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Highway ‘deer crossing’ signs are no joke

WILDLIFE — The signs along highways warning motorists that wildlife frequently crosses the road in certain stretches aren't random acts of government spending. 

State's keep track of roadkill — what they pick up and where motor vehicles are reported to have collided with critters. fall and winter are the most hazardous times. 

Statewide, more than 1,100 wildlife/vehicle collisions are reported to the Washington State Patrol every year. Many more go unreported but leave animals dead.  Washington Department of Transportation crews remove an average of 3,500 deer and elk carcasses from highways every year. 

Those “wildlife crossing” signs are placed in the hot spots for these statistics.

Eastern Washington areas with the highest wildlife/vehicle collision rates include: 

  • Spokane County's and the state highways heading north, especially in the Chewelah-Colville area as well as Newport, where highways intersect with white-tailed deer wintering grounds. 
  • The Methow River Valley, home of the state’s most prolific mule deer herd, consistently has high numbers of animals killed in collisions each year.
  • The Wenatchee vicinity has high deer collision rates on the busy highways that run through prime mule deer ares north and west of the city. On U.S. 97.
  • Goldendale and to the north between Omak and Tonasket have high wildlife collision rates.
  •  Interstate 90 near the Easton/Cle Elum vicinity has the highest number of elk/vehicle collisions in Eastern Washington. 

Several factors combine to make late fall the peak of the “bumper crop.”

  • Colder temperatures and snow force more deer and elk from the mountains to milder conditions and better food sources in the lowlands.
  • Hunting seasons are underway, increasing deer movements.
  • Deer mating season, which also increases deer movements and makes normally wary bucks stupid, builds from late October, peaking in mid-November and tapering off into December.

A 2008 analysis of deer-elk collisions along Washington state highways — the lead author was Woody Myers, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife big-game researcher based in Spokane — gives state agencies more guidance in planning highway routes and when to use measures such as fencing or wildlife overpasses or underpasses.

  • The DOT has posted a short video of images from cameras that illustrate how a range of wildlife use properly sited underpasses.
  • See commonly asked questions and answers about reducing the risks of wildlife vehicle collisions can be found in this  DOT Question and Answer page. 

WSDOT is working with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and other stakeholders on a statewide Habitat Connectivity assessment that will identify areas where wildlife require movement across the highway.

The Hyak to Easton project under construction on I-90 has a number of wildlife crossing structures and wildlife fencing. 

Moose moved from Indian Trail neighborhood

WILDLIFE — A rutting bull moose and the cow moose he was pursuing near Woodridge Elementary School was tranquilized and removed from the Indian Trail neighborhood Monday, but not before his 900-pounds made kindling out of a section of the wood fence around the Dave and Marcia Hardy's home.

Marcia, who watched the events through the window of her house said she was amazed at the size of the animal.

She also praised the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers for their safety and efficiency in handling the situation, even when crowds of neighbors showed up to take photos and after a neighbor drove by and spooked the moose into a more difficult place to handle.

Incidentally:  The bull already had a red tag in its ear after being rescued in 2010 when it had become entangled in an electrified fence on Green Bluff, WDFW officers said.

Hunters with a moose permit should avoid these moose because the tranquilizing drug remains in their system for a month, WDFW says.  Both animals were transported and released near Lake of the Woods in north Spokane County near the Pend Oreille County Line and the Idaho border. 

The cow has a yellow ear tag and the bull has a red ear tag — and it's antlers have been sawed off for safety during transport.

Romance lost?  Both moose were released together.  After the ordeal, it may be the bull who tells the cow, “Not tonight, I have a headache.”

Deaths of 5 wolves worry Yellowstone wolf-watchers

HUNTING —  Wolf-watchers say they’re concerned that hunters participating in Wyoming’s second annual wolf hunt may have killed five members of the Lamar Canyon Pack, a well-known wolf pack whose territory includes part of Yellowstone National Park.

Officials with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department say it’s impossible to determine if the two male and three female wolves were members of the Lamar Canyon Pack. The five were killed in a hunt area northeast of Cody over three days in mid-October.

Recent counts put the number of wolves in the pack at 11, meaning almost half the pack might have been killed.

State law prohibits Game and Fish employees from disclosing details about wolves killed in Wyoming’s annual wolf hunt. That includes the specific locations where wolves are killed and the wolves’ age, coloration and breeding status, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reports.

