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Outdoors blog

Archive for March 2011

More Washington lakes open for fishing April 1

FISHING — Washington Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries biologists have provided details on current fishing opportunities across the state, including waters that open for the season on April 1, in the bi-weekly  Weekender released today.

Trout fishing still holding up from vast shores of Lake Roosevelt

FISHING — Although the Spokane River is sweeping a plume of muddy water into Lake Roosevelt after a week of rain, the fishing is holding up well in some areas of the big reservoirs.

Starting before sunrise this morning, three of us caught 13 rainbow trout from shore before the winds picked up and started sand-blasting us and our gear on the vast shoreline exposed by the lake's seasonal drawdown. 

Boat launching is difficult or impossible at some ramps.

Don't forget, today is the last day for using the 2010-2011 Washington fishing licenses.  The new license season starts Friday. 

Virgil Moore to head Idaho Fish and Game

 WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission stayed within the agency and selected veteran wildlife manager Virgil Moore as the new director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game Department. The agency made the announcement today.

Moore, 59, is the deputy director for field operations at Idaho Fish and Game and will replace Director Cal Groen, who is retiring.
 
Moore has 34 years of experience in wildlife management.
 
Before taking his current position in 2007, he worked as the director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. He was hired by Oregon Fish and Wildlife in 2006 but returned to Idaho after less than a year for family reasons.
 
Moore was selected from a field of six finalists for the position, two from out of state agencies.

Early-bird grizzlies working up an appetite

WILDLIFE WATCHING — As tracks of the first gizzly bears emerging from hibernation were reported recently at Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, Bruce Auchly of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks was penning the following insights about bears as they emerge from their dens.

Read on…you're likely to learn something, such as why cubs aren't being spotted this month and people in bear country need to be careful with their bird feeders.

Washington fish and Wildlife Commission meets April 8-9

HUNTING — The prolonged debate over a controversial proposal to enact a four-point antler minimum for whitetail bucks in two northeastern Washington game management units will be decided next week in Olympia by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Click here to see the panel's April 8-9 meeting agenda.

The proposal was made by sportsmen in northeastern Washington. It's been opposed by most of the people attending public meetings on the issue.

Birds flock to family’s ponds, nest boxes

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Birds have giving a thumbs up, so to speak, for Ron Dexter and the seven wildlife ponds he's built on the family property near Mount Spokane over the years.

“Besides great blue herons, belted kingfishers, etc., our main attractions are the wood ducks that have slowly increased in numbers,” he reported this week.

“This morning there were 20, half males and half females.  I have erected 22 nest boxes, so we still have room for more wood ducks, so if you see any, send them our way.

“Some years, we also have hooded mergansers nesting. At times they will lay in the same box and one or the other will set. The female will hatch out both species. The young stay in the nest box until she calls them out within 24 hours of hatching. They jump out of the nest box with tiny wings spread like parachute jumpers and bounce like corks when the hit the ground. 

“They hang around the pond for a few hours, then mama will lead them on a trip through the weed to a nearby creek.”

  

Winter hay lures deer — cougar, too

WILDLIFE — Mountain lions don't eat hay, but this veggie bar spready out near Chewelah this winter likely attracted plenty of deer. 

Cougars like an all-you-can eat buffet deal as much as anyone.

This photo is amon several snapped of cougars in February and March by a motion-activated camera about 45 miles north of Spokane.

Telluride Mountain Film Fest coming to Moscow

WILDERNESSThe Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation is bringing the Telluride Mountain Film Festival back to North Idaho on April 8, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre, 508 South Main St. in Moscow.

The Telluride Mountainfilm Festival is a premier event dedicated to educating and inspiring audiences about issues that matter, cultures worth exploring, environments worth preserving, and conversations worth sustaining through themes of adventure, mountaineering, remarkable personalities and important environmental and social messages.

The Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation is a local non-profit organization dedicated to connecting citizens and communities to assist in the stewardship of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, and surrounding wildlands.

Tickets: $12  general admission, $10 for students. Proceeds benefit wilderness and trails stewardship in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

Proposed deer hunting rule would teach a lesson

HUNTING — Here's an obsevation for the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, which will vote April 8 on a controversial antler point restriction proposed for Game Management Units 117 and 121 in Stevens County.

A four-point minimum rule is a wasteful way to educate hunters on how many three-point whitetail bucks don’t have one-inch brow tines.

Motorcyclists vote Beartooth their favorite highway

OUTDOOR TRAVEL — It struck a personal chord this morning to read the news that members of the American Motorcyclist Association have voted the Beartooth Highway as their favorite stretch of road in the U.S.

The winding, mountain highway climbs nearly 6,000 feet between Red Lodge, Mont., and Cooke City, Mont. Part of the route dips into Wyoming just east of Yellowstone National Park.

Riders who wrote to the association magazine said they enjoyed the route’s curves and mountain scenery.

The Powell Tribune reports that members voted for their favorite roads through the association’s website. The Beartooth beat out nearly 100 other roadways.

The personal note is that my father, born in Bear Creek, Mont., near Red Lodge in 1910, worked on the Beartooth Highway construction crews.  On his days off, he would hike into the Beartooth lakes and catch trout.

Also, I've pedaled the Beartooth on my bicycle.  It's easier on your lungs going down.

Cyclists rule on Yellowstone roads until April 15

BICYCLING — Bicycle riders have a few weeks to enjoy Yellowstone National Park before it opens to motorized, wheeled vehicles next month.

Crews at Yellowstone are clearing snow off the roads and the park is scheduled to open to motorists on April 15. Until then, bicyclists who are willing to brave the elements can tour the park under their own power.

The road between West Yellowstone, Madison, Norris and Mammoth Hot Springs will be open to bicycle travel for the next three weeks. Park officials say the northwest section of Yellowstone typically receives less snowfall than the rest of the park. There is no spring season bicycle-only access to Old Faithful or Canyon.

Riders must be prepared to encounter bears and other wildlife and should expect winter weather conditions.

Fee hike prompts surplus of Montana nonresident big-game tags

HUNTING — A voter-approved price increase for some Montana nonresident hunting licenses likely resulted in about 1,200 big game combination licenses remaining for sale after the March 15 application deadline, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials said in a news release today.

About 15,800 nonresidents applied for a total 17,000 big game or elk combination licenses for the upcoming season. That means that every hunter who applied for either the $912 nonresident big game combination license, or the $812 elk combo license, will receive one.

The remaining 1,200 nonresident big game combination licenses will be sold online only on a first-come first-served basis beginning April 18. The big game combo includes licenses to hunt elk, deer and upland game birds, and a season fishing license. The elk combo includes all of the same licenses except for deer.

Read on for details.

Youth turkey hunt should be keyed to safety

HUNTING — Washington's youth turkey season runs Saturday-Sunday, giving kids mentored by adults a two-week headstart on the general season.

It's prime time for a hunting trip to be all about the kid, and all about safety.

Read on for 10 important safety tips from the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Good news: Bark beetles have little left to eat

NATIONAL FORESTS — Finally, some good news on the pine beetle infestation that's left much of the West with a glut of firewood.

Wyoming’s bark beetle epidemic is showing signs of slowing, forestry officials say, for the rather depressing reason that the insects are running out of trees in the state to infest.

But the beetles aren’t out of the woods yet, according to forest experts quoted in a Casper Tribune story.

And the larger question may be how to deal with the huge expanses of dead trees they’ve already left behind.

The latest aerial survey by the U.S. Forest Service, released in January, shows an estimated 314,000 acres of Wyoming pine forest died from beetle infestation in 2010 — mostly from mountain pine beetles. That’s a fourth of tree mortality rates in Wyoming during both 2009 and 2008.

In all, about 3.1 million acres of trees in Wyoming — mainly lodgepole and ponderosa pine — have been infested since the outbreak was first noticed about 15 years ago.

Similar reports come from Colorado and Montana.

Forest Service denies request to manage snowmobiles as ORVs

PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday denied a request filed last year from 90 recreation groups asking that snowmobiles on national forest lands be managed under the same guidelines applied to all other classes of off-road vehicles.

Those guidelines, established in 2005, require that ORVs stay on designated roads or trails unless an area is specifically declared open to off-road travel.

Read on for the rest of the story as reported online by Jule Banville of New West

Northern Montana grizzly bears show some growth

WILDLIFE — The grizzly population in northwestern Montana is growing at 3 percent a year — not bad for grizzlies, experts say.

The grizzly is still being scrutinized for removal from threatened species status.

Last year, 941 grizzlies were roaming the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, according to Rick Mace, leader of a team tracking the population trend of grizzlies in the ecosystem.

That is up from the 765 bears found in 2008 by fellow researcher Kate Kendall, who counted bears based on DNA testing of hair samples collected at scratching sites.

In 2009, according to the Great Falls Tribune, there were 913 bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, a region the size of Maryland and Delaware combined that includes Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.

“For grizzly bears, 3 percent is good,” Mace told  Tribune outdoor writer Michael Babcock. “It is not the very best we have ever seen globally, but in terms of brown bear populations, when you are within 2 to 4 percent (annual growth), that is almost as good as it can biologically get.

“This means there is a very high survival rate of females, and a relatively high reproductive rate. They are kicking out babies, and the females are surviving well,” he said.

Stop government waste: rat on a vandal

PUBLIC LANDS — When I hear the term government waste, I can't help but think about the taxpayer money needed to clean up after the low life that finds recreation in destroying public property, such as mudding meadows and shooting up outhouses.

Bitterroot National Forest officials say vandals last week caused $15,000 in damage by destroying five picnic tables.

The officials in Missoula said the tables were flipped over and left lying upside down on the beach near the swimming area. Each table weighs between 500 and 600 pounds and has concrete legs.

Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor Julie King said in a statement Monday that forest officials spend more than $25,000 each year replacing and repairing damage caused by vandals and picking up illegal trash.

Mountain biker plummets down street in Valparaiso, Chile

VCA 2010 RACE RUN from changoman on Vimeo.

BIKING — I had trouble WALKING down the streets of Valparaiso, Chile, without hurting myself, or getting mugged.  Here's a mountain biker doing it at breakneck speed.

Montana state parks offer camping reservations

CAMPGROUNDS – A new reservation system debuts Wednesday at 20 of Montana's 54 popular state parks.

Starting at 8 a.m Mountain Time, visitors can phone  toll-free or use the internet to make reservations up to nine months in advance or as close as two days prior to their visit. A few sites at each park will remain available for walk-ins.

ReserveAmerica's phone receptionists have information to help visitors select sites that will accommodate their camper size, number of people and pre-pay fees.  This information along with photos, campground maps, site descriptions, and travel directions will also be available on the website.  A processing fee of $10.00 will be charged for each reservation.

Call (855) 922-6768 toll-free 8 a.m.-7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends.

Montana's parks website has more info about accommodations and directions

Read on to see the list of Montana State Parks offering campsite reservations.

Idaho sets fall big-game hunting seasons

HUNTING — In response to changes in elk populations, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission voted today to approve big game hunting seasons that reduce or eliminate antlerless elk tags in some areas, according to a new release just issued by the state Fish and Game Department.

Meanwhile, big game hunting seasons for 2011 also include increased tags numbers and new hunts in areas with chronic depredation problems.

Among the changes, the 2011 season for white-tailed deer in the Panhandle will return to normal, extending 22 days over what it’s been in the past couple of years. The number of antlerless deer tags also has been reduced in poorly performing units and where winter mortality is expected to be high.

Read on for the details currently available.

Idaho sets spring chinook fishing seasons

FISHING — Idaho anglers will be able to start fishing for chinook salmon on April 23, according to seasons set today by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.

Chinook will open in the Clearwater River, Snake River, Little Salmon and part of the lower Salmon River – except in the lower Salmon River from Short’s Creek upstream to Vinegar Creek, where the season will open June 18.

Closing dates will be announced by Fish and Game.

Read on for details on the seasons.

Spring turkey hunting starts this weekend — for youths

HUNTING — Kids under the age of 16 get the first shot at spring wild turkey hunting for gobblers.

  • Washington's youth turkey season is Saturday and Sunday.
  • Idaho's youth season runs April 8-14.

The general spring gobbler season opens April 15 in both states.

Get more information here.

Upper Palouse Falls worth a hike

HIKING — This is prime time to visit Palouse Falls State Park, where the water is rushing and the landscape is starting to get green.  But don't be content to view the falls just from the parking lot overlook.

Steve and Karen Heaps of Spokane had the right idea this weekend to hike to the cascade-like  upper falls above the main 185-foot tall falls.  Just head upstream from the parking area, down to the railroad tracks for a short way and cut down on the trail to the upper falls.

Note:  The railroad is active.   

Census Bureau to collect wildlife recreation information

WILDLIFE — On April 1, U.S. Census Bureau employees will begin the first wave of data collection for the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation from about 53,000 households across the country.

Conducted every five years by the Census Bureau, the survey is sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This is the source of statistics we often read about wildlife recreation trends and numbers of hunters, anglers and birdwatchers in the United States.

“Participation in this survey is important because the results help us better manage our natural resources and to understand the demands being put on our wildlife and their habitat,” said Robert Groves, director of the Census Bureau. “This is one of the many surveys conducted by the Census Bureau for other federal agencies.”

The latest data from the survey show that in 2006, more than 87 million Americans 16 and older enjoyed some form of wildlife-related recreation and spent $122 billion in pursuit of these activities.

Read on for more details.

Cougar, wolf briefly share windfall feast

PREDATORS — An Angus bull that died last month from injuries after fighting with another bull near Missoula attracted the who's who of non-hibernating predators into the unblinking lens of a motion-activated camera.

A lone gray wolf spent just 18 minutes feeding on the carcass above Missoula's South Hills, apparently cowed by the fact that a mountain lion had already claimed the prize — and often slept by its feast.

Click here or read on for the Missoulian's detailed story.

Washington conservation projects earn Elk Foundation funding

WILDLIFE HABITAT — Elk research at Mt. St. Helens and habitat improvements on four national forests and other public lands in Washington headline a just-announced slate of projects selected for 2011 grants from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

The far-east side of the state isn't overlooked, with prescribed burn habitat improvement projects set for Asotin, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.

The new RMEF grants total $156,380 with an impact on up to 100,000 acres, officials said. The money usually is leveraged with money from other groups or agencies for more benefits on the ground

Read on for more details.
  

Conservation groups lost political capital in wolf issue

CONSERVATION — The environmental movement is facing serious challenges in the current political and economic climate. 

Considering bills in state legislatures and in Congress, some conservationists believe they've lost considerable political capitol in their tough stance to prolonging endangered species status for the gray wolf int he Northern Rockies.

“But where some see those challenges as symptoms of larger issues - more money in politics or more polarization in Congress - others see a clear need for the environmental movement to change tactics or face serious consequences,” according to the Bozeman Chronicle in a series of stories titled Conservation at a Crossroads.

The paper has taken an insightful look at the state of the regional conservation movement.

More Coverage

Oregon finds abusers of wildlife tax benefit

CONSERVATION — An Oregon tax incentive to preserve wildlife habitat has been grossly abused by some property owners forcing the state to put the brakes on new sign ups until oversight is beefed up.

In one case, a homeowner received tax deductions for “wildlife habitat” turned into a dirt-bike motorcycle play area.

The following d detailed story recently appeared in the Bend Bulletin.

Wild turkey pre-running Bloomsday course

WILDLIFE WATCHING — I'm a little late getting into the office today, distracted by a wild turkey crossing in front of the S-R building and heading west on Riverside Ave., across Monroe Street — traffic kindly giving it the right of way in a Spokane-friendly way.

It's a hen, gently yelping occasionally, seemly looking for love in all the wrong places.  It continued out Riverside when I realized it seemed to be checking out the Bloomsday course.

Last day to register for Bloomsday without a late fee is April 12.

First day of the spring wild turkey hunting season is Saturday for kids and April 15 for everybody else.

Big game on Idaho commission’s season setting agenda

HUNTING — Seasons for deer, elk, pronghorn, black bear and mountain lion are on the Idaho Fish and Game Commission agenda today through Tuesday at the Red Lion Hotel in Boise.

An open public hearing is set for tonight at 7 p.m.

On Tuesday morning, commissioners will consider seasons for deer, elk, pronghorn, black bear and mountain lion.

During the day they also will hear updates, including status of legislation, license restructuring and wolves.

In the afternoon, commissioners will consider spring seasons for chinook salmon fishing.

On Wednesday and Thursday, March 30 and 31, as needed, the commission will conduct an executive session to consider hiring a new Idaho Fish and Game Department director.

