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Outdoors blog

Archive for July 2013

Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishing opens Aug. 3

FISHING — A sockeye fishery for Lake Wenatchee has just been announced, and it will open Saturday (Aug. 3).

Washington Fish and Wildlife officials say enough fish are moving into the Chelan County lake to allow a season with a limit of two sockeye, 12 inches in length or greater.

More than 27,000 fish have made passage at Tumwater Dam on the Wenatchee River. About 30,000 total sockeye are projected with 7,000 estimated to be available for harvest above the natural spawning escapement goal of 23,000 fish. 

The fishery could be closed on short notice depending on how the run develops and the success of anglers.

Other information: 

  • Selective gear rules (up to three single barbless hooks per line, no bait or scent allowed, knotless nets required) in effect.
  • A night closure will be in effect. 
  • All sockeye with a floy (anchor) tag attached and/or one or more round ¼ inch in diameter holes punched in the caudal (tail) fin must be released.  These fish are essential to ongoing studies being conducted by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
  • Bull trout, steelhead, and Chinook salmon must be released unharmed without removing the fish from the water. 
  • Two-pole endorsement is not valid for this fishery.  
  • Anglers must have a current Washington fishing license as well as a Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement (CRSSE). Revenue from the CRSSE supports salmon or steelhead seasons on many rivers in the Columbia River system, including enforcing fishery regulations and monitoring the upper Columbia River steelhead fisheries. The endorsement has generated more than $1 million annually for WDFW to maintain and increase fishing opportunities throughout the Columbia River basin.

NOTE:   The Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishery may be closed on short notice depending on participation and catch rates.  Anglers are advised to check the fishing hotline at 360-902-2500 or Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website daily.

Washington State Parks join ban on fires

CAMPING — Fires and charcoal barbecue grills — even in designated campsites — have been temporarily banned in Washington State Parks starting today to coincide with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources ban on outdoor fires announced on Tuesday.

The statewide ban is in effect through Sept. 30 and prohibits campfires in developed campgrounds and other recreational fires, although State Parks leave the option open to allow campfires sooner if weather cooperates.

Campers at state parks will be allowed to use devices that allow for control of combustion, including propane and liquid gas stoves appropriate for camping and backcountry use; propane barbecue devices that do not use solid briquettes; propane or pressurized white gas warming devices that have a shield or base; and solid fuel citronella or other candles in a metal bucket or glass container. 

Bacteria recruited for war on cheatgrass

HABITAT — Keep your fingers crossed, ranchers, farmers and hunters.   Maybe this will work — and yellow starthistle will be next!

WSU researcher puts cheatgrass enemy to test in Idaho
Ann Kennedy believes ACK55, a bacteria that naturally occurs in soils, is a natural enemy of cheatgrass, and the Washington State University is putting the bacteria to the test on cheatgrass on a 7-acre plot at Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge in Canyon County.

Badger Lake trout rehab proposal isn’t a slam dunk

FISHING – Opposition appears to be brewing against the proposal to keep Badger Lake in the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department's trout management program.

The Spokane County lake, one of th state's top trout producers for many decades, is among three lakes in Eastern Washington proposed by state fisheries biologists to be treated with rotenone, ridding the waters of various undesirable species so the lakes can be restocked with trout that flourish without the competition.

At least one property owner along the lake already is sending out information that rotenone kills off the lake and makes it a biological wasteland.    That myth has been disproved for decades as lakes that are treated with rotenone become excellent producers of trout and the acquatic insects that feed them.

But bass anglers also appear ready to chime in, especially with largemouth and smallmouth showing up in large numbers and sizes this year.  Reports of largemouth up to 7 pounds have been reported.

Trouble is, the fish likely were illegally introduced to the Badger.

Local basser Tyler Brinks wonders if the lake shouldn't be managed for both trout and and bass after fishing the lake last weekend and being suprized at the quality of the bass he caught.

Other trout management lakes proposed for “rehabilitation” are Spectacle Lake in Okanogan County and the Hampton and Pillar-Widgeon Lake chains in Grant County.

These lakes, which have been treated every 12-15 years are among the best trout-fishing lakes in the state when they're at their prime.  In the case of badger, it appears that “bucket biologists” have illegally planted smallmouth bass in the lake, degrading its fishing potential, fisheries biologists say.

Rotenone is a natural product commonly used to remove undesirable fish species from lakes and streams. Invertebrate populations recover quickly from the treatments to provide food for the new crop of hatchery trout.

Final consideration of the proposals will be made by the WDFW director in early September.

According the the WDFW:

Rotenone is an organic substance derived from the roots of tropical plants, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved for use as a fish pesticide and as an insecticide in the agriculture industry. It has been used by WDFW in lake and stream rehabilitations for more than 70 years, and is commonly used by other fish and wildlife management agencies nationwide. 

Waterfowl seasons on commission agenda

HUNTING — Setting fall waterfowl hunting seasons is on the agenda for the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting Friday and Saturday (Aug. 2-3) in Olympia.

Wolf issues will be discussed, including several proposals to amend state wildlife interaction rules to incorporate measures from Washington’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and implement 2013 legislation. One proposal would make permanent an emergency rule that permits ranchers, farmers, and other pet and livestock owners in the eastern third of the state to kill a wolf that is attacking their animals.

State waterfowl seasons proposed by WDFW are similar to those adopted last year. The general duck season would be open for 107 days – from Oct. 12-16 and from Oct. 19-Jan. 26. The youth hunting weekend would be Sept. 21-22.

As in previous years, goose hunting seasons will vary by management areas across the state, but most would open in mid-October and run through late January.

In other action, the commission will:

  • Consider several options for protecting Puget Sound Pacific octopus.
  • Consider several land transactions and receive briefings on a variety of topics including the status of Washington’s sockeye salmon populations, WDFW’s legislative proposals for 2014 and the department’s 2013-15 capital budget.

On Friday, TVW has scheduled a live webcast of the meeting.

Plan ahead for free entry to national parks Aug. 25

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.

  • The next freebie is Aug. 25, the National Park Service Birthday, with free access to all national parks.

The 13 Fee-Free Days in 2013 include three holidays that involve ALL federal lands such as national parks, forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges — Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 28), and Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11).

A list of other dates and participating agencies is listed below. The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Sept. 28, National Public Lands Day — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Oct. 13, National Wildlfie Refuge Day — Fish and Wildlife Service

Nov. 9-11, Veterans Day Weekend — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Additionally, 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 National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over, and an $80 annual pass for the general public.

New wolf pack has pups in Oregon

ENDANGERED SPECIEDS — A new wolf pack with pups has been confirmed in the Oregon portion of the Blue Mountains, according to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department.

The two wolves discovered earlier this year in the Mount Emily Unit have reproduced, department officials confirmed with photos from monitoring cameras that have documented at least three pups by this pair.

The pair was discovered in April in Union County northwest of Summerville, Ore. 

Oregon wildlife officials have confirmed reproduction in seven known packs this year (Imnaha, Minam, Mount Emily, Snake River, Umatilla River, Walla Walla and Wenaha), though the exact number of pups is not yet known in all of the packs. 

IN WASHINGTON, about half of the 10 confirmed wolf packs have been documented with pups so far this year.

No wolf packs have been confirmed in the Washington side of the Blue Mountains, although at least one of the Oregon packs in the Blues is known to roam into Washington

Hot news: Keep bear spray where the sun don’t shine

CAMPING — “Bear spray left in car. Becomes bomb. Very impressive.”

That's a post  with the photo above from Hal Herring in Montana, who performed an unintentional science experiment by leaving a canister of bear spray in the back of his Subaru open to direct exposure to the hot summer sun.

Manufacturers say aerosol cans can burst above temps of 120-130 degrees.  But the main thing is that the canisters should always be covered — in a duffle, in an uncooled cooler, wraped in a towel under the seat of a car, but NEVER left to the full intensity of the summer sun in an enclosed vehicle.

“Check out the super shred on that bear spray holster…reckon there was a little force there?” Herring notes.

Turnbull Refuge to host youth for waterfowl hunting

HUNTING – Young hunters can apply for a limited-entry youth waterfowl hunt at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge during Washington’s youth waterfowl hunting weekend at the end of September.

Applications will be accepted Aug.1-15 from licensed hunters under age 16.

Hunters will be allowed to use designated hunting sites, accompanied by an adult.

One application per hunters must be submitted on standard U.S. Postal Service postcards and include the youth’s full name, address and telephone number.

Youths may apply with a youth friend or youth sibling on the same application.

Mail postcards to Refuge Manager, Turnbull NWR, 26010 South Smith Road, Cheney, WA, 99004. 

Drawing results will be posted on the refuge website and letters of confirmation and a youth waterfowl hunt brochure will be mailed to selected youths by the end of August. 

A workshop will be held in partnership with the Spokane Chapter of the Washington Waterfowl Association to select hunting sites, and provide waterfowl identification and hunting tips on the weekend prior to the hunt.

Info: (509) 235-4723.

Under-average Snake River steelhead run gears up

FISHING — The chart above gives an indication that the early stage of the steelhead run continues to trickle over Lower Granite Dam at a lower than average rate, but still with promise of good fishing.

Steelhead are moving over Bonneville Dam on the Columbia at a rate of about 4,000 fish a day and over Lower Granite upstream on the Snake at about 100 a day.

The total since July 1 at Bonneville Dam is 46,560 compared with 63,719 last year at this time.  The five year average for this date is 96,469.

The total since July 1 at Lower Granite Dam is 845 compared with 1,095 last year at this time.  The five year average for this date 3,709.

Prosecutor: Lake Lenore case stands out, but poaching common

FISHING — The recently resolved Lake Lenore poaching case involving 242 fish illegally gillnetted by four Western Washington men, stood out for the jail time and fines handed down by the Grant County District Court.

However, poaching cases at the many scattered fishing lakes in central Washington are not uncommon.

Here are answers to a few followup questions I posed regarding the case to Patrick Schaff, the deputy prosecutor who worked on the case:

Do you know of any other illegal fishing cases of this magnitude occurring in Grant County?

“This seems to be the only Grant County case of this magnitude in the last several years. We see cases of similar character (i.e. late-night net poaching of rare or semi-rare fish) a couple of times a year, usually from Lake Lenore but occasionally from Banks Lake.  But those cases usually involve a couple dozen fish on average.  This case obviously stands out because of the large number of fish taken.”

Is there any information on what the defendants were planning to do with so many fish?

“We don’t know what the defendants intended to do with the fish, but they clearly took more than would be needed for a personal or family supply.” 

What is the citizenship of the four men involved in the Lenore illegal fishing case?

“I don’t know the citizenship status of the four men and I would not feel comfortable speculating.  Our office is prohibited by law from considering citizenship or national origin when choosing how to resolve cases.” 

A Washington Fish and Wildlife Department enforcement captain offered more insight into the case.

Public put spotlight on Lake Lenore fish poachers

FISHING — Media attention and angler outrage may have factored into last week's successful prosecution of four Western Washington men who were caught on April 6 gillnetting 242 prized Lahontan cutthroat trout from Lake Lenore, a prized “quality fishery” south of Coulee City.

Grant County prosecutors, like prosecutors across the state, are chronically overbook with cases.  Fish and wildlife cases often are brushed aside to make time for priority cases in which people are the victims.

“Sportsmen's groups and the press did a great job following up and emphasizing the importance and severity of this case,” said Capt. Chris Anderson, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife enforcement supervisor in Ephrata. “The prosecutor's office responded and did a great job.”

Lake Lenore is managed as a selective fishery geared to catching large cutthroat trout.  Sport anglers at Lenore are limited to keeping no more than one fish a day.

Vitaliy Kachinskiy, 23, of Mount Vernon, Wash., and three Everett men: Sergey Otroda, 32, Igor Bigun, 26, and Oleg Pavlus, 25, pled guilty to gross misdemeanor charges, Grant County Prosecutor D. Angus Lee confirmed on Friday. 

Each man was sentenced to 20 days in jail, 40 days of electronic home monitoring and fines or costs totaling $4,100, he said.

In addition, the pickup being used at the time of their arrest was seized by the two Fish and Wildlife police who staked out the scene and managed to round up the fleeing poachers despite their attempts to escape in the darkness.

“They could appeal the forfeiture in Grant County Superior Court,” Anderson said. “But if the judge ruled that we followed the law in our arrest and seizing the vehicle, it would remain the property of the state.”   No appeal has yet been filed, he said.

WDFW has investigated other instances of illegal gillnetting for sportfish in Eastern Washington lakes involving ethnic groups.

