Archive for February 2014
WINTER SPORTS — Here's today's grooming report for Fourth of July Pass cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails from Geoff Harvey of the Panhandle Nordic Club:
The last warm system that passed through condensed the dryer snow from Sunday and Monday and dropped a little new wet snow. The result was 8 - 10 inches of wet snow on the established base of all runs. All trails that we groom were groomed with the exception of Tree Top View and Loose Moose. Double track was set on the Inner Core Trails with a skate lane between. The outer trails (Skywalker, Moonrunner, the Eagle Run, Skateaway and Elderberry) have a single track set at the side to accommodate a wide skate lane. Because the snow was so wet maneuvering the groomers was a challenge on some turns. As a result some widely taken corners resulted in one of the two lanes being damaged and some groves in places.
Wet snow is more of a challenge to groom. Since it is forecast to turn off cold, we did not pack Loose Moose. It is better to have broken snow on this steep run as compared to a packed surface that can freeze up and become exceedingly difficult to ski. Elderberry has a single track to near the benches and packed snow machine tracks on to Ian's hut. We were able to remove to trees from the cut across trail before chainsaw trouble spared for another day the “jackpot” of four trees. The trail is a work in progress, but in most places can be skied or walked.
PREDATORS — Idaho Fish and Game, in cooperation with the USDA Wildlife Services, killed 23 gray wolves from a helicopter near the Idaho-Montana border during February in an effort to relieve predation on the struggling elk herds in the remote Lolo Zone.
The agency said in a just-issued media release that the wolf-control effort has been completed.
“The action is consistent with Idaho’s predation management plan for the Lolo elk zone, where predation is the major reason elk population numbers are considerably below management objectives,” the agency said in the release.
In addition to the animals killed in this control action, 17 wolves have been taken by hunters and trappers in the Lolo zone during the 2013-14 season – 7 by hunting and 10 by trapping, officials said.
The trapping season ends March 31, the hunting season ends June 30.
Fish and Game estimates there were 75 -100 wolves in the Lolo zone at the start of the 2013 hunting season with additional animals crossing back and forth between Idaho and Montana and from other Idaho elk zones. Officials said their goal is to reduce that Lolo zone wolf population by 70 percent.
The Lolo elk population has declined from 16,000 elk in 1989 to roughly 2,100 elk in 2010, when Fish and Game last surveyed the zone.
The Lolo predation management plan is posted on the Fish and Game website.
This is the sixth agency control action taken in Lolo zone during the last four years. A total of 25 wolves were taken in the previous five actions.
Fish and Game officials say they authorize control actions where wolves are causing conflicts with people or domestic animals, or are a significant factor in prey population declines. Such control actions are consistent with Idaho’s 2002 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Idaho Legislature, they say.
More from IFG:
Fish and Game prefers to manage wolf populations using hunters and trappers and only authorizes control actions where harvest has been insufficient to meet management goals. The Lolo zone is steep, rugged country that is difficult to access, especially in winter.
Restoring the Lolo elk population will require liberal bear, mountain lion, and wolf harvest through hunting and trapping (in the case of wolves), and control actions in addition to improving elk habitat. The short-term goals in Fish and Game’s 2014 Elk Plan are to stabilize the elk population and begin to help it grow.
Helicopter crews are now capturing and placing radio collars on elk, moose, and wolves in the Lolo zone in order to continue monitoring to see whether prey populations increase in response to regulated wolf hunting, trapping and control actions.
WILDLIFE — It's been a good week for Washington Fish and Wildlife researchers working with a helicopter to capture wolves so they can be fitted with tracking collars.
At least five wolves were captured and released from Monday through Thursday. Two were in the Ione area of northeastern Washington and three were captured Thursday on the east slopes of the Cascades.
Donny Martorello, WDFW carnivore manager, said the effort to collar more wolves so they can be monitored for wolf research will continue into next week.
FISHING – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is inviting public comment through March 21 on a proposal to acquire and develop public access to Chapman Lake in Spokane County.
Once a popular fishing spot, the 128-acre lake near Cheney has been inaccessible to the public since 2011, when a private resort that provided access to the lake was closed.
Since then, WDFW has provided limited management of kokanee, trout and other fish species in the lake to keep the fishery going for the day the public can have access to it again.
John Whalen, WDFW Eastern Regional Fish Program Manager, said the property owner recently contacted the department and signed a letter of intent to sell 80 acres to the department so that public access and fishery management could be restored.
The property is surrounded on three sides by Washington Department of Natural Resources land. Besides providing boat access to the lake, the proposed acquisition would connect these public lands, helping to conserve Ponderosa pine forest and riparian habitat for wildlife and provide public access to hunting and wildlife viewing.
Details about the proposed Chapman Lake access acquisition are available for review at http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/acquisitions/.
Comments may be submitted by March 21 via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read on for more details about WDFW acquisitions:
SNOWMOBILING — Don't bother driving your snowmobile — or your sled dogs — to Alaska in search of good snow conditions.
Bob Jones of Kettle Falls drove up the Alaska-Canada Highway with his son in law, Josh Rindal, to make another 1,000-mile run on their sleds to follow the famous Iditarod sled dog race. Jones chronicled his 14th Iditarod expedition in 2012 in this diary series.
At the end of last year's odyssey he said he'd sold his snowmobiles and was over his obsession with following the route.
Nevertheless, he's back.
“But all you see is brown from Rohn to Nicolai. The race will start in Willow. Here's a report he filed last night, with some interesting obervations about the changes to the Alcan.
About an hour ago I was sitting on the frozen Knik Lake, looking for a snow pile to unload our two machines onto in the morning. There were NONE. It didn't appear that any snow had been plowed on the ice on the lake all winter! There might be 2-inches at most on the ice. We'll just jerk them off the trailer onto the ice in the morning. We almost decided to go the easy way from Deshka Landing to Skwentna tomorrow, but the Historic Iditarod.
Trail out of Knik is going to be our choice again this year: After all, it IS the Iditarod Trail! The real kicker was the reading on the temperature gauge in my truck: FIFTY DEGREES in Wasilla!!! Holy S…!
The top of Rainy Pass was much warmer than Kettle Falls today. So I can't imagine what's going to be in store for us up the trail: Probably not much good! We came close to 'scratching' here in Wasilla, but decided to make a run for it. There is NO snow around Nome, and they had a “freezing rain alert” in Golovin for today.
Hopefully we will get some good old cold weather in a few days. We can always come back to Knik……well, maybe…..and we can quit at McGrath or Unalakleet and fly our shit back to Anchorage.
I had a great trip up the Alcan. There were two major changes which have occurred in the 12 years since a drunk
like me was allowed into Canada: First, oil exploration has made a major city out of little Fort St. John. And, second, the area north of Whitehorse, to the Alaska Border, is now such a boring freeway that it isn't even fun to drive it anymore. Perhaps the most over-built highway on the planet! Good old Uncle Sam just gave the Canooks a big blank check and they made the most of it. The most disgusting part of the whole thing is that the Canadians have NO sense of the great history of the Alcan. There are NO signs left along the road depicting any of that. What a shame! And I mean not a single sign for 300 miles telling anything of the highway: Zero!
UPDATED 3:55 p.m. on Feb. 28 with link to Associated Press story and comment from Pebble Mine official that EPA action is a “major overreach.”
FISHING — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today it will use its Clean Water Act authorities to review impacts of a controversial proposed mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska.
The proposed mine is opposed by anglers and conservationists from Alaska south along the Pacific Coast for the extreme risk it would present to the nation's greatest salmon fisheries.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, applauded the EPA action, noting that the Pebble Mine could have devastating effects on Washington state’s fishing industry, which employs thousands of workers in the Pacific Northwest and contributes more than $670 million to the regional economy each year.
The EPA action announced today prohibits the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from issuing permits for a mine until review developing the environmental criteria for permitting is complete. The EPA has asked the Army Corps, the state of Alaska, and the mine project sponsor to provide evidence that the mine would not negatively impact water quality or aquatic resources, including the many fish species in the region.
Sen. Patty Murray said:
“I applaud the EPA for recognizing the real threat posed by this shortsighted mining proposal and taking action to protect Washington state’s fishing families,” said Sen. Murray. “The EPA’s Watershed Assessment has demonstrated that large scale mining such as the proposed Pebble Mine would devastate this critical industry that supports thousands of local families and contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to the regional economy.”
--Sen. Maria Cantwell said:
“I applaud this action today to protect Northwest fishing jobs from being destroyed by the largest open pit mine in North America,” said Cantwell. “Washington and Alaska fishermen depend on Bristol Bay for their livelihoods. Ruining headwaters with mining pollution is too big a risk to existing jobs in Pacific Northwest.