Montana ski areas delay closures, cite good snow

SKI RESORTS — While many ski and snowboard resorts will close their lifts on April 10,  some Montana ski areas are delaying closing dates by several weeks — perhaps April 17 — because the late-season snow is fabulous — and skiers and snowboarders haven't lost interest.

Posted last day of operations in this region:

49 Degrees North — April 10.

Mt. Spokane — April 10.

Silver Mountain — Splash Down rail jam is April 9. No firm word on season closing.

Lookout Pass — April 10 is Slush Cup.

Schweitzer — April 10.

“I don’t think we’ve gotten to the corn-snow stage yet,” said Montana Snowbowl owner Brad Morris, referring to a late-season type of snow that looks like corn kernels. “The temperatures are dropping below freezing every night. We’ve gotten some spring days, but it’s still winter here.”

Snowbowl closed last year with 66 inches of snow at the summit. This year, the summit has about 120 inches, Morris said.

He said the area was staying open until April 17 and was within a few thousand of hitting its record for skier visits during a season.

Read on for more of an Associated Press story about Montana ski resorts:

Need a gun? It’s free with TV service in Montana

SHOOTING — When driving down U.S. Highway 93 through Hamilton, there's no need to do a double-take when you see the sign hanging above the Radio Shack Super Store, reports the Ravalli Republic.

You read it right. Customers who buy Dish Network will be rewarded with a firearm.

“I think it really, really fits the Bitterroot Valley,” said Steve Strand, who has owned Hamilton's Radio Shack for about seven years.

Strand, along with store manager Fabian Levy, told the paper he wanted to generate more foot traffic at their location. So far, the gun giveaway has worked like a charm.

“It's been really successful,” Levy said.

Limited Montana wolf kill clears first hurdle

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Just out in an Associted Press story from Billings:  Federal officials today signaled their preliminary support for a plan to kill gray wolves in western Montana that have preyed on big game herds along the Idaho border.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a draft environmental review of a Montana proposal to kill 18 of an estimated 30 wolves along the West Fork of the Bitterroot River. That would include the elimination of between one and three packs in the area.

A similar petition from Idaho remains pending.

Read on for the rest of the AP story.

Pot smokers adhere to bear-country hiking rule

WILD LIFE — Hikers and hunters have joked that the safest way to travel in grizzly country is to bring along a companion you can out-run.

Turns out, the same holds true for pot smokers.

During a routine patrol to look for illegal fishing activity along the Spokane River last week, Washington Fish and Wildlife police officer Paul Mosman lost a foot race to two out of three college students near Gonzaga after they spotted him sneaking up on them while they were enjoying some recreational marijuana. 

“They decided to make a break for it and the slow one lost,” reported Capt. Mike Whorton.  “There is some truth to the phrase 'You only have to run faster than slowest person.'

Angler caught getting high on fishing

FISHING — It's routine nowadays for Fish and Wildlife police to deal with illegal activity that has nothing to do with fish or wildlife.

Last week, an officer patrolling the TucannonRiverand Wooten Wildlife Area observed a man on Big 4 Lake, which is “Fly Fishing Only.” 
 
After watching for over an hour, the officer moved in and cited him for using bait, exceedingthe trout limit — and possession of marijuana.
 
It's not clear yet whether the angler was a member of the WSU men's basketball team.

Release all marked fish in Priest Rapids pool

 FISHING — Because of a study that involves chemically anesthetizing fish, anglers must release all marked fish on the Columbia River reservoir behind Priest Rapids Dam from April 1-May 31.

Species affected by the emergency rule include smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye, channel catfish and northern pikeminnow

The Washington Fish and Wildlife announced the closure on Friday.

Read on for details.

Take a kid hunting — for nightcrawlers

FISHING — This soggy weather sends a lot of people indoors. But serious angler know the saturated ground forces worms out of the ground, making this a ripe time to stock up on nightcrawlers for the next fishing trip.

You'll find worms onthe streets and sidewalks. 

The best fun is going out with a kid for short nightcrawler hunts.  No license required, and  no limits to worry about.

All you need is a flashlight or headlamp and a can or bucket.  Make it an adventure, even if you don't fish.

Snowboarder’s death focuses concern on spring snowpack

WINTER SPORTS — The weekend avalanche death of a snowboarder near Stevens Pass has sobered some backcountry travelers, and brought forth some worthwhile thoughts. 

Following is a comment from a skier named Ed posted with the news story about the death. It follows the same train of thought in the recommendations of the weekly avalanche forecast for this region.

Check it out.

Program addresses Eloika Lake milfoil issue

INVASIVE SPECIES — Eloika Lake's “milfoil monster” will be addressed in an upcoming program geared to anglers, property owners and anyone else who wants information on this threat to a popular lake — and the waters downstream.

Local Wildlife” photos and the “Eloika Milfoil Monster” are two visual presentations scheduled by the Eloika Lake Association on Thursday, March 31, 6:30 p.m. at the Inland Grange in Elk.   Folks who sign in will be entered in a free drawing for an air boat tour of Eloika Lake courtesy of Lake Restoration Services. 

Jim Bottoroff, Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist, and David Ross, Spokane Conservation District resource technician, will present photos and stories and answer audience questions about wildlife and wild aquatic weeds commonly found near Eloika starting at 6:30 p.m. at Inland Grange.

The grange is located at 37147 N. Conklin Rd., southeast of Elk at the corner of Conklin and Nelson roads. 

Even though fishing on Eloika Lake remains good, a project is underway to address the threat invasive Eurasian Water Milfoil plant poses to fisheries.  This summer marks the second year that milfoil will be treated as part of a state grant acquired by the Eloika Lake Association in cooperation with the Spokane County conservation district. 

“Last year there was a 95percent success rate in the areas treated for Milfoil, so this is really good news for anyone who recreates here,” said Tammy Magnuson, Vice President of the Eloika Lake Association.

The Lands Council prepping for annual banquet

ENVIRONMENT — A few tickets remain available for The Lands Council's 16th annual April Showers auction and banquet on April 16 at The DoubleTree Hotel in Spokane.

The event always features good food and wine along with live and silent auction items in a fundraiser to benefit the group's efforts to preserve, protect and revitalize Inland Northwest forests, water & wildlife.
 
  • Tickets: $60 per individual or $400 per table of eight.
  • Reservations: Amanda Swan, 209-2851.

Ducks Unlimited shooting and dining for wetlands

CONSERVATION– Ducks Unlimited has scheduled several upcoming fundraising events to benefit wetlands conservation. Amont them:

April 2 Coyote Falls Sporting Clays fun shoot near Almira. Practice starts 9:30 a.m., event at 10:30 a.m. Preregister by Wednesday: (509) 639-0168 or email coyotefallssporting@gmail.com.

April 7 – Spokane DU annual dinner, doors open at 5:30 p.m. at The Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln St. Tickets $50 single, $275 sponsor.

Contact Gordon Hester, 755-7576 or register online.

Newport man remembers seaman’s rendezvous with Pacific albatross

WILDLIFE — I received a great letter today from Joe Dufresne regarding the memories evoked by today's Critter Watch column on the us and downs of the albatross nesting on Pacific Island refuges.

Dear Mr. Landers;

Your article on the albatross today carried me back to about 20 years ago. I was on a merchant ship which stopped at Midway and Wake Islands while enroute to the Far East. We delivered and loaded a little cargo in both places, spending an overnight in each location. It was during the mating season and I recall it being said that a half million pairs of albatross were nesting there, all on the ground and all over everywhere, unafraid of people, concerned only with gathering enough twigs into a meager abode.

Read on for the rest of Joe's remembrance.

Overloaded kayakers tell tale of surviving Grand Canyon

PADDLING — Typically the Grand Canyon is floated by raft because of the length of time it takes to boat the roadless stretch of the Colorado River.

Most trips take 12-21 days to negotiate big whitewater and long stretches of flatwater.

All the skills requirements are amplified for the few self-supported kayakers who attempt to carry all their gear – including the required “groover” and fire pan.

But Scott Sills and Mike Copeland proved it could be done in a 16-day December adventure they launched in creek boats stuffed with 250 pounds of gear.

They’ll present a program on the trip (and tell whether they could Eskimo roll a kayak that heavy in the canyon’s huge water) Monday, 7 p.m., at the Corbin Community Center, 827 W. Cleveland, sponsored by Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club.

Learn to take care of your bike

CYCLING — A free session in bicycle maintenance basics will be offered Thursday, 7 p.m.,at the Spokane REI store.

The session will demystify important highlights from removing the tire and fixing a flat to keeping the drive train clean and functioning correctly.

Pre-register to reserve a seat.

Snag blocking portion of Devils Toenail rapid

RIVER RUNNING — At  8 a.m.  this morning,  a large snag was stuck in the left slot in the Spokane River's notorious Devil's Toenail near the Spokane Rifle Club.

“Scout from the road (Aubrey White Parkway),” one rafter said in a whitewter list serve. “Nasty.”

  

Hikers find spring waterfalls blooming

DAY HIKING — Wet spring weather is giving dayhikers extra incentive to hit the trail. 

Palouse Falls near Washtucna is roaring this week, and nifty trails offer numerous points of view.

One not to miss in its brief spring rise to fame is Hog Lake falls, 30 miles west of Spokane.

The scablands are saturated and feeding the lake’s waterfalls, which generally flow only in late-winter and spring. The lake, a popular winter trout fishery that closes Thursday, is on the Bureau of Land Management’s Fishtrap Lake recreation area south of Interstate 90 near the Spokane-Lincoln county line.

From Exit 254, drive south and turn left at the first public road. Cross the railroad tracks and continue on the gravel road to the boat launch. Hike the west shoreline a few hundred yards, scramble up to the rim and follow it up the lake, past all the blooming buttercups, to the overlook of the falls.

First Smith River Super Permit winner announced

RIVER RUNNING — A Montana man drew a coveted new permit that allows him to pick the ideal flows and perhaps the best fishing period any day of the year to launch a group of rafts down Montana's strictly regulated Smith River.

Sean O'Connor of Drummond, a local fire chief, won the first Smith River Super Permit this week.

He said he'd bought five $5 raffle tickets. His name was drawn from a total of 2,435 tickets sold.

Other people who draw permits during the normal February drawing are lucky to get them, but they are locked in to launch dates regardless of whether they coincide with high or low water in the river's notoriously unpredictable flows.

The Smith River winds through a spectacular limestone canyon in the Lewis & Clark / Helena National Forests.  The typical four day, 59-mile float offers great fishing for cutthroat, brown and rainbow trout, plus mountain whitefish. 

O'Connor said he plans to float the Smith River sometime in late June, or when the fishing and the weather are at its best. 

Soggy public lands vulnerable to four-wheeling abuse

PUBLIC LANDS — Every year, one can find the ruts of tire tracks over soggy forest roads  — as well as trails and even meadows.

This wet transition from winter to spring is the most vulnerable time of year for roads, trails and off-trail lands and their associated plants.  

Colville National Forest officials do their best to remind visitors to drive only on roads designated open. Wet or muddy areas should be avoided.  

Unfortunately, some people think it's cool to spin their wheels and gouge mud holes in public lands, promoting ruts, erosion, weeds and death to certaiin plant communities.

Never mind that it's illegal. It's also costly and stupid.

Old homestead meadows, which often include rare plant species, tend to be targeted by “mudders,” forest officals say.

Wondering where you can legally drive a passenger vehicle or off-highway vehicle? The Colville National Forest has a Motor Vehicle Use Map that  shows the roads and trails available to motorized travel. It's available ant any forest ranger station.

Forest Motor Vehicle Use Maps also are available in Spokane at the BLM & Colville National Forest Information Office, 1103 N Fancher, in Spokane (509) 536-1200

Steelheading to close April 1 on Upper Columbia and tribs

FISHING  — Steelhead fishing will close April 1 on the Columbia River from Priest Rapids Dam to Chief Joseph Dam and the Wenatchee, Icicle, Entiat, Methow, Okanogan, and Similkameen rivers, the Washington Fish and Wildlife announced today.

Read on for details. 

Relief! bucket comes off muzzled deer

WILDLIFE — Good news arrived last night from Newman Lake, where my blog item  last weekend reported the sad story of a deer with a Halloween bucket stuck on its face.

“I can report that the deer is doing fine and the bucket is off!” said Diane Sellers, the resident who reported that the whitetail seemed to be starving.

The deer had poked its nose into the piece of trash somebody left outside and the plastic handle flipped back behind its head, locking it in place.

The deer had been coming to the family's barnyard with its two yearling fawns for several days pawing at its face occasionally and clearly unable to feed. Washington Fish and Wildlife officers received the report, but when they responded the deer couldn't be found.

But the deer persisted and finally was able to remove the piece of junk from its face after at least four days.

Weekly avalanche advisory: New snow, mixed conditions

WINTER SPORTS — Snow continues to fall in the high country, creating a mix of conditions and for backcountry travelers, according to the weekly avalanche advisory just posted by the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center.

Generally, avalanche conditions are MODERATE in the region with CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger on windloaded aspects steeper than 35 degrees above 5,000 feet. 

Read the entire advisory before heading out. 
   

Non-residents still have shot at Montana big-game tags

BIG-GAME HUNTING — A new law in Montana has made it more difficult to get a guaranteed big-game hunting tag through an outfitter.  But in the state's first permit period, all of the available permits WERE NOT SOLD.

If you want to hunt Montana in 2011 and did not make the March 15 deadline, it is looking like you will still have a chance when the leftover tags become available on a first come first served basis in April.

“We still have hunts availabe contact us if you are interested. This info is from MOGA I will pass on new information as it becomes available.

Jim Mitchell of Montana Hunting & Fishing Adventures in Hamilton passed on this information from the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association.

  1. Apparently FWP has undersold the B-10 by around 2,000 licenses.
  2. The B-11 have sold out (barely).
  3. Paper applications WILL NOT be accepted.
  4. Remaining licenses will be sold through on-line application process available in mid April.  I have heard April 15 or April 18.  It will be critical to know the date as the on-line sales will stop once the full measure of the undersell is achieved.

Foundation seeks to boost health of Idaho guides

OUTFITTERS — The suicide of a well-liked Middle Fork Salmon River guide last year is spurring the organizaton of a foundation to provide confidential access to mental and physical health care and substance abuse counseling for any of the 2,000 Idaho guides who might need the services.

After learning the depths of Telly Evans' off-season depression and year-round battle with alcoholism, friends and people in the industry are trying to launch the  Redside Foundation.

Many guides are seasonal employees without health insurance and without a place to turn for mental health care or substance abuse counseling, said Brian Chaffin, executive director.

Modeling a similar program instituted 15 years ago along the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the Redside Foundation hopes to support all Idaho guides — including river, hunting, fishing, skiing and biking — with free training, educational opportunities and transistion assistance.

The initial fundraising event is set for April 6 at Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre in downtown Moscow. Tickets are $10. Two Idaho-based outdoor films will be shown:  The Greatest Migration and WildWater.

Info: Brian Chaffin, (208) 859-3953, (briancchaffin@gmail.com) or Jenni Chaffin, (208) 301-8001, (jenni.l.chaffin@gmail.com)

Centennial Trail, Turnbull fundraisers this week

CONSERVATION — Two worthy local outdoor causes are having fun feasts and auctions this weekend:

The Centennial Trail's third annual Adventure Auction is Friday at Northern Quest Casino. 

Friends of Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge will hold their fourth annual dinner and auction on Sunday, noon-4 p.m., at the Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln St. in Spokane.

  • Tickets cost $25 for Friends members and $30 for nonmembers. Price includes a pasta dinner. Info: CraigCorder, 2cbird@hughes.net

The Friends of Turnbull event helps fund Turnbull’s environmental education programs, which have introduced thousands of children to quality nature experiences. 

Idaho to let newcomers to try hunting before passing safety course

HUNTING — Idaho is joining the bandwagon of states allowing potential new hunters accompanied by a mentor to try the sport before they pass a state-certified hunter education course.

On Tuesday, Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter signed into law House Bill 85, making Idaho the 31st state to pass Families Afield legislation since the programs inception in 2004.

Montana is the only state in the Northwest that has not adopted Families Afield legislation.

This allows the Fish and Game Commission to establish a program under which newcomers could try hunting under the watchful eye of an experienced mentor prior to the completion of a hunter education course.   

Read on for details.

BLM seeks citizen advisors in North Idaho

PUBLIC LANDS — The Bureau of Land Management in Idaho is seeking nominations for 22 open positions — five in North Idaho — on its four Resource Advisory Councils, which advise the BLM on public land issues.