Regardless, Game and Fish officials can’t determine the identity of the wolves killed for certain because the wolves weren’t among those in the region that are wearing radio collars, department spokesman Alan Dubberley said.

“There’s no way to know. We just don’t have that information,” Dubberley said.

Wolves of the Rockies President Marc Cooke said he sought the identity of the wolves killed from Game and Fish officials but didn’t get any answers.

“They might as well face the reality that there’s a good possibility that wolves killed were from Yellowstone,” Cooke said.

The hunt area had a limit of four wolves. The five killed exceeded that by one. Last year, hunters were allowed to kill up to eight wolves in the hunt area.

This year’s statewide wolf hunt limit is 26, down from 52 last year. The wolf hunting season began Oct. 1 and ends Dec. 31 with the exception of a hunt area south of Jackson where hunting began Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 31.

Arrow removed from deer’s neck in Republic

HUNTING — Washington wildlife officials are looking for ways to reduce the number of mule deer that congregate in the city limits of Republic, Wash. But in this one case, local officials felt the poor doe deserved a second chance.

Fish and Wildlife biologists Wednesday removed an arrow stuck in a mule deer doe that wanders the Ferry County town with her two fawns.

The wounding comes just a week after state officials requested local residents help them figure out ways to cull the deer.

Republic Police Chief Jan Lewis requested WDFW help for the deer, which apparently wasn’t critically wounded by the arrow lodged through the skin of its neck. 

Republic has long had many deer living in town – both enjoyed and considered a nuisance by residents —  and local authorities have worked with WDFW to lethally remove many of them.  

But with two fawns still in tow, and the insult of the arrow through its neck, Lewis asked for help in catching, treating and releasing this deer.

WDFW biologists easily found the trio in a Republic backyard and shot a tranquilizer dart into the doe to handle her safely. While her fawns watched not far away, the doe was blindfolded to keep her calm, the arrow was removed and the wound treated with antibiotics. The deer also received a bright orange ear tag marked with the number “7” so she could be monitored easily. 

After a reversal drug took effect, the doe rejoined her fawns.  A day later Lewis reported that “lucky number seven” was doing well.

WDFW estimated cost of the operation, including staff time, fuel, drugs and equipment, was about $1,000.

Information about how the deer was shot with the arrow can be reported by calling 1-877-933-9847, or e-mailing reportpoaching@dfw.wa.gov, or completing an on-line report form at http://wdfw.wa.gov/enforcement/violation/.

Depending on the circumstances, the incident could be considered unlawful hunting of big game second degree, or harming/harassing wildlife, both gross misdemeanors which could carry penalties of up to $1,000. 

Wolf nips grizzly cub in butt, outruns sow’s wrath

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Here's another take on that spectacular wildlife watching opportunity posed in mid-September by the death of a bison 400 yards from a road in Yellowstone Park.

  • Five grizzlies and five gray wolves challenged each other for three days as they jockeyed for a place at the dinner table.

In the YouTube video above, Deby Dixon — who took a videography course at Spokane Falls Community College from S-R photographer Colin Mulvany — captured an instructive wildlife moment as a wolf nips a yearling grizzly cub in the butt.

Wildlife biologists say this is not uncommon. An Alaska biologist described the same practice to me as he was explaining wolf behavior.

Wolves learn and survive by observing, testing the waters and pushing the limits. Even among grizzlies, wolves are quick enough to get away with murder.

Squirrels: loudmouths of the woods

HUNTING — Do squirrels find other victims to torment and fray their nerves when hunters are not in the woods trying to sneak up on white-tailed deer?

Photos catch five wolves, five griz on one carcass

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A dead bison 400 yards from a main road in Yellowstone National Park in September provided the rare opportunity for visitors to see five grizzly bears — rare in itself — and five gray wolves vying for meals off the same carcass at the same time.

I was there, underarmed in dim light with a slow 300mm lens on my camera, but thoroughly enjoying the spectacle through spotting scopes with another 100 or so specators parked along the road between Gardiner and Cooke City.

Other photographers, including Pete Bengeyfield of Dillon, Mont., scored memorable shots, such as these two, using 600mm telephoto lenses and 1.4x extenders.