“Today, the administration is saying that potential gold mining is not more important than a $1.5 billion sockeye fishing industry. Gold might be an valuable commodity but it’s not more important than Pacific Northwest salmon.
“Wild salmon populations already face a number of threats,” Cantwell added. “Adding mining pollution to the spawning ground for the world’s number one sockeye salmon fishery doesn't make economic sense. Mining pollution could threaten 14,000 fishing jobs and a critical food source that subsistence fishermen depend on. I will work hard to ensure that fishermen have a voice as the 404C process moves forward. We cannot afford to put thousands of fishing jobs at risk.”
In June 2013, Murray and four other West Coast senators wrote a letter to President Obama calling the Administration to factor in the impact a permit for a mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska, would have on the West Coast fishing industry.
Earlier this year, the EPA released a watershed assessment that details the potential impacts of a large scale mine development near Bristol Bay.
Read on for a sampling of reaction from sportsman and environmental groups:
BICYCLING — Todays S-R story about long-coming proposals to begin developing the Palouse section of the abandoned railroad stretch known as the John Wayne Pioneer Trail is good news for bicyclists.
Although the state of Washington acquired the railroad right of way in 1981, the section from the Columbia River east to the Idaho state line remains largely rough with gaps that make it difficult to use even if you go through the hoops to get the required permit from Washington State Parks.
BUT, the growing popularity of fat bikes offers a chance for tough riders to get on the trail now.
These bikes with extra-wide, extremely low-pressure tires tame the rough ballast and bogs that greet trail users on long stretches of the trail.
But don't expect to be the first to fat bike the entire route. Others have already figured it out.
On his 26InchSlicks blog, Spokane fat-biking-fanatic Pat Sprute has posted an excellent story with photos and maps of his 2012 trip along the John Wayne Pioneer Trail from Tekoa to the Columbia.
Check it out and be inspired.
WINTER SPORTS — Stevens Pass has received 160 inches of snow this month as of today, making it the third snowiest February the resort has had in the last 50 years, resort owners say.
February of the 1998-99 season holds the record with 226 inches of snowfall for the month.
In an 11-day storm cycle from Feb. 10 to Feb. 21, more than 10 feet of snow fell, better than doubling the base depth from 61 inches to 129 inches at the time.
Stevens Pass’ base sits at 145 inches of snow at the top and 124 inches of snow in the base area. February storms have brought the 2013-14 season snowfall total to 342 inches. The resort averages 450 inches of snowfall annually.
February’s snowfall was a 76 percent increase from snowfall through the month of January. According to the USDA Stevens Pass had received 73 percent of its normal amount of precipitation as of Feb. 1; the resort now sits at around 90 percent of normal precipitation.
In the last five years March has also been a dependable month for snowfall, averaging 118 inches.
The new snow has created a massive amount of avalanche mitigation work for the Stevens Pass Pro Patrol. Explosives dropped from a helicopter have even been employed to trigger avalanches outside the ski area boundary that could potentially travel into the resort.
According to the Northwest Avalanche Center, the backcountry avalanche danger is currently “considerable” in the Stevens Pass area of the Cascades, meaning dangerous avalanche conditions exist.
See video of massive avalanche that was triggered by explosives outside the ski area boundary on Feb. 26.
WINTER SPORTS — Schweitzer Mountain Resort announced today that it will shut down its lifts on April 13, a week later than usual to offer a “bonus” week of skiing and snowboarding to its patrons.
Traditionally, the Sandpoint-area resort has closed at the end of the spring break for local schools.
“With help from recent snowfall, Schweitzer will operate for an additional week to accommodate spring breaks in Spokane school districts as well,” said Sean Briggs, resort spokesman. “The amount of terrain and lifts that will be open has not yet been determined.”
Read on for details about discount ticket offers and special events.
FISHING — Here's the harbinger of what should be a better than average spring chinook fishing season in the Columbia and Snake Rivers.
“First spring Chinook of the year returned to Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery yesterday!” says Joe Hymer, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife salmon specialist in an email received moments ago.
HUNTING/FISHING — Today's Outdoors column highlights the debut of the Gonzaga University Rod & Gun Club, founded by the Student Bar Association.
The legal angles of the organization were researched and negotiated for nearly two years by students and Law School professors before the club was launched last month.
I think membership would soar if it were opened to non-students, too.
I'd quickly pay my dues for the opportunity to rub elbows with law students who might help me interpret the hunting and fishing regulations.
HIKING — Spokane has a choice snow-free place for a winter walk at Palisades City Park thanks to a maintenance issue that prompted plowing of Rimrock Drive overlooking Spokane Falls Community College area.
After Monday's snow storm, Fairchild Air Force Base crews plowed the road, which is gated to prevent public vehicle traffic. The Air Force has a pump in the area that delivers water from the Spokane River to the base.
Cross-country skiers out to take advantage of the rare winter windfall were disappointed to see the mostly snow-free pavement on Wednesday, but the rare plowing event is a boon for winter walking on a flat surface with one of the best views you'll find overlooking Spokane.
The trailhead is off Greenwood Road up from Indian Canyon Road. (See Hike 78 in Day Hiking Eastern Washington.)
WILDLIFE WATCHING — A Florida research project on endangered species in the hammocks of North Key Largo uncovered an unwanted cast of video stars: Cats perched atop man-made woodrat nests.
“The cats are doing the things that cats do when they hunt,” Jeremy Dixon, manager of the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge says in a story by KeysInfoNet.
“It's not the fault of the cats,” Dixon said. “It's the fault of owners who allow their cats to trespass into the refuge, or people who dump cats on North Key Largo.”
My stand on the issue of domestic cats that are let loose to kill birds and other critters:
Loose-running domestic cats kill for fun. These cats are not wildlife. They should be licensed and required to abide by seasons and quotas just as human hunters.
WEATHER — February's storms are loading the region's mountains with snow, presenting a better picture for outdoor recreation that depends on water, including anglers and river runners.
However, we need another snow dance or two for the Idaho Panhandle. March can be a good month.
Here's the report from NOAA that goes with the map graphic above:
Considerable snowfall across the region in February served to pump up the water content in the area's snowpack. This image depicts the current Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) as a percent of normal as measured by the region's snow telemetry (SNOWTEL) sensors.
SNOWTEL is operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The data from these sensors is available online.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Groups tracking the reintroduction of the endangered California condor celebrated last year when a record four birds hatched near the Arizona-Utah border.
This year has brought increased enthusiasm with the possibility that a condor hatched in the wild will produce the first second-generation wild bird.
Eddie Feltes of The Peregrine Fund says he and others are keeping their fingers crossed.
Breeding is underway for the condors in the Arizona-Utah flock and the captive flock at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho.
Biologists are watching from afar as adult condors incubate an egg in the Arizona-Utah flock nesting at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.
The captive flock is expected to produce up to 20 birds this season.
UPDATED: 3:15 p.m., Feb. 26 with info about increase in cougar permits.
WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — An 11-year-old girl shot a cougar that was following her 14-year-old brother to their home at Twisp, in north central Washington, the state Fish and Wildlife Department said.
You've got to admire Shelby White: Not only did she have a cougar tag, but she put it to good use.
And get this: Her 9-year-old brother shot a cougar threatening their livestock the previous week.
The female cougar killed last week was about 4 years old and weighed about 50 pounds — half of what it should weigh, said Officer Cal Treser.
It's the latest in a rash of cougar incidents in the Methow Valley this season.
Another sickly cougar was killed this month at a residence in Stehekin.
In response to an above-average number of cougar-related complaints in the Methow Valley, three hunters were issued special permits by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife last week to hunt cougars with hounds in a designated area.
The cougar removal hunt opened Feb. 15 and will continue through March 31, or until it is closed by state wildlife officials, said Donny Martorello, WDFW carnivore section manager.
Looks like one straight-shooting girl did a little of the work for them.
Click “continue reading” for more news about this unusual season of cougar issues and kills in the Methow Valley, including the saga the White family has had.
OUTDOOR RETAILERS — Looking for a job?
Cabela's to hire 90 workers for new store in W. Montana city
The third Cabela's store in Montana will open in Missoula this summer, and the outdoor retailer is taking applications for the 90 jobs at that Outpost store online now, with interviews planned March 13-15 in the western Montana city.
OUTDOOR RECREATION — The Outdoor Industry Association has high praise for Gov. Jay Inslee's recent executive order creating a blue-ribbon task force to support outdoor recreation in Washington state.
Inslee’s task force demonstrates the state’s commitment to supporting and expanding the outdoor recreation and tourism industries, says the group based in Boulder, Colo., with offices in Washington, D.C.
