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Guidelines posted for hiking near mountain goats

HIKING — Reports of aggressive mountain goats have forced rangers once again to close some trails in Olympic National Park, where a hiker was gored and killed by a goat two years ago.

Hikers can play a role in preventing these otherwise docile creatures from becoming dangerous in their high-country habitat.  Here are guidelines posted by the Washington Trails Association:

The 50/50 rule: pee off trail, give goats a wide berth

If you only remember two guidelines around mountain goats:

> No matter how cute they are, mountain goats are still wild animals. It's up to hikers to give the goats a wide berth, even if they are standing close to, or even in, the trail.
  • Hikers should urinate at least 50 feet off the trail, preferably on rocks. The animals' attraction to the salt in human urine can bring goats closer to trails (and the hikers on them) than is good for either species.
  • Try to stay 50 yards (or about 150 feet) away from mountain goats at all times. For photographers, this means using a telephoto lens to snap your shots. Never try to approach or pet kid (young) mountain goats. No matter how cute they are, mountain goats are still wild animals. It's up to hikers to give the goats a wide berth, even if they are standing close to, or even in, the trail. If the trail doesn't permit you to go around, consider turning back early.

“If the goat wants the trail, give the goat the trail,” Nancy Jones, a Visitor Services Specialist with the Cle Elum Ranger District, told WTA last year. “Back off. Give the goat the right-of-way. Go the other way.” 

Photographer makes time; pikas respond

WILDLIFE — Most people just keep hiking through mountain talus slopes when they hear the squeaky whistle of a pika.

But Montana wildlife photographers Jamie and Lisa Johnson have learned there's much to be gained by parking in a pika hot spot and hanging out with the “rock rabbits.”

Lisa and I spent the past several days camping in the Beartooth Mountains. The purpose of the trip was in search of Pika, a small animal that lives at altitude. We struck out at the start, but finally found a great place where (after many hours) we were accepted (or at least ignored) by the Pika.

We ended up with just under 800 images of Pika. Amazing mountain range, we also took many scenic shots.

Crew paints yellow line over dead raccoon

This photo provided by Sean McAfee from Aug. 2 shows a dead raccoon that McAfee saw with the road dividing line painted over it before he stopped his motorcycle to take the picture on Franklin Rd. in Johnstown, Pa

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (AP) — The “squirrelly” configuration of a western Pennsylvania road helped cause a state road crew to paint a double-yellow line over a dead raccoon.

Motorcyclist Sean McAfee snapped a photo of the mistake before it could be cleaned up and submitted it to the Tribune-Democrat of Johnstown (http://bit.ly/MkHa1K).

He says he almost crashed, he was laughing so hard.

PennDOT spokesman John Ambrosini says paint crews usually have a foreman on the job who clears away any dead animals before the paint-spraying truck equipment passes by. This crew didn't have a foreman and the equipment was too big to turn around in traffic, remove the animal and repair the paint. He says the “the squirrelly geometry” of the narrow road didn't help.

But the crew did try to stop the paint gun.

New flick raises bar for elk hunting filmmakers

BIG-GAME HUNTING — A Bozeman man has based a soon-to-be released movie around elk hunting season and his newborn son.

Visit the online trailer and you quickly see there's some unusual depth and quality to the making of Searching for West by Mark Seacat, a 33-year-old elk hunting fanatic. As Brett French, Billings Gazette outdoor writer points out:

A preview of the film shows dramatic aerial photos of elk on a ridgeline, jaw-dropping slow motion shots of an archer releasing an arrow, all accentuated by a vibrant sound track that makes you want to be in the woods hunting. Now!

While you're online, sign up for the prize drawings. Some good stuff there.

Searching for West will premier at Bozeman’s Emerson Center for the Arts and Culture’s Crawford Theater on Aug. 16 and will be released online at noon on Aug. 22.

  Read on for French's report on the film and the filmmaker.

