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Outdoors blog

Archive for December 2011

Another record eagle count logged today at CdA Lake

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A record 273 bald eagles was counted today — Dec. 29 — at Lake Coeur d'Alene, making this the best year ever to take in the annual Eagle Watch Week activities.

Bald eagles are gathering in record numbers at in the Wolf Lodge Bay to feast on spawning kokanee.

Here's the information just received from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which conducts the weekly surveys.

The count is up from last week and the likely reason why is due to snow covering the trees during last Thursday’s count. Snow of course acts as camouflage for the adults especially. Today’s weather is ideal for counting! Carrie Hugo, wildlife biologist, noted that she counted over 35 eagles in the Blue Creek Bay area which is unusually high for that location. She thought it may be due to the windy conditions and that the bay offers some protection.

One important item for Eagle Watch: due to high winds yesterday, we were unable to have the spotting scopes, information pamphlets and the canopy tents up. Today, due to winds earlier we only held the Watch site at the Mineral Ridge Trailhead location. We just can’t risk the scopes or the display birds being blown over. We are watching tomorrow’s weather closely as it appears wind may again be a factor. We plan to have staff out but may not be able to have scopes or informational materials available.

Eagle Watch Week runs through Sunday.

 Drive east east from Coeur d’Alene on Interstate-90 and take Wolf Lodge Exit 22. Follow Highay 97 south a short way to exhibits and spotting scopes at the Mineral Ridge boat ramp. The volunteers will be on hand to offer information about the eagles from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. each day through next Sunday.

Cruise boat tours geared to eagle watching will launch daily this week from the Coeur d’Alene Resort this weekend. Book seats on resort’s website or call (208) 765-4000.

Is selfishness a factor in Pend Oreille River northern pike debate?

FISHING — Some anglers share at least one trait with northern pike. They apparently wouldn't hesitate to eat their own kind.

Advocates of letting nature take its course in the invasion of northern pike down the Pend Oreille River seem to have little concern for the anglers downstream in the Columbia River.

While many anglers are enjoying the chance to catch pike in Pend Oreille County, state wildlife managers are concerned that increasing numbers and distribution of northern pike could impact vulnerable native species of trout, other game fish and non-game fish and even salmon and steelhead farther down the Columbia River system.

“That’s a big concern,” said John Whalen, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department regional fisheries manager. “If northern pike start spreading down the Columbia River, they could create significant ecological and economic damage.”

Perhaps pike advocates have not been paying attention to the decades of efforts and billions of dollars devoted to restoring salmon and steelhead runs damaged by hydropower projects. 

Do they know how much interest and economic impact has been generated by bringing back these fisheries from the mouth of the Columbia up to Chief Joseph Dam?

Other western states that have non-native populations of northern pike, are facing challenges similar to Washington. Although northern pike are native to much of Alaska, they are not native to the south-central part of the state where they have been illegally stocked and are considered invasive.

According to WDFW, pike have caused severe damage to native trout and salmon runs in several south-central Alaska watersheds and Washington is trying to learn from those events in order to prevent similar damage from occurring here.

WDFW is accept comments through Dec. 30 on proposed fishing regulations changes, including liberalizing the effort to reduce pike numbers in the Pend Oreille River.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will be hearing public comment on proposed fishing regulations when it meets Jan. 6-7 in Olympia.

The commission is scheduled to take action on those proposals at a public meeting Feb. 3-4 in Olympia.


Tree entrapment: lessons to learn for winter backcountry skiers

WINTER SPORTS — A hoot of a day in deep pow can come to a suffocating end should you fall and become trapped upside down in a tree well.

This real-life accident and rescue is worth viewing and discussing.

It points out the obvious value of skiing in a group.

Two other points come to mind immediately

  • Backcountry skiers should have their shovels accessible and ready to use NOW.
  • And EVERYBODY should have a shovel ready to use NOW.

Rednecks go gourmet in Jerky of the Month Club

OUTDOOR FOOD — Hey, a jerky of the month club is better than a fruit cake every month.


California condors show progress in reintroduction

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The recovery program to restore the California condor in Arizona has reached its 15th anniversary this month with reason to celebrate.

More than 70 condors are flying wild in the southwest skies.

The Peregrine Fund breeds condors at its World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise and releases them to the wild at its release facility in Arizona. The fund monitors and treats them for lead poisoning and other problems.

Grizzly cub lets mom worry about dinner


WILDLIFE — Montana wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson braved clouds of mosquitoes to snap these photos last summer in Alaska as bears converged on rivers to feast on spawning salmon.

The cub (top left) seems to be content to daydream while its mother does the work of providing food for a meal.

“This 2.5-year-old cub was just happy to hang out with mother while she looked for fish,” he said. “Whenever mom caught one, she shared with her cub.

“Oh yeah, did I mention the bugs?”
At left, Johnson captured a closeup of a grizzly getting a full deal from its meal.  Perhaps the head of a salmon offers a satisfying crunch to a grizzly's dining experience, much like a crouton on a salad.

Ecology Department reconsidering fish consumption advisories

FISHING — The Washington Department of Ecology is asking fish managers, researchers and consumers to comment by Dec. 30 on a plan to update outdated state fish consumption rates, such as the number of meals of bass one might eat per month before ingesting a toxic load of PCBs.

The rates also are used to identify areas for cleanup.

Washington's current consumption rates were established 20-30 years ago.

Scientists say contamination loads are too high among certain species of fish in certain rivers, lakes or ocean areas. They are particularly concerned about pregnant women and their unborn children.

Ecology's “fish consumption rates” are related but different to the current fish consumption advisories by water body, issued by the state Department of Health.

Read on for an explanation:

Activities abound for nordic skiers, snowshoers

WINTER SPORTS —  Free-heel skiers and snowshoers have plenty of events to sample in the next two weeks. Among them:

Snowshoeing activites organized by Spokane Parks and Recreation include:

  • Winter survival youth camp, Dec. 28-29, to learn snowshoeing and snow shelter building skills.
  • Mount Spokane guided snowshoe tour with transportation, Dec. 31.
  • Women’s guided  Mount Spokane snowshoe tour, Jan. 1.


Nordic skiing lessons, Dec. 31-Jan. 1, taught as a fundraiser by Spokane Nordic junior ski team at Mount Spokane. Info: email or call 922-6080.


Idaho Ski-Snowshoe Free Day, Jan. 7, at 18 Park N’Ski area across the state. Skiing and snowshoeing lessons at Farragut and Priest Lake state parks.

Info: parksand-

Winterfest at 49 Degrees North, Jan. 7-8.

Features more than a dozen activities, seminars and events. EPIC Hill Climb kicks it off on Jan. 7 followed by telemark and cross-country gear demos, free lessons, gate racing,avalanche seminars and evening nordic ski and snowshoe tours.

Jan. 8 includes a nordic ski race and paintball biathlon, plus tours.


Ferry County Rail Trail Ski Day, Jan. 14, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. based at trailhead north of Curlew.

Groomed trails as conditions allow, free ski lessons, gear and refreshments.


Ross’s gull brings more reports of good things to see

WILDLIFE WATCHING — More reports are coming in from birdwatchers traveling to Palmer Lake in Okanogan County to enjoy the rare chance to see a Ross's gull.

Check out this Christmas eve report:

So I'm not much of a gull guy, but Washington's second documented Ross's gull was 97 miles from where I live, so I figured I'd better head for Palmer Lake.

I must admit, I got more pumped about the male pileated woodpecker working the trees on the lake side of the No Trespassing apple boxes mid way up Palmer Lake and the convocation of eagles (multiple juvenile bald and a first year golden with white tail band and “wrist patches” just like in Sibley's) that were feeding on a carcass in the field just north of Loomis.

But sure enough, the Ross's was flying back and forth at the north end of the lake at 12:09 pm on 12/24/11. Distant but unmistakable views - the contrast between light gray upper wing and dark gray underwings was very cool. Any biologists care to speculate why this bird has reverse countershading?

A big thank you to the Tweeters who posted locations, the birders who had tracked the bird down this morning, and especially to Mr. Heinlein for finding it and letting us know.

- Roy Myers, Electric City, WA

Writers’ Champs: Outdoor writing contest winners announced

OUTDOORS — Thanks to four great high school writers for taking over my newspaper Outdoors page today, giving me a day off to go outdoors!

Read about the contest and see their stories here.

Ducks Unlimited shares the holiday spirit

WATERFOWL HOLIDAYS — A reminder from Ducks Unlimited of the beauty good habitat ensures.

Cheap getaway: Winterfest at 49 Degrees a free-heel bargain

WINTER SPORTS — Nordic skiers and snowshoers should check out the lineup of events and activities for Winterfest, sponsored by Mountain Gear, Jan. 7-8 at 49 Degrees North.

This is a screaming deal:  Free demos, free mini lessons and free trail passes.

Plus, tons of fun from ski races to paintball biathlon.

 Enjoy the moonlight ski and snowshoe tours, and then say overnight on the mountain — bring a sleeping bag and stay for just $15 at the Learning Center. 

“It’s fun and cheap,” said 49 Degrees Nordic guru Doug Elledge, in a classic bit of understatement.

Seasons greetings in video featuring peace, joy and the great outdoors

HAPPY HOLIDAYS from the great outdoors. This video from Idaho Fish and Game captures some of the beauty of the season.

Ross’s gull not the only attraction in Okanogan County

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The rare occassion of a Ross's gull showing up in Washington has become one of the most notable winter attractions to the Loomis area in a long time.

Birders from east and west of the Cascades are flocking to Okanogan county to get a peek at the bird, which has been regularly feeding on a submerged deer carcass along the shore.

But the gull isn't the only wildlife worth seeing near Loomis, as you can see from these photos by birder Kenneth Trease.

To see one of the best and most creative photos I've seen of the gull, check out the “local rarities” photo posted today by Spokane birding photography ace Tom Munson on his wildlife website.

Check out this report by Spokane birder Gina Sheridan:

 On Wednesday (12/21/11), Kim Thorburn, Garrett MacDonald, and I made the long haul up to Palmer Lake. The beautiful ROSS'S GULL entertained the entire bevy of birders present with a great show.While enjoying the Ross's Gull, a TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE flushed out of the riparian tree border by the lake.

 In the quaint community of Loomis, a herd of Bighorn Sheep were nonchalantly roaming around. A couple of the rams had impressive racks, and it was real treat to view them at such close range. In addition, there were a least 20 EURASIAN COLLARED DOVEs and several CLARK'S NUTCRACKERs adorning the town's trees.

After an afternoon drive over the entire Cameron Lake Road route in search of an Okanogan Snowy Owl, we were disappointed to find the entire Timentwa Plateau totally raptor-less.