Asked what the men were planning to do with all the fish they illegally netted at Lenore, Anderson said, “We do not have any direct knowledge that these Lenore fish were destined for a market, but we have heard in the past that they do sell the fish within the Russian community only.”

Game on for big kokanee at Dworshak Reservoir

FISHING — The word from kokanee researchers at Dworshak Reservoir: Get out and a few big ones now — like the 16.5-incher pictured below — or settle for lots of smaller ones in the next few years.

Idaho Fish and Game Department has finished its annual July trawl surveys and here's the detailed report from research biologist Sean Wilson on what's in the lake, where to catch them and what's coming up.

If you like big kokanee, it’s been a good year to fish Dworshak Reservoir.  The average length of adult kokanee caught in our July trawl survey was a little over 11 ½ inches, which is down a bit from last year when the average was a little over 12 inches.  However, don’t expect these larger fish in the next couple years.  While the number of adult fish we caught this year was down slightly from last year, the number of one year olds, which will be what we fish for next year, was up by more than 50% from last year.  Moreover, our fry catches were more than ten times what we caught last year, and were the highest in the last ten years.  While it will take some time to produce estimates of the population for this year, the trawl catches are pointing to a growing kokanee population, which will result in smaller fish in the next few years.

While most fish in the creel have been similar in size to those caught in the trawl, there have also been a few really big fish reported.  One of our creel clerks recently measured two exceptionally large kokanee at the Dent boat ramp, one that was over 15 inches and another that was over 16 inches.  In recent creel checks, we talked to 50 kokanee anglers who fished a total of 315 hours and kept 262 kokanee.  This results in an average of over 5 fish kept per day fishing and a little over an hour fishing per fish kept.  This doesn’t count many other fish that were released or hooked and lost.

Fishing has slowed recently on the lower end of the reservoir as the adult fish make their way up to the top end to spawn.  The smaller, one year old fish which are averaging 8-9 inches right now will be around all year in the lower reservoir for anyone who is still interested in catching some smaller kokanee.  If you can make the trip, the upper end of the reservoir, particularly above Grandad Bridge, should provide some fantastic fishing for another month or so.  Anglers should be able to find concentrations of large fish staging in the reservoir before moving up into the streams to spawn.  This can mean a cooler full of fat, feisty kokanee.  So make sure to plan a trip before this opportunity is gone.

Not a kokanee fisherman?  Dworshak can provide plenty of other angling opportunities.  We recently talked to 31 bass anglers who fished for 147 hours and reported catching 145 bass, most of which were released.  We also checked a variety of other fish, including trout and panfish.  So whether you like to fish for bass, kokanee or anything that bites, make plans to spend a day or a weekend on the reservoir before the summer is over.

Badger, Spectacle among lakes cited for rotenone treatment

FISHING – Badger Lake in Spokane County is among three lakes in Eastern Washington proposed by state fisheries biologists to be treated with rotenone, ridding the waters of various undesirable species so the lakes can be restocked with trout.

The Fish and Wildlife Department has set public meetings on this and other proposals for 7 p.m.:

  • Tuesday, July 30 – at the City Hall Council Chamber, 209 S. Whitcomb in Tonasket.
  • Wednesday, July 31 at the city library, 610 1st St. in Cheney.

Other trout management lakes proposed for “rehabilitation” are Spectacle Lake in Okanogan County and the Hampton and Pillar-Widgeon Lake chains in Grant County.

These lakes, which have been treated every 12-15 years are among the best trout-fishing lakes in the state when they're at their prime.  In the case of badger, it appears that “bucket biologists” have illegally planted smallmouth bass in the lake, degrading its fishing potential, fisheries biologists say.

Rotenone is a natural product commonly used to remove undesirable fish species from lakes and streams. Invertebrate populations recover quickly from the treatments to provide food for the new crop of hatchery trout.

Final consideration of the proposals will be made by the WDFW director in early September.

According the the WDFW:

Rotenone is an organic substance derived from the roots of tropical plants, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved for use as a fish pesticide and as an insecticide in the agriculture industry. It has been used by WDFW in lake and stream rehabilitations for more than 70 years, and is commonly used by other fish and wildlife management agencies nationwide. 

Warm water no deterrent to catching Sprague Lake bass

FISHING — Justin Davis of Richland landed this largemouth bass — 3.6 pounds, 17.5 inches long — on Saturday while fishing at Sprague Lake.

Scott Haugen of Four Seasons Campground said Davis caught the lunker in 5 feet of 75-degree water at 10 a.m. using a modified Snag Proof Frog with a Sinister Wacky Worm.

Good reports about the size and quality of Sprague's largemouths are common.

Higher calling: hunter strives to follow dog’s example

HUNTING — I marvel at my English setter, and all the various faithful breeds preferred by my friends.  Here's one angle on why.

If you can…

  • Start the day without caffeine.
  • Always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains.
  • Resist complaining and boring people with your troubles.
  • Eat the same food every day and be grateful for it.
  • Understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time
  • Overlook it when those you love take it out on you when through no fault of yours, something goes wrong.
  • Take criticism and blame without resentment.
  • Ignore a friend’s limited education and never correct him/her.
  • Resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend
  • Face the world without lies and deceit.
  • Conquer tension without medical help.
  • Relax without liquor.
  • Sleep without the aid of drugs.
  • Honestly say deep in your heart that you have no prejudice against creed, color, religion or politics.

….Then, you are ALMOST as good as your dog.

Moths are cool, with a week in their honor

NATURE — Moths come in a stunning spectrum of colors and varieties, and there's no better time to set your radar for them than now, during National Moth Week.

The authors of “Moths of Western North America” estimate that 7,000 to 8,000 named species of moths live in the west, with another 3,000 unidentified species potentially left to discover.  Compare that to the 200-plus species of butterflies that live in Northeastern Washington and you get an impression of their sheer diversity, says Chris Loggers, wildlife biologist for the Colville National Forest.

“Folks have reported some interesting moths in the past week, one being an Elegant Sheepmoth (Hemileuca eglanterina) …and the other a Great Tiger Moth (Arctia caja).

“Both finders took good photographs with their cellphones, which helps immensely with identification.”

To learn more about moths, check out:

Loggers also recommends a great book on moths in our area, “Moths of Western North America” by Powell and Opler. 

“If you find a moth that piques your interest, bring it by (to the office in Kettle Falls); I probably won’t identify it for you but you can grab a book and explore their diversity.

  • Email photos of moths and where you found them to Loggers at cloggers@fs.fed.us.

Woman recovering from otter attack wounds

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A relaxing evening floating the river with friends two weeks ago took a turn for the worse for Sydney Sainsbury, who was attacked by an otter about 200 yards east of the Madison River Bridge.

The otter, she said, was relentless as it attacked, leaving Sainsbury with a broken right hand, torn ligaments and tendons and many bites and scratches. She said the animal bit through joints and ligaments on her hand requiring pins to be surgically implanted in her hand joint.

Her legs, too, were bitten and scratched, as well as her stomach and arms plus a gash above her left eye.

See the story from the West Yellowstone News.

 

Video details techniques for “shooting docks” with crappie lures

FISHING — There's more than one way to catch those bass and crappies hiding in the shade of docks around the region's lakes.

The video above is the first part of a series on “How to Shoot Docks and catch crappies on lakes, rivers and reservoirs by Fishingintelligence.

Click here to see Part 2 of the video primer.

Warm water restricts angling on Bitterroot, Clark Fork rivers

FISHING —  In an effort to protect fish from the stress of low stream flows and high water temperatures, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will prohibit fishing from 2 p.m. until midnight on parts of the Clark Fork and all of the Bitterroot River, excluding the East and West Forks, beginning Thursday, July 25.
 
The waters affected by the 2 p.m.-midnight closure on the Clark Fork include the stretch from Perkins Lane Bridge near Warm Springs downstream to Flint Creek and then from the Clark Fork-Bitterroot confluence just west of Missoula downstream to the Flathead River. 
 
On the Bitterroot, fishing is prohibited from 2 p.m.-midnight on the entire length of the river, excluding the East and West Forks.
 
Water temperatures on the affected streams have exceeded FWP criteria for temporary fishing restrictions, a tool used to help reduce the impact on drought-stressed fish.
 
Pat Saffel, FWP Region 2 Fisheries Manager, says that drought-like conditions, which often occur in Montana in late July and August, can stress wild trout and other fish. Prolonged high water temperatures and lower oxygen levels can lead to fish kills that can affect fish numbers in future years.
 
“We’re monitoring temperatures on other western Montana rivers and will implement further restrictions if necessary,” Saffel says.  “Anglers on all rivers can reduce fish stress by fishing only during the morning and early afternoon periods when water temperatures are at their coolest.”

Other river restrictions are in place in other parts of the state. 

Anglers can check for details on fishing restrictions or closures on the FWP home page at fwp.mt.gov. Select Drought & Fire under the Hot Topics heading, or check the FWP online fishing guide.

Founder of Martin Archery dead at 89

BOWHUNTING — Gail Martin, the Walla Walla innovator who built Martin Archery from a small operation making strings and fletching arrows with his bride at their dining room table in the early 1950s into a full-blown three-generation bow manufacturer known across the globe, died Sunday at Providence St. Mary Medical Center. He was 89.

His son Dan Martin said this morning the cause was linked to heart failure.

His death was announced on “Archery Talk,” the online forum and archery community run by his other son Terry Martin. In tributes on the forum’s Facebook page, Martin was called an “icon” and “cornerstone” of the industry.

Read on for details from the Walla Walla Union Bulletin:

Forest fires alter hiking options in wilderness

HIKING — With the wildfire season kicking into high gear, be sure to call ahead before leaving on a backcountry trip — and have an alternate plan even if you get a green light.

Jim Czirr of Spokane sent in this report after returning from a trek in the Bob Marshall Wilderness:

I just got back from the Bob Marshalls where I was hiking the last several days.  My brother in law and I were the last ones to slip down Red Shale Meadows trail before they closed it due to the forest fires up there. 

The attached photos were taken Saturday PM around 3 or 4 PM Mountain time near the Red Shale fire.  The fire was a few hundred yards from the trail.

We did the section of the CDT from Lake Levale to Red Shale.  Went in Route Pass and out Headquarters, a nice 50 mile loop or so entering the wilderness outside of Choteau.

Birder witnesses eaglette’s first flight

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Spokane birder Kim Thorburn treats us to her July 10 observation of Spokane River bald eagles of the year taking their first flight from their nest in Riverside State Park.

This morning I watched the maiden flight of the second Riverside State Park-Deep Creek eaglet to fledge.  The first and largest sibling left several days ago.  The final pipsqueak remained branched by the nest, squealing as its second sibling tried its wings.  The soaring went well but landing looked pretty hairy.
 
First, there was the matter of selecting a perch that was solid enough to receive pretty significant mass arriving with considerable velocity.  Then there was figuring out and coordinating the wing rotation and tail rutter to reduce the velocity enough to light on the perch.  The success of it all seemed quite remarkable.
 
A little while later, I watched a juvenile bald eagle soaring with a kettle of turkey vultures on top of Pine Bluff.  I assumed it was the first sibling and wondered if it had already figured out that this might be a good crowd to hang with to improve the chances of the ever-constant foraging that it now faced.  It seemed unphased as the only bird of the group that an adult sharp-shinned hawk persistently dive bombed.
  

Video: Wildlife will make you smile

WILDLIFE — If you need a little levity in your day, check out this hillarious video of British commentary voiced over footage of critters doing their natural thing.  Not even a sourpuss could watch this without laughing.

Washington funds $86 million for outdoor recreation, conservation

For release:July 10, 2013
Contact: Susan Zemek, 360-902-3081

CONSERVATION — The Washington Legislature funded a venerable state program, that, in turn, is awarding $86 million in state and federal grants that will build parks and boating facilities, maintain backcountry trails and off-road vehicle access, improve the safety of archery and firearm ranges, conserve farmland and protect wildlife habitat.

The grants, which are awarded through the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board, will be given to cities, counties, state and federal agencies, tribes and non-profit organizations for work in 34 of the state’s 39 counties.

Grant recipients match the funding with resources of their own. In total, grant recipients will contribute nearly $57 million in matching resources, making the state and federal dollars stretch further.

“Washington’s outdoors are one of the things that make this state great,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Outdoor recreation in Washington contributes more than $11.7 billion annually to our economy, supports 115,000 jobs across the state, draws people from around the world to our mountain tops and shorelines, and is one of the reasons people and businesses move here and stay here. Investing in Washington’s outdoor economy just makes good sense.”