Tennessee hunter wins Idaho bighorn raffle tag

HUNTING — After 30 years of dreaming for a chance to hunt bighorn sheep, Rob Durrett, 56, of Clarksville, Tenn., has won the 2012 raffle for a prized Idaho Rocky Mountain bighorn tag. 

“It’s a life-changing adventure,” he told IFG officials

Every year Idaho Fish and Game provides one tag for a bighorn sheep in Idaho, marketed by the Idaho Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation. The winner will be able to hunt in any unit open to hunting for Rocky Mountain or California bighorn in 2012, pursuant to Fish and Game rules.

This year’s lottery tag includes the coveted Unit 11, in Hells Canyon of the Snake River. Unit 11 is available to the lottery winner only in alternating years.

Durrett has been putting in for an Idaho bighorn sheep tag for the past seven years.

“I always heard Idaho was good place to hunt sheep, and a beautiful, beautiful place,” he said, beaming with excitement. His father was a fan of Jack O’Connor, and the young Durrett grew up on O’Connor’s hunting stories.

Read on for more details.

Bear hunters join hikers, campers, berry pickers in mountains

HUNTING — Black bear hunting seasons opened Aug. 1 in portions of Washington, including areas in the North Cascades as well is areas in Lincoln County.

More bear hunting areas will open Aug. 15, including the area from Spokane north through Mount Spokane.

Although hunting-related accidents with othe recreationists are extremely rare, black or brown are not the best colors to wear while hiking or huckleberry picking during bear seasons.

The black bear season that mixes hunters with the most hikers, campers and berry pickers opens Sept. 1 in most of the areas of northeasthern Washington's Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.

  • North Idaho's black bear hunting seasons open Aug. 30.

Idaho Wildlife Summit addresses pressing trends

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT —  Idaho Fish and Game officials have scheduled an Aug. 24-26 conference – with regional and online participation – to get sportsmen and other state citizens to help tackle major challenges facing wildlife management.

The Idaho Wildlife Summit, set in Boise, also will have six concurrent satellite sites including Coeur d’Alene and Lewiston.

Much has changed in the 74 years since Idaho adopted professional wildlife management, says Virgil Moore, department director:

  • The state’s population has tripled and two-thirds of the residents live in cities.
  • Wildlife habitat has changed or disappeared.
  • Invasive species compete against native wildlife.
  • Idaho’s population has increased faster than the number of Idahoans who hunt and fish.

“While 80 percent of Idaho’s wildlife is not hunted or fished, hunters and anglers support most of the cost to manage all species through license and tag fees,” he said. “No general tax revenue goes to manage the wildlife we all enjoy.”

Moore calls the Summit a starting point for exploring broader support for wildlife conservation and wildlife related activities.

The Summit will feature presentations by prominent wildlife and habitat authorities, including The Nature Conservancy. On Aug. 25, participants will gather rotating groups to discuss issues.

Participation is free, but registration is required for on-site attendance.  In this area, participants will be seated at North Idaho College.

Info: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/summit/.

Mountain goat man lives the high life

WILDLIFE — A man spotted dressed in a white goat suit crawling around among a herd of mountain goats in the mountains of northern Utah has been identified as a hunter preparing for an archery hunt in Canada.

Read the AP story here.

They guy probably never expected people in airplanes to be taking aerial photos of his scouting plan.

Hey, if walking behind a cow decoy works for snow goose hunters, it's worth a try.

(Some of my friends in Montana reportedly have been doing something like this for years — for sheep.)

I mentioned the Goat Man to a friend and he said I'm already well-suited for his hunting tactic:

“You don't need a goat suit,” he said. “You look like a goat. And smell like one.” 

Swine line lets you squeal on a feral pig

INVASIVE WILDLIFE — S-R Boise reporter Betsy Russell smelled the bacon for today's front page story on the tri-state campaign to keep feral pigs from the wilds of Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

The gist of the story is that feral pigs are tremendously destructive to the land, wildlife habitat and wildlife itself, including upland birds.  We don't need another pain in the butt non-native critter out there, even on the outside chance that they'd give wolves a reason to leave the elk alone.

