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Outdoors blog

Archive for November 2013

Spokane-area anglers tops in steelhead derby

FISHING — Two Spokane area finished first and third in the unofficial results from the 2013 Kendall Chevrolet Clearwater Snake Steelhead Derby that started Nov. 23 and ended today, according to  the Lewis Clark Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Although results won't be verified until Monday, the 2013 overall winner appears to be Lance Hall of Nine Mile Falls with a steelhead weighing 18.33 pounds. The prize is $2,000.

Jason Peters of Clarkston is in second and Kyle Zipse of Spokane is in third.

Hall also is the skins game winner, set to take home an additional $500 prize.

Continue reading for the complete unofficial results.


60 Minutes Sports segment hints at April Vokey’s rise in sport of fly fishing

FLY FISHING — My Sunday Outdoors feature story sheds some light on April Vokey, the celebrated British Columbia fly fishing guide and founder of Fly Gals Ventures, who was giving presentations in Spokane recently.

But you'll get another glimpse of her appeal and talent in this trailer (above) for a 60 Minutes Sports story that's available for viewing on Showtime.

I’m not a great caster; I’m not a great fly tier; I’m not a great writer; I’m not the best at any of those things,” Vokey says in the report.

“Then what makes you so good at this?” asked 60 Minutes Sports reporter Bill Whitaker.

“I love it more than anybody I know.”

Popularity hasn’t dampened Missouri River brown trout numbers

FLY FISHING — A friend of mine taunted me while I was at elk camp in October with text messages raving about the fly fishing fun he was having for bigger-than-average brown trout in the Missouri River near Craig, Mont.

Surveys recently released by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks support his delight.

Fish surveys this year indicate rainbow and brown trout numbers remain above the long-term average in the Missouri River between Holter Dam and the town of Cascade, says a Montana fisheries biologist.

            State fish survey crews this fall estimated 5,194 rainbow trout greater than 10 inches long per mile near the town of Craig on the Missouri. Not only is that above the long-term average of 3,174 rainbows per mile, but continues a trend of above average numbers over the past three years: 6,034 per mile in 2011 and 7,312 in 2012.

            This year’s population was bigger in size and slightly lower in abundance than the past two years, says Fish, Wildlife and Parks fisheries biologist Grant Grisak, which is typical as the current population reaches its maximum size.

            “This year,” Grisak says, “87 percent of the rainbow trout in the Craig section were 15 inches long or greater, and 35 percent of the population was 18 inches long or longer.”

            Next year, the population should return to normal levels, unless an unusually high water event occurs in the spawning tributaries, Grisak says. High water in the Missouri River tributaries typically results in high rainbow trout production.

Brown trout in the Craig section at 10 inches long and greater were estimated at 745 per mile. The long-term average is 578.

In the Cascade section, near the town of Cascade, the estimate for rainbow trout 10 inches long and greater was 2.260. The long term average is 1,551 per mile.

Brown trout in the Cascade section 10 inches long and greater were estimated at 447 per mile. The long term average is 387.

Brown trout populations are sampled in the spring and rainbow populations are sampled in the fall.

Bald eagle numbers far short of last year’s Lake CdA gathering, so far

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Bald eagles are way short of their historical mark for showing up to feed on spawning kokanee at Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted only 11 adult bald eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay area today.  That's up from two eagles counted during her weekly survey last week, but down from 100 eagles counted during this week last year.

The eagles have provided a popular wildlife-viewing attraction as the birds are lured to the northeast corner of the lake from mid-November into January to feast on the spawning kokanee that stack up in the bay.

Birders and biologists have been scratching their heads, wondering if the revival of kokanee at Lake Pend Oreille is detouring eagles that normally would be flocking to Lake CdA by now?

Reader Eric Brady has a different observation that spawns another theory:

I have observed a much higher number of eagles on the Clearwater River near Lewiston compared to prior years and it appears that the eagles are feeding on dying fall Chinook, which returned in post-dam-era record numbers to the Snake River and its tributaries this  year.    On one gravel bar last weekend, I saw 5 eagles within 20 feet of each other.    On quite a few occasions this fall, I have seen 2-3 eagles feeding in close proximity near the waterline.   In prior years, it has not been uncommon to see eagles flying overhead when fishing on the Clearwater, but rarely have I seen an eagle on a gravel bar – let alone in numbers.    

Perhaps there are fewer eagles at Lake CDA as they are feasting on the record run of fall Chinook?

Nordic skiing gears up at Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — This is transition time for nordic skiers and snowshoers at Mount Spokane State Park.

This week:  State Park staff was out recently to clear about 50 trees that had blown down on the 60-kilometer cross-country trails system after two feet of snow followed the storm and buried them well.  Taking the snowcat out for that job helped pack some of the trails, and Park Manager Steve Christensen went out on his own with the snowmobile groomer to smooth out the trails, although it was too hard-packed to set tracks.  The Selkirk Lodge will be opened on Thanksgiving Day, he said.  “I've been trying to save a little money on heating it — it costs about $1,000 a month — since there's not that many people up here yet,” he said.

Starting Dec. 1:  Official grooming will begin if snow conditions allow. The biggest change this year mostly affects snowshoers.  Dec. 1 marks the day that Discover Passes will no longer be valid for parking during the winter season at Mount Spokane, where all vehicles will need a Sno Park Permit in their vehicles EXCEPT at the Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park official parking when the resort is operating.  No parking will be allowed along the roads without a Sno-Park Permit this season.

Lots of other things are gearing up.  A good way to stay informed is to Join or Renew a membership with Spokane Nordic and get the club's regular newsletters and email updates.   A sampling of this week's updates:

Snowball potluck, Dec. 7
Celebrate the first Saturday of grooming at the Mt. Spokane Cross-Country Ski Park with the Snowball potluck on Dec. 7, assuming conditions cooperate. If it has to be moved later for lack of grooming conditions, we'll let you know through email and Facebook. This is open to ALL skiers. Get to know your fellow skiers and start the season with a full belly.  Bring a dish to share for lunch at noon at the Selkirk Lodge. What to bring: Names starting with A-P bring a main Dish; Q-Z bring Dessert. 

WinterFest early registration prizes
Even better than Black Friday… register for WinterFest by Dec. 1 and you'll be automatically entered to win an REI backpack. WinterFest is a new event the club is organizing to celebrate muscle-powered winter sports at Mount Spokane.

Kids' skis available
The online ski swap lists a collection of used small kids' gear available at Mountain Gear's retail store in Spokane. You can also find a set of barely-used ski waxes and some booties for your skijoring dog.

Nordic Kids and Youth Rangers
Register for Nordic Kids and the new Youth Rangers program before Dec. 15 to avoid late fees. And invite a friend to get their kid going in lessons!

Adult nordic skiing lessons
Adult lessons are scheduled for all experience levels, skate or classic on Saturdays and Sundays starting Dec. 7. Tweak those skills, and invite that friend or co-worker who's never skied to try out a beginner lesson.

Contact Spokane Nordic by email:



Jimmy Carter to share Alaska parks history with students

PUBLIC LANDS — On Monday, students and teachers will get a huge opportunity to hear Jimmy Carter explain an historic federal public lands deal that was big, big, big in every way.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter doubled the size of the National Park System when he signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). Students throughout the country can celebrate the anniversary of this landmark bill by joining President Carter on a live webchat on Monday, Dec. 2, from 2-3 p.m. EST.

ANILCA, often called the most significant land conservation measure in the nation's history, protected more than 100 million acres of federal lands in Alaska. It doubled the size of the country’s national park and refuge system and tripled the amount of land designated as wilderness. ANILCA expanded the National Park System by more than 43 million acres. 

Ultra-brief history of Alaska Lands Act:

In 1971, Congess passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), granting 44 million acres of land to the Native groups. In addition, ANCSA designated 80 million acres to study for possible conservation. ANCSA was largely in response to the discovery of oil on the north slope, concern about rampant development as well as the conflict arising over how much claim the indigenous people had to that oil and the other resources around Alasak.

With the completion of the trans-Alaska pipeline in 1977, the debate continued and oil was a bigger issue than ever.

During President Carter's last days as president, he accepted a compromise that ensured Alaska's status as the last frontier. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 provided the following:

  • 10 National Parks and Reserves
  • 2 National Monuments
  • 9 National Wildlife Refuges (Including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR)
  • 2 National Conservation Areas
  • 25 Wild and Scenic rivers

ANILCA expanded three other parks already in existence, including Denali. When all was said and done, 104 million acres were designated for conservation and protection - an area larger than the state of California.​

 The theme for Monday's special event, sponsored by Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains, Georgia, is Celebrating President and Mrs. Carter and Their Contributions to the National Park Service. President Carter will speak on ANILCA then participate in a question-and-answer period.

About 90,000 students are likely to view the event through Internet2, the U.S. national research and education network.

President Carter will answer questions via video from high school students from Plains High School (Plains, Ga.), Southwest High School (El Centro, Calif.), Sugar Salem High School (Sugar City, Idaho) and Woodrow Wilson Junior High (Dayton, Texas). Schools may view the event via a live web stream or at provided by Idaho Public Television.

Click here for more information about the Presidential Primary Sources Project, a collaborative program sponsored by the U.S. Presidential Libraries and Museums, the National Park Service, the Internet2 K20 Initiative.

Silver Mountain sets Friday opener for skiers

WINTER SPORTS — Silver Mountain Resort plans to open its lifts for skiers on Friday, Nov. 29, joining the rest of the region's ski resorts in opening limited terrain to take advantage of early season snow.

Following is the just-released announcement from Silver Mountain:

Silver Mountain Resort will be opening for skiing, boarding, tubing, snowshoeing and scenic rides Friday November 29th through Sunday December 1st. The first gondola will load at 8:15am, skiing and tubing will start at 9:00am and go until 4:00pm. This will be a great chance to get some first tracks for the season and burn off some of that Thanksgiving dinner. This will be a limited opening for skiing and boarding with select runs open along with chairs 1, 2 and the carpet lift. We will be offering reduced price lift tickets for skiers and boarders with adult tickets at $29.95 and youth tickets at $27.95. The best way to experience Silver is to stay at the base in their luxurious lodging and enjoy the 84 degree warm of Idaho's largest indoor waterpark.

There are plenty of activities to keep the family busy this weekend at Silver Mountain Resort. We will be having a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at Noah's Canteen, a premier of Warren Miller's “Ticket to Ride” on the 29th in Noah's loft and our Village Christmas Tree Lighting on the 30th, complete with warm drinks and caroling.

Currently there is a 10 inch base at the Mountain House and 22 inches at Kellogg Peak. NOAA is forecasting another storm system for Friday the 29th and we will be opening more terrain as conditions permit. For more information please visit our website.

Forest Service considers fee for ‘uphill’ skiers accessing slopes at resorts

WINTER SPORTS —  As more backcountry skiers use roads and parking areas plowed by ski resorts and then strap on skins and climb their way up groomed or controlled slopes to reach their backcountry destinations, the U.S. Forest Service has proposed a rule change that would allow ski areas that lease lands from the federal agency to charge a fee for the uphill skiers.

See the story here.

Wild turkeys didn’t come naturally to Idaho

WILDLIFE — Wild turkeys are found across Idaho, and there’s even an open hunting season on them right now in the Panhandle Region and portions of the Clearwater.

But wild turkeys are not native to the state.

Merriam's strain turkeys were introduced by the Idaho Fish & Game Department in 1961, a move that was a common part of wildlife management in the state at the time. The Fish & Game photo above shows the first turkey release in '61.

S-R reporter Betsy Russell has more on her Eye on Boise blog.

The Idaho Fish and Game Department is celebrating its 75th anniversary with daily web posts about its history in wildlife management.

Clearwater Forest releases motorized vehicle use map

PUBLIC LANDS — The Clearwater National Forest Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) has been released to guide where motor vehicles can be used on the forest.  

The published maps, which answer frequently asked questions about roads and trails open to motorized traffic, are available online and free at the forest headquarters in Orofino and at other offices.

