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The region’s whackin’ and stackin’ griz this year

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The recent news about charges pending against a North Idaho Man for the May 8 killing of a grizzly bear in his yards wasn't an isolated case.

The region had a virtual grizzly killing spree in May as two grizzly bears also were shot and killed in western Montana, according to a story by The Missoulian.

An antler hunter shot a sow grizzly bear — orphaning two cubs — in the Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials.

In a separate incident, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Wildlife Management Program said a 2-year-old female grizzly was shot and killed by a Ronan-area landowner as it went after his chickens.

Grizzly bears are a threatened and endangered species protected by the Endangered Species Act. They are among the rarest species in the region.

The young grizzly shot near Ronan was the fourth bear lost from the Flathead Indian Reservation's grizzly population in 10 months due to grizzly-chicken encounters.

Prosecutor releases details of North Idaho grizzly killing case

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Boundary County Prosecutor Jack Douglas has sent a letter to media outlets with his account of the May 8 grizzly bear shooting that has resulted in federal charges against Jeremy Hill, 33, of Porthill, Idaho.

Douglas said neither he nor the Idaho Fish ad Game Department was involved in filing charges against Hill and makes the case that Hill never should have been charged.

Click continue reading below to see Douglas's letter, released this afternoon, and details on the case he said he's learned from interviews with IFG officers and the Hill family.

For background:

S-R reporter Becky Kramer covered Monday's hearing in which Jeremy Hill, 33, pleaded not guilty to the charges, backed by a lot of community support.

The S-R's Boise reporter, Betsy Russell, has filed this report on Otter's request that the U.S. Secretary of Interior step in and have the charges dropped.

See my Thursday Outdoors column for less politically popular thoughts on the case from the grizzly bear's side of the story — at least until more details are revealed from the investigation.

Video hints at rewards of hiking up Scotchman Peak

Scotchman Peak Teaser from Bob Legasa on Vimeo.

HIKING — Bob Legasa, the North Idaho videographer best known for footage of hotdog skiers getting air and breaking pow, is working on a video of the critters he met on his recent hike to the summit of Scotchman Peak northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

Here's his teaser.  I'll let you know when the finished product is out.

Scotchman Friends print cards to educate hikers about mountain goats

HIKING — Mountain goats continue to make friendly appearances to reward hikers who make the steep 7-mile round trip to the summit of Scotchman Peak northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness would like to see that great relationship continue, but they've learned for experts that even docile-looking mountain goats can become unpredictable and dangerous if humans spoil them.

Read and heed the etiquette so nicely summarized on the card. 

And enjoy mountain goats wherever you find them.

The Friends are handing out the goat cards at the Bonner County Fair!

Recent Selkirk region human-caused grizzly deaths recounted

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Further clarification from today's outdoors column on the case of a North Idaho facing federal charges for shooting a grizzly bear in his yard on May 8.

2007 was a notably bad year for Selkirk grizzlies.

  • One was killed by indiscriminant hunters northeast of Sullivan Lake near Pass Creek Pass. They were from Moses Lake and were later prosecuted in Spokane.
  • One grizzly that wandered far south was killed by a black bear hunter near Kelly Creek.
  • Another grizzly was killed that year near Priest River. That bear had become addicted to human food after a photographer essentially baited the animal for better pictures.

Readers are pointing out that a Rose Lake elk rancher killed a grizzly that reportedly was harassing his animals two years ago. Apparently he was given permission to shoot a black bear threatening his elk, but it turned out to be a grizzly. I’ll need to check on the resolution of that case.

Scotchman Friends educating hikers about mountain goats

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Mountain goat watching has become an attraction luring hikers up the significantly steep 7-mile round trip to the top of Scotchman Peak northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

Unfortunately, some hikers are urinating on the mountain top and making food available to the goats. Goats are attracted to the salt in urine and can become aggressive in defending their “salt licks.” They also can become dangerous with their sharp horns if they become addicted to human food. 

Considering the number of hikers climbing up the peak nowadays, the cumulative effect of these actions could lead to a goat's demise.

NOTE:  An aggressive mountain goat gored and killed a hiker in Olympic National Park last fall. The goat as killed by rangers. The family has just filed a $10 million wrongful death suit against the park…. you can see how serious this gets.

The Friends of of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness recognize the threat to their iconic goats, so they're posting signs — see pdf document with this post — and asking Scotchman visitors to act in the best interest of the goats.