When I watched the proceedings, all of the grizzlies — the boar as well as the sow and her three yearling cubs — were on the carcass at the same time.  It appeared to me that the boar and sow had made rare peace because the five of them had a better chance of keeping the wolves at bay.

Read Bengeyfield's perspective and see more photos in this story from the Billings Gazette. 

Click continue reading (below) to see another photo here.

Hunter who killed wolf felt threatened

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A man who killed a gray wolf while big-game hunting in the Pasayten Wilderness told Washington Fish and Wildlife police he felt threatened by the predator and acted in self defense, according to a report in the Methow Valley News.

Wolves are federally protected under the endangered species in the western two-thirds of Washington, so federal authorities were called in and few details have been released as the investigation continues.

The hunter called state officers on Sept. 20 to report shooting the adult female wolf, which is protected under federal law as an endangered species.  Wolves east of that region through Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are de-listed from federal protection and managed by the states.

In the eastern third of Washington, they are protected by state endangered species rules.

Feds defend plan to drop gray wolf protections

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Federal officials offered a staunch defense today of a proposal to drop legal protections for the gray wolf in most of the country, as opponents rallied in the nation’s capital before the first in a series of public hearings on the plan. 

Read the latest in this story from the Associated Press.

Feds investigate wolf kill in Okanogan County

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Federal wildlife agents are investigating the death of an endangered gray wolf in Okanogan County.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman Doug Zimmer says the adult female wolf was shot and killed on Sept. 20 during a big game hunt in the area. He says hunters were in the field hunting elk or deer in the Pasayten Wilderness out of Harts Pass, and reported to state wildlife officials that they had shot and killed a wolf.

Zimmer says federal wildlife officers are working to determine whether the shooting was a legitimate accident, or killed under other circumstances.

It’s not legal to hunt wolves in Washington state. Gray wolves are federally listed as endangered in the western two-thirds of Washington.

He says the gray wolf is an un-collared female but it’s unclear which pack she belonged to

Trail cam photos capture grizzly bear hoedown

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Enjoy an intimate family moment with grizzly bears attracted to a scratching pole by some sort of powerful lure, a bruin's equivalent of ecstasy.  

The video starts slow and builds to a frenzy of rubbing. Fun.

According to PetaPixel.com, the trail cam photos were compled by Glenn Naylor, a Park Ranger, photography enthusiast and founding member of Bow Valley WildSmart who lives and works in Alberta. 

Compiled into a video called “What goes on when you are not there!” this camera wound up snapping a bonanza of photos.

Naylor says he doesn’t want the photos to give people the wrong impression about bears in general. Although the footage is cute and humorous, he says, “bears are not cuddly and friendly, they are wild animals that should be treated with caution and respect.”

See Naylor's YouTube channel.

Moose population gaining in Oregon

WILDLIFE —  The only moose herd in Oregon appears to have doubled in size in recent years, despite deaths in recent years from a parasite.

The Oregonian says the herd numbers about 60 animals today, compared to 30 in 2006.

The carotid worm problem was discovered in about 2010 when biologists captured a moose in Wallowa County to fit it with a radio collar.

The moose died as it was being captured. The worms were found during a necropsy.

The moose are the smallest subspecies in North America, with females weighing up to 800 pounds and males weighing up to 1,000 pounds.

Alaska and Yukon moose are the largest subspecies in North America, weighing about 1500 pounds.

Bucks are polishing up their act

WILDLIFE WATCHING — It's time for this whitetail buck to peel off the velvet and get ready for action.

Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson documented this late-summer stage of antler development last weekend with this photo.

Elk group gives Idaho $50,000 for wolf management

PREDATORS — Idaho Fish and Game has accepted a $50,000 grant from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to assist with its wolf management plan.

The funds will increase IDFG's knowledge of interactions between wolves and elk, and expand the radio collar program to help managers gain a better understanding of pack and territory size, home range, and other biological traits and actions of the wolf in order to better implement effective management technique, according to an RMEF media release.

“To properly and effectively carry out science-based management practices, it is critical that state agencies recognize and understand predator-prey relationships and wolf populations,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO.

“This grant will help IDFG gain a more thorough knowledge of wolves and wolf behavior so it can better implement its approved predator management plan.” “This grant is another example of the outstanding support we've received from RMEF and elk hunters for nearly 30 years”, said Brad Compton, IDFG assistant chief of wildlife. “This grant is particularly important because it comes at a time when federal funding is being incrementally eliminated, thus allowing us to continue to maintain our active wolf monitoring and management program. Idaho's program is designed to reduce conflict, including addressing unacceptable levels of predation on elk populations.”