The BLM will consider  nominations until May 2.

Read on for details.

Pullman Ducks Unlimited banquet is Saturday

CONSERVATION — Pullman Ducks Unlimited will hold its annual banquet  and auction Saturday, March 26, at Banyan’s Restaurant at the Palouse Ridge Golf Course. 

Social hour begins at 5:30 p.m.; dinner served at 7 and live auction at 8.  

Tickets: Jeremy Lessmann, (509) 330-1822.

Montana stream ‘no-access’ bill tabled at Legislature

FISHING — The Montana Senate has revisions to the state’s stream access law under substantial opposition from anglers,. the Associated Press reports.

Stream access is considered a public right vital to the state's recreational fishing industry.

House Bill 309 reopened a simmering dispute over a slough running through the Bitterroot Valley property of 1980s rocker Huey Lewis and others. The courts ruled several years ago that the slough be open to fishermen under the state’s stream access law.

Ranchers and others had sought to make clear that irrigation ditches are not open to anglers wading streams. But anglers argued the legislative proposal would have closed to access more than just ditches.

The measure had cleared the House, only to face a large crowd of opponents in the Senate. It was tabled late Tuesday in an 8-3 vote in the Senate agriculture committee.

Wildlife might get short end of forest planning rule

NATIONAL FORESTS — The U.S. Forest Service held public meetings this week in Missoula, Coeur d'Alene and Seattle to explain the details and intent of the recently proposed draft Planning Rule to be applied to 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands. 

If put into law, the rule would serve as a national blueprint for how hundreds of individual forest plans — such as the Colville and Idaho Panhandle forests — will chart national forest management in the coming years.

The agency says the proposed forest planning rule would support ecological sustainability and provide rural jobs. It includes new provisions for habitat protection, recreation and timber and other uses.

Tom Uniack with Washington Wilderness Coalition says it should provide more protection for national forests.

However some conservation groups in Washington state say the policy fails to safeguard all fish and wildlife species and watersheds that are the source of drinking water for millions.

For example, the proposed rule specifies oversight for animals specifically listed as “species of concern” in forest management, however it seems then to overlook species of high public interest, such as elk.

Formal comments must be submitted by May 16.

Otter going into wolf talks undecided

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter decided against taking a formal stance on a settlement to allow public hunting of wolves in parts of the Northern Rockies as state representatives headed for court hearing in Missoula today.

Otter’s chief lawyer David Hensley says the plan is going before a federal judge, but Otter has decided against taking a formal position.

The settlement is between the Obama administration and 10 conservation groups. The groups, under pressure from Western lawmakers in Congress, agreed give up their fight to keep almost 1,300 wolves on the endangered list in Idaho and Montana.

Although Montana has endorsed the settlement plan as a way to move forward on wolf control, Idaho opted out of the settlement negotiations, and Otter has instead focused on an uncertain “congressional fix” to restore state management of wolves.

First bears emerge from dens at Glacier Park

NATIONAL PARKS — Bear tracks in the snow this week alerted Glacier National Park officials that bears are emerging from hibernation and venturing out looking for food.

That means it's time for a refresher on hiking and traveling in bear country.

Read on for tips on avoiding bear encounters and links to other details, such as using bear spray.

North Idaho campground hosts needed

NATIONAL FORESTS — Volunteer Forest Service campground hosts are being sought for the summer season at the historic Snyder Guard Station near the Moyie River, the Bonners Ferry Ranger District says.

 Applications  are being accepted. The hosts should be selected by May 10.

“This is an ideal position for friendly, high energy folks who would enjoy a quiet, inexpensive setting in return for host responsibilities on a National Forest treasure,” said Linda McFaddan, Bonners Ferry District Ranger.

Read on for details.

How old is that gobbler?

HUNTING — “I got a good 7-year-old bird,” the camo-clad hunter proudly said when the wildlife biologist asked if he'd had any luck. When Joel Glover asked how the hunter knew the age of the bird, the Alabama biologist got a look of disdain as the hunter picked up the gobbler and thrust its legs forward so he could examine a nice set of spurs. “Sharp as a tack,” he said.

Read on For Glover's explanation of aging wild turkey toms — and why hunters often are just blowing smoke when they brag about the age of their gobbler:

Oldest known bird to nest in U.S. survives tsunami

WILDLIFE WATCHING — There's a sense of relief this week among fish and wildlife biologists who manage the specks of National Wildlife Refuge islands west of Hawaii.

Wisdom is back.

In this Febuary 2011 photo provided by the US Geological Survey, a Laysan albatross, roughly 60-years-old, named Wisdom is seen with a chick at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge near Hawaii.

The oldest known wild bird in the U.S. has returned to a remote atoll northwest of the main Hawaiian islands after surviving this month's tsunami, which swepted over the low-lying islands and killed perhaps 25 percent of this year's albatross chicks.

Officials at the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which includes Midway Atoll, said Monday they are thrilled the Laysan albatross survived. The bird has become like family.

For more information on the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, see here.

  

Lake Roosevelt stingy to anglers Tuesday

FISHING — My friend, Jim, had been kicking but on Lake Roosevelt kokanee and rainbows last week, as he's done most of the times he's fished the reservoir for years.

The fish researcher at the Keller boat ramp check station said the anglers on shore and from boats were limiting in no time through the weekend.

But Tuesday, the fishing was darned tought.  Even Jim had trouble hooking more than two fish from his boat.

The researcher said she hadn't checked many fish from reporting anglers when we called it quits in the afternoon. We'd landed a total of three fish, losing a couple and going another two hours without a hit as the wind came up.

Barometric pressure must have been the culprit.  The water level was dropping during the weekend, but it stabilized on Monday and Tuesday.

Anybody else have any answers?

 

 

Paddlers trying to assure Spokane River access

RIVERS — Members of the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club, pictured above unloading their boats at the popular Spokane River Centennial Trail access at Mission and Flora on Sunday, are working to assure that the access won't be gobbled up by development plans.

The access is important for Spokane River paddlers using the Sullivan Rapids area as well as for all Valley users of the Centennial Trail.

Club members have received assurances from city officials have said the access will remain open this summer during the construction of the planned extension of Indiana Ave., where a roundabout will be built.

The club also is optimistic that plans can be drawn up to assure the access will be improved rather than degraded by future development.

Prime time for seeing tundra swans

WILDLIFE WATCHING — With lakes losing their ice caps and rain saturating the region's wetlands, this is prime time to view the waterfowl migration throughout the region. Reports are coming in of big congregations of tundra swans, ducks as well as sandhill cranes and other species.

Also note that great blue herons congregate this time of year along they Pend Oreille River before dispersing to nesting areas.  They often can be seen perched by the dozens on the pilings off the Usk Bridge.  By summer, there will be cormorants on most of those pilings.

Here's the birding field report for last weekend from Auduboners out of Newport, Wash.

Calispell Lake is still mostly frozen, but has many small areas that have melted off and these all are heavy with Tundra swans, probably a couple thousand at this time.  The swans were walking through 2-3 inches of slush on the ice yesterday. So the lake will probably be much more open by next week-end.  Lots of other waterfowl, also.

Steelheading/ Spey casting clinics for fly fishers

FLY FISHING — Oregon fishing guide and fly-fishing innovator Tom Larimer will present a free steelhead fly fishing tactics clinic starting at 6  p.m. on April 8 at Silver Bow Fly Shop in Spokane Valley. (Please notify the shop if you will attend so they can plan accordingly, (509) 924-9998.)

The following two days, Larimer will conduct four-hour Spey casting clinics as follows. (Space limited).

Intro to Spey Casting with (509) 924-9998
When:  April 9th  8 a.m-noon
Where:  Spokane River. Location TBD
Cost:  $50 
*Must prepay/register prior to course. Rods/reels will be provided if you don't have your own.

Advanced Spey Casting/Technique with Tom Larimer
When:  April 9th 1 p.m.-5 p.m.
Where:  Spokane River. Location TBD
Cost:  $50
*Must prepay/register prior to course.

Prep for new Valley Walmart evicts urban ospreys

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A hawk-eyed reader recently noticed that the poles that had supported urban osprey nests not far from the Valley Costco store were missing — and so were the osprey.

She contacted me, and I contacted the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department.  Habitat biologist Karin Divens provided this update:

“The site is going to be developed with a Walmart store and the platforms had to be relocated,” Divens said last week.  “I contacted the City of Spokane Valley this morning and they had the developer’s consultant contact me.

“It sounds like they did their best to follow our recommendations for these replacement nesting platforms, including specs on preferred designs.  

“District wildlife biologist Howard Ferguson and I had identified three alternative locations for new poles with nesting platforms.  Unfortunately, the consultant was unable to get approval  from neighboring property owners to place permanent platforms. 

“Instead, new poles and platforms were put up on the Walmart property as far away from the highest activity areas as possible.

“The new poles and platforms were put up prior to removal of the old ones.   So now we wait and see if the birds choose to nest here when they return.  After 12 years of documented nesting, there has been no osprey nesting documented at this location for the past 2 years. ”

A Canada goose apparently nested on one of the platforms last year.

Yakima River fly fishing report

FLY FISHING — Here's the weekly Yakima River Fishing Report from Jim Gallagher of Troutwater Fly Shops in Cle Elum and Ellensburg:
 
The skwala stones continued to be the most dominate insect on the Yakima River this past week.  We have also seen blue wing olives hatch in the early afternoon.  
 
Most success has been subsurface using a dropper system with a size eight or ten brown and beige color skwala nymph and either a small mayfly nymph or a San Juan worm dropper. 
 
In the afternoon, when the temperatures warm, there have seen adult skwalas on the water surface creating the possibility for some dry fly action.  The adults tend to be more active on the Yakima in the Ellensburg area. 
 
Overall, fishing and catching has been good throughout the river system, despite non-optimal water clarity.  The water flows are great for floating and a little high for wading.  The water clarity is off color starting below the Teanaway River and continueing into the lower canyon. 
 
It seems as if every little tributary through the Kittitas Valley is full with snow melt water.  We expect the dry fly fishing to be great over the next few weeks as the temperatues warm.

Odds were good for winning 2011 Washington moose raffle tag

HUNTING Relatively speaking, the odds were excellent for drawing Washington's coveted 2011 moose raffle tag.

Lloyd Hoppner of Colville won the coveted tag to hunt a prolonged season anywhere moose hunting is allowed in Eastern Washington in the drawing held last weekend at the Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show.

His ticket was drawn from a pool of only 1,000 tickets, down from a pool of 3,000 tickets last year, Wanda Clifford, executive director of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, said Friday.

The council does the work of running the raffle to raise money for wildlife conservation projects while 10 percent of the proceeds go to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department for moose management.

The special permit is a good deal, especially since some hunters have put-in fruitlessly for 20 years without drawing permit in the general state lottery drawing.

One has to wonder why more hunters didn't buy the $10 raffle tickets.  The economy?  Maybe they just don't understand the program.

Savvy big-game hunters know they can boost odds by entering the raffles as well as the normal state lottery in which they get one chance among about 31,400 applicants vying for one of 138 tags.

Of the 3,000 moose raffle tickets sold last year, Clifford estimated they were sold to fewer than 300 hunters.

She didn't have figures for how many hunter bought the 1,000 tickets this year, but it's clear the odds were good for those who did.

Residents and nonresidents are eligible to buy tickets, and the hunting license and tag is awarded to the raffle winner at no extra charge. That makes the tag a real deal for a nonresident.

The “once-in-a- lifetime” restriction is waived.

If selected, any legal weapon may be used.

Deer dogged in Stevens County

WILDLIFE — Stevens county elected officials are constantly belittling state and federal wildlife managers for their lack of effort in controlling the wildlife devastation caused by wolves and coyotes, however valid that might be.

But when it comes to taking care of the canines under their jurisdiction, Stevens County and other counties in northeastern Washington appear to be pretty lame.

Reports of loose-running dogs harassing wildlife have fairly regularly come in to state Fish and Wildlife police this winter.

Last week, an officer responded to a Suncrest homeowner who reported a pack of dogs she didn't recognize had cornered and attacked a deer near her residence. The officer found the deer just as dead as if a wolf pack had been there. 

The only difference is that the dogs didn't eat the deer because they can go home and recharge on a nice bowl full of dog chow.

Snowmobilers desecrate backcountry skiers’ favorite slopes near Mullan

WINTER SPORTS — A clash has been brewing for years near Lookout Pass as snowmobilers' insatiable appetite for high-marking and tracking fresh snow continues to invade more and more areas used by backcountry skiers.

Thirty years ago, snowmobilers tended to stay north of I-90 while skiers found peace and quiet to the south in the St. Regis Basin, around Stevens Peak and other areas.

Snowmobilers pretty much drove skiers out of the St. Regis Basin by the late 1990s — their high-marking and potential to set off avalanches often made it dangerous to be a skier below.

A backcountry skier can make only a few runs up and down a mountain slope in a day.  A snowmobiler can foul an entire basin with tracks and noise in a few hours.

This winter, snowmobilers seem to be making a point to go in an trash some sacred ground for backcountry skiing in the West Willow Peak area south of Mullan. 

Backcountry skiers, who seem to shun organization, are starting to react.   Check out the Stevens Peak Backcountry Coalition website, and the update on what skiers encountered last weekend.

Youths invited to join whitewater trips and other adventures

YOUTH OUTDOORSPeak 7 Adventures, a faith-based youth outdoor adventure group with a focus on underprivileged kids is already launching raft groups on the Spokane River, taking advantage of the spring whitewater.

The group schedules challenging events throughout spring  and summer, including climbing, kayaking, backpacking and team-building skill activities.

Youths and adults interested in participating or mentoring are invited to a rafting season open house with free pizza and a low-key used outdoor apparel sale on Wednesday, 6 p.m., at the new Peak 7 headquarters, 1409 W. White Rd.

Info: (509) 467-5550.

Deer with bucket on face has disappeared

WILDLIFE — Washington Fish and Wildlife officers responded to a Newman Lake residence today after reading my blog item about a deer with a Halloween bucket stuck on its face.

The whitetail and her two fawns had come into the family's barnyard three nights in a row, so they know she had gone at least that many days unable to feed.

Unfortunately, the deer has not showed up for two days.

Wildlife officers said they received no calls about the deer in distress.

“This is the type of thing we would respond to,” said officer Dave Spurbeck, who talked to the residents this morning.

“They have all of our phone numbers now in case the deer shows up again.”

BLM advisory council meets in CdA

PUBLIC LANDS — The Resource Advisory Council (RAC) for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Coeur d’Alene District will meet in Coeur d’Alene Tuesday at the District Office, 3815 Schreiber Way.

In addition to the RAC's regular business items, the agenda includes election of officers, briefing from field offices on various programs, and an update on the Forest Service recreation program.

The meeting, which is open to the public, starts at 8 a.m. The public may address the RAC from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Info: Lisa Wagner, RAC coordinator,  (208) 769-5014.

Idaho Senate votes to relax elk disease test rule

 BIG GAME — The Idaho Senate has passed legislation to relax domestic elk testing requirements for a deadly brain disease that has plagued herds in other states, the Associated Press just reported.

All domestic elk in Idaho must be tested annually for chronic wasting disease.

But elk ranchers who sell meat and charge hunters to shoot trophy bulls have convinced lawmakers to ease the requirements. The Senate passed legislation today to allow virtually all Idaho elk ranchers to test just 20 percent of their animals once every three years.

The bill goes to the House.

Some sportsmen are against the measure, raising longstanding fears of disease spreading from domestic elk to Idaho’s prized wild elk herds.

But supporters — including an elk rancher on the Senate committee that gave this bill an OK — contend testing has never detected disease in Idaho’s domestic herds and the standards can be safely relaxed.

Another busy week for Wildlife cops

WILDLIFE COPS — In addition to clamping down on people who disregard wildlife habitat (see previous post) Washington Fish and Wildlife police kept busy last week with a wide range of duties, not the least of which was conducting a hot-spot elk hunt to curb crop damage near Almota, making presentations to hunter education classes and checking anglers throughout the region.

Once officer responded to monitor elk in Spokane Valley and the wild turkeys still plaguing some homeownes on the South Hill.

At least two citations were writen to snowmobilers during a northeastern Washington patrol of the Calispel peak area focusing on Big Game Winter Range closure areas. The officers also joined with Forest Service cops to rescue and transport  three ill-equipped snowmobilers who'd broke down a long way from the road.

When these officers write their book about the crazy cases they check out, they'll have to include last week's call from a person in southeastern Washington who believed a neighbor had placed a toxic black substance in the roadway in an attempt to poison him. 