Inslee announced this new effort last week with the Big Tent Outdoor Coalition, which includes Kent-based REI and other organizations representing the outdoor recreation community.
“Outdoor recreation is an untapped economic opportunity that can benefit every state in the nation,” said Kirk Bailey, Vice President of Government Affairs for OIA. “This task force will develop recommendations to strengthen and grow outdoor recreation and tourism, as well as examine opportunities in funding sources for recreation lands. OIA will be excited to see their report due out in the fall of 2014.”
The nation’s network of public lands and waters are the foundation of the $646 billion outdoor recreation industry, the group says, noting that in Washington, outdoor recreation generates $22.5 billion in spending, 227,000 jobs and produces $1.6 billion in state and local tax revenue.
WILDLIFE — Oregon is reporting significant growth in wolf packs in its annual status report on gray wolf recovery released Tuesday. The status reports from all the western recovery states are filed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
At the end of 2013, Oregon officials say the state had at least 64 wolves in eight packs, up from 48 wolves in six packs estimated at the end of 2012. The number of livestock killed increased to 13 confirmed kills involving three packs.
In 2009, the first year of Oregon's reports on the endangered species' recovery in the state, officials listed two packs: the Imnaha pack with 10 wolves and the Wenaha Pack with four wolves.
Washington officials say they will present their annual wolf status report at the Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting March 7-8 in Moses Lake. At the end of 2012, Washington reported up to 100 wolves in the state in nine packs.
WILDLIFE RESEARCH — The region's wildlife researchers are flying high — and low — with this week's weather.
The big dump of snow followed by clear weather is perfect for using helicopters to locate and capture critters so transmitter collars can be attached for research. Fleeing animals bog down in the snow giving the pilot and gunner the best conditions for capture.
Methods used include shooting tranquilizer darts directly from the helicopter to the animal in a low-flying chase or shooting a net from the helicopter before landing and administering the drug after subduing the animal.
Washington Fish and Wildlife staffers took advantage of the weather Monday to recapture a female wolf near Ione to replace a faulty collar that had been attached after the wolf was trapped in July. On Tuesday they caught another female wolf in the same area and attached a collar. The staffers are working to put collars on other wolves in these prime conditions.
Idaho is scrambling to get more collars on elk in the Coeur d'Alene River drainage this week for a large-scale study.
FISHING — The brands and products anglers purchased most frequently in 2013 are listed in a survey just released by Southwick Associates’ AnglerSurvey.com. The list was been compiled from the 18,559 internet-based surveys. It doesn't reflect my preferences, and it may not be the choice of regional fishermen since it's a national poll. But for what it's worth…
In 2013, sportfishing’s most frequently purchased brands included:
Other information tracked includes percentage of sales occurring at different types of retailers, total spending per category, average prices, and demographics for anglers buying specific products is included in the full survey results. Additional information tracked includes total days spent fishing, type of fishing (fresh, salt and more), preferred species and where they fish.
WILDLIFE RESEARCH — More elk are likely to be wearing research “necklaces” in the Coeur d'Alene River drainage by the end of the week if Idaho Fish and Game researches get good weather for flying.
The agency worked with a private helicopter contractor on Jan. 14-15 to tranquilized and fit transmitting collars on 22 cow elk in the Cataldo area (north and south of I-90) and in the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River.
The project design calls for a total of 45 elk to be collared in the study so that IDFG can monitor survival rates, habitat use and seasonal movements. If weather is suitable for flying, additional elk will be collared on Friday, Feb. 28, and Saturday, March 1.
Cow elk are being captured with either nets or tranquilizer darts depending upon the terrain and density of the forest canopy, said Phil Cooper, department spokesman. Once an elk is restrained or under anesthesia, a handler fits the animal with a GPS collar. Blood and fecal samples are taken for disease and pregnancy surveillance. An estimate of each animal’s age is made by a tooth examination and a measure of body condition is taken. The elk is then released at the capture site and the search for another elk begins.
Read on for more details from Cooper about the research and the status report of the initial 22 elk that were collared.
WINTER SPORTS — I feel sorry for those of you who couldn't call in sick and head up to a ski area to take advantage of today's clear skies and fresh pow.
Here's the view from Quartz Mountain in Mount Spokane State Park.
ADVENTURING — My recent multi-week winter rafting-hiking adventure on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon (see story here) prompts a few hints to people planning similar river trips as well as to anglers planning multi-day trips to places such as Alaska:
CARE FOR YOUR HANDS. River trips suck the moisture out of your skin, especially your hands. I've come home with cracked, bleeding hands after week-long float-fishing trips in Alaska, my fingers so sore it was difficult to stuff a sleeping bag in its sack.
Colorado River rafters emphasize this point and recommend preventive treatment.
Based on a recommendation from an experienced Canyon boater, I started using ProKera lotion (available at RiteAid stores) twice a day several days before we launched.
During the trip, I wore paddling gloves as much as possible while on the boat and especially while loading and tending bow lines.
And I applied the extreme-care ProKera lotion two or three times a day. This is the kind of lotion (Tiger Balm also works well) that takes several minutes of rubbing to absorb into your hands. The time is well spent. My hands came out of the desert river trip in excellent condition.
WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Sportsmen are getting a public comment workout this week in Idaho at meetings scheduled for public input on seasons for hunting and chinook salmon fishing.
Hunters are encouraged to attend one of several open house meetings around the state to visit with biologists about proposed changes to the 2014 big game seasons and rules:
Clearwater Region: 5 to 7 p.m.
Panhandle Region: 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Angler comments on concerning proposals to the upcoming salmon season can be made after a presentation by fisheries managers starting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 26, at the Idaho Fish and Game Office, 3316 16th St. in Lewiston.
F&G Commission to Meet in Boise March 19-20
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will consider proposed big game seasons for 2014 during a meeting March 19 and 20 in Boise.
Routine agenda items include a legislative update; season setting for deer, elk, pronghorn, bear, mountain lion and wolves; briefing on rules for game animals; and season setting for Chinook salmon.
A complete agenda will be available on the Fish and Game website by Wednesday, March 5.
WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Proposed hunting season changes and the annual status report on wolf recovery in Washington will be presented to the state Fish and Wildlife Commission when it meets March 7-8 in Moses Lake.
The most significant changes in hunting seasons include four new moose tags in restricted archery and muzzleloader hunts in northeastern Washington as well as reductions of elk tags in southwestern Washington in response to a hoof rot issue that's crippling elk.
The wolf report will include the agency's revised estimates for the number of wolves and the number of wolf packs in Washington and how the numbers relate to the state's wolf recovery and management plans.
See the agenda for the meeting, which will be held at the Moses Lake Civic Center, 401 S. Balsam.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — I've had quite a few comments regarding my recent column, Timing is of the essences for wildlife, including several comments about premier wildlife watching opportunities great horned owls provide right here in River City.
For several years, from late December and for many weeks, we have heard (almost any hour of day or night) and rarely seen one or possibly two pair in our block near 46th, just east of Crestline. They favor a huge redtail hawk nest in a ponderosa, and are audible in a closed house with the t.v. going. Love it!
Elsewhere, Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson said he and his wife Lisa have been closely watching three pairs of great horned owls already on nests despite the recent winter storms.
He describes the photo above:
This particular shot is a male sitting about a foot above the female (that’s on the nesting spot). Males are generally quite a bit smaller than the females.
WINTER SPORTS — Several blog posts last week as well as my Sunday Outdoors section report about recent storms, unstable snow conditions and a spike in avalanche fatalities were both prophetic and out of date.
At least two more snow-goers died in Inland Northwest avalanches over the weekend:
The Kootenay Pass fatality involved a many in a party of four from Nelson. They were backcountry skiing in the Lightning Strike area, southwest of the highways yard at the top of the pass.
In both fatal accidents, other members of the parties were partially buried by the slides but were rescued.
The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center had posted a forecast on Friday rating the avalanche hazard in the Selkirks-Cabinet region as considerable ranging to high in wind-loaded aspects. The report noted that a human-triggered avalanche had been reported on Tuesday with no injuries.
The Canadian Avalanche Centre had issued a special warning for British Columbia last week, as a result of an extended dry period in late January and early February.
“That long drought left the surface of the snowpack in very bad shape,” said the centre's Karl Klassen. “Now the new snow is sitting on one of the worst weak layers we’ve seen in a few years.”
The weakness is one to two meters deep, resulting in very large avalanches when triggered, Klassen said.
Click continue reading to read the sheriff's report on the Saturday, Feb. 22, avalanche near the Montana-Idaho border that killed Bryan William Harlow, age 49, of Libby.
