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Field reports: Washington, Montana deal with elk disease issues

Sun., Aug. 24, 2014

An elk shot during a hunting season near Vader, Wash., had hoof rot.
An elk shot during a hunting season near Vader, Wash., had hoof rot.

HUNTING – Washington and Montana are initiating special programs this summer to deal with serious but different diseases in wild elk.

Washington’s Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved a rule for hunters in southwestern units to leave the hooves of elk where the animal is killed. The rule is part of a larger effort to evaluate a hoof disease that’s been crippling elk in an outbreak that started booming in 2009.

Montana wildlife officials plan to issue hazing and elk-kill permits to landowners in southern portions of the state to keep infected elk away from cattle to prevent the spread of brucellosis. Up to 250 elk could be taken under the plan by permitted landowners and by hunters during special “dispersal” hunts.

Some hunters and other conservationists worry about too many elk being removed.

“It’s not test-and-slaughter; it’s not trying to eradicate the disease. It’s a measured response,” said Quentin Kujala with Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

Fishing rules change along Snake River

FISHING – Starting Saturday, anglers will be able to catch and keep hatchery fall chinook salmon seven days a week on the Snake River.

Predicting another strong return of upriver bright chinook salmon this year, Washington state fishery managers have expanded the daily catch limit to include six adult hatchery chinook, plus six hatchery jack chinook under 24 inches.

Anglers may also catch and keep up to three hatchery steelhead on the Snake River, but must stop fishing for the day – for both hatchery chinook and steelhead – once they have taken their three-fish steelhead limit.

However, starting Sept. 1 the daily steelhead limit on the Tucannon River will be reduced to two fish.

Endangered species in region’s spotlight

WILDLIFE – Threatened or endangered species made news this week across the region:

Gray wolves that have been attacking sheep in southern Stevens County can be shot on sight if they approach the flock, according to an authorization given by Washington Fish and Wildlife Department Director Phil Anderson to the sheep rancher and agency staffers on site to monitor the flock.

On Saturday, after the attacks on sheep had continued, the department ordered helicopter gunners to kill at least four of the Huckleberry Pack wolves to try to stop the depredation.

• Grizzly bear releases in the North Cascades to boost the small number of bears in that region are possible depending on the findings of a study launched by the National Park Service.

• Arctic grayling in Montana do not need special protections under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said, citing conservation efforts by private landowners and federal and state wildlife agencies to protect the fish.

Group cancels cleanup of Spokane River

RIVERS – The Spokane River Clean-up, an annual volunteer event started in 2003, is canceled for this year.

Tim Sanger of Friends of the Falls said in a media release that the group did not have the resources to run the cleanup this year. The group will focus on organizing a broader program next year, he said.

In recent years, as many as 800 volunteers enjoyed friendly competition that resulted in tons of garbage removed from the river corridor.

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