The grants are funded through eight different grant programs that receive money from state and federal sources, including the sale of state bonds, gas taxes, and user fees. The Legislature authorizes funding for all the grants.

Before they are selected for funding, grant proposals go through an extensive review that includes evaluation by advisory committees made up of citizens with experience in recreation, farming, and wildlife habitat.

“Our rigorous process ensures, that we fund only the best of the best projects,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which supports the board and administers the grants. Generally, only about half of the grant requests are funded. This year, 414 projects requested more than $163 million in funding.

These grants will fund a tremendous range of projects, from maintaining trails in the Olympic Mountains to conserving elk habitat in the foothills of the Blue Mountains.

Click below for descriptions of each grant awarded in the following counties:

Adams County…………………………… $410,500

Asotin County…………………………. $4,630,000

Benton County……………………….. $2,405,146

Chelan County………………………… $8,080,559

Clallam County…………………………. $679,037

Clark County………………………….. $3,691,908

Cowlitz County………………………….. $146,850

Douglas County…………………………. $950,000

Grant County………………………….. $2,109,631

Grays Harbor County…………………. $345,318

Island County…………………………. $2,524,721

Jefferson County…………………….. $5,044,634

King County……………………………. $6,160,836

Kitsap County…………………………. $5,866,822

Kittitas County………………………… $4,076,722

Klickitat County…………………………. $980,750

Lewis County…………………………….. $397,800

Mason County………………………… $4,840,191

Okanogan County…………………… $4,902,750

Pacific County………………………… $1,724,800

Pierce County…………………………. $6,210,948

San Juan County………………………… $867,500

Skagit County…………………………. $1,723,271

Skamania County……………………. $1,302,800

Snohomish County………………….. $2,972,718

Spokane County………………………… $246,001

Stevens County………………………….. $790,750

Thurston County……………………… $4,106,234

Whatcom County………………………. $500,066

Whitman County……………………….. $100,000

Yakima County……………………….. $4,250,439

Multiple Counties (including Columbia, Garfield, Wahkiakum)      $1,970,819

Statewide………………………………. $1,437,967

Dishman Hills group leads hike in Glenrose area

TRAILS — The Dishman Hills Conservancy is leading a hike to introduce the public to recently acquired land in the Glenrose area starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday (July 23).

Come join us to learn more about our goals for the Dishman Hills. This Conservation Future property was added in 2012 and is located about two miles east of Ferris High School The hike is easy to access from the urban South Hill but has outstanding views of the surrounding areas. The hike is three miles round-trip with a few short steep sections. Hiking poles recommended but not required. The hike will highlight the possible Dream Trail in the Dishman Hills. A map will be provided. 

More information and online registration: Tuesday evening hike with DHC president

Sierra Clubbers lead strolls in local natural areas

OUTDO – Sierra Clubbers are leading a series of evening walks with an environmental emphasis through Spokane-area natural areas that runs through September.

Hikes so far have been in Riverside State Park and on Mount Spokane.

Read on for the remaining list with details on each hike and the contacts.

Webcam: See Katmai griz fishing for salmon

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Nevermind if you cannot go to Alaska — you can thrill at the sight of huge brown bears fishing for salmon at an iconic waterfall via a live feed from a Webcam in Katmai National Park.

Click here for the live view documenting the annual gathering of about 100 brown bears descending on a mile-long stretch of Brooks River to feast on the largest sockeye salmon run in the world.

If the link above does not work, paste this URL into your browser: 

http://explore.org/#!/live-cams/player/river-watch-brown-bear-salmon-cams

Local naturalist-historian Nisbet to lead wildflower walk, talk

FLORA – Jack Nisbet, local writer/historian, will lead a nifty “clinic” on wildflowers on Wednesday, starting with 4 p.m. stroll through the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture exhibit, “In the Footsteps of David Douglas.”

At 5 p.m., he’ll lead the group on a hike in the Iller Creek portion of Spokane County's Dishman Hills Conservation Area to study the same monkshood, rein orchid, thimbleberry and yew trees that botanist Douglas – namesake of the Douglas fir — collected in our area in 1826.

Nisbet knows the topic after authoring the book “The Collector: David Douglass and the Natural History of the Northwest.”

Cost: $10. Space limited. Pre-register, 466-2823.

Spokane River is fly fisher’s local ace in the hole

FLY FISHING — It's summer and anglers are making and executing all sorts of travel plans related to the pursuit of fish.

But savvy fly fishers don't consider it down time to be here in Spokane.  Here's a report from Mike Berube of the Spokane Fly Fishers from his Spokane River float-fishing trip on Friday:

A friend and Ihad a great float yesterday. Put in just below Monroe St  Bridge at about 6AM and took out at TJ Meenach Bridge at about 1PM. River is fishing great. The fish were primarily at the end of riffles and loved any type of brownish olive streamer. I fished a sz 6 woolhead sculpin on a sink tip. All were in the 12-14” range with a couple to 20”.  Nymping was productive also.

Hard to beat a Pat's Rubber Legs with a Lightning Bug dropper on the Spokane.

Wading to some of the really good holes should be better in about a week if it continues to drop.

Pro-wolf groups hassle agency; Webcast spotlights hunting

ENDANGERED SPECIES — As if to emphasize the first few paragraphs of my Thursday Outdoors column, seven groups with a pro-wolf agenda, including the Spokane-based Lands Council, petitioned the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife “to stop the indiscriminate killing” of wolves — even though the agency isn't.

If wildlife managers don't give them satisfaction, they plan to appeal to Gov. Jay Inslee.

I'm sure the Stevens County Cattlemen will be at the governor's desk, too.  

Any sportmen's groups out there planning to rattle the guv's cage?

How about you county commissioners?

  • Anybody want to be a Washingtong wildlife manager this summer?

Meantime, WDFW held its wolf webcast Thursday night on managing big game in wolf country.  Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman provided the followup below.

The agency posted last night’s Washington wolf webcast for those who didn’t get to see it live (it begins at the 14-minute mark, for some reason) but want to learn more about impacts to big game from experts in the Northern Rockies.

Initial reactions to the event vary. It’s being discussed on Hunting Washington (see this thread) and WDFW’s Facebook page, and there’s a brief radio story on it.

“We did get quite a few comments,” Ware says about the opportunity for hunters to email in questions for the webcast. “Most were fairly positive in terms of hearing what other states are doing.”

He added that a overall a variety of views were expressed.

Among the numerous questions from hunters and others posed by Wildlife Program chief and MC Nate Pamplin to Ware (as well as Montana and Idaho big game managers) was one by a Miles: “Is there going to be a Washington wolf hunting season?”

Ware says that the wolf plan says it’s a possibility, and that the agency feels like other states, that hunting is a good management tool that provides recreation and is mandated by the legislature to provide hunting opportunities.

“I can’t imagine why we we wouldn’t recommend it, to have wolves to be hunted as well,” he says near the 2:42:30 mark

Harvest underway for huckleberries — Idaho’s state fruit

FORESTS – Huckleberries, designated Idaho’s state fruit in 2000, have been ripe for picking for a couple weeks in the low areas of Priest Lake, and the crop is gradually ripening up the mountain slopes throughout the Inland Northwest.

Don’t set your purple-tongue ambitions too high, yet.

Outdoors editor Rich Landers found ripe huckleberries for the first hour of hiking up Scotchman Peak Trail 65 northeast of Lake Pend Oreille on Thursday with lots of green berries above that to satisfy berry pickers in the prime picking period of August.

Savvy huckleberry pluckers know certain high areas, such as the Roman Nose Peak region in the Selkirks, are harvest-perfect in September.

Huckleberries flourish in several varieties across the region, from the deep-purple lowbush types in the east Cascades and Pasayten Wilderness to the tiny grouse huckleberry (a.k.a. grouse whortleberry) that grows on 10-inch high, small-leaf plants at or above timberline in the Selkirks and Bitterroots.

The ”big huckleberry” (a.k.a. black or thin-leaved) is the most popular berry in the Idaho Panhandle. This species grows in moist, cool forested environments at mid to upper elevations. The plants grow up to three feet tall and take up to 15 years to reach full maturity.  The single, dark purple berries grow on the shoots the plant produced that year, according to plant ecologist Charles Johnson.

Huckleberries are a treat for humans and a necessity for the region’s bears. A poor huckleberry crop in the Priest Lake area in 1979 resulted in reduced bear productivity and survival for the next two years, according to research by John Beecham, retired Idaho Fish and Game wildlife biologist.

Black bears have flexible ‘prehensile lips’ that can pick individual huckleberries without ingesting leaves faster than a human can harvest.

Bears can be expected anywhere berries are ripe. Pickers should carry bear spray as a precaution.

The annual Huckleberry Festival sponsored by the Priest Lake Search and Rescue is set for Saturday, July 20, at the Priest Lake Golf Course, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Info: Dory Miller, (509) 979-8802.

Warm water restricts fishing on Montana rivers

FISHING — Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is limiting fishing hours on several rivers due to lower flows and warmer temperatures.

The fishing closures between 2 p.m. and midnight will take effect Monday on portions of the Dearborn, Smith and Sun rivers along with the Lower Madison and Upper Big Hole rivers.

FWP orders “hoot owl” closures when maximum water temperatures reach at least 73 degrees for three consecutive days.

The preferred water temperature for rainbow and brown trout is about 56 degrees.

The closures affect the Dearborn River from Highway Bridge 435 to the confluence with the Missouri River north of Craig; the Smith River from the confluence of the North and South forks to Eden Bridge south of Great Falls; and the Sun River from Highway 287 bridge to the mouth of Muddy Creek west of Great Falls.

The Lower Madison River closure is in effect from Ennis Dam to Three Forks while the Upper Big Hole closure is from the headwaters outside Jackson to Dickey Bridge. 

The Clark Fork River near Superior continutes to be restricted because of a nearby wildfire.

Hikers in 3 national parks felled by lightning

HIKING — Thunder storms throughout the West this week took a heavy toll, setting fires and raising havoc in several ways.  

The strangest detail:   Hikers in three national parks were injured or killed within a 30-hour period.

See the stories about this week's lightning strike victims in:

Read this story about the serious threat lightning poses and precautions hikers and campers can take.

Fire claims Avery Trading Post along St. Joe River

FLY FISHING — BYOB if you’re heading to the Avery area of the St. Joe River this weekend.

The St. Joe Pub and Grill, formerly the landmark Avery Trading Post, went up in flames around 1 a.m. on Tuesday in a blaze that tested the will of locals to keep it from spreading.

The aftermath has left the town’s main drag a lot drier, and looking like a hockey player’s smile.

But the fishing continues to be excellent on the St. Joe River, said Ben Scheffelmaier of Scheffy’s Motel.

Following is a first-hand account of the fire from The Rev. Cynthia Wuts, who was with her family for a fly fishing adventure in the area when they just happened to be bunked in a hot spot that had nothing to do with fishing.

Around 1:15 a.m. Tuesday morning, I was awakened by someone honking his horn on the street where were staying. We heard a couple guys yelling and I went to look out the window to see what the commotion was and saw some sparks flying and thought it was crazy kids partying and lighting fireworks, which is not unusual in Avery. 

Then I noticed that there was a brighter, orange glow, brighter than the street lights reflecting on the building across the street. I opened our door to the outside and saw that the tavern next door had flames shooting through the roof. I got (the others) out of bed and we got out of there as the two buildings are fairly close together. A wooden shed sits between them and it had lumber and old tires on the roof…not to mention the propane tank alongside the tavern.

My husband got us in the car and moved it a good distance away and when he determined it that the flames were still far enough away from our building, they … ran over to help one of the townspeople who had arrived with some fire hoses. The tavern was fully involved in just a matter of minutes and totally destroyed.

No one was hurt. However the thought I had as did most folks was “thank God this wasn't August” or the fire would have quickly ran up the forested hill behind the tavern and thrown enough embers to set other buildings (including a fuel pumping station just up the road from the tavern) on fire and it could have been a real catastrophe.

Avery is a very small village with mostly old wooden buildings in a narrow river canyon, so it wouldn't have taken long for falling embers to have started the rest of the town and surrounding forest on fire.

The next morning the owner of the fly fishing shop went up the mountain road on the opposite side of Avery and found where embers had fallen onto Kelly Crick Rd. about a 1/2 mile away. We were very thankful that someone driving by saw the flames and awakened the town folks. Had that not happened the fire would have spread to our place of lodging and we would've been jumping out the window!