WINTER SPORTS — Altough recent winter storms have made mountain slopes unsafe for winter travel in some areas, snow-goers who know how to pick stable terrain are having a ball.
Read on for the report from Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson, who filmed the short video above over the weekend during a ski trek at Rogers Pass in the chill of minus 2 degrees.
SHELLFISHING — Plenty of fat clams await diggers who turn out for the next razor clam dig, set to run Wednesday, Feb. 26, through March 3 on various Washington ocean beaches.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today the dig has been approved after marine toxin tests showed the clams are safe to eat.
As in previous openings, all digs are scheduled on evening tides. No digging will be allowed on any beach before noon.
Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, said razor clams sampled in recent days are noticeably heavier than those tested earlier in the season.
“With all the plankton in the water, the clams seem to be “fattening” up earlier than usual,” Ayres said. “Those clams will make for some tasty meals after the next opening.”
The upcoming dig is scheduled on the following dates, beaches and low tides:
Ayres noted that the beaches open for the greatest number of days are those with the most clams still available for harvest.
Under state law, diggers can take 15 razor clams per day and are required to keep the first 15 they dig. Each digger's clams must be kept in a separate container.
All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2013-14 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW's website and from license vendors around the state.
Click here for updates on upcoming digs.
WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Miranda Wecker of Naselle, who continues in her position as chair of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, had another confirmation hearing in Olympia with the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee.
She answered questions highlighting some of her stands on commercial fishing and wolf recovery.
But despite the second appearance before the committee in a year, there's been no promise that Wecker will be officially confirmed.
So she continues to lead the commission at the pleasure of the current governor as well as former Gov. Gregoire, who appointed her to the panel in 2005.
I guess the lawmakers are just bringing her in to let her know they know she's there.
That's not all bad.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — The Wenatchee World story about a Stehekin homeowner who ended up having to shoot a sickly cougar acting aggressively on his porch has become the newspaper's most widely circulated story on social media.
A Facebook post that was originally put up by Robert C. Nielsen and reposted with permission by The Wenatchee World has been viewed more than 1.5 million times, with comments, likes and shares coming from around the world, the newspaper reports in a story picked up by the Associated Press.
Here's the rest of the AP version of the World story by Michelle McNiel explaining the incident and some of the reaction.
Nielsen, a resident of the remote community at the head of Lake Chelan, first posted pictures and a write-up about his encounter with the big cat last week. He said he got up to let his dog outside on the night of Feb. 10. Just after bringing his dog, Maya, back inside, he heard a thump at the door and saw a cougar jumping against the glass pane outside.
He wrote that the cougar was “all jumping up and down, snarling and growling and pawing to the very top of the glass . without exposed claws.”
He got a gun and a camera, and then went upstairs and dropped a coffee cup on the cat’s head. “It didn’t flinch,” he wrote.
He then fired two warning shots next to it. But it stayed. So he “switched weapons up a grade, in case it broke the window and came in,” he said.
The cougar then left the door step and headed to Nielsen’s shop. He said he fired four more shots but, “It didn’t even look back.”
Nielsen wrote that in his 34 years in Stehekin, he’s seen only four cougars - two sick ones and two healthy ones.
“It doesn’t take a loud noise to start a healthy cougar moving, most of the time,” he said. “More like, you’d be lucky to see a healthy cougar, so fast do they disappear if surprised.”
He didn’t see the cat anymore that night. But the next morning before heading to work, he went into his shop to get gloves.
“The shop door was left open to air out fumes,” he wrote. “I rounded in, noticed briefly a new layer of mess on the floor, and was met by Little Miss Snarly Puss! She was hunkered down part way under a cabinet.”
He continued that, “She did her best to eat through a tool bucket, destroying my knee pads, eating the rubber grip off a cordless tool, and generally not getting any satisfaction. Lots of growling and snarling going on in there while I backpedaled and slammed the door shut.”
As he continued to work, he met two other Stehekin residents, who offered to kill the cat for him. After the cat was shot, they discovered that it was severely underweight, had many broken and lost teeth, and was covered in open sores on its body.
Nielsen’s story and photos have gone viral in the world of social media. In addition to the 1.5 million-plus visits, the post on The World Facebook page had 76,896 likes and was shared by 13,424 people.
One of the shares was to the social news and entertainment website, Reddit, where it had been viewed several hundred thousand times by Wednesday afternoon.
Comments ranged from astonishment about a cougar being in close proximity to people, to sympathy for the dead animal.
“Where the hell do you people live for cats like this to just show up on your doorstep,” one person commented.
“As a New Zealander, this absolutely amazes me,” wrote another. “The best I get is the neighbour’s cat looking like it wants a pat, and then freaking out as soon as I open the door.”
One commenter wrote, “I live in Egypt. Worst I’ve ever seen is a cat-sized rat in Cairo.”
ADVENTURING — My recent multi-week winter rafting-hiking adventure on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon (see story here) with a private group prompts me to share some observations to people planning similar group river trips. For example:
BAG THE GROUP KITCHEN: If your trip is long and the group is larger than about six members, rafting guide Brian Burns recommends letting every rafter, couple or family bring and prepare their own meals on their own cooking equipment.
“The group kitchen thing can cause problems on trips longer than a week or so,” he said. “People eat different quantities and have different food preferences and the chores can become a sense of friction if some people think others in the group are slacking.”
And it can be a big bummer to get up at 5 a.m. on a bad-weather day to get the group meal going so the coffee's ready by 7 — especially if several in the group want tea.
The do-it-yourself method worked beautifully on our Grand Canyon trip. It gave people time to chill on their own and then mingle as they wished during breakfast and dinner, sometimes sharing with the group treats such as cocktails, chocolate, smoked oysters and wine before and after mealtime.
Even after a couple weeks, the only person you could blame for inadequate food was yourself.
HIKING — Geologists with the Ice Age Floods Institute are organizing a rigorous full-day hike to explore the geology of the Palouse Canyon from Lyons Ferry State Park upstream to Palouse Falls on March 15.
Gene Kiver and Lloyd Stoess will lead the eight-mile hike near Washtucna emphasizing the impact of the great Missoula floods in shaping the landscape as well as the history of native Americans and settlements in the area.
Pre-register by email email@example.com or call (509) 235-4251.
Tuesday, March 18, 7-9 p.m. Spokane Community College, Free Public Lecture “Geologic Crossroads in Central Washington” by Nick Zentner, Geology Professor at Central Washington University.
This lecture is co-sponsored by the Department of Science at Spokane Community College and the lecture is scheduled at SCC’s Lair Auditorium, Building #6, 1810 Greene Street, Spokane. Zentner will discuss that Central Washington is a crossroads for many important geologic forces—Ice Age Floods from the northeast, Columbia River Basalts from the southeast, and Cascades Ice, ash, and mudflows from the west. Photos, maps, and short videos will be featured.
HUNTING — A proposal to allow hunters to use bait in luring wolves in the Idaho Panhandle is among numerous 2014 big-game season proposals geared to reviving elk populations statewide.
The Idaho Fish and Game Department will hold an open house meeting to explain and take comment on the package of proposals 4:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 27, at an open house at the Best Western Coeur d’Alene Inn, 506 W. Appleway Ave.
PADDLING — A free program on a British Columbia sea kayaking journey from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island will be presented at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24, for the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club at Mountain Gear's corporate office, 6021 E. Mansfield.
The two week adventure of paddling along the exposed coast of Queen Charlotte Sound will be detailed by Roy Massena, who has kayaked extensively in Pacific Northwest waters and has encountered more than his share of challenging conditions.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — A reward of up to $7,500 is being offered for help solving the case of a gray wolf found on Feb. 9 shot to death in northern Stevens County.
Wolves are protected in Washington by state endangered species laws.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife veterinarian confirmed this week that the wolf died from gunshot wounds, Dan Rahn, regional enforcement supervisor said today.
Western Washington-based Conservation Northwest put up the reward for information leading to the conviction of the poacher, he said. The conservation group has helped promote range riders to protect livestock from wolves in northeastern Washington, where most of the state's growing wolf population is found.
The reward is set to be officially announced later this afternoon.
WDFW officials queried could not remember a reward of that size ever being offered for an Eastern Washington wildlife poaching case.
The female wolf had been monitored by state biologists since February 2013, when it was caught and fitted with a GPS collar.
It was a member of the Smackout Pack that ranges in Stevens and Pend Oreille counties, but appeared to have been traveling alone since the pack broke up in April, said Donny Martorello, department carnivore manager.
The collar on this female wolf and two male wolves also were designed to trigger the wolf-scaring sounds and lights of Radio-Activated Guard boxes stationed near livestock grazing areas in the program supported by Conservation Northwest, said the group's spokeswoman Jasmine Minbashian.