In 2005 the U.S. Forest Service published a new rule requiring each national forest and grassland to designate those national forest system roads, trails and areas open to motor vehicle use.  It further required designated routes and areas to be identified on an MVUM that is available to the public free-of-charge.

On January 12, 2012, after nearly four years of public involvement and analysis, the Clearwater National Forest issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision that designated roads, trails and areas where motorized uses are allowed.

Read on for more details from the Forest Service.

Roadkill: it’s what’s for dinner in Montana

Updated 11-26-13 at 9 a.m. with correction from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

WILDLIFE — Just in time for Thanksgiving! Montana's online permitting system to legally take possession of road-killed big game goes operational today.

A new state law allows people to salvage deer, elk, antelope and moose killed on roadsides.

According to reporter Rob Chaney of the Missoulian, anyone wanting to claim one of those game animals they find dead can fill out the online permit within 24 hours. State law enforcement officers will also have permits available if called to the site of an animal-vehicle collision. The permits are free.

The move could offer a lot of extra protein to Montana dinner tables albeit at the expense of beetles, ravens, eagles, coyotes and other critters in nature's clean-up crew.  The Missoulian reports:

  • In 2012, Montana motorists hit 4,754 whitetail deer, 1,977 mule deer, 220 elk, 72 antelope and 28 moose, according to state Department of Transportation records.
  • They also hit 39 black bears, five grizzly bears, six mountain lions, 15 bighorn sheep, an uncertain number of wolves, and uncounted birds of prey and furbearing mammals. Those predators, birds and sheep are not allowed for roadkill possession.
  • At least 17 other U.S. states allow some level of roadkill possession and consumption.

But Washington is not one of them. It's illegal to pick up roadkill without a permit in Washington.

Read on for more details about the Montana law and salvage permit system:

Why was this year’s return of monarch butterflies a bust?

Habitat loss blamed for decline in monarch butterflies, wild bees
The return of the monarch butterflies to central Mexico didn't happen on Nov. 1 this year, but instead just a fraction of the millions of butterflies expected straggled in a week late, and the decline of that species, along with a slate of other insects including wild bees, has been linked to the loss of vegetation the insects need to survive.
—New York Times

Could CdA eagles be detoured by super-sized meal?

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Birders and biologists were scratching their heads last week at reports of the dearth of bald eagles gathering to feed on on spawning kokanee at Lake Coeur d'Alene's Wolf Lodge Bay.

Could the revival of kokanee at Lake Pend Oreille be detouring eagles that normally would be flocking to Lake CdA by now?

Are the eagles simply late in coming?

Reader Eric Brady has a different observation that spawns another theory:

I have observed a much higher number of eagles on the Clearwater River near Lewiston compared to prior years and it appears that the eagles are feeding on dying fall Chinook, which returned in post-dam-era record numbers to the Snake River and its tributaries this  year.    On one gravel bar last weekend, I saw 5 eagles within 20 feet of each other.    On quite a few occasions this fall, I have seen 2-3 eagles feeding in close proximity near the waterline.   In prior years, it has not been uncommon to see eagles flying overhead when fishing on the Clearwater, but rarely have I seen an eagle on a gravel bar – let alone in numbers.    

Perhaps there are fewer eagles at Lake CDA as they are feasting on the record run of fall Chinook?


$5,000 reward offered in Idaho cow elk poaching case

POACHING — Rewards of up to $5,000 are being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for illegally shooting a cow elk recently and leaving it to waste on private land between Moscow and Troy.

Anyone with information concerning the killing of this elk can call Idaho Citizens Against Poaching at 1-800-632-5999 or Idaho Fish and Game’s Lewiston office at 208-799-5010

Boycott over gun laws didn’t deter hunting in Colorado

Colorado's elk, deer lure hunters despite new gun laws
After Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a trio of new gun bills into law earlier this year, there was a public outcry and a warning that hunters would shy away from the Centennial State, but preliminary numbers on nonresident and resident hunting permits for elk and deer indicate that thousands more were sold this year than last.
— Denver Post

Graphic illustrates wind energy impacts to birds

WILDLIFE — Following last week's milestone court settlement in which Duke Energy will pay $1 million to mitigate for the deaths of golden eagles and other birds caused by wind turbines in Wyoming, Northwest Public Radio featured this EarthFix graphic to help explain in simple terms the threats unrefined wind farms pose to bird populations.

Photographer puts spotlight on dark deer

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A rare dark-colored mule deer was documented recently in photo on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area as the doe fed with three normal-colored deer, including a buck in the rut.

Wildlife biologists say the deer appears to have an unusually high occurrence of melanin, a black pigmentation of the skin and hair.

The photo was made by Justin Haug, the assistant wildlife area manager who has a gift for capturing great photos from the state-managed land in Okanogan County near Loomis.

Bird dog makes point on figure of speech

HUNTING — While hunting pheasants on Sunday, this is how my English setter, Scout, defined the idiom, “Got 'em dead to rights.”

Wind energy company prosecuted for killing birds

WILDLIFE — A wind energy company has agreed to pay about $1 million in fines and mitigation actions in the deaths of 14 golden eagles and 149 other protected birds in Wyoming. The American Bird Conservancy says its the first prosecution of a wind company in connection with bird deaths.

The Department of Justice on Friday announced a settlement on the prosecution of Duke Energy’s wind developments.

“Wind energy is not green if it is killing hundreds of thousands of birds,” said said George Fenwick, ABC president. “We are pro-wind and pro-alternative energy, but development needs to be Bird Smart. The unfortunate reality is that the flagrant violations of the law seen in this case are widespread.”

The enforcement action is the first time the government has drawn a line in the sand, said Michael Hutchins, coordinator of ABC’s National Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign.

“The boundaries for the wind industry are voluntary, meaning that companies have been able to pay lip service to bird protection laws and then largely do what they want,” he said. Poorly sited wind projects exist or are being planned that clearly ignore the advice of federal and state biologists who have few, if any, means of preventing them from going ahead.”

The charges stem from the discovery of 14 golden eagles and 149 other protected birds, including hawks, blackbirds, larks, wrens and sparrows by the company at its “Campbell Hill” and “Top of the World” wind projects in Converse County between 2009 and 2013.   The two wind projects are comprised of 176 large wind turbines sited on private agricultural land. 

How fast can peregrine falcons dive? See for yourself

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Peregrine falcons have long been considered the fastest bird on the planet. But now we're getting firm numbers.

Using high-tech sensors, scientists are ending the conjecture on how fast these sleek falcons can stoop on their hapless prey.

What's your guess?

Watch this remarkable video to the very end. You'll be surprised!

Whitetail buck primed for procreation

WILDLIFE WATCHING — This week marked the peak of the whitetail breeding season, and this buck was clearly in the mood, said Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

“Girls on the mind,” he said.

Kayaker found dead on Palouse River

PADDLING — A kayaker's body was recovered this morning from the Palouse River, according to the following statement released this afternoon by the Whitman County Sheriff.

Alison Webb, 54, who was on the Palouse city council, was found dead early Friday morning, her life apparently claimed by hypothermia after capsizing in the freezing cold.

COLFAX, WA- Authorities have recovered the body of a kayaker who was reported missing late Thursday evening. 

At approximately 8pm on Thursday evening, Deputies from the Whitman County Sheriff’s Office were notified of an overdue kayaker near the town of Palouse, WA.   The kayaker, Allison E Webb, 54yoa of Palouse, WA, reportedly set out on a late afternoon kayak trip on the Palouse River.  When she failed to arrive at her destination, family members became concerned, conducted a brief search and later notified 911. 

After Deputies determined that Webb started her float trip near Wellesley Road in Latah County, officials from Idaho were also notified.  Due to the extremely cold temperatures search crews from both sides of the border immediately began a ground and aerial search of the river and terrain. Officials from Latah and Whitman Counties searched through the night and into Friday Morning.

At approximately 8:30 Friday morning, search crews from Fairchild Air Force Base (36 Rescue Helicopter) assisting in the effort located the body of a deceased female, later identified as Allison E. Webb.  It is believed Webb died after capsizing her kayak and being exposed to the extremely cold overnight temperatures.  The exact cause and manner of death will be determined by the Whitman County Coroner’s Office.

Crews from The Latah County Sheriff’s Office, Latah County Search and Rescue, Whitman County Emergency Management, MedStar, Fairchild Air Force Base, Whitman County Sheriff’s Office, Palouse Fire and EMS, Border Patrol, Whitman County Coroner and the American Red Cross all assisted in the search effort. 

Rumor of Whitman County wolf attack on livestock is a lot of bull

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Some smart asses had a lot of fun this week spreading rumors that wolves had attacked three horses near La Crosse, Wash.

A Whitman County Gazette reporter tried to track down the word-of-mouth reports and so did several Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police and biologists.

“We tracked down the source and can verify there's no substance whatsoever to the rumors,” Steve Pozzanghera, WDFW regional manager in Spokane, said this morning.

He said the rumors were not even a case of mistaken identity, such as stray dogs attacking livestock or anything like that. “It's just purely a rumor,” he said.

While we're putting that issue to bed, let's also dismiss the rumor going around that WDFW staff has been releasing wolves in Whitman County.   For God's sake, get a clue out there.

“Somebody is saying they actually saw the department releasing four wolves and that's pure rumor,” Pozzanghera said. “The department is not relocating wolves, and we have not had a capture or any hands-on activity with wolves in recent months.”

  • In Idaho, for the record, a wolf attack on a horse was confirmed on Aug. 20 at West Pass Creek, about 20 miles south of Clayton, according to Idaho Fish and Game Department wildlife manager Jon Rachael in Boise.

Turnbull elk rumor

One more rumor that needs to be squashed is the persistent rant that WDFW uses a helicopter to herd elk away from hunters and onto Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge each fall.  Indeed, the hunting seasons enacted on the refuge a few years ago were designed specifically to help move elk OFF the refuge to reduce damage on Turnbull and increase hunter harvests outside the refuge boundaries.

A two-day helicopter survey is run at the end of  September each year to monitor Turnbull-area elk, but the elk are not herded.

Farmers who've had depredation problems with elk can verify that nobody could chase a herd of elk to a patch of ground on one weekend and expect them to stay there throughout the fall hunting seasons. Nobody with a hint of knowledge about elk would believe that, and nobody with a brain would repeat the rumor.


Bald eagles still not showing up at Lake CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The annual gathering of bald eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay area of Lake Coeur d'Alene is lagging.

The eagles provide a popular wildlife-viewing attraction as the birds are lured to the northeast corner of the lake from mid-November into January to feast on the spawning kokanee that stack up in the bay.

However, Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted only two adult bald eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay area on Tuesday, down from three eagles she counted last Tuesday during the first of the weekly bald eagle surveys she'll do this season.

“Last year on Nov. 20 there were 64 eagles in all,” she said this afternoon.  The number built to 260 bald eagles counted on Dec.19, 2012.  

“I spoke with Jim Fredericks from Idaho Fish and Game about the kokanee spawn outlook,” Hugo said.  “Fredericks said that estimates for numbers of adults are lower than last year but still within the realm of the norm for what they hope and expect to see in Lake CdA.  Also he mentioned that spawning is going to be pretty goon on Lake Pend Oreille and that he noticed quite a few eagles up there.”

She said there's some speculation that bald eagles may be camping out in the Lake Pend Oreille area.  On the other hand, there were quite a few eagles at Pend Oreille's Granite Creek spawning area last year at this time and plenty of eagles still showed up at Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Bozeman-to-Yellowstone shuttle service planned

NATIONAL PARKS — Making a winter visit to Yellowstone National Park will be easier this season with a new shuttle service between Bozeman and Mammoth Hot Springs.

Yellowstone National Park Lodges, operated by Xanterra, says the shuttle will start on Dec. 18 with the winter season opening of the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. The opening of the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is set for Dec. 20. The lodges provide the only wintertime accommodations within the park through March 2.

