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Outdoors blog

Archive for January 2012

Hangman Creek’s high, rafters ready to roll

RIVERS — The river running season is officially underway on Hangman (Latah) Creek, and it could be over in another day or two.

Unlike most rivers that require spring runoff to get the juices flowing, Hangman is notorious for brief spurts of high flows generated by rain-on-snow events like we had this weekend. 

Expect to see experienced river runners equipped for being on the cold, off-color water testing their river skills on Wednesday.

Canada Lynx Sighted on Salmon-Challis National Forest

WILDLIFE — Idaho Fish and Game biologists confirmed a recent sighting of a Canada lynx on the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

The sighting is the first direct evidence of lynx presence on the forest since 1991.

Idaho Fish and Game collected hair and scat samples from the animal to determine its origin, according to an agency media release.

“This would be an extremely rare event, and we’re waiting to get genetic test results before we confirm it’s a native, wild lynx,” Fish and Game wildlife manager Tom Keegan said.

A local recreationist reported the animal to Fish and Game after seeing it in a legally set foot-hold trap targeting bobcat. Fish and Game officials arrived at the scene within the hour and assessed the lynx for injuries and potential treatment. With no injuries indicated, officials released the lynx from the trap.

“We watched it wander off in good shape,” conservation office Dane Cook said. “It had all the classic lynx features:  long legs, huge furry paws, ear tufts, and the short black-tipped tail.”

Read on for more details about lynx.

Years of cleanup planned at Holden Mine above Lake Chelan

FORESTS — Backpackers passing through the Holden Village area between the Glacier Peak Wilderness and Lake Chelan will continue to seek a lot of heavy equipment activity during the environmental cleanup o fthe Holden Mine.

Federal agencies gave the formal OK to the project this week. The remedy focuses on the cleanup of hazardous substances, at levels toxic to aquatic life, in the mine ground water and mine drainage being released into nearby Railroad Creek. 

“Major construction in Phase I of the cleanup remedy should begin in 2013, and should take two years followed by five years of monitoring before Phase II of remedy construction will begin,” Holden Mine Cleanup Project Manager Norm Day said.

Idaho’s latest toll on wolves

PREDATORS — As January ends, Idaho’s first wolf trapping season has harvested 60 wolves statewide in the TRAPPING season that opened Nov. 15.

That compares with 204 wolves taken by sportsmen in the HUNTING season that opened Aug. 30.

Idaho's total wolf kill by hunters AND trappers since Aug. 30 is 264 wolves. The hunting and trapping seasons will continue to March 31 or until management unit quotas are reached.

In 2011, Idaho sold 32,273 wolf hunting tags.  Idaho requires sportsmen to purchase new hunting and fishing licenses each year on Jan. 1. 

So far, 7,057 wolf tags have been sold for wolf hunting in 2012.

The Idaho Fish and Game Department has sold 416 wolf trapping tags for the 2011-2012 trapping season.

Women with Bait steelhead tourney kicks off at Riggins

FISHING — It's time for a women's road trip to Riggins, Idaho, to warm up the town and win cash in the Women with Bait steelhead fishing derby on the Salmon River.

Every guided boatload of ladies gets a “bait boy” to do all the dirty work so the women can concentrate on catching fish.

The event opens Wednesday and runs through March 3. 

Contestants get a grab bag of goodies and the chance to win cash or prizes for the most fish, the biggest fish and even the smallest fish during that period.

 Contestants also tend to be a hit back home when they serve fresh steelhead for dinner.

The entry fee of $200 per angler includes the cost of the guide, gear, fish handling, boat, food and derby registration.

See the 2012 tournament rules.

Get more details from Exodus Wilderness Adventures, (800) 992-3484 or email riverescape@frontier.com.

Poll finds Western sportsmen back land, air, water protections

CONSERVATION — Western voters who identify themselves as sportsmen view America’s public lands as critical to their state’s economy and quality of life, accoding to survey results released Monday by Colordao College, in Colorado Springs.

The State of the Rockies Conservation in the West poll found that Western sportsmen support upholding protections for clean air, clean water, natural areas and wildlife.

The survey covered AZ, CO, MT, NM, UT and WY, but Idaho was not included.

A college press release says the poll was conducted by Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies (a Republican firm) and Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (a Democratic firm).

According to the results:

  • 92 percent of sportsmen – the majority of whom identify as politically conservative or moderate – believe that national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are an “essential part” of the economies of these states.
  • Nearly two-thirds of sportsmen polled also opposed allowing private companies to develop public lands when it would limit the public’s enjoyment of – or access to – these lands, and the same percentage believe in maintaining current conservation measures for land, air and water.
  • More than two out of every three sportsmen view loss of habitat for fish and wildlife as a serious threat to a quality outdoor experience.  Further, 75 percent of sportsmen polled indicated that cuts in funding for parks, habitat, and water quality pose a serious threat to their hunting heritage and western lifestyle.
  • Sportsmen and members of the general public agreed that even with tight state budgets, the government should maintain investments in land, parks, water and wildlife conservation.

These results bolster the findings of a major survey commissioned by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation late last year, which measures the significant economic impacts associated with outdoor recreation and makes the case that conservation programs are a common sense investment.

The full sportsmen’s survey is available on the Colorado College website.

A fact sheet highlights the results.

Controversy continues over adding nutrients to Dworshak Reservoir

FISHERIES — In an effort to improve the kokanee fishery in Dworshak Reservoir,  the U.S. Corps of Engineers and Idaho Fish and Game are experiementing with “fertilizing” the waters.

This is a popular idea with some people, but not by others, including those who've filed a lawsuit claiming the nutrient supplementing has caused algae blooms.

The Columbia Basin Bulletin had an interesting dialogue on the issue.  Click here to see two sides to a report the CBC had the previous week.

Hot dog! Hauser Lake ice fishing event huge success

ANGLING — Saturday's free ice-fishing event at Hauser Lake, organized by Idaho Fish and Game, was a huge success in luring people of all ages to try the sport.

Lots of credit to go around, but you have to give a big high five for service beyond the call of duty to the three sportsmen who were ice fishing at the lake when they saw the organizers being overwhelmed by people eager to borrow fishing gear from the Take Me Fishing trailer.

The three anglers put their gear away and helped the newbie anglers for the rest of the day, said Phil Cooper, IFG spokesman.

“The event was scheduled to start at 11 am.  When we arrived at 9:20, we had people waiting,” he said.  “We had them help us set up the trailer and then gave them equipment to start fishing.” 

Cooper counted more than 260 people at one time getting gear or on the solid 8 inches of ice trying to hook a fish. Two IFG biologists were drilling ice fishing holes as fast as they could with a gas-powered auger.

The volunteer crew, which included five IFG employees and three Cabela's employees, helped at least 350 people get a taste of fishing — not to mention a taste of the 496 hot dogs and 23 gallons of hot chocolate served free to the crowd.

“The fish were not as cooperative as we would have liked, however, there were some yellow perch, bluegills and one large largemouth bass caught,” Cooper said.

“One man stopped as he was leaving and said he had a blast and had never ice fished before because he had always been afraid to walk on the ice.  I asked him how old he was and he said he will turn 70 in a week.  So, for him this event helped him overcome 70 years of reluctance to go ice fishing.  He said he was heading from the event to Cabela’s to buy an ice auger!”

People participating did not need a fishing license during the hours of the event, regardless age or whether they were from Idaho or Washington.

Tussock moth infestation found in Blue Mountains

FORESTS — The Washington Department of Natural Resources has discovered a new infestation of Douglas-fir tussock moths that occurred last summer in the Blue Mountains of Washington and Oregon.

Light defoliation caused by the moths was mapped across 9,000 acres of the Umatilla National Forest, with Washington accounting for 7,800 acres, according to a DNR press release and following report from the Associated Press.

Most of the defoliation occurred in the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness Area, but it may spread and increase in severity this year, the state Department of Natural Resources said Monday.

Officials say another tussock moth outbreak that affected 1,600 acres in eastern Spokane County in 2011 will likely end this year.

In nearby northern Idaho, approximately 68,000 acres with tussock moth defoliation were recorded in 2011 and that outbreak may spread this year, the DNR said.

The defoliation can reduce growth, cause top-kill, and may make some trees vulnerable to attack by bark beetles. An outbreak typically kills up to 40 percent of the trees in an area.

The outbreak in the Blue Mountains primarily affects grand fir, subalpine fir, Douglas-fir, and some spruce.

Recreation can be affected in areas with tussock moth present because the hairs found on caterpillars, cocoons, and egg masses are a skin irritant to many people, the DNR said.

The last outbreak in the Blue Mountains occurred from 2000-2002.

Outbreaks typically collapse within two to four years due to a buildup of natural enemies, such as disease and parasites.

The Washington DNR said new damage becomes most noticeable in July and is often worst in the tops of trees.

Snowy owl vote: The eyes have it

WILDLIFE — Hypnotizing.

Could you ever get tired of looking into a snowy owl's eyes?

The nifty image above was captured over the weekend by wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson of Lincoln, Mont.

See a video with some details of this season's snowy owl irruption.

Lochsa historic ranger station victim of Forest Service cuts

NATIONAL FORESTS — Reduced recreation funding on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests will keep the Lochsa Historic Ranger Station from opening its doors this summer, according to a report by the Lewiston Morning Tribune.

The log structure on the Lochsa River, about 48 miles east of Kooskia, depicts life at remote Forest Service ranger stations in the 1920s and ’30s. It is normally open from Memorial Day to Labor Day and staffed by volunteers.

Rick Brazell, forest supervisor, told the Tribune the site is a victim of the severe cuts to the recreation budgets for the two forests.

“It is either close that or close campgrounds,” he said. “It’s an interpretive site which is very good to have, but it’s not a destination site where people spend days.”

Read on for the rest of the story by Tribune outdoor writer Eric Barker:

Elk, deer applications due earlier in Montana this year

HUNTING — Nonresident hunters eyeing an elk hunt in Montana this fall need to be on the ball a few months earlier than usual to make their applilcations for special permits.

Hunting and fishing licenses went on sale Jan. 16 and March 15 is the new deadline for residents and nonresidents to apply for deer and elk permits.

In past years, hunting licenses went on sale at the end of February and June 1 was the deadline for special deer and elk permit applications.

The early start means resident and nonresident hunters will have their drawing results by mid-April, rather than the end of July. That gives hunters three additional months to plan their hunt, scout hunting areas, get in shape, and talk to landowners about access for hunting.

Resident and nonresident applications and information, including application success tips, are available online at fwp.mt.gov.

Click New Deadline – March 15 Deer & Elk Permits under the “For Hunters” tab.

  • May 1 continues to be the deadline to apply for moose, sheep, goat and bison licenses.
  • June 1 remains the deadline to apply for antlerless deer B and elk B licenses and antelope and antelope B licenses.

Montana's new hunting and fishing license year runs from March 1 to Feb. 28, 2013.

Angler enjoys close call in quest for “grander” marlin

OCEAN FISHING — A three-decade quest to reel in a marlin weighing more than 1,000 pounds ended spectacularly for businessman Bob Rich Jr. this fall in the Black Marlin Classic catch-and-release tournament off Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

If you've never experienced the power of these massive but speedy fish, watch this video of Rich reeling in the acrobatic monster. See deck hands cut it off ALMOST before it inflicted damage to the boat.

Read on for a more detailed account of Rich and his fishing experience.

EWU angling team places 4th in college bass tournament

COMPETITIVE FISHING — The Oregon State University team of Zach MacDonald, of Willits, Calif. and William Sparks, of Corvallis, Ore. won the National Guard FLW College Fishing West Conference event on Lake Shasta near Redding, Calif., Saturday.

An Eastern Washington University team of local anglers was in the top five, winning a berth to the  West Conference Regional Championship.

The Oregon team, with five fish totaling 9 pounds, 4 ounces, won the first place prize of $5,000.

Rounding out the top five teams advancing to the West Regional Championship are:

  •  2nd: University of California-Santa Cruz – Chris Rhoden and Sam Sayad, both of Santa Cruz, Calif.(five bass, 9-00, $1,500)
  • 3rd: Humboldt State University – Hideaki Kubo, Arcata, Calif., and Ben Smith, Samoa, Calif. (five bass, 8-7, $1,000)
  • 4th: Eastern Washington University – Jarred Walker, Cheney, Wash., and Robert Trukositz, Spokane, Wash. (five bass, 8-5, $1,000)
  • 5th: California State University-Long Beach – Alex Cox and Justin Gangel, both of Long Beach, Calif. (five bass, 8-1, $1,000)

The EWU team of Jake Ponce and Nick Barr placed 11 with 6 pounds, 3 ounces of fish.

The top five teams from each tournament qualify for the regional championship where the first-place team will win a bass boat with a 90-horsepower outboard wrapped in school colors for their fishing club. The top five teams from each regional tournament advance to the national championship.

College Fishing is free to enter and FLW provides boats and drivers for each competing team along with travel allowances. All participants must be registered, full-time undergraduate students at a four-year college or university and members of a fishing club recognized by their college or university.

The next National Guard FLW College West Conference tournament is scheduled for Feb. 25 at Lake Havasu in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.

Studs required for city hiking

TRAILS — South Hill trailmaster Jim Kershner said he didn't see anyone while hiking the South Hill Bluff trails this morning.

His photo explains why.

He managed to get home without any broken bones.

Anyone for luge?

Idaho expands wolf trapping near Dworshak

PREDATORS — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission on Thursday expanded the wolf trapping season to include Unit 10A in the Dworshak-Elk City wolf management zone starting Feb. 1.

The season in Unit 10A opens Wednesday and runs through March 31.

Commissioner Fred Trevey, of the Clearwater Region, said the expanded trapping would reduce wolf numbers and help local rural residents, such as in the Elk City area, who have penned livestock or other domestic livestock.