Also we're thankful no one was injured while fighting the fire.
Here are some pictures we took…The first picture is the structure fully involved. Photo 2 is when it collapsed and the last one was taken the following morning around 10 a.m.

(BTW, I caught the biggest fish of the trip.)

Peak experience for mountain goats

HIKING — The greeting party was there, as usual on top of Scotchman Peak on Thursday, rewarding my daughter and me for our steep 7-mile-round-trip hike from the northeast corner of Lake Pend Oreille.

Mountain goats that live on the Idaho peak towering above Clark Fork, Idaho, have become an attraction in themselves.  They can almost make you overlook the killer view of Lake Pend Oreille, the Selkirk Mountains to the west, the Cabinet Mountains to the east and the expanse of backcountry to the north proposed for wilderness.

If you go:

— Expect a hike that's vigorous going up and punishing on the way down.

—Prepare for bugs on the summit if winds are calm.

—Urinate off the trail well before reaching the rocky summit area to avoid conditioning the goats to following people. Mountain goats crave the salt in urine and it's thought to make them aggressive, as in the case of the hiker who was gored to death in Olympic National Park.

Heed the warning signs and please don't feed the goats — for their own good and yours.  They've been fed before and they'll come looking for food and salt to lick.  Guard your packs. They may try to nibble at your pack straps.

I fear for the mountain goats' future if they continue to be spoiled and set up to hurt somebody one day.

UPDATE

After posting the blog info above on Facebook, I received this reply to consider from FB friend Nick Delavan:

My friend Cody Evans and I made our yearly pilgrimage to the summit (of Scotchman Peak) a month ago. We were greeted by 7 goats one of which was extremely aggressive and at one point he charged, stopping only ten feet from us. We almost turned his white coat orange! Thankfully a well placed rock via fast pitch sent him on his way. I believe that particular goat was sick, injured or both. It was a good reminder that these animals are wild and have the potential to be dangerous. At no point should people forget that. Leave no trace applies even on a day hike!

Montana extends Clark Fork River closure due to fire

RIVERS — Fishermen are being displaced from a popular stretch of the Clark Fork River as firefighters try to control a nearby wildfire.  The closure announced Wednesday has been extended today.  

Here's the latest from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks:

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) is closing an additional stretch of the Clark Fork River due to the expansion of the West Mullan Fire.  The river is now closed from Big Eddy Fishing Access Site (FAS) to US Forest Service Slowey Campground. This eight mile stretch will remain closed for recreating as long as fire activities continue.  The river was previously closed from Big Eddy FAS downstream to Dry Creek FAS, a five mile stretch of river.  
            In addition, FWP is closing the Big Eddy FAS at the town of Superior and the Dry Creek FAS. These FAS’s are closed in the interest of public safety while fire activity persists in the area.  People accessing the river above Big Eddy FAS need to be aware that this site is not available for use. There is no established public boat take-out available below Forest Grove FAS, which is 12 miles upstream of Big Eddy FAS. 
The West Mullan Fire is changing rapidly, so river users are advised to learn of the most current conditions before visiting this section of the Clark Fork River.  We will keep you informed of the updates and additional details on fire and drought-related restrictions and closures on the FWP website home page at fwp.mt.gov

Noises in Peru traveler’s head caused by maggots

BUGS — A woman traveling in Peru brought back more than souveniers.  

Indeed, a fly had deposited eggs in her ear that hatched into flesh-eating maggots.  Yum.

Read the story.

I'm adding ear plugs to my equipment list for my next trip to South America.

Bear activity closes popular Harrison, Beehive Lakes trails in Selkirks

HIKING — Bear activity has prompted the Idaho Panhandle National Forests today to temporarily close popular trails to Beehive and Harrison Lakes in the upper Pack River drainage of the Selkirk Mountains.

The two trails and the surrounding area are closed to the public until further notice to ensure public safety, said Jason Kirchner, Forest Service spokesman in Coeur d'Alene.

A bear recently entered a camp site near the Beehive Lakes Trail and was able to remove camping equipment and human food, he said.

Campers have to step up and follow simple bear-wise rules to protect campers who come after them as well as public access to these coveted backcountry areas.

This bear — the people involved couldn't verify whether it was a black bear or grizzly — likely had been lured by food previously.

One group's sloppy camping can unnecessarily screw up the outdoor experience for everybody, as this instance proves.  

And neglecting to hang or protect food usually brings a bitter end for the bears, as it did this month for bears that had become food-conditioned in Montana's Smith River State Park (see story).

Here are the rules from the Panhandle National Forests

There is a mandatory food storage order in effect from April 1 through December annually. All food and beverages including canned food, soda and beer, garbage, grease, processed livestock or pet food and scented flavored toiletries must be unavailable to bears and stored in bear resistant containers at night and when unattended. For more information on proper food storage, members of the public are encouraged to visit the Idaho Panhandle National Forest’s food storage web site.

Temporary closures are the first step in ensuring public and bear safety when problematic encounters occur.

For more information please contact the Sandpoint Ranger District at (208) 263-5111 or visit the Idaho Panhandle National Forests Website.

Westport salmon fishing to open daily

SALMON FISHING — Beginning Friday (July 19), marine waters off of Westport (Marine Area 2) will be open to salmon fishing seven days a week, joining the three other ocean areas already open on a daily basis, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced.
The department initially limited the number of fishing days at Westport to five a week (Sundays through Thursdays) to ensure that the catch would not reach the quota too quickly and require an early closure, said Pat Pattillo, department salmon policy coordinator.
“Angler effort continues to grow and success rates are steadily improving,” Pattillo said. “While the fishery continues to build at this pace, now is a good time to allow anglers to fish daily off Westport.”
Salmon fishing already is open seven days a week in marine areas 1 (Ilwaco), 3 (LaPush) and 4 (Neah Bay).
  • Anglers fishing in marine areas 1 and 2 may retain two salmon per day, only one of which may be a chinook. Those fishing in marine areas 3 and 4 are allowed to retain up to two chinook as part of their two-fish daily limit, plus two additional pink salmon.
  • In all four marine areas, anglers must release wild coho salmon.
Click here for information on daily catch limits, minimum size limits and area catch guidelines.
Ocean salmon fisheries are scheduled to continue through Sept. 22 in marine areas 3 and 4 and through Sept. 30 in marine areas 1 and 2.
Fishery managers will continue to monitor the ocean salmon fishery throughout the season, and will announce any other changes on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/

Idaho commission funds predator control

PREDATORS — Programs to control wolves and ravens were funded by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission on Thursday.

The commission approved animal damage control funds with $50,000 going to control wolves in elk management zones at or below objective.

The panel also designted $12,000 to a Fish and Game raven control project for specified areas as part of an overall effort to keep sage grouse off the endangerd species list.  Ravens can zero in on the eggs and chicks of the prairie grouse in some cases.

Commissioners set nonresident tag quotas and outfitter nonresident set-aside quotas. They set nonresident quotas of 12,815 elk tags, 14,000 regular deer tags, 1,500 white-tailed deer tags; and nonresident deer and elk tag outfitters set-asides of 1,985 deer tags and 2,400 elk tags.

Wildlife officials presented briefings on possible sage-grouse and waterfowl seasons. Final season recommendations for both will be made to the commission in August.

A possible sage-grouse season would include a restricted season of seven days with a one-bird limit in the southern part of the Big Desert.

Eastern Owyhee and Twin Falls counties, the east Idaho uplands area, Elmore County and the west central part of the state would be closed.

The rest of the sage-grouse range in Idaho would be open under a restrictive season of seven days with a one-bird limit.

As for waterfowl, early indications suggest a liberal 107-day season with a seven-bird limit for ducks and a four-bird limit on geese.

The commissioners also heard an update on Fish and Game’s elk management plan revision progress. They were told to expect a draft of the new plan within about two weeks.

Wolf captured in Pend Oreille County

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A gray wolf — this one black with a tiny bit of white on its chest — was captured in Pend Oreille County Monday morning by Washington Fish and Wildlife Department technicians so the animal could be fitted with a GPS collar and released. 

Is the 68-pound yearling female still attached to an existing pack or is it a member of a suspected but unconfirmed new group that would be labeled the Ruby Creek pack?

No one knows.  Time will tell. 

I've been in contact with Wildlife Department personnel since mid May regarding wolf captures and just happened to be along for one of the few successful captures of the year involving trapping.

While there's more to come, Northwest sportsman editor Andy Walgamott has the initial details right about Monday's event in this just-posted blog report:

At least the 11th so far this year that’s been collared and released by state and tribal biologists, the 68-pound yearling female was caught in an area between the known Smackout Pack territory and a suspected pack in the Ruby Creek drainage.

“Only time will tell if it’s a Smackout or lead us to a new pack,” said Madonna Luers, a WDFW spokeswoman in Spokane.

A photo by Rich Landers of The Spokesman-Review, who was in on the capture with Scott Becker and broke the news, shows that it wears a black coat.

That could link it to the Smackouts of western Pend Oreille County and central Stevens County, or it could be a disperser. One of last year’s Huckleberry Pack of southern Stevens County was black.

GPS data should show its wanderings and pack affiliations.

WDFW previously reported 10 other wolves had been caught, collared and released between February and mid-June of this year — two in Diamond, also in Pend Oreille County, three in Smackout, three in Huckleberry, and three in Teanaway of Kittitas County.

One of the Teanaways, a 47-pound female, subsequently died. We’re still awaiting word from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on cause of death; the state preliminarily put it down as a mountain lion kill.

Elwha River program tonight; wolf vs. big-game webcast Thursday

Outdoors enthusiasts have their choice of two interesting cutting edge programs this week:

Tonight in Spokane — Elwha: A River Reborn, program at the Community Building, 7 p.m.  See details

Thursday on the Web — Big game managers from Washington, Idaho and Montana will discuss their experiences managing game animals in areas populated by wolves, 6:30 p.m.  See details.

Fire closes Clark Fork River near Superior

FISHING — The Clark Fork River has been closed from Big Eddy Fishing Access Site to Dry Creek Fishing Access Site along Interstate 90 because of operations related to fighting a wildfire northwest of Superior, Mont., the state Fish, Wildlife & Parks Department has announced. 

This is one of the more popular stretches among fly fishers who float the river to catch trout.

This section of river is closed in the interest of public safety while aircraft dip water out of the river to fight the West Mullan Fire.  This stretch will remain closed as long as fire activities continue.

Click here for updates.

Families with kids invited for hike in Dishman Hills

HIKING — Parents with young children are invited on a group hike to a pond along the Edgecliff Trails in a morning outing organized by the Dishman Hills Conservancy.

The hike starts at 9 a.m. on July 27 from Camp Caro off Appleway at Sarent Road in Spokane Valley.

Join Kathy Kalich, founder of the Inland Northwest Hikers and mother of twi hiking kids will lead a 2.8-mile walk ideal for beginner hikers or families with children.  Much of the route is shaded and the leader plands to finish the hike before temperatures are too warm.

Sign up here. 

Wolf trapped, collared, released today in PO County

ENDANGERED SPECIES — I was out on a successful catch and release wolf trapping mission today.

More to come…

Steve’s Outdoor Adventures TV host coming to Cabela’s

HUNTING — Outdoor Channel TV hunting show host Steve West will be at the Post Falls Cabela’s store on Thursday, 4 p.m. - 5 p.m. for a meet and greet with viewers.

Steve's Outdoor Adventures is a big game hunting program plugging guided western big game hunting for moose, grizzly and brown bear, caribou, muskox, trophy mule deer, elk and more.

Osprey cruise a unique local wildlife experience

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BIRD WATCHING —  Tickets for Saturday's osprey viewing cruise on Lake Coeur d'Alene sold out the day after the notice was published, proving word is out that this is a bucket list wildlife opportunity in the Inland Northwest.

The photos came from Carlene Hardt, who wrote this note after taking the cruise:

Thank you for writing about the Osprey Cruise on your blog! I didn't know they did this every year.  There was one Osprey family on their piling nest in Cougar Bay that we watched being banded. The chicks stay in the nest for 8 weeks. I was surprised by their camouflaged coloring and long wings. There were several guest speakers durning our 2 hour cruise.

It was a wonderful way to spend the morning.

While speakers told stories and offered information about these hawks that dive into lakes and river for their meals of fish, the people on the cruise boat could watch osprey expert Wayne Melquist band young osprey in nests along the lake.

Melquist would hold the birds up so people could see the osprey's sharp talons as he attached the band.

