres.

Following are the panels Top 10 choices:

1. Knights Lake, 590 acres

2. Dishman Hills, 160 acres

3. Antoine Peak, 240 acres

4. Mica Peak, 920 acres

5. Saltese, 555 acres

6. Williams Lake, 15 acres

7. Peone Prairie, 20 acres

8. Indian Bluff, 204 acres

9. Beacon Hill, 30 acres

10. Beacon Hill, 30 acres

Read on for links to the complete list of nominations and staff recommendations.

Snowmobile parking changes at Lookout Pass

WINTER SPORTS — A new additional parking area has been designated for snowmobilers heading out to ride areas near Lookout Pass and Mullan, Idaho, the Idaho Panhandle National Forests announced today.

 
The new parking area is along Mullan Road, behind the fish hatchery, approximately three miles east of Mullan.
 
The parking lot was made possible through the efforts of the Shoshone County Sportsman Association and was funded through a grant provided by the North Idaho Resource Advisory Committee.
 
The new location supplements parking that is available at Lookout Pass area and Shoshone Pavilions Park (Pottsville). It includes parking for large trailers, restrooms, picnic tables, a fire pit and a warming hut.
 
The new parking area is intended to provide better access to local trails, reduce congestion in the Lookout Pass area, and to provide a safer location for snowmobile riders hauling large trailers now that trailers longer than 16 feet are no longer permitted at the Lookout Pass Ski area.
 
Read on for detailed directions.

Spokane anglers in Top 10 of pikeminnow reward earners

FISHING — Two Spokane-area men ranked in top 10 earners among anglers who collected $1.2 million from the Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Program this year

Edward Williams ranked ninth while Daniel Geiger ranked 10th, bringing back tens of thousands of dollars to pump into the local economy.

However, they were no match for the No. 1 angler, Nikolay Zaremskiy of Gresham, Ore., who earned $81,000 in the program that pays anglers $4-$8 for each fish caught from the Snake or Columbia rivers from May through September. Zaremskiy caught a record 10,000 fish and earned cash bonuses for catching tagged fish.

Zaremskiy is no stranger to cashing in on pikeminnows. He set the previous record of $58,000 two years ago.

Shooting safety instructors cringe at video

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SHOOTING — If you own a gun and you’re impulsive and impressionable, DO NOT view this video of two guys performing a really dumb stunt, whether it’s for real or a put-on, even if the rifle were a .22 instead of a .50 caliber.

Video is tribute to ice climber

ICE CLIMBING — A year ago this month, the world of ice climbing lost one of its premier figures near Bozeman, Mont.,to an avalanche that had nothing to do with the skills he plied on vertical walls of frozen water.

Carve out 16 minutes to check out this video tribute to Guy Lascelle, dead at the age of 54.

 

 

 

 

West Side poachers find fertile fields

WILDLIFEWashington Fish and Wildlife officials say they’re struggling to keep up with reports of poaching and fishing violations in Cowlitz County because the department has no game wardens stationed there.

Four game wardens are allocated to Cowlitz County, but two of the officers are on medical leave and two have left and not been replaced, says the Longview Daily News.

With more budget deficits looming for the state, the wardens in Cowlitz County may not be replaced any time soon. Fish and Wildlife is facing a shortfall between $10 million and $20 million in the next budget cycle.

In 1993, the agency had 117 enforcement officers. The number has dropped to 96 patroling officers even though th e state’s population has increased by 20 percent in that period.

Pinkminnow angler earns $81K

FISHINGThe 2010 Northern Pikeminnow bounty program on the Snake and Columbia Rivers paid $1.2 million to anglers who helped to reduce the numbers of a salmon-eating pest called the northern pikeminnow.

One devoted angler cashed in on the deal, earning a record $81,000 during the six-month pikeminnow season, according to the Bonneville Power Administration, which funds the program.

The BPA said just over 173,000 pikeminnows were caught, helping to increase survival rates for young salmon and steelhead.

Fishermen get paid $4 to $8 for northern pikeminnow 9 inches and larger caught in the lower Columbia and Snake rivers. The more pikeminnow caught, the more the program pays. As an added incentive, specially tagged fish are worth $500.

The annual program opened May 1 and was originally scheduled to close Sept. 30 but was extended 10 days this year.

North Cascades Highway: Can you drive it during winter?

NATIONAL PARKS — It’s official. This week’s temporary closure of the North Cascades Highway will continue through the winter, according to avalanche experts who assessed the danger there Wednesday after a storm deposited 2 feet of snow high in North Cascades National Park.

The scenic portion of State Highway 20 closes between Mazama and Newhalem ALMOST every winter because of deep snow and avalanche danger.