Here's the SWINE LINE to report sightings of feral swine in Washington, Idaho or Oregon: call toll-free (888) 268-9219.

Read Andy Walgamott's Northwest Sportsman story on the recent history of Washington-Oregon efforts to keep feral pigs from taking hold in the Pacific Northwest, including the radio collaring of a pig dubbed Judas, which led Oregon authorities to its kin so they could be rendered into something like a Jimmy Dean sausage.

 

 

 

Truck wipes out 30 percent of bighorn herd’s lambs

WILDLIFE  — A Missoula-area bighorn herd that's been ravaged by disease suffered another blow recently as a single truck wiped out a third of this season's bighorn lamb reproduction in the lower Rock Creek drainage.

The unidentified Idaho driver collided with seven lambs while driving near the Rock Creek Trout Bums fly shop along the popular fishing stream south of Interstate 90.

“A tragedy in itself, the deaths also hammered a herd already halved by a pneumonia outbreak two years ago,” says the story in the Missoulian.

“They were just super frisky, and they played in a group,” said Trout Bums co-owner Deb Peltier. “They came off the mountain racing, like they always do. They were like toddlers – oblivious to everything. When I got there, there were baby sheep laying everywhere like bowling pins. It was a horrible, awful sight.”

Excessive speed on the county road is a regular problem, local authorities say.

East Side shoulders weight of Washington wolf recovery

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Today's Outdoors column rounding up the recently elevated profile of gray wolves in Washington ends with a hint to another irony of Washington's East-West dichotomy.

Washington's wolf management plan requires 15 breeding pairs of wolves to be established for three years in all regions of the state before they could be removed from endangered status and their populations could be controlled.

But while wolves are moving in naturally from Idaho and Canada and establishing packs naturally in Eastern Washington, wolves would have to be trapped and relocated into the Western Washington and especially the Olympic Peninsula to complete the delisting requirements within a reasonable time frame.

The catch is that a lengthy environmental and public outreach process would be required before wolves could be translocated — even to the Mount St. Helens area where elk are starving from overpopulation. It's not clear whether Western Washington residents would welcome wolf releases, especially in the Olympics.

The East Side is getting wolves without management authority whether they like them or not. West Side residents get to have a say in whether they want wolves in their woods.

East Side wildlife will take the brunt of wolf recovery until West Siders make their decision.

With eight packs confirmed in Eastern Washington and more unconfirmed packs almost surely formed in the area, it seems like NOW is the time to begin the environmental reviews and public outreach required to get the ball rolling toward delisting wolves.

Why wait until wolves wear out their tentative welcome in Eastern Washington and give more East Siders a reason to hate them?

— See map graphics and details on Washington's eight confirmed wolf packs.

— See  KING 5 News video report on Monday's capture and release of a 94 pound adult male and a pup from the Wedge Pack.  The trapping effort confirmed the presence of a breeding pack between the Columbia and Kettle rivers near the Canada border.

— See five wolf pups in a short video clip from a remote trail cam that confirmed the presence of the Huckleberry Pack, a breeding pack in northern Spokane and southern Stevens counties.

Idaho bighorns lack respect from state leaders

WILDLIFE — Idaho's bighorn sheep are coveted by hunters, only a handful of which are allowed to hunt them each fall.

They are a prize for wildlife viewers and a symbol of the wildness that set's Idaho apart from much of the world.

Yet Idaho lawmakers have turned their backs on efforts to keep bighorns separated in their native range from domestic sheep, which can transmit diseases that have decimated bighorn herds in areas such as Hells Canyon.

Outdoor columnist Rocky Barker has this sensible insight on the issue, pointing out that it really wouldn't be too hard for Idaho's governorn or other lawmakers to give bighorns a better shake. 