The banding day is scheduled before the chicks are old enough to be tempted to bail out of the nest at the approach of a human.

At least 100 osprey pairs nest each year in the Coeur d’Alene Lake region including the lower reaches of the St. Joe and Coeur d’Alene Rivers. 

Adult osprey along with the young of the year birds begin their annual migration in mid-September. The bands have helped researchers document their travel all the way to Baja California, Central America, and many all the way to South America. The adults return in late winter/early spring to the area where they originally hatched. 

Motorist has photos of wolf that chased Sandpoint cyclist

WILDLIFE — The photos show the wolf that chased the Sandpoint bicyclist in the Yukon last weekend as reported in my outdoors column.

The photos (click “continue reading” below to see them all) were snapped by Pennock, Minn., resident Becky Woltjer, who was in the RV that stopped to rescue William “Mac” Hollan from the wolf that had become obsessed with his bike, nipping and tearing at his rear bike packs even after Hollan dropped the bike and took refuge in the RV.

Alberta resident Melanie Klassen helped chase the wolf away by beaning it in the head with water bottle.

The photos also show Hollan saluting the RVers after the wolf had left and he resumed his Point to Bay bicycle tour from Idaho to Prudhoe Bay with his two cycling companions.

Read on for Woltjer's Facebook account of the incident, and why she felt compelled to give a stranger from Idaho a big hug:

150 people in 16 states cited for wildlife trafficking

WILDLFIE — More than 150 people face federal and state charges after authorities disrupted online wildlife trafficking operations involving tiger, leopard and jaguar pelts, elephant ivory and live birds, the Associated Press reports.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the arrests Thursday after an undercover operation that included officers from 16 states — including Washington and Oregon — plus three federal agencies and three Asian countries.

Items seized under “Operation Wild Web” include the pelts of endangered big cats such as the Sumatran tiger, leopard and jaguar; live migratory birds such as the California scrub jay; whale teeth; elephant and walrus ivory; and a zebra pelt.

“Our message is clear and simple: The Internet is not an open marketplace for protected species,” said Edward Grace, deputy assistant director for law enforcement for the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Working with counterparts in California, Texas, New York, Florida and Alaska and other states, federal officials targeted illegal wildlife sellers who operate through Craigslist, eBay and other Internet marketplaces and classified ads. Wildlife officers in Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia ran similar operations at the same time.

The items were seized last August, although charges are still being brought in many cases.

Six Southern California residents were charged Thursday with selling endangered species and animal parts, the US. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles said.

“As a major platform for the illicit trade in wildlife, the Internet has become a dangerous place for animals,” said Jeff Flocken, North American regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, an advocacy group that worked with the federal task force.

“Wildlife crimes are not only harmful to endangered species, they also pose serious threats to national and global security,” Flocken said.

Illegal wildlife trade generates an estimated $19 billion a year worldwide and ranks fourth on the list of the most lucrative global illegal activities behind narcotics, counterfeiting and human trafficking, the animal welfare group said in a report last year.

Federal laws regulating the sale of wildlife include the Endangered Species Act; Migratory Bird Treaty Act; Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act; Marine Mammal Protection Act; and the Lacey Act, which prohibits trade in wildlife, fish and plants that have been illegally taken, transported or sold.

Other states involved in “Operation Wild Web” were Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Oregon, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

Program, book document Elwha River restoration

RIVERS — The author of “Elwha: A River Reborn,” will be in Spokane on Tuesday for a free presentation on the people, places, fish and history behind the world's largest dam removal effort.

Lynda Mapes, a Seattle Times reporter, will speak at 7 p.m. in the Community Building Lobby, 35 W. Main Ave.

The program is sponsored by Save Our Wild Salmon and the Spokane Falls Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

Mapes joined Times photographer Steve Ringman to document what’s led to this monumental $325 million environmental restoration project.

Two antiquated dams are being removed to allow the Elwha to run freely for 45 miles from its headwaters in Olympic National Park to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The effort is opening more than 70 miles of spawning habitat to steelhead and all five species of Pacific salmon

Scientists, tribes, elected officials, local communities, agency officials and anglers are putting stock in the power of nature to turn back the clock on an Olympic Peninsula river once known for hosting runs of 100-pound chinook.

  • For more info on the Tuesday program, contact Sam Mace at sam@wildsalmon.org, (509) 747-2030.  

BUMPY ROAD TO RECOVERY: Fish hatchery losses

A pump failure at the Elwha Klallam fish hatcher last weekend led to the deaths of at least 200,000 coho salmon, spawned last fall, and roughly 2,000 year-old steelhead trout — about 50 percent of this year's crop of the fish destined for restoring runs in the Elwha River.  See the story.

Photo: Cougar in Spokane Valley resident’s backyard

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Residents in the 22000 block of East Morris Road snapped this shot of a cougar in their backyard around 7 this morning and emailed the photo to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Anyone out there up for a backyard campout sleepover tonight?

Cooking, kid-camping clinics at REI

CAMPING/HIKING – Two camping-hiking programs are scheduled by staffers on the same night — July 25 — at the Spokane REI store, 1125 N. Monroe St.  

One is on camp cooking, the other on hiking with kids. Both start at 7 p.m.

Space is limited, so Pre-register online.

Get your wolf questions answered: Experts from ID, MT, WA uniting for webcast

PREDATORS — Big game managers from Washington, Idaho and Montana will discuss their experiences managing game animals in areas populated by wolves during a live webcast, 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m., on July 18.

View the event on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website  http://wdfw.wa.gov/ . A video of the webcast will remain on the website for later viewing.

Questions can be emailed in advance or during the presentations to july18event@dfw.wa.gov .

Montana and Idaho have been managing wolves longer than Washington and their experience can provide context to inform the department and citizens on how to confront the challenges that lie ahead for Washington, said Phil Anderson, WDFW director.

“This will give the public an opportunity to hear directly from those who have been involved in wolf management in other areas of the west,” he said.

Jon Rachel, Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s state wildlife manager, and Jim Williams, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ northwest wildlife program manager, will discuss the impacts wolves have had on deer, elk and other big game animals in their states. 

Successful big game hunting strategies in wolf country also will be presented.

Dave Ware, WDFW statewide game program manager, will describe the status of wolves and big game hunting in Washington.

Idaho fall chinook seasons open Sept. 1

FISHING —  Idaho's fall chinook salmon fishing seasons will open Sept. 1 on parts of the Snake, Clearwater and Salmon rivers according to these rules adopted today by the state Fish and Game Commission:

  • Clearwater River, from its mouth upstream to Memorial Bridge; and the Salmon River, from its mouth upstream about three-fourths of a mile to Eye of the Needle Rapids, will be open from September 1 until further notice or October 31, whichever comes first.
  • Snake River, from the Washington-Idaho border upstream to Cliff Mountain Rapids, a little less than a mile downstream of Hells Canyon Dam, also will be open from September 1 until further notice or October 31.
  • Snake River, from Cliff Mountain Rapids to Hells Canyon Dam, will be open from September 1 until further notice or November 17.

The daily bag limit is six adult Chinook salmon, the possession limit is 18 adult Chinook and there is no season limit on adult Chinook. Only adipose-fin-clipped salmon may be kept.

Only adult Chinook must be recorded on the angler’s salmon permit. There are no limits on jacks, but anglers must have a valid Idaho fishing license and a salmon permit to fish for salmon.

Alaska Highway cyclists lauded for packing bear spray

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — “Credit them for having bear spray,” said Nancy Campbell, Environment Yukon spokeswoman in Whitehorse, referring to a Sandpoint bicycle tourist who, while separated from his companions, was chased on the Alaska Highway by a wolf.

As today's Outdoors column points out, short bursts of bear spray bought Mac Hollan time to be rescued by motorists even though the relentless wolf kept coming back to nip and rip his paniers and tent bag as they raced down the highway.

“We tell everyone to have bear spray with them and in a holster ready to use any time they go into the backcountry, which can be a few steps off your back porch in the Yukon,” Campbell said.

Hollan said he and his friends had fully prepared for encounters with bears by having bear-proof food canisters, keeping clean camps and keeping bear spray readily available clipped to their handlebar bags.

“I never dreamed I'd need it for a wolf,” he said.

WOLF OR DOG?

Some readers are pointing out that chasing a bicycle or motorcycle is abnormal behavior for a wolf but normal behavior for a dog, such as a husky or wolf hybrid that may look like a wolf.   

Indeed, no one, including a biologist, could verify this was a wolf involved in this incident or the June 8 incident with a motorcyclist in Kootenay National Park (photo above) without getting DNA documentation. That could be done from saliva on the packs, I suppose, but no one is likely to fund that effort.

The lesson, regardless of the animal's species, is that having bear spray readily available is a wise prepareation for muscle-powered travelers.

Okanogan deer hunt applications available

HUNTING — Hunters have until midnight Aug. 14 to apply for a permit to hunt deer this fall on the 6,000-acre Charles and Mary Eder unit of the Scotch Creek Wildlife Area near Oroville in northeastern Okanogan County.

 

Submit an application for the “limited-entry” deer hunt on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website or by contacting the WDFW northcentral region office, (509) 754-4624.

 

Eighteen applicants will be chosen during a random drawing scheduled Aug. 15. 

 

“This is part of our effort to provide quality hunting opportunities in Washington,” said Matt Monda, WDFW Northcentral Regional Wildlife Manager. “This drawing is open to the general public without any additional fees beyond the cost of a hunting license and the standard tags.”

 

Of the 18 access permits available this year, six will be reserved for bowhunters, six for muzzleloaders and six for hunters using modern firearms.

 

Hunters are allowed to take only one deer, and must follow general hunting rules in effect for this area.

 

Deer-hunting seasons for the area are Sept. 1-27 for bow hunters, Sept. 28-Oct. 6 for muzzleloaders, and Oct. 12-20 for hunters using modern firearms.

 

The results of the drawing will be available on WDFW’s website the last week of August. Hunters who are drawn will receive an access permit and a boundary map in the mail.

North Cascades makes list of least discovered parks

NATIONAL PARKS — While more than 30 million visitors flock to America’s 10 most popular national parks, Country magazine took the road less traveled to visit the “Hidden Gems” for a special photo section in the June-July issue on what the editors call “the 10 most beautiful, least crowded parks in the national park system.

North Cascades National Park in northcentral Washington is on the list.

Despite the breathtaking alpine terrain, Washington’s North Cascades National Park remains virtually deserted compared with America’s marquee national parks. Why?

Location plays a part. The park’s most famous feature, Mount Shuksan, isn’t its most impressive peak; it’s just the most impressive peak visible from Mount Baker Highway. Countless mountains of equal caliber remain unknown except among hikers and climbers willing to blaze their own trails.

Precipitation matters, too. Heavy snow mantles the higher elevations in radiant white, while rains nourish the dense forest that cloaks the lower slopes, making them impenetrable to the hesitant hiker.

Other parks on the list include:

Utah anti-wolf funding to be audited

PREDATORS — When you take sides on wolves, be wary of the slime that accumulates at both ends of a polarized issue.

Even conservative Utah lawmakers are finally taking a look at the questionable decision they made authorizing taxpayer money to be spent by a non-government group in an equally questionable ongoing effort to wrest control of wolf management from the federal government.

Big Game Forever, a Utah-based nonprofit that spun off Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife in 2010, has secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in state money during the past four years to evict the gray wolf from the endangered species list. But the group’s founders Don Peay and Ryan Benson have not disclosed where the money goes in their reports to the Legislature and to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Righteous groups that pretend to be the savior of wildlife and hunting are in the thick of this. Groups that seek to privatize wildlife and assume control over public lands should be scrutinized to the core. Our hunting future is at stake.

Meanwhile, Big Game Forever is poised to receive a second $300,000 state appropriation for fiscal year 2014. 

See the latest in this story by the Salt Lake Tribune.

Also:

Read a insightful commentary by veteran Tribune scribe and outdoors reporter Tom Wharton, who voices his concern about Don Peay, who founded Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife in 1993. The group has blossomed into a powerful multimillion-dollar operation with a presence in seven Western states and in national politics.  But Wharton expresses his concern that the organization has become increasingly more about making money for its officers, commercializing Utah’s wildlife and aligning itself with groups such as off-highway vehicle organizations and right-wing politicians intent on Utah taking over federal public lands.

“How these things help wildlife or the average hunter escapes me,” Wharton says.

  • Just for fun, read this Cascadia Wildlands commentary for a notion of what a wolf advocacy group thinks of Don Peay, “the man who would be king.”

