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Seasons greetings in video featuring peace, joy and the great outdoors

HAPPY HOLIDAYS from the great outdoors. This video from Idaho Fish and Game captures some of the beauty of the season.

Wolverines live up to tough reputation

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — A recent study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management confirmed that wolverines regularly patrol a vast mountain territory.

Eight years of radio-tracking 30 individual wolverines in the Rocky Mountains has provided an abundance of new data about the world's largest member of the weasel family, including that the feisty mammals survive year-round in harsh, snowy conditions 9,000 feet above see level.

See details and photos in this report from Mongabay.com.

Although immeasurably tough, the animal is nearly extinct in the lower 48 states of the U.S.

Four-year effort protects 10,000 acres in Cascades for wildlife

WILDLIFE CONSERVATION — Good things don't always come quick and easy.

Hunters and other conservationists are reminded of that this week as a deal closed to seal four years of negotiations by a partnership of conservation groups and state agencies. The project blocks up and protects about 10,000 acres of public land for big-game and other wildlife in the east and central Cascades.

The deal has foresight to secure the real estate elk and other critters need from winter to summer range.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the most recent purchase in November, using funding from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Grant Program.

But the negotiations and original purchases of land were undertaken by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and The Nature Conservancy. The land was purchased from Plum Creek Timber Company to prevent the land from being developed or subdivided as well as to maintain public access.

The first phase of the project was completed in 2009, securing 2,675-acres.

Read on for details from a just-issued RMEF media release a day after the final phase of the deal was closed.

Bears denning for hibernation; have you checked your basement lately?

WILDLIFE — Imagine the surprise of a cable TV technician who made a service call to a New Jersey man's home and found a 550-pound bear snoozing in the dirt-floor cellar.  The bear had been living there for weeks and had brought in twigs and leaves to make a cozy nest.

The repairman said he heard a growl, and saw an enormous black bear waking up in the corner. He didn’t stick around to make friends with the animal.

“I just freaked out, threw my tools, ran out of the basement,” he told reporters.

Animal Control officers were able to tranquillize the bear and relocate him to nearby public land.

Video: Squirrel a master problem solver

WILDLIFE — This video has been around for awhile, but it's worth posting again to illustrate how marvelously adaptive wildlife can be. 

Flying squirrel invades New Jersey E.R.

RAHWAY, N.J. (AP) — Firefighters were needed stat after a flying squirrel went nuts in a New Jersey hospital's emergency room.

The squirrel kept launching itself from an 8-foot-high wall-mounted lamp into a glass wall after becoming trapped in a trauma room at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Rahway Tuesday night.

Fire Department spokesman Capt. Ted Padavano told The Star-Ledger of Newark (http://bit.ly/vxBiL0 ) it would climb up on a light and would jump off and glide.

A pair of firefighters threw a blanket over the squirrel and released it into a wooded area outside the hospital.

Padavano believes there may be a nest in the building because it's the second time in two weeks that a flying squirrel got in the ER.

Polar bear scientist based in Kettle Falls finalist for prize

WILDLIFE SCIENCE — A Kettle Falls-area polar bear scientist is one of 29 leading conservationists internationally who are in contention for next year’s $100,000 Indianapolis Prize.

Steven Amstrup moved to Stevens County about a year ago when he retired from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center in Anchorage.

Thanks to an accommodating polar bear, he arrived with both legs.

Read the story by S-R reporter John Craig.

Bowhunters reaping rewards of late deer season

HUNTING — It ain't over 'til it's over, as the saying goes.

The whitetail rut might be winding down in some areas, but it's still a positive factor for hunters who have tagged big bucks in the past couple of days.

Bowhunters in eastern Washington's late archery season are effectively using calls and scents for bucks on the prowl.

Before climbing into his stand for the afternoon on Sunday, Joel Enevold said he freshened nearby scrapes with Tink's 69 doe-in-rut buck lure. He barely got settled in his stand at 1 p.m. before he spotted the "split brow-tine" buck he'd been seeing in the trail cam photos. The bruiser was working a scrape. The buck slowly but surely kept coming in, sniffed the air below Enevold's stand and posed for a storybook archery shot that dropped him five yards from where he was hit.

"This buck is the largest I have taken since the age of 15 and I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to harvest such a great animal," he said.