The officer checked it out, since it could have been a habitat protection violation. 

Turns out the “black substance” was put down by a man who works at a construction company. It was sandblasting sand he'd placed in the roadway to prevent a washout until a permanent fix could be made.

Sandblasting sand is not toxic.  

Sign up for outdoor photography seminar

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY – An internationally known professional photographer and lecturer from Issaquah will conduct the annual Photographic Society of America Spring Seminar in Spokane, April 2-3, hosted by local camera clubs.

Darrell Gulin will be at Spokane Community College Lair Building focusing on a wide range of subjects, including travel, macro, action, HDR and landscape photography plus a session on editing.

Cost: $85, includes lunches.

Optional field trips are set for April 4, led by PSA members.

Click here for details and to pre-register: 

Cutting tree for bridge over Tucannon River is costly mistake

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT – If a tree falls in the forest and a Fish and Wildlife policeman is around, it will be heard – and investigated.

While patrolling the Tucannon Lakes and Wooten Wildlife Area in the Blue Mountains last week, a Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officer stopped to check the vehicles of two people he’d seen previously hunting shed antlers.

 Meantime, he heard a chainsaw running down along the Tucannon River, according to the weekly report of enforcement activity in far Eastern Washington.  Moments later a large tree was heard to hit the ground.

The officer hiked into the area, found the two shed hunters and determined that one of them had sawed down a 50-foot tall live cottonwood tree measuring 30 inches at the stump.

The man had dropped the tree into the river to make a bridge for his partner to cross.

Aside from being stupid, senseless and selfish, this also is illegal.

The Tucannon River is a habitat protection area to protect, among other things, the trees and vegetation that shield the river from sun to keep the water cooler for young bull trout and steelhead.

The officer gave the information to the Columbia County prosecutor, where we’re looking forward to seeing a case move through the courts on charges felony malicious mischief and an HPA violation.

Anglers have plenty of elbow room at Hog Canyon

FISHING — As I was hiking the rim above Hog Canyon Lake on Sunday, I looked down on the water to see two fishermen looking very small as they trolled their lures in the chop. 

A few anglers were fishing with little success from shore at both ends of the lake, but these two men were in the only boat on the 53-acre lake.

Minutes later I saw them hook and land a trout that played hard and looked big in the net even from my distant vantage.

The winter-season lake closes to fishing at the end of the month.

Great weekend for waterfalls

HIKING — Reports from paddling friends say Hangman Creek had dropped too low for good canoeing over the weekend. Meanwhile, the Palouse River was flowing too big for safe paddling.

Time to put on the hiking shoes and just stand in awe of the sight at Palouse Falls State Park.

Dayhike destination: Waterfall ripping at Hog Canyon Lake

HIKING — Looking for a good early-spring dayhike?  Check out this spot i visited with my daughter this weekend.

Runoff period is a good time to visit the BLM land around Fishtrap Lake for a hike into Hog Canyon Lake.  .

Hog Canyon is a popular winter fishing lake off I-90 from the Fishtrap exit. There are several ways to reach it, including a longer walk from the main trailhead parking area on Fishtrap Road between the Sprague Highway and Fishtrap Resort.

First timers might want to use the BLM Fishtrap map to find your way to the Hog Canyon boat launch. Hike the west shoreline, scramble up to the rim and follow the rim up lake to the falls, with the lake below you to the right. Beautiful.

Butter cups blooming. Grass widows and balsamroot soon to follow.

Veterinarian offers free dog first-aid class

OUTDOOR CANINES – Hikers, hunters or anyone who takes a dog along for the adventure can benefit from a free program on preparing and caring for dogs in the outdoors Thursday, 7 p.m., at Spokane’s REI store.

Veterinarian Greg Benoit of SouthCare Animal Hospital will offer insights for taking care of a dog from its paws to its ears.

The class is free, but participants must pre-register to reserve a seat.

Big Horn Show: Takes more than a day to see

OUTDOORS — You can't just cruise through the sprawling Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show, which ends this afternoon at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center.  The best part of the show is in the details.

It's a place to talk and learn from knowledgeable people packed in one place, including experts on river rafting, all sorts of fishing and hunting and other discoveries.

For instance, representatives of the Montana-based HuntingGPSmas.com showed map software that can be loaded into computers or GPS units that shows game management units and the names of private property owners as you move the cursor over the map.

Among all the trophy mounts scattered around the show is the world record Roosevelt elk, which David Morris of Northwest Big Game rescued from a family's outbuilding to show the world.

Morris, who publishes the Record Book for Washington, also is displaying the Washington state record non-typical whitetail buck, which was taken in Pend Oreille County in 1931 by George Gretener of Newport, Wash. The buck's antlers score 236 5/8 Boone and Crockett points even though Gretener sawed off a 9-inch long tine that pointed toward the animal's back so it wouldn't hit the wall when hanging by the original antler-only mount.

Last chance: Moose tag raffle today at Big Horn Show

HUNTING — The Washington 2011 raffle moose tag will be drawn Sunday afternoon at the Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show that's underway at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center.

The more $10 raffle tickets you buy, the better the odds for drawing a coveted chance to hunt with an either-sex tag anywhere moose hunting is allowed in far-Eastern Washington.

The state is letting the Spokane-based Inland Northwest Wildlife Council handle the ticket sales in person or by phone or mail. A small percentage of the sales are used for wildlife conservation projects in this region; the rest goes to the state for moose management.

Here are a few details that sweeten the deal:

  • Residents and nonresidents are eligible to buy tickets, and the hunting license and tag is awarded to the raffle winner at no extra charge.
  • The “once-in-a- lifetime” restriction for a moose tag is waived.
  • If selected, any legal weapon may be used.
      

The moose raffle tag drawing is set for Sunday at the Big Horn Show, along with raffle drawings for a fine selection of firearms.
  

Gun powder needed for hunter education

HUNTING — Hunters education classes can use any gun powder that might be sitting unneeded in shops or basements of the region's hunters and reloaders.

“We do a powder burning demonstration for our classes to demonstrate the different burn rates for rifle, shotgun, pistol and black powder,” said Paul Weekley, one of the certified instructors for the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council.

The powders keep forever, so if people have some they're not using, these classes are a worthy cause.

Bring it to the Big Horn Show, which closes today at 5 p.m. at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center.

Or contact the council office, (509) 487-8552.
  

Hunter ed classes filling at Big Horn Show

HUNTING — This year's hunter education classes offered by the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council were filling fast at the sign-up table at the Big Horn Outdoor Recreation Show on Saturday.

Classes in May were full by Saturday morning and April probably filled before the day was over.  

But there was still plenty of room to fill in classes set for other months. 

The show ends this afternoon.

  

Bannick presents ‘Birds of the Northwest’ at The Bing

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Paul Bannick, wildlife photographer and author of The Owl and the Woodpecker: Encounters with North America's Most Iconic Birds, is coming to The Bing Tuesday for a program that begins at 7 p.m.

The last time Bannick was in Spokane, his program was booked at the Magic Lantern Theatre, which wasn't nearly large enough for the crowd, much of which was turned away.

The Bing will be an excellent venue.

Bannick's multimedia presentation will feature images, stories and recorded calls derived from thousands of hours in the field, highlighting the Columbia Highlands of northeastern Washington. Afterword, he will sign books.

Bannick, a birding specialist, draws connections between owls, woodpeckers and the plants and animals that live with them.  He says the show will include dozens of new images.

The show is sponsored by Conservation Northwest, with support from Friends of Turnbull Wildlife Refuge, Inland Northwest Land Trust, Palouse Audubon, Spokane Audubon, The Lands Council, and Upper Columbia River Group-Sierra Club

 A $5 donation  will be requested at the door. 

Info: 747-1663; www.conservationnw.org/birds

Newman Lake deer starving with plasic container stuck on face

WILDLIFE — A leftover trick from Halloween is no treat for a whitetail deer near Newman Lake, where it's been lured by human food sources to the danger of human garbage. 

The deer has a kids' Halloween bucket stuck on its face and the strap dropped behind its head, locking it on so it can't eat.

“These deer come every night to our house here in Newman Lake to hit up on our bird feeder and then go out to the horse pasture to pick up any hay then to on the creek on our property, said Diana Sellers.

Calls to vets and Fish and Wildlife officers have not generated any help, Sellers said, even though they know the deer has been entrapped for at least two days and is “trying desperately to eat.”

“ My kids are begging me to find someone to help,” she said.

Grizzly bears will dance for salmon

WILDLIFE WATCHING — We've all seen photos or video of grizzly bears feeding on river salmon.  But have you even seen a griz harvest a salmon with it's hind feet?

Check out this short video from the BBC.

Landowner workshop deals with weeds, pests

HABITAT — Pend Oreille County property owners can learn to manage pests and noxious weeds and sign up for neighborhood cost-share assistance in a free March 26 workshop offered by WSU Pend Oreille County Extension and the Weed Board.

The event runs 8 a.m.-noon at Camas Center for Community Wellness, 1821 N. LeClerc Rd. in Usk.

Pre-register: (509) 447-2402 or email jrice@cahnrs.wsu.edu.

Read on for details.

Tipster helps bag Blue Mountains bull elk poacher

POACHING — Jason Locke, 37, of Kennewick has pleaded guilty to poaching a bull elk and using his wife's special hunting license illegally, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department reports.

Locke was fined a total of $11,345, including a $6,000 criminal wildlife assessment penalty for taking a trophy-size bull elk.

Two other men – David E. Myles, 50, of Richland, and Brian E. Badgwell, 40, of Pomeroy were charged for helping transport the illegal game.

Locke is also facing poaching charges in Chelan County, and allegations that he guided Columbia River steelhead trips without a commercial license.

Washington Fish and Wildlife police were able to make the case thanks to tips from a concerned citizen. 

Read on for more details on this case.

Kokanee limits temporarily removed below Dworshak

FISHING — Kokanee limits were lifted starting Saturday BELOW Dworshak Dam to give anglers a chance to harvest fish that are otherwise being sucked into the dam.

NOTE: My previous post erred by suggesting the limits were lifted in the reservoir. That's not so:  The order targets only the spillage of kokanee through the dam.

With many dead and dying kokanee been flushed through Dworshak Dam, the bag and possession limits will be removed for kokanee in the North Fork Clearwater River and Clearwater River downstream of the North Fork in Clearwater County  March 12-May 15, Idaho Fish and Game announced this afternoon. 

While anglers can take home as many kokanee as they can carry, the fish may only be taken by rod and reel, dip net or by hand.  AnIdaho fishing license is required. 

Kokanee, which are a popular target of anglers fishing at Dworshak Reservoir, tend to congregate near the dam during winter. When mountain snowpacks are abundant and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dumps water to make room from spring runoff, the fish are susceptible to being washed downstream.  

At this point, the number of kokanee being flushed is not expected to have a large influence on next year’s fishery, IFG biologists say.

Settlement reached on wolf recovery in Idaho, Montana

 ENDANGERED SPECIES — Conservation groups reached a legal settlement today with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that paves the way for gray wolves once again to be removed from endangered species protections in Idaho and Montana.

The settlement was filed for approval with a U.S. Federal District Court in Montana. If approved by the court, the agreement would remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Idaho and Montana and return management authority — and the option for controlled hunting —  to those states, while retaining full protection in Washington, Oregon, Wyoming and Utah.

The settlement also will require the Department of the Interior to withdraw a controversial policy memo used to justify not protecting imperiled species throughout their entire range.

Click here to read the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service press release announcing the settlement.

Following is from a joint statement issued by the 10 conservation groups:

“We hope today’s agreement will mark the beginning of a new era of wolf conservation in the Northern Rockies, as well as confirm the success of the Endangered Species Act and this country’s boldest wildlife reintroduction effort in history. The proposed settlement maintains protections in Oregon and Washington where wolves have not yet fully recovered, while allowing for responsible state management in Idaho and Montana.

“In return for allowing the states of Montana and Idaho to manage wolves according to approved conservation plans, the Department of the Interior agrees to conduct rigorous scientific monitoring of wolf populations across the region and an independent scientific review by an expert advisory board after three years. This is a critical safety net to ensure a sustainable wolf population in the region over the long run. The settlement offers a workable solution to the increasingly polarized debate over wolves.


The 10 conservation groups that have agreed to the settlement are Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oregon Wild, Sierra Club and Wildlands Network.

Revival of wolf hunting would help fund wolf management

HUNTING — My numbers were off in a previous post about the revenue the government loses by not being able to employ controlled hunting for managing wolves in the Northern Rockies.

Idaho took in $470,000 during the 2009-2010 wolf hunting season while Montana took in $325,935.

Court action prevented the planned 2010-2011 season before it started.  Meantime, the government spent $4.6 million on wolf management last year.

Read on for the breakdown of the numbers verified by Idaho Fish and Game.

Big Horn Show schedule of hunting-fishing seminars

OUTDOORS — Here's the list of seminars by local sportsmen scheduled during the Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show underway at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center through Sunday. 

TODAY

1 p.m. — Fly casting, by Jerry hunt.

2 p.m. — Outdoor gear, by Doug Saint-Denis

3 p.m. — Salmon fishing, by Dave Murphy.

4 p.m. — Steelheading, by Mike Henze.

5 p.m. — Lake Pend Oreille rainbows and kokanee, by Ross Milliken.

6 p.m. — Blade baits for walleye, by Bob Ploof.

7 p.m. — Bass fishing, by Nick Barr.

SATURDAY

11 a.m. — Lake Pend Oreille fishing, by James Mullen.

noon — Upper Columbia kings and sockeye, by Shane Magnuson.

1 p.m. — Jigging techniques for walleye, by Bob Ploof.

2 p.m. — Salmon fishing, by Dave Murphy.

3 p.m. — Steelheading, by Mike Henze.

4 p.m. — Fly casting, by Jerry hunt.

5 p.m. — Lake Roosevelt rainbows and kokanee, by Ray Bailey.

6 p.m. — Bass fishing, by Nick Barr.

SUNDAY

Noon — Outdoor gear, by Doug Saint-Denis

1 p.m. — Fly casting, by Jerry hunt.

2 p.m. — Spinners for walleye, by Bob Ploof

3 p.m. — Lake Roosevelt rainbows and kokanee, by Ray Bailey

Steelheaders hooking up in sunshine on Salmon River

STEELHEAD FISHING — It's hard to ignore today's report from Riggins, where the water is running at 5,020 CFS, the water temperature is 42 degrees, and the steelhead are still active.

“Last week fishing was HOT!,” said Amy Sinclair of Exodus Wilderness Adventures. “Fishermen hooked into 3.4 fish per person and landed 2.4 fish per person,” she said.

While steelhead season on the Salmon River near Riggins is beginning to wind down, chinook salmon season is just around the corner. Season setting will occur soon.

Non-lead ammo may spare critters in Wyoming

WILDLIFE — Wyoming researchers say the distribution of nonlead ammunition to hunters in Jackson Hole is likely helping prevent lead poisoning of ravens, eagles and other scavengers.  But the study is in its early stages.

This is the second year researchers have tried to gauge the impacts of hunters using lead-free ammunition on the levels of lead found in the blood of big-game scavengers.

Researchers distributed nonlead ammunition to about 100 hunters who had 2010 permits for the National Elk Refuge and Grand Teton National Park.

Biologists then captured ravens and eagles and measured the level of lead in the birds, which can ingest lead bullet fragments from gut piles and wounded-and-lost game.

Previous research has shown that lead in ravens and eagles rise during hunting season and then drop off after hunting season ends.

The Jackson Hole News and Guide says researchers plan to hand out more lead-free ammunition next hunting season.

Avalanche advisory: Layered snowpack a concern

WINTER SPORTS — Warmer days followed by cool nights and continued snowfall are creating a stew of conditions for backcountry winter travlers to consider, says Kevin Davis from the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center in Sandpoint.

Generally, the weekly avalanche advisory posted this morning rates avalanche conditions as MODERATE in most areas.  However, there are many caveats considered in the report that travelers should read.

“I think its going to be one of those springs where we get powder in the hills into mid April,” Davis said. “This could lead to a continuation of the conditions we are experiencing today.  

“Be cautious of weak layers in the new snow and then rapid warming of the new snow.

“It's easy to check weak layers that are less than a foot deep.  Just isolate a block with your hand about 1 foot square on a steep little slope, like a road cut, and tap on the uphill side and see how easily it slides off the block.  

If it jumps off with little pressure, better pay attention. Do this on other slopes and elevations as you travel.  