Stand up paddleboarding program at REI

WATER SPORTS – Get the basics on Stand Up Paddleboarding in a free staff-presented program at REI on Thursday, 7 p.m.

Geocaching featured at Washington State Parks

OUTLOCATE – Geocacher’s have a new reason to find their way to Washington State Parks. To celebrate the state parks centennial, 100 geocaches have been hidden in 100 state parks.

Geocaches are containers stashed around the world with their GPS (Global Positioning System) coordinates registered on a public website.

Each cache in the Washington State Parks Centennial GeoTour was placed by an active member of the local geocaching community and approved by a ranger at each park.

Centennial GeoTour players can download the GeoTour passport, map and guidelines.

Vehicles entering state parks must display a Washington Discover Pass.

Gov. Inslee makes two appointments to Fish and Wildlife Commission

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Gov. Jay Inslee has reappointed the chair of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to a six-year term and has appointed the executive director of the Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association to a vacant position.

The commission is a nine-member citizen panel that sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Members are appointed by the governor to six-year terms and are subject to state Senate confirmation. Three members must reside in Eastern Washington, three in Western Washington, and three may live anywhere in the state. No two members may live in the same county.
The governor reappointed the commission chair, Miranda Wecker of Naselle, to the Western Washington position she has held since 2005, for a term that runs through Dec. 31, 2018. Wecker, who has served as chair since 2008, is the director of the Marine Program at the University of Washington Olympic Natural Resources Center.
Inslee also appointed Robert Kehoe of Seattle to a vacant at-large position for a term that runs through Dec. 31, 2014. Kehoe, an attorney, joined the Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association as general counsel in 1997 and became executive director in 2009. He has served as a commercial fishing industry representative on the Pacific Salmon Commission since 2001.
“Miranda Wecker has done an excellent job in leading the commission's work on several challenging fish and wildlife policy issues, and I am very pleased that she is willing to serve another term,” Inslee said. “Bob Kehoe is a well-respected leader in the commercial fishing industry and will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the commission's deliberations.”
The commission's next meeting is scheduled Aug. 2-3 in Olympia. 

Sandpoint cyclist survives tense wolf encounter on Al-Can Highway

UPDATE,  July 14, 10 a.m. — See photos of the wolf attacking the bike and an account from the RVer who helped rescue cyclist Mac Hollan from the wolf's relentless pursuit. Also, I've interviewed one of the motorist heroes who drove the wolf away from Hollan's bike. Read her account of the story in today's Outdoors column. — RL

BICYCLE TOURING — A Sandpoint, Idaho, man and two companions riding bicycles on a 2,750-mile tour to Prudhoe Bay as a fundraiser for a school charity had a tense encounter with a gray wolf last weekend.

  • This is similar to a recent incident in Canada, except for one big difference: the man from Banff was riding a motorcycle.

Mac Hollan, 35, who will be student teaching at a Sandpoint elementary school this fall, posted this chilling detailed account on his Point to Bay Facebook page on Monday.

Two days ago I was attacked by a wolf while riding down the ALCAN. With all the planning for bears, road safety, and everything else, this scenario was something that none of us had ever considered. But, if you read on you will find out how I found myself alone on my bike being chased down and attacked by a Canadian Gray Wolf.

It was around 2:30, about 60 miles west of Watson Lake on the ALCAN, I was a bit ahead of the guys when I heard something to my right. Thinking Gabe or Gordo had caught up without me noticing I looked over my shoulder and was shocked at what I saw. The first thought that ran through my head was “that is the biggest damn dog I have ever seen!”. This surreal moment of shock and confusion passed immediately was the “dog” lunged for my right foot and snapped its jaws just missing my pedal.

WOLF!!! At this point I received the biggest jolt of adrenalin I have ever had in my life. Without so much as a thought I shifted my bike to the highest gear possible, started to mash the pedals like never before, and reached for the bear spray in the handlebar bag. I threw off the safety and gave the wolf a quick blast in the face which served to slow him down so that he was now 20 feet behind me but still not stopping. He hung back for maybe 20 seconds and then raced forward and attacked my panniers, in the process ripping my tent bag and spilling my poles onto the highway.

I gave him another shot of pepper spray, which again backed him off to about 20 feet behind. Despite pedaling like I have never pedaled before, the wolf kept pace with me easily. It was at this point that I saw an 18 wheeler round the corner and began to wave, shout, and point to the wolf frantically. As he slowed I began to breathe a sigh of relief, thinking if I could just get off my bike and into the truck fast enough I would be safe. After taking a good look at the scene the driver resumed his speed and drove on.

This same scenario would happen to me 4 separate times, with my desperation growing with each car that passed me by. Every time the wolf would begin to close on me again, I would shoot a quick blast of bear spray behind me to slow him down.

As I came around the corner, to my horror I saw a quick incline, and knew that I would not be able to stay in front of this wolf for much longer. I just kept thinking about all the shows I have seen where wolves simply run their prey until they tire and then finish them. It was a surreal moment to realize that I was that prey, and this hill was that moment. The only plan I could think of was to get off my bike, get behind it, and hope that I had enough bear spray to deter him once and for all when he got close enough.

It was also at this point that I realized I might not be going home, and I began to panic at the thought of how much it was going to hurt. About .2 mile before the hill an RV came around the corner, and I knew this was it. I placed myself squarely in the center of the road and began screaming at the top of my lungs “help me, there's a wolf, please help me” while waving frantically. Seeing the situation the driver quickly passed me and stopped on a dime right in front of my bike. I don't know how I got unclipped or off my bike, but I swear I hurdled the handlebars without missing a beat or letting go of my can of bear spray. When I got to the backdoor of the RV still screaming, the door was locked. In an absolute panic I began to climb in the passenger window, but the driver reached across and threw the door open to let me in. By the time I shut the door the wolf was already on my bike pulling at the shredded remains of my tent bag. I began to shake, and cuss.

More cars began to pull up and honk at the wolf, but he would not leave my bike, as though he thought it was his kill. It took someone finally beaning him in the head with a rock to get him to leave. At this point Gabe and Gordo showed up looking confused and concerned with a set of shattered tent poles in hand. While I know I got the names of the man and woman who saved me, for the life of me I can't remember them now. I do remember the woman giving me a hug that felt like the greatest hug of my life.

Still jacked on adrenalin, all I wanted to do was get out of that place, and get out fast. The folks in the RV were nice enough to watch our backs as we got a ways down the road before leaving, and gave one final wave as they passed by. I gave them a card for the ride and I hope they are reading this so that they know how much I am in their debt and how grateful I am that they stopped to save me. Otherwise I honestly don't think this story would have ended well.

We made it about 10 miles down the road before the full adrenalin rush wore off and then everything seemed to go into slow motion and I just felt dizzy and tired. We pulled over to a roadside creek where I stumbled down to splash water on my face and basically sat in the creek and lost my s%$t. The full implication of what had just happened to me sank in, and I just lost it for a good 15 minutes.

We have spent a lot of time talking about the incident since, and the only conclusion we can come up with is that the wolf was old, sick, or injured, to be chasing something down on the highway. I would not doubt I am the first cyclist ever to have this happen to them on the ALCAN. That being said I have tried not to let this experience change my positive feelings about being out here, but I do look over my shoulder more, and am a bit jumpy.

While other things have happened since the last update, this is all I can really remember. We're in Whitehorse, Yukon now, having pulled off a century before 2:30. We're planning on doing some bike work here and relaxing for the afternoon. That's all for now.

Point to Bay is a charity bicycle tour from Sandpoint, ID to Prudhoe Bay, AK supporting the Sandpoint Backpack Program. The Sandpoint Backpack Program provides students in need with backpacks full of food for the weekend to ensure they return to school on Monday fed and ready to learn. This ride is 100% self-supported, and 100% rider funded, meaning every bit of your donation goes directly to students in need. The 2,750 mile ride begins June 17th, 2013 and will take roughly 6 1/2 weeks to complete. For more information please follow the links to the Point to Bay website. Full bellies, full minds!

Followup:  

Fall salmon seasons on Idaho commission’s agenda

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Fall chinook salmon seasons are on the agenda for the Idaho Fish and Game Commission meeting Wednesday and Thursday (July 10 and 11) at the Clarion Inn, 1399 Bench Rd. in Pocatello.

Chinook fishing is proposed to open Sept. 1 on parts of the Snake, Clearwater and Salmon rivers.

The commisisoners have set a public comment session at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 10, at the Clarion Inn

Commissioners will hear an update on the negotiated rule-making process, required by recent changes in state law. Four new rules are being considered for negotiated rule making.

·         Nonresident junior mentored tags would require the mentor to have a tag for the same species but not necessarily the same area.

·         Bear hunters would be required to complete Fish and Game’s bear identification course and exam before hunting bears in units where both black bears and grizzly bears may be encountered.

·         Rules would be developed covering the use of unprocessed food for bear bait in certain units in the Upper Snake Region.

·         The existing Landowner Appreciation Program would be adjusted to resolve concerns expressed by landowners in Unit 45 about program restrictions.

Read on for more details about these rules, other agenda items and specific proposals for the chinook seasons:

GAO report: 3 of 4 Forest Service trails below standards

HIKING — A new federal report says only one-quarter of U.S. Forest Service trails meet the agency’s own standards as it attempts to catch up with a $524 million maintenance deficit.

The is the latest news, coming out after my recent localized story: Budget cuts leave recreation areas looking for outside help.

The Missoulian this week looked into the Government Accountability Office's nation-wide report on trail conditions.

Two groups petitioned members of Congress to look into the matter, since the last similar study was done in 1989. U.S. Reps. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., and Jim Moran, D-Va., officially requested the study.

“With the important exception of maintaining forest health to combat wildfires and insect kill, there is no other activity in the Forest Service’s portfolio that is more important than ensuring the public’s access to our forests and wilderness areas,” Lummis said in a statement, where she also described the trails maintenance program as “held together by Band-Aids and bailing wire.”

The Government Accountability Office report released on June 27 found the Forest Service did some maintenance on 37 percent of its 158,000 miles of trail in fiscal 2012. But it estimated another $314 million in deferred maintenance remained on the to-do list, along with $210 million in unfinished annual maintenance, capital improvements and operations. In its recommendations, the GAO called for closer work with volunteers to get projects done.

That’s already a working assumption for groups like the Backcountry Horsemen, according to Montana state chairman Mark Himmel.

“We asked the Forest Service for a punch list of places that needed work,” Himmel said after returning from a brush-clearing trip on the Continental Divide Trail near Rogers Pass. “The guy said throw a dart at the map. Wherever it hits needs work. We’re a maintenance organization. We pick up the slack and make it work. We know there’s budget cutbacks. I don’t know where it’s going to go, except to just keep at it.”

High alert for bird dog owners: Cheatgrass in full bloom

HUNTING DOGS — The national plant of veterinarians across the West is in full bloom.

Cheatgrass that was only a spotty problem two weeks ago has been cured by the recent heat wave and I can tell you from personal experience that it's at full capacity to inflict harm on your dog's ears, toes, nose and other body parts.

I'm plugging my dogs' ears with cotton for even the shortest romp, and checking them thoroughly afterward, especially between the toes.

I'll be suspending most field dog training and doing most of my dog's physical conditioning by taking him hiking in the mountains and throwing retrieving dummies into lakes.

The extreme danger to dogs will continue until some point in August when wind and pounding thunderstorms drive most of the seed spears to the ground.

Online map pegs Idaho fishing-boating access sites

BOATING — An updated Idaho Fishing and Boating Access Guide with a list of access sites on lakes and streams is available at state Fish and Game Department offices, including the Panhandle Region headquarters, 2885 W. Kathleen Ave. in Coeur d'Alene.

The guide includes regional maps of fishing and boating access sites.

Access locations managed by Fish and Game also are presented in an alphabetical list that includes available amenities and special access features, such as boat ramps, docks, restrooms, camping and ADA fishing access.

The guide also is available online in Idaho Fish and Game's interactive Fishing Planner.  This includes the added feature of being able to toggle to satellite imagery of the maps. You can zoom in on a  photo of a site and see it in amazing sharpness and detail.

BLM bars traffic to Towell Falls at Escure Ranch

PUBLIC LANDS — Increasing fire danger has prompted the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to close Towell Falls Road in the Bureau of Land Management Spokane District’s Rock Creek management area to motorized traffic for the summer.

The Rock Creek management area, better known as Escure Ranch, is about 20 miles south of Sprague Washington in Whitman and Adams Counties.