Meantime, his brother passed up two 4x4 bucks that afternoon. "Both bucks were grunting up a storm, and one buck decided to stop 20 yards away and shred a tree for a few minutes," Brandon Enevold said. "Bucks seem to be actively searching for does and traveling with their noses close to the ground."

He's confident his time will come before the season expires.
  

Grizzly in zoo has reason to postpone hibernation

CRITTERSOne of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's four 11-month-old grizzly bear cubs enjoys a pumpkin for a snack at the Zoo in Cleveland on Tuesday.

Besides providing the animals with enrichment, the pumpkins are a preview to the treats many of the animals will receive on Thanksgiving Day.

Bighorn ram evaded hunters, poachers, but fell to car

BIG GAME — A Washington bighorn ram that had endured countless hardships, evaded predators and the occasional hunter lucky enough to draw the rare bighorn sheep hunting permit for the Vulcan Mountain area met its end in a collision with a motor vehicle last week along the Kettle River in Ferry County. 

Wildlife biologists viewing the photo above estimated the ram was 8 1/2-9 1/2 years old.

Cats outnumber inmates at Fla. prison

BELLE GLADE, Fla. (AP) — Authorities say dozens of cats that sneaked into a South Florida prison will be found new homes before the facility closes next month.

As many as 80 cats have burrowed under fences and taken up residence at the state-run prison in Belle Glade. Prisoners have been feeding the animals, even though rules prohibit that.

The 1,000-inmate prison closes Dec. 1. Officials tell The Palm Beach Post that as of Monday, there are more cats than prisoners at the facility. Just 69 inmates remain awaiting transfers.

Palm Beach County animal control officers are removing the cats so they won't starve when the prison closes. They're offering to waive adoption fees to find them new homes.

Some of the cats have been euthanized because they were feral and couldn't be adopted.

Where would you go to see a moose?

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A reader emailed me today asking where he could bring a friend from out-of-state to see a moose.

Most of us who live in this region take moose for granted.  We see them regularly, if not predictably. Seeing a moose for the first time would be a big deal for this reader and his friend.  But where to send them?

I had a moose in my yard near Hangman Creek a few weeks ago, but I haven't seen hide nor hair of the bull since.

Mike Miller of Spokane snapped a photo of this bull moose on Wednesday while dayhiking along the Little Spokane River.

Just last year, moose were chasing dogs accompanying hikers in the Dishman Hills.

I put out a few queries to Fish and Game officers. So far, they haven't come up with an area where you could regularly be likely to drive up and see a moose, although moose are being poached not far from I-90 near Cataldo.

One moose was killed in a collision with a motorist off Highway 2 just north of Spokane this week and another was killed by a vehicle two weeks ago off Highway 195 just south of town.

Moose are all around Spokane and Coeur d'Alene, and up the logging roads throughout the region. I saw one near Liberty Lake last week. Elk hunters have told me they've been seeing more moose than elk up the logging roads from Idaho's St. Joe River area to 49 Degrees north in Washington.

 But it's tricky to tell somebody where he could go out and see one tomorrow.

National Parks take heat over reducing elk numbers

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — An annual elk hunt in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and a volunteer-based "elk reduction" project in western North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park got underway this month amid public criticism, reports the Wildlife Management Institute

The issue is developing across several national parks as elk populations continue to grow.  It mirrors similar issues seen with deer populations in the East and even the new hunt — underway in its second season — at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge near Cheney.

Critics contend that the culling programs are counter to the National Park Service and national wildlife refuge system mission to preserve wildlife within their units. 

However, the agencies contend that damage to native habitats that occurs when ungulate populations are too high warrants the culling operations.

Grizzly fishing explosive, even without dynamite

WILDLIFE — Montana wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson captured the power of a brown bear fishing for salmon during a recent visit to Alaska.

One fish escapes, but look closely underwater to see the big one that didn't get away from the bruin.

Black bear and four cubs — count them

WILDLIFE — A rare sight to behold:

A sow black bear and her four cubs take refuge in a tree near U.S. Highway 93 just south of Whitefish, Mont., on Monday. The family of bears quickly drew a crowd as both sides of the highway were lined with parked cars and people who stopped to take photos.

Pig gone, sheriff looking for stout thief

KINGSPORT, Tenn. (AP) — Whoever has Arthur Olterman's pig is either very inventive or very strong.