Roughly 100 wolves roam portions of Eastern Washington.
Tips on the case can be reported to:
FISHING — I'm not noticing much celebration of the 40th anniversary of the landmark court decision that awarded Indian tribes rights to half of the Pacific salmon returning to their traditional waters.
It's still a political hot potato.
Seattle Times columnist Ron Judd has written a thoughtful piece about the impacts the Boldt Decision has had on our collective resolve to make sure wild salmon continue to be a thriving icon of the Pacific Northwest.
It's worth everybody's time to think about this subject.
WINTER SPORTS — The avalanche that killed a snowmobiler last weekend near Ketchum — while a woman survived even though she'd been buried for 90 minutes — is detailed in his video report from Sawtooth Avalanche Center.
It's short, instructive and worth watching in this period of winter weather that's spawned a rash avalanche accidents.
WINTER SPORTS — Storms that have rendered the region's mountains sketchy for winter travel because of avalanche danger are leaving the controlled slopes of area ski resorts with stellar snow conditions.
For example, here's the report just issued by 49 Degrees North, which will re-open its slopes tomorrow with a lot of untracked landscape:
IT IS SNOWING at a rate of 1 to 2 inches per hour, it's flat out dumping!!! We have received over 35 inches of new snow in the last week and it has been snowing heavily since 12 pm.
Conditions are very nice with fresh dry powder covering the mountain!!! Remember we will be closed Wednesday and Thursday, but with this winter weather advisory, we are looking at between 8-12 inches of new snow for a POWDER FRIDAY!!! T
here are a ton of activities to take part in this upcoming weekend to include a Rail Jam and Demo Day on Saturday February 22nd!!! For more information call 509-935-6649 ex 610. You do not want to miss this EPIC Powder!
WINTER SPORTS — Recent weather is creating hazards. Be careful out there.
Massive avalanche in B.C. prompts warnings there and in Alberta
The Canadian Avalanche Centre issued a high-hazard warning for British Columbia and Alberta after learning of a massive slide on Wednesday near Fernie, B.C., destroyed 200-year-old trees and ran past historical avalanche boundaries.
WINTER SPORTS — It happened last week at Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana, and now another report from Wednesday of a Washington skier without a partner falling into a powder pit at the base of a tree and suffocating.
CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN, Wash. (AP) — The ski patrol at Washington’s Crystal Mountain Resort says a Seattle skier died when he apparently suffocated in a tree well.
The ski patrol says a skier told patrol members shortly before 2:30 p.m. Wednesday that her skiing partner was missing. KOMO-TV reports that the patrol says the man had last been seen about 90 minutes earlier.
Ski patrol members spotted some ski equipment near the base of a tree and located the 35-year-old man. They dug him out and began CPR but he died. He was not immediately identified.
Snow immersion suffocation can happen when a skier falls, usually headfirst, into deep loose snow at the base of a tree and becomes immobilized under the snow.
The resort’s ski patrol director, Paul Baugher, says it’s important to ski with a partner and keep each other in sight.
Crystal Mountain has gotten 19 inches of snow in the past 24 hours.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Today's outdoors column focuses on wildlife that don't let winter weather set back their biological clocks and instincts for procreation.
Have you seen a great horned owl on a nest in February?
PUBLIC LANDS — Blaine County commissioners in central Idaho near Ketchum plan to finalize a resolution supporting a central Idaho national monument by Tuesday.
WILDLIFE — About 107,000 elk roam in Idaho today, a stark contrast to a century ago when elk numbers were so low officials had to declare a moratorium on elk hunting in parts of the state.
In 1909, concerned about the decline in elk, deer and game birds, Boise National Forest Supervisor Emile Grandjean asked the State Legislature to establish a 220,000-acre game preserve in the Payette River drainage west of the Sawtooth Mountains.
The Legislature approved the preserve on March 13, 1909, and it became the first of many game preserves especially designed to restore wildlife to Idaho.
It would be off-limits to hunting and trapping – except that cougars, lynx, wolves and coyotes could be killed by wardens. Forest rangers would act as deputy game wardens.
Read more about game preserves and fish and wildlife management efforts in the series of stories marking the Idaho Fish and Game Department's 75th anniversary.
WINTER SPORTS —They gave us a preview of their world-class talent during Langlauf on Mount Spokane.
Erik Bjornsen — and his sister Sadie — of Washington's Methow Valley are skiing their hearts out in the nordic events at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. But winning Langlauf, the annual 10K classic event at Mount Spokane, was one of their milestone achievements to get there.
The photo above shows Erik competing today in Sochi. A photo below shows Erik in 2008 at the age of 16 when he was the overall Langlauf champ. He's posing with the top woman that year, Annie Pokorny of Spokane.
The photo at left shows Sadie Bjornsen at the age of 13 when she won the Langlauf women's division — the youngest competitor to take the Langlauf crown.
See today's story about the Bjornsen's attraction to a college in Alaska that's primed them for international competition.
See my story on their connection with the Spokane Langlauf.
Click “continue reading” to see photos of Erik and Sadie Bjornsen in action during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
FISHERIES — Samantha Mace of Spokane has been appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee to the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, the state Recreation and Conservation Office has announced.
The board administers grants for projects that help return salmon from the brink of extinction.
Mace has extensive professional and volunteer experience in conservation policy and natural resource issues. She is the Inland Northwest director for the Save our Wild Salmon Coalition, where she is responsible for policy, media and outreach for Inland Northwest salmon issues for a coalition of sport fishing groups and businesses, commercial fishing associations, conservation groups and other organizations working to restore wild salmon and steelhead to the Columbia and Snake Rivers.
Before joining the coalition, Mace held a long list of other jobs in the conservation world, including working for Trout Unlimited, the Washington Wildlife Federation, the Idaho Wildlife Federation and the ForestWater Alliance in Washington, D.C. She also has been a volunteer on many conservation efforts.
“We are excited to welcome Samantha to the Salmon Recovery Funding Board,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which administers the funding board’s grants. “Her understanding of the issues surrounding the plight of salmon and the many businesses and families that rely on healthy salmon populations will be a great asset to the board. Her knowledge of eastern Washington also will bring a valuable perspective to our work.”
The Washington State Legislature created the Salmon Recovery Funding Board in 1999. Composed of five citizens appointed by the Governor, and five state agency directors, the board brings together the experiences and viewpoints of citizens and the major state natural resource agencies. The board provides grants to protect or restore salmon habitat and assist related activities. Since its start, the board has awarded $564 million for more than 2,280 projects statewide.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — For 22 years through 2009, only one trumpeter swan reliably returned to Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge each winter or spring — whenever enough open water was exposed by ice thawing at the headquarters-area ponds.
Now the legacy of Solo, the lone male trumpeter that finally found love in 2009, lives on in at least a baker's dozen.
Nesting is likely. Broods usually hatch around Father's Day.
Here's today's swan observation from Mike Rule, refuge wildlife biologist:
We watched 13 swans flying down the creek in front of the office this morning . They landed on Winslow Pond and Middle Pine. There were
5 cygnets and 9 adults.
Four of the adults are likely the 2 breeding pairs from last year. The age of other 5 adults is unknown. They could be any combination of the 9 swans fledged in 2009, 2010, or 2012. We potentially have four unaccounted for breeding age swans from Solo's 2 broods. Hopefully we'll get another nesting pair established this year.
This same group was seen for a couple days in mid-January during a short thaw.
HUNTING — The Idaho Department of Fish and Game won House approval to give hunters and anglers a break on their licenses, provided they buy them year after year. The agency needs approval from the state legislature to change hunting and fishing license fees.
Representatives voted 61-6 Wednesday for the plan allowing the Fish and Game Commission more flexibility to offer so-called “loyalty discounts,” the Associated Press reports.
The measure will head to the Senate.
Idaho’s wildlife agency says many hunters now buy licenses only sporadically.
Consequently, its leaders want to provide an incentive — in the form of a discount — to people who buy them in consecutive years.
The agency forecasts it could reap $300,000 in additional revenue annually, with the change.
Foes doubted whether the measure will boost revenue and questioned if Fish and Game really should expand the number of sporting men and women competing for Idaho game.
HUNTING — While some hunters are wincing at the prospect of hunting licenses fees going up a few bucks, one Idaho hunter has bid $305,000 in an auction to hunt deer on Antelope Island in Utah.
He has the means and Utah has the right causes that keep him bidding year after year, according to a story by Brett Prettyman of the Salt Lake Tribune.
Denny Austad has been the high bidder in each of the three years a hunting permit for a buck mule deer has been offered on Antelope Island.