The rest of the Dworshak-Elk City zone (units 14, 15, 16) already is open for wolf trapping through the end of March.

Rural residents, however, don’t need a license or wolf tag to shoot at wolves attacking their livestock. But they must report any wolves they kill to Idaho Fish and Game within 72 hours, and the wolf would remain the property of the state.

Trappers must have a valid trapping license and complete a mandatory wolf trapping course.

 See details on wolf trapping rules and seasons here.

First chinook of the year swims over Bonneville Dam

SALMON FISHING — Here they come!

The first chinook samon of 2012 to swim up the Columbia and over Bonneville Dam were counted on Wednesday. 

That's the start of a strong run of 314,200 spring chinook  forecast to enter the Columbia destined to waters upstream of Bonneville Dam. If the springer forecast isn't downgraded later, it would be the fourth largest return since 1979 and second largest of the past five years.

A good run of 83,400 is predicted for Oregon's Willamette River. An additional 25,600 chinook are expected at other lower Columbia tributaries.

About 168,000 springers are expected to be headed farther upstream, into the Snake River, over Lower Granite Dam and into Idaho. That would be up from 127,500 counted over Lower Granite last year.

A record 91,200 summer chinook are forecast for the Columbia and tributaries in northcentral Washington and elsewhere. If that holds, it would be the highest number since 1980. The current record is 89,500 in 2002.

Fish managers from area states also predict 462,000 sockeye could move up the Columbia, a potential windfall record by a wide margin, up from the 387,800  that entered the Columbia in 2010..

Spring chinook fishing will open on the lower Columbia starting March 1 and March 16 in the mid-Columbia, according to rules set on Thursday.

Complicated allocation schemes involving the Endangered Species Act, catch balancing between the Columbia treaty tribes and non-Indians, along with sport-commercial sharing arrangements all interact to determine available harvest, reports Allen Thomas of the Vancouver Columbian

Pete Hassemer of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game asked Washington and Oregon not to frontload the sport fishery, but to stretch it out until early May, Thomas reported.

Fifty percent to 60 percent of the harvest downstream of Bonneville Dam comes from spring chinook headed to four Idaho hatcheries, Hassemer said. Idaho would like to see the harvest not so concentrated on four stocks.

Guy Norman, regional director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the sport fishery would have to be limited to about a day per week to meet Idaho's request..

Wash. revised elk hunting proposals to be released Feb. 1

HUNTING — Washington's revised elk hunting season proposals are scheduled to be posted on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website on Wednesday (Feb. 1), the day a meeting is set in Spokane to discuss the different but related revision of the elk management plan for northeastern Washington.

The revised elk hunting season proposals will include formalized options for changing the Master Hunter late hunting seasons on lands outside of Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

Revised elk season proposals also will suggest ending either-sex elk general season hunts in northeastern Washikngton.

The WDFW has set two meetings next week, starting at 7 p.m., to present the draft plan for public comment:

  • Feb. 1, at Center Place, 2426 N. Discovery Place, in Spokane Valley.
  • Feb. 2, at the Northeast Washington Fairgrounds, 317 W. Astor Ave. in Colville.

The draft plan is available for review here, where a link provides opportunity to submit comments through Feb. 10.

The public comment period on the hunting rules revisions will begin Wednesday when the package is released on the WDFW hunt rules revision web page.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to review proposed new hunt rules during its March meeting in Moses Lake. The commission would vote on adopting the 2012-2014 rules in April.

Avalanche class for snowmobilers starts tonight at Sandpoint

WINTER SPORTS — An avalanche class geared to snowmobilers starts tonight, 7 p.m., at the Sandpoint Forest Service office, conducted by the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center

The class continues in the field on Saturday, meeting at the Trestle Creek trailhead at 9 a.m.

Avalanche advisory: where to go, what to avoid

WINTER SPORTS — Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center technicians found great riding and sliding conditions in the mountains during their Thursday survey, but they also found areas to avoid, according to the report posted this morning.

The snow was lighter on top and firmer down toward the crust buried about 4 feet deep.  Slopes in sheltered areas showed some weak layers that have not bonded in the upper 1-2 feet but they are moderately stable. 

Steeper exposed windloaded slopes, N-E-SE, will be the areas to avoid today where slabs will be firmer and under some stress.  Watch the weather Saturday night into Sunday for snowfall amounts, increasing winds, and warming temperatures. 

Read on for the complete advisory issued today for the Selkirks and Lookout Pass regions.

Kayaker puts new boat to the Spokane River test

PADDLING — Some people were content to be inside where it was warm on Thursday.

Blake  Sommers was on the Spokane River test-driving his new kayak for the first time.

He got a little swimming practice, too. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. But he didn't let go of his boat.

VIDEO: Snowshoer captures scene at Mount Spokane

Bald Knob Snowshoe, Mount Spokane State Park from Tanner Grant on Vimeo.

WINTER SPORTS — Tanner Grant of Spokane video's his recent snowshoe trek at Mount Spokane State Park to give the uninitiated a glimpse of one oft the more popular routes from the main road up to the Bald Knob Picnic area. 

We parked on the road near the snowmobile parking lot (Discover Pass required) and made the short trip to the picnic shelter. With all the new snow in the last week the conditions were great, and lucky for us the weather couldnt have been better. Music by Jack Johnson, “All At Once.”

Grant also features a recommendation on how to come back down the mountain on the well-traveled route.

New fishing rules on commission agenda

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Allowing bait fishing on the Kettle River and other proposals debated in 2011 will be considered by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission next week in a package of sportfishing rules for 2012-13.

The meeting is set for Feb. 3-4 in Olympia.

The commission also will vote on a proposed increase in the number of multiple season hunting permits issued each year

See the Fish and Wildlife Commision's complete meeting agenda.

See details of all the fishing rule proposals on the WDFW 2012 fishing proposals web page.

Here are details of the specific proposal to allow bait fishing on the Kettle River:

During the two-day meeting, the commission will consider adopting 18 sportfishing rules, which were developed with public input and discussed at the commission’s December and January meetings.

The proposals range from closing steelhead fisheries earlier in a number of rivers in the Puget Sound area to allowing anglers to fish with two poles on the Pend Oreille River and the lower Spokane River.

In other business the commission is set to:

  • Consider a 165-acre land acquisition in Okanogan County for fish and wildlife habitat.
  • Rreceive briefings on the 2011 Puget Sound recreational and commercial crab fishing seasons, changes to the recreational clam and oyster seasons on Puget Sound beaches, the Wildlife Program, the Colockum elk herd, sanitary shellfish enforcement, and the inland fish stocking strategy and marketing plan.

N. Idaho locals hammer feds on proposed caribou habitat

PUBLIC LANDS — Some North Idahol residents are upset by a proposal to designate an area half the size of Rhode Island in a remote part of the Panhandle and Washington as critical habitat for endangered woodland caribou.

They blasted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at a meeting on Tuesday, saying the federal plans amounted to a land grab that would devastate the local economy, according to an Associated Press story by Nicholas K. Geranios.

But federal officials said the designation was required to help save the last remaining caribou herd in the Lower 48 states. They said the average person should not be impacted by a critical habitat designation.

That didn’t satisfy many of the estimated 200 people who showed up at the so-called “coordination” meeting requested by the Bonner County commissioners, who are seeking to provide input to federal regulators.

“Our goal in this coordination is to stop this closure,” county Commissioner Cornel Rasor admitted.

Read on for details from the AP report.

Video captures snowmobiler rescue from avalanche

 

WINTER SPORTS — In a dramatic event caught on video, a snowmobiler coming down a hill at Stampede Pass in the Cascades was buried by an avalanche but, luckily for him, friends were nearby and quickly responded to dig him out in time to save his life, according the TV news report (above).

The snowmobiler, John Swanson, said in an TV interview Tuesday he was enjoying a weekend with his friends at Stampede pass, which is just south of Snoqualmie Pass.

He said he was roaring down a hill on his snowmobile Sunday when the “hillside broke free … I was running down the hill and I could hear Russ yelling … he was saying, ’Get out of the way!’”

But Swanson said he could not longer steer as “the whole hillside gave way.”

He was buried in seconds. It was caught on video by one of his friends who had a camera attached to his helmet.

“It’s like being in concrete,” he said of being buried under the snow. “I guess I always figured you could move somewhat, wiggle here, wiggle there and create yourself an air pocket but there was nothing. The snow filled totally in, filled my mask.”

Swanson was suffocating.

“Every time I tried to inhale, just inhaling ice balls,” he said.

New forest rules stress science, Obama officials say

PUBLIC LANDS — The Obama administration says new rules to manage nearly 200 million acres of national forests will protect watersheds and wildlife while promoting uses ranging from recreation to logging, according to story that just moved over the Associated Press wire.

The new rules, to replace guidelines thrown out by a federal court in 2009, are set to take effect in early March. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the rule change today.

Vilsack said in an interview that the rules reflect more than 300,000 comments received since a draft plan was released last year. The new rules strengthen a requirement that decisions be based on the best available science and recognize that forests are used for a variety of purposes, Vilsack said.

Read on for the rest of the AP story by Matthew Daly

Photos show rescued dog getting TLC

SEARCH AND RESCUE — Readers following the story of the lost dog rescued high in the Kettle Range yesterday will enjoy these followup photos.

The pix, just sent to me by Mariann Crooks, show Rebel, a 7-month-old bluetick coonhound, still wiped out from the two nights he endured in the winter wilds north of Sherman Pass after being lost during a snowshoeing trek to Columbia Mountain.

But Rebel's home now, getting plenty of comfort and attention from Mariann's daughter, Sabrina Crooks.

And a few hearts will justifiably melt to see one of the other family dogs nursing Rebel's feet, which were raw and sore from the snow, cold and ice high in the Colville National Forest.

Crooks said Rebel slept pretty much nonstop for 36 hours after he got home.

Rebel was rescued by a group of forestry students from the Curlew Job Corps Center.

See photos of the rescue in this blog post

Dog rescuers went the extra mile

WINTER SPORTS — Today's story about students rescuing a snowshoer's bluetick coonhound lost in the Kettle Range for two nights offers a life lesson to all of us.

Helping other people can be remarkably easy and productive if we just make the effort to try.

Think about what we could accomplish if everyone looked for a way to contribute every day rather than leaving it to somebody else.

See post-rescue photos here.

Good spring chinook run headed for Wind, Drano

SALMON FISHING — State biologists are forecasting good returns of spring chinook salmon this year to Wind River and Drano Lake, popular sport-fishing spots in the Columbia River Gorge.

The prediction is for 8,400 adult spring chinook to enter the Columbia destined for the Wind River and 9,500 headed to Drano Lake, a large backwater at the mouth of the Little White Salmon River, reports By Allen Thomas of The Vancouver Columbian.

While not records, the returns would be more than enough salmon to provide robust fishing success if weather and water conditions are favorable.

Read on for more of the report:

Distinguishing swans from snow geese is black and white

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Should a hunter ever be excused for killing a trumpeter swan he misidentified as a snow goose?

Probably not.

Here are three notable reasons from Rich Myhre of the Everett Herald:

  1. Because of their white color, trumpeter swans look a little bit like snow geese. But trumpeter swans are entirely white, while snow geese have black wing tips.
  2. Trumpeter swans measure 6-8 feet from wing tip to wing tip, while snow geese measure only about 3 feet.
  3. Most important, snow geese can be hunted during waterfowl season, but there is never a legal time to shoot trumpeter swans.

For additional information about identifying swans, go to www.trumpeterswansociety.org.

QUIZ: What’s the term for a group of snowy owls?

BIRDWATCHING — You've heard of a murder of crows, a pride of lions and a exhaltation of larks, right?

What is the term for a group of snowy owls?

A. Blizzard.

B. Parliament

C. Congress

D. Hoot

E. Forum

Click “continue reading” for the answer.

Take an idyllic time-lapse outdoor tour of Oregon

<a href='http://www.bing.com/videos/browse?mkt=en-us&vid=11fb7d43-c4a3-43ab-9adb-1ffd15358300&from=en-us_msnhp&src=v5:embed::' _cke_saved_href='http://www.bing.com/videos/browse?mkt=en-us&vid=11fb7d43-c4a3-43ab-9adb-1ffd15358300&from=en-us_msnhp&src=v5:embed::' target='_new' title='Finding Oregon Time-Lapse'>Video: Finding Oregon Time-Lapse</a>

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY — Many of Oregon's iconic natural features are captured in this soothing production of time-lapse photography.

It's called “Finding Oregon, by Uncage the Soul Productions.

The clip involves six months of photography across the state. It highlights spots that beckon outdoors enthusiasts, such as: Columbia River Gorge, Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, the Southwestern Coast, the Alvord Desert, Leslie Gulch, Blue Mountains, Crater Lake, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Deschutes River, and more!
 
Although you see no people in these photos, they've been discovered, for good reason.

Kettle Range avalanche conditions in a word: Nasty

WINTER SPORTS — The avalanche forecast for the Idaho Panhandle won't be updated until Friday, but forecaster Keith Wakefield of Curlew tramped high into the Kettle Range TODAY and got some unsettling results from his snow pits and sheer tests.   Here's the scoop from a report he just filed:

Out snow geeking on Sherman Pass today, verifying the Canadians forecast for this region. Those Canucks nailed it! They had it at HIGH for today and tomorrow, and trending down to Considerable for the weekend.

Its the most complex the snowpack has been this season, and very upside down in the top 20-24” of the snowpack.


Two sensitive slabs in the uper two thirds of the pack totaling 20+ inches on the leeward N-NE aspects was a #3 ETC test down thru both slabs to a clean shear (q-1)


Wind has created nasty surface styro-crusts on windward S-SW-W aspects as well… Nasty.

Windy 10-15 today with rising temps. Good day for a trail ski. Going to be an interesting weekend in the region's backcountry. Heads up.