“There is an increase in the number of goats, mostly younger, who are hanging around the top of Scotchman Peak,” said Phil Hough of the Friends group. “We're not sure if it's been a successfull couple years for goat reproduction, or if word has gotten out in the goat “social circles” that there are “yahoos” willing to do stupid things like feed them.

“We're trying to get the word out to leave them alone.  Just this week, our summer intern, Lauren Mitchell, finished a Goat Education Poster. We'll be displaying it at trail heads and events. 

Read on for some of the tips the poster offers for mountain goat encounters.


Grebe gives angler a lesson in raising a family

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Thanks to local angler Tom Turnbull for sharing this rare moment as he put down his own rod for a moment to watch as a red-necked grebe taught her brood to catch their food.  In his words:

I was fishing on Hauser lake a couple of weeks ago when I saw a red-necked grebe teaching her chicks to fish. She had caught a small fish, and she put it in front of her chicks. When they failed to catch it, she would dive, retrieve the fish and present it to her chicks again. Finally, one of the chicks caught the fish in its beak. I was fascinated.

Video: Hawaii snorkeler chronicles grace of sea turtle

Untitled from Tom Delanoy on Vimeo.

OCEAN CREATURES — Many people have had the pleasure to swim with sea turtles, but since most of us have not, here's a feeling for what it's like.

Tom Delanoy, grandson of Medical Lake area resident Kenneth Delanoy, shot this video in Hawaii. It's fun to watch. 

Of the seven species of sea turtles, six are found in U.S. waters: Green Sea Turtles, Hawksbill Turtles, Kemp's Ridley Turtles, Leatherback Sea Turtles, Loggerhead Sea Turtles, and Olive Ridley Turtles. All Six species of sea turtles occurring in the U.S. are protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

It is illegal to touch sea turtles, as it can cause them to drown or subject them to disease.

Under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Hawkbill and Leatherback are listed as endangered. The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, a distinct population of Green Sea Turtles, is listed as “threatened.” This means that the species is likely to be in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range in the foreseeable future. The Olive Ridley Turtles are listed as endangered in Mexico and threatened elsewhere. Loggerhead turtles are listed as threatened.

Aggressive mountain goat reported in North Cascades

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Hikers in the Teanaway area of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest are being warned to watch out for an aggressive mountain goat.

Spokeswoman Nancy Jones says the forest has received six or seven complaints since June, most recently last weekend. The goat is bold enough to nibble on backpacks and clothes.

NOTE TO NORTH IDAHO HIKERS:  Please, please don't feed the popular mountain goats that greet hikers at the top of the trail to Scotchman Peak. They are a treat to visit, but people who feet these creatures could be leading them down a path to their demise.

The North Cascades complaints have come from hikers on trails near Long's Pass and Eagle Pass.

The animal is apparently seeking salt. Hikers are encouraged to urinate at least 50 yards off trails and be ready to frighten a goat by yelling, waving clothing or throwing rocks.

In October, a mountain goat gored and killed a Port Angeles man in the Olympic National Park.

Oregon Conservation Fund a misnomer, groups say

PREDATOR CONTROL — Oregon's new fund to boost predator control is appallingly misnamed environmental groups say.

Even Governor John Kitzhaber complained of the name when he signed the measure into law, according to a Northwest Public Radio report.

Few people would balk at contributing at face value to the “Wildlife Conservation Fund.”

But Brooks Fahy of Eugene-based Predator Defense calles the name is a sham. It's “offensive, because it's just the opposite. It should be the 'Wildlife Destruction Act,” Fahy told correspondent Chris Lehman.

The newly created Wildlife Conservation Fund targets hunters. Starting in January, hunting license buyers can volunteer a donation when they apply for their license.

Most of the money will be funneled toward an existing U.S. Department of Agriculture predator control program, Lehman reports.

Among other things, the federal agents kill problem coyotes and bears, a program supported by many sportsmen, ranchers and timber companies.

Environmental groups urged Governor Kitzhaber to veto the measure. The governor signed the bill, but said he was concerned about quote “truth in labeling” when it comes to the name of the fund.

On the web:

Oregon House Bill 3636

Governor Kitzhaber's Statement

Environmentalist’s Letter to the Governor.


Hiker packs heat, stands tall against a charging … pika

HIKING — Since Congress overturned the Reagan-era restrictions on openly carrying firearms in national parks, we're seeing noticeably more heat on trails in and outside of parks nowadays.