Except for the road from Gardiner, Mont. to Cooke City, Mont. via Mammoth Hot Springs, transportation within the park is limited to snowmobiles and enclosed heated snowcoaches during the winter. Snowcoach transportation is available daily to a variety of park locations. Xanterra also offers a wide range of half- and full-day snowcoach, ski and snowshoe tours and ski and snowshoe rentals as well as expert instruction and other services. 

The new shuttle will depart Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel daily at 9:15 a.m. and arrive at the airport at 11:15 a.m. For guests remaining in Bozeman, the shuttle will drop them off at a local hotel. Visitors who spent the previous night in Bozeman will board the shuttle at the Holiday Inn at 1 p.m. The shuttle will return to the airport to pick up arrivals for a 1:45 p.m. departure back to the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel in Yellowstone. 

Rates are $51.50, plus taxes and fees, each way for riders age three years and up.

Call toll-free: (866) 439-7375. 

Cayuse pass closed for season, Chinook reopened

MOUNTAIN PASSES —  The Washington Transportation Department has closed Cayuse Pass for the season, but conditions at nearby Chinook Pass are more favorable. Chinook Pass was reopened at noon Wednesday — but no one knows how long the road will remain open.

Cayuse Pass is on Highway 123 and Chinook Pass is on Highway 410 on the east side of Mount Rainier National Park.

Both passes are typically closed for the winter by deep snow and avalanche danger. 

Centennial Trail reopens at Convention Center construction site

TRAILS — The section of the Spokane River Centennial Trail that's been closed for weeks because of sewer line construction at the Spokane Convention Center expansion site (see story) will reopen this afternoon.

The Friends of the Centennial Trail report that Mile 22.5 of the Centennial Trail, from Division Street Bridge west to King Cole Bridge at the Spokane Convention Center, flows through the first phase of restoring and re-landscaping the area.

“Like the newly discovered Spokane River Gorge views from the Trail at Kendall Yards, the 'new' Convention Center views show case Riverfront Park, the north bank of the river and Gonzaga University like never before,” the Friends say in a email update.

“Extensive work to restore and landscape the Spokane River shoreline and bring a new first-phase surface to the Trail is beautiful.  Even in their dormant state, the addition of over 75 trees and hundreds of native plants make this area flourish.  Some Miracle Mile Medallions here have been carefully removed and stored.  They will be re-installed in numerical order when the project is completed by December, 2014.”

The second phase of trail construction begins next September.  

Does wolf control need to be more selective and intimate?

Research belies wolf management by the numbers
Through 43 years of studying wolves primarily in Alaska, wildlife biologist Gordon Haber says his research found that wolves are the most “social of all nonhuman vertebrates.” Trying to manage them by the numbers simply won't work, he says in this column by Marybeth Holleman, a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News.

Experts list 10 top gift ideas for birders

WILDLIFE WATCHING — From new birdsong collections to smartphone apps, online learning, and a kit for beginning birders, here are 10 holiday gift suggestions for the bird and nature lover in your life. All these items are available from the nonprofit Cornell Lab of Ornithology at  (Purchases from this site support the Cornell Lab's bird conservation efforts.)

1. Cornell Guide to Bird Sounds: Master Set for North America

The most comprehensive guide available, featuring nearly 5,000 soundtracks for 735 North American bird species. Download includes MP3 sound files and photographs ($49.99), or receive all files on a pre-loaded USB flash drive. ($64.99)

2. Cornell Guide to Bird Sounds: Essential Set for North America
Great for beginners. This set includes the most common sounds for 737 species available as downloadable MP3 files ($12.99) or on a pre-loaded USB flash drive. ($24.99)

3. The Bird Watching Answer Book
A great stocking stuffer! Drawing from the tens of thousands of inquiries that pour into the Cornell Lab each year, author and bird expert Laura Erickson has compiled answers to more than 200 common and not-so-common bird questions. ($14.95)

4. Cornell Lab Beginner Bird-Watching Kit
This kit, available from Optics Planet, includes introductory binoculars recommended by Cornell Lab of Ornithology staff, six months free access to a Cornell online bird ID course, and other great accessories. ($199)

5. Bird Apps
Find more birds with BirdsEye, upload sightings from the field with BirdLog, or discover 24 North American birds in four games for kids with My Bird World ($3.99-$19.99).

6. Birds & Beans Coffee
A tasteful gift that supports organic shade-grown coffee farms that give shelter and sustenance to more than 60 species of migratory birds. A portion of the proceeds supports Cornell Lab conservation efforts. ($11.70 & up)

7. The Birds of North America Online
This continually updated, definitive life-history reference is authored by experts on more than 700 bird species, accompanied by images, sounds, and some video. An online publication of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in partnership with the American Ornithologists' Union. ($5 stocking stuffer for a 30-day subscription or $42 for an entire year)

8. The Warbler Guide with Song and Call Companion
This set of sound contains all the vocalizations described in The Warbler Guide, by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle. More than 1,000 files are presented in the same order as they occur in the text. ($5.99)

9. Cornell Lab Membership
Lab membership supports efforts to improve the understanding and protection of birds around the world. The quarterly Living Bird magazine is included with every gift membership. ($39)

10. Singing Plush Birds
The plush birds in this popular Wild Republic series make great collectibles for children and adults. Each bird contains authentic sounds from the Cornell Lab's Macaulay Library and is created with colorful anatomical details. ($8.99)

Another human-fed wild creature bites the dust

WILDLIFE WATCHING — I don't have a crystal ball, but this one was an easy call.

The spike elk featured toying dangerously with a photographer in a video that went viral this month has been euthanized by Great Smoky National Park officials. The elk had become too accustomed to people and was posing a danger.

My blog post called it like it was — a death sentence.

Here's the latest update, which ends with the photographer whining that he's tired of being blamed.  


Federal wildlife manager to list projects in North Idaho

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist Sergio Pierluissi will discuss the federal agency's activities in the Idaho Panhandle, as well as its recent priorities in the Pacific Northwest region during the monthly program organized by the Kootenai Environmental Alliance on Thursday, Nov. 21, at the Iron Horse Restaurant, 407 E Sherman Ave. in Coeur d'Alene.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the only federal agency whose primary mission is managing the country's wildlife. From the thousands of species protected under the Endangered Species Act, to the millions of acres managed as Wildlife Refuge, the USFWS employs a diverse array of tools to work with others to protect and manage wildlife.

In North Idaho, the agency has been involved in issues ranging from tundra swans dying in the toxic sloughs of the Coeur d'Alene River drainage during their spring migrations to critical habitat for woodland caribou in the Selkirk Mountains.


Skiers: Lookout Pass opens Thursday, Schweitzer and Mt. Spokane Saturday

UPDATED 11-20-13 at 2:30 p.m. with info on Silver Mountain.

WINTER SPORTS — Lookout Pass Ski Area plans to open for the winter season on Thursday, Nov. 21, and Schweitzer Mountain Resort and Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park have just announced they will open on Saturday, Nov. 23.

This will be the first time the Mount Spokane resort has opened before Thanksgiving in many years, operators say.

These resorts will join 49 Degrees North, which opened for one day on Sunday and will reopen on Friday.

Silver Mountain Resort is scheduled to open Nov. 29.

Resorts that are opening are on limited schedules with limited runs until more snow comes and allows full operations.

Read on for details from each resort:

Cyclocross — look at those mudders go!

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BICYCLING — Cyclocross is “the steeplechase of bicycling, a hybrid sport of mountain biking and road racing,” according to one rider in Sandpoint last weekend, where S-R photographer Jesse Tinsley caught the action with his video camera at the last race of the cyclocross season.  

Says another cyclist: “If you're going to be out riding, why not have fun with the crowd and play in the mud? There are worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon.”

Arctic Dreams author Barry Lopez to speak at SCC

OUTDOOR LITERATURE — Barry Lopez, one of America's premier nature writers, will give Spokane Community College’s first 2013-14 President Speakers Series lecture at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, in the Lair-Student Center auditorium, Bldg. 6. The college is at 1810 N. Greene St.

Topics for his free presentation include sustainability from a global perspective and ways writing and environmental concerns intersect.

Lopez won the National Book Award for “Artic Dreams,” a study of the Far North, its terrain, wildlife and history of the Eskimo and the region’s explorers. Other nonfiction works include “About this Life” and  “Of Wolves and Men,” a National Book Award finalist. Lopez’ fiction works include “Field Notes,” “Winter Count” and the novella, “Crow and Weasel.” He also has written for The New York Times Magazine,d Harper’s and National Geographic.

Lopez has been honored with Association of American Geographers’ 2011 Honorary Geographer Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Literature Award and the John Burroughs and John Hay Medals.

Banks Lake angling guide Gordon Steinmetz dies

FISHING — Gordon Steinmetz, a Columbia Basin fishing guide from Coulee City, Wash., passed away over the weekend, according to a report by Northwest Sportsman.  Steinmetz ran Big Wally's tackle shop and store with his wife, Marge, and helped organize many warmwater fishing tournaments in the Basin.

Late whitetail buck season closes today

HUNTING — The late whitetail buck season for modern rifle hunters in select northeastern Washington units closes today at 4:45 p.m.

The the snow that blanketed hunting areas last weekend for the closing days apparently have been good for hunters.  

“Weather conditions for 2013 created great conditions for late season hunting over 2012,” said  says Kevin Robinette, Department of Fish and Wildlife regional wildlife manager in Spokane. “Participation at our check stations increased also.”

Indeed, the number of hunters checking in to the stations at Chattaroy and Deer Park last weekend (303) was up about 40 percent from last year while the number of whitetails they had bagged (84) increased by about 80 percent.

The overall hunter success rate last weekend was about 28 percent compared with 21 percent on the last weekend of the season last year.

Whitetails get a bit of a respite now as the their breeding season peaks.

But the late archery season opens on Monday.


Wild turkey late hunting season opens Nov. 20

HUNTING — Washington's late fall turkey hunting season opens Wednesday, Nov. 20, in East Side GMUs 105-154 and 162-186.

A wildlife biologist I know said he has given up the spring gobbler hunts in favor of filling his tags in the fall.  He's trading the thrill of calling in the gobblers during their mating season, but gaining quality for the table, he said.

“In the spring turkeys are skinny and tough from the winter and all the effort they put into mating,” he said.  “In late fall they're in the fattest and best condition of the year.”

Of course, with Washington's generous tag allocations, a hunter can have it both ways.

Read all the Washington wild turkey hunting regulations.

  • Idaho is even MORE generous with its fall turkey tags, and the Panhandle season runs Sept. 15-Dec. 15 without a break.  Check out the Idaho regs.

Wolf hunter kills malamute as it romped with skier

PREDATORS — Am I shocked that a wolf hunter has shot someone's pet near a popular Montana-Idaho winter recreation area?  Yes.

Am I surprised?  No.

And the Missoula County sheriff’s office is just throwing up its hands, saying there's nothing it can do as it ends its investigation into the fatal shooting of a malamute on Lolo Pass by a hunter who apparently mistook it for a wolf.

According to the story moved by the Associated Press, Layne Spence of Missoula said he was skiing with his three dogs on a quiet logging road near Lee Creek Campground Sunday afternoon when he heard a shot and saw his dog, Little Dave, fall down with a leg injury.

About 15 to 20 yards away, Spence said he saw a man wearing camouflage and carrying a gun.

“I started screaming ‘Stop, stop,’ and the man kept shooting,” Spence, 48, said. The dog was struck in the neck and died.

“My dog is lying there, dead and I shouted ‘What are you doing?’ and the guy said, ‘I thought it was a wolf.’ ”

  • Photo above shows a pair of malamutes for comparison.

Spence said the hunter asked if there was anything he could do, but Spence said he was so distraught he told the man to leave.

When Spence returned to town he filed a complaint with the sheriff’s office.

The Missoulian reports the agency passed the case over to the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the U.S. Forest Service.