Wildlife area closing temporarily to protect Colockum elk

WILDLIFE — For the fifth consecutive year, about 44,000 acres of state wildlife land east of Ellensburg will be closed to motor vehicles Feb. 1-April 30 to protect wintering elk from disturbance.

Keeping the elk on the state wildlife areas should keep more elk from moving to private lands where they can cause crop damage, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The agency will temporarily close the Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area and a portion of the Quilomene Wildlife Area in Kittitas County. The area to be closed is north of the Vantage Highway, south of Quilomene Ridge Road, east of the Wild Horse Wind Farm and west of the Columbia River.

Read on for details from the WDFW:

Warm up to ice fishing at Hauser Lake event

ICE FISHING — Nobody will be left out in the cold on Saturday during a free ice-fishing event at Hauser Lake, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., sponsored by the Idaho Fish and Game Department.

The agency will loan free fishing gear from the Take Me Fishing trailer on the fishing access site at the south end of the lake off Hauser Lake Road.

Volunteers will drill holes in the ice for participants and help new anglers get started, said Phil Cooper, IFG spokesman. Free hot dogs and hot chocolate will be served.

The parking area is scheduled to be plowed and the restrooms will be open.

 Youths under 14 years never need a fishing license to wet a line in Idaho, but during the hours of the event, older anglers also can fish without a license, Cooper said.

”These events give their parents, older siblings and friends the opportunity to try fishing without purchasing a license,” he said, noting that the agency held 28 Take Me Fishing events across the state last spring. Saturday’s event will be the Panhandle Region’s first session on ice-fishing.

Enter your best shot of Scotchman Peaks during winter

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY — The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness are taking entries in their annual winter outdoor photography contest.

If you are in or around the Scotchman Peaks this winter (you have to be able to see the wilderness), and you take a picture you think is really cool, attach it to an e-mail telling where you took it, when you took it, and maybe even why you took it and send to sandy@scotchmanpeaks.org.

The grand prize: a night’s stay for two next summer at the Huckleberry Tent and Breakfast near Clark Fork, in the shadow of the Scotchman Peaks.

Snowshoers find dog that spent two nights out near Sherman Pass

MISSING PETS — A young, energetic family dog lost from its owners during a snowshoe hike on Sunday has been found after two days out in the high country near Sherman Pass.

A Job Corps forestry crew heard about the lost dog and the despair of the family through an email network, so they decided to go out for a snowshoe hike today and see what they could see.

Lo! They found Rebel, a seven month old male bluetick coonhound that had been lost since mid-day Sunday in the vicinity of Columbia Mountain near Sherman Pass in Colville National Forest in northeast Washington.

He survived the ordeal wearing an orange collar, a red head halter and a small blue pack.

His owners are being notified.  The dog reportedly was dehydrated but otherwise in good shape.

Credit a close network of locals in the Republic-Curlew area who have the skills to get out in the backcountry and the generosity to look out after others.

More on this later…

Solar storms will turn on northern lights

SKYWATCHING — Tonight might be prime time, if you can swing it, to go high away from city lights and above the clouds to watch the expected light show in the northern sky.

A massive explosion on the sun's surface has triggered the largest solar radiation storm since 2005, unleashing a torrent of charged plasma particles toward Earth.

The bad news:  Could cause trouble with satellites and GPS navigation, power grids and other high-tech hardware.

The good news:  Likely will trigger displays of aurora borealis, a.k.a the northern lights.

Predicting shows of northern lights is much the same for scientists as predicting the weather, since the aurora is a result of space weather.

While this week is special, scientists expect higher than normal solar activity to persist through the year. Scientists say there's been a minimum rate of solar and aurora activity since 2007.

Northern lights info and forecasts

Find a wealth of info, links, photos and forecasts at this website maintained by the Geophysical Institute at the Unviversity of Alaska Fairbanks.

Snowshoers lose family hound near Sherman Pass

MISSING PETS — During a snowshoe hike on Sunday (Jan. 22), a seven month  old male Bluetick Coonhound who answers to the name Rebel was lost in the vicinity of Columbia Mountain near Sherman Pass in Colville National Forest in northeast Washington.  

Anyone living in the area or out playing in the backcountry in the vicinity of Sherman Pass, please keep your eye out for him!

His owners say Rebel is super friendly and should approach anyone that calls him. 

Last seen, he was wearing an orange collar, a red head halter and a small blue pack. 

The dog has tags on to identify where he belongs. 

His owners are very worried for him. If found, please contact Mariann at (509) 496-9370 (cell) or via email at mendenhall_mini_farm@yahoo.com   

Thanks!

Pygmy owl catches nordic skier’s eye

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The diminutive pygmy owl stands less than 7 inches tall, and it's easy to miss.

Birder Teri Pieper of Twisp used her eagle eyes to spot this little guy as she skinny-skied behind friends who had swooshed past the owl in the brush just above their heads without seeing it. She was skiing near Sun Mountain Lodge on the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association trails.

The pygmy owl is an aggressive little bird that preys on rodents and other birds as large as a mourning dove.

Spirit Lake kokanee bonanza going untapped

WINTER FISHING — Ice anglers in North Idaho should be cleaning upon the record number of mature kokanee in Spirit Lake this winter – except they can’t get to the fish.

Idaho Fish and Game Department reports from August trawling surveys say “the most abundant year class of kokanee ever documented for this lake” is swimming around virtually unscathed.

“The strong year class of one year old kokanee last year is now a record high year class of two year old kokanee,” the report said, estimating there would be more than 382,000 kokanee averaging at least 8.25 inches waiting for anglers when the ice fishing opportunities began this winter.

That pencils out to about 260 catchable-sized fish for each acre of water, or about four times as many kokanee as last year!

But the ice-fishing hasn’t happened.

“It’s a shame for ice fishermen,” said Jim Fredericks, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager. “The east end of the lake has had enough ice for fishing on a couple of occasions, but that’s not really where the kokanee fishing is.”

The bulk of the lake has remained ice-free.  Sure, the season’s open year-round and you could fish from a boat, except there’s just enough ice around the edges to thwart boat-launching.

“Maybe we still have a chance for a good cold snap to get ice fishermen out off Silver Beach or Bronze Bay – the best winter kokanee fishing places,” he said.

“If not, there will be a great kokanee fishery waiting for handliners and jiggers off the cliff at the east end this spring,” he said.

Video: Where sharptails feast during winter

WILDLIFE WATCHING — This short video clip shows sharp-tailed grouse feeding recently in Okanogan County. 

Grouse species are well adapted to feeding on nutritious buds and berries in trees of the ground, as you can see by these birds clinging effortlessly to flimsy brush as they eat.

The video was shot by Khanh Tran of Portland.

Wife uses shovel to defend husband against attacking moose

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — This just in from Alaska:  A woman used a shovel to scare away a moose that was stomping on her husband. 

Maybe this would be no big deal — she probably did make the “for better or worse” vow at the altar — but consider this:  The woman is 85 years old — and Alaska moose are even bigger than those found in Washington and Idaho.

See the Anchorage Daily News story and photos.

Denning black bear delivers cubs to worldwide audience

WILDLIFE WATCHING — At least two black bear cubs were born Sunday  in a den monitored by a “den cam” that can be viewed online around the world.

The North American Bear Center in Ely, Minn.,  has compiled video of the birth (click on video above) — and the thorough bath the mother gives the first cub, which whimpers very much like a newborn human infant.

See more videos of the family as it evolves here. There may be a third cub.

The center's website has all sorts of details, photos and videos about bears, denning and hibernation.

“Hot gloves” can interfere with avalanche tranceivers

WINTER SPORTS — The Spokane Mountaineers picked up on a potentially dangerous glitch of interference with avalanche tranceivers this weekend during an avalanche safety seminar presented by the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center.

The main lesson isn't new:  Virtually any electronic device, such as a cell phone or GPS, has the potential to interfere with the reception of avalanche beacon signals during a rescue.

But read on for the details of the new discovery as explained by John Latta of the Spokane Mountaineers, as well as two video investigations into the effect electronics have on avalanche beacons.

Wolf issues targeted in Washington Legislature

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington lawmakers last week began consideration of a pair of bills that deal with wolves.

Senate Bill 6139, which was requested by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlfie, would set a cap of $50,000 per year on the compensation the agency could pay from its wildlife account for claims related to wolf attacks on livestock.

Dave Ware, WDFW Game Division manager, said the bill seeks to balance the needs of humans and wildlife. It would also add the gray wolf to the state's definition of big game.

Senate Bill 6137 would provide an affirmative defense for killing a wolf caught in the act of attacking livestock. The defense would be allowed only where wolves have been taken off the federal endangered species list — the eastern third of the state — and only if the WDFW was notified within 72 hours.

Both bills have been discussed by the Senate Committee on Energy, Natural Resources and Marine Waters.

See details in this story by the Capital Press.

Women’s “Souper” Bowl offers food, fun, intro to winter activities

WINTER SPORTS —Sign-up is under way for an annual event known for encouraging women to take an adventurous yet enjoyable step into winter.

The seventh-annual Women’s Souper Bowl – which includes cross-country skiing and snowshoeing activities, free rentals and lessons, treats, prizes and lunch – is set for 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Feb. 5 based out of Selkirk Lodge at Mount Spokane.

The activities end in time to avoid conflict with the “other” Super Bowl on TV.

The events are open to women of all ages and athletic ability.

New to the Souper Bowl this year:

  • The nordic ski race has been replaced with a cross-country ski trek to acquire poker hands to win prizes at the Souper lunch.
  • Snowshoers will have special permission to trek on a portion of the groomed nordic ski trail system.

Cost: A $30 minimum suggested donation is requested for the Women’s and Children’s Free Restaurant for registrations received by Friday (Jan. 27). Extra will be requested for late registrations.

Transportation: Sno-Park permits required for vehicles. Avoid the driving and parking hassles by reserving seats on chartered “Souper Bus,” which leaves Mountain Gear at 8 a.m. and stops at Mt. Spokane High School 8:30 en route to the mountain. Departs mountain at 1 p.m. Cost: $15.
  

Video spells out kayaker terminology

PADDLING — If the winter weather has chilled your paddling expeditions, it's time to bone up on the kayaking lingo so you'll mesh with the gang when runoff kicks in.

Tough, bloody neighborhood at the edge of Spokane

WILDLIFE — Although there's been talk of wolves showing up at the edge of Spokane in recent months, coyotes have been cruising the streets and neighborhoods for years.

 A woman walking her dogs Saturday around 8:30 a.m. not far from homes near Hatch and Hangman Roads  came upon a white-tailed deer lying down on a pipeline service road in the woods. The young deer was bleeding in the snow, but it was alive. The woman smartly chose to gather her two golden retrievers and leave the area.
 
Putting together the incident together from the tracks in the snow, two or three coyotes apparently returned shortly after the woman left and finished the job they had started.  The woman probably had interrupted the initial attack after the coyotes had chased and ripped open the deer's abdomen.
 
When they returned, they killed the deer, then they dragged the carcass off the road and feasted until other hikers and dog walkers forced them to retreat into the brush.  Magpies and ravens soon swooped in to begin picking the carcass clean.
 
I put up a trail cam to see what would come to the carcass last night, and sure enough, a coyote showed up.  Because of all the brush, I had to put the motion-activated camera quite close to the carcass. One snap of the shutter was enough to send the coyote looking for another meal.
 
When I retrieved the camera this morning, there were as many as eight magpies working the carcass, and the activity had attracted a bald eagle perched above.

Film celebrating Cascades conservationist coming to Spokane

CONSERVATION — The Irate Birdwatcher, a film celebrating the witty words of the late Washington conservationist, wilderness advocate and hiking guidebook author Harvey Manning, is coming to Spokane on Monday evening (Jan. 23).

Sponsored by the Spokane Mountaineers, the film will start at 7 p.m. at Mountain Gear's retail store, 2002 N. Division St.

A $3 donation is requested to benefit Spokane Mountaineers Foundation.

The film reminds us that wilderness, such as that found in the North Cascades, needed thoughtful committed advocates to remain wild and undeveloped.  The words are beautifully illustrated with mountain and wildlife video photographed by Robert Chrestensen and others.

See a clip from the film here.

Sandpoint paddler’s program crosses North America

PADDLING — Paddling Across the Continent, a free program set for Monday (Jan. 23), documents a series of trips spanning eight years by Bob Rust of Sandpoint and a group of Inland Northwest companions who kayaked, canoed and hiked across North America.

I detailed the journey in this 2008 Spokesman-Review feature story.

Rust paddled 2,900 miles from Astoria, Ore., to York Factory on the shore of Hudson Bay, following the overland and paddle routes of David Thompson, fur trader and cartographer.

The free program sponsored by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club starts at 7 p.m. Monday at the Corbin Community Center, 827 W. Cleveland Ave.

No surprise: Avalanche danger significant in region’s mountains

WINTER SPORTS — Today's avalanche advisory from the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center includes a lot of important details for anyone headed out of bounds to enjoy snow the recent storms have heaped on the backcountry. 

But no one should be surprised at the bottom line:  There's significant danger in many areas.

Heavy snowfall in the region has been acccompanied by high westerly winds. “In the mountains surrounding the Silver Valley and the St. Joe Mountains this has created unstable slabs in the new snow and also stressed an old weak layer from a Christmas surface hoar layer,” the report says.

“To the north the mountains have received slightly less snow but there are two weak layers to be cautious of. The avalanche danger will increase due to new snow and rising temperatures. ”

Read on for the entire report:

Finally! Bogus Basin gets enough snow to open lifts

WINTER SPORTS — After getting 10 inches of snow on Wednesday, Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation opened for the ski season today.

The Jan. 19 opening is the latest in the history of the southern Idaho ski area, according to this report in the Idaho Statesman.
  