In 2003, the pass closed on Oct. 17 for the winter — the earliest ever — due to flooding and mudslides that blocked the highway, the Wenatchee World reports.

The latest closure was in 1989, when it closed temporarily on Jan. 3, and for the winter on Jan. 9.

When was the last time motorists could drive the route over Rainy and Washington passes all winter long?

The pass did not close during the winter of 1977-78, when there was not enough snow to cause avalanche concerns, the Wenatchee World says.

Depending on conditions, the pass will reopen sometime between late March and early May.

Young hunter pulls his weight

DEER HUNTING — Gabe Bancroft, 14, enjoyed the complete package of being a successful deer hunter last weekend. Taking advantage of the late muzzleloader season that opens as the whitetail rut begins to ebb, he joined his uncle Shawn O’Kert to get in position where deer had been moving.

The buck was still on the prowl, and Bancroft bagged it at close range with a .50-caliber rifle. “He came in to a grunt tube at 1:30 p.m.,” said O’Kert, who also called in a buck the previous day.

But the job wasn’t over when the shot was fired. The photo above shows Gabe putting his muscle into dragging his trophy back to the vehicle.

Will this be a lesson that leads him shoot a spike next time?

I’m betting no.

Hunting helps wolves long-term, experts say

Should hunting be allowed for wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains?

Here’s a summary of the answers given to me in interviews from leading wolf experts:

• “You have to remove the bad apples.”

Doug Smith , Yellowstone National Park wolf project leader

• “Wolves are fully recovered in the Northern Rocky Mountain states. It’s important to let the states manage them, and hunting is one of the tools.”

Ed Bangs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf recovery coordinator for the Northern Rockies

• “I think the wilder we keep the animals, the better it is. One way that’s done is through hunting them.”

David Mech, U.S. Geological Survey wildlife biologist who has worked with wolves for 51 years; founder of the Minnesota-based International Wolf Center

• “Hunting wolves is already allowed in Canada. It’s a negative reinforcement that keeps wolves wild and more respectful of keeping a distance from people.”

Lu Carbyn, a leading Canadian government wolf authority, retired

• “I have been protecting wolves all my life, but we need a realistic system in order to coexist. I’ve written about the need to shoot a few wolves …”

Luigi Boitani, Europe’s leading wolf scientist, based at the University of Rome

Unstable snowpack triggers avalanche advisory

WINTER SPORTS — Although weekly avalanche advisories won’t begin until Dec. 17, Forests Service hydrologists with the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center issued an advisory this afternoon warning snow travelers of unstable snow conditions likely to last at least for a day or two.
 
Read on to see the full report issued by Kevin Davis in Sandpoint.

Snowmobiling restrictions enforced to protect endangered caribou

SNOWMOBILING — The snowmobiling closure in the woodland caribou recovery zone along the crest of the Selkirk Mountains will be enforced this winter, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a press release issued this afternoon.

A free map of legal snowmobiling trails is available at Colville National Forest and Idaho Panhandle National Forests offices.

The caribou, listed as endangered in 1984, are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Their potential habitat also is protected. Only 50 or fewer of the caribou remain in Eastern Washington, North Idaho and southeastern British Columbia.

During the winter, the caribou feed primarily on lichens hanging from trees above snowline. The snowmobiling closure seeks to minimize disturbance to the caribou and avoid creating travel lanes that encourage lowland predators to reach the high country where the caribou roam.

The snowmobiling restrictions, which have been in place since 2007, will be enforced by federal agencies as well as state fish and wildlife agencies.

Peak Adventures OK’d to start skiing

SNOWCAT SKIING — A North Idaho snowcat skiing operation has be issued a temporary permit to continue operating their backcountry ski business out of Cataldo, the owners told S-R reporter Becky Kramer Tuesday.

Peak Adventures, as the company has for years, soon will take advantage of this season’s generous early snowpack to operate in the St. Joe Mountains.

By January, the company should be offering trips, said Carey Stanley, who owns Peak Adventures with her husband, Ryan. The couple told the S-R they have received permission to operate on 3,200 acres of federal land administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, as well as several thousand acres of Idaho Department of Lands property, Stanley said.

But the couple plan to appeal the BLM’s decision not to extend the permit for use of federal land beyond the 2010-’11 season.

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News, field reports and insights on the Great Outdoors.

Rich Landers – hunter, animal lover, hiker, paddler, angler, naturalist and conservationist – has been covering the outdoors beat for more than three decades. His versatility and field research as a trails and waterways guidebook author help him connect issues to a wide range of interests.

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Rich Landers (@SRoutside) Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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