Meanwhile, as a recent SR story points out, sportsmen's groups are largely alone in trying to fund Washington State University research looking into preventing the domestic livestock transmission of diseases that are devastating wild sheep herds.

Read on for the details.

Take a walk with bats at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge biologists will present a program and an lead evening walk on Wednesday (July 18) to highlight bats, the important critters of the night skies.

“Bats of the World and the Channeled Scablands” starts at 7:30 p.m. at the refuge headquarters south of Cheney.

The talk will be followed by a walk on which special sound detectors will be demonstrated and a few bats may be caught for identification and examination.  

Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, a sweater or jacket, and bring a flashlight. 

 A donation of $5 to the Friends of Turnbull is suggested.

Info: Louise OLeary 235-4531 or looeezoleary@netscape.net

Charges filed in Hillyard animal cruelty

A Spokane woman who had 50 dogs and cats packed into a squalid bungalow in Hillyard has been charged with animal cruelty.

Laneva Marsha Erskine, 57, faces nine misdemeanor charges stemming from a February raid at her home at 3622 E. Crown Ave. in which workers wore hazardous material suits and respirators to combat the heavy stench.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 8: Animals seized from squalid Hillyard home

Bat biologists offer hands-on learning in Spokane

CRITTERS – “Bats of the Inland Northwest,” is a hands-on opportunity to learn about some of the the marvelous abilities and essential services of bats that fly our skies at night.

Ella Rowan, a Washington Fish and Wildlife Department biologist who specializes in bats, is teaming with biologists from other agencies to offer the class twice this summer, on July 14 and Aug. 25.

Because of the subject matter – nocturnal creatures — timing is a  little later than most classes in the region. Both classes go 7 p.m.-11 p.m.

Cost: Adults $17 or $11 for youth ages 7-17 (no children under seven.) 

The classes include outings in Riverside State Park where bats will be captured.

Pre-registration required online through Spokane Parks and Recreation, or call 625-6200.

 

 

 

Public’s help sought in cat cruelty probe

Spokane County animal protection offers are asking for the public's help as they investigate a horrendous case of animal cruelty.

A cat had to be euthanized on Monday after SCRAPS officers found it shot in the head in a dumpster at the Viewpoint Villa Apartments, 5911 E. Woodlawn Ave., in Spokane Valley.

A woman had reported a cat screaming from the dumpster, and the apartment manager found the bleeding, injured feline inside a garbage bag wrapped in a blanket.

The cat was taken to a veterinarian and euthanized. Investigators say the cat also sustained traumatic injuries to its body.

Anyone who may have seen or heard something is asked to call (509) 477-2532 immediately. Your name and contact information will remain confidential with SCRAPS.

Harmful wild sheep measure removed from House bill

WILDLIFE — A coalition of sportsmen-conservationists today applauded the elimination of a controversial amendment from a U.S. House of Representatives appropriations bill that would have prohibited implementation of a science-based management plan for bighorn sheep populations in a national forest in Idaho.

The Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Western Association of Fish & Wildlife Agenciesand Wild Sheep Foundation roundly praised Rep. Mike Simpson’s decision to withdraw his rider to the House appropriations bill for interior, environment and related agencies.

The amendment would have prevented advancement of a management plan in the Payette National Forest that separates bighorn sheep from domestic sheep grazing on public lands. Simpson, of Idaho, is chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies.

Tourist gored by Yellowstone bison

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A Massachusetts man is recovering in an Idaho Falls hospital following surgery for injuries he received after being gored by a bull bison near Norris Campground on Saturday in Yellowstone National Park.

Park authorities did not have the man’s name, and his age was listed as in the mid-50s, according to the report by the Billings Gazette.

Though not taunting the animal, the tourist let the bison approach to within a few feet of where he was sitting and refused to move away, according to a park statement.