Fortunately, we did find a handsome pair of PACIFIC LOONs at the foot of Chief Joseph Dam (Okanogan/Douglas County).

Avalanche advisory: Big transition expected

WINTER SPORTS — The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center has offered suggestions for winter backcountry travelers in its weekly advisory posted today.

Overall, conditions are fairly safe — for now!

“Be cautious near ridgelines and where wind deposited snow is deeper and possibly firmer overlying a weak layer fo surface hoar,” says Kevin Davis. “We'll probably have another buried layer of surface hoar after the storm forecast for Saturday and this will set the stage for increasing avalanche danger in what looks to be a snowy week ahead….

“Be thinking more snow equals more instability on weak layers.  You can check the weak layers pretty easily since they'll be easy to find in the sugary snow above the thick Thanksgiving ice crust, about the upper 1-2 feet of the pack.”

Read on for the full 12-23-11 avalanche advisory:

Lawmakers call for delay in state park ranger layoffs

STATE  PARKS — Concerned about the massive layoff of park rangers, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers has asked the state Parks and Recreation Commission to delay sending out notices until after the Legislature meets in January, according to a report by the Wenatchee World.

The Dec. 14 letter raises the issue of public safety in the event nearly half of the 189 full-time permanent park rangers were laid off or given the option of seasonal employment.

Park rangers are fully commissioned law-enforcement officers and respond to incidents in state parks, along with their many other duties.

But state parks officials said any delays would cost the cash-strapped agency $750,000 a month — money they say the agency doesn't have.

Bald eagle numbers may be peaking at CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The number of bald eagles gathering at Lake Coeur d'Alene appears to have peaked or may be declining slightly after last week's record count of 259 birds in Wolf Lodge Bay.

In today's survey, a total of 237 bald eagles — 204 adults and 33 immature — were counted in the weekly survey by BLM wildlife biologist Carrie Hugo.  That's down slightly, but Hugo notes in the survey report that viewing conditions were fairly difficult because of the sun shining into her spotting scope and snow on the trees making it difficult to pick out the white heads of the adults.

The 2010 peak count — a record at that time — was 254 bald eagles surveyed on Dec. 23.

“As usual, lots of birds were seen on the south shore across from Higgens Point and many were on the west side of Beauty Bay,” Hugo said. 

“Lots of Eagle Watchers out today as well.  The Mineral Ridge Trailhead parking lot was packed!  There are still many kokanee floundering around and there were plenty of opportunities to see eagles fishing on the wing today.”

Eagle Watch Week runs Dec. 26-Jan. 1, with volunteers offering information and offering use of spotting scopes 10 a.m.-3 p.m. south of the Wolf Lodge exit 22 from Interstate 90.

‘Tis the season for Labrador retrievers

HUNTING DOGS — Those of us who have pointing breeds are glad to see that somebody's finally come up with a good use for a kennel of Labs.

Idaho Rep. Simpson ranked among top “enemies of the Earth”

ENVIRONMENT — Rep. Michael Simpson, R-Idaho, has made the Los Angeles Times list of Congress's 10 most powerful and outspoken opponents of clean air, clean water, conservation and climate action.

 Simpson has stepped to the front lines of his party's war on Mother Nature by adding dozens of anti-environment riders to must-pass budget legislation.

See the entire list and some entertaining background.

Lake Spokane winter drawdown starts Friday

RESERVOIRS — Avista Utilities will start to draw down the water level at Lake Spokane (Long Lake Reservoir) on Friday (Dec. 23).Operators expect to lower the reservoir up to a foot a day for two or three weeks until it reaches its winter elevation of 13 to 14 feet below maximum summer elevation of 1,536 feet.

Under the right weather conditions, which include sustained periods of single-digit temperatures and little or no snow on the exposed lakebed, the drawdown is expected to help control Eurasian watermilfoil and other invasive aquatic weeds found in Lake Spokane. The drawdown also allows shoreline homeowners the opportunity to complete state and locally permitted repair and construction projects along the lake shoreline.

Property owners and lake-users can should remove boats from the water and securing docks and boathouses to accommodate shifting ice and low-water conditions.

The lower winter elevation will be maintained as long as river flows allow. However, during the drawdown period water levels are subject to change due to a variety of factors, such as weather (rain on snow events in the upper drainages) or maintenance at the Long Lake Dam.

For updates, see Avista's website or check the 24-hour telephone info for Lake Spokane, the Spokane River and Coeur d’ Alene Lake. In Washington call (509) 495-8043; in Idaho call (208) 769-1357.

Feds want to turn over wolf management to states

WILDLIFE — The Obama administration today declared more than 4,000 wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin have recovered from widespread extermination and will be removed from the endangered species list.

After devoting four decades and tens of millions of dollars to saving the gray wolf, the federal government wants to get out of the wolf-protection business, leaving it to individual states — and the wolves themselves — to determine the future of the legendary predator.

Read the details from the Associated Press.

Veterinarian sues Idaho agency over poaching charges

HUNTING – A veterinarian accused of poaching an elk in North Idaho has filed a federal lawsuit against state wildlife officials.

The Bonner County Daily Bee reports Roland Hall is accusing the Idaho Department of Fish and Game of civil rights violations, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, malicious prosecution and slander.

He filed a lawsuit earlier this week in U.S. District Court seeking an unspecified amount of damages. Hall previously filed a tort claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, indicating he would seek $500,000 in damages.

Hall says the state agency pressed to prosecute him on a felony poaching charge, which stemmed from a 2009 hunting trip.  Although the charges were dropped, Hall claims the case was filed because of a vendetta against him over a long-standing dispute involving a lead and silver mine he co-owns.

Montana sportsman’s group offers $100 reward for wolf kills

PREDATORS — Idaho is using trappers and helicopter gunners to try to get wolf numbers down.

In Montana, with wolf-harvest goals looking as though they could go unmet,  a hunting group is offering a legal version of a bounty as an incentive to get hunters out to fill more wolf tags.

The Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife is offering $100 and an annual membership for photographs of wolves killed in any open wolf hunting district between Dec. 19 and the Feb. 15 end of the season, or until a quota is filled.

Read the story from the Ravali Republic.

Report: many western species need room to roam

WILDLIFE — A conservation group is putting a Spotlight on wildlife migrations.

Wildlife Conservation Society report tracks migration routes in the West

In its new report, “Spectacular Migrations in the Western U.S.,” (pdf) the Wildlife Conservation Society discusses the importance of maintaining ecologically intact corridors for migration.
—New York Times

Wolverines live up to tough reputation

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — A recent study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management confirmed that wolverines regularly patrol a vast mountain territory.

Eight years of radio-tracking 30 individual wolverines in the Rocky Mountains has provided an abundance of new data about the world's largest member of the weasel family, including that the feisty mammals survive year-round in harsh, snowy conditions 9,000 feet above see level.

See details and photos in this report from

Although immeasurably tough, the animal is nearly extinct in the lower 48 states of the U.S.

Rare Ross’s gull spotted in Okanogan County

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A rare sighting of a Ross’s gull has been reported on Palmer Lake in Okanogan County by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologist Jeff Heinlen.

The Ross’s gull (Rhodostethia rosea), an East Siberian arctic species that normally winters at sea, has been  documented only one previous time in the state— in late November and early December of 1994, near McNary Dam on the Columbia River, the agency reports.

“This is like a holiday present for bird watchers,” said Heinlen of Omak. “This is arguably the rarest bird currently in the state, and definitely worth a trip to the area to catch a sighting.”

Closer to home, a “gull bonanza” is underway at Lake Coeur d'Alene, according to Coeur d'Alene Audubon Society members. Hundreds of herring gulls, as well as glaucous, lesser black-backed, Thayer's, Mew and ring-billed gulls have been reported from Wolf Lodge Bay south to Blue Bay. 

Read on for details about the Ross's gull from a WDFW media release.

Screamin’ deal: 50% off Methow Valley 3-day nordic trails pass

NORDIC SKIING — If you have plans to visit the 120 miles of Methow Valley ski trails this season, check out this great Groupon deal:   Pay $25 for a three-day trails pass that normally costs $51.

Idaho hunter ed teacher dismissed after gun fired in class

HUNTER EDUCATION — Some of Washington's volunteer hunter education instructors have been grumbling about new procedural rules and a trend toward replacing  instructor firearms in classroom settings with guns that have disabled firing pins.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department might seem a little overbearing and unreasonable in this trend — until you read what happened in an Idaho hunter ed class last week:    Here's the Associated Press report:

BOISE — A hunter education instructor in eastern Idaho was dismissed after a loaded handgun brought to class for a demonstration was discharged by a student.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game says no one was injured when the weapon was accidentally fired during the class late Monday in Soda Springs.

The agency prohibits instructors of hunter education courses from bringing live ammunition into the classroom and local police were asked to investigate. Police reported that the volunteer instructor brought the gun and ammunition to class for use as a teaching tool.

After the demonstration, police reported a student who was unaware the gun was loaded discharged the weapon and hit the head of a mounted mule deer.

The instructor was dismissed and counseling made available to the students.

Walking on ice? Boot company gets a grip

WINTER SPORTS — No need to be slip-sliding along all winter.

Korkers, the Oregon boot company that made its name with interchangeable soles for fishermen's wading boots, has diversified into other footwear, including with snowboots that have different traction options, including studded soles for applications such as ice fishing.

Check out this story from the Oregonian.

Elk Foundation withdraws support for Lochas land swap

In the news:

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation withdraws support for Idaho land swap

— Lewiston Morning Tribune

The proposed land swap in Northern Idaho that would trade 18,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service lands in three forests in Idaho for 40,000 acres owned by Western Pacific Timber in the upper Lochsa River basin had the early support of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, but the organization withdrew that support last week, citing concern of members and the expansion of the deal into elk habitat in Idaho County.

Few dispute the value of eliminating the checkerboard ownership in the upper Lochsa drainage to make it all managed by the national forests.   The issue is complicated by the other scattered lands the public would have to give up in the exchange.

See more details on the Upper Lochsa Land Exchange.

Read on for the Moscow-Pullman Daily News report on the RMEF backout.

Winter doesn’t chill bighorn ram’s desire

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The party's over for elk.  Bull moose have given up on the girls.  Deer are losing their urges and getting serious about consuming enough calories to endure the winter.

Meanwhile, bighorn sheep are getting it on.

December is the peak of the rut for the masters of rock ledges, as the males earn their names by ramming heads together to determine who's the fittest to breed.

The bighorn ram pictured above is lip-curling at the beginning of December much as the whitetail buck was as it entered its peak of breeding in November.  

Wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson of Lincoln, Mont., captured the similar behavior of both animals with his camera.

When bucks or rams come to where a doe or ewe has urinated, they often curl their lips to trap the female's odor in their nose and mouth and analyze the scent for clues to the female's estrus stage.


Show a kid this video on the danger of a single sunburn

OUTDOOR SPORTS — Many people will be hitting the sunny ski slopes this week, or maybe “coloring up” in a tanning booth, or planning for a winter getaway to a warm beach. 

Fine. Take your sunscreen and learn to cover up. 

Remember, your skin is like an elephant. It never forgets.

A single bad sunburn before the age of 18 doubles your chance of contracting malignant melanoma.

This video, “Dear 16-Year-Old Me,” is worth sharing with any young person.

It’s a record! Bald eagles mobbing Lake CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Bald eagles are mobbing Lake Coeur d’Alene in record numbers this week.

On Thursday, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist Carrie Hugo returned from an eagle cruise boat tour and reported that eagles were “all over the place” compared to just the week before, when her weekly survey counted 136 bald eagles in Wolf Lodge Bay.

She confirmed her notion Friday with the fourth official survey of the season, tallying a record 259 eagles congregating to feast on spawning kokanee. That's an increase of 123 in just one week.

Friday’s congregation breaks the record of 254 eagles counted in the bay on Dec. 21, 2010.

The record previous to that was a mere 154 eagles in 2004.

Hugo counted 215 adults and 44 juveniles Friday, noting that most of the fish-loving birds were hanging out in the Beauty Bay area and the hillside just across the water from Higgens Point.

More eagles could be coming in, since the peak of the congregation traditionally has been just before Christmas.

BLM, Idaho Fish and Game and Audubon Society volunteers are organizing the annual Eagle Watch Week, Dec. 26-Jan. 1 (take I-90 Wolf Lodge Exit 22) with free exhibits to educate visitors about this confluence of propagation, death and survival.  Volunteers will be available

at the Mineral Ridge boat launch and trailhead parking areas, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. each day during Eagle Watch Week. 

Eagle cruises launching

Reservations are filling fast for cruise boat tours to view bald eagles at Wolf Lodge Bay.

Tours are set to launch from the Coeur d’Alene Resort this weekend, Dec. 24 and Dec 26-Jan. 1

Book seats on resort’s website or call (208) 765-4000.

Related news: 

Washington DNR considers removing bald eagles, pergrine falcons from state Forest Practices Board’s critical habitats list.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources will hold public hearing regarding proposed changes to state Forest Practices Rules on Jan. 5 at 6 p.m. at the Southeast Region Office, 713 E Bowers in Ellensburg

One proposed rule will amend Forest Practices Board rules on threatened and endangered species to be consistent with other state laws. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission already has removed the bald eagle from the state’s threatened and endangered species lists, following removal from the federal endangered species listing. DNR's proposed rule change would remove the bald eagle and the peregrine falcon from the Forest Practices Board’s critical habitats list.

Bonner County mulls options to challenge Selkirk caribou habitat protection

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Bonner County commissioners may challenge a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service proposal to designated 375,562 acres as critical habitat for endangered woodland caribou in the southern Selkirk Mountains.

The issue is on the meeting agenda for Tuesday, when the commissioners may discuss invoking a federal rule that requires agencies to coordinate with local officials on land use matters, according to a report in the Sandpoint Daily Bee on Friday.

“We have a dog in this fight and we have tools that have never been used before,” Commission Chairman Cornel Rasor told the newspaper.

The FWS estimates about 45 woodland caribou exist in the southern Selkirks.

The proposal to protect habitat is chilling to businesses at Priest Lake, where residents a few years ago were rocked by Forest Service restrictions on snowmobile entry into the Selkirk caribou recovery zone.

Bonner County Commissioners already have established a Property Rights Council that is challenging federal Environmental Protection Agency standards on developing wetlands around Priest Lake, as detailed in this report by the Boise Weekly

Four-year effort protects 10,000 acres in Cascades for wildlife

WILDLIFE CONSERVATION — Good things don't always come quick and easy.

Hunters and other conservationists are reminded of that this week as a deal closed to seal four years of negotiations by a partnership of conservation groups and state agencies. The project blocks up and protects about 10,000 acres of public land for big-game and other wildlife in the east and central Cascades.

The deal has foresight to secure the real estate elk and other critters need from winter to summer range.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the most recent purchase in November, using funding from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Grant Program.

But the negotiations and original purchases of land were undertaken by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and The Nature Conservancy. The land was purchased from Plum Creek Timber Company to prevent the land from being developed or subdivided as well as to maintain public access.

The first phase of the project was completed in 2009, securing 2,675-acres.

Read on for details from a just-issued RMEF media release a day after the final phase of the deal was closed.

Bears denning for hibernation; have you checked your basement lately?

WILDLIFE — Imagine the surprise of a cable TV technician who made a service call to a New Jersey man's home and found a 550-pound bear snoozing in the dirt-floor cellar.  The bear had been living there for weeks and had brought in twigs and leaves to make a cozy nest.

The repairman said he heard a growl, and saw an enormous black bear waking up in the corner. He didn’t stick around to make friends with the animal.

“I just freaked out, threw my tools, ran out of the basement,” he told reporters.

Animal Control officers were able to tranquillize the bear and relocate him to nearby public land.

Salmon anglers get good forecast for 2012 runs

SALMON FISHING — Preliminary forecasts for salmon returns, announced this week, give anglers three good reasons to look forward to 2012:

  • Upriver spring chinook, expected to be the fourth largest since at least 1980.
  • Summer chinook, could be the largest since at least 1980.
  • Sockeye, tentatively expected to be the largest since at least 1938. (Record is 387,900 fish in 2010).

The 2012 preliminary forecast for upriver Columbia River spring chinook — which includes Snake River fish bound for Idaho —  is 314,200 fish compared with this year's forecast of 198,400 and an actual return of 221,200, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officials say.

If the forecast holds for next year, it would be the fourth largest dating back to 1938. The largest recorded return was 440,300 in 2001.

The second largest occurred in 2002 when 335,000 upriver springers returned and the third largest was 315,000 in 2010.

The Upper Columbia spring chinook forecast in 2012 is 32,600 compared to a 22,400 forecast last year and an actual return of 16,500.

The Snake River spring/summer forecast in 2012 is 168,000 compared to 91,700 last year (127,500 was actual return). The Snake River wild spring chinook is 39,000 in 2012 compared to 24,700 last year (31,600).

The Columbia River spring chinook are prized by anglers for their tasty, Omega-3 laced, red-orange-colored meat, which is similar to fish from Alaska's Copper River, says Mark Yuasa of the Seattle Times.

Looking further ahead the Upper Columbia summer chinook forecast also looks very promising.

Website points bargain hunters to Salt Lake ski vacations

WINTER SPORTS —  A national travel website is advising clients that Salt Lake County is the place to go for an affordable skiing or snowboarding vacation.

A frugal traveler visit a Salt Lake-area resort for $239, according to a TripIndex Ski program launched this week by

By contrast, the most expensive destination is Vail, which costs $746. Park City is third on that list at $667, about $6 cheaper than a trip to Aspen. Two other Colorado resorts, Telluride and Steamboat Springs, round out the top five in the most-expensive list.

The closest bargain destination spot to Spokane is listed as Banff, Alberta.

If you need another good reason to go to Utah, consider this:

Per-gallon price for gasoline dips under $3 in Utah
It's been some time since Utah drivers paid less than $3 a gallon for gasoline, but prices have fallen more than 25 cents a gallon lately, putting Utah tied for 10th with Kansas for low prices of the fuel.
—Salt Lake Tribune

Aerial wolf hunting criticizm is merely shooting the breeze

PREDATORS — Last week, Idaho Fish and Game officials announced they will be using aerial gunning from helicopters to help reduce the number of wolves along the Idaho -Montana border in an effort to give a hurting elk herd some breathing room to recover.

The Los Angeles Times seized upon this story, not so much on the effort to keep the prey base healthy, but on the professionalism of the federal agents assigned to control wildlife.

The paper leads with concern raised by a 2006 photo of government gunners in a plane with more than 50 decals of wolf paw prints fixed to the fuselage much as WW II aces signified the number of enemy aircraft they downed.

But really: These guys have a job to do, and a very dangerous one at that. The goal is to reduce the number of wolves. Each wolf kill is logged and detailed in required reports.

It's no different than the goal to reduce the number of lake trout in Lake Pend Oreille to help bring back the kokanee.

Does it really make any difference that some of the wolves will be dispatched from an aircraft or that some of the shooters marked their efforts with decals on a plane  years ago?


Read on for a report on the IFG announcement as published in the Lewiston Morning Tribune.

Elk to be shot at Snoqualmie golf course

WILDLIFE — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department is getting ready to tee off on elk that have been tearing up the TPC Snoqualmie Ridge golf course, about 30 miles east of Seattle.

Some people are upset by the “damage hunt,” which will involve a few sportsmen who have completed the state's master hunter requirements.

But the protests should have occured when the golf course and other development was proposed in wildlife winter range. The rest is inevitable.

Since hazing efforts have failed, wildlife officials hope that killing a few of the elk will persuade the herd of about 25 to move to less expensive turf. 

For details on the hunt, which could start this weekend, read the Seattle PI online story.

Big news: Blue whales spotted off Washington Coast

MARINE MAMMALS — A record six blue whales, the largest animals on Earth, have been documented cruising off the Washington coast — only the third sighting of the huge species in Washington waters in 50 years.

Read the Seattle Times story about the whale researcher who photographed the big surprise about 25 miles west of Westport.

Decline in Kootenai bull trout affects fishing rules

FISHERIES — This fall’s bull trout spawning was 78 percent of the 10-year average in streams feeding Montana’s Kootenai River below Libby Dam, and 70 percent of the 10-year average in streams feeding Lake Koocanusa north of the dam.

A decline in redd counts in both drainages over the last few years prompted Montana biologists to recommend changes in fishing regulations that had allowed angler to keep two bull trout per year from Lake Koocanusa, one of the few places anglers are allowed to keep the threatened species.

Last year, that limit was lowered to one bull trout and a change to catch-and-release only regulations for 2012 was approved by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission on Nov. 10.

JetFeet: The next big thing at the lake

WATER SPORTS — Any you thought jet skis were anoying.

Report: Terns, cormorants tanking 15-20 percent of Columbia smolts

FISHERIES — Combined losses of juvenile salmon and steelhead to predation by Caspian terns and double-crested cormorants in the Columbia River estuary were about 27 million smolts this year, according to a preliminary report by to federal and Oregon State University researchers.