Counting the $305,000 he bid during the recent Western Hunting and Conservation Expo in Salt Lake City, Austad has paid $865,000 for the opportunity to kill three deer. He set a record for a deer hunting permit in auction last year with a $310,000 payment.
All told, Austad has likely spent more than $2 million buying hunting conservation tags in Utah.
Back in 2008, his investment of $150,000 for a statewide Rocky Mountain elk permit paid off in the form of a new Boone and Crockett Club world record nontypical bull elk (see photo above). The measurements of that animal, nicknamed “The Spider Bull,” scored 478 5/8 points, besting the previous record by more than 13 points.
When the record bull was officially recognized in early 2009, hunting guide Doyle Moss of Mossback Outfitters told The Salt Lake Tribune that part of the reason Austad spends so much for permits is because most of it goes back into wildlife conservation projects.
In the case of the Antelope Island permits, 90 percent of money raised from the auction tags goes back to the island. Antelope Island State Park uses the money for habitat improvements.
“It all goes for habitat,” Austad told the Tribune in 2009. “It’s a legitimate tax deduction, just like charity.”
Expo organizers are still working out the numbers, but expected more than $10 million would be raised for conservation heading into the holiday weekend show.
WINTER SPORTS — Biathlon is a sport that mixes the oil and water of revving up the heartbeat with aerobic cross-country skiing and then asking your circulatory system to calm down instantly for precise marksmanship with the .22-caliber rifle you must carry with a special harness on your back. Repeat.
The sport was born into the Winter Olympics from its roots in Scandinavian military operations.
In modern times, it may be the ultimate shooting sport.
Where can you check out biathlon in the Inland Northwest?
TRAILS — The big effort recently invested in updating Spokane County's 2008 Regional Trails Plan has resulted in maps and details important to everyone from hikers to developers.
The Spokane County Commissioners approved the updated plan on Tuesday.
The goal of the plan has always been to develop an interconnected system of trails, whether they're simple single tracks or major rail-trail projects such as the Fish Lake Trail. The plan also seeks to assure adequate maintenance and high standards while promoting the growing trail system as an economic development tool.
The updated plan, with input from Spokane County Parks and Recreation staff and the Inland Northwest Trails Coalition, includes a mapped inventory of 677 miles of trails, new trail strategies, an analysis of demand and needs and much more detail throughout.
ORIENTEERING — The Eastern Washington Orienteering Club's first event of 2014 is set for Saturday, Feb. 22, at Manito Park (18th and Grand) in Spokane.
This is a great map, compass and exercise activity for the whole family. Using maps and compass, you must find your way to check points around the park. Top orienteers will run the course. Others can map it a group problem-solving trek.
Registration starts at 10 a.m. The event starts at noon.
Cost: $5 for anyone on the beginner course and for members on any course and $7 for nonmembers on advanced courses; $3 for each additional map for a group or family.
Info: John Harbuck, (208) 263-9894; John Beck, (509) 838-7078, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
RIVERS — The level of Lake Roosevelt near the elevation of 1,273 feet today and lake levels are expected to remain between 1,271-1,273 this week, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
Grand Coulee Dam is being operated to meet power demand and the minimum tail water requirement of 11.5 feet below Bonneville Dam for chum and the 65 kcfs minimum Hanford Reach protection flows below Priest Rapids Dam.
The February Water Supply Forecasts indicated that Lake Roosevelt's inflow potential is 82% of average. The forecast for the Dalles is 83% of average. Due to a relatively dry January, flood control elevations have risen since last month.
The following are flood control elevations for Lake Roosevelt:
The next Water Supply Forecast will be updated the week of March 10 and flood control elevations are expected to change. February has seen an increase in precipitation and it is expected the March forecast will reflect this change.
Get links to river flows in this region at The Spokesman-Review Outdoors topics page.
Get daily Lake Roosevelt level forecast by phone, updated daily at 3 p.m: (800) 824-4916.
Check out this NOAA site with Roosevelt levels and a list of boat launching elevations on the same page.
FISHING — All fishing on the Tucannon River, including fishing for hatchery steelhead and whitefish, will close March 1 through June 6, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has announced.
Reason for action: A large component of Tucannon River wild steelhead enters the river in March. The recreational hatchery steelhead fishery emphasizes the removal of hatchery fish to prevent them from spawning. The incidental impact to wild steelhead from a recreational fishery is anticipated to increase to unacceptable levels in March. The fishery is being closed to conserve this weak stock of wild steelhead.
Other information: The Tucannon River will reopen the first Saturday in June when game fish seasons open as identified in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s fishing-rule pamphlet.
TRAPPING — I reported in December that pets, especially dogs, are vulnerable to traps set out near recreational trails.
As if to emphasize the point, two dogs have been reported killed recently by traps in North Idaho.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is gathering input from lawmakers, recreationists and trappers.
Two pet dogs were recently killed in northern Idaho when they wandered off a hiking trail and into a body-gripping trap set for a wild animal. Currently, trappers are allowed to set traps in many public recreational areas as long as they are at least five feet from the center of any trail. Trappers are not required to post warning signs.
WINTER SPORTS — Snow that piled up in Western mountains after snow-drought conditions in January has created hazards that have caused a spike in avalanche fatalities among skiers and snowmobilers.
The nine deaths from avalanches across the Western U.S. in the past 11 days have put a halt to what had been the least-deadly season for avalanches in 16 years.
An avalanche near Ketchum, Idaho, on Sunday buried four snowmobilers, killing an Idaho man whose wife survived being buried under the snow for about 90 minutes, officials in Blaine County said.
Two Wisconsin men were killed Saturday in a Colorado avalanche while backcountry skiing.
Five people were caught in avalanches over the weekend in Montana.
On Feb. 11, an avalanche in the Wallowa Mountains of eastern Oregon killed two backcountry skiers and seriously injured two others.
For most of the winter, primarily because of the dramatic lack of snow in the Western mountains, only six people had been killed in avalanches, according to data from the National Avalanche Center in Bozeman. This was the lowest number through the first week of February since at least the 1998-99 winter season.
However, with the nine deaths in the past week or so, the winter's total is now 15, which is about average.
“A lot of snow in a little amount of time, you get avalanches,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Burke in Seattle.
On average, about 28 people a year die in avalanches in the U.S., according to Brian Lazar of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. He said the deadliest seasons on record were 2007-08 and 2009-10, when 36 died in each of those winters.
When avalanche deaths were first tracked starting in the 1950s, an average of four people died each year in avalanches.
But the growth in winter backcountry recreation on skis, snowboards and snowmobiles has led more people into the potential hazards.
With more heavy snow falling in portions of the Inland Northwest — notably the North Cascades — backcountry travelers should be on high alert and willing to bail out for a backup plan.
FISHING — An Idaho record yellow perch was caught Saturday in Cascade Lake north of Boise.
Luke Spaete of Boise was participating in a fishing derby when he caught the fish, which weighed 2 pounds, 10.88 ounces and was 15 and three-quarters of an inch long.
Cascade Lake has a clear connection with lunker perch. The old record of 2 pounds, 9.6 ounces was set in 1976 and tied two years ago at Lake Cascade. Another angler in last weekend's fishing derby caught a fish on Sunday that would have broken the old record, but was short of Spaete's new record fish, according to the Idaho Statesman.
Spaete said he’d already caught two pretty big perch before spotting “one giant blob” on his fish finder. The perch’s belly and dorsal fin scraped the edges of the 8-inch hole in the ice, he said.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington Fish and Wildlife police are investigating a wolf found dead in Stevens County on Feb. 9.
They report the circumstances “appear suspicious.” Wolves are a protected species in Washington and the penalties for killing them outside of self defense or defense of pets and livestock can be stiff.
The female wolf was wearing a GPS collar and was being monitored by Fish and Wildlife Department biologists. It was a member of the Smackout Pack that ranges in the far northeastern corner of the state, but she had been traveling alone, said Kevin Robinette, department regional wildlife manager.
NATURE — Less than two weeks after single-digit temperatures chilled the region, the cheery buttercups — bold, ground-hugging harbingers of spring — were blooming in profusion around the Dishman Hills Natural area, according to Jeff Lambert of the Dishman Hills Conservancy.
WINTER SPORTS – Take a gamble on the hand you’re dealt to win prizes at the Panhandle Nordic Club’s 23rd annual Best Hand Fun Ski and Snowshoe event Saturday, Feb. 22, starting at noon at Fourth of July Pass.
Skiers will do an 8-kilometer course and snowshowers will trek the shortrer Jeanette’s Jaunt route.
Cost: $10 or $5 for youths under 14. Family rate: $25.
Idaho Park and Ski Passes will not be required for participants in this event.