“There is no criminal activity here, and this is out of our jurisdiction,” Sheriff’s spokeswoman Paige Pavalone said on Monday. “We don’t have any witnesses and we’re not investigating the situation any further.”

Spokespersons for both FWP and the Forest Service had said Monday morning that they believed the case would be a criminal matter.

“This doesn’t have to happen,” Spence said. “Not every big dog is a wolf. These are pets, they all had their collars and lights on, they were all with me the entire time.”

He wondered what would have happened if he had a child on a sled or if a bullet ricocheted.

“There are other people who use the woods besides hunters this time of year,” Spence said.

The U.S. Forest Service maintains the Lee Creek campground for non-motorized winter use. Lolo National Forest recreation manager Al Hilshey said the area is popular with cross-country skiers who like to bring their dogs.


  • Hunters must be extra alert when hunting in areas such as Lolo Pass, where other people routinely recreate, and they should be accountable for their actions.
  • Dog owners must be aware that hunters can legally target wolves in Montana and Idaho. Dogs — especially malamutes and other dogs that resemble wolves in any color ranging from white to black —  should be wearing large fluorescent orange collars and even vests when recreating in areas where hunters could be out.

‘Hunt by Reservation’ acreages include a lot of filler

HUNTING — I've been exploring some of the properties in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Private Lands Access Program this week.

While there's some good habitat holding upland birds on these lands, the thing that strikes me is how much “filler” there is in the acreage listings. I hunted a property on Monday that lists a sizable acreage, but 90 percent of it is cultivated, and recently plowed so that there's no holding cover.

Just be warned.   All the properties listed aren't winners. 


Wildlife groups raises heat in climate change debate

CLIMATE CHANGE — The National Wildlife Federation continues to point out the potential impacts of climate change on wildlife populations and the sports, hobbies and economies they support.

Rising temperatures, deeper droughts and more extreme weather events fueled by manmade climate change are making survival more challenging for America’s treasured big game wildlife from coast to coast, according to a new NWF report.

Nowhere to Run: Big Game Wildlife in a Warming World suggests how climate change is already putting many species of big game at risk, creating an uncertain future for big game and the outdoor economy that depends on them.

“The recovery of big game species is one of America’s wildlife conservation success stories, made possible in large part by sustained investment by generations of sportsmen,” said Dr. Doug Inkley, senior scientist at the National Wildlife Federation “But today, a changing climate threatens to rewrite that success story.”

Nowhere to Run is the latest in the National Wildlife Federation’s 2013 Wildlife in a Warming World series, which also includes:

Some of the impacts the NWF reports cite are still being studied, including the impact warming enviroments may be having on moose and their exposure to ticks. But with wildfire, floods and extreme weather events like heat waves, droughts and heavy rainfall becoming more frequent and more severe, the NWF says climate change should be on every sportsman's radar.

Unprecedented changes in habitat are having far-reaching consequences for big game and for sportsmen and women, affecting, for example, the timing of hunting seasons and the distribution and survival of animals, the NWF says.

“We’re already seeing changes where we hunt big game – reduced snowpack, dying forests, shifting migration patterns,” said Todd Tanner, founder and chairman of Conservation Hawks. “We have to let our elected officials know that we need solutions and we need them now. We’re running out of time.”

Read on for more details about Nowhere to Run, and the steps the NWF proposes to tackle the issue:

Snowshoers enjoy new trail bridges over Mount Spokane creeks

TRAILS — The work park staff and volunteers put in building bridges at Mount Spokane this summer and fall is paying off this winter, especially for snowshoers who can easily get across Burping Brook on the trails above the Mount Kit Carson Loop Road.

Holly Weiler of the Spokane Mountaineers and Friends of Mount Spokane State Park volunteered her muscle to build the bridge. On Sunday she used muscle power to enjoy the luxury of easy stream crossings and took time to post this photo.

Weiler also is a member of the Washington Trails Association, which took the lead on building bridges and other trail work in the park this year.

Idaho Fish and Game official to meet with Panhandle sportsmen

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT —  Sharon Kiefer, Idaho Fish and Game Department deputy director, is the speaker for the monthly Sportsmen's Breakfast on Tuesday (Nov. 19), 6:30 a.m. at Lake City Senior Center, 1916 N. Lakewood Dr. in
Coeur d’Alene.

Breakfast can be purchased for $7.50, which includes tax and gratuity.

Info: Idaho Fish and Game Department Panhandle Region office, (208) 769-1414.

Backcountry film fest coming to Sandpoint

MUSCLE SPORTS — The 9th Annual Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival tour is coming to the Panida Theater in Sandpoint on Friday, Nov. 22. 

The ten films included in this year’s Backcountry Film Festival feature a variety of muscle-powered outdoor pursuits.
The film tour started Nov. 1 in Boise and will continue on for more than 100 showings around the world.
The Sandpoint stop is sponsored by SOLE to help fund affordable and accessible outdoor education for local area youth.
SOLE will host this event to raise essential funds for it’s Fieldwork Experience program, including
their Winter Wildlands Alliance SnowSchool – the nations largest on-snow outdoor science program.
With an average poverty rate of 60% at most area schools this need is noteworthy. Event proceeds
will ensure youth will have novel and purposeful outdoor education opportunities during the winter
months. To facilitate this, the showing in Sandpoint serves up a silent auction for those in search for
some holiday outdoor gift ideas; a raffle of various local goods and services for all attendees; a VIP
pre-event with additional benefits including premier seating, as well as, special presentations from
local organizations and agencies all of which make this yearly event definitely worth attending!
The films come from renowned and grassroots filmmakers who search backcountry corners across the
globe to submit their best work. 
Click here for more info.

Bing homepage features North Cascades Highway

PUBLIC LANDS — The North Cascades  Scenic Highway (SR 20) is featured today on the Bing homepage, which is displaying an interactive photograph of headlights coming down the stunning highway through the national park.
The highway travels through 9 different regions across the state, from the Cascade mountains to the Columbia River Valley.
Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, presents unique images from around the world each day.
Viewers can click on hotspots throughout the picture to learn more about the highway and the surrounding area.
Bing For Schools will help teachers create lesson plans about Washington, in conjunction with the homepage image – check it out here. 

Video captures angst of not drawing big-game hunting tag

HUNTING — Anyone who's tried to get a coveted big-game hunting tag in a state special permit drawing will relate to the satire in this video. Be sure to watch it all the way through to the clever ending.  

I howled with laughter.

Late buck hunting season to end as whitetail rut peaks

HUNTING — The late season for hunting whitetail bucks in northeastern Washington ends Tuesday, Nov. 19,  as the mating season peaks for the wary deer.

Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson “caught and released” this bruiser Saturday just to help remind us that the big bucks — gorgeous creatures — are out there even though they're tough to find — especially, it seems, when you have a rifle in your hand and a tag in your pocket.

Snowshoers flocking to Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — Snow conditions in the Mount Spokane Cross-Country Skiing Park were ungroomed but excellent for snow shoeing, says Warren Walker, who checked out the area today and snapped this photo of other snowshoers he saw there.

Snowshoeing is allowed around the cross-country trails until grooming starts.

Stevens Pass, 49 Degrees North ski areas open season

WINTER SPORTS — Stevens Pass Ski Resort announced today, Nov. 16, that it has opened its 2013-14 winter season with more than 1,000 skiers and riders coming to enjoy more than 22 inches of snow in the past 24 hours and a 30-inch base.

Hogsback and Daisy chairlifts and the rope tow operated for opening day. Stevens Pass plans to add the Brooks chairlift on Sunday and other lifts as the week progresses and conditions allow.
Here are more details about Stevens Pass:
Lift tickets will be just $20 for guests through Thursday.
2013-14 season pass holders from other mountain resort areas can also ski for free through Thursday by showing their pass in Guest Relations for a lift ticket.
Terrain park has 10 features in place in the Beacon Hill park, with more to come as the resort expands to four terrain parks.
With more than $4 million in improvement for the 2013-14 seasons, Stevens Pass expects to unveil its new Doppelmayr high-speed detachable Jupiter Quad in line with opening Mill Valley as the season progresses.

49 Degrees North Ski Area to open season on Sunday, Nov. 17

WINTER SPORTS — 49° North Ski Area is covered in snow!

Friday's storm dumped enough snow to allow the resort to open Sunday Nov. 17, with Chairs 1 and 3 operating from 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

We plan on opening up to 14 runs throughout the day, conditions permitting. We plan on grooming up to 7 runs. Silver Ridge and the Central Basin area will be open, as well as Mahre’s Gold and Silver Dollar. The upper 2/3 of the mountain is covered in heavy powder over a layer of dense older snow, while the lower 1/3 of the mountain has thinner snow coverage. We will be offering a special early season ticket price of $20.  Limited services will be available. Early season conditions exist, please ski and ride with care. 

Some ski resorts may open this weekend

WINTER SPORTS — Lookout Pass and 49 Degrees North ski areas have put skiers and boarders on alert that snow is piling up on their slopes and, depending on what the incoming storm deposits overnight, they may start their lifts this weekend for the first runs of the season.  

  • Lookout is ready to open as soon as Saturday.
  • 49 Degrees says it could open on Sunday

From 49 Degrees North minutes ago:

It’s snowing very hard at 49° North Mountain Resort, 1-hour north of Spokane; it started snowing lightly at about 10:30 AM and has continued to pick up in intensity through the day.  Prior to this storm we received 16” of new snow on the summit of Chewelah Peak and 9” at the base area. This has consolidated into a very dense base of snow on the upper ½ of the mountain. The National Weather Service is projecting that the winter storm currently impacting us will produce significant heavy snow accumulations at our elevation by tomorrow morning. If this storm produces snow accumulations as projected we plan on opening the resort for skiing and snowboarding on Sunday November 18th for limited operation.  Please check our website at dates and further information. 

Film lineup announced for Banff Film Fest World Tour in Spokane

ADVENTURE — The lineup of films for the three-day run of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour in Spokane has been decided — just hours before the first films will be shown tonight starting at 7 p.m. at The Bing Crosby Theater.

Friday and Saturday night snows are sold out.  Only a few tickets remained for Sunday at last check.

See the always exciting World Tour trailer above.

Note: The new owners of The Bing introduced a bar for beer and wine just before last year's festival showing, and this year they're offering a wine bar up a spiral staircase near the balcony level.  Also, this year's film screenings will be presented with the new state of the art projector and larger screen that debuted last year, plus the enhanced sound system that was installed since then. 

World Tour host — better known as the World Tour road warrior — Michelle de Camp met with Phil Bridgers of Mountain Gear met this afternoon at Soulful Soups to work through the options.  Several films Bridgers wanted to show after attening the festival in Bann two weeks ago still were not licensed.

But they came up with a good lineup of shows for each night with everything from High Tension and the Grand Prize winning North of the Sun to NAKED SKIING in the Valhalla's of British Columbia! 

De Camp will log 60 hours of driving and 4,000 kilometers of travel from from today through mid December to show the World tour around the region. Then the tour will continue around the world in 2014.

Read on for the lineup in Spokane:

Biologists eye rules to protect Bitterroot River trout

Cutthroat trout deaths on Montana river may prompt regulation change
Over the past two years, reports of dead cutthroat trout on the upper reaches of Montana's Bitterroot River have launched an investigation by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to determine if fishing regulation changes are warranted to adjust to warming temperatures and higher water temperatures.

—Ravalli Republic

Aggressive wolf management favored in comments on Idaho elk plan

Wolf management a factor in updating Idaho's elk plan
Among the 1,203 people who reviewed Idaho's proposal to update its 1999 elk management plan, 442 people commented and 150 of those people urged more aggressive wolf management to help protect elk populations. 

Craig White, the plan coordinator, said while aggressive wolf management would be part of the plan in some areas of the state, in others where elk numbers are so high that crop damage is a problem, management of the predators would be limited to keeping them away from cows and sheep.