Enviros oppose Jumbo Ski Resort as decision nears

PUBLIC LANDS — After 20 years of debate, the British Columbia government apparently is nearing a decision on whether to authorize development of a large four-season resort on and around glaciers near Jumbo Pass in the Purcell Mountains above Invermere.

If you've hiked the trails to Monica Meadows and Jumbo Pass described in my book, 100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest, you know the neighborhood.

Environmental and recreation groups have opposed this resort from the beginning, arguing it would be detrimental to grizzly bears in some of the best grizzly habitat in the region. They also say existing resorts, such as nearby Panorama Resort, already are short of customers without adding more competition.

The Jumbo Glacier Resort appears to be more of a real estate development scheme than a viable ski resort plan, as pointed out in this video.

Recreationists also point out the development would degrade what's been a premier backcountry experience and close some access to public (crown) lands.

Click here to see how the developers promote the Jumbo Glacier Resort project.

Click here for insight on the potential impacts to wildlife.

Click here for the overall environmental argument against the resort.

Click here for the perspective of the local First Nation, the Ktunaxa.

Click here for information on booking the rustic Jumbo Pass hiker-skier cabin.

Click here for a YouTube video documenting a week of backcountry skiing out of the Jumbo Pass cabin.

Scientist pegs decline of glaciers in Olympic National Park

CLIMATE CHANGE — On the heels of a report on the decline of glaciers on Mount Adams, a scientist in Olympic National Park  says the Olympic Peninsula's glaciers have shrunk by an average of 15 percent since the 1980s, with one completely disappearing.

Ferry Glacier, one of the 60 largest at the park in 1982, disappeared from its rocky niche in the Bailey Range, according to the Associated Press.

Olympic National Park physical scientist Bill Baccus says another glacier, Lillian, has “virtually disappeared.”

Baccus has been studying the park’s 311 glaciers in detail since 2010. He says there are more glaciers now because larger ones have broken up. In 1982, researchers found 266 glaciers.

The most recent study found that Blue Glacier — the largest one — has lost 18 percent of its mass since 1982.

He says the average air temperature in the Pacific Northwest has gone up 3 degrees Fahrenheit since 1920.

Idaho plans Wildlife Summit in August

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Idaho Fish and Game Department officials are organizing the “Idaho Wildlife Summit” Aug. 24-26 at the Riverside Hotel in Boise to discuss how wildlife is managed and whether the agency should engage a broader base of support.

“The Wildlife Summit is all about listening to our hunters, anglers, trappers and other wildlife conservationists,” said Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore.

Legal mandates and public expectations have outgrown funding sources, Moore said.

It's time for all Idahoans to discuss how to meet those mandates and expectations without infringing on the agency’s core mission of stewardship of wildlife to provide opportunities for hunting, fishing and trapping, he said.

The agenda is still being worked out.

Great day to be a bear or a wolf, but where?

WILDLIFE — The snow that piled up all over the region today caused trouble for a lot of humans, but wolves are in their element — grizzly bears, too, even the ones that aren't hibernating.

Washington photographers captured these photos of a wolf and a grizzly bear during today's storm.

Can you guess where each of the photos was made?

Answer will be posted later on the S-R Facebook page.

Or click below on “continue reading” and I'll spill the beans.

Area ski resorts relishing big dump of powder

WINTER SPORTS — Today's snow storm is doing its magic at area ski resorts.

“Powder Wednesday was epic at Lookout Pass today,” reports Bill Jennings from Lookout Pass Ski Area. “Early this morning we had 22 inches at the base and at least 30 inches at the summit. It’s been snowing all day.

“According to the National Weather Service, we are expecting another 2 feet of snow through Friday!

Mount Spokane reported 5 inches of new powder fell between the 9 a.m. opening and 1:40 p.m. — and it was still snowing.

49 Degrees North reported the storm has dumped about 6 inches today.

Silver Mountain says it's received 8 inches in the last 24 hours.

All the resorts should be getting much more.

Idaho considers $10 voluntary pass to keep State Parks afloat

STATE PARKS — The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation is launching a new program that allows vehicle owners to voluntarily pay a $10 fee when they register their cars that gives them access to 30 state parks in an effort to raise money for the embattled agency, the Associated Press reports.

Director Nancy Merrill hopes the idea, modeled after a successful program in Michigan, will alleviate financial pressure on her agency that has been mounting since Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter moved to wean it from taxpayer support two years ago.

Idaho Parks and Recreation currently offers a similar annual parks pass, but it now costs $40 and raises only $800,000 annually. Merrill is banking on the reduced price — and access to a much-broader audience through Idaho’s car registration program — to help bring in an additional $1.9 million annually.

“We’ve been going through a lot of troubles and strife these last few years, and we’re now an agency reinvented,” Merrill told the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday. “We’re seeking a dedicated funding source. It would move us toward a long-term sustainable process.”

Read on for more details from the AP.

Fungus’ toll on bats higher than estimated

WILDLIFE — Bad news for bats on this scale is bad news for all of us.  Check out this update from the Los Angeles Times on a story that's been brewing for several years.

Researchers say white-nosed syndrome killed millions more bats than estimated
A team of 140 researchers from Canada and the United States say white-nose syndrome, a fungus blamed in the death of a broad range of hibernating bat species, has killed somewhere between 5.7 million to 6.7 million bats.

Map follows travels of California’s first wolf in 80 years

ENDANGERED SPECIES — People interested in the far-flung wanderings of Oregon’s celebrity wolf, OR-7, can keep up with his progress into other states on a new website.

The California Department of Fish and Game put up a map Friday showing the wolf’s path since leaving Oregon and heading into the Cascade Range of Northern California.

In the interests of the wolf’s safety, the department is delaying posting locations on the map by about a week.

The most recent one puts OR-7 about 35 miles south of Alturas, Calif., heading northeast toward Nevada.

The 2-year-old wolf was born in northeastern Oregon, and last September left his pack to seek out a mate and a new territory.

He crossed into California at the end of December and is the first wolf in California in more than 80 years.

N. Idaho officials to meet with feds about caribou

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  Bonner County commissioners to meet with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officials later this month with the goal of altering the federal agency’s plan to protect habitat for woodland caribou in the Selkirk Mountains.

The meeting is set for Jan. 24 at the Inn at Priest Lake in Coolin.

Commissioners are concerned the plan to designate as critical habitat nearly 600 square miles of land in northern Idaho and northeastern Washington will harm the local economy by restricting logging, snowmobiling and forest access, according to an Associated Press report.

Fish and Wildlife announced the plan in November after lawsuits by environmental groups. The agency estimates the woodland caribou herd in the region has dwindled to less than 50, with occasional sightings.

“For three caribou, we’re going to tie up over 375,000 acres?” Commissioner Mike Nielsen told the Bonner County Daily Bee, indicating that he prefers to ignore the concept of trying to protect critical habitat for a recovering species.

 “That’s over a hundred thousand acres per caribou that people can't use,” he added in a serious overstatement or outright lie. 

People would continue to be welcome to visit the high caribou habitat, although motorized vehicles would be restricted in some areas.

There are issues worth discussion in this U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal, but spewing propaganda cheapens the appeal.

Wintery adventures and disasters featured in Spokane Library display

WINTER SPORTS — The Spokane Downtown Library's Northwest Room is featuring a timely display celebrating winter in the Northwest, including a lot of snowy outdoor recreation.

Winter weather conditions have long created both challenges and opportunities for Northwest residents. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw greater hazards than the present, with less than ideal equipment and poor roads.

Winter recreation then and now included skiing, sledding, ice skating, hockey, snowshoeing, hunting, and outdoor work.

This exhibit combines photos of fun in the snow with disasters such as avalanches on railroad tracks. Come and see these images from winters past—you might be surprised at how familiar they look.

The Northwest Room is on the second floor of the Downtown Library.

WHEN: January 11-March 31

TIME: Northwest Room Hours

LOCATION: Downtown

Call 444-5338.

Video: motorist captures 200 elk on the run

WILDLIFE — This video might hurt your feelings if you couldn't find an elk during the hunting season. But it will at least give you hope.

According to the Idaho Fish and Game Department, Josh Hoisington was heading home from a fishing trip this fall and captured video of a large herd of around 200 elk on the run.

“There was a youth hunt going on. A hunter on the west ridge pushed them down into the valley and across the road. There was also a coyote flanking the herd as well. He was running full tilt, but you can’t see him in the video.”

Hoisington moved to Idaho from Colorado just one year ago. His first year in Idaho has also included a successful elk hunt and lots of fishing.

Aerial eagle assault at CdA documented in photos

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WILDLIFE WATCHING — Bald eagles generally seem to be at peace with each other as they congregate each winter to feast on spawning kokanee at Lake Coeur d’Alene’s Wolf Lodge Bay. But for some unclear reason, a group of eagles ganged up on another adult eagle as shown in a series photos by Bob Griffith.

The Spokane wildlife photographer captured the images across the mouth of Beauty Bay from a quarter mile away on Dec. 19 — just before a record 273 bald eagles were counted at the lake by a BLM wildlife biologist.

“Several eagles ganged up on the one and forced it into the water,” Griffith said. “Then one or more buzzed the downed eagle as if to try to drown it.”

The victim eagle in the water faced each attacking eagle, raising its talons in defense, but taking a dunking in the process.

“It eventually paddled its way to shore but the attack didn’t stop,” Griffith said. “I finally lost sight as it went back into the woods—on foot.”

Aldo Leopold’s 125th birthday cause for reflection on wildlife conservation

CONSERVATION — Aldo Leopold, widely recognized as the father of professional wildlife management, was born Rand Aldo Leopold in Burlington, Iowa, 125 years ago this month.

His ideas remain as relevant today as they were in his own time.

Leopold's legacy involves his idea of “a land ethic,” which he famously penned in his classic book, A Sand County Almanac.

“A land ethic,” he wrote, “changes the role of Homo sapiens from conquerer of the land community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.”

Garrison Keillor recognized Leopold's birthday on NPR last week: Listen here.

Wildlife official finds no clear evidence wolves attacked Wallace dog

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A state wildlife official says an investigation has failed to find clear evidence that a dog died in an attack by wolves last week in northern Idaho, according to wire reports.

Idaho Fish and Game official Josh Stanley says he could find no evidence of wolf tracks in the snow where the domestic dog was killed Wednesday about a mile north of Wallace. Another dog suffered wounds to the face in the skirmish.

Stanley told the Shoshone News Press he tracked a 100-yard radius around the home where the attack took place and found tracks more closely resembling dogs or coyotes.

After the attack, local authorities placed blame on four wolves.

Idaho rules allow citizens to shoot wolves only if they have a hunting tag or to protect domestic animals and livestock.

Lower Columbia sturgeon catch to be reduced 38 percent

FISHING — For the third straight year, fish and wildlife directors from Washington and Oregon have agreed to reduce the catch of white sturgeon on the lower Columbia River, where the species has declined in abundance in recent years.

The total allowable harvest of white sturgeon below Bonneville Dam will be reduced from 22.5 percent of the “legal-size” fish to 16 percent in 2012.

The new harvest rate will hold the combined catch by sport and commercial fisheries to 9,600 sturgeon measuring 38 to 54 inches long. Last year’s guideline for those waters was 15,640 fish, although only 14,488 were harvested.

This year’s agreement will reduce the sturgeon harvest in the lower Columbia River by 38 percent, following a 30 percent reduction in 2011 and a 40 percent reduction the previous year.

The abundance of legal-size sturgeon has declined nearly 50 percent since 2007, according to surveys by both states. Factors often cited for the decline include increased predation by sea lions and a drop in the abundance of smelt and lamprey, which contribute to sturgeons’ diet.

Read on for more details from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife media release:

Spokane Parks looking for outdoor trip assistants

OUTDOOR RECREATION —  The Spokane Parks & Recreation Department's Outdoors Program is looking for outdoors lovers who would make good outdoor trip assistants for the great outings featured in the Outdoor program guide.

The main benefit:  Cool group outdoor trips at no cost.   Here's the job description:

In this volunteer position, you will learn to facilitate a safe and fun outdoor adventure such as snowshoeing, cross country skiing, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, hiking, mountain biking, and bike tours.
 
Trip Assistants receive free training and discount outdoor merchandise!
 
To get started on this adventure, contact volunteer coordinator Catherine Lyle, 625-6216 or email clyle@spokanecity.org.
 
  • See more info on the Outdoors Program volunteer website.
  • See the Outdoor Trip Assistant description here.

Idaho Fish and Game sets agenda for Jan. 25-26

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will hear an annual report from Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore  and meet with state lawmakers when the commisson meets Jan. 25-26 in Boise.

Routine items on the Fish and Game Commission's agenda include setting seasons for upland game, furbearers and turkey, a legislative budget preview and a big game briefing.

Also on the agenda are:

  • A Shikar-Safari award presentation.
  • An update on spring and summer Chinook salmon forecast and the potential for sport fisheries this year.
  • A wolf harvest update.
  • Deer and elk status updates.
  • The Director’s Annual Report to the Commission.
  • A motorized hunting rule scoping update.
  • A legislative update.
  • A report on land acquisitions and a summary of land acquisition policy implementation.

Wildlife refuges play roles on silver screen

PUBLIC LANDS — This year’s Academy Awards holds special interest for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System. Some critics are listing “Meeks Cutoff,” with scenes from Malheur National Wildlife Refugein Oregon, as a possible Oscar contender. 

“Meeks Cutoff,” starring Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood and Paul Dano, is about pioneers stranded on the Oregon Trail and was filmed from federal lands adjacent to the wildlife refuge. 

Malheur Refuge manager Tim Bodeen knows why director Kelly Reichardt wanted to capture scenes of the refuge:

“We’re one of the nation’s great wild places where you can get wide open views of the natural environment,” he says. “And we have bountiful wildlife [including coyotes and mule deer] that people associate with historic America.” Today’s visitors can hike, bike, fish and hunt on the refuge as well as see wildlife and tour the 19th-century Sod House Ranch. 