The bull gored the man, tossing him nearly 10 feet into the air, before pinning him to the ground.

The victim suffered a broken collarbone, shoulder blade and several ribs and a groin injury.

Park rules require that visitors stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves at all times, and at least 25 yards away from all other animals including elk and bison.

If an animal approaches, it is the person’s responsibility to move a safe distance away.

Maybe the park rangers who made that rule knew what they were talking about.

Miners, conservationists work to protect Idaho trout

RIVERS — Two conservation groups and three phosphate mining companies in eastern Idaho have formed a partnership intended to improve water quality in the Blackfoot River in eastern Idaho.

JR Simplot Company, Monsanto and Agrium/Nu-West Industries have joined with the Idaho Conservation League and Trout Unlimited to form the Upper Blackfoot River Initiative for Conservation.

The announcement came after a study revealed mutated trout in Idaho streams, possibly related to mining pollution.  The study had been highligted on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (above) as well as the New York Times, as featured in this blog post.

Meanwhile, here's another interesting angle on the story, giving Simplot some credit, by Idaho Statesman columnist Rocky Barker.

In the latest story, the Idaho Statesman reports the conservation initiative group had compiled data on fish populations throughout the Upper Blackfoot and completed an assessment of fish passage obstacles and habitat conditions in February.

Monsanto, Boise-based J.R. Simplot Co., and Agrium/Nu-West Industries have mines in the so-called phosphate patch near the Idaho-Wyoming border.

Environmental groups have been concerned about selenium pollution from phosphate mining that’s killed livestock and aquatic life in eastern Idaho waterways.

Elk in velvet promise of bigger things to come

WILDLIFE WATCHING — While the cows are tending to their calves, bull elk are growing antlers.

Western Montana wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson reminds us this week that spring is beautiful time to be an elk.

Trumpeter swans hatch five cygnets at Turnbull

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Trumpeter swans are back in a family way at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge this week.

The photo at the bottom of this post shows the female rising above a newly hatched FIFTH cygnet onThursday morning as two siblings look on from the nest. I made the photo just off the paved trail at Middle Pine Lake near the refuge headquarters.

The male was on the water with two cygnets that hatched on Monday or Tuesday when I arrived today just before 8 a.m.

Two more cygnets could be seen partially under the wing of the female on the nest.

I sat for a long time across from the nest, watching as the male took his pair to the far end of Middle Pine Lake and rested with them on the shore. 

At 9:30 a.m., the female began making muffled honks.  The male got in the water with the two cygnets and started swimming toward the nest.  Just as he got there, the two cygnets under the mother’s wing crawled out, the female stood up and Presto!  Up popped the very weak head of the FIFTH cygnet for a brief second before it lay back down. 

The male paraded past a few times, as shown in the other photo. The female seemed to be showing off the new arrival.

Visitors willing to walk less than a mile round trip will be able to enjoy the family all summer.

“The cygnets will be stuck there for awhile since we have Cheever Lake drawn down for dam repairs,” said Mike Rule, refuge biologist.

The female mated in 2009 with the late Solo, the male trumpeter who faithfully returned to Turnbull for two decades as a widower before finding a breeding female and ending Turnbull's drought of trumpeter production.

Read Solo's story here.

Solo and his new mate raised broods in 2009 and 2010. They returned last year, but Solo disappeared before they could mate, ending what biologists estimate was a remarkable 35-48 year tenure at the refuge.

Said Rule:

The identity of the father is unknown . We thought the swan hanging around with her since spring of last year was one of her 2010 cygnets. She was seen with a juvenile swan for most of 2011. This spring she has been with a single adult swan that was very territorial. Since her 2010 cygnet is not sexually mature, it is possible an unrelated older adult formed a pair bond this past spring as a few trumpeters move through the area at that time.

Photo may show fox thought to be extinct in Oregon

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A red fox photographed by motion-detecting infrared camera in the Mount Hood National Forest may be a Sierra Nevada red fox, which hasn't been found in Oregon in decades.