We'll issue a spring travel tips advisory next week to keep you abreast of the constantly changing conditions this time of year.

Appalachian Trail: End-to-end in five minutes

Green Tunnel from Kevin Gallagher on Vimeo.

HIKING - Under the trail name “Fester,” Virginia hiker Kevin Gallagher hiked the 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail.  Then he compiled some 4,000 photos into a stop-motion video called Green Tunnel, which gives a view of the trail from end to end in five minutes.

It's pretty clear that the scenery just gets better and better as one heads north into Main to the trail terminus at Mount Katadyn.

Don’t procrastinate: STP bike tour almost full

BICYCLING — The most popular spring and SUMMER organized bicycle tours have filled or are filling fast.

I have a story coming Sunday with a calendar of the most popular local and regional events through August.

The Seattlet o Portland ride (STP), July 9-10,  which takes on 10,000 riders, was 80 percent full on Monday.  I just checked in it's 93 percent full for the 200-mile fully supported tour.

It’s the largest of the region’s cycling events. Info: cascade.org/

Big Horn Show racks ‘em up at fairgrounds

The Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show kicked off today and runs through Sunday at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center. 

The show has something for every member of the family, including fishing ponds and staffed shooting ranges for the kids.

In this photo made this afternoon, Hunter Hedquist of Spokane uses his phone to make a picture of mounted animal heads complete with horns hanging at the show's Trophy Territory building.

Oregon catfish gives anglers pause — swimmers, too

FISHING — Eat your chicken livers out, Southern boys. A huge channel catfish caught this month in Oregon's Willamette River proves that we got salmon… and big cats, too.

While fishing with heavy gear at Riverfront Park, Drew Beaty of Salem landed a 3-foot-long channel catfish estimated at 25-30 pounds, according to a story in the Statesman Journal.  He doesn't know for sure, because it's just a catfish. He didn't weigh it.

But Gary Galovich, the western Oregon warmwater fish biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife office in Corvallis, said Beaty's catfish is remarkable on a number of levels.

“First of all getting a channel cat that size out of the Willamette, I mean we know they're out there,” he told outdoors writer Henry Miller. “But we get so few reports, and most of them are downstream from Salem.

“But even more so, being able to catch a channel cat this time of year, I mean the river's up right now, and the river temperatures are pretty cold, too. So it's really surprising that he would be able to catch something like that.”

Beaty donated the fish to biologists, who plan to study and age the fish.

North Idaho Fly Fishing Expo expands to two days

 FLY FISHING — The annual North Idaho Fly Fishing Expo presented by the Kelly Creek Flycasters is expanding to two days this year and moving from Clarkston to Lewiston.

The event, which covers everything from beginning fly-casting instruction to advanced spey casting with two-handed rods, will be held March 25-26 at the Red Lion Hotel in Lewiston, according to a report today by Eric Barker in the Lewiston Tribune.

Read on for more details on the show and its featured presenters.

Construction to affect centennial trail access

TRAILS — The Indiana Avenue road extension project will limit access to the Centennial Trail and paddle-boat launching near Mission and Flora from April through July 4. 

Route changes in the area include new names for some of the roads, Spokane Valley officials said.

Since Indiana Avenue currently exists to the north of the project, the City has named the streets on the current project as Parkways and will change the name of Mission Avenue, west of Flora Road, to “Old Mission Avenue.”

Old Mission Avenue will provide the access to the Centennial Trail trailhead from the one lane westbound Mission Parkway. River users coming from the west on Indiana Avenue will be able to get to the Mission trailhead by circling through the roundabout at Mission Avenue and Flora Road and travelling a short distance down Mission Parkway to the Old Mission Avenue intersection.

Spokane River floaters: Tree obstructing Devil’s Toenail

RIVER RUNNING — This warning just came in from the local whitewater rafting email list for paddlers heading down the Spokane River into the Devil's Toenail Rapid near the Spokane Rifle Club:

A tree with a large rootball is hung up in the pour-over, river left of the toenail rock in the center. It doesn't appear that it will be moving out anytime soon.

  

Idaho offers ‘wilderness’ license plate

CONSERVATION — Idaho is offering several new specialty vehicle license plates this year, including one that benefits mountain biking programs and one to help manage Idaho's premier wilderness areas.

The wildernes plate, sponsored by the Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation, benefits trail maintenance and wilderness stewardship in Idaho’s Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.

The specialty plate was released in February featuring wilderness artwork from Boise artist Ward Hooper, a native of Grangeville. 

Read on for details for Idaho residents wanting to buy one of these specialty plates.
  

Lake Roosevelt offers 10 youth summer positions

OUTDOOR YOUTH — A local follow-up to yesterday's post on outdoor-related summer jobs for youths:

The Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area soon will be hiring for 10 Youth Conservation Corps positions for youths 15-18 years old.  Work starts in June . The youths work 40-hours a week through August.

Applications are due by March 31.

Contact Sue Halverson, 509-725-2715, extension 20 at Fort Spokane, or Ron Sacchi, 509-633-9441, extension 141 at Coulee Dam, or  Pat Michael 509-738-6366, extension 102 at Kettle Falls.

Spring birds filling the wet scablands

NATURE WATCHING — January's warm streak was cruel, luring buttercups to bloom prematurely west of Spokane.  But now they're blooming with confidence around town, and birds are flocking in all around us.

Spokane Auduboner Kim Thorburn takes a special interest in the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area south of Creston, where she does bird surveys.  Read on for her report from Wednesday:

How to distinguish tundra swans from trumpeters

WILDLIFE WATCHING — With spring migration in full tilt, it's difficult to overlook the large white swans mixing with other waterfowl in the region's lakes and wetlands. 

But it's easy to miss the dintinction between the trumpeter swans and the tundra swans.

This article in the Sibley Birds website has excellent charts and descriptions.

Meantime, area birding enthusiast Charles Swift has this explanation for birders new to the area.

A flock of swans this large locally is most certainly a group of northbound Tundra Swans although it's certainly possible that there could be a few Trumpeters mixed in. Their voices are similar enough to cause confusion although with experience they can be separated.
 
They are also confusing to separate visually particularly as the main differences are related to size and structure rather than plumage. However most Tundra Swans show a variable yellow spot on the upper part of their bills which is usually visible if the swans are seen well and close enough.
 
The bulk of the Trumpeter Swan population that winters in the lower 48 states (which is fairly small) are found well to our west (western WA) or east (eastern Idaho) however good numbers of Tundra Swans that winter in the western U.S. (many in the Klamath Basin and other parts of CA) pass through here on their way north and a variable number even winter locally on the large northern Idaho lakes.

Friends of Turnbull benefit March 27

CONSERVATION — The 4th annual dinner and auction fundraiser sponsored by the Friends of Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge is set for March 27 from noon to 4 p.m. at the Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln St. in Spokane.

The events helps fund Turnbull’s environmental education programs, which have introduced thousands of children to quality nature experiences.   

Tickets cost $25 for Friends members and $30 for nonmembers. Price includes a pasta dinner.

Info: CraigCorder, 2cbird@hughes.net

Standard Hummers are excessive, but this…

CONSERVATION — “Nothing says 'excess' like Vegas and a four axle, 40-foot long strech “Hummer” limousine,” said Phil Hough of Sandpoint, who's visiting Sin City this week for a conservation conference.

“No, this was NOT the airport shuttle we took,” said the spokesman for the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

Trophy measuring underway at Big Horn Show

HUNTING — The Big Horn Outdoor Recreation Show doesn't open until tomorrow, but hunters already have been bringing their trophy antlers, horns and heads for measuring by official Boone and Crockett and Pope and Young scorers.

In addition to getting an official score, Big Horn Show trophies are judged and awarded in numerous categories. Several species and racks, in all shapes, sizes, and counts are considered. More than 300 mounts were on display at last year’s show.

A rumor is circulating that a world- record mount could debut at the show this year.

To enter a trophy for scoring, drive to the south entrance of the Fair and Expo Center and continue through the Yellow Gate to Bay 3 at the following times:

Today-Friday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m.-noon.

Wildlife projects provide youth summer jobs

WILDLIFE — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the country’s 553 national wildlife refuges, plans to hire more than 2,000 young people this year, as it did in 2010.

Now's the time to apply for a summer job on a national wildlife refuge or other public land.

Check out the 2011 Student Employment Opportunities on the Refuge System web site, which lists opportunities and scholarship providers.

Program partners include the Student Conservation Association, The Corps Network and AmeriCorps.

Other 2011 conservation job opportunities with the Department of the Interior are listed at a new web site. DOI manages the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and several other technical bureaus.

Locally: The Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area will be hiring for 10 Youth Conservation Corps positions.  Work starts in June for 40-hour weeks. Applications are due by March 31.

Contact Sue Halverson, 509-725-2715, extension 20 at Fort Spokane, or Ron Sacchi, 509-633-9441, extension 141 at Coulee Dam, or  Pat Michael 509-738-6366, extension 102 at Kettle Falls.

Snowshoe into the moonlight at Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — A guided full-moon snowshoe hike at Mount Spokane is set for Saturday, 6 p.m.-9 p.m.

The trip, sponsored by REI and Spokane Parks and Recreation, includes transportation and all snowshoeing equipment for $31 ($27 for REI members).

Generous snowfall in the past two weeks has made the region's mountains a winter paradise.

Cost: $31, $27 REI member – includes equipment and transportation

Pre-register by Friday. Info: 625-6200.

Idaho lawmakers drop bill targeting ATV rules for hunters

HUNTING — An Idaho Senate panel dropped a bill aimed at gutting the Department of Fish and Game’s authority to regulate where hunters can drive their all-terrain vehicles.

The Senate Resources and Environment Committee rejected the measure this week, while also shooting down legislation that would have forbid the Fish and Game from enforcing road closures on federal land.

The proposals were sponsored by Republican Sens. Tim Corder, of Mountain Home, and Monty Pearce, a state lawmaker from New Plymouth who chairs the Senate committee.

The state lawmakers introduced the proposals with backing from sportsmen who are furious about management of Idaho’s backcountry.

But other sportsmen are just as adamant that off-road vehicles need to be control for the benefit of wildlife, and the rights of hunters who appreciate being able to walk a way a hunting in peace.

The bills failed to muster enough support on the committee to move forward in the 2011 Idaho Legislature.

Backcountry Film Festival reset for Friday at GU

WINTER SPORTS — The Winter Wildlands Backcountry Film Festival, canceled in February by a storm that closed the school, is rescheduled for Friday at Gonzaga University.

Several winning festival films will be shown at the Jepson Center, Wolfe Auditorium. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show at 7.

Admission is $5 or $3 for students. Tickets will be available at the door, or in advance through Gonzaga University Outdoors website: http://commerce.cashnet.com/guoutdoors
 
For directions to the Jepson Center, go to www.gonzaga.edu/about/campus-map.asp.
 
Read on for details about the films.

WA, OR wolves higher profile in annual report

ENDANGERED SPECIES — In past years, Washington and Oregon have been little more than footnotes in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service annual report on western gray wolves in the Northern Rockies.

However, the 2010 report gives the relatively new breeding packs in those states more stature.

Read on for the Washington-Oregon portions of the annual report.

Idaho Senate OKs bill relaxing test rules for elk ranching

WILDLIFE — The Idaho Legislature seems willing to take a step backward in regulations designed to protect the state's priceless wild elk herds.

Elk ranchers who sell meat and charge hunters to shoot trophy bulls inside fences convinced a Senate panel to relax requirements to test for a deadly brain disease that's plagued other states' herds, according to  The Idaho Statesman.

All Idaho domestic elk now must be tested annually for chronic wasting disease.

The Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee on Tuesday voted 5-3 to allow virtually all Idaho elk ranchers to test just 20 percent of their animals once every three years

The bill heads to the Senate.

Some sportsmen's group opposed the measure, raising longstanding fears of disease spreading from domestic elk to Idaho's prized wild elk herds.

But Sen. Jeff Siddoway, an elk rancher and Republican Senate committee member, argued testing has never detected disease in Idaho's domestic herds, proving the standards can be safely relaxed.

Uh, does Mr. Siddoway have a conflict of interest in this vote?

Snowmobile tracks know few boundaries, including wilderness

WINTER SPORTS — Some snowmobilers seem to enjoy breaking the law and offending others more than the sport itself.

Backcountry skiers recently documented snowmobile tracks in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness near Leavenworth. Sadly, they got little reaction from the local Sheriff or Forest Service when reporting the culprits' offenses and vehicle license numbers.

A group called Wenatchee Outdoors is trying to organize people to oppose snowmobile advances into backcountry that was once quiet for wildlife and non-motorized users.

Plan for expanding Mount Spokane ski area presented tonight

STATE PARKS — The latest step in a long effort to expand the downhill ski area at Mount Spokane State Park will be explained in a public workshop with time for public comment tonight, 6:30 p.m., in Building 17 at Spokane Falls Community College, 3410 W. Fort George Wright Dr. in Spokane.

The proposal by concessionaire Mount Spokane 2000 would expand the the Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park  by 279 acres into an 800-acre portion of the 13,919-acre state park on the west side of the mountain that does not yet have a formal land-use classification.

The expansion would include one ski lift and seven new ski runs. Mount Spokane 2000 would be responsible for the costs of improvements and additional expenses.

Ski area proponents say the expansion is necessary for the resort to stay competitive and would bring managed skiing back to the best snow area on the mountain. See our page 1 story from this week and last week's column by ski writer Bill Jennings.

Opponents to the proposal say the west side of the mountain — which has some old growth timber and meadows and wetlands important to wildlife — should be classified as Natural Forest Area, which would allow current recreation uses to continue but prevent the installation of a ski lift and cutting swaths into the forest.

How to kill big-game with a snowmobile

WINTER SPORTS — I wish I could say it's uncommon for people to chase wildlife on motor vehicles, but it's not.  I've seen it often,  and heard about it more often.

And some people, such as the snowmobiler above in Colorado, are bold enough to post their ignorance on YouTube.

This is ignorance in a spotlight. We all know it happens in this region, too.  We should never let it go on without comment or referal to wildlife authorities.

Moose in particular will sometimes run long distances in front of a snowmobile to take advantage of the packed trail. It happens on roads, too.   Pushing an animal to extremes, especially in winter, can leave them vulnerable to death in their winter-weak conditions.

By the way, it's against the law.

Get Spokane Whitewater Park updates by e-mail

PADDLING — Supporters of the proposed Spokane River Whitewater Park in Peaceful Valley are still plugging along at getting approval for all the various permits.

Spokane Parks and Recreation Department had organized an e-mail list to help people stay up to date on progress. 

Click here to sign up.

Incidentally, the Friends of the Falls website hasn't been updated in a long time.

Robert Kennedy Jr. to speak on clean water in Spokane, Sandpoint

CONSERVATION — Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an international leader in the cause for clean and healthy waterways, will be in Sandpoint on May 18 and Spokane on May 19 to promote cleaning up and protecting two of the inland Northwest’s signature waterways.

“Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s support for local organizations like the Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper and Spokane Riverkeeper is deeply inspiring,” says Jennifer Ekstrom, Lake PendOreille Waterkeeper.

“His presence is clearly a help to our efforts to raise public awareness about the critical issues we work on every day.”

Kennedy will speak at the Panida Theater in Sandpoint  at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday May 18th. Tickets for the Sandpoint appearance are $15 general, and $5 for students.

On Thursday May 19, he will speak at 7:30 p.m. at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox in Spokane, where admission will be $17 general and $7 for students. (Spokane tickets include a $2 historic preservation fee.)

Read on for more about Kennedy and his background in water issues and the Riverkeeper projects. 

Hunters frame Idaho Panhandle big-game hunt proposals

HUNTING — The Idaho Fish and Game Department has just posted its big-game hunting season proposals for the Panhandle region, based on biologists surveys and adjustments after taking comment from hunters at recent public meetings.

The proposals that will go the the Fish and Wildlife Commission for approval are:

  • Little change from last year for bear, cougar and deer seasons.
  • Returning to more liberal hunting opportunity for elk in the northern six units (1,2,3,4,4A, and 5).
  • Modifying the original proposal for other elk untis:  Unit 6 to be essentially the same as last year, but with just two days of either-sex elk hunting.  
  • Units 7 and 9 elk hunting would still go to bulls-only as originally proposed.

Hunters were in high agreement to most of the original proposals, but about equally divided on whether or not to hunt cow elk in the St. Joe country, hense the compropmise on unit 6.

Read on for the detailed explaination by Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game's regional wildlife manager.