If that number holds up, that consumption by avian predators nesting on East Sand Island would represent a toll of 15-20 percent on the overall number of hatchery and wild fish that survived their journey down the Snake, Willamette and Columbia rivers and tributaries to near the Columbia’s mouth.

Of that total, an estimated 22.6 million smolts were taken by the double-crested cormorants, which is up from 19 million in 2010.

Read details from researchers in this Columbia Basin Bulletin report.

Paqlite takes ‘glow-in-dark’ to higher level

NEW GEAR – The UVPaqlite is worth checking out in case you have an application for a portable light source that does NOT require batteries, bulbs, electricity or chemical activation.

These glow-in-the-dark ‘lights in a bag’ charge even by cloudy daylight, will illuminate 3-6 person tents, provide light all night, yet they weigh less than an egg.

The manufacturer says they can be re-worked forever.

Zoologist turned artist paints the real deal

FISHING — A friend, who loves fishing and the outdoors, was asked by the company what he wanted for a retirement gift, he thought long an hard about the choice for such a momentous occasion.

His decision:   An acrylic painting by Spokane artist (and zoologist) Melissa Cole, who specializes in fish and other creatures from the water.

Check out Cole's online gallery.

Cole graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in Zoology. She has spent time working in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic in environmental education, as a dive guide in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, and as a naturalist guide in Baja, Mexico. She has written more than 30 children's natural history books and travels with her husband, Brandon, a wildlife photographer specializing in marine life.

State asking anglers to help target Pend Oreille River pike

FISHING — It's no secret that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is more than a little concerned about the burgeoning population of northern pike in the Pend Oreille River upstream from Box Canyon Dam.

The main worry is the potential impact pike could have on salmon and steelhead smolts downstream on the Columbia River.

Today the WDFW made it official: The agency has announced it's gearing up for a spring campaign to halt the advance of the voracious, non-native fish toward the Columbia River.

State fishery managers plan to enlist anglers to remove as many northern pike as possible from the Pend Oreille River, a conduit for pike moving downstream from Idaho and Montana.

A new webpage outlines the proliferation of northern pike in the river since 2004 and the threat they pose to native fish species.

Biological surveys conducted in conjunction with the Kalispel Tribe and Eastern Washington University document a dramatic decline in native minnows, largemouth bass, yellow perch and other fish species that inhabit the 55-mile Box Canyon Reservoir.

Read on for more details from a WDFW media release, and the meat of the fishing rule change WDFW is seeking to help expedite the process:

Endangered species get stamp of approval

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Stamp your mail with a note of confidence in the Endangered Species Act by purchasing the recently introduced Save Vanishing Species semipostal stamp, available at post offices.

Although there's no similar tool for dedicating a few cents to this good cause when you send an email, the stamp is an easy and inexpensive way to help conserve wild tigers, rhinos, elephants, great apes and marine turtles around the world — every time you mail a letter.

By purchasing the stamps, which feature the image of an Amur tiger cub, at a rate of 55 cents per stamp — slightly above the cost of first-class postage — the public can directly contribute to the on-the-ground conservation programs overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife Without Borders programs.

“The Save Vanishing Species stamp offers the public a convenient way to help conserve some of the world’s most endangered animals, from the white rhino to the mountain gorilla to the leatherback marine turtle,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

This is the first U.S. postage stamp issued in the 164-year history of the Postal Service that will raise funds for international wildlife conservation.

The five funds enacted so far by Congress are:

The African Elephant Conservation Act of 1988, the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act of 1994, the Asian Elephant Conservation Act of 1998, the Great Apes Conservation Act of 2000, and the Marine Turtle Conservation Act of 2004.


To learn more about the Wildlife Without Borders Multinational Species Conservation Funds and the Save Vanishing Species stamp, visit: the Service’s International Program on Twitter @USFWSInternatl and on Facebook, USFWSInternationalAffairs.

Sign up: Nordic Kids put families on skis at Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS —  Kids ages 5-15 are the focus of the popular Nordic Kids cross-country skiing program at Mount Spokane, but parents who need a primer don’t have to sit around.

Spokane Nordic Ski Education Foundation is taking registration for Saturday skiing lessons that start Jan. 7 and run most Saturdays through March 3. Last year, 150 kids joined groups led by volunteer instructors through the season.

“This is a family sport, so we decided last year to have a lesson for parents who needed help with nordic skiing,” said Alison Liaboe, Nordic Kids co-organizer.

“That was a real hit. So this year, we’re offering three free lessons to parents who enroll their kids in the program.”

Also new, five of the volunteer coaches will be certified instructors.

Participants must become members of SNSEF ($30 per family).

Cost for the seven weekend Nordic Kids sessions is $50.

Sign up online.


Use local calendar to make a date with wildlife

BIRDING — Consider it a perfect gift to yourself or someone else who’ll enjoy daily reminders of the feathered friends found in the region.

The Spokane Audubon Society's Birds of Eastern Washington 2012 calendar features local birds photographed by the group's members

Cost: $12 if ordered by mail through the SAS website.

Or pay just $10 if you pick it up in person while attending the club’s informative monthly program:

Winter Birds of Spokane, Wednesday ( Dec. 14), 7 p.m., presented by SFCC biology professor Gary Blevins at Riverview Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave.

See detailed directions.

Idaho calling copters, trappers to cull Lolo wolves

PREDATORS — Idaho Fish and Game Department plans to use helicopter gunners and government trappers to kill wolves roaming the Lolo Zone, a remote, rugged area in the north-central part of the state once populated by some of Idaho's biggest elk herds.

Trapping efforts will begin later this month, coinciding with the current hunting and trapping season for wolves, said Dave Cadwallader, the agency's regional supervisor in Lewiston. Helicopter gunning will begin later this winter.

See more details from the AP report.


Montana wildlife commission extends wolf hunt season to Feb. 15
At its meeting on Thursday, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission voted to extend the state's wolf hunt season from Dec. 31 to Feb. 15, since only 106 of the state's quota of 220 wolves have been killed thus far.

Montana FWP OKs plan to let ranchers use hunters to remove wolves
The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission approved a policy that will allow ranchers to use hunters, as well as federal wildlife agents, to remove problem wolves.

— Helena Independent Record

Is it too early to call it a snowy owl invasion?

BIRDING — Snowy owls migrating from the arctic  to northern states stand out in a crowd, or even on a rural fencepost.  Numerous sightings are causing a stir about whether this is a boom year for the white-feathered visitors.

Read on for some perspective and interesting details via Inland Northwest Birders from long-time bird observer Bud Anderson of Bow, Wash., a spokesman for the Falcon Research Group:

Tribal fishing scaffolds at Drano Lake a blight for everyone

FISHING — Winds blasting through the Columbia River Gorge in November damaged several of the tribal netting scaffolds built along the shore at Drano Lake, a popular sport-fishing spot, reports the Vancouver Columbian

Among the platforms damaged partially is one of two built this spring at “Social Security Beach,’’ a bank-fishing location on the west side of Drano where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to build an access ramp for disabled sportsmen, reports Allen Thomas.

Tribal platforms started appearing in Drano Lake, a large backwater of the Columbia River at the mouth of the Little White Salmon River in Skamania County, on Memorial Day weekend.

The Fish, Wildlife and Law Enforcement Committee of the Yakama Tribal Council on May 31 authorized platform and hook-and-line gear in Drano Lake, one of several tributaries fished by the Yakama tribe.

Last week, more than a dozen scaffolds, overturned structures, partial or damaged platforms and piles of lumber littered the shores of Drano Lake.

Read on for the rest of the report.

Hunter education easier than evern in Oregon

HUNTING — Oregon is the first state in the nation to integrate hunter education registration with license sales, according to a report by outdoor blogger Bill Monroe for Oregon Live.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has cleared the path to end the last-minute lack of a required hunter-education course before a youth heads to the field.

In the past, kids and parents have often waited until too late to register or take the courses, most of which are administered in late winter, spring and early summer, before hunting seasons begin. Monroe explained.

Some of that wrinkle was ironed out with the addition of an online course and workbook that cuts out attendance at a classroom session, Monroe said. But the course's field day remains a requirement for completion and registration is still required.

That just got easier last week with the addition of a fast, virtually effortless online registration feature.

Students and/or their parents may now go online and choose to take the hunter education course entirely in a classroom setting or by independent study (online or by workbook). Independent students must pass a required field day that includes live fire exercises before getting certified.

Youngsters or their parents may also register at any license sales agent or department office that sells licenses and tags. Previously, they had to email or telephone class instructors.

Services set for Harold van Riper, salmon angler and 1950s GU hoop star

FISHING — Harold Van Riper, a former Gonzaga University basketball star who moved to the Olympic Peninsula to found a popular salmon fishing resort, passed away recently. He was 80.

The former owner of Van Riper's Resort at Sekiu in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca was born on Dec. 11, 1930, in Wilmar, Minn.

“Harold was one of the best mooching anglers around, and you'd always see him fishing off Mussolini Rock usually with a big king bending over his rod,” said Tony Floor, director of fishing affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Associaiton, in a story by Mark Yuasa of the Seattle Times.

Van Riper attended Gonzaga University where he was a standout center for the basketball team between 1949 and 1953. His daughter, Monica, later became a standout hoopster at Eastern Washington University.

Services are set for 1 p.m., Dec. 18 at the Sequim Prairie Grange, 290 Macleay Road in Sequim. Memorial contributions can be made to the Neah Bay or Clallam Bay School athletic programs.

Kehne notes baseline for role as wildlife commissioner

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Jay Kehe, 57, of Omak has been appointed to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission as one of the three required East Side representatives on the nine-member panel.

Kehne is a conservationist, sheep farmer and hunter.  Along with a 30 year career with the  Natural Resources Conservation Service, he’s the Okanogan outreach coordinator for Conservation Northwest, and a member of  the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Mule Deer Foundation.

Kehn gave this perspective on his outlook as a commissioner who will be deciding fish and wildlife policy for the state, in an interview for a blog post by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman Magazine:

“Bottom line is, I was a hunter and fisherman before I was anything. I then became a wildlife biologist and then a soil scientist and then spent 30 years working with farmers and ranchers. So my training is to look at things from a scientific perspective, but be sensitive to the very real concerns of ranchers and never never forget my hunting roots. My hunting buddies would disown me if I did that,” Kehne says.

Here's more on Kehne from the Wenatchee World.

Bald eagle numbers continue to soar at Lake CdA

BIRDWATCHING – The season’s third survey of bald eagles congregating at Lake Coeur d’Alene found another big jump in numbers from the previous week.

