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Field reports: Area trail projects need more helpers

TRAILS – Trails at Liberty Lake, Mount Spokane and the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge are scheduled for rerouting or maintenance by the Washington Trails Association in the next few weeks.

The most ambitious project is near a waterfall in the natural area at Liberty Lake County Park to make the trail safer and more sustainable.

All of the work is done by volunteers led by trained WTA leaders. Some businesses, such as Itron, are donating volunteer employees on specific days, said Jane Baker, WTA leader in Spokane.

• Liberty Lake work dates are Sept. 8, 12, 13, 27, 29 and Oct. 11, 13 and 14.

• Mount Spokane projects are under way this weekend with another set for Sept. 15-16.

• Little Pend Oreille Refuge work is set for Sept. 22-23.

Sign up online at or call (206) 625-1367.

Griz-hazing horse, rider meet Montana fair fans

HEROES – Trail ride wrangler Erin Bolster and her steed, Tonk, were greeting fans at the Western Montana Fair in Missoula last week to celebrate the first anniversary of their heroic encounter with a grizzly bear.

Bolster and Tonk rode into the national spotlight after repeatedly charging a grizzly that had burst into a trail ride Bolster was leading near Glacier National Park. As the bear chased a horse carrying a terrified 8-year-old boy through the timber, Bolster convinced Tonk to overcome fleeing instincts and charge the grizzly into submission.

A Spokesman-Review story about the encounter swept across the nation and landed Bolster and Tonk in New York for the David Letterman show.

Bolster said she’s met a lot of people and had many career opportunities because of the favorable response to the fame she and Tonk have garnered.

However, this summer she’s been living mostly in a tent near the Flathead National Forest, leading trail rides for the flood of people who’ve booked trips for a chance to touch the horse flesh of a hero.

Idaho commission setting waterfowl hunts

HUNTING — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will consider hunting seasons for sage grouse and waterfowl and changes to the motorized hunting rule when it meets Thursday at Fish and Game headquarters in Boise.

Big fine proposed for orca encroachment

BOATING – A boater who was caught by the Coast Guard too close to Puget Sound killer whales on Wednesday won’t be penalized, but next summer violators could be fined thousands of dollars.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is working with the Coast Guard and the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department to educate boaters about a 2011 requirement to stay at least 200 yards away from orcas, spokesman Brian Gorman said.

“Our intention is to depend on education and warning rather than coming on like gangbusters,” he said.

A decision on the fine will be made before next summer’s boating season. Penalties could reach $11,000 under the Marine Mammal Protection Act or $32,000 under the Endangered Species Act, Gorman said.

Yellowstone bison herd increases to 4,230

PARKS – Yellowstone National Park administrators say the park’s bison population is up to an estimated 4,230 animals, including 600 calves born this year.

After a relatively mild winter, the park’s two herds increased in size by a combined 14 percent over last year’s count. Park officials say the change was within the range of expectations.

The park’s bison population peaked in 2005 at about 5,000.

During harsh winters, bison attempting to migrate outside the park have often been captured and killed to curb the potential to spread disease.