Olterman called the Hawkins County Sheriff's Office to report the white pig had been taken from its pen at a neighbor's house near Kingsport — all 450 pounds of it.

A deputy's report stated property owner Mary Keys wasn't available for him to interview on Monday, according to the Kingsport Times-News.

However, deputy Lyndon Williams saw where someone had cleared a path through some brush to get access to the pig. How they got it into a vehicle is cause for conjecture.

The porker is valued at about $350. Anyone who knows where the pig is or anything about its disappearance should call the Hawkins County sheriff.

How to interpret what a crow is saying

www.fatfinch.wordpress.com

"Caw caw caw" can mean several things, including "Hey, human, please stop saying 'carmel apple.' It's 'caramel,' for Pete's sake." 

When a grizzly steps on your face…

Get Adobe Flash player

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Jaime Johnson, a professional photographer from Montana, recently put a video camera on the bank of an Alaska river where brown bears were frequently walking in search of salmon. The result gets my stomp of approval.

Let’s just say the camera got a very, very close-up view of the grizzly. It’s what you would see if a grizzly were about to walk over your face.

Elk on stage at CM Russell Wildlife Refuge

WILDLIFE WATCHING — One of the best wildlife viewing stages anywhere in September and early October is the cottonwood bottom along the elk viewing area in the C.M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge60 miles north of Lewistown, Mont., (my hometown). 

Even though the elk are in the rut, they know exactly where the elk viewing area boundary is… where archery elk season hunters lurk. Yet the elk come out and put on a show of bugling and mating as if on a stage in front of cars lined up along the dusty refuge road for more than a mile.

Soon the action will disperse, and the show will be over.

Hikers disturb wildlife in parks, study says

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A study done in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks in Alberta and British Columbia found that even one hiker an hour on trails in those parks sent predators and prey scurrying.

However, elk and other herbivores were not as deterred by hikers as were wolves.

Read the Toronto Globe report.
  

Climber’s skills help him avoid aggressive grizzly

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — “A bear coming at you is way more scary than an avalanche, thunderstorms, crevasses,” said Barry Blanchard, a top Canadian alpinist noted for pushing the standards of highly technical, high-risk alpine climbing in the Canadian Rockies and the Himalayas.

But last week near Lake Louise, Alberta, Blanchard had to climb very high in a tree to avoid a grizzly that never heard the rule that black bears climb trees but grizzlies don't.

Read the story in the Calgary Herald.

Albino mule deer fawn outstanding in the field

WILDLIFE WATCHING — It wasn’t a ghost Nels Houghton first saw while jogging in the early morning near his Billings, Mont.

Last weekend he returned and stalked to within 75 yards of the rare deer as it walked warily across a hillside, reports Brett French, outdoors writer for the Billings Gazette.

“I’ve hunted all my life and have never seen anything else like that,” he said. “I was pretty excited about it.”

French reports that albino deer are rare, but just how rare is open to debate.

  • One 1989 text, “The Deer of North America,” estimated the rate of albinism in mule deer at 1 in every 500,000 deer.
  • An Outdoor Life article on albino whitetail deer put the number at 1 in 20,000.
  • Former Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist Jay Newell said he thinks the 1 in 500,000 odds are high. He told French he'd seen three albino mule deer — spread out along the Musselshell River and in the Bull Mountains — during his work in the area. Yet Newell has never seen an albino whitetail deer.

Facebook ‘wall of shame’ targets slobs who create garbage bears

WILDLIFE — Frustrated by some homeowners' unwillingness to secure their garbage to keep black bears from becoming habituated, a group of residents of Incline Village in Nevada near Lake Tahoe have created a Facebook "wall of shame," that features unsecured Dumpsters and the identity of the people who own them.

Social Network pressure to protect wildlife!
  

Geezer grizzly lived noble life until age brought him down

WILDLIFE — Montana wildlife officials have euthanized what they say may be the oldest male grizzly bear to be captured in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.

Mike Madel, a grizzly bear management specialist for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, says the bear was between 24 and 27 years old.

The bear was captured Saturday after it broke into a barn south of Augusta. It was euthanized Monday at the FWP’s Bozeman laboratory.

Its teeth had worn down and decayed, making it difficult for the grizzly to fend for itself or forage. Madel tells the Great Falls Tribune that age and poor health probably prompted it to leave its usual habitat in search of food

Madel says that male grizzlies don’t often make it past 22 or 23. Female grizzlies typically live longer.