Today's survey found 112 adults (white heads) and 24 immature eagles (under 4 years old with dark heads) for a total of 136, said Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist.

About 80 eagles were counted at Wolf Lodge Bay last week.

Even more are expected before their numbers peak later this month to feed on spawning kokanee.

The annual Eagle Watch celebration, with displays, experts and spotting scopes, is set for Dec. 26-Jan. 1 in the Wolf Lodge Bay area south of I-90.

Stay tuned for details next week.

Updated: More reaction to adoption of WA wolf plan

ENDANGERED SPECIES — After four years of development, public review and controversy, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission Saturday unanimously adopted a plan that will guide state conservation and management of gray wolves in the state.

The citizen commission approved the Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Plan at a public meeting in Olympia, according to a media release from Fish and Wildlife Department officials.

Read two detailed accounts of the commission's discussion and vote.

Read reaction to the plan adoption from a wide range of groups.

The plan establishes recovery objectives for gray wolves in three regions in Washington, along with procedures for addressing predation on livestock and impacts on ungulates such as deer, elk and caribou.

Before the final vote, the commission approved several changes to the draft plan, including one that modified the distribution of breeding wolf pairs needed to remove wolves from the state’s endangered species list.

During the past four years, the plan developed by WDFW in conjunction with a 17-member citizen Wolf Working Group has been the focus of 23 public meetings, 65,000 written comments and a blind scientific peer review.

The working group split over the key element of how many breeding packs would be allowed before wolf numbers would be controlled.  The dissenting group wanted the number set at eight breeding pairs.  But the commission adopted the higher number recommended by a majority of the panel.

Key elements of the plan approved by the commission include:

  • Recovery goals:  The plan establishes a recovery objective of 15 breeding pairs of wolves that are present in the state for at least three years. Before gray wolves can be removed from the state’s endangered species list, at least four of those breeding pairs must be verified in Eastern Washington, four in the northern Cascades, four in the southern Cascades/Northwest coastal area and three others anywhere in the state. The commission also allows WDFW to initiate action to delist gray wolves if 18 breeding pairs are documented during a single year.
  • Livestock protection:  The plan provides a variety of management measures – from technical assistance for landowners to lethal removal – to control wolves that prey on livestock. The plan also establishes conditions for compensating ranchers who lose livestock to wolf predation.
  • Wildlife protection:The plan allows WDFW to use lethal and non-lethal measures to manage wolf predation on at-risk deer, elk and caribou populations if wolf numbers reach or exceed the recovery objective within a region where predation occurs. The commission modified the definition of “at-risk” populations to give WDFW more flexibility in responding to the effect of wolf predation on those animals.

WDFW is not allowed to import wolves from other states or seek to increase the wolf population to historic levels under the parameters set for the new wolf management plan by an associated environmental impact statement.

Read on for more details.

Get up early Saturday for “red” lunar eclipse

SKY WATCHING — Andy Buddngton of the Spokane Community College Science Department recommends that we get an early, glowing start tomorrow.
Shortly after 4:30 Saturday morning, we'll be treated to a “red” lunar eclipse.
As the NASA science video explains, this is the last one visible from the Pacific states until 2014.

Did tribe devastate Yakima elk herd? Writer investigates

HUNTING — Did you hear the rumor about the Muckleshoot tribal members who went into the mountains west of Yakima and killed something like 400 elk before the hunting season?

Scott Sandsberry, outdoor writer for the Yakima Herald-Republic, heard the story several times before digging in and getting to the bottom of it in this report.

National forest areas going to pot, official says

PUBLIC LANDS — Marijuana cultivation sites in 20 states on 67 national forests have caused “severe” damage according to U.S. Forest Service director of law enforcement, David Ferrell.

“The illegal cultivation of marijuana on our National Forest System is a clear and present danger to the public and the environment,” said Ferrell, testifying Wednesday before the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control.

“Many marijuana sites found on national forests are under cultivation by drug trafficking organizations that are sophisticated and include armed guards, counter-surveillance methods, logistics support and state-of-the-art growing practices,” Ferrell said.

Washington and Oregon are among the states where major marijuana cultivation sites were discovered this year.

Ferrell gave an example from efforts in California where the Forest Service completed cleanup and restoration on 335 sites which resulted in the removal of more than 130 tons of trash, 300 pounds of pesticides, five tons of fertilizer and nearly 260 miles of irrigation piping.

Costs to clean up a site can reach $5,000 an acre, he said.

Read on for more details from Ferrell's report to Congress.

Who will pay tab for managing wolves?

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead has budgeted more than $800,000 to manage wolves in the state during the next two years.

That's less than half of what Idaho and Montana are spending with federal support that's likely to evaporate in the next couple of years.

The $808,099 he recommended to the Legislature includes $608,099 for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to manage wolves in the state’s trophy game area in the northwest corner of the state, according to the Jackson  Hole News & Guide. Another $200,000 would go to the Wyoming Department of Agriculture to kill wolves involved in livestock depredations in about 85 percent of the state where they are classified as predators.

The wolf management money would come from the Wyoming's general fund. Typically, money for Wyoming Game and Fish comes from hunter revenues.

Here in Washington, it's not clear where the money for managing wolves under the recently approved Wolf Conservation and Management Plan will be generated.

And there's only about $25,000 set aside for compensating ranchers for livestock losses at this time.

Video: Kayakers work hard for their whitewater

High Sierra Safety (a full length film) from 7 Finger media on Vimeo.

PADDLING — This nifty video is a nicely filmed, beautifully thought out how-to story about kayakers hiking into one world's most famous Class 5 overnighters.

The group is up for running Upper Cherry Creek near Yosemite National Park, a trip that requires an 11-mile hike with their kayaks before they could put in.

You're likely to learn something by watching this full-length video (above).

Here's a short vignette of the paddling.

Riverside, Mount Spokane parks merging; rangers get pink slips

STATE PARKS — Riverside and Mount Spokane likely will be combined and full-time employees reduced by about 40 percent as Washington State Parks officials scramble to slash the agency’s budget.

A shortfall from lagging Discover Pass sales has left state parks strapped for cash after being cut off from most taxpayer funding by the Washington Legislature.

Decisions are still being made and changed daily after the Parks and Recreation Commission voted Tuesday to eliminate 161 of the agency’s 516 full-time positions.

“At this point, it looks like a done deal that Riverside and Mount Spokane will be combined,” Chris Guidotti, Riverside State Park manager, said today.  He was at his computer making recommendations to the headquarters staff on how the changes might be worked out.

Six of the 14 full-time positions will probably be eliminated, he said.

Riverside has nine full-time rangers plus one other staffer and Mount Spokane has five full-time positions, including three rangers and two staffers geared to road maintenance and equipment repair for the mountain roads.

Steven Christensen, Mount Spokane Park manager, was not available for comment.

“In some cases, full-time employees are being offered five-month positions,” Guidotti said.

“But as it looks today, Riverside and Mount Spokane soon will be operated by fewer people than operate Riverside alone.”

The State Parks and Recreation Commission already had eliminated 80 positions statewide since July 2008.

Riverside State Park covers about 10,000 acres in and around Spokane including the Centennial Trail, Columbia Plateau Trail and Little Spokane River Natural Area. Mount Spokane State Park includes 13,919 acres.

Meanwhile in Olympia, a few people are finally stepping up to say the Discover Pass was ill-conceived policy from the outset, setting the system up for less money, fewer park visits and eventually fewer parks.

Some people at Legislative hearings are making the case that the Legislature should not remove State Parks from General Fund appropriations.

Read on for a report from the Wenatchee World on the carnage to state parks in northcentral Washington.

$10 lift tickets at Schweitzer benefit local cancer patients

WINTER SPORTSCommunity Cancer Services of Sandpoint and Schweitzer Mountain Resort will team to offer $10 lift tickets Friday as a fundraiser, with 100% of ticket proceeds to be donated to local cancer care, resort officials announced today.

Schweitzer plans to have all 2,900 acres of skiable terrain open and operate eight lifts — including everything but the Sunnyside Double. Lifts will run from 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

“We really look forward to hosting A Day for Heather each year,” said Schweitzer President and CEO, Tom Chasse.

Tickets are available for purchase in Sandpoint at Sandpoint Sports, Panhandle State Bank, and Pend d'Oreille Winery as well as at Schweitzer.

Rufus Woods triploids fewer but bigger

FISHING — Here's the latest fishing report from Lake Rufus Woods on the Columbia River downstream from Grande Coulee Dam.

It comes from Anton Jones (above with a 9-pound triploid rainbow) of Darrell & Dad's Family Guide Service.

This is a great time to fish Rufus Woods for triploid rainbows.  The numbers aren’t what they were a couple of months ago, but the average size is better. 

Troll smile blade flies just under the surface or cast one quarter ounce black roostertails to catch fish around the lower three net pens.  If that isn’t happening, move up to the lower pens and fish green or red Pautzke’s fire bait off the bottom with a slip sinker rig. 

If the current is pushing good, add a Mack’s smile blade in front of the bait to attract those fat boys. 

State Parks issues release on decision to reduce staff

STATE PARKS — The Washington Parks and Recreation Commisison released a statement to the media Wednesday afternoon regarding its plans to reduce expenses by about $11 million.

About 160 jobs are at risk among the agency's 516 full-time employees.

Read on for  the full statement.

Whitetail bucks still on prowl as late archery seasons continue

BOWHUNTING — Idaho archers have about two weeks to shop for a whitetail buck before Christmas.

Rutting activity lingers in the West as Idaho Panhandle bowhunters take their last shot in a season that opens Saturday in selected units and runs through Dec. 24.

They're too late for a chance at the bruiser pictured above, taken by Spokane dog trainer Dan Hoke at the edge of a clearcut near Lake Pend Oreille while the rut was still hot and heavy just before the rifle seasons ended.

But hunters and wildlife watchers are seeing more of the same across the region. In fact, bucks in some areas appear to be in a peak phase of covering ground.

In Eastern Washington, where most of the archery buck hunting opportunity will end Dec. 15, Brandon Enevold of Spokane says bucks are still defending areas in pursuit of late-estrus does.

Read on for his recent field observations and those of a local farmer

Aerial survey plots Columbia Basin waterfowl congregations

WATERFOWL HUNTING — Mikal Moore, state waterfowl biologist, compiled data Wednesday from the season’s first aerial waterfowl surveys over the Columbia River Basin on Monday and Tuesday.

Bottomline: Northerns are here.

“There a lot of new birds in the area, probably recently arrived, that seem to be staging in large groups at well-established reserves and private hunting clubs”, she said. The ducks were not yet well distributed and widely available to hunters, but many opportunities exist, she said.