The 3.2-mile dirt road into the Towell Falls area of Rock Creek remains open to hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers.

Info: (509) 536-1200.

Bold bears force closure of Montana’s Smith River campsites

PARKS — Apparently because of sloppy campers who came previously, people with coveted Smith River floating/camping permits have been getting disappointing phone calls.

Montana state parks officials have closed the Smith River State Park between Camp Baker and Eden Bridge because black bear looking for food and showing no fear of humans are turning up at the boat-in camps.

Bears have been getting into food storage coolers, they said.

No one has been injured, but to play it safe, the river has been closed since Saturday.

The bear activity has resulted in the need to close numerous boat camps, making it difficult to provide adequate and safe camping opportunities for those floating the central Montana river. People put in for the permits in a lottery each spring and only a fraction of the hopeful crowd draw reservations.

The river will be closed until wildlife managers can resolve the situation.

People with upcoming permits to float the river are being contacted by Smith River State Park staff.

New Keller ferry interrupts boating, traffic at Lake Roosevelt

BOATING –Lake Roosevelt’s public boat launch at Crescent Bay will be closed from 5 p.m. Tuesday (July 9) through Wednesday for the debut of Washington’s newest ferry, which will transport State Route 21 traffic across the Columbia River at Keller Ferry.

Motorists must use a 60-mile detour on alternate routes from today (July 8) through Aug. 13 as ferry service on the Keller route will be temporarily suspended to upgrade the terminals and fit them to the new $9.6 million vessel called the Sanpoil. 

Boaters in the area will be able to use the launch ramp at Spring Canyon, three miles east of Grand Coulee off State Route 174, during this closure.

The Washington Department of Transportation will launch the Sanpoil, built to replace the Martha S, a six-car ferry that’s covered the mile-long route across the Columbia River north of Wilbur for 64 years. The Marha S made it's last run on Sunday.

The Sanpoil will carry 20 cars while being more efficient, officials say.

The ferry had a crew of 2 have been an important link connect ing Lincoln and Ferry counties on Highway 21..

There will be no Keller Ferry for five weeks while ramps are improved for a new ferry to be dedicated Aug. 14. 

2013 Summer Season Services

at Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area

Daisy — marina and roadside fuel pumps, store providing snacks, beverages and ice, (509) 738-2995.

Kettle Falls Marina — houseboat rental, fuel, groceries and moorage, (509) 738-6121.

Keller Ferry and Seven Bays — fuel, groceries and seasonal moorage, with houseboat rentals available out of Seven Bays, (509) 725-7229. 

Fuel at all of the above locations is ethanol-free.

Heat wave leaves Selkirk Mountains lakes ice-free

HIKING — What a difference a week makes this time of year in the Idaho Selkirk Mountains.

Last week I reported ice still covering Beehive and Little Harrison lakes at 6,200 feet elevation up the Pack River drainage in the heart of the Selkirks.

Seeing the late opportunity to make some turns on the snow fields above Beehive Lakes, local skier Mike Brede trekked in on Saturday and found a slightly different scene.  

There was still enough snow to make a run of 975 vertical feet from twin Peaks down to the upper Beehive Lake (see photo, that's the ice-free upper lake at the bottom of the run).

But the ice was gone from Beehive and Little Harrison lakes.

“And the mosquitoes are out now,” Brede confirmed.

See more of his photos on Facebook.

Osprey-viewing boat cruise set for Saturday

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A boat-load of people will get a close-up view of wildlife biologists capturing and banding young osprey during a wildlife-watching boat cruise on Lake Coeur d'Alene on Saturday (July 13).

Space is limited, so sign up now for this event, which includes onboard presentations by osprey experts.

Make reservations through the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce, (208) 415-0110.

Online reservations are planned, but the option is not yet posted on the Chamber's website.

Cost: $15 for adults, $30 maximum per family.

The trip will run from 9 a.m. –11 a.m.

Read on for more details about the cruise, the speaker and the birds.

Trail crew boss divides teens, and conquers

PUBLIC LANDS — Pat Hart, who manages maintenance of recreation sites and trails in the Bonner Ferry Ranger District, has become an expert of attracting and accommodating volunteers, from youths to seniors, to get seasonal jobs done on a slim Forest Service budget.

It takes more thought that you might think.

Every year, Camp Thunderbird, a Minnesota youth outdoor summer camp, buses out about 20 teenage boys and another group of 20 girls, a lot of them from cities like Chicago, for outdoor adventure in the West, including a couple weeks of service work on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.

“The girls arrive on a different day than the boys,” Hart said.

“The camp promises to do a ton of work while they’re here. We promise to keep the boys and girls groups at least three drainages apart for the entire time.”

Holden Village offers faith-based backpacking, trail work

BACKPACKING — Holden Village, a Lutheran camp above Lake Chelan near the boundary of the Glacier Peak Wilderness , is offering a new summer program,  “Holden On The Trail,” which combines backpacking with study and volunteer trail maintenance in partnership with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
 
Sign up by the end of this week for any of six sessions, each about one week, planned accommodate multiple hiking skill levels. Depending on the session, hikers will cover 18.5 to 39 miles and volunteer between eight to 16 hours of trail maintenance during the week.
 
Cost is $350 for the six-night sessions, and $370 for one seven night outing. The fee covers food, program and major gear, including sleeping bags, backpacks, stoves and tents.
 
Each hiking group will include nine participants and three Holden staffers who are experienced hikers.
The staff will include a pastor, teaching staff member and leader trained in wilderness first aid and trail maintenance. Worship and teaching topics may include theology and religion, ecology and environment, health and wellness, global studies and politics, and visual arts.
 
Download applications and submit by Friday, (July 12). Follow the link under the events menu.
 
Read on for a list of the scheduled hikes:

State lawmakers fund compensation for wolf depredation

PREDATORS — The Washington Legislature appropriated $250,000 to a fund for compensating ranchers for livestock injured or killed by wolves.

Jack Field, executive vice president of the Washington Cattlemen's Association, said the amount “a great first step” for the agency and for the livestock industry, according to the Capital Press.

The direction WDFW is going on preventative measures, he said, will hopefully reduce the impacts of wolves. The budget also provides $750,000 for nonlethal deterrence methods.

Another important change this year is the removal of a $1,500 cap on the value of an animal. Instead, compensation will be based on the market value of the animal. A steer could be worth $600 and a prize bull would be far more, but the owner would need proof of its value, Capital Press reports.

Record rockfish was 64 years old, not 200, tests show

Update: Tests later indicated the fish was 64 years old, according to an Alaska Fish and Game report..

FISHING — The record-breaking rockfish that caught national attention last week after biologists esitmated it was more than 200 years old has been proved to be a youngster.

Henry Liebman of Seattle caught a 39.08 pound shortraker rockfish while fishing with Angling Unlimited out of Sitka on June 21, 2013, breaking the Alaska state record of 38.68 pounds caught in 2001. Alaska Fish and Game Department biologists officially aged the fish at 64 years old.

  • Initial reports of the fish's age were estimates based on observations.
  • The official report was issued Friday after scientists in Juneau studied the otolith, the fish's equivalent of ear bones.

“It's impossible to age a rockfish once it has matured just by looking at it,” said Kristen Green, groundfish project leader for Alaska's southeast region.

The oldest aged rockfish, a rougheye, was 205 years old and measured 32 inches.  Liebman's fish measured 41 inches, which encouraged unsubstantiated claims of a 200-year-old fish.  

Shortrakers mature by age 10 and reach their peak size shortly after. 

Liebman, who'd caught a huge shortraker in a prvious visit with Angling Unlimited, asked his skipper to help him and his party target big rockfish again.  They were fishing in 850 feet of water when he hooked the record fish.

The fish was weighed at 45 pounds on the boat, so Captain David Goss, knowing the fish would lose weight every hour out of the water, raced back to get the fish officially weighed by Fish and Game officials.

Follow the process of the fish going through the official channels to be named a state record.

Lake Roosevelt levels heading toward full pool

RIVERS — While Dworshak Reservoir levels are being lowered for the sake of downstream salmon, Lake Roosevelt levels are increasing this week along the Columbia River behind Grand Coulee Dam.

The level of Lake Roosevelt was at elevation 1287 feet today and lake levels are expected to continue slowly rising over the next week and reach the full pool elevation of 1290 by July 13.

After reaching 1290, the Bureau of Reclamation predicts the lake level will remain in the 1288-1290 range for the week of July 14

High levels at Lake Roosevelt reduce the beach area available for camping and picnicking. Levels drop in August for hydropower needs and providing flows for Columbia River salmon. This exposes more beaches making August prime time for campers on the 145-mile-long lake.

Get links to river flows in this region at The Spokesman-Review Outdoors topics page.

Get daily Lake Roosevelt level forecast by phone, updated daily at 3 p.m: (800) 824-4916.

Check out this NOAA site with Roosevelt levels and a list of boat launching elevations on the same page.

Lesson learned: don’t grab a raccoon

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Raccoons are cute to watch, but they also are extremely quick and viscious when confronted.

I've heard of pit bulls that have bled to death after being lacerated by a coon's sharp teeth.

In this story and video, a Portland woman tells how she grabbed a raccoon that was attacking her dog — and paid a big price for it.

Inner tubes are vessels; life vests required

BOATING — Sheriff's deputies and Fish and Wildlife Police across Washington are reminding summer funseekers that they can be nailed with an $87 fine for boating or floating without a lifejacket on rivers, and that includes inner tubing.

Most people don't know that people on inner tubes are required to have a personal flotation device (PFD) with them when traveling down river.

The law requires all vessels in the state to have PFDs for everyone on board, and the law defines “vessels” as any watercraft being used for transportation.

Some judges agree with his interpretation and some don't, so some people have successfully fought his citations in court.

But officers say they go by the letter of the law and the intent to prevent tragedies.


Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2013/07/05/2666594/87-fine-for-forgoing-life-jackets.html#storylink=cpy

Photo: Turnbull trumpeters tending to young

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Photographer Carlene Hardt and numerous other wildlife watchers have been watching trumpeter swans at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge south of Cheney as they raise their young that hatched last month.

Here's the photo and the note she sent this week after spending some time watching the family of two adults and four cygnets off the paved walking trail near Middle Pine pond.

The rules say I can't go off trail on Cheever so I will not be able to see the second family. 

Isn't it wonderful that there are two Trumpeter pairs and two new families! The cygnets are so adorable and I know they will grow up fast! I watched them imitate their parents eating and preening. 

Disturbing video: canoeists kill swimming deer; investigation follows

POACHING — State wildlife agents are investigating after a video surfaced showing a group of people in a canoe killing a deer in the waters near Squaxin Island, in southwestern Puget Sound.

KOMO-TV reports the killing of the buck was captured on a 12-minute video, which shows a man swinging at the animal with an oar. The buck swims away but a couple minutes later, a paddler jumps into the water and attempts to drown the deer before another man dives in to assist.

The video ends with the deer being paddled to shore aboard the canoe.

Squaxin Island Tribal Council member Ray Peters says he was disturbed by the video, because that’s not how the tribe harvests deer.

No hunting season is open for deer.

Officials are still trying to identify some of the people in the video.

Hunting public lands TV show debuts today

HUNTING — Randy Newberg, host of the popular TV hunting series, On Your Own Adventures,  is launching a new TV program that premier's today on Sportsman Channel.
 
Fresh Tracks, sponsored by Federal Premium, continues Newberg's self-guided public land hunting theme yet in a more personal way.

“This is a new style and new format for telling the story of the American hunter,” Newberg said. “For an entire season, viewers will follow our crew as they travel to vast tracts of amazing public lands in the United States, facing all the challenges that come with self-guided hunting. We let the viewer see it all, successful or not. We are not only hunters while in the field; we are also hunters year-round in our advocacy and conservation work.”

In this series, viewers will get an inside look into what it takes to prepare for self-guided hunts. The series is a season-long journey, featuring amazing hunts on vast tracts of public lands.

It is a story of passion and commitment, and in the end, a story that reflects how hunting and life occurs for most of us.

SPORTSMAN CHANNEL AIRTIMES
Check local listings
 
Premiere episode July 4, 2013
Runs:  July-December
Tuesday: 9 a.m. EST
Thursday: 8 p.m. EST
Thursday: 11 p.m. EST
Friday:  6 a.m. EST

Yakima River stonefly action ready to peak, fly fishing guides say

FLY FISHING — I'm ready to take a few days off, but I'll leave this parting thought to help fly fishers decide what they should be doing with their free time in the next week or two:

Caddis action on the Yakima River has been good in recent weeks, but the insect hatch that makes the Yakima River a standout among the greatest trout rivers in the West is going to peak in the next two weeks.