Read on for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service observations on some of the better known refuge-linked movies:

Chukar season ends; only 8 months to recover

HUNTING — The dog is fed and sleeping like a bear in winter. Wife is concerned about dog's scrapes and cactus spines in foot, but doesn't notice her husband's bloody elbow and slight limp.

Browning Citori cleaned, oiled. Hunting clothes are in the laundry hamper. Birds are dressed, brining and ready to cook tomorrow. Bottle of red wine is on the table….

I had a bittersweet outing on the Snake River today to end the season for cliff-dwelling chukars. Despite snow, steep slippery slopes, cold and wind, my English setter, Scout, and I both hated to come down out of the canyon.

A closer look at the rare northern hawk owl

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Birdwatcher/photographer Ron Dexter, who lives north of Spokane, snapped this sweet image of the northern hawk owl that's been catching a lot of attention in the Spokane area for the past two weeks.

The bird has been hunting mice and voles along Prewett Road in west Spokane County.

“This is only the 4th hawk owl seen in Spokane County since 1993,” Dexter reports. “It hunts early in the morning, rests through the middle of the day and begins hunting again around 2 p.m.”

Time to apply for Idaho spring hunts

HUNTING — The application period for spring black bear controlled hunts opened Sunday and continues through Feb. 15.

The spring turkey controlled hunt application period opens Feb. 1 and runs to March 1.

Spring turkey and spring black bear seasons start April 15 – some controlled hunts open later. Leftover controlled hunt tags for spring turkey and bear controlled hunts go on sale April 1.

Hunters may apply for controlled hunts at any hunting and fishing license vendor;  Fish and Game office; with a credit card by calling (800) 55HUNT5; or online.

The application fee is $6.25 per person for residents and $14.75 for nonresidents. An additional fee is charged for telephone and Internet applications.

Spring 2012 bear controlled hunt information is in the 2011 Big Game Seasons and Rules book.

Spring turkey controlled hunt information will be available following the Idaho Fish and Game Commission meeting in late January.

Hunters must have a 2012 Idaho hunting license to apply.

Deer harvest method banned in Washington

TRAPPING — I believe Washington's approval of a 1995 citizen's initiative that bans lethal traps would prohibit this method of filling your freezer with venison.  Just sayin'.

Count ‘em yourself: 11 snowy owls in one photo frame

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Wildlife photographer Sandy Milliken of Post Falls isn't missing the opportunity to capture images from this season's snowy owl irruption.

With her radar out for the best opportunities, she recently traveled to Boundary Bay just south of Vancouver, British Columbia, to capture “thousands of snowy owl photos” as she put it.

Get the details in my Outdoors section feature story about Milliken.

The two photo's with this post are highlights of Milliken's expedition, especially the one above featuring 11 snowy owls in one frame, including the heavily barred owl that looks grayish in the background.

Here are more links to check out related to snowy owls:

See Sandy Milliken's flickr photo site.

WSU tends migrant snowy owl with broken wing.

VIDEO: WSU tending “Tundra,” the snowy owl with broken wing.

Snowy owls give Oregon surprise visit.

MAP: Snowy owls making a scene across the country.

Snowy owl dazzles birders along Lake CdA.

 

Outdoor video clips compiled to get your adrenaline flowing

OUTDOOR ACTION SPORTS — Here's a cool collection of ultr- action outdoor video clips — some you may have seen in Banff Film Fest features, but plenty from other sources, too.

Get it out of your system by viewing this video.

If it leaves you wanting more, watching this collection of newer clips.

Then go out and be safe this weekend.

Meetings set to explain Northeastern Washington elk management plan

HUNTING — The luxury of targeting  ”any elk” during general hunting seasons in portions of northeastern Washington would end under a proposed plan to boost numbers of elk in Okanogan, Ferry and Stevens counties.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has set three meetings, starting at 7 p.m., to present the draft plan for public comment:

  • Jan. 26, at the Okanogan County Public Utility District Main Office, 1331 2nd Ave. N., in Okanogan.
  • Feb. 1, at Center Place, 2426 N. Discovery Place, in Spokane Valley.
  • Feb. 2, at the Northeast Washington Fairgrounds, 317 W. Astor Ave. in Colville.

The draft plan is available for review here, where a link provides opportunity to submit comments through Feb. 10.

The current plan has called for limiting the number of elk in most of northeastern Washington primarily to prevent elk from becoming a nuisance to landowners on the region’s limited  winter range, wildlife managers say.

“We have managed elk in this part of the state—where elk groups are small and scattered—with liberal hunting rules to keep elk numbers low and minimize agricultural damage,” Robinette said. “But we have heard from hunters that they want to see more elk.”

Paving the way for the revised plan are efforts by the Colville National Forest and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to improve elk habitat in the region, he said.

Robinette said the proposed plan should result in greater elk numbers by shifting from ‘any elk’ hunting seasons to restrictions on antlerless elk hunting in the Pend Oreille sub-herd areas, including units 101, 105, 108, 121 and  204.

“If agricultural damage problems should arise, we would address them through a variety of tools we use throughout the state,” Robinette said.

Although the document is titled “Selkirk Elk Herd Plan,” covers elk management in Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens, Ferry, Lincoln, Whitman, and eastern Okanogan counties –Game Management Units 101 – 142 and 204.

The plan considers elk in two distinct sub-herds–the Pend Oreille sub-herd and the Spokane sub-herd.

The release of the draft elk plan will coincide with the separate but related process to revise Washington’s hunting rules for the 2012-2014 seasons.

WDFW plans to release its revised hunting rule package at the end of January, Robinette said. Those proposals would include the elk plan’s proposal to end the ”any elk” seasons, he said.

That rules revision package also will formalize controversial proposals still being formulated to change the Master Hunter late elk seasons on the lands surrounding Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

The public comment period on the hunting rules revisions will begin when the package is released at the end of the month, Robinette said.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to review proposed new hunt rules during its March meeting in Moses Lake. The commission would vote on adopting the 2012-2014 rules in April.

Wolves blamed for attacking dogs in Wallace; sightings reported in Spokane County

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — The Shoshone County sheriff says two dogs were attacked by four wolves near Wallace.

Sheriff Mitch Alexander told The Shoshone News Press that one dog died and another sustained a facial bite in the attack Wednesday evening, and that there were many wolf tracks in the area.

The newspaper reported that Idaho Fish and Game officials told residents in the area that it is legal to shoot the wolf pack. Idaho Fish and Game official Josh Stanley didn’t return a call for comment.

IN SPOKANE COUNTY, unconfirmed wolf sightings have been coming in to Fish and Wildlife officials — and to me — for more than a year.  I've heard of several reports in the Tower Mountain to Turnbull region in the past four months.

Report possible wolf sightings in Washington to the Fish and Wildlife Department wildlife reporting line: (877) 933-9847.

Online reporting is possible on this WDFW  Dangerous Wildlife Incident web page, where you also can see where wolf, cougar and grizzly bear encounters have been reported.

More wolf news from the AP:

Colville tribe to manage wolves on reservation

NESPELEM — Officials with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation are making plans to manage a growing population of wolves in northeast Washington.

Remote cameras have photographed at least three wolves, and officials think as many as nine may be living on the reservation.

Tribal wildlife manager Randy Friedlander says the reports of wolf tracks, wolf kills and howling have become more frequent.

Tribal Fish and Wildlife Director Joe Peone told The Wenatchee World the management plan could include removing animals, if the population exceeds more than tribal members want.

Wolves haven’t lived on the reservation for about 80 years. The tribe plans to trap and radio collar wolves this spring to develop the management plan.

Idaho anglers have good choices even during winter

FISHING — Drier- and warmer-than-average weather is providing plenty of good fishing opportunities in Idaho this winter, Idaho Fish and Game officials say.

There’s ice-fishing in many parts of the state, but most rivers and streams are open year round, and the lack of snow makes access easy.

Here are a few regional options to consider:

In the Clearwater Region, steelhead fishing is still going strong. Fish responded to the warmer weather and rain last week and moved out of Lower Granite Reservoir, and the fishing picked up. The higher temperatures have also kept the sturgeon biting, and people have reported catching some nice fish over the past three weeks.

The two best ice-fishing spots usually are Winchester Lake and Spring Valley Reservoir, but the ice conditions are hampered by the warmer weather.

In the Panhandle Region, fishing the big lakes – Priest, Pend Oreille, and Coeur d’Alene – continues to be good. Boat launching is easy, the weather has been mild, and anglers have been doing well on lake trout in Priest, Chinook in Coeur d’Alene and rainbows in Pend Oreille.

Colder weather this week should start forming ice on some of the most popular lakes closer to Coeur d’Alene. Until four inches of ice forms in the CdA area, look to Bonner and Boundary counties for lakes with good ice and fishing for perch, bluegill and trout. These would include Kelso, Hauser, Twin, and Round, Smith, Brush, Bonner, Dawson, Perkins and Robinson Lakes.

Popular ice-fishing lakes that needed a bit more ice for ice-fishing before this cold snap are Cocolalla for perch and Spirit Lake for kokanee.

Click here to find out when and where fish have been stocked.

Cool spring put chill on Glacier Park visitation

NATIONAL PARKS — Glacier National Park's attendance declined 15.7 percent last year after a record number of visitors were logged during the park’s centennial celebration in 2010.

The National Park Service says 1.85 million people entered the park in 2011, compared to 2.2 million the year before.

The park’s peak summer season got off to a slow start because of cold weather from early April through June that delayed snowmelt and the opening of Going-to-the-Sun Road. The road’s July 13 opening at Logan Pass was the latest on record.

The park service says concession lodging in the park was down 22 percent, tent camping was down nearly 6 percent and backcountry overnight stays were down 16 percent. Total overnight stays were down 10.8 percent compared with 2010.

Lawmakers consider Wash. shooting range protection

SHOOTING — A bill to protect shooting ranges from civil liability and noise pollution lawsuits, House Bill 1508, has been introduced in the Washington Legislature by state Representatives Dean Takko (D-19), Tim Probst (D-17), and Kevin Van De Wege (D-24).

“Shooting ranges are critical to competitive and recreational shooters, hunters, law enforcement, and for individuals who just want to practice for self-defense,” an NRA alert reminds us. “Shooting ranges should be both accessible and affordable for everyone. Washington is one of only two states that does not have some form of a range protection law. There are currently several shooting ranges in Washington that are facing legal battles and burdensome regulations, which if not addressed, could result in their closure.”

According to the bill, rules that regulate noise in the “outdoor atmosphere do not apply to a sport shooting range.”

Washington Republicans turning on own in Wildlife commissioner issue

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The continuing controversy over the appointment of Jay Kehne to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission indicates there's no tolerance for straying from the Republican reservation in the northeastern corner of the state.

The Okanogan County Republican Party has asked County Commissioner Andy Lampe to resign because he wrote a recommendation of Omak conservationist Jay Kehne to the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, according to a story in The Okanogan Chronicle.

Here's the  Wenatchee World report on the controversy.

Study: Mount Adams glaciers shrink 50 percent since 1904

CLIMATE CHANGE — In the first comprehensive study of its kind, a Portland State University study has found Mount Adams' 12 glaciers have shrunk by nearly half since 1904 and are receding faster than those of nearby sister volcanoes Mount Hood and Mount Rainier.

Mount Adams, 54 air miles from Yakima, is another sign of gradually warming temperatures that — if continued as expected by researchers — will mean significant problems for the water-dependent Yakima Valley, according to reports by the Oregonian and the Associated Press.

The study lends urgency to an earlier federal report that shows the water content of Cascade Mountain snowpacks could dwindle by as much as 50 percent by the 2070s.

The latest work on glaciers on the 12,276-foot Mount Adams by a Portland State University geology professor and a student team was based on aerial photography, geographic information system mapping, buttressed by historic photos taken by hikers.

The results show Adams' glaciers have melted away 49 percent of their coverage area since 1904.

Over generally the same time period Mount Rainier's glaciers lost 24 percent of coverage area and on Mount Hood the decline has been some 32 percent.

Some scientists suggest Adams gets less moisture because it is just to the east of the Cascades crest.

Fly Fishing Film Tour in Spokane Feb. 8

“Reverb” Trailer from RT on Vimeo.

FISHING — The annual Fly Fishing Film Tour has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 8 at the Bing Crosby Theater in Spokane. 

The show will be returning to the Inland Northwest on April 20 in Sandpoint.

The tour has been a full-house attraction in recent years in Spokane, featuring an evening of edited versions of about eight fishing flicks. More coming as details are released.

Northern hawk owl grabs birding attention

WILDLIFE — Spokane wildlife photographer Tom Munson hunted the West Plains with his camera Monday and used a big lens and stacks of tele-converters to bag a very long distance image of a northern hawk owl. The critter from boreal forests has sent Spokane birders scrambling to add bird — roaming south of its normal range — to their year list.

See a much clearer version on Munson's excellent website (http://www.pbase.com/clinton62/galleries) featuring local bird rarities.
(While you're at it, check out the stunning photo he made of the Ross's gull that made headlines from Okanogan County last month.)
On Wednesday, birder Mike Britton got closer to the hawk owl and made the video above.
The still image of the northern hawk owl was made from a distance of about 350 yards, “so a huge crop and not a very good image,” Munson said. But he got it — a photo of a very shy rare bird for the region.
“I stacked a 2X and 1.4 converters so that made the lens 2184mm,” he said. Don't be surprised if he stalks the bird for a better shot before it heads back north.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Terry Little of Mead filed the following report of his FIVE OWL day west of Spokane, complete with location of the northern hawk owl plus a couple of snowy owls and some other finds that took him into the night:

Race series keeps nordic skiers waxing poetic

WINTER SPORTS – Cross-country skiers can test their performance over the course of the season and take a stab at winning cool prizes by entering the four-race Selkirk Nordic Series at Inland Northwest venues.