Waterfowlers will want to read on for details from her observations.

Survey gives mixed review for allowing electronic decoys in WA

WATERFOWL HUNTING — After mechanical “Robo Duck” decoys were invented in the late 90s, Washington waterfowl hunters enjoyed a few seasons to sample their effectiveness.

Many hunters liked what they saw as the wings caused movement in the air and water to lure waterfowl from afar.

But a majority of sportsmen and wildlife managers thought they were so effective they could eventually lead to reduced limits or shorter seasons.

In 2001, the Fish and Wildlife Department conducted a casual survey of hunters and found that 34 percent opposed use of mechanical decoys, 46 percent would be in favor of using them if it did not result in loss of hunting opportunity and 20 percent favored mechanical decoys unconditionally.

A 2006 survey found 40 percent opposition, 49 percent in favor if no restrictions resulted and 11 percent in favor unconditionally.

This fall, sportsmen on the Washington Waterfowl Advisory Group voted 7-5 to support a proposal reinstating use of battery-operated or other electronic decoys. This would bring Washington into alignment with Idaho and Montana, which have no restrictions on mechanical decoys.

The proposal made the list of items being considered for the 2012-2014 Washington hunting regulations.

In November, the WDFW conducted one more email survey among hunters who had purchased state waterfowl license endorsements in the past two years. Of the 3,500 responses:

  • 29 percent opposed use of electronic decoys,
  • 57 percent favored their use if they did not lead to hunting restrictions,
  • 14 percent favored their use unconditionally.

More public comment will be taken on revised proposals in January before the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission consider the hunting rules package again in March.

Ardent waterfowl hunter Kent Contreras of northeastern Washington said he’s on the fence, along with most hunters.

“They definitely are effective at bringing in ducks and geese,” he said while hunting Saturday. “I’ve heard from hunters in other states who say mechanical decoys become less effective the more waterfowl see them. But motion in a decoy spread is always effective.”

Paddlers plunge over 90-foot falls for video

KAYAKING — A trio of kayakers raised the eyebrows of local officials recently by paddling over 90-foot Noccalula Falls in Etowah County, Alabama.

See the story.

The paddlers risked big fines and a tongue lashing by doing the stunt for a video — “Watershed: Land of Giants” —  they plan to release online around Christmas.

Still, their feat of daring and survival pales to the 2009 leap of faith Tyler Bradt made when he set a world record for waterfall paddling by surviving his 186-foot kayak plunge over Palouse Falls in Eastern Washington.

See the video here.

Incidentally, Bradt reportedly injured his spine on Oregon's Abiqua Creek on March 20. A Facebook post said his L1 was pulled apart and his surgeon predicted 12 weeks for recovery. 

Bowhunters give lighted nocks big vote of approval in WA email survey

BOWHUNTING — A proposal to allow lighted nocks to be used on arrows for bowhunting seasons in Washington got a big vote of confidence for bowhunters in an email survey conducted last month by the Fish and Wildlife Department.

The survey results were released to The Spokesman-Review this afternoon. The proposal had been opposed by some groups, notably the state's traditional bowhunters.

The proposal comes from Spokane hunter Jim Sutton, who couldn’t even get his idea discussed at the Spokane public meeting held this summer to gather public comment on the first round of proposals.

In a Spokesman-Review story published this summer, Sutton argued that lighted nocks are allowed for hunting in many states because they help archers recover wounded game as well as retrieve lost arrows from the field.

Even though the Pope and Young Club has been dragging its feet on the issue, the trend is changing.

Survey results:

  • 86 percent favored the use of lighted nocks,
  • 10 percent said no lighted nocks should be allowed,
  • 4 percent were undecided.

Dave Ware, WDFW big-game manager in Olympia said 3,800 people responded to the email survey presented to hunters who'd purchased archery tags in the past two years.

Washington has about 24,000 licensed archery deer hunters and 22,000 archery elk hunters, he said.

The proposal will be worked into the package of revised proposals to be presented for more public review in January and ultimately to the Fish and Wildlife Commission for a vote in March.

Gregoire fills two vacancies on Fish and Wildlife Commission

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Larry Carpenter, a Mount Vernon boat dealer and long-time sportfishing enthusiast, and Jay Kehne, an Omak conservationist, sheep farmer and hunter, have been appointed to vacant positions on the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The commission is a nine-member panel that makes policy for the state Fish and Wildlife Department and sets rules such those for hunting and fishing seasons.

The announcedment was made today by Gov. Chris Gregoire's office.

Carpenter is likely to be a strong voice for salmon and steelhead sportfishing. 

Kehne likely falls in the category of wolf advocate, considering he’s the Okanogan outreach coordinator for Conservation Northwest, but he has a well-rounded resume of credentials.

Here's some insight from a “Living with Wolves” program report by Scott Sandsberry of the Yakima Herald-Republic.

During his 31-year career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Kehne’s worked to provide conservation assistance to farmers and ranchers.  He’s worked with conservation easements involving counties as well as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

He’s a member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Mule Deer Foundation.

Kehne is the replacement for Spokane’s George Orr, who retired from the commission at the end of his term a year ago.

CdA bald eagle survey canceled this week

BIRDWATCHING — The weekly fall/winter survey of bald eagles congregating at Lake Coeur d'Alene has been cancelled this week as BLM staffers are in training meetings.

But the birds are there by the dozens, as you learned last week in this blog post followed by a more detailed account in my Thursday column.

A survey early next week should give us an update on whether the eagles continue to set a pace toward record numbers for their annual gathering to feast on spawning kokanee at Wolf Lodge Bay.

30% of State Parks employees getting pink slips

PUBLIC LANDS — Nearly a third of Washington’s year-round state parks staffers are being notified this week that they likely will be laid off as a result of lagging sales of the new Discover Pass, according to the News Tribune in Tacoma.

Seasonal jobs will replace most of the 161 positions targeted in Tuesday’s action by the State Parks and Recreation Commission. Some of the same employees might end up taking those jobs, but only for about five months of the year.

The background for thise decision was detailed in my Sunday story, Cash-strapped State Parks banking on Discover Pass, new approach.

The cuts will mean less building maintenance and reaction to winter weather and damages.

The Legislature has cut off parks from state tax funding, banking on the belief that citizens love parks so much they'll buy the Discover Pass to support the system.

But that hasn't been the case, so far.

The parks commission Tuesday agreed to bridge the gap by dipping into reserves and making $11 million in cuts.

“We’re not giving up on the Discover Pass, saying it’s a failure or anything,” said the acting deputy director of parks, Ilene Frisch. “It’s a brand new program that hasn’t had time to gel yet.”

Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, and Rep. Zack Hudgins, D-Tukwila, introduced legislation last week that will allow the passes to transfer between two cars — dealing with one of the main public complaints about the Discover Pass vehicle access permit that debuted this year.

“Let’s hope that the changes we’re making will increase the revenue stream,” Ranker told the TNT. “If it doesn’t, then we need to come back together and we need to have a very serious discussion” about revenue.

CdA fly fishing guide living large in Argentina

FLY FISHING — From the looks of the photo above, Joe Roope of Castaway Fly Shop in Coeur d'Alene had a good time last week living large with the fat rainbows on Argentina's Jurassic Lake.

Hunters, trappers making dent in Panhandle wolf population

PREDATORS — Hunters and trappers are making a little progress in reducing the number of wolves in Idaho, with North Idaho hunters doing better than they did during the last wolf season in 2009-2010.

Here's this week's update from Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and  Game Department regional wildlife manager in Coeur d'Alene.:

Wolf harvest in the Panhandle is at 25 to date, slightly higher than we had in all of the 2009/10 season. During 2009, we had 24 hunter kills by the end of March. (There were also 4 illegal kills in 2009, giving us the final tally of 28.)

The wolf trapping season has been open for 3 weeks. Only 1 wolf has been reported taken by trapping in the state so far (in the Clearwater), although many trappers may have still been deer hunting (season closed last Thursday).

Outdoors can play enjoyable role in a kid’s Christmas

FAMILIES — Aidan Long puts his muscle into bringing home the Monana family's 2011 Christmas tree last weekend.

“No freshly felled fir ever smelled so sweet to me,” said his dad, Ben.

A family get-to-gether isn't the only reason to go to a tree farm or buy a Forest Service permit and harvest your own tree, according to five good reasons from The Nature Conservancy.

Street skiing video in Trail, B.C., is a classic

JP Auclair Street Segment (from All.I.Can.) from Sherpas Cinema on Vimeo.

SKIING — This street-skiing video clip from the ski film All.I.Can. is one of my favorite moments from the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour that ran three nights at The Bing Crosby Theater in Spokane.

It required skill and a sense of humor. It makes fun of all the virgin powder films people die to make.

It features J.P. Auclair making a wild trip down through the dirty urban snow lining the steep streets in Trail, British Columbia.  It's way more imaginative than screaming off cliffs. Very cool.

Colbert Report chimes in on social media trend to Me Reporting

MEDIA — It's off the unbeaten path of the Outdoors Blog, but not by far.   Check out the Colbert Report for an update on where journalism and the public's interesting on good reporting is headed.

Tribes balk at plan for hunters to cull elk at Hanford Reach monument

HUNTING — The Fish and Wildlife Service may allow hunting on Hanford Reach National Monument land near Rattlesnake Mountain to cull a herd of elk damaging nearby wheat fields.

Over several years, managers hope to reduce the heard of about 700 elk to about 350.

But area Indian tribes are balking at the proposal, as reported by Northwest Public Radio.

See the agency's draft plan. Deadline to comment is Dec. 30.

The Tri-City Herald reports the Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting public comment this month on the proposed elk hunt that would take place next fall.

The hunt would be limited to 10 hunters a day and would be managed by the state Fish and Wildlife Department and the Yakama Nation.

The Energy Department opposed an elk hunt in 2005 but is not opposing the current proposal because cleanup work has been completed in the area.

Group working on Stevens Peak winter backcountry plan eyes Lookout Pass expansion

WINTER SPORTS — The Stevens Peak Backcountry Coalition has posted an updated map showing a proposed Stevens Peak Backcountry Winter Non-Motorized Area. The proposal is geared to maintaining a sanctuary of peacefulness among the expansion plans for the Lookout Pass Ski Area as well as the expanding range of snowmobiles.

The group also is addressing some scrutiny to the location of a yurt proposed by North Idaho College.

The SPBC is working to preserve a winter non-motorized recreation area of about 6,500 acres in the Idaho Panhandle and Lolo national forests near Lookout Pass.

