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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.

Rag-tag elk spiffing up for summer

WILDLIFE — Elk are in a big transition.  They're shedding their thick insulating winter coats for the shinier, sleeker, more bug-proof summer coats, as you can see in this photo made last week by Western Montana wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson.

Bulls are sprouting antlers, one of the fastest growing tissues found in mammnals.  are shedding their winter coats.

And cow are in the process of dropping calves for the 2012 crop.

Scarf-wearing pig pursued by Pa. police

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Motorists have reported a sharp-dressed pig running loose on a highway just outside of Pittsburgh. State troopers also spotted the animal but failed to catch it before it scurried off into the woods.

The pig is wearing a scarf. The sightings were reported between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. Wednesday just west of the city on Interstate 376, known locally as the Parkway West.

State troopers from the nearby barracks in Findlay Township spotted the pig, but couldn't catch up to it.

Police say the pig appeared to be a baby and confirmed it was wearing a scarf. Police don't know why that is or who may own the animal.

Still, someone has created a Twitter account to chronicle the swine's "exploits." It's at www.twitter.com/sharpdressedpig.

Bighorn ram-fest at Lake Roosevelt lowlands near Lincoln

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A herd of Lincoln County bighorn sheep offered a convenient wildlife watching  opportunity Sunday to people who live below Lincoln near Lake Roosevelt.

The state offers only one hunting permit a year for a ram from this herd, said Fish and Wildlife officer Curt Wood.

The landowners who shared the photo said this group of rams included 24 animals, about half young ones.

The ewes, of course, are out on their own delivering this year's new crop of wild sheep.

Man gets 6 months in horrific dog cruelty

A Post Falls man who beat his dog with a hammer as his neighbor watched in horror has been sentenced to six months in jail.

 Calvin Franklin Palmer, 53, who served 33 years in prison in Arizona for murder, apologized at his sentencing Friday and said the death of his Akita-pit bull even "traumatized him," according to court records.

"I was the only one who treated her nicely," Palmer said.

He told police he killed the dog after she attacked a cat and he feared she would attack him.

"I'm sorry that someone saw me do that," he said in court Friday, according to a transcript. Palmer was booked into the Kootenai County Jail that day to begin his sentence.

Palmer's neighbors in the 300 block of North Columbia Street in Post Falls called police Dec. 10 and reported the horrific attack.

Tammi Nichols, 40, said her 18-year-old daughter, Carmen Murphy, told her she'd seen Palmer beating the dog with the hammer.

Nichols said she told Palmer "You just traumatized my child," but Palmer "looked at her with a blank look on his face, then swung the hammer at the dog four more times, striking it in the head," according to court documents.

Post Falls police arrived to find the dog dead in a trash can, badly beaten with its throat slit.

Palmer initially lied to police and said he didn't own a dog, according to court documents. When they asked him about dog food at the home, he said he fed it to his cats because he can't afford cat food.

Palmer has been out of prison for about three years after being convicted of robbery and murder in Arizona, according to court records. He works at the Sweetgrass Cafe in Worley, Idaho, according to testimony at his sentencing.

His public defender, Megan Marshall, called for him to serve no jail time for the animal cruelty conviction, saying he'll lose his trailer if he can't work. She said his murder conviction "is following him for the rest of his life," according to court records.

Judge Penny Friedlander instead sentenced him to 180 days in jail but allowed for work release. Friedlander said it was "stunning to the court how anyone could do an act like that to an animal."

Roving cows drink Mass. backyard brew

BOXFORD, Mass. (AP) — Police say a roving group of cows crashed a small gathering in a Massachusetts town and bullied the guests for their beer.

Boxford police Lt. James Riter says he was responding to a call for loose cows on Sunday and spotted them in a front yard.

Riter says the herd high-tailed it for the backyard and then he heard screaming. He says when he ran back there he saw the cows had chased off some young adults and were drinking their beers.

Riter says the cows had knocked the beer cans over on a table and were lapping up what spilled. He says they even started rooting around the recycled cans for some extra drops.

Riter says the cows' owner and some friends herded the cows back home.

Wolverine kit confirmed in North Cascades

WILDLIFE RESEARCH —  After six years of effort, Methow Valley-based researchers have documented that wolverines have produced kits this spring in the North Cascades south of Highway 20.

A remote camera had photographed a GPD-collared female carrying a kit from one den to another.  That's an exciting development for the Forest Service researchers.

Read the Wenatchee World story.

Turnbull festival combines geology, flora, fauna

NATURE — Floods, Flowers and Feathers is the theme for a new festival at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge that will feature elements of the Ice Age Floods that shaped the land along with the flora and fauna that flourish in this special channeled scablands habitat.