The Yakima's summer stonefly hatch — triggered later than natural river stonefly hatches in part because of increased irrigation flows — rivals any stonefly hatch in the country, with incredible big dry fly action in the wee hours, according to the guides at Red's Fly Shop south of Ellensburg.

Read on for details from Red's. 

Clausen, Spokane’s pro-bass angler, in FLW Cup field; angling for $500,000

PRO FISHING — Professional bass angler Luke Clausen of Spokane is among the 46 qualifiers from 20 states to compete for the $500,000 top prize in the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup, Aug. 15-18 on the Red River at Schreveport, La.

In 2006, Clausen won the $500,000 champion's check in the Bassmasters Classic in central Florida.

Read on for the list of qualifiers.

Utah throws wolf money down the drain

Anti-wolf group's report provides few details on how Utah money was spent

Big Game Forever submitted a 120-page report that contained a lot of magazine articles and government statistics, but little details on how the group spent $300,000 from Utah to shift wolf-management from the federal government to the state.

—Salt Lake Tribune

Record rockfish, 200 years old, caught in Alaska

FISHING — A Seattle man fishing in Alaska caught a 40-pound shortraker rockfish that experts believe could be 200 years old, which would easily predate the Alaska Purchase in 1867.

The Daily Sitka Sentinel reported that Henry Liebman was deep-sea fishing off the coast of Alaska on June 21 when he hooked the record-setting shortraker from a depth of approximately 900 feet.

Shortrakers, which have hues of orange, pink or red on top of their white bodies, are one of the most commonly sought fish in Alaska and can live at depths of more than 2,500 feet.

Troy Tidingco, Sitka area manager for the state Department of Fish and Game, said the fish is still being analyzed but he believes it is at least 200 years old. The current record is 175 years. Researchers are able to determine the age of a shortraker by the number of growth rings along its ear bone.

Sekiu fishing resort marks 80th anniversary

FISHING – Olson’s Resort at Sekiu, Wash., well-known for harboring salmon anglers venturing out on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, is celebrating it’s 80th anniversary this weekend.

How?  With a July 6 fishing derby, of course.

Idaho state parks loaning gear to new campers

CAMPING – Idaho State Parks has partnered with The North Face to loan camping equipment at no charge to first-time campers through September.

The Explore Your Parks program is underway at two North Idaho state parks:

  • Hells Gate, (208) 799-5015.
  • Priest Lake, (208) 443-2200.

The offer’s also good at Lake Cascade State Park south of McCall.

New campers can check out tents, tarps, chairs, cooking equipment, lanterns and other gear – everything needed except sleeping bags and food.

The only costs are the normal campsite and reservation fees.

Participants are greeted by staff who will assist with campsite setup and offer tips on camping basics.

Often the state parks also have activities, such as staff-led nature hikes and family activities.

Washington state waterfowl calling contest set in Lacey

WATERFOWLING — The Washington State Championship Duck Calling Contest, sponsored by the Washington Waterfowl Association, is set for Aug. 24 in Lacey.

The event includes duck and goose events for open, junior, peewee, novice and two-person categories.  Competition will take place at Cabela's, 1600 Gateway Blvd. NE. 

Top prize is $1,000 plus qualification for the Nov. 29-30 World's Championship Duck Calling Contest in Stuttgart, Ark.

Contact: Kurt Snyder, (360) 485-9353, email kurtsnyder@outdrs.net.

Mount Rainier facilities opening earlier than normal

PUBLIC LANDS — The recent summer weather around the Pacific Northwest has melted snow and allowed for Mount Rainier National Park staff to open multiple facilities ahead of schedule.

The Sunrise Road, Sunrise Lodge and Sunrise Visitor Center all opened to the public Friday, according to Mount Rainier Superintendent Randy King.

Other openings that are ahead of schedule include Cougar Rock Campground, Narada Falls Trail and White River Campground, which also opened on Friday. Mowich Lake Road is set to open Wednesday.

The other areas in the park already open include Ohanapecosh, Paradise, Longmire and Carbon River.

Geese fouling Lewiston-Clarkston beaches

WILDLIFE — Asotin resident Charlotte Tuttle detoured from the usual Asotin County Commissioners meeting Monday to let them know what's on the mind — and feet — of people visiting parks along the Snake River near Lewiston and Clarkston:

“We’ve got goose poop up to our ankles and mandates up to our eyeballs,” Tuttle said, according to the Lewiston Tribune.

Tuttle said there are so many geese along the river near Swallows Park that people can no longer swim at the park or walk on the bike path without encountering gobs of goose waste.

Butch Aiken - emergency services director for the county - said anytime there’s a trouble-making goose in the Seattle-Tacoma area, it’s brought to eastern Washington, and now those geese are causing problems on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property near the river.

Children cannot swim at Swallows Park because it’s contaminated by the geese, Aiken said.

Residents asked the commissioners to explore possible solutions, such as allowing people to hunt geese during a certain time period.

“It’s worth looking into,” said Asotin County Commissioner Jim Fuller.

Sockeye run downsized, but good fishing expected

FISHING — This year's sockeye run to the upper Columbia River is about a third the size of the 2012 run, but don't let that discourage you.

Last year's return of more than 500,000 sockeye was a record to behold.

This year's estimate of about 155,000 still offers plenty of opportunity. (The run forecast was lowered from 180,000 on Monday)

The sockeye are coming over Bonneville Dam at the rate of 4,000-7,000 a day, totaling 121,750 so far.

  • 32,084 have moved over Priest Rapids Dam.
  • 19,947 over Wanapum Dam.
  • 12,947 over Rock Island Dam.
  • 7,699 over Rocky Reach Dam.
  • 3,380 over Wells Dam.

The catch and keep season on much of the river opened Monday with anothe stretch to open July 16.

See this story by Rob Phillips of Yakima for some good tips toward getting on top of this fishery, especially for anglers with boats.

In a forecast revision released on Monday, federal, state and tribal fish managers predict 60,000 summer kings will return to the mouth of the Columbia River this season.

Time to comment on regional trails plan

TRAILS — The Spokane County Regional Trails Plan, which provides guidance for local, state and federal agencies in developing new trails and maintaining existing routes, is open to public comment through an online survey.

The plan seeks to coordinate trails throughout the region, identified corridors for trails and wildlife, aim for road and trail standards and promote the system.

The inventories and organization of the multi-partner plan already has helped the region secure more than $7 million in funding for trails and conservation areas, said Lunell Haught of the Inland Northwest Trails Coalition.

The plan includes the Spokane River Centennial Trail, Fish Lake Trail and other major trails as well as a network of smaller trails on agencies ranging from county parks and state parks to U.S. Bureau of Management Lands.

The public input will be incorporated into the plan as it's updated this year, Haught said.

Free fly fishing offerings at Dahmen Barn

FISHING – A series of free fly fishing-related demonstrations and workshops is scheduled in July at Artisans at the Dahmen Barn off U.S. Highway 195 at Uniontown.

July 7 - Fly casting workshop and rod repair demonstratio, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. 

July 14 - “Seasons of the Steelhead” author Will Godfry will demonstrate fly tying and sign books, 1 p.m.-4 p.m.

July 21 - Fly casting workshop, 1 p.m.-3 p.m. 

July 28 - Fly rod building and repair demonstration,  11 a.m.-3 p.m. 

Info: (509) 229-3414.

Dworshak levels plunging to cool Clearwater for salmon

BOATING — This week’s heat wave is changing the landscape for boaters and campers planning Fourth of July holiday trips to Dworshak Reservoir, which stretches 54 miles on the North Fork of the Clearwater River near Orofino.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam operators are more than doubling the flows from the chilly depths of the reservoir to cool the Clearwater River to safer temperatures for young salmon and steelhead.

The increased discharges from Dworshak Dam have caused the Clearwater River to rise 1.5 feet downstream from the confluence with the North Fork.

Visitors in the many campsites along the reservoir will be impacted as the water level drops from the full pool reached last week. The level is expected to drop 5 feet below full pool by Thursday and continue dropping to 9 feet below full by July 8.

Decreasing water levels can leave moored boats high and dry and long expanses of rocky shoreline between the water and the campsites.

Read on for details from the Corps, along for the reasoning of fish managers charged with protecting endangered fish stocks.

Colville National Forest reports alarming budget decline, especially in recreation

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal resource acengies are suffering big budget hits, as I pointed out on my Sunday Outdoors story.

Here's a spotlight on the issues, using an example close to home:

ALARMING NUMBERS FROM THE COLVILLE NF

The 1.1 million-acre Colville National Forest spans 3 counties in Washington. This year its overall operating budget is about $16 million, employing about 150 permanent staff and 100 temporary workers. Forest officials round out the figures with these trends:

62 percent decrease in employees since the early 1990s.

5 percent reduction in overall budget in each

of past four years.

46 percent decrease in road maintenance contracting

budget in the past two years.

64 percent reduction in the already meager recreation budget expected in the next year.

Selkirk Mountains lakes still frozen above 6,200 feet

HIKING — Despite the heat wave the moved into the region on Sunday, plenty of snow and ice remained in the high Selkirk Mountains of Idaho.

I joined a group of hikers, drove north of Sandpoint and followed the Upper Pack River Road to the Beehive Lakes trailhead a mile from the end of the road.  (Eight cars were parked at the Harrison Lake TH and our group brought the total to six at Beehive TH).

Within a few hours, we had followed the trail and the short section of cairns over granite slabs just over 3 miles to upper Beehive Lake elev. 6,457 feet and found it frozen with only a little water around the edges showing.

Scrambling up a ridge toward the crest, we looked down on Little Harrison Lake, 6,271 feet elevation (see Harrison Peak in the top right background of the photo above). It, too, was still iced over.

 But the trail into Beehive was snow-free and scrambling was good on the granite slabs and ridges.

The snow is going to go fast in this hot weather, though.  We were able to easily cross Beehive Creek over some cut branches on the way up. But on the way down that creek had swelled from snowmelt and everyone got his feet wet as the water poured over the makeshift woody debris bridge.

Other observations:

  • Excellent conditions for glissading.
  • Moose on the trail.
  • No mosquitoes at Beehive, yet.

Other reports:

What to know before you go to forests for holiday

PUBLIC LANDS — Fireworks are prohibited year-around on national forests, BLM lands, state wildlife lands and most other public lands. 

That's the first rule to know before heading out for the Fourth of July holiday.

Here are more considerations from the Idaho Panhandle National Forests:

Responsible Motorized Use.  Please stay on designated routes and obtain the appropriate travel maps before you go. On the Colville National Forest as well as the Coeur d’Alene River, Bonners Ferry, Sandpoint and Priest Lake Ranger Districts visitors should carry the FREE Motorized Vehicle Use Maps, available at Forest Service Offices. 

  • The Colville National Forest “Motorized Use Map” can be viewed online under Maps and Publications.

No mud bogging is allowed anywhere on National Forest System lands.  State traffic laws apply to all motor vehicles including off-highway vehicles (OHVs) and motorcycles of all types.

For the latest information on road conditions, including restrictions, closures and construction, visit the national Idaho Panhandle National Forests’ “Road Status” web page.       

Camping.  Camping is allowed for up to 14 days within any 30-day period in developed recreation sites, undeveloped recreation sites, campgrounds, wilderness areas and other general forest areas. Visit the Idaho Panhandle National Forests’ “Recreation” web page to check the status of your favorite site.

Campfire Safety. Even if it’s “green,” please practice good sense by using caution with fire and smoking at all times, in all places.  Drown, stir and check your campfire for heat with your bare hand.  ALL fires must be DEAD OUT when left unattended and before leaving the site.

Keep it Clean to Avoid Bear Encounters!  Proper food storage practices are recommended throughout the Idaho Panhandle National Forests and are required on the Sandpoint, Priest Lake and Bonners Ferry Districts. Bears often develop a strong liking for human and pet foods.  Store food in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof containers. Keep sleeping areas, tents and sleeping bags free from food and food odors. Wash up, change clothes and remove all scented articles nearby before going to bed.  Wild bears avoid people, but bears conditioned to human food can be aggressive and may be euthanized if problems occur. For more information on safety in bear country visit our “Food Storage” web page.

More info: contact your local Idaho Panhandle Forest Service office.

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About this blog

News, field reports and insights on the Great Outdoors.

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

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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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