Othello Sandhill Crane Festival coming soon

BIRDWATCHING — Reservations are filling for field trips during the Othello Sandhill Crane Crane Festival  scheduled for March 25-27.

The are excellent educational opportunities on field subjects ranging from Ice Age Floods — check out the guided hiket through the Drumheller Channels National Landmark — to birding in select areas of the Columbia Basin and Columbia National Wildlife Refuge.

Numerous program are scheduled during the festival. Saturday's highlight is a banquet featuring a keynote presentation by habitat biologist and lifelong naturalist Ken Bevis of Twisp, who will speak on “The Saga of Washington’s Fish and Wildlife: In Picture, Words and Song.”

“Most of the speakers are returning favorites, who have designed new talks to educate those who attend on the wildlife, geology and cultural history of the Othello area,” said festival spokeswoman Marie Lotz.

Tops among them is Jack Nisbet, a naturalist, educator and author from Spokane.

Read on for details

Some critter spared by ‘iron curtain’

HUNTING  – Barbed-wire fences have scarred, crippled or killed wildlife ranging from birds to elk since it was stretched across the West beginning in the 1870s.

But this photo suggests that a fence actually saved the life of one lucky buck or coyote in western Spokane County.

Idaho’s latest forecast for spring chinook looks good

SALMNG FISHING — This year is not expected to be as good as last year, but the 2011 Chinook salmon return is on track to be the sixth best year since 1980. Most of the fish are still out in the Pacific Ocean, but the forecast for numbers of returning fish are similar to 2008 and 2009.

That's the information Idaho Fish and Game will start with in propose spring seasons on chinook salmon fishing to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission in late March.

Read on for details.

Spring chinoonk brighten angler days on lower Columbia

SALMON FISHING —Spring chinook, expected to be headed up the Columbia in good numbers, are catching a lot of angler attention already in the lower Columbia.

Holding the bright, beautiful fish at left is Buzz Ramsey and his friend and guide Eric Linde with a spring chinook taken Wednesday on the Columbia River near I-5.

Another friend fishing with them hooked but lost a nice salmon to a sea lion.

“Both fish were hooked using a Fish Flash (Chartreuse) and plug-cut herring combination on the downstream troll,” Ramsey said.

Furs, hides, antlers, traps to be auctioned in Lewiston

WILDLIFE PARTS — Furs, hides, antlers, traps and miscellaneous hunting and fishing equipment confiscated by Idaho Fish and Game Department officers will be sold in an auction April 2, at IFG's Clearwater Regional office, 3316 16th St., in Lewiston.

View the items beginning at 8 a.m. Auction starts at 10 a.m.

Read on for details.

Another busy week for Fish & Wildlife cops

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT – The beat goes on for Washington Fish and Wildlife police in the 10 far-eastern counties, according to the weekly report obtained today.  Illegal possession of painted turtles, dispatching injured deer, citing anglers from Hog Canyon to the Grande Ronde all were in the mix.

Read on for a sampling of what they did last week:

Anglers catching limits at Liberty, Rock lakes

FISHING — The short-lived early season brown trout bite has been on at Liberty lake.

Washington Fishand Wildlfie Department police report seeing anglers with limits of brown trout last week at the recently opened Spokane County Lake. 

Brave ice-fishermen were still catching fish on the weak ice at Hog Canyon, the said. 

Limits of trout also were being caught at Rock Lake. 

Sign up early for Idaho youth hunting, fishing summer camp

HUNTING/FISHING — The Idaho Conservation Officers Association has set its 2nd youth conservation camp for Aug. 15-19 and expanded the number of camper slots to 36.

Insiders recommend that kids sign up now if they’re interested fishing, hunting, tubing, zip lines, target shooting – and getting their hunter ed certification.

The camp will be held at Trinity Pines Camp in Cascade.

Hint of spring bring’s skwallas to surface for fly fishers

FLY FISHING —  “We've seen a significant amount of Skawala stonefly nymph activity throughout the day,” Jim Gallagher reports this morning from the Yakima River.

“In the afternoon, with a little warming, there have been adult skawalas on the water surface.  Most success has been using a dropper system with a skawala stone as the lead fly and a San Juan worm or beadhead as the dropper fly,” said the owner of Troutwater Fly Shops and Guide Services in Cle Elum  and Ellensburg.”

“The river has been flowing at a good level for wading or floating.  A little snow run-off has caused the river below Cle Elum to be a green/grey color, but is still very fishable.  Cool temperature are predicted for the week, setting the stage for a slow snow melt and good river conditions.”

Forest Service to explain new planning rule at forums

NATIONAL FORESTS — The U.S. Forest Service has scheduled public meetings this month to explain the details and intent of the recently proposed draft Planning Rule. If put into law, the rule would serve as a national blueprint for how hundreds of individual forest plans — such as the Colville and Idaho Panhandle forests — will chart national forest management in the coming years.

The forums will not be a place to deliver public comment, but rather an opportunity for stakeholders to ask  questions that will help them submit formal comments before the May 16 deadline.

Following are meetings of regional interest from the complete list of forums across the country:

Missoula: March 21 at the Holiday Inn downtown at the park.

Coeur d'Alene: March 21 at the Forest Supervisor Office, 3815 Schreiber Way.

Seattle: March 23 at the Sheraton Downtown Seattle Hotel.

Portland: March 25 at the Sheraton Airport Hotel.

Dine for ducks

WILDLIFE CONSERVATION – The Pullman, Washington Chapter of Ducks Unlimited will hold its annual fund-raising banquet on March 26  at Banyan’s Restaurant, 1260 NE Palouse Ridge Road on the WSU Golf Course. 

Doors will open at 5:30, with raffles, games and silent auctions during the social hour followed by a buffet dinner and live auction.

Ducks Unlimited is a non-profit organization dedicated to waterfowl and wetlands conservation.

Since its inception in 1937, DU has conserved more than 10 million acres of habitat throughout North America for a large variety of species.  

Several projects in Washington State have helped salmon as well as waterfowl by rehabilitating estuaries and riparian habitat.

 For tickets and information on the Pullman event, contact  Robert “Bo” Ingham (509) 592-8855), Joe Ford (509) 872-3030 or go online.

One year of wolf numbers nothing to bank on

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The 2010 annual report on the Northern Rockies gray wolf poplation released this week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seems to have given everyone some ammunition.

Overall the wolf population has remained roughly the same. However, while Montana and Wyoming report another year of increases, Idaho reports the first decline — for reasons still not fully explained.

Conservation groups say the 2010 report proves that wolf numbers will naturally stabilize.  Hunting and ranching groups say the numbers verify that wolves are still over-popoulated and taking too big a bite out of big-game herds, which have declined dramatically in some areas.

One number isn't often reported: Federal agencies once again spent about $4.6 million managing wolves in the Northern Rockies last year, and a similar amount is expected to be spent this year.

In 2009, when Montana and Idaho were allowed to hold controlled wolf hunting seasons, wolf populations continued to increase. But at least Idaho was able to collect $470,000 in wolf-tag fees that were applied to wildlife management. Montana took in $325,935.

Wolves will be better off if hunting is allowed in the mix of wolf management options, experts say. And hunters are willing to do the work and pay part of the bill.

Olympia gives cold shoulder to East Side conservation effort

PUBLIC LANDS — Ah, Sunday — time to relax and perhaps put a little energy into local conservation efforts by sending an e-mail to your state representatives to support funding for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.

As I explained in my Thursday column, Gov. Chris Greqoire has proposed the 20-year-old program that issues grants STATEWIDE for conserving parks, habitat, open spaces and working farms should get no funding this year.  Meantime her staff has proposed $20 million for similar but largely low-ranked programs ONLY in Puget Sound.

At stake are several East Side projects that scientists already have scrutinized and ranked high for their merits to wildlife and public recreation.  Among them is the third and final phase of Spokane County's Antoine Peak acquisition, which has been funded largely by our own Spokane County Conservation Futures Program.

Money is tight in the state and conservation planning must be scaled down like everything else. But citizens should rally against this political tinkering with the objective work that's already been done to rank conservation grant requests through WWRP.

Click here for information on contacting your state representatives.

Southern Idaho hunters looking for hog heaven

HUNTING — Feral hogs have been reported in Idaho where the Bruneau River enters CJ Strike Reservoir. With turkey hunting still a month off, some hunters are heading out for an early season target.

Here are the rules just clarified by Idaho Fish and Game:

Idaho does not classify feral pigs as protected wildlife or game. However, hog hunters need an Idaho hunting or trapping license. No tag is required.

Feral hogs may be taken in any number, at any time and in any manner not prohibited by state or federal law and not in violation of state, county, or city laws, ordinances or regulations.

Landowners concerned with property protection would not need a license and may kill, trap and remove any feral pigs to prevent property damage.

DNR taking notice of dumping on state land

PUBLIC LANDS — The Washington Department of Natural Resources is trying to take steps to keep state lands from becoming dumps.

The agency has posted an interactive map on its website showing locations of more than 200 sites that experienced illegal dumping last year on state trust lands.

“This is only the tip of the iceberg,” said Larry Raedel, DNR’s Chief of Law Enforcement Services. “For every one of the sites we investigated, mapped and cleaned up last year, there are two or three more out there that we haven’t found yet.”

DNR says state agencies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year cleaning up trash and junked vehicles and hazardous waste on state lands.

The agency is putting out hidden cameras at trouble spots and asking the public to report any suspicious activity related to dumping garbage.

Montana wolf numbers up 8 percent in 2010, Idaho’s down 16 percent

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Montana's wolf population increased about 8 percent in 2010 while Idaho's decreased about 16 percent, according to reports released today by state wildlife agencies and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Montana has just announced that at least 566 wolves inhabit the state, according to the 2010 annual wolf conservation and management report released today by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. The report  shows Montana's minimum wolf population increased about 8 percent in 2010, compared to a 4 percent increase last year and an 18 percent increase in 2008. The minimun numbers indicate that wolves have increased to 108 verified packs and 35 breeding pairs.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service followed Montana by posting the complete 2010 Northern Rockies wolf update, which includes the census from Idaho and Wyoming.

The report by Idaho Fish and Game biologists documented a minimum of 705 wolves in 87 packs at the end of 2010. In addition, they documented 22 border packs along boundaries with Montana, Wyoming and Washington. Of the 54 Idaho packs known to have reproduced, 46 qualified as breeding pairs by the end of the year. These reproductive packs produced a minimum of 189 pups in 2010.

For 2009, Idaho reported a minimum population of 843 wolves in 94 packs in the state along wtih 20 documented border packs

Idaho's decline is at least partly due to the difficulty of monitoring wolves in remote areas of central Idaho, federal officials said.

Click here for the latest map showing confirmed wolf breeding packs in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.

“I'm certain we could have successfully reduced the wolf population in 2010 if we could have proceeded with our planned, science-based hunting season,” said FWP Director Joe Maurier. “When you look at our management success in 2009, we had a vigorous wolf population at the end of the year and we were still able to control its growth. It's clear that a management strategy that includes hunting can play an important role in managing wolves in Montana. It is a tool we need and one we're still trying to get back.”

Read on for more details from Montana.

Skiers, dogs to give skijoring a try

SKIING — If your dog has any pull around the house, its probably game for trying the skijoring demo at Mount Spokane on Sunday.

Meet at 2:15 p.m. on the nordic ski trails where Linder Road passes ski trail Junction 1 (skiers an tell you where that is).

“We bring the dogs and harnesses,” said organizer Diana Roberts. “You bring your skis and poles. Skate skis provide better mobility for some skiers, but classic skis are fine too.”

Questions? Contact Diana Roberts at 509-570-8242 or skijorspokane@yahoo.com

Calico buck photos the real thing; text isn’t

HUNTING — A series of photos of a rare calico (piebald) whitetail buck killed in 2008 is recirculating on the Internet and e-mail. While it's a legitimate photo and trophy, it's moving around, as usual, with fabricated info.

If you're interested in the details, here's the scoop reported by Snopes in 2009.

Idaho hunting season meeting tonight in Sandpoint

HUNTING — Proposed changes to Idaho's 2011 big-game hunting seasons are being presented in meetings throughout North Idaho this week, starting in Kellogg and Coeur d'Alene.  Still to go are:

Tonight:  Sandpoint,  Bonner County Fairgrounds, 7 p.m.

Saturday:  St. Maries, Eagles,  8 a.m.

Details of proposed changes are available on the Fish and Game website at or from regional Fish and Game offices.

Nutria no longer another state’s invasive species problem

WILDLIFE — An exotic furry critter resembling a cross between a beaver and a muskrat is gaining ground in the Pacific Northwest, and that's not something to get all warm and fuzzy about.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released videos this week about thegrowing presence of non-native nutria in Oregon and Washington, two of 15 states with stable or increasing nutria populations.

The invasive mammals, native to South America, cause ecological damage and are potentially harmful to native wildlife, native plants and potentially to humans.

Nutria prosper in urban and suburban areas.  Louisiana and Maryland are considered beyond eradication, a fate that could come true in the Pacific Northwest. Under the right conditions, biologists say, a breeding pair of nutria can lead to 16,000 offspring in three years.

“Nutria are symbolic of many aquatic invasive species, in that they're often out-of-sight, out-of-mind and even frequently mistaken as native wildlife,” said Paul Heimowitz, the Service’s Pacific Region Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator.

The rodents over-graze wetland habitats, compete with native species, and can cause erosion by tunneling
into stream banks. In the future, climate change could increase nutria populations, whose range is currently limited by cold winter temperatures.

Great blue heron bows to goldfinch as state bird

BIRDING — The fish-eating great blue heron dwarfs seed-eating songbirds in size, but the diminutive willow goldfinch will continue to reign in greater stature as the Washington State Bird.

Proposals at the State Legislature to replace the finch with the GBH as the state bird didn’t get a hearing before last week's cuttoff in either the Senate or the House government committees, despite having a bill in each chamber.

Wild rainbow trout racing hatchery trout in WSU lab

FISHING — The race is on between wild rainbow trout and hatchery-raised trout, as Washington State University researchers measure their speed to see who's fastest — and most likely to survive in streams and lakes.

Which fish do you think wins most of the races at the WSU lab?

Check out the video above, or read on for more details.

World record buck: This one’s for real, trust me

HUNTING — My faith has been restored in stories going viral through email and the Internet. This photo of the pending world record whitetail buck seems thoroughly verified and on the up and up. Finally!

Word is out, from impeccable sources, that the buck was taken by the cousin of a co-worker's sister's, uncle's, best friend's, son-in-law's, niece's hairdresser's, neighbor's ex-boyfriend's oldest nephew. Reportedly it will score 2603-1/8 B&C and was shot in West Texas on a really windy day, 85 degrees downhill, around a curve at 900 yards with a .22 cal. rifle.

Supposedly, this deer had killed a Brahma bull, two Land Rovers, and six Jehovah's Witnesses in the last two weeks alone.

They said it was winning a fight with Bigfoot when it was shot. It has also been confirmed that the buck had been seen drinking discharge water from a nuclear power plant.

All this has been checked and confirmed on Snopes.

Really.  Honest!

  

Pro offers free outdoor photography clinic

OUTDOOR IMAGING — Professional landscape photographer Tim Cooper will present a free program on capturing outdoor scenes on camera Monday, March 14, 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at the Spokane REI store.

Cooper, a Rocky Mountain School of Photography instructor,  will explain how he captures dramatic photographs during the Magic Light hours of early morning and late evening.  He'll detail the qualities of light, definitions of the several twilights that surround sunrise and sunset, present a demonstration of filters to help capture this tricky light along with tricks and compositional tips.

The session is free, but participants must pre-register to reserve a seat.

Cougar hunting plan advances in Olympia

PREDATORS — The Washington Senate approved another extension of a long-standing pilot program that allows the hunting of cougars with dogs in northeastern Washington and Klickitat County.

The Senate approved the measure Tuesday 37-1. It would expand for another five years a pilot program created in 2004 that allowed tightly regulated hunts to take place in some counties in eastern Washington.

The pilot program has been extended twice.

In 1996, Washington voters approved an initiative that banned such hunts.

The measure heads to the House for further consideration.

Mussel found in Montana on boat returning from Nevada

INVASIVE SPECIES – Idaho’s Invasive Species program and mandatory boat inspection law got a shot of credibility this week as an exotic quagga mussel was found in Montana on the hull of a sailboat that had been in Nevada’s Lake Mead.

Mandatory watercraft inspections kick in at two sites in North Idaho on Tuesday, according to today's SR story.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials and a volunteer certified mussel inspector found the quarter-inch mussel Saturday during an inspection at the Dayton Yacht Harbor on Flathead Lake. The mussel appeared to be alive, according to an Associated Press report.