In keeping with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, RMEF supports state-regulated hunting and trapping as the preferred tools of wolf management. RMEF staunchly supports management to balance and control wolf populations.

“We maintain our longstanding commitment to and support of the goal of state management which is to sustain all wildlife species in balance with the available habitat and the local communities where so many of us live,” Allen said.

Since 1989, RMEF officials say they have invested nearly $664,000 in research grants to advance scientific understanding of wolves, wolf interactions with other species, and overall wolf management. The total includes more than $200,000 in science grants in just the past five years. Most of the contributions paid for independent research by leading universities, state and federal wildlife conservation agencies and tribes.

“A key part of RMEF's mission is to ensure the future of elk and other wildlife,” said Allen. “This grant helps Idaho managers do that by helping them determine how many wolves are out there, where they travel and what effect they have on elk, deer and other ungulates.”

RMEF previously awarded 2013 grants to Montana and Wyoming to assist with wolf management in those states.

RMEF will allocate nearly $2.9 million for elk and wildlife-related conservation projects in 27 states with wild, free-ranging elk populations in 2013. Additionally $570,000 will also be allocated to hunting heritage programs in 49 states.

Wolves kill more sheep in Idaho, rancher says

PREDATORS — More wolf-livestock issues are being reported on the same Idaho sheep ranching operation that recently lost 176 sheep in a single attack.

Wolf suspected in attack on teen in Minnesota campground

PREDATORS — A 16-year-old boy fought off a canine believed to be a wolf during an attack in northern Minnesota Saturday. If confirmed as a wolf, it could be the first reported physical attack by a wolf on a human in the lower 48 states.

Noah Graham of Solway was camping on Lake Winnibigoshish with friends last weekend, and was talking with his girlfriend just before the animal came out of nowhere and chomped the back of his head, according to the Associated Press.

Federal trappers on Monday trapped and killed a wolf they say could be the canine involved in the attack.  That wolf had a jaw deformity that could have prompted rare bold behavior around humans, officials said.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials say it could be the first documented serious-injury wolf attack on a human in Minnesota.

NEWS: The DNR announced today that it is premature to say with 100 percent confidence that the wolf is the one that inflicted the bites. That won’t be known – or may never be known - until DNA testing is complete.
However, on Wednesday the Minnesota Department of Health laboratory confirmed the wolf that had been trapped and killed Monday at the campground tested negative for rabies, although the boy already had been treated for the potentional of getting the disease.

The youth’s shirt (a potential source of wolf saliva DNA) and wolf muscle tissue have been sent to a laboratory at the University of California – Davis for forensic analysis. The analysis expected to take several weeks. The DNR will release the results when they are available.
Only two cases of fatal wolf attacks have been documented in North America, one in Alaska and the other in Canada, according to the DNR and a review of scientific literature.
Read on for more details on the attack from an AP report:

Give bird dog attention before the hunt

HUNTING — My Outdoors column today bags some tips from pro trainer Dan Hoke of Dunfur Kennel for easing bird dogs into the seasons safely and efficiently.

Many hunters get all excited about opening days — forest grouse and mourning doves open Sunday.

But the best and safest hunting for a bird dog is later in the seasons, when the field is cooler, damper and there's been more opportunity to get in tip-top shape after the dog days of summer.

Idaho wolf hunts open statewide on Friday

HUNTING — Although there's a year-round season for wolves on private lands in the Idaho Panhandle, the 2013-2014 wolf hunting season for the rest of the state opens on Friday (Aug. 30).

The season runs through March 31, except in the Lolo, Selway and Middle Fork zones and in that portion of Unit 16 in the Dworshak-Elk City Zone north of the Selway River where the season closes June 30.

An individual may buy up to five wolf hunting tags a calendar year, but hunters may use only two wolf tags in some parts of the state in a calendar year.

No more than two gray wolf hunting tags may be used in the Salmon, McCall Weiser, Sawtooth, Southern Mountains, Beaverhead, Island Park and Southern Idaho zone. No more than five tags may be used in the Panhandle, Palouse-Hells Canyon, Lolo, Dworshak-Elk City, Selway and Middle Fork zones.