The series schedule includes:

Jan. 21: Cougar Gulch Race, 5- or 10-kilometer events, at Schweitzer. Info: (208) 255-3070.
 
Jan. 28: Chewelah Peak Challenge, a 7K freestyle at 49 Degrees North. Info: (509) 935-6649 ext. 638.
 
Feb. 12: Langlauf 10K, a classic-style race at Mount Spokane. Info: (509) 922-6080.

Feb. 18: Group Health Pursuit, a 10K classic race at Mount Spokane. Info: (509) 922-6080.

Although not part of the Selkirk series, the Group Health Pursuit continues on Feb. 19 with a skate race.  The Group Health event is of particular interest since it’s also a qualifier for teen competitors trying to reach the Junior Nationals. Expect to see a lot of good skiers both days. 

Selkirk Nordic Series participants accumulate points toward the final standings. Skiers must ski at least two races to qualify.
 
The top three men and women will receive Mountain Hardware soft-shell jackets and other prizes.
 
The top man and woman will receive a Garmin GPS monitor.
 
The series is sponsored by Fitness Fanatics, Mountain Gear, Group Health, Garmin, Spokane Parks & Recreation Department, EN&T Clinic and the race venues.
 
Other regional nordic ski races include:
 
Jan. 21-22: Methow Valley Pursuit, 15K classic interval start followed by 30K skate pursuit on trails between Winthrop and Mazama.
 
Feb. 26: Selkirk Cross-Country Ski Challenge, 35K, a free self-timed competition starting at 9 a.m. at Selkirk Lodge area of Mount Spokane.
 
March 3: Black Jack Loppet, freestyle and mass start events at Black Jack Ski Area, Rossland, British Columbia.

Morton says governor’s appointee isn’t an East Sider

RECREATION — East Siders don't are having a tough time this week handling appointments to Washington panels.  

Okanogan County commissioners wrote a letter to Gov. Chris Gregoire criticizing the appointment of Jay Kehne to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission because they said he didn't reflect their values, particularly about wolves.

Tuesday, Sen. Bob Morton, R-Kettle Falls, asked the governor to rescind her recent appointment of Seattle resident Ted Willhite to the state Recreation and Conservation Funding Board.

“Mr. Willhite is listed on the board roster as being from Twisp and his appointment fills a spot intended to represent the interests of Eastern Washington,” Morton said. “But this is preposterous! Mr. Willhite owns a second residence near Twisp, but he lives and works in Seattle. This is not fair to our side of the state and it shuns good Eastern Washington candidates for service on this board who would eagerly and honorably promote and protect our interests.”

The mission of the board is to provide leadership and funding to help protect and enhance Washington's natural and recreational resources.

“The board has four Western Washington members and only one from our side of the state, Yakima,” Morton said. “The governor needs to set this right. I await her response.”
  

Holiday season is over; hunting season isn’t

How a hunting family might set up a a reindeer Christmas yard display.

UPDATE: See video of snowy owl being treated at WSU

BIRDS — A video released by WSU Veterinary School today offers insight into a migration spectacle as well as the treatment being offered for a migrant snowy owl injured in November by a collision with a car near Davenport.

Snowy owls are making news as they've showed up in ones and twos all over the northern United States this winter as they migrate in larger than normal numbers from arctic homes to winter hunting grounds.

The beautiful, white birds are a common winter attraction in this region, especially in Lincoln and Stevens counties. But their easiness around civilization can be detrimental when they leave the tundra.

Snowy owls spend most of their lives in treeless habitats, where they’ve evolved to launch their rodent hunts from the ground or low perches such as fence posts.

Many snowy owls migrate thousands of miles over wilderness only to meet doom in a vehicle collision as they cross a road.

Washington Fish and Wildlife police officer Curt Wood picked up an injured snowy owl from the roadside just northeast of Davenport on Nov. 25. (This is the owl in the photo and video with this blog.)

The bird was taken to the Washington State University Veterinary School, where it’s being treated for a fractured wing and dislocated elbow.

“It’s probably not going to be releasable,” said school spokesman Charlie Powell. “It’s a little too warm during summer to keep him comfortable, but snowy owls are very easy to place in zoos, so it will be in good hands.”

A few days later, officer Wood picked up another ailing snowy owl, also near Davenport on the Sunset Highway. He had to make a stop in Wilbur first, so he let the local third-graders get a close look at the migrant before bringing it in to the Ponti Veterinary Hospital.

Wood said the kids were intrigued by the white owl.

Unfortunately, the Ponti clinic staff said they were unable to save the bird.

Landowner secures conservation easements on 3,900 acres in Stevens County

CONSERVATION — Working with the Inland Northwest Land Trust, a landowner has protected 3,900 acres of forest land in Stevens County west of Horseshoe Lake with conservation easements.

The latest of two easements assures 2,540 acres will remain a working forest with wildlife habitat on land owned by Beryl Baker.

In 2009, Baker protected 1,363 acres of the timberland that's been in his family for nearly 50 years.

The land includes 68-acre Baker Lake fed by Beaver Creek and other seasonal tributaries in the Little Spokane Watershed.

The land provides wetland habitat and year-round habitat for deer, elk, moose, bear, cougar and other animals. It's the biggest land package to be preserved by the Spokane-based Inland Northwest Land Trust, which is responsible for managing the easement in perpetuity.

Timber will continue to be harvested in a sustainable fashion under the easement, the INLT says.

Baker, who grew up on a Kahlotus-area wheat farm, purchased the property in 1966 after seeing an ad in the Wall Street Journal. “I needed a change from banking in Seattle,” he said.

“I feel fortunate finding a way to protect the property that has been in my family almost 50 years from division and commercial development. The property can only be used for timber production and wildlife habitat. This will provide the animals with a permanent home.”

“Rural areas are some of the last wild places left untamed in Eastern Washington and landowner Beryl Baker will make sure they stay that way forever,” says Chris DeForest, INLT Executive Director.

Bill would make Discover Pass valid for two vehicles

PUBLIC LANDS — The Washington State Senate Energy, Natural Resources and Marine Waters Committee Monday (Jan. 9) voted unanimously to refer a bill to the Ways and Means Committee that would make the Discover Pass transferable between two vehicles.

The Discover Pass was established by the 2011 Legislature as a vehicle access requirement for state parks and most other state lands in an effort to raise funding for state park management.

Under the proposed legislation, the cost would remain the same, but the pass would be transferable between two vehicles at the same address.

The Discover Pass is required on vehicles to access state parks, heritage sites, wildlife and natural areas, and any recreation lands or water-access sites managed by Washington State Parks, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Under current law, the Discover Pass costs $30 annually and $10 for a daily pass per vehicle.

The current fine for not displaying a Discover Pass on a vehicle while on state recreation land or a water-access site is $99.

Read on for more details from reporter Maida Suljevic of the Washington Newspaper Publishers News Bureau in Olympia.

State considers NRA license plate to boost hunter ed

HUNTER EDUCATION — Washington drivers could license their cars with a National Rifle Association logo if the Washington House of Representatives passes a bill that would create an NRA special license plate.

The Seattle Times reports  some of the money from the sale of the plates would help fund a hunter safety program.

The Department of Licensing currently offers 47 different special license plates for various causes such as endangered species, although the Licensing agency keeps most of the money. 

While some of the plates are sponsored by state agencies, many are coordinated by groups, such as those for veterans and bicycling advocacy.

Tough volunteers set bait for wolverines in North Idaho

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — More than 40 volunteers showed up for a training course on Dec. 3 to learn how to use their expertise in backcountry snowshoeing or ski touring to help researchers study wolverines.

It's already paid off.  Read on for the big news from last week.

Idaho Fish and Game wildlife biologists taught them how to rig up bait and install wire gun-cleaning brushes in the bait tree to snag hair for DNA testing as the critters climb up for the free meal. They also learned about trail cams and traveling safely through avalanche terrain.

Now they're out doing it in the wilds of the Cabinet mountains northeast of Lake Pend Oreille, as you see by the photos. The going's tough, but that's why many of them signed up. There's nothing better that having a purpose for going into the winter backcountry.

The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness is providing the backbone of the financial support and the base of volunteers that came to the classes before heading into the field. 

Oh, yeah. The big news:

After checking their first round of rare forest carnivore monitoring stations last week, Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologists discovered a wolverine had been caught on camera in the Selkirk Mountains of North Idaho.  The biologists have confirmed the wolverine visited the station twice.  The story is to be continued… but click “continue reading” below to see one more photo of what volunteers are going through to support this research.

Video: Shooting mishaps compiled

SHOOTING — Someone has gone to the effort of compiling video clips of shooting mishaps, including a lot of people getting thumped by high-powered guns.

Some incidents are humorous, some sad, some downright scary for the lack of thought and muzzle control.

It includes the the well publicized indicent of a firearms instructor discharging a handgun in class and several richochet near misses.

The clips also indicate that a lot of women are the butt of firearms shooting jokes, and they have the bruises and black eyes to prove it.

WA state parks free visit days start this weekend

PARKS — The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday three-day weekend, Jan. 14-16, will be the first of 10 Washington State Parks “free access days” in 2012. 

The Discover Pass will not be required for vehicles at state parks.

Most of State Parks free days are in alignment with free days offered by the National Park Service.

The “free days” are in keeping with legislation that created the Discover Pass, a $30 annual or $10 one-day permit required on state-managed recreation lands managed by Washington State Parks, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Natural Resources.

The Discover Pass legislation provided that State Parks could designate up to 12 “free days” when the pass would not be required to visit state parks. The free days only apply at state parks. A Discover Pass will still be required to access DFW and DNR lands.

In addition, Sno-Park permits will continue to be required on vehicles at designated lots such as the three at Mount Spokane plowed during winter by the Sno-Park Program. 

Following are the 2012 Washington State Parks “free days:”

  • Jan. 14-16 – Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.
  • March 18-19 – Washington State Parks’ 99th birthday (March 19).
  • June 9 – National Get Outdoors Day.
  • Sept. 29 – National Public Lands Day.
  • Nov. 10-12 – Veterans Day weekend.

A peek at animals that turn white in winter

WILDLIFE — Critters have many adaptations for handling the rigors of winter. 

Some hibernate, some constantly look for food. Some develop thick winter coats to stave off the cold while some others change color to be better predators or less vulnerable prey.

Creatures that change colors include two hares – the snowshoe hare and the white-tailed jackrabbit – and three members of the weasel family —  the least weasel, as well as the long-tailed and short-tailed weasels.

Montana and Washingtton also have the white-tailed ptarmigan, a bird that turns pure white in winter.

Bruce Auchley of Montana, Fish Wildlife and Parks has more details on the weasels and hairs.  Read on…           

Snakepit closes as owners battle illness

OUTDOOR RECREATION — This is sad news for Coeur d'Alene River anglers, floaters and users of the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes.

Future of historic Enaville Resort (Snakepit) uncertain as owners battle cancer — story by D.F. Oliveria/Huckleberries.

Colville travel plan appealed by 3 regional conservation groups

PUBLIC LANDS — Getting no satisfaction from a letter of concern to the forest supervisor, three Washington-based conservation groups have appealed a Colville National Forest travel plan designating where ATVs, motorcycles and other off-highway vehicles can go at the south end of the 1.1 million acre forest.

The Lands Council, the Kettle Range Conservation Group and Conservation Northwest filed the appeal last week, charging among other things that the plan rewards lawbreaking OHV riders by legitimizing trails that were illegally made.

The groups sent a letter to Supervisor Laura Jo West on Dec. 22 expressing several concerns about the South End Project.

The supervisor replied that her decision would stand as is.

Kids cash in on S-R’s Outdoor Writing Contest

OUTDOORS — Kyle Hansen, a sophomore at West Valley High School, received his first check for writing outdoor prose on Saturday. You can see he wasn't disappointed in this photo from his parents. 

Hansen won the top award in The Spokesman-Review's 2011 Outdoor Writing Contest for high school students. Three other students won runner-up cash awards.

Get details and see the work of all four of the finalists here. The stories were published in The Spokesman-Review on Dec. 25.

 All of the finalist entries will be forwarded to a national youth outdoor writing contest for published work.

The annual contest is in its 25th year.

Audubon presents documentary on ivory-billed woodpecker

BIRDING — Ghost Bird, a documentary about the search for the ivory-billed woodpecker — thought to be extinct until researchers scored some earth-shaking video — will be presented Wednesday, 7 p.m., at the Spokane Audubon Society general meeting program.

See Ghost Bird trailer here.

These monthly meetings and free programs open to the public are at the Riverview Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave.

See detailed directions.

If you're interested in local birding, you should check out the SAS website. Members have just posted a delicious assortment of winter-spring field trips in the surrounding area.

Volunteers kill 462 elk in Theodore Roosevelt Park this fall

WILDLIFE — With no large predators, the elk roaming Theodore Roosevelt National Park have been too much of a good thing in North Dakota.

Volunteers help park managers by stepping up to kill 462 elk in the park this fall during  the second year of the effort to drastically reduce the elk population.  Last year they killed 406 elk in the park.

According to a story by Brett French of the Billings Gazette, the goal is to have a herd of 100 to 400 animals to lessen competition for forage among elk and other wildlife in the park, like deer, bison and feral horses.

What's in it for the volunteers?  Satisfaction of hunting in paradise and a lot of hard work backpacking out the game in a park that forbids off-road travel. 

Although the volunteers get a portion of the meat for their work, most of the meat is donated to area Food Banks, which are enjoying the windfall:  The Park Service has donated about 20,000 pounds of meat to the needy plus 25,000 pounds to area Native American tribes.