—Twin Falls Times-News

Avalanche courses available at Schweitzer

WINTER SPORTS — The snow has barely piled up in the mountains and the first avalanche accidents of the year are being reported in the West.

Be prepared.

Two levels of avalanche courses are being offered in the next few months at Schweitzer Mountain Resort organized by SOLE (Selkirk Outdoor Leadership Education) based in Sandpoint. 

An AIARE Level 2 Course is set for Dec.7-8 and 14-15.

The four-day course provides backcountry leaders the opportunity to advance their avalanche knowledge from Level 1 instruction by adding the the evaluation of factors critical to stability evaluation and decision-making skill development.  Cost: $495.

An AIARE Level 1 Course is set for Jan. 18-20.

This three-day course on  Decision Making In Avalanche Terrain is open to students ages 16-25 with scholarships available.

An AIARE Level 1 Course is set for Jan. 18-20.

This three-day course on  Decision Making In Avalanche Terrain is open to students ages 16 and older with scholarships available for youths.

Report: Wind farms take alarming toll on bats

WILDLIFE — Researchers continue to quantify the impact wind turbines are having on wildlife, and the numbers are staggering.


Idaho wolf trapping season opens Friday

PREDATORS — Idaho's wolf trapping season opens Friday, Nov. 15, in the wolf management zones in northern and eastern parts of the state.

The trapping seasons runs through March 31 in the Panhandle zone, except in parts of units 2 and 3, and in the Lolo, Selway, Middle Fork zone; Salmon and Island Park zones.

Here's a warning from Idaho Fish and Game officials:

While trapping has been part of the landscape in Idaho, Fish and Game reminds hound hunters, hunters with bird dogs, and people with pets that trappers have an increased interest to be in the woods because of the wolf trapping season. People with pets should know how to release a pet that is caught in a foothold trap or neck snare.

Trapping regulations prohibit traps from the center and within 5 feet of center line of all maintained designated public trails and from the surface and right of way of all maintained designated public roads. Ground traps are prohibited within 300 feet of any designated public campground, picnic area and trailhead.

Wolf trapping season also runs through March 31 in the Palouse-Hells Canyon Zone units 13 and 18 on private lands only – closed in units 8, 8A, 11 and 11A; and in the Dworshak-Elk City zone, except Unit 10A, which opens February 1.

In the McCall-Weiser Zone, trapping runs through March 15 in units 19A and 25 and on private land only in unit 22. Units 23, 24, 31, 32 and 32A are closed.

All other zones are closed to trapping.

Trappers must complete a required wolf trapping class before they can buy wolf trapping tags.

Licensed trappers may buy up to five wolf trapping tags per trapping season for use in those zones with an open wolf trapping season. In addition, up to five wolf hunting tags may be purchased per calendar year for hunting. Unused wolf hunting tags may be used to tag trapped wolves in wolf zones with an open trapping and hunting season. Trappers should note that bag limits are not the same for all the wolf zones.

Only three wolf trapping tags may be used in the McCall-Weiser, Salmon and Island Park zones.

Wolf tags cost $11.50 for resident hunters, and $31.75 for nonresidents. Trapping tags are valid for the trapping season, but wolf hunting tags are valid only for the calendar year.

Click here fore additional details on wolf hunting and trapping seasons and rules.


Idaho commission hears wolf complaints

Idaho Fish, Game Commission hears complaints about wolves
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission began its quarterly meeting in Jerome Wednesday, and at a public forum that evening, about half of the dozen residents that spoke up said they blamed wolves for the lack of elk.

The meeting continues today with both the westslope cutthroat trout management plan and an update of the 1999 elk management plan on the agenda.

—Twin Falls Times-News

Elk teaches photographers a few points on safety

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Serious wildlife photographers are not amused by this latest viral video of a man who exposed himself to serious danger with a yearling “spike” elk in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

One lunge and the man could have lost an eye or been killed. This is stupid, and the people who sat and watched are equally stupid.

The man made the initial error by getting too far from a vehicle and leaving himself exposed to the elk's advance.

The videographer who posted the video on YouTube apparently doesn't like the criticism going out on the internet and he/she deleted it from this post.

  • See the ABC news story with footage from the video plus an interview with the photographer, James York.

We already posted the news of the spike elk that Western Montana wildlife officials dispatched this fall after it became too aggressive around people who tried to treat it like a pet.  

Comments from professional wildlife photographers include:

This is the kind of idiot that prompts excessive and overbearing rules for photographers in national parks, wildlife refuges, etc.The guy could have easily stood up, waved his hat and yelled at the bull, but no, he had to play with it.  I'm sure he thought that such behavior was cute. What would not have been cute is when the bull lowered one of those antlers (or both) and impaled him through the chest… 

  • The guy is not a nature photographer; he is an idiot…
  • Sadly if the guy had gotten killed or even seriously injured, the bull would have been killed…
  • I seriously hope that the park where this took place look long and hard at prosecuting the guy in any way they can…  

—Tim Christie, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

It was a 65ish day on Scotchman Peak

HIKING  — Jim Mellen, a hyperactive North Idaho member of the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, celebrated his 65th birthday on Wednesday by hiking Forest Service Trail 65 for the 7-mile roundtrip — to the top of Scotchman Peak.

He snowboarded down and posted these photos, including the one (above) of the view from the peak's 7,009-foot summit overlooking Lake Pend Oreille.

Family fishing flashback prompts advice to parents

ANGLING — We pause current events for this Landers family fishing flashback….

I just stumbled onto this 1998 photo (above), which brings back fond memories of fishing Badger Lake with my favorite youngest daughter Hillary, and her pal, Emma Scherer.

They were elementary school classmates at the time, but underneath those cute, innocent exteriors they were fish-hooking maniacs.

Advice to parents: Don't miss out on the fun of taking kids fishing.

Inventor of jet-powered boats revolutionized river travel

BOATING — The boating industry this week is celebrating the contribution of Richard “Dick” Stallman, who was 34 in 1962 when he tested his invention — the jet outboard — by running a sled upstream through the rapids of Oregon's Rogue River.

Stallman died last week. 

“His invention was a major contribution to shallow-water boating world-wide and it greatly enhanced access to premium waters and hunter and angler success,” noted Glen Wooldridge of Wooldridge Boats of Seattle in a Facebook post announcing the death.

Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman has assembled this story, a nice look back at Stallman's revolutionary invention, which put sportsmen in the driver's seat for thin waters and fishing and hunting hot spots previously off-limits to motorized travel.

Michigan set to become sixth state with wolf hunting season

PREDATORS — While Idaho is already hunting wolves, and the state's wolf trapping season will reopen on Friday, the state of Michigan is on the verge of reaching its own milestone in dealing with wolves.

About 1,200 people have bought hunting licenses to participate in Michigan’s first wolf hunt since the animal was placed on the endangered species list nearly 40 years ago. The season is set to open Friday and run through December or until a quota of 43 wolves is reached.

Michigan is the sixth state to authorize wolf hunting following the removal of federal protections in recent years, a testament to the strong comeback of a species that was close to eradication in the lower 48 states.

  • Actually, wolf hunting is allowed in at least seven states if you include the season the tribal council has opened to tribal members on the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington. Elsewhere in the state, the gray wolf is still protected.

Although fairly opening received in states such as Montana and Idaho, the hunt is bitterly contested in Michgan.

Supporters say Michigan’s wolf population — which the Department of Natural Resources estimates at 658, all in the Upper Peninsula — is healthy and secure. They contend a hunt is needed to rein in a predator that has killed or injured hundreds of cattle, sheep and dogs since the mid-1990s.

Opponents say the damage and danger are exaggerated. Relatively few farms have experienced problems, they in an Associated Press story moving on the wire today, and the landowners have legal authority to shoot wolves caught attacking livestock.

“There is no sound scientific basis to be killing these animals,” said Nancy Warren, an Upper Peninsula resident and regional director of the National Wolfwatcher Coalition. State wildlife officials “are bowing down to special interest groups,” she said.

DNR biologist Brian Roell acknowledged that a disproportionate number of livestock attacks have happened on a single farm whose owner has drawn criticism for practices such as leaving animal carcasses unburied and failing to use state-provided fencing.

But 26 attacks were reported on 10 other farms in the same hunting zone between 2010 and 2012, despite use of non-lethal controls such as flashing lights and guard donkeys, the department says.

The hunt is a last-resort means “to reduce conflicts in areas where our current tools just haven’t cut it,” DNR fur-bearing animal specialist Adam Bump said.

Read on for more of the story from the Associated Press:

Spokane woman wins day of skiing with Olympian Tommy Moe

WINTER SPORTS — Sally Cramer of Spokane has won a private ski day with Olympic gold and silver medalist Tommy Moe on Jan. 8 at Lost Trail Powder Mountain in Montana.

Cramer's name was drawn from 18,500 entries in the Win Your Own Mountain contest offered by Glacier Country Tourism to raise awareness of the top-rate skiing and boarding conditions found in Western Montana. 

Cramer — and up to 10 guests — will have a full day of exclusive private skiing with world-renowned skier Moe on 1,800 acres of terrain at Lost Trail Powder in the Bitterroot Valley, as well as lift tickets, ski equipment rental, food and beverage and a cash card of up to $1,000 for expenses.

“I am so excited to be the winner,” Cramer said. “Things like this don’t happen to real people!”

“I can’t wait to hit some of the best powder in Montana with Sally and the rest of her family,” Moe said in a media release from Glacier Country. “Lost Trail is a fun local hill and it’s an added bonus that we get to have it all to ourselves.”

Three bald eagles lead annual feeding fest at Lake Coeur d’Alene

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The annual fall-winter congregation of bald eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene appears to have started, barely.

Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted three adult bald eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay area on Tuesday during the first of the weekly bald eagle surveys she'll do this season.

The eagles provide a popular wildlife-viewing attraction as the birds are lured to the northeast corner of the lake from mid-November into January to feast on the spawning kokanee that stack up in the bay.

“There was no count this early last year because I was not here to count so I have no comparison,” Hugo said, but she added that the eagle numbers can build rapidly. “The count on Nov. 20, 2012, was 64.”

Most viewers drive to viewpoints at Higgens Point or from the Wolf Lodge Exit from Interstate 90.
However, eagle-watching cruise boat tours are scheduled in November and December leaving from the Coeur d'Alene Resort

Local veterans, active military and families from the North Idaho area will be honored on two admission-free cruises will be offered on Nov. 30 to local veterans, active military and their immediate families from the North Idaho area. The first two-hour cruise to the east end of Lake Coeur d'Alene will depart at 10 a.m. and the second two-hour cruise will leave at 1 p.m.

Reservations are required. Please call Suzanne Endsley at (208) 769-5004 during the business hours of 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. to make a reservation.

Because the cruises fill quickly, the current status of available seating will be posted on the BLM's Coeur d'Alene District website.

Program highlights overlooked feature of Ice Age Floods

ICE AGE FLOODS — Bruce Bjornstad, geologist and co-author of On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods, will present a free lecture Thursday, Nov. 14, entitled “Ice Age Floods and Long-Term  Recharge from Glacial Lake Columbia.” 
The program will start at 7 p.m. at the Eastern Washington University Science Building, Room 137, in Cheney sponsored by Ice Age Floods Institute Cheney-Spokane Chapter and the EWU Department of Geology.  Parking is available along Washington Street.
Lake Missoula was not the only source for Ice Age floods. At least one flood from Lake Columbia went down the Grand Coulee several hundred years after the last Missoula flood. Not long after this a final Lake Columbia flood went down the Columbia Valley from the breakup of the Okanogan Lobe. Before Grand Coulee was breached Lake Columbia recharged the Columbia River basalts for thousands of years, but ended 13-14 thousand years ago with the draining of Lake Columbia. Therefore, Lake Columbia does not get as much credit as it deserves. 

Bird dog surveys the harvest

HUNTING — My English setter, Scout, had six consecutive points on hens, then one solid find on a solo rooster.  

Stir-fry dinner coming up.