Nevermind the research in Alaska showing that pepper spray is a much more certain defense in case of an attack by a grizzly.

But a hiker never knows what other critter might charge from the wilderness.

Here's a report from a recent hiking trip by outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson of Lincoln, Mont., to go with his photo, above.  Trust me, this will leave you shaking your head.

“After a grueling hike of several hours off trail, we were set up (with our cameras) on the edge of this rockslide waiting for the pika’s to make their appearance. They seem to dislike the warm mid-day heat and become active just before dark. The entire hike in we walked through fresh grizzly digs that were made within the last one or two days.. we kept one eye watching for one to make an appearance.

“Instead, we heard approaching hikers. Yeah, I couldn’t believe it. We never see other hikers. They were trudging along the rockslide walking by. They had no clue we were even in the universe. Then to make things worse, a pika lets out a chirp right in front of them (they were about 50 yards away from us).

“The first guy draws his pistol and takes aim on the pika. Before he could shoot, I hollered out “Dude, don’t shoot the pikas.”

“Surprised by our presence, the guy jumped a foot. Then he sheepishly said, 'But he was coming right at me.'

“I said, 'Yeah, killer pika,' and shook my head.

“He seemed embarrassed, put his pistol away and continued walking.”

Deer has that velvety feeling

She's well aquainted with the touch of a velvet hand like a lizard on a window pane.”

- John Lennon

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY — This photo was made last night by Lincoln, Mont., photographer Jaime Johnson, who makes more great outdoor photos in a week than most wannabe outdoor photogs make in a year.

Check out his website.

Video: octopus has many personalities on ocean floor

WILDLIFE WATCHING — This short video shows how a mimic octopus takes on various disguises in its quest for survival deep in the ocean.  

Very cool. I especially enjo the act of perambulating along the ocean floor as if the sea creature is running on legs.

Aggressive Yellowstone bear killed after charging hiker

BACKPACKING — Rangers have taken the rare step of capturing and killing a grizzly bear deemed a threat to human safety in Yellowstone National Park after the bruin menaced a hiker without any apparent provocation.

Bear managers told Reuters the 4-year-old male grizzly was euthanized on Monday, two days after the 258-pound animal charged at but did not injure a man sitting along a hiking trail near Yellowstone Lake.

Read on for more details from the Reuters report.

National Geographic bear photographer tells bear stories

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY — National Geographic photographer Michael Melford — who's made some famous photos of Alaska brown bears fishing for salmon — gives a slide show during a lecture featuring funny and amazing stories about his work.

Whitetails buck shows high potential

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY — This whitetail buck should inspire some anticipation for September.

The photo was made last week by Lincoln, Mont., photographer Jaime Johnson, who makes more great outdoor photos in a week than most wannabe outdoor photogs make in a year.

“This is one of the highest whitetails I have even seen around this area – very nice,” he said.

Check out his website.

But they’re not quite breeding like rabbits

ENDANGERED SPECIES — I know it's not funny in the case of an endangered species, but somehow it just doesn't seem right that it should be headline news when two rabbits do the wild thing.

NY man accused of purloining parrot

AUBURN, N.Y. (AP) — Police say a 43-year-old central New York man entered a woman's home, stole her parrot, computer and dryer knobs and unplugged her refrigerator.

Lee L. Baker Jr. of Auburn, near Syracuse, is accused of burglarizing the home of the woman who had an order of protection issued against him.

City police say they picked him up Monday on a warrant and charged him with felony burglary and two misdemeanors.

Police say the stolen items, including a green and red Cinnamon Cheek Conure parrot, were returned by Baker's girlfriend.

Baker was released on bail and is to return to court at a later date. There was no phone listing for Baker in Auburn and his lawyer did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Camp-raiding bear forces camping area closure up North Fork CdA River

WILDLFE ISSUES – A popular camping area up the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River is being closed to public use because of a black bear that’s been raiding campsites and picnickers.

Idaho Panhandle National Forests officials say the closure affects the Graham Creek area about 14 miles north of Interstate 90 and up the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River off Forest Highway 9. 

Frequent bear encounters have been reported in the area, said Kimberly Johnson, Coeur d’Alene District deputy ranger. 

“While most people are storing their food and trash properly, we have a situation that could potentially turn dangerous if the bear continues to return and becomes habituated to encounters with humans,” she said. 