The sailboat had been decontaminated at Lake Mead in Nevada and was inspected by the Idaho Department of Transportation.

Montana officials were notified by the Columbia River Basin Network inspectors last Friday that the decontamination might have been inadequate.

The local inspection led to further decontamination. The boat is in dry dock and won’t be launched for at least two months.

Quagga and zebra mussels can cover beaches with sharp shells, foul boat motors and moorage and overwhelm a lake’s ecosystem.

‘This Could Be True’ item of the week

HUNTING — The inscription on the metal bands used by the U.S. Department of the Interior to tag migratory birds has been changed, according to totally believable sources on the Internet.

 The bands used to bear the address of the Washington Biological Survey, which was abbreviated:

Wash. Biol. Surv.

Supposedly that changed when the agency received the following letter from an Arkansas camper:

Dear Sirs:

While camping last week I shot one of your birds. I think it was a crow. I followed the cooking instructions on the leg tag and I want to tell you it was horrible.

The bands are now marked:

Fish and Wildlife Service.
  

Idaho forest fire lookouts featured on Public TV

FORESTS — I've had a long fascination with hiking into forest fire lookouts, sometimes reserving and renting one for the ultimate room with a view.

The next-best thing is the Outdoor Idaho program that premiers Thursday on Public TV.  

Eyes of the Forest explores the history of Idaho's forest lookouts through reminiscences of those who lived in them and studied them — and through journeys to many of Idaho's mountaintops.

Some lookouts are still being staffed. Others are in disrepair, while some are being restored.

More than 8,000 lookouts once dotted the nation at the peak of their usefullness a half century ago. Idaho boasted the most, with nearly 1,000 overlooking its vast forest lands and wilderness areas.

Cited snowmobilers were not in caribou zone

WINTER SPORTS — A mistake last week in my report on Washington Fish and Wildlife enforcement activities is stirring up rumors we need to nip in the bud.

Eight snowmobilers were cited last week in the Buck Creek area of Pend Oreille County for going into private timber company land closed to motorized vehicles.

The story in the Sunday Outdoors section (and earlier in this blog) incorrectly stated they were in a caribou protection zone.

The caribou recovery zone is along the Selkirk Mountains in Idaho and down the ridges from The Salmo-Priest Wilderness south into the upper LeClerc Creek drainage in Washington.  The Colville National Forest and Idaho Panhandle National Forest have clear boundaries for this zone, which essentially tries to keep out disturbance in an area that caribou eventually could use.

The snowmobilers cited in Buck Creek area were a case in the larger problem of motorized groups disregarding signs and going on to private land where motorized travel is restricted.

Sorry for the confusion on an important topic for sportsmen to address.

Steelhead size overstated, so what’s new?

STEELHEADING — A few sharp-eyed readers noticed that fish in the photo of the “27.5-pound” steelhead   (see two blog posts below this one) I hooked Tuesday in the Okanogan River either didn't look that big or the guy holding the fish, Jerrod Gibbons, must have been about 8 feet tall and 400 pounds.

Sorry, I meant 27.5 INCH-LONG steelhead, not 27.5 inches.  The correction has been made in the text.

It's a normal sort of mistake for a fisherman.

I know the length for a fact because a WDFW biologist measured it when we pulled off the river.

Meanwhile, the photo above is of a wild fish — another third bigger than the one photographed a couple of blog posts below this.  Gibbons released this beautiful hen without bringing it out of the water.

Volunteers needed for trail projects starting this month

PUBLIC LANDS  — The Washington Trails Association, led by Spokane trail maintenace ace Jane Baker has an ambitious schedule to enhance trails, from the Dishman Hills and Liberty Lake, to Mount Spokane, the Kettle Range and the Salmo-Priest Wilderness.

Volunteers are needed for one-day efforts or you can even join the “backcountry response teams” that go out backpacking and trail working for several days at a time.  Belive it or not, it's great fun and ultimately rewarding.

Read on for Jane's initial announcement and invitation:

Steelhead in the bag; I’m calling it a day

FISHING — Steelhead don't care if it's snowing, and neither does a serious steelhead fisherman.

Jerrod Gibbons of Okanogan Valley Guide Service holds a 27.5-inch long hatchery hen I hooked at 10 a.m. this morning on an orange 1/4-ounce jig under a bobber.  We were fishing the Okanogan River downstream from Omak in a snow storm.

The fish leaped fully out of the water four times during the battle despite the cold.

“These steelhead stay down to fight when they're in the Columbia, but once they head up the Okanogan they seem to hit another gear,” said Gibbons, who's fished the river all of his life.

Among the other fish caught this morning by the group, including Jason Verbeck at left, was a bright wild hen Gibbons caught and released. It was another third bigger than this hatchery hen.

“The Okanogan fishes great right through the month  to the end of the season,” Gibbons said.

St. Joe elk collared to study impact of wolves

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Idaho Fish and Game biologists have  started a project to attach radio collars on elk in the St. Joe in order to get a better handle on the extent of wolf predation on elk in that area, says Jim Hayden, Panhandle region wildlife manager. 

“To date we have 21 cow elk on the air,” he said.  “Most of these were collared via helicopter last week near Avery.  The remainder were collared using a corral-type trap set up near Calder.  Our hope is to have 25 collared elk per year over the next 4 years. 

“We will be following these elk monthly, mapping seasonal migrations as well as monthly survival.  We did a similar project in the Joe in the late 1990s, giving a solid comparison of how things have changed since then.”

MEETINGS ON BIG-GAME HUNTING PROPOSALS

Proposed changes to Idaho's 2011 big-game hunting seasons will be presented in meetings throughout North Idaho this week, starting tonight.  Here's the schedule:

Tonight: Kellogg, Silver Valley Steel Workers Hall, 7 p.m.

Wednesday: Coeur d’Alene, IDFG Panhandle Region office, 7 p.m.

Thursday: Sandpoint,  Bonner County Fairgrounds, 7 p.m.

Saturday:  St. Maries, Eagles,  8 a.m.

Details of proposed changes are available on the Fish and Game website at or from regional Fish and Game offices.

Knight’s Lake Conservation Futures bid overstated

PUBLIC LANDS — The Knight's Lake property along Lake Spokane — owned by Washington DNR and at the top of the list for proposed Spokane County Conservation Futures acquisitions — is a misnomer.
 
The property proposed for sale doesn't include Knight's Lake.
 
SR county government reporter John Craig received a call from the owner of property surrounding the lake informing him that the lake and the property is not for sale.
 
The DNR is adjacent to that property. A good piece of land, no doubt, but perhaps overenthusiastically named by the sellers… DNR.
 
Good marketing.
 
The property owner has asked the paper to refer to the property by another name to avoid misunderstanding that encourages the public to trek from the DNR land to thelake.
 
Not sure whether the photos the DNR used in its bid to get Spokane County to buy the land…the photo showing the lake — was wishful thinking, or just good marketing.

Fly fishers stand by for skwala hatch on Bitterroot

FLY FISHING — The Bitterroot River, which runs through Missoula, is warming up and anglers are starting to squirm at the thought of the season's first hatch of big fish-arousing stoneflies.

There's still ice on the lower end of the popular Montana stream, and a cold snap could come this week, but the vaunted skwala stonefly hatch could make its appearance around March 20, according to Western Flies and Guides owner Jeff Gray of Hamilton.

“They're making their migration now from the riffles to the banks of the river,” Gray said of the immature water bugs in a Missoulian story by Rob Chaney. “If they get dislodged from the rocks, they become trout food. Nymph fishing is great this time of year.”
 
The Bitterroot River is still freezing along the edges at night — although the main stream is warming up during the day — leaving Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks fisheries biologist Ladd Knotek a bit more restrained, Chaney said.
 
 “When we start getting those warmer March days and the days get longer, it triggers the bugs to start hatching,” Knotek said. “But I'd imagine it's going to be a little bit yet.”
 
Read on for more of Chaney's story:

Beware of fishing license expiration dates

FISHING — Anglers soon will need new fishing licenses in Washington where the 2010-2011 licenses will expire on March 31.

Note that:

  • Idaho's new license requirement kicked in Jan. 1.
  • Montana new fishing licenses have been required since March 1.

In Washington, be careful not to throw away your old license too soon.   If you buy your new Washington fishing license on March 25, you'll need to carry the old licenses as well through the end of the month.

Technically, the new license is not valid until April 1.

Hikers find great trails in Washington’s beleaguered State Parks

HIKING — Late winter hikers don't have to look any farther than the Washington State Parks system to find excellent year-round trails.

This week, with the state legislature looking for ways to keep the park gates open through the state budget crisis, the Washington Trails Association wrote a story about 11 great state park hikes across the state, ranging from North Cascades old-growth forests to the Columbia Plateau scablands.

Note that this story is just a sampling:  It doesn't even mention the excellent trails in Spokane County's Riverside State Park or Palouse Falls State Park.

And it doesn't cover the winter snowshoeing and summer hiking trails at Mount Spokane State Park.

A lot is at stake as Washington wrestles with it's budget woes. 

Don't hesitate to check that box and donate to state parks when you renew your vehicle license tabs.

 

North Idaho hunting seasons meetings this week

HUNTING — Idaho Fish and Game is seeking public comments on proposed changes to 2011 big-game hunting seasons in meetings throughout North Idaho this week.

Details of proposed changes are available on the Fish and Game website at or from regional Fish and Game offices.

Public comments will be taken at the following Panhandle Region meetings:

Tuesday: Kellogg, Silver Valley Steel Workers Hall, 7 p.m.

Wednesday: Coeur d’Alene, IDFG Panhandle Region office, 7 p.m.

Thursday: Sandpoint,  Bonner County Fairgrounds, 7 p.m.

Saturday:  St. Maries, Eagles,  8 a.m.

The deadline for comments is March 14.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission is scheduled to consider the proposals and comments and then set  the 2011 big game seasons on March 29.

Two East Side parks won’t open this season

STATE PARKS — Rock climbers and people fascinated by caves will be among the first to feel the impact of the budget crisis facing Washington's State Parks.

Two state parks in Eastern Washington – Crawford and Peshastin Pinnacles – will not open this season because of initial state budget cuts and more closures are possible, officials said Monday.

Five of the state’s 119 parks are on the list in the first round of closures resulting from the agency’s $10 million budget cut going into the Washington legislative session. However, funding agreements with local governments will keep two of the three West Side parks open — Fort Ward near Bainbridge and Tolmie in Thurston County.

“Now we’re waiting on the Legislature to create the new budget,” said Tom Ernsberger, state parks East Side manager. “They’re wrestling with a lot of really big issues, and parks are just one of them.”

Crawford State Park near Metaline is a 49-acre day-use park featuring Gardner Cave, the third longest limestone cavern in Washington.

Peshastin Pinnacles State Park, north of U.S. Highway 2 near Cashmere, is a 34-acre day-use park featuring trails, sandstone slabs and spires up to 200 feet tall that are popular with rock climbers.

Spring is peak season for climbers heading to Peshastin, which normally opens March 15-Oct. 15.

Read on for more details.

Washington Fish, Wildlife Commission hears issues

HUNTING — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission heard public input on proposed 2011-12 hunting season rules during its meeting Friday and Saturday in Spokane.

No action will be taken until the panel's April  8-9 meeting in Olympia.

Proposals include:

  • Restricting hunters to shooting only whitetail bucks with four or more antler points on one side in Units 117 and 121.
  • Authorizing landowner hunting permits to increase access for deer and elk hunters on private lands in Asotin County.
  • Tightening public-conduct rules on private lands open for hunting under cooperative agreements with WDFW.
  • Increasing spring black bear hunting seasons and permits in western and northeast Washington, to help reduce timber damage and bear nuisance activity.
  • Adjustmenting moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat hunting permit levels, based on recent population surveys.
  • Simplifying game management unit boundary descriptions for deer and elk hunting.
  • Adjustmenting elk and deer general seasons and special-permit levels, in response to population increases or declines and/or crop and property damage problems in various parts of the state. The modifications include proposals to reduce antlerless white-tailed deer hunting in northeast units, while maintaining opportunities for youth, senior and disabled hunters.

Read on for other issues heard at the meeting:

Montana anglers lobby against stream access restrictions

FISHING — At least one busload and several carpools of anglers are heading to Helena on Tuesday to challenge proposed changes to Montana's stream access laws, according to the Missoulian.

“I've got high school friends I haven't talked to in 10 years that want to get on the bus,” Land Tawney, president of Hellgate Hunters and Anglers, told reporter Rob Chaney.

Their target is House Bill 309 by Rep. Jeff Welborn, R-Dillon, and Sen. Chas Vincent, R-Libby. The bill would allow property owners to close off waterways that are diverted for irrigation.

As written, the new rules would undo a recent Montana Supreme Court decision that clarified the difference between water channels that might be natural streams or manmade ditches.

Current law says “all surface waters that are capable of recreational use may be so used by the public without regard to the ownership of the land underlying the waters.”

Irrigation ditches are excepted from that rule.

Welborn and Vincent's bill would change the definition of ditches so that natural channels modified by irrigation features would be considered manmade - and therefore would be off limits.

Read on for the rest of the story on an issue that could impact a wide range of anglers.

Fans of South Hill Bluffs and trails to meet Tuesday

PUBLIC LANDS — If you enjoy the South Hill Bluff trails or the landscape, check this out.

 A High Drive Bluffs planning meeting is set for Tuesday. Any area neighbors or users of the trails are invited to join in developing a vision and action plan for the area, 7 p.m.- 8:30 p.m. at Roosevelt Elementary School, 333 W. 14th Ave.

Questions? Contact Diana Roberts, 477-2167 or <robertsd@wsu.edu>

High-tech panorama photos blow your mind

OUTDOOR IMAGES — If you haven't seen this panorama photo technology, check it out.  Click on the photo of an Utah's Double Arch and drag the cursor for seamless panning in any direction.

Click here for other 360 Degree Spherical Panoramas In and around Utah.

Permit application deadlines loom for Washington hunters

HUNTING — Washington hunters have two deadlines coming for special permit applications:

  • Spring black bear hunting permit applications are due by midnight March 10.
  • Multiple-season permit applications for deer and elk hunters are due March 31.

Read on for details and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife links for getting the job done.

Wildlife Commission did lot of listening in Spokane

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Wildlife managers, sportsmen and elected officials all bent the ear of the six panelists who attended the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting at the Spokane Convention Center on Friday and Saturday.

The hottest topic was the four-point minimum whitetail buck rule proposed for Units 117 and 121 in northeastern Washington. Twenty-five people sigend up to give their three-minute testimony on the topic Saturday morning even though it's been hashed out for more than a year.

More on that topic later. The commission won't make its decision until the April meeting in Olympia.

Meantime, I noticed at least one or more local Fish and Wildlife police in attendance, as is required when the commission meets. But they had their laptops and worked through the sessions.  Officer Dan Rahn said they had a moose complaint call Saturday morning before the sessions. Another officer  was called a way during the morning session on a different matter.

Winter weary pronghorns, deer slaughtered on Montana roads, railways

WILDLIFE — For three hours on a recent afternoon, Blaine County Undersheriff Pat Pyette and a deputy shot wounded antelope in Montana.

The herd had congregated on the only place clear of snow — railroad tracks used by BNSF Railway Co.

Pyette figures he and the deputy put down about 100 animals that day, about 5 miles east of Savoy. Parts and pieces from another 200 antelope were strewn across the tracks, enough to fill a dozen dump trucks, he said.

See the rest of this disturbing report from the Great Falls Tribune.

  

This student internship is outdoors dream job

OUTFIELD — If you know an outdoors-oriented student looking for a summer job, here's one with perks that caught my attention, including $2,000 worth of top-quality outdoor gear, a $2,500 stipend and expenses-paid backcountry trips in multiple states.

The Sierra Club is billing its summer youth ambassador job as the best student internship on the planet.

But the deadline to apply is March 16.

I talked to last year's intern for a story coming in Sunday's Outdoors section. Evan Geary, 23, a graduate of New York University in film, said his three months of outdoor experiences last summer spanned five states and included river rafting in California, backpacking in the Wind River Range of Wyoming and working with underprivileged kids on Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound.

The youth ambassador, who must be at least 18 and a student or recent high school or college graduate, is based at the San Francisco headquarters and travels to join organized Sierra Club groups and post video blogs about their experiences.

The intern should have a love of the outdoors and the knack for communicating that enthusiasm to others.