Volunteers will be able to apply this summer for the fall 2012 work on the park’s website.

Ferry County Rail Trail skiers make do

WINTER SPORTS — The mountains are in need of new snow for skiers an the hopes of river runners.

But at the valley level north of Republic, Wash., there's boundless optimism for the Ferry County Rail Trail Partners Ski Day on Saturday, Jan. 14, at the old rail car loading area at the north end of Curlew. In the event of inadequate snow they plan on leading a walk along the Kettle River to the old railroad tunnel.

But for now, they're waxing poetic.  

Here's the Curlew Trailhead snow report from noon today, Jan. 8th:

2 inches of new and someone already skied it today!

Fingers crossed for 2 more inches over next 48 hours…

National Weather Service Forecast - Okanogan Highlands

REST OF TODAY
MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A 20 PERCENT CHANCE OF SNOW. HIGHS IN THE LOWER TO MID 30S.

TONIGHT
MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A 20 PERCENT CHANCE OF SNOW. LOWS IN THE 20S.

MONDAY
CLOUDY. A CHANCE OF SNOW IN THE MORNING…THEN A CHANCE OF RAIN OR SNOW IN THE AFTERNOON. HIGHS IN THE MID TO UPPER 30S. CHANCE OF PRECIPITATION 30 PERCENT!!

MONDAY NIGHT
MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A 20 PERCENT CHANCE OF SNOW. LOWS IN THE 20S.

Asian duck drawing crowds in California

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A duck normally only seen in Asia has somehow turned up in California, drawing excited bird watchers from all over the U.S. and Canada to a wildlife refuge in the state’s Central Valley, the Associated Press reports.

Wildlife officials say a male falcated duck, a bird common in China, was first spotted at the refuge on Dec. 8.

Since then, thousands of birders have observed it paddling among mallards, pintails and geese, said Lora Haller, who works at the Colusa Wildlife Refuge’s visitor center.

Most falcated ducks breed and live in China, and smaller populations live in Japan, North Korea and South Korea. The ducks can also sometimes be found in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, Haller said.

The celebrity bird has a silvery plumage with iridescent green and bronze on its head. “Falcated” or “curved and tapering to a point” refers to the male duck’s long wing feathers near the body that overhang onto the tail.

A ducky day for a Lab

HUNTING — I had the privilege to hunt the Lower Coeur d'Alene River area with a yellow Lab named Gunner this weekend. It was a good day.

Lookout Pass Free Ski School underway today

WINTER SPORTS — The Lookout Pass Free Ski School started its 72nd year this morning to a swarm of enthusiasm. More than 500 kids age 6-17 had been registered in the program last week.

The resort's professional instructors are being joined by Ski School volunteers to ensure that each kid gets started on the road to skiing and snowboarding with a quality lessons.

Classes just started at 10 a.m. and the resort's learning terrain is swarming with little ones.

Expect too see lots of little ones on the slopes on Saturday morning for the next several weeks.

And, of course, many of them will continue skiing or snowboarding when they're not-so-little ones.

Wear boots for Best-Hand ski and snowshoe fundraiser

WINTER SPORTS — The Panhandle Nordic Club's annual Best Hand Ski and Snowshoe fund-raising event will go as scheduled on Saturday regardless of the snow conditions at Fourth of July Pass.

Current conditions are NOT for skis or snowshoes, the club reports.  Expect ice and maybe some mud.

CLEATS ARE ADVISED.  Unless a miracle provides some snow.

But the cause is good. The club maintains the facilities and coordinates the grooming for the trails at the pass.

VIDEO: Aerial action at Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park

WINTER SPORTS — A flip-photography contest prompted local slope shredder Blake Sommers to create this nifty glimpse of folks giving a workout to the Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park.  Check it out.

What’s on the horizon for salmon fishing in 2012?

Seattle Times outdoor writer Mark Yuasa takes his best shot at answering that question from the early forecasts for the Washington Coast and Columbia River. Read his story here.

What’s on the horizon for the outdoors in 2012?

Tacoma News-Tribune outdoor writers take a shot a answering that question from a Western Washington perspective.  Read their story here.

National Parks offer free three-day weekend

PUBLIC LANDS — National parks will be waiving entrance fees to celebrate Martin Luther King holiday weekend, Jan.14-16.

The Park Service is waiving fees for a total of 17 days in 2012. The Martin Luther King weekend fee waiver is the first scheduled for the year.

Offering  free admission to national parks and other federal lands has been offered the past three years as a cost-friendly family vacation option in the economic slump.

Corgi found 4 days after swept away by deadly avalanche

WINTER SPORTS — A family consumed by grief after a husband and father was killed by an avalanche in Montana last week got something to pick up their spirits:

Their dog, buried in the avalanche, surfaced and was found alive four days later.

Read on for the remarkable story from Brett French of the Billings Gazette.

Winterfest packs two-days of events, activities at 49 Degrees North

WINTER SPORTS — No place in the Inland Northwest will have more cross-country skiing and snowshoeing activities this weeked than the annual Winterfest at 49 Degrees North.

The events are in the downhill ski area as well as on the nordic ski trail system.

From the endurance test of the hill climb and ski down, telemark lessons and gear demos to the night-time nordic ski tours and snowshoe walks and even a paintball biathlon race, this is one  ambitious ageda, sponsored by the resort and Mountain Gear.

Note FREE nordic trail ski passes on Saturday and $5 passes on Sunday.

Read on for the entire list of events:

Clearwater Forest plan would limit motorized use of trails

PUBLIC LANDS — About 200 miles of trails and more than 1 million acres of the Clearwater National Forest will close to motorized users under a new travel management plan released Wednesday.

See all the official forest documents on the travel plan here.

Meanwhile, the Idaho Panhandle National Forests also is revisiting its forest management plan. See today's S-R story.

Read on for the report on the Clearwater forest plan proposal from the Lewiston Tribune.

Oregon loner wolf making tracks in California

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The young male wolf that has been traipsing about Oregon has made its way into Northern California, the first wolf to do so since 1924.

Details in this Los Angeles Times report,  Oregon wolf makes its way to N. California.

Conserving lowland private forests critical for wildlife

CONSERVATION — I hear grumbling about state and federal agencies being proactive by buying or blocking up lowland wild areas. But listen up.

Far-sighted groups such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, Inland Northwest Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy are joining the cause and teaming with agencies to save some of these precious wildlife and winter range lands from future development.

 As private timber companies liquidate their forests and look for the higher profit of subdividing and developing their lands, consider this quote in today's front page S-R story on the forest planning process being kicked off in North Idaho.

“You look at real estate ads these days. They say, 'Adjacent to national forest lands.' That's a selling point for people.”

Mary Farnsworth, supervisor of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, where nearly 40 percent of its 2.5 million acres are now classified as “wildland-urban interface.”
- Spokane Spokesman-Review

See how private groups are helping the Forest Service and state wildlife agencies preserve critical wildlife areas in the east slope of the Cascades as well as north of Lake Pend Oreille.

Emphasis shifting in seasons for Master Hunters

HUNTING — A Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife plan to turn a prized December elk hunt for Master Hunters into a permit hunt is ruffling the feathers of sportsmen who had a lock on the land used by elk coming off Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

The plan is to use Master Hunters as on-call helpers to target elk causing damage to crops while developing a Landowner Hunting Permit Program to give more hunters access to the elk herd that must be kept from getting too large.

The Columbia Plateau Wildlife Management Association, which is being enlisted to help organize the landowners into this program, already has about six landowners and nearly 6,000 acres enrolled.

The agency, which is charged with protecting wildlife while providing the public with reasonable access to wildlife resources, already has changed a Master Hunter elk hunt in Western Washington that had become a trophy bull fest.

“Basically, we’re refocusing the program to have Master Hunters help the agency with damage problems rather than providing them with special hunts,” said Kevin Robinette, WDFW regional wildlife manager in Spokane.

It's not a done deal.  The proposals have to be approved in Olympia and then by the Fish and Wildlife Commission in March

GET MORE DETAILS in today's Outdoors column.

Then stay tuned.

Lift ticket prices go retro for Jackass Day at Silver Mountain

WINTER SPORTS — Lift ticket prices on Friday at Silver Mountain Resort will be the same as they were in the beginning.

In 1968, the original Jackass Ski Bowl on Wardner Peak opened to the public with a single Riblet chair lift at the end of an adventurous drive to the Tamarack Lodge.

The name was changed in 1972 to Silverhorn and then in 1990, with the addition of new lifts and the famous gondola ride up the mountain, the name was changed again to Silver Mountain Resort.

The resort is offering retro prices Friday (Jan. 6):  $11 plus tax for a day of skiing, snowboarding followed by a party.

On Saturday, the Skier/BoarderX is scheduled.

Glacier National Park goes postal: featured on stamp

NATIONAL PARKS — The U.S. Postal Service is featuring an image of Logan Pass in Glacier National Park on an international rate postage stamp to be issued starting Jan. 19.

The stamp was designed by art director Ethel Kessler, based on an image taken by National Geographic photographer Michael Melford.

The image shows Logan Pass, the highest point along the park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road. Melting snowbanks reveal a meadow against a backdrop of Glacier peaks.

The 85-cent stamp is part of the Postal Service’s “Scenic American Landscapes” series.

Rep. Hastings targets Endangered Species Act

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Rep. Dod Hastings, R-WA, says he's ready to rewrite the Endangered Species Act, according to this McClatchy report.

Another sportsmen’s group offers wolf-culling incentive

PREDATORS — A third sportsmen's organization has stepped up with incentives that encourage hunters to bag a wolf to help give relief to struggling elk herds before Montana's wolf hunting season ends in February, according to a story in the Ravalli Republic.

So far, the incentives have not made much of a difference.

Safari Club International's Western Montana Chapter announced recently it will raffle off the taxidermy of a wolf pelt to successful wolf hunters this year. The prize is worth an estimated $750.

That organization is the third that has offered a prize or a check to hunters bagging a wolf this season. The others are:

  • The Ravalli County Fish and Wildlife Association started the incentives by starting a raffle for a rifle to wolf hunters successful in the southern reaches of the Bitterroot.
  • The Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife followed with a photo contest that offered successful wolf hunters $100 and an annual membership for photographs of dead wolves.

All of the groups say the incentives are necessary to encourage hunters to take to the field and learn new techniques needed to bag a wolf.



Read more: http://www.ravallirepublic.com/news/local/article_a27bd780-35b7-11e1-8834-0019bb2963f4.html#ixzz1iQajaWmR

Bats, wolves prominent in Wildlife Society’s top 2011 stories list

WILDLIFE — Gov. Butch Otter cried wolf by declaring the predators a “disaster emergency” in Idaho last year, according to The Wildlife Society, the international organization of wildlife professionals.

The group's newsletter editors ranked that story No. 1 in their list of Top 10 Wildlife News Stories for 2011.

Other top stories include white-nose syndrome in bats plus stories on wolves, pronghorns and my column in The Spokesman-Review about a Wenatchee-area trail-cam that caught eight cougars in one photo. (Unfortunately, the Wildlife Society linked to a watered-down rewrite by somebody else.)

Read on to see the group's top wildlife stories.

Survey confirms 27 wolves, including three breeding pairs, in Washington

WILDLIFE — The annual year-end survey of the Washington’s five confirmed wolf packs has documented three successful breeding pairs and a total of at least 27 wolves, the state Fish and Wildlife Department says in a media release posted today.

Click here for details on the packs and summaries of the 2011 survey.

The tally, conducted through field work and aerial monitoring, found two of the successful breeding pairs in the Eastern Washington wolf-recovery region and one in the North Cascades recovery region. A successful wolf breeding pair is defined as an adult male and female with at least two pups that survive until the end of the calendar year.

Evidence of unconfirmed packs was noted in the Blue Mountains of southeastern Washington and at Hozomeen in the North Cascades, as well as transient single wolves, according to Rocky Beach, WDFW’s wildlife diversity program manager.

“We will continue to follow up on all reports of possible wolf sightings,” Beach said. “We will be working again this spring and summer to confirm new packs and pups and to capture and fit additional wolves with radio

Under the recently adopted Washington wolf conservation and management plan, wolves will be removed from the state’s endangered species list once 15 successful breeding pairs are documented for three consecutive years among three wolf-recovery regions (four pairs in Eastern Washington, four pairs in North Cascades, four pairs in South Cascades/Northwest Coast, and three pairs in any recovery region).

The gray wolf (Canis lupus) currently is protected by the state as an endangered species throughout Washington and is federally listed as endangered in the western two-thirds of the state.

Read on for more details from the December wolf survey:

Snow-starved Bogus Basin eliminates jobs, cuts pay

WINTER SPORTS — All of the region's ski resorts would like to have more snow. But at least the ones in the Inland Northwest have coverage.  

At southern Idaho's Bogus Basin, the situation is grim, as you see in this report that just moved on the AP wire.

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The stingy snow gods are forcing a ski resort above Idaho’s capital to dramatically reduce costs.

Bogus Basin Mountain Resort is eliminating positions, cutting year-round workers’ pay and scaling back capital projects after its lifts remained idle during the holidays, traditionally one of its most-lucrative revenue periods.

Its general manager and chief financial officer plan to work without pay for an extended period, while other positions were eliminated.

There’s almost no chance the resort will open by Friday. If it doesn’t, that would make this the latest opening in the 69-year-old resort’s history.

The latest previous opening was Jan. 6, way back in 1989.

Bogus Basin makes much of its money through annual season pass sales, but it still relies on day-pass customers for a significant share of its revenue.

Ice fishing still possible, but be careful out there

FISHING — Ice fishing is still good in areas of the Idaho Panhandle, “but you have to be a bit more careful to keep from going swimming, especially around the shoreline,” said Jim Hayden of Idaho Fish and Game. The warming trend has made ice less safe in many areas. 