Grizzly bear social status concerns IFG official

ENDANGERED SPECIES — This quote highlights a valid concern wildlife managers have in balancing the biology and social status/politics of managing grizzly bears, not to mention wolves:

“I worry we will lose the general public on the side of this animal if we don't get something done. They will not tolerate lots of human mortality, and they won't tolerate being afraid of having a bear on your elk when you're hunting.”

Idaho Game and Fish Deputy Director Jim Unsworth to other members of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Commission, at its meeting last week in Montana, about future management of the species.
- Missoulian

Aerial photos capture beauty of North Cascades peaks

MOUNTAINS — Climbers, and everyone else, can enjoy an eagle-eye view of Glacier Peak west of Lake Chelan in a series of photos shot by John Scurlock, a Bellingham firefighter/paramedic who built his own sport plane and uses it to capture interesting aerial scenic photos.

Scurlock has developed an incredible photo gallery website where he has a large inventory of aerial views detailing winter routes and faces on North Cascades peaks and more.

Last week, Scurlock and Steph Abegg photographed Glacier Peak and Mount Stuart, two prized wilderness destinations for the region's mountaineers.

When you go to his website, be sure to click on “view map,” which locates the mountains and allows you to click a bubble and see the photo. 

This photograph of upper Glacier peak  looks to the south/southeast.

Here's an interesting view of blowing snow back-lit by the setting sun, taken just as they turned the plane toward home in a steady 40-50 mph wind out of the north at altitude, “a typical clear-weather winter pattern in my experience” Scurlock said.

(Click 'original' below the images to see the largest uploaded sizes.)


Digitized newsreel chronicles first winter ascent of Mount Rainier

MOUNTAINEERING — Historians have digitized a newsreel film that documents the February 1922 first winter ascent of Mount Rainier by Jean and Jacques Landry, Jacques Bergues and newsreel cameraman Charles Perryman, according to historical notes by software development specialist and climber Lowell Skoog of Seattle.

In 2003, Perryman's grandson Steve Turner contacted Lowell Skoog about this film after reading about Perryman's climb in the Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project. This led to an eight-year effort by Skoog to acquire the Perryman newsreel films from Turner for The Mountaineers based in Seattle. The project was completed in October (2011).

“This is a truly historic film,” Skoog said. “It was the first motion picture ever taken on the summit of Mount Rainier. It shows the first winter ascent of any significant peak in Washington state, and the highest no less. It is the oldest known climbing or skiing film in Washington.”

Notes about this historic ascent can be found at

New Asotin County wildlife area brings Blue Mountains Complex to 68,000 acres

PUBLIC LANDS — The public and wildlife soon will be sharing a new chunk of an elk-friendly ranch and Grande Ronde River access in southern Asotin County. The 2,200-acre parcel bordering the Grande Ronde River was approved for acquisition Saturday by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The land, accessible off the Grande Ronde Road between Boggan’s Oasis and Troy, Ore.,will be the first phase of what is planned to be an even larger acquisition over about 10 years from Milton (Mike) Odom II and the 4-0 Livestock and Land Company LLC.

The area is tentatively being called the Mountain View Project, said Bob Dice, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department wildlife area manager in Clarkston.

The acquisition brings the total acreage in the Blue Mountains Wildlife Area Complex to more than 68,000 acres, Dice said.  The other units in the complex include the Chief Joseph, Asotin Creek and Wooten wildlife areas.

Read on for more details.

IFG seeks tips on elk poaching near Bunco Road

View Larger Map

POACHING — Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials are seeking help in identifying who was responsible for poaching a bull elk near the intersection of Bunco and Nunn Roads. 

The elk was killed sometime between 9:30 p.m. on Sunday (Dec 4) and 6:30 a.m. on Monday (Dec. 5).  The culprits removed the head and much of the meat from the carcass, which was killed in a private field just off the Bunco Road.

 Anyone with information regarding this crime can contact:

  • Citizens Against Poaching Hotline at (800) 632-5999.
  • IDFG Regional Office at (208) 769-1414.
  • or their local Conservation Officer. 

Callers may be eligible for a monetary reward, and may remain anonymous.

Eastern Washington woman reaches milestone for U.S. x-c skiers

NORDIC SKI RACING — Rookie national team member Sadie Bjornsen of Winthrop, Wash., teamed with Alaskan Kikkan Randall to make history for U.S. Women cross-country ski racing by finishing second in the sprint relay at the World Cup finals yesterday in Dusseldorf, Germany.

It’s the first time U.S women have won medals in a sprint relay. 

The U.S. Ski Association says the previous best for U.S. women was a fourth-place finish in a January 2009 Olympic test event at Whistler Olympic Park. 

Norway’s Mari Eide and Maiken Caspersen Falla edged the U.S. team by 1.6 seconds.

Randall says in the team announcement that the relay medal topped her individual victory on Saturday as she won the freestyle sprint, her fourth career gold in World Cup sprint.

Bjornsen says she now understands why skiers come back year after year. 

Incidentally, in 2003, at the age of 13, Bjornsen became the youngest women's champion at the annual 10K Langlauf on Mount Spokane.

Real vs fake: Which Christmas tree choice is best for environment?

ENVIRONMENT — According to a video report by The Nature Conservancy, here are the top five reasons why harvesting a real tree for the Christmas holiday might be a better choice for the environment than buying an artificial tree.

ENVIRONMENT — According to The Nature Conservancy, here are the top five reasons why harvesting a real tree for the Christmas holiday is a better choice for the environment than buying an artificial tree.

5. Families have fun and build traditions by heading out to cut their own tree, and real trees smell great in the home.

4. Buying real trees helps keep tree farms in business and helps maintain open space.


3. Real trees are more easily and more thoroughly recycled while fake trees are made of vinyl, one more difficult plastics to dispose.


2. Artificial trees are a double whammy to the environment, requiring fossil fuels for the raw materials and releasing carbon pollution during the manufacturing.


1. Cutting a real tree improves the environment. I must inject that a well-selected tree from the forest can help thin a stand to promote growth of other trees and reduce fire danger. TNC points out that a tree cut from a tree farm usually is replaced by up to three new trees to absorb carbon dioxide out of the air.

Waterfowler’s best friend: Labs don’t balk at winter retrieves

WATERFOWLING — Tank, a bruiser black Lab, races back with a mallard drake before the ripples smooth out in the decoys on the Pend Oreille River Saturday.

Temperatures in the teens didn't even nick the the dog's enthusiam for rounding up all the ducks and geese Kent Contreras could bring down from his Avery Outdoors layout blind. 

After every retrieve he returned, settled down steady by Contreras and looked out as if to say, “Bring it on.”

Very cool.

The original plan was to hunt a slough that had been luring ducks by the hundreds. But the cold temps sealed the slough in ice, forcing the Newport-area pair to hunt the open water of the river.

Whitetail rut still making bucks vulnerable to archers

HUNTING — The fat lady has sung for deer hunting seasons in Montana and for rifle hunters in Idaho, but late seasons are still giving hunters a few shots at whitetails in designated areas of eastern Washington.

And the rut's still on to some degree throughout the region.

Remember, the Nov. 20-21 peak of whitetail conceptions pegged by research in the northwestern states is only the top of the bell curve. As we move into the holidays, the season's breedings are on the downhill slope, but there's still action out there for bucks — and hunters.

The Idaho archery hunts open Dec. 10.

With just days remaining in most of the eastern Washington late bowhunting seasons, Chris van Kempen tagged the nice wall-hanger above by taking advantage of the buck's lingering desire to make sure every doe is bred and every competitor is challenged.

“I went out this afternoon got into my stand and did a few rattling sets,” he reported Friday. “On the third set, I was able to rattle this buck in to 30 yards! It was awesome I was only in the stand for about a hour and 20 min.”

Yes, I have the urge to kick Chris out of jealousy, too — but not before giving him a high-five. 

Video: Squirrel a master problem solver

WILDLIFE — This video has been around for awhile, but it's worth posting again to illustrate how marvelously adaptive wildlife can be. 

Locals help introduce 170,000 young trout to Curlew Lake

FISHING — Next year’s fishing season looks bright at Curlew Lake in Ferry County. About 20 volunteers helped the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department introduce 170,000 rainbow trout, 4-5 inches long, delivered last month to the a net pen tended by the Curlew Lake Association.

Hatchery trucks deposited the fish in predator-proof floating net pens local volunteers constructed and tended from pontoon boats. The fish were allowed to acclimate. Then the nets were slowly towed to the middle of the lake and released where they have a better chance of surviving their initial swim into Curlew without getting ambushed by bass and other predators.

In addition, the volunteers raise about 57,000 rainbow fry from the Spokane Fish Hatchery in net pens near Tiffany’s Resort. The fish are received in May and released in November as 9 inchers with even more capability of avoiding predation. The fish grow about a half inch a month, according to tagging studies facilitated by local volunteers.

Those fish are available to anglers now, but they’ll be about a foot long when anglers start showing up with big expectations in April and even larger for the summer crowds. 

The Curlew Lake Association is doing great things for the local community and anglers far and wide by cleaning those pens, tending the fish and other lake improvement projects during the year.  They welcome new active volunteers.  Info: Bobbi Weller, association president, (509) 755-3690.

WA sportsmen have two program choices on Tuesday: Fish conservation or whitetail research

OUTDOOR EDUCATION — Local sportsmens groups are sponsoring two programs of interest this week in Spokane.

Unfortunately for the universal sportsman, both programs are set for Tuesday starting at 7 p.m..

  • Steelhead fisheries in Washington, and update on Olympic Peninsula’s Elwha River Dam removal, by Rob Masoni, Trout Unlimited Western vice president, Tuesday at Northern Lights Brewery, 1003 E. Trent Ave. Sponsored by TU Spokane Falls Chapter.
  • Whitetail deer research project in northeastern Washington, by Woody Myers, Fish and Wildlife Department wildlife biologist, Tuesday at Inland Northwest Wildlife Council auditorium, 6116 N. Market St. Sponsored by Inland NW Wildlife Council.

Group using non-lethal means to keep wolves from livestock

PREDATORS — While the sheep will always face predators, falling victim to a wolf hasn't been a looming concern for livestock growers in Blaine County, Idaho, where a Defenders of Wildlife project is showing encouraging results.

Four years ago, Defenders began monitoring how many sheep were lost to wolves within the Wood River Valley. The Phantom Hill pack was moving through the county, taking sheep at higher rates than normal.

See what's transpired in this story from the Magic Valley News.

Tonight’s killer sunset at 49 Degres North

WINTER SPORTS — It's hard to leave the slopes when the sky's on fire! 

