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Critter watch: From wolves to whales, region’s wildlife on the move

Sun., Feb. 3, 2008

The fisher, a member of the weasel family, is being re-introduced to Washington.
 (The Spokesman-Review)
The fisher, a member of the weasel family, is being re-introduced to Washington. (The Spokesman-Review)

The coming and going of wildlife is in the news this week.

Killer whales roam: A Puget Sound pod of Orcas has been spotted off California’s Monterey Bay.

The sighting Sunday makes this the sixth winter in a row that “L pod” has been seen so far south.

Whale expert Ken Balcomb, of the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island, says it’s a sign there aren’t enough chinook salmon to support the orcas in Washington waters.

The National Marine Fisheries Service says until recent years it was thought the orcas never traveled south of the Columbia River.

An orca recovery plan issued by the agency last week calls for increasing the number of chinook salmon in Puget Sound.

Fishers released: Wildlife officials have reintroduced the fisher into Olympic National Park.

Six females and five males were released Sunday at various locations. They are equipped with radio-tracking devices so biologists can watch where they travel.

The fisher is a weasel-like predator in the same family as badgers. It hunts rabbits, squirrels and other small animals.

Fishers were eliminated from Washington about 80 years ago by trapping and loss of habitat.

The fishers that were released in Olympic National Park had been trapped at Williams Lake, British Columbia.

State and federal agencies plan to trap at least 100 British Columbia fishers over the next three years and release them on the Olympic Peninsula.

Wandering moose: State agents have radio-collared some newcomers to Oregon, with an eye toward encouraging more to live there.

The four moose are in the Blue Mountains of Wallowa County. Wildlife biologists are using GPS equipment to chart their seasonal movements, habitat use and reproductive rates.

Only about 35 moose are known to inhabit Oregon, state officials say. Individual moose have been wandering in from Washington state and Idaho for about four decades.

Wildlife biologist Pat Matthews calls them “majestic newcomers” and says there’s enough vacant habitat for a population of 500-700 in Oregon.

Wolf arrives: A female gray wolf from Idaho is roaming the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in Eastern Oregon, confirming evidence that the animals are expanding their range into Oregon.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife says the wolf has been tracked by radio and seen.

She’s called B-300, and her age is estimated at 2 to 3 years old. There’s no evidence she’s part of a breeding pair.

Biologists say she is wearing a radio collar that Idaho biologists gave her in August 2006.

The department says this is the fifth wolf confirmed in Oregon in recent years, dating to 1999. One was returned to Idaho, and three are dead — two of gunshot wounds.

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