“By removing food and trash from the area, our goal is to protect both the visitors and the bears by discouraging the bears from returning.”

When camping in bear country keep a clean camp, secure food and trash in bear-proof containers or a vehicle at all times, and keep pets under control, she advised. 

Info and updates:  Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District in Fernan (208) 664-2318.

Moose become canvas for new wildlife control tool

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — When law enforcement officers arrived around 6 a.m July 5 to deal with three moose on Interstate 90 near Liberty Lake, they were armed with guns you can buy at a toy store.

Washington state troopers blocked I-90 traffic while state Fish and Wildlife police “escorted” three yearlings out of traffic toward the Spokane River. To keep the moose moving, the officers used paintball guns.

“Two officers went at them on foot and stung them every now and then with the paintball guns,” said Capt. Mike Whorton of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department. “Pretty soon they ran across all four lands of I-90 and out of the way of traffic.”

Whorton said one of his officers tested his own paintball gun last year for harassing and moving wildlife out of danger. The test was so successful, a local sportsmen's group has purchased paintball guns for all of the area Fish and Wildlife police, he said.

“Paintball guns can get off a lot of shots rapidly and accurately,” he said. “They are so much more effective and cost effective than the rubber bullets we had been firing out of 12-gauge shotguns. And aside from some pink paint on their rumps, the paintballs don't do any more than sting the moose.”

Bobcat on pins and needles when pursued by cougar

WILDLIFE WATCHING — An Arizona couple recently witnessed a wildlife spectacle outside their home hear Gold Canyon as a mountain lion launched an attack on a bobcat.

In a desperate escape along the foothills of the Superstition Mountains, the bobcat sprinted up a very tall and very stickery saguaro cactus. The mountain lion called off the chase at that point.

Curt Fonger tells the story and shares photos with an Arizona TV station.

The photographer seized the opportunity to capture photos of the bobcat on its perch. One of the photos from a distance gives a good perspective on the height of the cactus.   The bobcat just hunkered on the saguaro for hours until the coast was clear, and then departed, seemingly impervious to the sharp cactus spines.

Fonger said the only way he'll top that wildlife photography experience is if the mountain lion comes by and gives him a pose.


Bear experts resume search for North Cascades grizzlies

WILDLIFE — Teams of wildlife biologists have begun the second year of effort to determine the status of grizzly bears in the North Cascades.

U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Western Transportation Institute biologists are using remote-controlled cameras and hair snares spread across about 9,500 square miles in North Central Washington.

Some teams will be working this summer in the Upper Cascade River watershed where a hiker photographed an animal in October that an interagency panel of grizzly bear experts confirmed was a grizzly bear. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week it was the first confirmed grizzly bear sighting in the North Cascades since 1996.

Read on for details about the research, which is having a boost of enthusiasm now that the photos have confirmed grizzlies have been using the area.

Pack goat group works on Lewis and Clark Trail

PUBLIC LANDS — A Clearwater National Forest Service crew leader and 23 volunteers from the North American Pack Goat Association made major improvements to an Idaho stretch of the Lewis and Clark National HistoricTrail last weekend.

The organization established in 2001 to promote packing with pack goats, cleared brush and wind-felled trees from 2 ½ miles of Clearwater Forest’s Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, between Small Prairie Camp and the Dollar Creek Bridge. 

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail runs 3,700 miles from Wood River, Ill., to the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon.

Info: Northwest Packgoats in Weippe,  Idaho.

Park plea: Don’t pee along trails

HIKING — Olympic National Park hikers who urinate along trails may be creating linear “salt licks” that attract mountain goats. The practice may be partially responsible for luring in goats that have been harassing and even killing park visitors.

Sounds like a troublesome new pack it in, pack it out policy — but there's reason for complying with the park's request to avoid peeing along trails as much as possible.

Read on for more from the Peninsula News.

Bird dogs ‘cheated’ out of mid-summer training

GUN DOGSCheatgrass has flourished in the late spring conditions, and the seed heads have cured. The spear-like seeds are at their prime for sharpness and readiness to cling to your socks and your dog's fur, where they're specially adapted to work into a dog's does, eyes, nose and ears.

These despicable seed heads don't stop at the skin. They penetrate like porcupine quills to cause abscesses and pierce eardrums.