Color fading from brilliant fall hiking season

HIKING — Last month I emphasized that the hunting seasons shouldn't deter hikers from getting out to enjoy the region's trails during the brilliant autumn show of colors.

Ann Fennessy and her husband second that motion.  As Ann said in an email, the season can be full of discoveries, for hikers and their companions:

My husband and I had a beautiful hike this past Friday close to Chewelah Peak.  Our Golden Doodle, Mae, bailed out over the trail for a moment, then returned with a dog's version of a rich man's home on Halloween: the remains of a field-dressed deer. We couldn't see the carcass, but the hunter had kindly sawed the bones into 8-9” sections: perfect for each of our hounds to find a hunk and carry it along for the rest of the hike.

Oh, Lord, were they prancing and dancing! Occasionally, they just had to flop down and gnaw their treasure for a minute. Bob and I were happy to pause and let them savor while we savored the surroundings.

As you can see, we are decked out in fairly visible gear. I do get nervous hiking at this time of year, but take precautions. Plus, my husband and I carry on conversations most of the time and we stick to the trails.

A couple of weeks and a couple of wind storms later, the larch are losing their golden needles and the autumn hiking season is fading away. 

Long-range shooting seminar at Fernan Gun Club

SHOOTING — A Project Appleseed long-distance shooting seminar event Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 16-17, at the Fernan Gun Club11600 E. Fernan Lake Rd out of Coeur d'Alene.

An Appleseed Known Distance event is a long range shoot and requires advanced skills. The targets may be placed at known distances anywhere from 100 to 500 yards. Only those that have previously attended an Appleseed and earned their Rifleman patch should sign up.

Participants will learn how to shoot rifles from practical field positions such as the prone, sitting, and standing positions. They will learn the techniques that will improve their accuracy:  target identification, range estimation, and compensating for wind and distance.

And, as part of the Appleseed Project, participants also will also learn how civilian marksmanship played a pivotal role in the founding of our nation.

  • Registration fees: $100 for both days or $60 for one.
  • Range fees are $10 per person per day.
  • Email:

Participants supply their own centerfire rifles and ammunition.

Lake CdA boaters still tangling with hydroplane buoy ropes

BOATING — This unconfirmed report comes today from a reader:

Some 200-250 buoys were used in the Diamond Cup hydroplane races at Lake Coeur d'Alene the first weekend of September. However, after the races the organizers apparently left the ropes and anchors that held the buoys in place.

Fisherman and boaters have learned this the hard way by getting tangled in them and loosing gear, the reader reports. Some boaters say the ropes present a navigational hazard.

Apparently the Idaho Department of Land is aware of the problem but has failed to respond.

Officers are closed today because of the Veterans Day holiday.

Free programs offered by local outdoor groups

Inland Northwest outdoors groups are sponsoring a wide range for free programs this week. Among them:

  • Bicycling the TransAmerica Trail, second of two programs, this one featuring the journey from Pueblo, Colo., to Florence, Oreg.,  by garry Kehr, 6:30 p.m., Monday, at Riverview Retirement Center, for Spokane Bicycle Club.

See map and directions to Riverview Retirement Center auditorium,

  • Clark Fork Delta Restoration, by Susan Drumheller of the Idaho Conservation League, 7 p.m., Tuesday nov. 12 at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey Road in Coeur d’Alene, for Coeur d’Alene Audubon.
  • Annual Fly Auction fundraiser, 7 p.m., at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy, for Spokane Fly Fishers.
  • Hanford and the Columbia River, by Theresa Labriola of the Columbia Riverkeeper, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, at Riverview Retirement Center, for Spokane Audubon

Video hatches new perspective on aphids

Awakenings from brian plonka on Vimeo.

WILDLIFE WATCHING — It will be months before another crop of aphids tries to take over our gardens, orchards and landscaping while nourishing birds and other creatures.

But Brian Plonka, former S-R photographer turned freelance cinematographer, created this short, mesmerizing feature during an aphid hatch around Hauser Lake that makes me long for the day the bugs will return.

Steelheaders still required to keep all Tucannon hatchery fish

FISHING — In a correction to the S-R's weekly Hunting-Fishing report, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries managers remind steelheaders that, according to a rule enacted Aug. 30, anglers MUST RETAIN all hatchery-marked steelhead they catch in the Tucannon River up to their daily limit of two.

Following are some specific emergency regulations that anglers need to be aware of when fishing the Tucannon for steelhead:

  1. All steelhead reduced to possession (landed) in the Tucannon River with a missing adipose fin (hatchery origin) MUST BE RETAINED. Catch and release of hatchery steelhead is not allowed
  2. The area from Marengo (at Turner Road) upstream is closed to steelhead fishing
  3. The daily limit is reduced to 2 hatchery steelhead per day.
  4. Barbless hooks required.
  5. Release all wild steelhead.

Reason for action: Steelhead returns to the Tucannon River are not meeting management goals for conservation or for maintaining fisheries and therefore, the fishery for hatchery steelhead must be constrained to provide more protection of naturally produced steelhead in the Tucannon River. The emergency regulations are intended to focus the fishery on removal of stray hatchery steelhead that primarily enter the Tucannon River in late summer and fall to prevent them from spawning naturally, as well as provide a refuge area above Marengo to protect early returning wild steelhead, and close the fishery before March when most of the wild steelhead return to the Tucannon River. 

High Drive meeting: Are sidewalks just for poor people?

TRAILS — A packed house showed up last night at the new Jefferson Elementary School for the city-sponsored meeting to unveil new plans for the $6.8 million project that will repave and remodel High Drive while changing access to the South Hill bluff trails.  The meeting provided a lot of answers to concerned neighbors and perhaps raised a few more questions.

One comment from the audience caught my attention as an illustration of how wide the views range on developing a public asset such as High Drive.  The comment from the man, Dave, reminds us that private property owners often take very narrow views of public interest on city right-of-way.

To paraphrase Dave:

The city should focus funding earmarked for sidewalks to poor neighborhoods where people need the walkways to get to the bus rather than waste the money on a sidewalk in an affluent neighborhood where it isn't needed.

First, Dave apparently doesn't look out the tinted windows of his vehicle as he drives to and from his South Hill home to observe all of the walkers and runners who use High Drive each day.

Second, more walkers and runners would enjoy the premier views of High Drive if they didn't have to walk in the road especially around dangerous curves.

Third, it's crazy that the city has gone this long without providing a sidewalk or path the length of High Drive, one of the finest pedestrian routes the city has to offer.

Volunteers help restore Spokane River access at state line

RIVERS — Here's a tip of the hat to the 64 volunteers who volunteered on a weekend in October to plant 550 trees and shrubs and install fencing and improvements to restore the Spokane River shoreline at the state line river access site.

The ongoing project is coordinated by the Spokane Conservation District and Spokane River Forum and supported by numerous other groups and local businesses that prize the Spokane River and public access to its assets.

Idaho Fish and Game Commission marks 75th anniversary

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — It was 75 years ago today that Idaho’s first successful voter initiative created the Idaho Fish and Game Commission and placed the Fish and Game Department under its authority.

Though Idaho Fish and Game was created by the Legislature in 1899, for the first four decades the agency was run by a state game warden – most of them political appointees. No knowledge of wildlife or game management was required to be appointed. And when new wardens took over, they often replaced the deputies, regardless of their qualifications.

Using a 1912 amendment to the Idaho constitution that allows voters to put a proposed law on the ballot and enact it by majority vote, a group of sportsmen drafted a petition based on earlier proposed legislation.

The 1938 petition called for a five-member commission of people with a demonstrated interest in wildlife and no more than three from any political party.

Commissioners would hire a fish and game director and would have the authority to determine season and bag limits. Employees would be hired on merit and could be fired only for cause.

The initiative passed with a majority in every county – 118,000 votes to 37,442 – 76 percent of the total votes cast.

The Idaho Fish and Game Department is featuring on its website a weekly post about the history of the state's wildlife management starting today. Click on the 75 Years logo.

Video: Blacktail bucks duel for dominance

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Two Vancouver Island blacktail bucks put on a show in a Nanaimo, British Columbia, neighborhood a few days ago as they battled for dominance during the rut — the  deer mating season. 

Geocaching store grand opening set for Saturday

GEOCACHING — Cache Advance, Inc., is opening the second geocaching retail store in the United States right here in Spokane.

The Cache Cave grand opening at 2324 E. Euclid Ave., Suite 204, is set for Saturday, Nov. 9, noon-5 p.m., with a ribbon cutting and geocaching flash mob at 1 p.m. 

  • If you're a geocacher, perhaps you'd prefer the coordinates: N 47° 41.140 W 117° 22.526

Owner Lisa Breitenfeldt started the business in 2005 largely for online sales to fill a niche for supplying the needs of geocaching enthusiasts triggered by the public availability of Global Positioning System navigation technology.

Geocaching is a high tech treasure hunt. Played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices or GPS enabled Smartphones, geocachers hide and/or locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share their experiences online.

Feds bill shooter $168K for fire ignited by exploding target

PUBLIC LANDS — The federal government said today it is collecting $168,500 to cover fire suppression costs after an Illinois man ignited a 440-acre blaze in central Idaho in 2012 while shooting at an exploding target.

According to a story by the Associated Press, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the agreement after Jeffrey Kerner was target shooting on Aug. 18, 2012 on private land near Salmon in Lemhi County. As temperatures hit 95 degrees, prosecutors say Kerner’s target blew apart and ignited the blaze that later spread to adjacent federal land.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Howe in Boise said the settlement in the Idaho case was reached after negotiations with an insurance adjustment company representing Kerner.

Though the fire was relatively small at less than a square mile and was contained within 48 hours, costs quickly escalated as federal firefighters arrived in force to keep the flames from consuming at least two nearby homes.

Howe said the incident — during high summer, when temperatures were climbing — underscores the danger of shooting at exploding targets that produce a large cloud of smoke when struck by a bullet. Federal and state agencies across the West have enacted a patchwork of regulations designed to limit or ban exploding targets on public land, though there’s little uniformity.

Read on for more more of the story from the AP.

Laws on trespassing, wasting game can put hunter in gray area

HUNTING — Today's Outdoors column on the topic of hunting and trespassing generated a quick response from reader John Huckabay:

One question arises that I have never been able to get a straight answer on.  You note that to enter private land in Washington to recover game is a violation.  I believe that the law is also that it is illegal to waste game.  If I shoot a bird on my property and it falls on a neighbors which law prevails?

Indeed, Huckabay is correct. The laws take that possibility into account, although a hunter who pushes the language too far could still get a ticket.  See line (d) in the following full Washington state trespassing law as it pertains to hunters:

RCW 77.15.435
Unlawful hunting on or retrieving hunted wildlife from the property of another - Defense - Penalty - Forfeiture and disposition of wildlife.
(1) A person is guilty of unlawfully hunting on, or retrieving hunted wildlife from, the property of another if the person knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or on the premises of another for the purpose of hunting for wildlife or retrieving hunted wildlife.

     (2) In any prosecution under this section, it is a defense that:

     (a) The premises were at the time open to members of the public for the purpose of hunting, and the actor complied with all lawful conditions imposed on access to or remaining on the premises;

     (b) The actor reasonably believed that the owner of the premises, or other person empowered to license access thereto, would have licensed him or her to enter or remain on the premises for the purpose of hunting or retrieving hunted wildlife;

     (c) The actor reasonably believed that the premises were not privately owned; or

     (d) The actor, after making all reasonable attempts to contact the owner of the premises, retrieved the hunted wildlife for the sole purpose of avoiding a violation of the prohibition on the waste of fish and wildlife as provided in RCW 77.15.170. The defense in this subsection only applies to the retrieval of hunted wildlife and not to the actual act of hunting itself.

     (3) Unlawfully hunting on or retrieving hunted wildlife from the property of another is a misdemeanor.