Investigators: Fleeing may have triggered Yellowstone grizzly attack

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Investigators say a fatal bear mauling in Yellowstone National Park was possibly triggered by the California victim and his wife screaming and yelling as they ran from an approaching grizzly mother with cubs, according to an Associated Press report.

New details in the July 6 mauling of 57-year-old Brian Matayoshi emerged today as authorities released 911 recordings and investigative documents. Hikers who reported the attack can be heard on the recording saying they heard screaming and animal noises from the direction of the encounter.

A short time later, a lone female voice was heard calling for help.

Heading into bear country?

Click here for good information on hiking, hunting and traveling in grizzly country.

Idaho Fish and Game also has tips for hunting and camping in carnivore country on its Grizzly Bear webpage.

Moose gets cold reception near Pasco; makes hot meals for needy

WILDLIFE — Moose are finding new hazards in Eastern Washington as they stray from their strongholds in the wooded northeast portion of the state and wander west into the Columbia Basin.

This bull moose slipped into an irrigation canal and, like most wildlife and a few humans who get into this situation, it couldn't get out.

Tired from struggling with the steep sides and swift flowing water in the Esquatzel Diversion Channel, it curled up to rest on a clump of grass growing out of cracks in the concrete lined irrigation canal Monday about six miles north of Pasco, according to the Associated Press.

An officer from the Department of Fish and Wildlife later shot the animal because officials couldn’t determine a safe way to rescue the bull.

The meat will be donated to the Tri-City Union Gospel Mission.

Five bears destroyed in Revelstoke in a week: Might there be a problem?

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Five bears have been destroyed in Revelstoke, British Columbia, in the past week after wandering into town in search of food, according to the Conservation Office.

Might there be a problem there?

"All those bears have gone through the food conditioning and habituation process," Justyn Bell, a conservation officer based out of Golden told the Revelstoke Times Review. "All those bears were in the same neighbourhood around Oscar Street."

That total is the same as the number of bears destroyed in all of 2010, according to Revelstoke Bear Aware statistics.
  

Bear sightings are also spiking this month as animals wander down from the hills in search of food. There have been 123 bear sightings in all Revelstoke neighbourhoods this year and 44 of those have been since the beginning of this month.

Read on for more of the Times Review story.
  

Grizzly bear amazes researchers with long swims in Flathead Lake

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — A young female grizzly bear fitted with a satellite collar for more than a year embarked on several lengthy swims across portions of Flathead Lake, wildlife officials in Montana said.

Sometimes the bear was in the water for 8-12 hours at a time, according to an Associated Press story.

Rick Mace with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said the 4-year-old grizzly made the swims after being captured on the west side of the lake near Flathead Lake Lutheran Camp late last summer.

Mace said the bear was fitted with the satellite collar she wore from June 2010 to earlier this month when it automatically dropped off as planned.

Read on for details, and watch out Michael Phelps.

Hunter culpable in death of partner, grizzly

HUNTING — While I'm still bowing my head in sympathy for the hunter and the family of the hunter who was killed by a grizzly bear in the remote far northwestern corner of Montana on Friday, I'm also shaking it back and forth now that more details have been revealed in today's news story.

Here's the perspective from the father of the young hunter who shot the bear.

Hunter near Idaho-Montana border kills grizzly after bear kills hunting partner

HUNTING — A grizzly bear killed a hunter in Montana near the border of Boundary County, Idaho, today before another hunter fatally shot the bear, S-R police reporter Mehgann Cuniff reports.

Officials from the Boundary County Sheriff’s Office, Idaho Fish and Game, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service went to the scene of the attack, which occurred about 10 a.m. in the remote area of Buckhorn Mountain near the border Idaho-Montana.

The hunter who was killed is not a resident of Boundary County, officials said.

The victim’s name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The hunter’s partner shot and killed the attacking grizzly, officials said.

Several rifle hunting seasons are open in the Boundary County region, including black bear, mountain lion, wolf and controlled hunts for moose and deer.

The Idaho Fish and Game Department bear hunting regulations page warns hunters that grizzlies can be encountered in the North Idaho units.

Heading into bear country?

Click here for good information on hiking, hunting and traveling in grizzly country.

Idaho Fish and Game also has tips for hunting and camping in carnivore country on its Grizzly Bear webpage.