Legend has it that veterinarians sowed cheatgrass years ago for guaranteed income.

It's nasty stuff. My dogs sit and wait for me to stuff cotton in their ears before their daily runs this time of year.

  Dog trainers have to gear back their efforts until we get some hot weather followed by big winds to knock the seeds to the ground.  Some pounding rainstorms will help, too.

Dream on.

Drunk men take dead gator off-roading

 The flattened and preserved reptile is at the center of possible legal action against three Michigan men charged with its theft and subsequent display on a Ford pickup at a nearby mud-bogging party

HOWELL, Mich. (AP) — Authorities say three intoxicated men stole a 14-foot flattened and preserved alligator, strapped it to a pickup truck and took it off-roading.

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus reports that 55-year-old Douglas Ward of Linden, 60-year-old Roy Griffith of Linden and 53-year-old John Sanborn of Harrison are charged with breaking and entering.

The charges stem from a June 25 theft from a barn in Hartland Township, about 40 miles northwest of Detroit. Sheriff Bob Bezotte says the alligator's owner found tire tracks near his barn and followed them to a party in Deerfield Township where the men were driving their vehicles around in the mud.

The men are due in Livingston County District Court July 20.

The Associated Press sought comment from the men's defense lawyers Thursday morning.

Champion elk caller advises hunters to work now on confidence

BIG-GAME HUNTING — Seven-time world champion elk caller Corey Jacobsen and fellow Elk101.com pro staffer Cameron Haines had polished answers to a couple of questions posed recently by Roger Phillips of the Idaho Statesman.

Tip: don't wait until September to get your act together.

Read on for the Q&A.

Grizzly kills hiker in Yellowstone: first in 25 years

NATIONAL PARKS —  A grizzly bear killed a hiker today on a popular trail in the Yellowstone National Park backcountry. It's the first fatal bear mauling in the park since 1986, officials said.

Park spokesman Al Nash said it appears the man and his wife surprised a female grizzly and her cubs this morning, the Associated Press reports.

Nash said investigators have been interviewing the woman about the bear attack, which took place close to Canyon Village, near the middle of the park. He said authorities aren’t prepared to release the man’s name, age or hometown and likely won’t release more details until Thursday.

Nash said park officials haven’t taken any action against the bear, which he described as a sow with cubs.

Read on for details.

Turnbull Refuge offers tours, activities Saturday

NATURE — Turnbull Wildlife Refuge staff and volunteers are leading several tours, walks and activities Saturday to coincide with the annual Jubilee in nearby Cheney.

Pre-register with group leaders for details and meeting places.

  • 8 a.m: A two-hour morning walk around the Pine Lakes area to see what birds can be found in summer.  Leader: Marian Frobe, 328-0621.
  • 8:45 a.m.: Biologist Sandra Rancourt will conduct a pond study for families that identifies aquatic macroinvertebrates and discuss the environmental importance of these creatures.  You will be collecting and identifying these critters.  Call Louise O’Leary, (509) 235-4531 or email looeezoleary@netscape.net
  • 9:45 – 11:15 a.m.:  tour of the Turnbull National Refuge that you don’t usually get to see.  Refuge biologist, Mike Rule will be your guide sharing some of the history of the refuge, the Native Peoples and pioneers of the area along with the current management of Turnbull.  Call Louise O’Leary, (509)235-4531 or email looeezoleary@netscape.net
Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge will have an information booth and kid’s activity table at the main events area at the Safeway parking area in Cheney with many other vendors and activities.  
Cheney Jubilee will provide transportation to and from Turnbull, if necessary.

Black bear killed where woman was attacked near Colville

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A small black bear was killed the day after a woman was attacked while she was jogging Thursdya near Thomas and Gillette campgrounds east of Colville.

As I reported in my blog post on Friday, the 36-year-old woman surprised a bear while jogging. She fell to the ground and was batted around by the bear.

She was not seriously injured, but state Fish and Wildlife officials say they have to take bear encounters seriously in developed areas.

Fish and Wildlife officers brought in a houndsman who released dogs near the site of the incident.

“Very shortly they spooked up a couple of bears,” said Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman. “One was estimated at 140 pounds. The other, about 70 pounds, turned on the dogs and handler, so they took it out.”

It's not clear whether that was the bear that was aggressive toward the woman, she said.

The officers baited and set a culvert trap in the Lake Gillette area, but no other bear has been captured in nearly four days, she said.