     (4) If a person unlawfully hunts and kills wildlife, or retrieves hunted wildlife that he or she has killed, on the property of another, then, upon conviction of unlawfully hunting on, or retrieving hunted wildlife from, the property of another, the department shall revoke all hunting licenses and tags and order a suspension of the person's hunting privileges for two years.

     (5) Any wildlife that is unlawfully hunted on or retrieved from the property of another must be seized by fish and wildlife officers. Forfeiture and disposition of the wildlife is pursuant to RCW 77.15.100.

Oregon’s Crooked River is year-round trout fishing gem

FISHING — Solid winter trout fisheries are hot items.

Check out this report from Mark Morical of the Bend Bulletin about Central Oregon's Crooked River, a trout stream that lures fly fishers from far and wide, especially to the 7-mile stretch below Bowman Dam. 

Wildlife officers note gray area in elk hunting clientele

HUNTING — There's sad news in this comment by Capt. Dan Rahn in the weekly Washington Fish and Wildlife police report for far-eastern Washington following the opening weekend of elk hunting season:

Every officer commented on the overall decline in hunter numbers combined with an apparent aging of the hunter population as a whole.

On the other hand, it's good news for the hunters who continue to pursue elk — less competition overall, and especially in the hard-hunting spots where many elk tend to hide during the season.


Turnbull trumpeters a splashing autumn sight to behold

UPDATED 11-6-13 at 3:10 p.m.

WILDLIFE WATCHING — This year's crop of trumpeter swans was still putting on a snow last week for visitors to Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge headquarters area.

For the first time in decades, two pairs pulled of clutches of cygnets this spring.  The families provided plenty of wildlife viewing entertainment during the spring and summer.

Each family lost at least one of the offspring, but the survivors are looking strong and frisky and ready to migrate to wherever they go when iced-over ponds force them to leave Turnbull during winter.

Local photographer Carlene Hardt, who produced a book about the Turnbull trumpeters that's available at the Turnbull store, snapped these photos of one family and the playful cygnets last week.  Said Hardt:

 I was at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge last Friday and I was delighted to see both Trumpeter swan families on Middle Pine. It was good to see that one swan pair still has three cygnets. Unfortunately, the other pair has only two remaining cygnets (out of the 4 that hatched). One cygnet was recently found dead. 

I started photographing them just before sunset when they were very active and vocal. They were interacting with each other and sometimes chasing each other. It was fun to watch!

Mike Rule, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife biologist at Turnbull offered these encouraging insights into what's going with the refuge swans:

The loss of the 2 cygnets from the Middle Pine Lake pair was unfortunate.  One was lost  about 3-4 weeks after hatching.  We never found the carcass.  The death of the 2nd cygnet occurred  on the   22nd or 23rd of October.   I am not sure of the cause of death , but I don't think it ever fledged like the other two in that brood.  I observed the 2 adults  and 2 cygnets flying around on the 19th and the one cygnet was still on Middle Pine. We did collect the body and it has been sent to the Madison Wildlife Health Lab.  Hopefully we will hear back soon about the cause of death.  

We have recently been seeing a group of 11 flying around  so the 2 pairs and there young of this year have picked up a couple of swans from the previous years' broods.  I expect to see more  any day now.  We are hoping more of the 2009 and 2010 cygnets will return to nest next year. Winslow Pool, which has been dry for 2 years now because of a failed water control structure, has been repaired and is refilling.  This has been an important swan pond, it is the original swan display pond  where the first cygnets were released on the refuge. So having it functioning again is a real plus for the swans. 

Youth hunter survives gunshot to chest

HUNTING — If you've witnessed what a bullet from a hunting rifle does to the inside of a deer or elk, you'll be shocked by this blurb in the weekly Washington Fish and Wildlife police report rounding up enforcement activity from the opening weekend of elk hunting season.

Officers are investigated a hunting incident near Lacrosse in Whitman County.  The victim was a 12 year old male who had a rifle bullet pass through his chest narrowly missing his heart.  The 12 year old was doing well and was being held in the hospital overnight for observation. 

Full details have not been released, but the Whitman County Sheriff's Office said the Pullman boy was accidentally shot on the morning of Oct. 26 while on a hunting trip with family members. He was transported to Whitman Community Hospital in Colfax by personal vehicle. The boy was later transported to Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane for observations with what was believed to be serious by non-life-threatening injuries.

Video: Sullivan Lake kokanee spawning in Harvey Creek

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Spawning kokanee provide vivid autumn wildlife viewing opportunities at several classic sites in the Inland Northwest.

Edward Cairns employed his Go-Pro video camera on Monday and took advantage of the easy-access viewing at the south end of Sullivan Lake near Metaline Falls, Wash., where kokanee move out of the lake to spawn in Harvey Creek.

Thanks for sharing the footage (above), Edward.

This is a great place to bring kids for a wildlife viewing adventure, with excellent fall hiking opportunities all around, including the Sullivan Lake Shoreline Trail. This weekend should be prime time for seeing the most kokanee packed under the road bridge at the south end of the lake.

The run typically lasts until the middle of December.

 The run of the land-locked sockeye salmon is comprised of three-year-old fish leaving Sullivan Lake and swimming up Harvey Creek to find suitable spawning sites.  From Harvey Creek’s banks or the bridge, the fish are visible as they separate from the schools and pair up with mates. 

Females dig a redd (deposit site) to lay eggs and within a few days die.  Their decaying bodies provide nutrients to the creek and Sullivan Lake vital to the growth of plankton and insect life that will feed next year’s young.  The dying salmon also feed animals like bald eagles, raccoons, and mink.  Kokanee eggs hatch in February and remain in the gravel until spring where they are swept away into Sullivan Lake to start another cycle.

DIRECTIONS:  From Highway 31 south of Ione, turn east on County Road 9345 toward the Sullivan Lake Ranger Station and Sullivan Lake.  The bridge is at the south end of the lake.

Updates: Sullivan Lake Ranger District, (509) 446-7500 or stop in at the ranger station on the northwest end of the lake for a brochure on the Kokanee. 

Harvey Creek is closed to fishing from the mouth to the second county bridge, and open above the second county bridge from the first Saturday in June through Oct. 31. 

Click here for complete fishing regulations.


Groomers packing new snow at Lookout Pass Ski Area

WINTER SPORTS — A harbinger of things to come, the groomers hit the slopes at Lookout Pass Ski Area early this morning to start packing and preparing the snow for the upcoming season. 

High Drive street project could impact access to trails

TRAILS — As today's news story points out, City of Spokane engineers are ready to present a new plan for the $6.8 million High Drive street project after public criticism of initial proposals this summer and fall sent them back to the drawing board.

The project is of major concern to the hikers, cyclists, dog walkers and runners who flock to the 25-mile trail system along the South Hill bluff. Initial proposals would have reduced access to the trails and eliminated up to 80 percent of the available parking.

The city will unveil the revised design in an open-house meeting on Thursday, Nov. 7, from 6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., at the new Jefferson Elementary School, 123 E. 37th Ave

  • To get involved with protecting and improving the bluff trails and the natural landscape they traverse, check into the Friends of the Bluff


Wildlife area could gain 5,497 acres in Kittitas County

OLYMPIA - A huge addition to a state wildlife area in Kittitas County will be considered for purchase by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission during its meeting Friday and Saturday (Nov. 8-9) in Olympia.

Also on the agenda, is a report on the status of reptiles and amphibians in Washington and a briefing on proposed changes in hydraulic permit approval rules

The proposed land acquisition in Kittitas County involves 5,497 acres adjacent to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department's L.T. Murray Wildlife Area, 35 miles northwest of Yakima. The department has also proposed purchasing a 589-acre inholding in the Wenas Wildlife Area near the state's winter feeding area for elk.

In addition to the land purchases, the public will have an opportunity to comment on proposals related to:

  • New rules for commercial dive fisheries.
  • A new policy for managing salmon fisheries in Grays Harbor.

The commission, a nine-member citizen panel appointed by the Governor to set policy for WDFW, will convene at 8:30 a.m. both days in Room 172 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. S.E., Olympia.

Adventurer kills, eats faithful dog in 2-month survival epic

ADVENTURE — Here's a Canadian survival story with an unusual twist that has some animal lovers saying a desperate man made a heartless decision.  

But doctors treating Marco Lavoie after his rescue in the wilderness of northern Quebec say he may not have survived his four-month ordeal had he not killed and eaten his dog.

Some fascinating points to the story:

  • Lavoie, 44, was close to death when a rescue crew found him last week.
  • His canoe and vital supplies were destroyed by a bear at the start of a planned two-month trip in August.
  • Lavoie's German Shepherd may have saved Lavoei's life by chasing away the bear in the initial attack.
  • But three days later, facing the possibility of starvation Lavoie, killed his doting companion with a rock.
  • The first words Lavoie reported spoke to medical staff: 'I want to get a new dog.'

Lavoie had lost 90 pounds and was suffering from hypothermia when rescuers found him Wednesday. News reports from Monday indicated he was still in critical condition.

Could you kill your faithful canine companion if you thought it would be the difference between your life and death?

Magazine photo helps nail poacher of Washington buck

HUNTING — A two-page spread in a popular deer hunting magazine that included trophy photographs of bucks got an Oklahoma City man in trouble with the law, federal prosecutors said last week.

Officials said the buck was illegally shot in Washington's Capitol State Forest before being shipped to Oklahoma, according to the story moved by the Associated Press.

Kyle McCormack, 26, was sentenced to a year of probation and will pay a $500 fine after he pleaded guilty to illegally transporting wildlife in interstate commerce, U.S. Attorney Sanford Coats said.

A two-page article in the July 2012 issue of Buckmasters Magazine credited to McCormack led to a tip that prompted federal and state officials to launch an investigation, Sanford said. Investigators determined that the wildlife was illegally killed in Washington and then shipped to Oklahoma, and that McCormack didn’t have valid hunting licenses in the locations cited in the article.

He was charged earlier this month with illegally transporting elk and black-tailed deer antlers in interstate commerce, and pleaded guilty to both misdemeanor counts, court records show. Court documents indicate McCormack knew the animals were illegally killed in Washington’s Capitol State Forest.

Bowhunter web sites picked up on the residency hunting license discrepancies in the story by September 2012.

As part of the plea agreement, McCormack also agreed to pay $2,500 into the Lacey Act Reward Account.

Enacted more than 100 years ago to curtail the hunting black market, the Lacey Act is a federal law that governs the interstate commerce of fish and wildlife. 

Sullivan Lake Ranger station to close briefly

PUBLIC LANDS — The Sullivan Lake Ranger Station will be temporarily closed Nov. 12 and reopening on Nov. 20 during construction in the visitor lobby. 

General district and forest information, as well as firewood cutting permit will be available at the Newport Ranger Station located at 315 N. Warren in Newport, WA. 

Info: Newport Ranger Station at (509) 447-7300.

Widespread starfish die-off puzzles West Coast scientists

OCEANS — Marine scientists are finding a large number of dead starfish along the West Coast stricken with a disease that causes the creatures to lose their arms and disintegrate.

The Associated Press reports the starfish are dying from “sea star wasting disease,” an affliction that causes white lesions to develop, which can spread and turn the animals into “goo.” The disease has killed up to 95 percent of a particular species of sea star in some tide pool populations.

“They essentially melt in front of you,” Pete Raimondi, chairman of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at University of California, Santa Cruz’s Long Marine Lab, told The Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

Even starfish in an aquarium at the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary visitor center in San Francisco died from wasting disease after water was pumped in from the ocean in September.

Sampling has found the disease in starfish from Alaska to Southern California, according to a map on the marine lab’s website.

Raimondi says wasting disease has never been as widespread as researchers are finding now.

In 1983-84, wasting disease hit Southern California but remained localized.

The disease usually affects one species, Pisaster ochraceus, an orange and purple starfish that grows up to 20 inches wide and is a staple of West Coast tide pools.

The starfish dine on mussels, so scientists worry that a collapse in the Pisaster population will allow mussels to multiply unchecked, crowding out other species.