” Watch you don’t sneak out onto the ice, and not be able to sneak back off when it warms up later in the day,” Hayden warned.

By the way, Idaho requires sportsmen to buy 2012 fishing and hunting licenses starting Jan. 1.

  • In Washington, current licenses are valid through April 31. 

El Ninia gives region a dry shoulder so far

We thought that first big snowstorm just before Thanksgiving was the beginning of the predicted big snow accumulation associated with an El Ninia year. 

However, to date, Idaho has accumulated only 73 percent of normal snowpack.

Check out this SnoTel chart to see where the snow is — and isn't.

Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game Department Panhandle Region wildlife manager, says he needs a lot more snow in a hurry in order to do his winter aerial elk surveys.

Normal snowpack is needed to concentrate the elk on wintering areas and make them stand out for the count.

Groups take sides on relaxing rules on motorized access to roadless areas

CONSERVATION — Opinions among wildlife conservationists regarding legislation that could allow more motor vehicle use in federal roadless areas. 

Which side do you take?

Hunting, fishing groups join environmentalists to fight federal legislation
Members of Trout Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development are joining the National Wildlife Federation and other similar organizations to oppose House Resolution 1581, the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011, while Safari International and the National Rifle Association support the legislation.
—Durango Herald (Colorado News Connection); Dec. 31

Echo Ridge nordic ski area opens above Lake Chelan

WINTER SPORTS — The recent snow fall was just what the Chelan Ranger District needed to officially open the Echo Ridge Ski Area for cross country skiing and snow shoeing.

All but one of the area's trails are packed and tracked, giving skiers and snowshoers access to 25 miles of routes, some of which offer a high overlook of Lake Chelan.

Day passes cost $10 per adult and dcan be purchased at the trailhead. There's no charge for skiers or snowshoers age 17 and under.

Season passes are $70 at the Chelan Ranger District office in Chelan, (509) 682-4900.

See access info and grooming updates here.

Wolf collared in Washington trapped, killed in Idaho

WILDLIFE — Many of the wolves in northeastern Washington moved in naturally from Idaho.  But the Gem State is a dangerous place for the wolves to return.

A radio-collared wolf from the Diamond Pack in east-central Pend Oreille County was killed Dec. 20 by a trapper in North Idaho a few hundred yards east of the stateline.

Trappers have reported taking at least six wolves in the Idaho Panhandle during the state's first trapping season, which started Nov. 15 and runs through March 15.  Hunters have reported taking 28 wolves so far this season in the Panhandle, counting the one checked in at Coeur d'Alene on Tuesday.

Statewide, hunters have tagged at least 173 wolves in Idaho so far this season and trappers have reported taking 24.

The wolf trapped Dec. 20 was one of four Washington wolves wearing radio collars to track the movements of the Diamond Pack, which wanders along the stateline, as well as the Salmo Pack that roams the boundary with Canada.

“We will get the radio collar back,” said Madonna Luers, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Spokeswoman in Spokane in an interview with Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman Magazine.

Meantime, here's the latest Idaho Panhandle wolf report posted Tuesday evening by Jim Hayden, Fish and Game regional wildlife manager.

Wolf Harvest

Checked another wolf today, so we’re at 28 wolves taken in the Panhandle via hunting, and 6 via trapping.  By this date two years ago, we had taken just 13 wolves.  (In fact, the 14thwolf didn’t come until Feb. 2.)  We ended up with 24 legal wolf kills two years ago (there were also 4 illegal kills added for a total of 28). 

So, we’re taking more wolves than we did two years ago, even if just hunting is considered.  Will we have more wolves at the end of the season than we did two years ago or less?  There might be plenty of folks willing to say they know.  I’m not one of them.  There are just too many unknowns – did we take more wolves simply because there are more around?  Are hunters more effective than they were two years ago?  Both?  Neither?

Sportsmen help Forest Service acquire land overlooking Lake Pend Oreille

CONSERVATION — On the south face of the Cabinet Mountains overlooking Lake Pend Oreille, 921 acres of elk and moose wintering range have been permanently secured for wildlife habitat and public access in a land-exchange signed Dec. 22.

The swap between Stimson Lumber Co. and the Idaho Panhandle National Forests was made possible in part by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Formerly owned by Stimson Lumber, area has become part of the adjoining Kaniksu National Forest. In exchange, Stimson received a similar amount of U.S. Forest Service acreage in the form of small isolated tracts that are not connected to the main body of the national forest.

All of the lands involved are in Bonner County, Idaho.

Read on for information from the elk foundation:

Idaho Panhandle releases draft forest management plan for comment

NATIONAL FORESTS — Ten years in the making, a draft forest plan and environmental impact statement were released today by the Idaho Panhandle National Forests for 90 days of public comment.

Forest officials say the proposed plan covering a wide range of issues from fire management to roadless areas was shaped by science, collaboration, laws and input gathered at 30 public meeting and more than 140 public community-based work groups.

Open house meetings to review the plan and learn how to submit comments are scheduled 5 p.m.-7 p.m. as follows:

  • Coeur d’Alene, Jan. 10, Fernan Office
  • St. Maries, Jan. 11, St. Maries Ranger District Office
  • Smelterville, Jan. 12, Silver Valley Office
  • Bonners Ferry, Jan. 17, Bonners Ferry Ranger District Office
  • Priest Lake, Jan. 19, Priest Lake Ranger District Office
  • Sandpoint, Jan. 23, Sandpoint Ranger District Office

The draft plan attempts to  address multiple-use demands on the St. Joe, Coeur d'Alene and Kaniksu national forests.

According to Panhandle forests officials, it sets the foundation to address the ecological and social needs of forest stakeholders, while protecting water and restoring forests that began a century ago with the Weeks Act.

The Draft Plan helps address supplying clean water, restoring and maintaining ecosystems, improving the resistance and resiliency of the forest vegetation to undesirable disturbances and potential climate change effects, providing financially and ecologically sustainable access to the forest, offering a diversity of recreation opportunities including remote settings and utilizing best available science.

The draft plan documents are available online. For more info, call (208) 765-7417 or email r1_kipz_revision@fs.fed.us.

Applications start today for floating Montana’s Smith River

RIVER RUNNING — Applications for permits to float Montana's popular Smith River this spring and summer are available starting today.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will accept applications for permits to float the Smith River State Park and River Corridor through Feb. 15, and Smith River Super Permit lottery chances will also be available starting today, with chances sold through March 15.

Here's a more detailed story on the applications from The Billings Gazette.

Here's a link on floating the Smith River from the Montana FWP website.

Here are photos and the story I wrote after floating and fishing the river — an experience that should be on every floater-flyfisher's bucket list.
  

Rufus Woods triploids taking the bait

FISHING — Bait fishing for triploid rainbow trout has been hot at Lake Rufus Woods, especially  near the lower net pens, says Anton Jones of Darrell and Dad's Family Guide Service.

New flavors of Pautzke baits work, he said.

“Mallow Balls O’ Fire, American Wildfire, Atomic Garlic and Garlic Wildfire all got woofed when the bite was on,” he said, noting that they continued to get fish when the faster bite had turned off. 

“Refine your old slip sinker bait fishing techniques for better success at Rufus,” he said.

  • “First, lengthen your leaders.  Instead of 2 to 3 feet, your leaders should be 4 to 6 feet. 
  • “Second, vary your weight as the current changes.  To be consistent you have to be able to feel the bottom.  You can be going 70 to over 90 feet deep to get at these pellet-eating fish. 
  • “Third, use a big chunk of bait.  We usually are putting a gob of bait big enough to hide a #4 hook.  
  • “Finally, don’t just let it sit there.  If you don’t get bit, move the bait.  Recast often.”

2011 visuals: Grizzlies, cougars, sage grouse and other critters of note

WILDLIFE — While some photographs snapped in the region marked wildlfie milestones in 2011, some were simply one of a kind. 

Click “Continue reading” at the bottom of this post to see a sampling of photos to get a sense for what I mean.  Click on photos for captions.

Meantime…

A helicopter's speedy pursuit and net capture of pronghorns in Nevada for transport and REINTRODUCTION IN WASHINGTON was captured on amateur video last winter and posted on YouTube.  If you think helicopter net gunning is child's play, you need to watch this. 

See video above and then click here for one video showing the intensity of the helicoptering skills required. Listen for the two shots as the gutsy gunner — tethered by a cable out the door of the rocking ship — fires nets down on the speeing pronghorns.  The video above shows the netting done closer to the camera in the final frames.

Un January 2011, I ran a package of stories detailing the reintroduction of these unique critters to Washington.

The footage was shot by volunteers in Nevada during  the roundup of 100 pronghorns destined for the Jan. 15-16 re-introduction on the Yakama Indian Reservation in central Washington.

After the animals were netted, the volunteers raced out to untangle them and secure them so they wouldn't injure themselves before transport. The project was funded by Safari Club International.

2011 visuals: How 60 Minutes filmed Honnold’s free-solo in Yosemite

CLIMBING — The extraordinary skill of big-wall rock climber Alex Honnold, 26, was put to the mainstream in 2011 by a CBS filming crew willing to go out of their comfort zone. 

Honnold, 26, said he is at peace thousands of feet off the ground, but how do you find cameramen who feel the same way for a a “60 Minutes” assignment to film Alex's ascent of Sentinel in Yosemite National Park?

CBS assembled a dream team of photographers and riggers, who spent two days assembling an elaborate system of ropes and pulleys so they could film the climb with 12 cameras from the valley floor to the summit.

The video above talks about the filming of the feature on this young climbing phenom.

Watch Lara Logan's full “60 Minutes” report on Alex Honnold here.

Commission to consider fishing proposals

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The last round of public comment on proposed 2012 fishing rules will be taken at the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting Jan. 6-7 in Olympia.

The commission also will consider increasing the number of multiple-season hunting permits available

Multiple-season hunting permits allow selected hunters to hunt for deer or elk during all general hunting seasons, rather than having to choose among archery, muzzleloader or modern firearm seasons. Hunting data show that the wider range of options increases hunters’ chance of success in the field.

WDFW has proposed increasing the number multiple-season hunting permits available each year to 8,500 deer permits and 1,250 elk permits. In 2011, WDFW conducted a drawing for 4,000 deer permits and 850 elk permits from among the hunters who paid an application fee. 

State wildlife managers say increasing those permit levels will not pose a risk to Washington wildlife, adding that fees generated by applicants for a higher number of permits would be used to expand efforts to prevent property damage caused by wildlife.

See the Fish and Wildlife's complete meeting agenda.

See all the details and proposals on the WDFW 2012 fishing proposals web page.

Here are details of the specific proposal to allow bait fishing on the Kettle River: 

Skywatching: Meteor showers peak tonight

SKYWATCHING — The peak of the Quadrantid meteor shower peaks tonight around 11 a.m. or midnight into early Wednesday, with an estimated 40 to 100 meteors per hour.

The best viewing may come a few hours later when the moon sets, according to a story in the Denver Post. Sporadic meteors may be seen a few days after the peak.

Meteor showers, which occur when Earth passes through debris shed by comets and asteroids, are usually named for the constellation from which they appear to radiate.

Rising above it all to be in chukar country

BIRD HUNTING — The fog was packed into the Snake River valley today. Steelheaders were scattered up and down the river. 

But Scout, my English setter, led up up above it all and nearly to the rim to find this first covey of chukars.

A great day in the field, and we're both bushed.

Must be time to go back to work after a great holiday.

Methow Valley ski trails welcome holiday skiers

NORDIC SKIING — Time to brag: My visits to trout streams have ended weeks of good fishing; showing up at a campsites brought in hail storms. 

But my Friday effort to ski with family 6 miles into the wood-heated Rendezvous Hut for a three-day overnight up in the Methow Valley lured in a near white-out snowfall. In less than two hours as we skied,  the high country was smothered in 5 inches of beautiful new snow for our visit.

Yes!

STEELHEAD anglers were hitting most of the hot spots on the Methow River while I was diving back to Spokane on  Sunday.

National Parks, other federal lands list 2013 dates for free admission

PUBLIC LANDS — The Interior Department has announced dates in 2013, ranging from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day to Veterans Day, when more than 2,000 national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges and other federal lands will offer free admission. 

The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Tourism and outdoor recreation also are economic engines in communities across the country, the agency noted in a release. Recreation on federal lands in 2009 provided 440,000 jobs and contributed $55 billion to the economy.

Some groups don't have to wait for a holiday to get special rates for visiting federal public lands.

  • Active-duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass that provides entrance to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service.
  • The America the Beautiful Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and older and a $80 annual pass for the general public.

But the fee-free days will give both first time and repeat visitors a good reason to spend time in these extraordinary places, Interior officials said.

2013 fee free days

Here is a breakdown of the days and which agencies are offering free admission:

Jan. 21: Martin Luther King Jr. Day - The National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will waive their entrance fees and the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Reclamation will waive their standard amenity fees.

April 22-26: National Park Week - National Park Service.

June 8: Get Outdoors Day - U.S. Forest Service

Aug. 25: 97th birthday of the National Park Service.

Oct. 13: National Wildlife Refuge Day - U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Sept. 18: National Public Lands Day - National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.

Nov. 9-11: Veterans Day weekend - National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Reclamation.

Idaho Park N’Ski areas offer free access Jan. 7

WINTER SPORTS – Idaho Park N’ Ski areas —  such as Farragut State Park, Priest Lake State Park and Fourth of July Pass — will offer free access to groomed trails for nordic skiing and snowshoeing on Saturday (Jan. 7).

Free Ski-Snowshoe Day is promoted by Idaho State Parks and Recreation Department at 18 designated Park N’ Ski areas and snow-belt state parks.   

Some areas will have special events that offer free ski/snowshoe clinics, equipment rentals and/or refreshments.

Read on for a list of scheduled events:

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News, field reports and insights on the Great Outdoors.

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

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

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