The festival, set for May 19 from 8 a.m.-3 p.m., includes several free outdoor elements:

  • Learn geology of the unique channeled scablands landscape.
  • Enjoy nature walks with native plant and bird experts.
  • Watch biologists band songbirds for research.
  • Examing reptiles and amphibians.
  • Learn how to track elk with radio telemetry.

Call (509) 235-4723 for more information and to make reservations for events.

Places in some events can be reserved online.

Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge is partnering with numerous organizations/agencies to make this Festival a wonderful outdoor event in a remarkable environment. Some of the partners include Eastern Washington University Biology Department, Friends of Turnbull Refuge, Ice Age Floods Institute-Cheney Spokane Chapter, Northeast Washington Chapter of the Native Plant Society, and Spokane Audubon Society.

The Refuge is located 4.2 miles south of Cheney, off Cheney-Plaza Road.

Turnbull Wildlife Refuge gets high marks from visitors

REFUGES — Most visitors to Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge in 2010 and 2011 were impressed with its recreational opportunities, education and services, according to a government survey released today.

About 90 percent of respondents gave consistent high marks to their refuge experience.

The survey, commissioned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and designed, conducted, and analyzed by researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey, evaluated responses from more than 200 adult visitors surveyed at the refuge between July 2010 and November 2011. Turnbull was one of 53 national wildlife refuges surveyed.

President Theodore Roosevelt designated Florida's Pelican Island as the first wildlife refuge in 1903. Today the 556 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System protect thousands of fish and wildlife while more than 400 of the refuges also are open to the public.

  • Many refuges are known as popular sites for recreation such as hunting and fishing, paddling and hiking, environmental education programs and wildlife observation.
  • More than 45 million people visited national wildlife refuges in 2011.

Where Turnbull visitors live: Seventy nine percent of Turnbull survey respondents live within 50 miles of the refuge but most nonlocal visitors said that visiting Turnbull Refuge was a primary purpose or sole destination of their trip. 

The top three activities respondents participated in included wildlife observation (82%), bird watching (71%) and driving the auto tour route (67%).

Turnbull created: Prompted by local activists, sportsmen, and naturalists, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established Turnbull in 1937 as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife.

Located south of Cheney, the 16,000-acre Refuge supports an extensive complex of wetlands, Ponderosa pine forests, Palouse steppe, and riparian habitats.  These habitats create exceptional species diversity, providing homes for hundreds of migratory birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, plants, and other life.

“Turnbull’s unique Channeled Scabland landscape formed by volcanic activity and glacial floods created diverse wildlife habitats that also attracts visitors from around the country,” said Turnbull Refuge Manager Dan Matiatos. 

The survey found 94 percent of respondents were satisfied with the refuge’s job of conserving fish, wildlife and their habitats.

Fiberglass cow statue stolen in CdA

Police in Coeur d'Alene are investigating the theft of a large fiberglass cow statue from outside an antique store.

Jeffrey Gagnon, who owns Paris Flea Market at 1815 N. 4th St., has a broken piece of the cow's tail that can be used to positively identify the statue, Officer Bruce Reed noted in his report.

Gagnon said the red and white statue, which was made in the 1940s, was secured with chains that were bolted to the ground but had been cut. The theft occurred between 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. Friday, Gagnon told police.

Gagnon said the statue was worth about $2,300. He obtained it about two years ago and said it'd be easy for someone to carry it away because it only weights about 70 pounds.

Anyone with information on the theft should call the Coeur d'Alene Police Department at (208) 769-2320.

Lynx shows up at wolverine bait station

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — Although they're trying to document the presence of wolverines, getting good snapshots of a Canada lynx still made the day for volunteers monitoring bait stations for the wolverine research project trail cams in North Idaho last week.

The photo comes from a bait station set up by Idaho Fish and Game, which is partnering on the research with Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

Note the black tufts on the tips of the ears, and the huge furry feet that give it snowshoe-like buoyancy  on the snow. The winter track of a lynx looks as though a powder puff has been dabbed in the snow.

The lynx, which is federally listed as a threatened species, feeds primarily on snowshoe hares

See more bait station photos of the lynx as well as of the volunteers and other critters visiting the bait stations — on the Wolverine Study Facebook Page.

Grizzlies emerging from dens, even sows with cubs

WILDLIFE WATCHING —  Wildlife officials say grizzly bears are coming out of hibernation and have been spotted along the Rocky Mountain Front and in Yellowstone National Park.