FISHING — Although there’s still work to be done, Lake Pend Oreille’s troubled traditional fisheries continued their revival with a huge rebound in 2013.
Midwinter surveys found that more than 1.2 million mature kokanee survived to spawn – one of the highest spawner returns in 40 years and about four times greater than in 2012.
Andy Dux, Idaho Fish and Game research biologist for Lake Pend Oreille, said nearly 200,000 kokanee were handled and 11.4 million eggs were collected at the Sullivan Springs trap compared with only about 5,000 kokanee handled in 2007 and again in 2008 with around 500,000 eggs taken those years for the Cabinet Gorge Fish Hatchery.
Strong numbers of younger fish surveyed this winter indicate another strong group of spawners this fall, he said.
Anglers in 2013 enjoyed the first kokanee fishing season at Lake Pend Oreille since 1999.
The fishery has steadily improved in recent years following intensive efforts to reduce predation on kokanee. Lake trout have been dramatically reduced through netting operations and bounties that encouraged anglers to take both lake trout and big rainbows.
With the kokanee rebounding, the incentives for killing big rainbows were removed to begin restoring the lake’s prized trophy fishery while management continues to aggressively target non-native lake trout with a bounty and netting.
The challenge will be to develop a long-term program for keeping lake trout numbers down, Dux said.
Contributing to the increase in kokanee was an unexplained decrease in the mysis shrimp, he said. The 2012 density of the shrimp, which compete with kokanee for food, was about 95 percent lower than the long-term average.
“Time will tell how long it takes for mysids to rebound and how much kokanee have benefited from the reduced decline, but the timing couldn’t be better,” said Jim Fredericks, department regional fisheries manager.
WILDLIFE — Randall Friedlander has been hired as the new director of the Colville Tribes’ Fish and Wildlife Department.
Friedlander served as interim director for the past year, replacing former director Joe Peone, who left the job unceremoniously.
Friedlander oversees about 130 employees and a $20 million budget, much of which is funded by federal programs, including Bonneville Power Administration mitigation funding for the impact Columbia River dams have had on fish and wildlife on tribal hunting and fishing grounds.
Friedlander has worked for the Colville Tribe since 1995, including four years with the Fish and Wildlife Department.
PREDATORS — The S-R's reporter in Boise has been following Gov. Otter's request for $2 million to bolster wolf control in Idaho. The plan seeks to reduce Idaho's population of around 600 wolves — down from closer to 1,000 a few years ago — to around 150, the minimum limit the state agreed to when the reintroduction of gray wolves was proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the early 1990s.
Here are reporter Betsy Russell's latest posts on today's activity in the Idaho Legislature:
FISHERIES — A ring of commercial fishermen gone bad has been nabbed selling crabs — often undersized and removed from the sea before they could spawn a new generation — on the black market around Puget Sound.
See the undercover video in a report by KING 5 TV.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — The spring bird migration often subtly comes to our attention. Other times, it's obvious even to the casual observer.
Here's a head's up from the weekend by birder Terry Gray in the Palouse:
Today in east Moscow there were many American Robins (300+) and many RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS (100+) moving through. Some of the male blackbirds were already perched on top of cattails singing for the girls!
MOUNTAINEERING — A former Mount Rainier climbing ranger believed to be the first person to climb Washington's highest peak in fewer than five hours, died Friday in a mountaineering accident in Patagonia, according to a report in the Tacoma-News Tribune.
Chad Kellogg, 42 of Seattle, reportedly was killed by a rock that was dislodged by his rope as he rappeled on Fitz Roy, a popular spire in the region of South America that spans both southern Argentina and Chile.
FISHING — If you're one of those steelheaders who's been avoiding the Clearwater River because of this season's poor fish returns, here's a big THANK YOU from the anglers who've been enjoying your absence.
Read on for the Lewiston Tribune story that points out the lack of effort has resulted in some excellent fishing for those who show up to enjoy all the elbow room and unbothered steelhead.
HUNTING — A short story version ran in the paper Saturday telling of a Montana big-game hunter who's suing a Canadian outfitter and a world-renowned hunting guide in Tajikistan for stealing the trophy horns of a rare wild argali sheep known as the “Marco Polo.”
He accuses the outfitters with switching his trophy with lesser horns as they were shipped to the USA.
The story is intriguing, since all of these guides are big-wigs at the annual Safari International conventions.
Click “continue reading” to see the entire story from the Associated Press.
Out & About: Montana milestone for Nature Conservancy
CONSERVATION — Some conservationists didn't hide their happiness to hear that Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., is retiring after 20 years in Congress, an unexpected announcement that drew both cheers and jeers Thursday in the nation’s capital.
As chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, he's been a barrier to many efforts championed by environmentalists, especially those who objected to his persistent moves to open more public lands to development and to change laws dealing with endangered species, among other things.
“It’s really good riddance,” said Athan Manuel, director of the lands protection program for the Sierra Club.
Click “continue reading” for the full story from the McClatchy Washington Bureau.
CONSERVATION — The effort to modernize the international Columbia River Treaty and perhaps return salmon upstream over Grand Coulee Dam will be highlighted in an annual conservation benefit program during an evening of food and presentations on Friday, Feb. 21, at the Patsy Clark Mansion in Spokane.
D.R. Michel, Upper Columbia United Tribes executive director, will present the keynote address in the program organized by the Center for Environmental Law & Policy.
The 2014 “watershed heroes” to be honored at the program include two Washington State University emeritus professors — Norman Whittlesey and Walter Butcher — for their contributions in water economics and ongoing scrutiny of costly federal and state irrigation projects proposed for our region.
“Their academic integrity in service to the public has helped protect rivers, taxpayers, and ratepayers for decades,” said John Osborn, the event's co-organizer.
The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Mansion, 2208 W. 2nd Ave.
RSVP: John Osborn, email@example.com , (509) 939-1290.
Tickets are $25 (click here or pay at the Patsy Clark Mansion).
PREDATORS — The Northeast Washington Wildlife Group's 2014 Coyote Derby in Stevens, Spokane and Pend Oreille counties began Feb. 4 and runs to March 31.
Derby organizers say the annual event is in an effort to help relieve the predation of the deer herds in the Tri-County Area.
Coyotes killed by participants can be taken into check stations in each county and hunters will be issued a raffle ticket for each coyote presented at the check station. A raffle for prizes will be held at the conclusion of the season.
The derby is authorized under a special permit issued by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Hunters must possess a small or big game license in order to hunt coyotes. Coyotes may not be hunted with dogs, per WDFW regulations.
Coyotes are classified as a nongame species in Washington and can be hunted year-round with no limits.
Note: Wolves, which are found in this region, are protected. You could get a ticket of another sort if you shoot a wolf.
The derby is being sponsored by Clark’s All Sports, the Lake Roosevelt Walleye Club, Stevens County Cattlemen, Pend Oreille County Cattlemen, Arden One Stop and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Big R.
Check stations include:
ADVENTURING — Before I write my stories about winter adventuring in the Grand Canyon, I have to decide which I enjoyed more, the view up from the river or the view down from the rim!
WILDLIFE — The Thrill-On website has collected a fairly good series of wildlife photos — tender to terrifying — from trail cams. Check them out.
PUBLIC LANDS — National parks and other public lands have been the inspiring setting for “made in America” romances, as this Department of Interior video suggests.
SALMON FISHING — The early forecasts are phenomenal. If you're not making plans for salmon fishing this year, get your head examined.
Here's the latest report from Joe Hymer, salmon specialist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:
In addition to nearly a million Columbia River coho swimming in the ocean, 1.6 million fall Chinook are expected to the Columbia River in 2014, the largest return since at least 1938!
Nearly 1 million of those Chinook are expected to be upriver brights of which 2/3 will be four-year-olds.
This year’s forecasted run is over 25% larger than the 2013 actual return. Last year’s actual return came in nearly twice as large as the preseason forecast.
FLY FISHING — Here's the scoop on a fly tying clinic coming up next week at Silver Bow Fly Shop:
NW Top Nymphs Fly Tying
What: Learn the best nymph patterns for the Spokane and other area rivers.
When: Feb 18 6-8:30pm
Instructor: Wayne Jordan
Cost: $40. Must prepay to enroll.
Contact: Silver Bow Fly Shop 509.924.9998
FISHING — Pro bass anglers Brett Hite and Dave Kromm will headline the list of presenters at a free series of bass and walleye fishing seminars Saturday, Feb. 15, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., at Valley Marine, 7915 E. Sprague Ave. in Spokane Valley.
The second annual Fishing Frenzy includes boat and equipment displays and programs on fishing topics from lures to the latest electronics.