Sierra Club Productions equips the intern with video gear. Editing abilities are a plus, but the most important requirements are a good eye for a story and a gift for interviewing people who are passionate about the outdoors.

Internship details, video information

  • Get all the details about the Sierra Club Youth Ambassador Summer Internship at the Sierra Club website.
  • Deadline to make the video application is March 16.
  • The website also includes examples of the short videos Evan Geary made last summer as a Sierra Club intern – including the video he sent in with his application to bag the job.

The youth ambassador will spend the summer video-blogging on different Sierra Club outings sponsored by Inner City Outings, Building Bridges to the Outdoors, and Volunteer Vacations programs.

Weekly avalanche advisory: beware of wind-loaded slopes

WINTER SPORTS — The Inland Northwest avalanche advisory issued this morning notes moderate to considerable danger for avalanche, especially on the wind-slab areas of the Selkirks and Lookout Pass area.

The heavy snowfall of the past week in the Lookout area has not posed much more than moderate danger except on slopes steeper than 35 degrees and above 5,000 feet, reports the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center .

“Exciting stuff happening in North Idaho this past week,” said Kevin G. Davis, Avalanche Center hydrologic technician in Sandpoint. “Generally great sliding conditions out there today.  A little trickier to the south of our forecast region with the tremndous snow accumulation.  Be cautious on steep windloaded slopes where stress to layers that formed Tuesday/Wednesday with new snow and wind have not completely settled.”

Six candidates named for IFG director

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission just announced the six candidates  the panel is considering for director of the Idaho Fish and Game Department.

The candidates, who come from inside and outside the agnecy, will be interviewed by the commissioners this month before the replacement is named for director Cal Groen, who is retiring.

The candidates are Steve Ferell, Sharon Kiefer, Virgil Moore, Michael Senn, Ed Shriever and James Unsworth.

Read on for details on each candidate.

Photographer fined for baiting bighorn

WILDLIFE — A Montana photographer has been convicted of illegally feeding bighorn sheep near Big Sky Road in order to photograph them with the area's signature mountain — Lone Peak — in the background.

The state Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department says 35-year-old Ryan Molde pleaded guilty on Feb. 14, was fined $1,035 and sentenced to 180 days in jail with all but 10 suspended. Molde also was ordered to surrender all photographs related to the feeding and is prohibited from selling any in the future.

FWP Warden Jen Williams says Molde was given a written warning in 2010 for feeding game animals. She says the feeding may have led to three bighorn sheep being struck and killed by vehicles in the area where he was feeding them.

Have a little faith: Join Earth Hour event March 26

ENVIRONMENT — Artists and naturalists will be mingled in a local gathering that will link world-wide activities during the Faith and Environment Network's annual Called to Care event  on Earth Hour Day, March 26 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, 127 E. 12th Ave. on Spokane's South Hill.

Earth Hour is an event initiated by the World Wildlife Fund in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, when 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for one hour to take a stand against climate change. 

The Spokane Group joined Earth Hour 2010 as 128 countries and territories joined the global display of climate action in celebration and contemplation of the planet we all have in common.

The local Faith and Environment Network engages people of faith and their congregations in caring for creation.

This year's event at the cathedral includes:

  • Artists and naturalists discussing the environment.
  • Dark Sky movement presentation on environmentally responsible outdoor lighting.
  • Music, readings and medications from various faith traditions.
  • Turning off lights at the Cathedral at 8:30 p.m. in tune with the global observation of Earth Hour.

Activities start at 4:30 p.m. A light supper will be provided.

Donation: $15 is suggested.

Info: Evita Krislock, 220-6532 or Thomas Soeldner, 607-7115.

4-point buck rule on commission’s Spokane agenda

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will hear public comment on proposals for 2011 big-game hunting seasons when it meets Friday and Saturday at the Spokane Convention Center.

State officials didn't do sportsmen any favors by booking the meeting downtown at the Convention Center, where parking is expensive and problematic for people who want to drop in for a topic or two. The meeting would have been better suited to the Center Place meeting rooms at Mirabeau Park near the Region 1 Fish and Wildlife Department Office in Spokane Valley.

Meantime, a lingering proposal for a four-point minimum on whitetail bucks hunted in Units 117 and 121 in Stevens County will be open for discussion when deer and elk seasons are presented on Saturday.

Although meetings have been held on this issue in the past — and I covered it in several stories, including this column last August —  this is the last opportunity for public comment before the commission votes on proposed amendments to the big-game rules April 8-9 in Olympia.

Click here for a complete commission meeting agenda.

Click here for the notes and reasoning behind the proposed hunting rule changes.

Learn the ropes at free climbing sessions

INDOOR CLIMBING – REI is offering three free ways for co-op members to get a feel for rock climbing this month at the Spokane store’s indoor climbing wall:

  • Saturday climbing – Each Saturday in March, an REI staffer will be at the wall from 1 p.m.-4 p.m. to help individuals and families don harnesses and shoes and rope up to try the easy to moderate routes on the climbing wall.
  • Women’s climbing – On Monday, March 7, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., gear will be provided and the wall will be open to women-only to explore climbing in an encouraging environment.
  • Rock Climbing intro class – On Thursday, March 10, 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. staffers will offer for an in-store class in rock climbing basics. Pre-register for this free event.

Fly fishers, skwala hatch both ready to go

FLY FISHING — Any day now. Or maybe any week… The skwalla stonefly hatch is simmering in Montana's Bitterroot River.

The Skwalla nymphs are near the shore and will start to crawl out as soon as warmer weather and more sunshine settles in the valley.  Remember, it doesn't have to get warm at night.  and it can be snowing off and on.  Just as long as there's a little hint of spring during the daytime to get those buggers activated.

Be ready.

Gobble, gobble: Wild toms starting to strut

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The recent cold snap hasn't caused wild turkeys to forget it's time to start posturing for the breeding season.

This photo was snapped this morning by a reader who lives in the foothills of Mount Spokane.

“The rest of the group (hens and young jakes) had already come through,” he said. “There must have been 30 or 35 of them. They have been hanging around on and off for a number of weeks.

“But this is the first day the toms have been together doing their thing.”

Boater busts theives online; earns reward

BOATING  — Peter Hunt of Oak Harbor, Wash., didn't go ballistic when he discovered his boat had been targeted by burglars. He went to the Internet, where he found the thieves selling the stolen items taken during a rash of boat burglaries – including his own chartplotter – on eBay.

Recently, he brought his internet investigation to the attention of authorities, who were able to arrest and convict an adult and two teenagers. More than $50,000 in stolen electronic equipment was recovered, including about  90 percent of the goods stolen at the Oak Harbor marina where Hunt moors his boat.

For his effort in breaking the crime ring – which had burglarized three marinas on North Whidbey Island as well as 30 cars - Boat Owners Association of The United States just announced paying Hunt $2,500 from its Theft Reward Program.

Check this out:  the top three items stolen from boats over the winter.

Plan now for the best July in years

OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES — July might be the best month of the year for camping, hiking, fishing and other outdoor activities, and this year's version will deliver even more than usual.

July 2011 will have 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays — a bonanza recreational opportunity for the average working stiff.

Word is going around the Internet that this occurs only once every 823 years.

However, one of Dave Oliveria's Huckleberries readers checked that out with Snopes:

 “It is perfectly true that July 2011 has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays. However, such a combination occurs far more often than every 823 years. The last occurrence was in July 2005 while the next occurrence will take place in July 2016. The message is just a revamped version of very similar- and equally erroneous - messages about August and October 2010. H/T: Keith Erickson for providing Snope.com report.

World-class powder dump smothers Lookout Pass

WINTER SPORTSLookout Pass ski area has just been cited as having received “the most snowfall in the world” among reporting ski resorts during the past seven days.

The one week total:  6.5 FEET, most of which fell Sunday-Tuesday.

The distinction has just been distributed around the globe by Skiinfo.com, which collects daily reports and compiles stats from more than 2,000 ski areas in Europe and North America.

Earlier today I posted a photo with a first-hand report on Monday's epic powder day at Lookout.

Of course, the high country throughout the Inland Northwest has been enjoying the late-winter dump.

Stevens Pass was No. 5 and Schweitzer was No. 6 in the world, as you can see on this skiinfo list.

And just a little farther north, Fernie (see photo above) isn't doing so bad, either, reporting 32 inches in the past three days.

Moose getting by this winter — house to house

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A cow and calf moose wander through cameraman Scott Maben's Coeur d'Alene neighborhood this morning, stopping to do some pruning on the landscaping.

Idaho photographer gets farther afield

OUTDOOR IMAGES — Although her business is called Idaho Scenic Images, Linda Lantzy of Coeur d'Alene isn't tethered to the state.

I pointed out recently that her list of Top 12 Photos of 2010 included a shot of the North Cascades, which are tempting even to an Idaho photographer. I refered to her shots as “the best of 2010,” and she takes exception.”
 
“I must point out though, that I have never called myself or my work 'the Best of anything,' ” she said. “I am concerned how others will view such a statement if they think it came from me, the photographer. 
 
“Idaho Scenic Images is my legal business name here in the state of Idaho. I do, however, travel and photograph throughout the Pacific Northwest, something that unfortunately seems to confuse many.”
 
That said, there's no confusion about her photos. They're very nice, regardless of what state they're from.

REI offers free class in Avalanche Awareness

WINTER SPORTS — Jon Dodge of Priest Lake Search & Rescue will teach a free introductory course on Avalanche Awareness Thursday, March 3, 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at REI, 1125 N Monroe.

Basics he’ll cover include how to interpret avalanche advisories, gear necessary for travelling in avalanche terrain and how to assess the risks.

Pre-register for this free event. 

Sprague Lake thawing; a few coots survived

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The weekend eagle feast of coots at Sprague Lake has subsided as more of the lake has become ice-free in the last few days.  Here's a Tuesday report from birdwatcher Greg Falco of Sprague:

Today Sprague Lake had more open water, about 5 percent open, mostly at the NE end.

There were at least 1,000 COMMON GOLDENEYE and 300 CANVASBACK. 

The scaup and other flocks were too far away to observe.  It was snowing as usual.

About 20 AMERICAN COOT survived the eagle feast.  No eagles seen today. 

A couple KESTREL may be new arrivals. 

My first flock of PINTAIL was seen south of Cheney.

Deadline looms for Montana elk applications

HUNTING — March 15 is the deadline for non-resident elk and dear license applications.

Remember, the prices have gone up this, as I noted in this post last week.

You can apply online

Powder hounds loved Monday at Lookout

SKIING — It took a day for the pow pounders to surface with stories from Lookout Pass.

“We picked a good day for a vacation on Monday,” confessed Spokane skier Bill Fuzak. “The photo was shot at Lookout Pass, in the trees off the Northstar lift in about 32 inches of new snow.

“I am on my Profit 115s (dimensions 153-115-143) and still not fat enough.My buddy Kimbo May is on a double rocker tele ski.

“I had to learn to breathe on the way up, rather than on the down — like swimming rapids.”

Poaching trophy bucks costly in Ohio

HUNTING — Trophy white-tailed deer are highly valued in Ohio, and they have laws to prove it.

A good case in point came out of the courts this week as an Ohio man was ordered to pay $23,816 in restitution under a 2008 law for illegally taking a trophy buck.

James Alspaugh, 39, also paid $400 in fines for shooting off a roadway and going on private land without permission, plus court costs. He must spend a couple days in the slammer and will lose his hunting rights in 36 states for a couple of years.

But it's the restitution for the trophy buck that stands out.  The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife says the non-typical trophy deer, scored according to Boone & Crockett guidelines, netted an impressive 218 7/8 points.

Spring is on its way — honest

WILDLIFE — Calm down, calm down.  The first day of spring isn't until March 20.

Everything will be better by then.

Conservationists boost rewards for bagging poachers in Washington

POACHING – Turning in a poacher in Washington can be rich experience, thanks to a commitment announced minutes ago by Conservation Northwest.

The Bellingham-based group says it’s partnering with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to boost the reward for people who help Fish and Wildlife police solve cases that involve the illegal killing of rare wildlife.

The reward is being increased from $500 to as much as $7,500 for information that leads to the conviction of anyone who has killed a gray wolf in Washington, and up to $5,000 if a protected grizzly bear, wolverine, lynx or fisher were killed.

The state currently is investigating at least two wolf poaching cases.

In addition, several Oregon groups have pooled funds to offer a $10,000 reward for information that would solve the case of a wolf killed illegally along the Oregon-Washington border in the Blue Mountains.

The fund Conservation Northwest has pledged also will pay up to $3,000 for “egregious violations involving deer or elk, such as spree killing,” said Mitch Friedman, the group's executive director.

Read on for more details.

Palouse Falls has look of lace in bitter cold

OUTDOOR SIGHTS — Penny Lapsley of Moses Lake didn't let last weekend's bitter cold keep her from a sight-seeing tour to Palouse Falls State Park. 

Indeed, the icy conditions were the attraction, as you can see from her photo of the falls flanked by ice — a scene fair-weather visitors never enjoy.

Sportsman urge EPA to spare Bristol Bay from Pebble Mine

FISHING A coalition of more than 360 fishing, hunting and sporting organizations from nearly every state in the nation U.S. have signed a letter urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect Bristol Bay, Alaska, from potential watershed damage by the proposed Pebble Mine.

“Bristol Bay is the single most important wild salmon fishery in the world,” said Chris Wood, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “It generates roughly $450 million a year in economic impact and sustains about 12,000 jobs.”

On Feb. 7, the agency announced plans to assess the southwestern Alaska watershed, famous for its salmon and trout fishing, to study how open pit mining and large-scale development projects would affect water quality and fisheries.

The sportsmens groups will be in Washington, D.C., this week lobbying lawmakers and urging EPA to go a step further to guarantee a future for the fisheries.

Read on for details.

Wildlife photographer comes to aid of red-tailed subject

WILDLIFE — A simple piece of twine created a life-ending situation for a red-tailed hawk in northwestern Washington until a hawk-eyed photographer focused on the situation.

Check out the Everett Herald story featuring images by photographer Stu Davidson of Snohomish from his recent close wildlife encounter on Fir Island near Conway in Skagit County.
  

Washington wolf status uncertain as pupping season looms

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington biologists don't have a good handle on the state's fledgling gray wolf population going into the denning season.

Poaching and loss of radio-collared wolves has hindered the monitoring.

Wolves are likely to have another crop of pups in the northeast corner of the state. A breeding pack may be forming in the Blue Mountains.

The biggest unknown is the Methow's Lookout Pack — which 2 1/2 years ago became the state's first known breeding pack in 70 years.

Check out this story by Craig Welch of the Seattle Times for an update.

Big week for outdoor-related programs, meetings

OUTDO — It's a big week of mostly free activities in Spokane, including nature photographer Art Wolfe, Canadian singer-songwriter conservationist Sid Marty, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, whitewater rafting vendors, youth hunting clinic, snowshoing tours and more.

Check them out here.

Chill doesn’t ground Yoke’s Outrageous Air Show

FREESTYLE SKIING — Even though it was cold enough to freeze your eyelids shut, the freestyle skiers in the Yoke's Outrageous Air Show let it fly at Schweitzer Mountain Resort on Friday and Saturday.

Here Matt Gillis and Jordan Valenaar launch in one of the many spectacular aerial displays, complete with fireworks.

See more great photos by Werner Nennecker on his Facebook page.

Fish and Wildlife cops have another busy week

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT  – Snowmobilers and ATVers who are not good at reading signs continue to exercise the ticket-writing hands of Washington Fish and Wildlife police officers.

Three wildlife officers joined with a Colville National Forest officer last week to follow up on a tip that snowmobilers were in the Buck Creek Road area of Pend Oreille County, which is closed by a federal endangered species protection order to protect caribou habitat.

“Officers contacted eight subjects attempting to leave the closure by manhandling their snowmobiles over a large rock and around a gate,” according to the weekly report filed by  Capt. Mike Whorton in Spokane.

The snowmobilers had gone “by the posted sign and thought that the closure did not apply to them,” Whorton noted. “Although cooperative, all eight snowmobiles were cited for being in the closure area.”

Similarly, an ATVer was caught and cited on the Asotin Creek Wildlife Area where it's closed to motor vehicle use this time of year to protect wintering elk, but not before he’d driven through seeded crop land and right past posted signs.

Two Fish and Wildlife police patrolled the Mount Spokane area by snowmobile and cited four sledders for registration violations.

Read on for highlights of the many other wildlife police encounters last week.

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About this blog

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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About Rich

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

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