Just before the recent snow storm, a Fish, Wildlife and Parks game warden spotted a female grizzly with three cubs on the Blackleaf Wildlife Management Area near Choteau.

Another grizzly female with a couple of cubs was reported west of Dupuyer.

FWP bear management specialist Mike Madel says it’s unusual for family groups to be out in mid-March. Adult males usually emerge from winter dens first, and may already be out.

Yellowstone National Park officials say bear activity has been reported in several areas of the park.

Bears that come out of their winter sleep this early focus on finding and eating winter-killed elk and deer.

Canada moves to protect bats in face of disease

WILDLIFE — Concerned about bat die-off caused by white-nose syndrome, a fungus-caused disease that has decimated bat populations in the United States and Canada, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada has asked the federal government to issue an emergency order designating three species of bats as endangered.

See details from the Edmonton Journal.

Cat refuses to go for jog; man ticketed

LAFAYETTE, Colo. (AP) — Police in Lafayette, Colo., have ticketed a man who is accused of tying his cat to a rock after the feline refused to go jogging.

Sgt. Fred Palmer says 19-year-old Seth Franco brought his cat on a leash to the path around Waneka Lake Park on Wednesday, but the cat was unable to keep up.

According to the Boulder Daily Camera, witnesses told police that Franco secured the cat's leash to a rock while he finished his run. A passer-by called police.

Franco was ticketed on suspicion of "domestic animal cruel treatment," a municipal offense.

Palmer says an ordinance in the city, about 20 miles north of Denver, "prohibits that kind of tethering."

The cat wasn't injured, so it was released to its owner.

Franco could not immediately be reached for comment.

Trail-cam mystery critter identified

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A snowshoe hare is caught in action by a trail cam set high in the Cabinet Mountains for a wolverine research project funded by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

See martens, bobcats, volunteer helpers — and even a wolverine — in the group's wolverine research Facebook photo album.

The hare in the photo above normally wouldn't be able to go eyeball to eyeball with the camera mounted up on the trunk of a tree, but winter winds drifted snow into a viewing platform.

Some readers viewed the mystery close-up photo (left) and guessed "rabbit."  Close, but not correct.

Read on for the differences between "hares" and "rabbits."

Mystery critter mugs on wolverine study trail cam

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Can you ID the critter, above, in this close encounter last week with one of the wolverine research project trail cams in the Cabinet Mountains?

The camera is one of about 40 installed by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

Answer coming later…

It's easier to identify the marten, left, that provided this cool action image for a trail cam posted on a bait station at high elevations in the wolverine research project.

Some of the responses on my Facebook Page regarding the mystery critter above are close, but NOBODY in that thread is correct, yet.


The camera is in a tree up off the ground.

—The mountains have had some snow and wind.

—Bigfoot has NEVER been caught on camera.

—Some critters resemble others but have significant differences….

Answer and photo proof coming tomorrow from Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

Cougar’s rampage on llamas stumps wildlife experts

PREDATORS — Wildlife Services agents dispatched a 175-pound mountain lion near Helena, Mont., recently after the cat killed at least six llamas and left them uneaten.  Sport-killing behavior is rare for cougars, and officials don't have an easy answer.

Read the Helena Independent Record report

PETA admits killing 95 percent of its shelter animals

ANIMALS — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an out-there animal rights and anti-hunting group, acknowledged Wednesday that it euthanized 95 percent of the animals at a shelter at its Virginia headquarters last year.

PETA also indicated it would like to kill the messanger.

Read the USA Today story here.

Remember, this is the group that stormed the Westminster Dog Show last year to oppose people who own purebred dogs.

Dog rescuers went the extra mile

WINTER SPORTS — Today's story about students rescuing a snowshoer's bluetick coonhound lost in the Kettle Range for two nights offers a life lesson to all of us.

Helping other people can be remarkably easy and productive if we just make the effort to try.

Think about what we could accomplish if everyone looked for a way to contribute every day rather than leaving it to somebody else.

See post-rescue photos here.

Aldo Leopold’s 125th birthday cause for reflection on wildlife conservation

CONSERVATION — Aldo Leopold, widely recognized as the father of professional wildlife management, was born Rand Aldo Leopold in Burlington, Iowa, 125 years ago this month.

His ideas remain as relevant today as they were in his own time.

Leopold's legacy involves his idea of "a land ethic," which he famously penned in his classic book, A Sand County Almanac.

"A land ethic," he wrote, "changes the role of Homo sapiens from conquerer of the land community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such."

Garrison Keillor recognized Leopold's birthday on NPR last week: Listen here.