Hite is just winding down from a $125,000 win in a national tournament last week in Florida.
Enjoy free pizza for lunch.
Continue reading for seminar schedule:
About 50 hours ago I snapped this photo after hiking out 10 miles and nearly a mile in elevation to the Grand Canyon's South Rim Village.
I'd been rafting the Colorado River and exploring the side canyons for two weeks. But I had to leave my rafting buddies and return to Spokane as they continue downstream on one of the greatest 30-day adventures one can have in the USA.
Two things motivated me to put the pedal to the metal for the 1,240-mile return drive from the Canyon:
Stories to come. Stay tuned.
BACKPACKING — It's time to make your application for a coveted permit to backpack into the Enchantment Lakes area of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness near Leavenworth. Here are details from the U.S. Forest Service:
Rugged, beautiful and unique, the nationally known Enchantments are contained within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in the Cascade Mountains of north central Washington State. With such wide popularity, many people are already planning for the 2014 season and hope to obtain one of the limited entrance permits that are required for either day or overnight use in this special area.
Overnight Users: It is essential that all overnight visitors have one of the limited entry FEE permits for trips planned from June 15 - October 15, 2014.
Day Users: Day users must obtain a free self-issue wilderness permit available at any of the three trailheads accessing The Enchantment Permit Area.
Demand for overnight permits far exceeds the number available and a pre-season lottery will be held in February to allocate the majority of permits. Following the pre-season lottery, any remaining permits are available on a first come, first served basis through the www.recreation.gov advance reservation system. Only a few unreserved permits are available on a daily “walk-in” basis held at the ranger station.
The 2014 Enchantment Permit Area pre-season Lottery period is open February 15th (3:01 ET) - March 3rd (2:59 am ET) through this website: www.recreation.gov. Not all dates and zones for the season are taken during the lottery and any open dates available can be reserved after the lottery ends. Lottery results will be released March 6
HUNTING – The Inland Empire Chapter of Safari Club International will hold its 32nd annual benefit dinner and auction on March 15 at the Mirabeau Park Hotel in Spokane Valley.
The banquet includes door prizes and a variety of raffles and auctions with chances to win firearms, domestic and international hunting and fishing trips, furniture, art and more.
Proceeds go to educational programs, scholarships for students working toward degrees in conservation, veterans and physically disabled outdoor activities, humanitarian aid, hunter rights activities and local projects like tours through the Little Spokane River Fish Hatchery.
Make reservations on the chapter website.
Contact: Christel Fredericks, (509) 245-3133 or 570-2800.
HUNTING — Remember when airlines and other mainstream companies could freely recognize hunters as valuable clientele?
HIKING — Hikers looking for a long winter walk where they can let their dog romp a bit might consider the shores of Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area that are away from houses and buildings.
Be smart: If there's anyone around — anglers, walkers or anyone else — use a leash.
Snow rarely lingers long on the Roosevelt shoreline after a storm, and the water level is low from winter through early spring leaving a large beach area for roaming.
Local hiker Karen Jurasin snapped the photo above of her dog, Scout, during a romp on the shore line at the Hawk Creek area northwest of Davenport (page 315 in 100 Hikes of the Inland Northwest).
The Center for Biological Diversity is offering new, free ring tones called “Love Calls of the Wild,” just in time for Valentine's Day.
“The campaign features 25 specially selected cell phone ringtones that include mating and social calls along with hoots, chirps, grows and trills from animals across the planet,” says the nonprofit's news release.
I couldn't preview the ring tones because the S-R's web-security program wouldn't connect. Probably something having to do with the words “love” and “wild” in the same sentence.
Here's the link, though, in case you aren't similarly hobbled by a cyber-nanny: http://www.rareearthtones.org/ringtones/index.html
Keep in mind, the CBD is a conservation-minded nonprofit, and it looks like you'll be automatically enrolled in its “biodiversity activist network” if you want to download a ringtone — but it also says it's easy to unsubscribe from that.
(PS - there's no image with this blog post because searching “mating calls” in the AP image database yielded only a picture of some new reality show called “Massive Mating Game.” Maybe we should be glad most of this is blocked by our cyber-nanny.)
FLY FISHING – Oregon fly fishing author Dave Hughes will present a free program, ”Nymph Fishing Simplified,” Wednesday, Feb. 12, 7 p.m., at St. Francies School, 104 W. Heroy, sponsored by the Spokane Fly Fishers.
Hughes, author of more than 20 books on fly fishing for trout, will cover selecting the right nymph, choosing the right way to rig it, and then using the proper presentation to fool the fish. His presentation is applicable to both still waters and streams.
OUTDOOR TRAVEL — Here's a cool 22-minute film worth viewing if you love life, snowboarding, music, yoga, sailing — and want to follow five young ladies living large on a trip to Iceland.
The first in a series of short documentaries, “Explore Iceland with One Life” follows professional snowboarders Chanelle Sladics, Kjersti Buaas, Sarka Pancochova and Marie France-Roy and musician Cindy Santini into the fjords of Iceland. The crew takes on splitboarding, music performances, yoga, sailing, kayaking, and surfing during the trip.
Outside TV premiered the film, which can now be viewed in full on the One Life website and YouTube.
Two trappers in Idaho’s Cabinet Mountain range had an unexpected catch last week.
The snarling critter they had live-trapped was slightly smaller than a bobcat, with tufted ears and big, furry feet. It was Canada lynx, a rare and secretive forest cat.
The trappers called the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, which sent a team out to collar the 17-pound female. It was a lucky break for the department, which is in the middle of a study on lynx, wolverine and fishers.
“I was surprised that there were lynx in the West Cabinets,” said Michael Lucid, who’s heading up the Multi-Species Baseline Initiative for Idaho Fish and Game. “It shows us how little we know about the animals that live in our forests.”
PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.
The next freebie date of the year is Presidents Day Weekend, with fee-free days at all federal lands that charge an entrance fee.
Following is a list of all the 2014 free-entry dates and participating federal agencies, which vary by holiday:
Washington State Parks also offer 11 days in which the Discover Pass is not needed for entry in 2014:
Read on for details about year-round free or discounted passes for military, disabled and seniors.
FLY FISHING — This short video pretty much sums up my best days of fly fishing.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — The porcupine doesn't get much press. Unless it's eating the bark off one of your trees or adorning your dog's nose with quills, you might never know that one is around.
The latest issue of Wildlife Express, an Idaho Fish and Game Department publication written especially for youth, has a fun story about the porky, providing some of the facts for this little quiz on the least-pettable member of the rodent family.
A. Newborn porcupines are called:
B. Giving birth to a porcupine is possible because:
C. An adult porcupine defends itself by:
D. A porcupine's main predators are:
E. The Latin name for porcupine, Erethizon dorsatum, means:
F. When a porcupine loses its quills in an attacker it:
G. A group of porcupines is called a:
Answers: A, 1 and 3. B, 2. C, 3. D, 1. E, 2. F, 3. G, c.
BACKPACKING — If you're thinking about packing a gun on your next hike into Yellowstone, Glacier Park or other areas of grizzly bear habitat, read this story first.
Then check out the video above on how to effectively use bear spray.
FISHING — Nightcrawlers instinctively burrow down for safety, requiring anglers to dig down through dirt in their bait containers for find the next worm bound for the hook.
Save time by setting your bait container upside down while you're fishing.
When you get ready to rebait, turn the container over, lift the lid and the nightcrawler's will be on top and easy pickins.
OUTSHOOT – A free clinic on using a GoPro camera to capture outdoor adventure action is being offered by REI at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13.
The program will focus on the popular camera's user interface, video capture, image settings and accessories.
TRAVEL – Experts in international adventure travel will present a free program on planning a trip abroad at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, at REI, 1125. N. Monroe.
Pre-register to save a spot.
HUNTING — Sportsmen have until Feb. 15 to apply for Idaho's spring black bear controlled hunts and until March 1 to apply for controlled wild turkey hunts.
Spring turkey and spring black bear seasons start April 15, with some controlled hunts opening later. Turkey youth hunts open April 8.
Hunters may apply for controlled hunts at any hunting and fishing license vendor, Fish and Game office, or online.
The application fee is $6.25 per person for residents and $14.75 for nonresidents. An additional fee is charged for telephone and Internet applications. Hunters must have a 2014 Idaho hunting license to apply.
Spring 2014 bear controlled hunt information is in the 2013 Big Game Seasons and Rules book. Spring turkey controlled hunt information is available at Fish and Game’s website and the the 2014-2015 Upland Game, Furbearer and Turkey Rules book will be available by mid-February.
Leftover controlled hunt tags for spring turkey and bear controlled hunts go on sale April 1.