Steven Morgan, an environmental science professor at the Bodega Marine Laboratory at the University of California, Davis, has found emaciated sea stars on the rocks at Schoolhouse Beach north of Bodega Bay, but was unsure if wasting syndrome was the culprit.

Still, Morgan found the starfish deaths a “strange anomaly.”

“None of us had ever seen anything like this before,” he said.

5 reasons for hunters to score their big-game trophy

HUNTING — Congratulations! You finally killed that trophy specimen that eluded you for many seasons and countless hunts. You made celebratory stops at your buddy’s house and then the local meat processor. The taxidermist is next. But, unlike your previous hunts, this time there’s another consideration—entering your trophy into the Boone and Crockett Club’s records book.

The Boone and Crockett Club records program is the only North American harvest data system that collects information on all species of free-ranging native North American big game taken in fair chase.

Getting listed in the world’s most distinguished hunting-records book involves official measuring, paperwork and a $40 processing fee, all detailed at, but the rewards are considerable.

Read on for the club's top five reasons to enter a trophy in “the book.”

Chart helps viewers distinguish wolf from coyote

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A reader called today wondering if the animals he saw west of Spokane recently were wolves or coyotes.

He didn't have a photo to help with the identification and he didn't measure tracks, so there's no way to tell for sure.

The chart above gives some distinguishing features to note when you see canines in the field.

Here's some elaboration from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists:

One of the greatest differences between the two species is size, which can be difficult to estimate determine at a distance. A gray wolf is much larger than a coyote. Wolves weigh 80 to 120 pounds, while coyotes weigh 20 to 50 pounds. Track size measures about four by five inches for wolves, compared to two by two and a half inches for coyotes. 

Ear shape is also much different; wolves have somewhat rounded ears while coyotes have taller, pointed ears. Wolves have a broader, shorter snout, while coyotes have a narrow more pointed nose. A wolf’s howl is long and drawn out, while a coyote produces a shorter, yapping sound. Fur coloration can be quite similar between wolves and coyotes and therefore is not a good characteristic for separating the two species. For more visual comparisons, visit: Wolf Identification: Physical Appearance of Wolves.

Large dogs and wolf-dog hybrids can also be mistaken for wolves, although they usually act more familiar with people. Wolf-dog hybrids can be unpredictable and aggressive. Some hybrids have been released into the wild, living like feral dogs. Distinctions between these hybrids and wild wolves can sometimes be made only by DNA testing.


Elk hunter returns to work; faces high expectations

HUNTING — “Did you get your elk?” a colleague asked this morning as I returned to the office after eight days away in the Blue Mountains.

“Yes,” I nodded enthusiastically.

“How many?” my co-worker continued.

I grimaced slightly.

“I'm not a hunter,” he noted.

State files 33 trophy deer poaching charges against Okanogan man

HUNTING — His boasting on Facebook apparently has helped Washington Fish and Wildlife police make a case on a 24-year-old Okanogan man and charge him with 33 counts of illegal hunting activities involving trophy mule deer. 

The case was made nine months after the agency posted on Facebook a request — and a $2,500 reward — for the public's help in solving a spree killing case.

The case against Garret V.J. Elsberg, a member of the Colville Tribe, is detailed by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman.

Wolf vigilante photo raises hackles, as intended

PREDATORS — In some cases, the Internet is incredibly predictable.

Shortly after Wind River Outdoor World posted this photo on its Facebook page on Oct. 28, the photo has been galloping around the Web for different reasons on pro-wolf and anti-wolf sites. 

The Facebook caption says: “A little Wyoming justice by some folks that are fed up with wolves and the affect they are having on wildlife populations, livestock, and our way of life as hunters and Wyoming residents. The bunny huggers are having a conniption fit over this so let's show our support these guys.”

Hunters can buy a hunting license and wolf tag and legally harvest a wolf under Wyoming law.

So while this photo is distasteful to some people, it doesn't imply anything illegal, just an attitude that's still pervasive.

Four men needed to land record sunfish in Puget Sound

FISHING — Sunfish, the midgets of inland lake fisheries, have won new stature in the saltwater of Washington's Puget Sound.

A mola weighing up to 350 pounds was caught within view of the Seattle skyline on Tuesday night. It took four men to pull the fish aboard a tribal gillnetting boat.

Click “continue reading” for the who, what and why story about this giant sunfish by Mark Yuasa of The Seattle Times.

Highway ‘deer crossing’ signs are no joke

WILDLIFE — The signs along highways warning motorists that wildlife frequently crosses the road in certain stretches aren't random acts of government spending. 

State's keep track of roadkill — what they pick up and where motor vehicles are reported to have collided with critters. fall and winter are the most hazardous times. 

Statewide, more than 1,100 wildlife/vehicle collisions are reported to the Washington State Patrol every year. Many more go unreported but leave animals dead.  Washington Department of Transportation crews remove an average of 3,500 deer and elk carcasses from highways every year. 

Those “wildlife crossing” signs are placed in the hot spots for these statistics.

Eastern Washington areas with the highest wildlife/vehicle collision rates include: 

  • Spokane County's and the state highways heading north, especially in the Chewelah-Colville area as well as Newport, where highways intersect with white-tailed deer wintering grounds. 
  • The Methow River Valley, home of the state’s most prolific mule deer herd, consistently has high numbers of animals killed in collisions each year.
  • The Wenatchee vicinity has high deer collision rates on the busy highways that run through prime mule deer ares north and west of the city. On U.S. 97.
  • Goldendale and to the north between Omak and Tonasket have high wildlife collision rates.
  •  Interstate 90 near the Easton/Cle Elum vicinity has the highest number of elk/vehicle collisions in Eastern Washington. 

Several factors combine to make late fall the peak of the “bumper crop.”

  • Colder temperatures and snow force more deer and elk from the mountains to milder conditions and better food sources in the lowlands.
  • Hunting seasons are underway, increasing deer movements.
  • Deer mating season, which also increases deer movements and makes normally wary bucks stupid, builds from late October, peaking in mid-November and tapering off into December.

A 2008 analysis of deer-elk collisions along Washington state highways — the lead author was Woody Myers, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife big-game researcher based in Spokane — gives state agencies more guidance in planning highway routes and when to use measures such as fencing or wildlife overpasses or underpasses.

  • The DOT has posted a short video of images from cameras that illustrate how a range of wildlife use properly sited underpasses.
  • See commonly asked questions and answers about reducing the risks of wildlife vehicle collisions can be found in this  DOT Question and Answer page. 

WSDOT is working with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and other stakeholders on a statewide Habitat Connectivity assessment that will identify areas where wildlife require movement across the highway.

The Hyak to Easton project under construction on I-90 has a number of wildlife crossing structures and wildlife fencing. 

Idaho Fish and Game Commission meets Nov. 13

WILDLIFE — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will meet Nov. 13-14 in Jerome.

A public hearing begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13, at the regional office at 324 S. 417 East.

The Fish and Game Commission usually holds a public hearing in conjunction with each regular meeting. Members of the public who want to address the commission on any topic having to do with Fish and Game business may do so at the public hearing. All testimony will be taken into consideration when the commission makes decisions on agenda items at the meetings.

A complete agenda will be posted on the Fish and Game website when it becomes available.

Outdoors scribe back to blogging after bagging elk

HUNTING — Outdoors blog posts were downscaled the past 10 days while I focused on filling my elk tag with hunting partner Jim Kujala.

After eight days in our Blue Mountains camp and on the sixth day of the season, I finally dialed in on the elusive elk and scored.

Lot's of work after that shot: 10 hours to get the meat boned-out and packed up and out of a canyon to a closed road and carted back to camp.

Next was 6 hours of meat trimming on the tailgate of the pickup while Jim continued to hunt.

Then another 4 hours of cutting, wrapping and freezing at home.   Yum, maybe that's why elk tastes so good to me.

 The clean, hairless scraps from all the boning and trimming sessions went into bags bound for the butcher to be ground into smoked German sausage and the best hamburger money can't buy.

Lesson relearned: Always have a weather-band radio in camp, especially when you're hunting for more than a week in high areas of the Blue Mountains and Yakima region where a sudden big storm — like the one forecast for last night — could make getting out of the mountains hazardous.  The area-specific weather reports were very helpful in our day-to-day hunting strategies, and prompted our sensible departure a day earlier than planned.


Environmental film, Fierce Green Fire, screens Monday at Gonzaga

ENVIRONMENT — The Gonzaga University Environmental Studies program is inviting the public to a free  discussion-stimulating presentation of the environmental film, “A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle for a Living Planet.”

The film will be screened at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 4, at Jepson Center, Wolff Auditorium.

  • In Sandpoint, the film will be shown Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Sandpoint Events Center, 102 S, Euclid Ave., sponsored by the Idaho Conservation League.

Shown at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, the film explores 50 years of environmental activism, from conservation to climate change.

Director Mark Kitchell – whose previous film, Berkeley in the 60s, was nominated for an Academy Award – will lead discussions between film segments. 

The film unfolds in five acts, each with a central story and character:

  • David Brower and the Sierra Club’s battle to halt dams in the Grand Canyon.
  • Lois Gibbs and the Love Canal residents’ struggle against 20,000 tons of toxic chemicals.
  • Paul Watson and Greenpeace’s campaigns to save whales and baby harp seals.
  • Chico Mendes and Brazilian rubbertappers’ fight to save the Amazon rainforest.
  • Bill McKibben and the 25-year effort to address the impossible issue – climate change.

Bird dogs get to the point of idom

HUNTING — This is how Scout, my English setter, defines the idiom “Got 'em dead to rights.”

Top 10 ways to avoid hunting citation

HUNTING — Although most hunters are law-abiding, some are cited for infractions. Here are the Top 10 reasons some hunters go home with a ticket rather than meat for the freezer, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks game wardens.

  1.  Trespassing: Hunters must have permission of the landowner before hunting on private land. In Montana, private land does not have to be posted for a hunter to be guilty of trespassing. Ask first.
  2. Road shooting: State law makes it illegal for anyone to shoot on, from, or across a road or right of way. The right of way generally lies between the fences on either side of the road. It's also known as the shoulder or borrow pit.
  3. Shooting times: Make sure of sunrise and sunset times. Big-game season runs from one half hour before sunrise to one half-hour after sunset. It can vary by state. Use only the sunrise-sunset tables supplied by FWP, not the times in the local newspaper or on television.
  4. Tagging: Immediately after taking a big game animal, hunters must validate their hunting tag. Proper validation means completely cutting out the date and month on the tag. It also means thinking ahead so you don't, say, put a deer tag on an elk. Excitement is no excuse.
  5. Transferring tags: Hunters must use their own tags when shooting an animal. Transferring licenses between spouses or using a family member's tag is illegal.
  6. Off-roading: Drive only on established roads. On public land, stay on the road. On private land, drive only where the landowner tells you. Driving off a road is a sure way to make an enemy of a private landowner and probably get a ticket.
  7. Check stations: Although it's voluntary in some states such as Washington, hunters and anglers in Montana are required to stop at all check stations, going to or coming from the field, with or without game. Even if you are out fishing, you must stop at all check stations. Driving by a check station not only hurts FWP’s efforts to gather data it is illegal and can result in a ticket.
  8. Evidence of gender: When transporting a big game animal, evidence of the animal's sex must remain attached to the carcass. This is especially important early in the season when the heat of the day may lead a hunter to remove the hide from an animal’s carcass.
  9. Shooting from vehicle: Most state prohibit having a loaded gun in the vehicle or shooting from a vehicle or road. Beyond that, tthics and sportsmanship define hunting. It's not very sporting, and frankly it's dangerous, to shoot from a pickup window or truck bed.
  10. Blaze orange clothing: Big game hunters must wear at least 400 square inches of hunter orange above the waist and visible from all sides. Although it’s not required for bird hunters, it’s a darn good idea to put on some orange, at least a hat or vest.


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News, field reports and insights on the Great Outdoors.

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

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

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