See the OregonLive story.

Given the chance, momma squirrel takes care of her own

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WILDLIFE WATCHING — Red squirrels provide year-round entertainment for Tina and Judge Wynecoop of Colbert.  But when they started affecting the gas mileage of their vehicle, something had to be done.

“Our Toyota 4 Runner did not have much get up and go on its 12 mile trip to town,” Tina said, indicating how they began troubleshooting one of their more unusual wildlife encounters.

“Judge checked under the hood and found a pine cone.  When he opened the air filter case he discovered a family of five baby red squirrels in a nest composed of the air filter, the insulation from an old coat and grasses.”

They drove a short way to a Toyota dealer to purchase and install a new filter. The old filter was removed with the baby squirrels snug in their nest.

“The check engine light remained on as we returned home, where the mom was waiting,” Tina recalled. “She checked out her babies; she bumped up against our legs; she sniffed the air filter contents, examined the spot in the Toyota where she thought she had left her babies, and then carried her children off, one by one, and put them in a safe place under the garage rafters.

“A short while later she moved them a very far distance to our barn and made an obscene gesture at the 4 Runner.”

Wynecoop's photos tell the story. 

  

Video of hobbling elk herd confirms hoof rot

WILDLIFE — A sportsman's recent heartbreaking video of elk hobbling painfully on sore hooves is bringing more attention to problems with hoof rot in the Mount St. Helens herd.

KING 5 TV recently aired footage compiled by West Side sportsman Bill Jones, who's hunted the region most of his life.

“My hands were shaking so bad I could hardly hold the camera,” said Jones, who said he was nearly brought to tears by the sight and he scouted the mountains recently with his video camera along. “Everyone I saw had it.”

Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officials have been looking into the disease for years. They say they've been seeking help internationally. But even if they found a cure, treating a herd in the dense mountains would be virtually impossible.

Anyone who sees the footage at least can join the hope that something eventually can be done for elk, young and old, that limp around in pain as though they're walking on fire.

Daily Show sets hook on Simplot connection with two-headed fish in Idaho

FISHERIES — Maybe there's no connection with the two-headed trout being found in Idaho streams and the six selenium mines operated by the J.R.Simplot Co

I mean, who would believe anything in the New York Times.

Maybe there's no involvement with the giant agribusiness and the silence on the research by Idaho politicians who've married into the Simplot family.

But this special video report by Jon Stewart's reporter Aasif Mandvi on The Daily Show last night sure makes an angler think about the possibilities, and have a good laugh about how things operate.

Mutated fish:  another good reason for catch-and-release.

Meanwhile, here's another interesting angle on the story, giving Simplot some credit,  by Idaho Statesman columnist Rocky Barker.

Wildlife babies: Leave them be

WILDLIFE — The great outdoors is a giant nursery this month as critters large and small are hatching, birthing and raising their young.

Wildlife agencies in Washington, Idaho and Montana have been issuing reminders that in virtually all cases, its best to leave young wildlife alone if you stumble upon them even if they appear sick or in need of help.

First, facilities to take care of orphaned wildlife are limited and few survive reintroduction to the wild.

Just as important, what appears to be an orphaned animal usually is not. It’s natural for adult deer and elk to leave their young alone for extended periods of time while they are searching for food. 

“Young animals picked up by people are often abandoned by adult animals once human scent is transferred to them,” according to the Montana Fish, Widlife and Parks website.

Leaving animals alone is the best way to ensure that young wildlife is raised as nature intended—in the wild. So just remember the mantra of wildlife experts: “If you care, leave them there.”

Spokane County dog-leash laws to be enforced at conservation areas

TRAILS — Spokane County officials announced today they will begin addressing the issue of unleashed dogs — a long-simmering aggravation that's been been stoked in recent years by the purchase of county conservation lands, which many pet owners wrongly assume to be dog parks

An emphasis patrol to enforce dog leash laws on 12,000 acres of Spokane County park and conservation lands is being launched later this week. The effort is fueled by a $140,000 grant.