Thanks 49 Degrees North.

Deer to be culled after video exposes attack on dog

URBAN WILDLIFE — For years, Cranbrook, British Columbia, has had a problem with an urban deer population that's burgeoned to nearly 200 animals.

But it wasn't until a video of a deer attacking a dog went viral that the town was galvanized into action.  The town is adopting the Helena, Mont., model of trapping deer, euthanizing them and distributing the meat to the needy. Cranbrook already has an ordinance that prohibits feeding deer.

The deer are pleasing to see, but they can be dangerous to pets and people and destructive to landscaping when they take up residence in a town and lose all fear of humans.

The video above might be disturbing to some people.  You can't blame the doe mule deer for defending her fawn. But it's simply best not to let deer to move into town.

Elk carcasses spark brawls among Tetons grizzly family

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Grizzly 399 and Grizzly 610 — 399's daughter from 2006 that is now full-grown and raising cubs of her own — thrilled visitors to Grand Teton National Park this summer as they raised this year's cubs by roads in the Wyoming park.

But the two bear mothers have been squabbling recently over a bison carcass and elk carcasses left behind by hunters.

Read the story from the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

Field to Fork: Preparing a mule deer heart

GAME FOR COOKING — Most hunters relish bringing back their game for the family table. In the following story, a Montana hunter, mother, cook and comptetitive shooter tells about her adventure with saving a mule deer buck's heart from the gutpile and turning it into a feast.

Read on for the story and all the details via the Outdoor Wire.

Deer Quiz, Part 2: Test your knowledge about whitetails

WILDLIFE — Yesterday I ran the True/False portion of a quiz to let you test how much you know about the white-tailed deer that flourish from our yards to wheatfields and from river bottoms to modest forest elevations across the nation.

Here's Part 2 of the  DEER QUIZ prepared by Whitetails Unlimited  to see how much you know about the whitetail's biology, behavior and history.

PART 2: Multiple Choice

1) Deer are a member of the Cervidae family. What other animal is not included in this family.
a) Moose
b) Elk
c) Sheep
d) Caribou

2) The scientific name of the white-tailed deer is “Odocoileus Virginianus,” and was named in 1832. What does “Odocoileus Virginianus” mean?
a) “Ocean Virgin”
b) “Odious Vinegar”
c) “Hollow-tooth Virginia”
d) “Outdoor Vigorous”

3) Modern deer have two toes. How many toes did the deer's ancient ancestors have?
a) 2
b) 3
c) 4
d) 5

4) In the wild, deer can live as long as:
a) 7 years
b) 11 years
c) 18 years
d) 24 years

5) When deer run from danger, they flip their tail up and expose the white underside. What evolutionary purpose does this serve?
a) The white color confuses the predator, since deer are usually brown to grey in color.
b) The tail alerts other deer and provides an object for fawns to follow their mother.
c) The white looks like an eye, making the predator think the deer is running the other direction.
d) When deer run, blood pressure rises causing blood vessels in the tail to inflate.

6) Under good conditions, how much food would an average adult deer eat per day?
a) 1-3 pounds
b) 5-9 pounds
c) 11-15 pounds
d) 17-21 pounds

7) Does will normally have one fawn the first year they breed. After this, how many fawns will they normally have?
a) One
b) Twins
c) Triplets
d) Quadruplets

8) Newborn fawns weigh about 4-6 pounds. How long does it take for them to double their weight?
a) One week
b) Two weeks
c) One month
d) Two months

9) Deer are very adaptable, and have evolved into a number of subspecies. How many subspecies are there in North America?
a) 12
b) 19
c) 24
d) 30

10) In 1900 the total population of white-tailed deer in North America was estimated to be 500,000 animals. What is the estimated population of white-tailed deer today?
a) 500,000
b) 5-10 million
c) 20-30 million
d) 75 million

Read on for the answers.

Wolf killed in Montana had traveled 300+ miles

WILDLIFE — A male black wolf shot by a southeastern Montana rancher Sunday had traveled hundreds of miles from its former home range in Wyoming, officials say.

The 2-1/2-year old wolf was far from home — 300 in a direct line and many more on ground. That’s not an unusual distance for a young wolf to travel, Mike Jimenez, wolf recovery project leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Wyoming, told the Billings Gazette.

“It’s a prime age for dispersal,” Jimenez said, as a male seeks a breeding partner.

Although the average distance that wolves will go when seeking a mate is closer to 50 to 65 miles, one wolf in 2008 traveled roughly 3,000 miles in a journey from near Bozeman to Vail, Colo., write's Gazette Outdoor reporter Brett French. Others have been documented traveling from Idaho to Oregon and from Montana to British Columbia.

“They’re impressive when they get a mind to move,” Jimenez said.

The 98-pound wolf killed near Hammond as it worked the rancher's sheep had been collared last winter north of Jackson, Wyo., as a member of the Gros Ventre wolf pack. He was listed as wolf No. 751.

Panhandle Nordic Club to hear about Stevens Peak issues

NORDIC SKIING — The Panhandle Nordic Club will hear a program by John Latta of the Stevens Peak Backcountry Coalition at its Dec. 6 meeting, 7 p.m., at the Forest Service Fernan Ranger Station just east of Coeur d'Alene.

The meeting also is the club's cookie exchange night.

Other news from the club:

Fourth of July Pass doesn't have enough snow for skiing, but Lookout Pass does.

The Best Hand Fun Ski will be on Free Ski Day, Jan. 7, at Fourth of July Pass.. Ten main prizes will be awarded built around outdoor recreation. Some of these prizes include trips or events hosted by Nordic Club members. Everyone will receive 5 cards, but they will be able to turn in two of their cards and purchase two more cards for $1 each.

Idaho steelheading continues; note new rules this year

FISHING — Idaho's steelhead harvest season continues on the Clearwater, Salmon, Little Salmon and lower Snake rivers with some new rules that went into effect Aug. 1.
In case you didn't catch on to them, the new rules allow anglers to transport anadromous salmon and steelhead without the head and tail attached – but only under a number of conditions:
  • The fish must be recorded on the angler’s salmon or steelhead permit.
  • The processed fish must have the skin attached, including the portion with a healed, clipped adipose fin scar.
  • It must be packaged in a way that the number of harvested fish can be determined.
  • The fish must be processed ashore when the angler is done fishing for the day.
  • No processed salmon or steelhead may be transported by boat.
  • No jack salmon may be processed in the field.
  • Processed salmon or steelhead count toward an angler’s possession limit while in the field or in transit.
The steelhead limit on the Snake, Salmon and Little Salmon is three a day and nine in possession. The limit on the Clearwater is two fish per day and six in possession. Anglers may keep 20 steelhead for the season. Once limits are reached, the angler must stop fishing, even catch-and-release.
Idaho waters open for steelhead harvest are:
  • Boise River from its mouth upstream to Barber Dam.
  • Salmon River from its mouth upstream to the posted boundary 100 yards downstream from the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery weir, near the town of Stanley.
  • Little Salmon River from its mouth upstream to the U.S. Highway 95 bridge near Smokey Boulder Road.
  • Snake River from the Washington state line at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers upstream to Hells Canyon Dam.
  • Clearwater Rivermainstem and Middle Fork from its mouth upstream to Clear Creek.
  • North Fork Clearwater Riverfrom its mouth upstream to Dworshak Dam.
  • South Fork Clearwater Riverfrom its mouth upstream to the confluence of American and Red Rivers.
Steelhead anglers may use only barbless hooks, except on the Boise River, and they may keep only hatchery steelhead marked with a clipped adipose fin. All other steelhead must be released immediately.
Click here for more information on steelhead fishing in Idaho.

Whitefish man sets sights on Ultimate Ski Bum title

WINTER SPORTS —  A 32-year-old Whitefish man is in the running to be named the “Ultimate Ski Bum,” a title that comes with a prize package worth about $30,000, the Associated Press reports.

His resume includes sking about 150 days a year, about 70 at Whitefish Mountain Resort and another 80 in the surrounding backcountry.

Craig Moore recently became one of 10 finalists for the title that’s being sponsored by the Kootenay Rockies tourism board in British Columbia. Moore has skied at least one day every month for the last four years and beat out about 300 other wanna-be ski bums through online voting.

His next step is to submit a 90-second video (click above) showing him at his ski-bum best and why he deserves the title. A winner will be announced Dec. 14. The winner receives a pack of eight season passes to ski areas in British Columbia, along with helicopter trips, lodging, gas and a rental car for three months.

“It would be a pretty regimented winter,” said Moore, a member of the Flathead Nordic Backcountry Ski Patrol. “I would have to take a three-month sabbatical from Whitefish and spend three months up north, which I would have absolutely no problem doing.”

Skiing 150 days a year for the past two years was part of his plan to see if he could ski at least once every month within about 100 miles of Whitefish.

“I was just curious, ‘Is this something I could do?”’ he said. “I figured it would be a good personal project.”

This month he reached 48 months in a row, during that time skiing throughout Glacier National Park, as well as in the Swan range and Whitefish range.

Deer Quiz, Part 1: Test your knowledge about whitetails

WILDLIFE — How much do you know about the white-tailed deer that flourish from our yards to wheatfields and from river bottoms to modest forest elevations across the nation?

The whitetail is the most popular big-game animal in North America, prized by hunters and wildlife viewers alike. It's a prime example of an animal that adapts and perseveres.

Take this  DEER QUIZ prepared by Whitetails Unlimited  to see how much you know about the whitetail's biology, behavior and history.

PART 1: True / False

1) Deer are strong swimmers, in part because they have a layer of hair that is hollow, providing buoyancy in the water.

2) Deer have existed for 20 million years, and have had the same basic form for the last one million years.

3) Deer can run in excess of 35 miles per hour.

4) Deer can leap over fences eight feet tall.

5) Deer can cover 30 feet in a horizontal leap.

6) Just like humans, deer have a set of “baby teeth” that fall out and are replaced by permanent teeth.

7) You can tell how old a male deer is by how many points there are on his antlers.

8) Deer use their antlers during the winter to dig for food under the snow.

9) When antlers grow, they are covered with “velvet,” a soft, fuzzy tissue. This velvet is the only regenerating skin found in mammals.

10) Like cows, deer have four stomachs.

11) Deer can eat poison ivy without ill effect.

12) Deer are native to every state in the U.S.

13) The reason fawns are born with a pattern of white spots is so the mother can recognize her offspring.

14) Deer have extraordinary senses, including sight, hearing and smell.

15) Newborn deer have no scent, and the mother will place the fawn by itself in a secluded spot for protection against predators.

Read on to see the answers. Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of the DEER QUIZ.

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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 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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