Patrols are scheduled for six weeks. The funding also provides for additional patrols by off-duty County Sheriffs officers to deal with issues such as off-leash dogs, shooting and off-road vehicles through June 30, 2013, said Paul Knowles, Spokane Count Parks planner.

The project will start this weekend at Antoine Peak Conservation Area just north of East Valley High School.

Spokane County Park Ranger Bryant Robinson said dogs running off leash is the top complaint from the public, ahead of the No. 2 complaint of off-road vehicles going onto park land.

The breaking point may have come recently when Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richard endured the abuse that's been fetching more and more complaints throughout the county.

During a commission briefing today, Richard said his dogs were attacked by three off-leash dogs and when he confronted the owner of the off-leash dogs, he was threatened himself.

“Some people don't take kindly to telling them how to manage their pets,” noted Nicole Montano, animal protection manager for SCRAPS.

S-R reporter Mike Prager was at the briefing and filed this detailed report on the enforcement effort.

Other emphasis patrols currently scheduled include:

During the leash emphasis, authorities will be issuing citations for other violations, including not having a license, which carries a $200 fine, or going onto park land with a motorized vehicle.

Violations of letting a dog run at large, failure to have a current rabies vaccination or having a threatening dog all carry $87 fines.

The $140,000 in funding is coming from a Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office NOVA Education and Enforcement grant.

Fox pup makes wildlife photographer’s day

WILDLIFE — Western Montana wildlife photographers Jaime and Lisa Johnson have been monitoring fox dens in their daily pursuit of outdoor images this spring.  Here's a journal post from Jaime regarding their latest encounter with the new crop of red foxes.

Funny,  last night we went for a drive to check on a few back country cameras. Lisa thought I put the camera in the truck; I thought she did.

So, after checking the back country motion cameras, we went for a drive to a few fox dens we know of. We realized there was no camera,

But still fun to see a fox.

Just before we got to the first den, papa fox ran across the road. He was on his was to find some food for the growing pups. When we got to the den, Mom was lying flat and pups were running and jumping all over the place. We watched for a while and then moved on to the next den.

When we arrived at that den, mom had three of the pups in a field about 50 yards from the den. It was a hunting lesson. The pups are growing fast!

So, tonight we headed to yet another active fox den we know of. We hiked out to the den (where we have been several times this year). The land owners have been really great to us letting us take pictures whenever we want. I’ve been there enough to have some of the traits of the pups memorized.

I switched it up and sat in a different place tonight hoping for a head-on shot (my favorite images of fox). After about 45 minutes, it worked like a charm.

I only took about a dozen images, but they are all different, sharp and head on! These guys are just about to leave home for hunting lessons – another week or so..

I love it when it works!

Captive-raised wolf pups offer glimpse of den activity

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Here's a glimpse of what was going last month on in dens scattered around the country in a small portion of the wolf's historic range.

In this case, a newly born Mexican crop of wolf pups is being raised in captivity to help revive the species in the southwest.

In this May 6, 2012 photo provided by the Wolf Conservation Center, a newborn Mexican wolf pup is shown at the Center’s facility in South Salem, N.Y.

The eight pups born at the preserve on May 6 could aid the federal program that has reintroduced the endangered species to the wild.

In 2011 it was believed that there were 50 Mexican wolves living wild in the United Sates.

CdA River angler warns moose are edgy out there

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A fly fisher who accidentally spooked a cow and calf moose from their bed while moving through the brush along the Little North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River had a tense encounter for 20 minutes the other day.

He was able to get up the only tree in the clearing during her charge, although he broke his Sage rod in the process.

He called the S-R to warn other anglers to be aware that moose are especially protective at this time.

“She was taking no prisoners,” he said.