Harvest limits have been set in five zones: 45 in the Salmon Zone, 60 in the Sawtooth Zone, 40 in the Southern Mountains, 10 in the Beaverhead and 30 in the Island Park Zone. There is no statewide harvest limit.

The wolf trapping season opens Nov. 15 in all but four wolf zones, and Unit 10A of the Dworshak-Elk City Zone opens to trapping Feb. 1.

  • See details of Idaho's wolf hunting and trapping seasons and rules.

Wolf hunting tags are available for $11.50 for Idaho residents and $31.75 for nonresidents. 

Mountain goat shoulder wound likely from fight

WILDLIFE — My Sunday Outdoors story about the consequences of food-conditioning wildlife mentions the 2010 incident in which a hiker in Olympic National Park bled to death after being gored in the thigh by an aggressive mountain goat.

The horns on a mountain goat are sharp and they come in to foes at a deadly level.

The wound to the shoulder of the billy pictured above likely is a goring wound from another goat, experts surmise.

Hikers who saw the goat earlier this summer on North Idaho's Scotchman Peak said the wound was bloody and nasty looking at that time — and the goat had a bad attitude about it that forced them to throw a barrage of rocks to get it to leave them alone.

This month, the wound seems to be healing well … and the goat's demeanor was much more pleasant.

What do you think about media personalities and “experts” who suggest to the public that they have a special touch with wildlife that makes it OK for them to befriend and feed wild animals.

Think “large” if confronted by mountain lion

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — As young mountain lions are displaced from their mothers this time of year, they must learn to fend for themselves.  It's a tough lesson that often brings them into suburban and even urban settings as they explore food sources, like they did last week moving into neighborhoods of Butte and Bozeman.

Newman Lake and Spokane-area homeowners also have reported cougars in neighborhoods this month. 

Most areas surrounding cities and towns also have healthy white-tailed deer populations that may attract lions.

Most mountain lions are so stealthy they're never seen, and if they are, it's usually a fleeting chance.

But Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials offer these tips should you encounter a mountain lion that lingers to size you up:

Get big (make yourself appear as big as possible and wave your arms)
Get loud (yell, scream and stomp)
Create a barrier and/or throw objects at the lion
Don’t turn your back and DON’T RUN 
FWP also urges recreationists to carry bear pepper spray at all times because it's an effective deterrent for mountain lions as well as bears. 
FWP says propert owners should avoid wildlife feeding, which – in addition to being dangerous to those animals – may bring unwanted predators into the neighborhood.

Bear hits town for take-out dinner

WILDLIFE — Apparently picnic baskets are no longer big enough for this bear in Colorado Springs… or maybe she just ordered takeout.

Either way, she's no stranger to food from human sources.  Enjoy this.

Wolf pack mostly destroyed before sheep attack

PREDATORS — Wildlife Services say they had already removed 12 wolves from an area where 176 sheep died in a stampede during an attack by two wolves on Saturday.  They've removed at least one more wolf since that incident.

Of the 13 trapped and euthanized wolves, four were adults or sub-adults, an official said. Nine of the wolves killed were pups.

According to the story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide:

The pack’s demise was already underway when two wolves thought to be Pine Creek members ventured into a 2,400-head sheep herd early Saturday morning. The herd, owned by the Siddoway Sheep Company of St. Anthony, Idaho, was bedding down on Caribou-Targhee National Forest land between Pole Canyon and Fogg Hill, about 5 miles south of Victor.

Running downhill in a panic, about 165 sheep from the Siddoway herd were  killed, trampled and smothered in their terror. Two wolves, which were witnessed by a herder at the scene, killed about another dozen sheep. The final tally: 119 lambs and 57 ewes dead. Price tag: $20,000.

Wolf attack kills 176 sheep near Idaho Falls

PREDATORS — A southeastern Idaho ranch lost 176 sheep as the animals ran in fear from two wolves that chased through a herd of about 2,400 animals south of Victor, the Associated Press reports.

Idaho Wildlife Services State Director Todd Grimm says it’s the greatest loss by wolves ever recorded in one instance in the state. About nine years ago, wolves killed 105 sheep on one night.

In a similar attack in Montana in August of 2009, wolves killed 122 buck sheep in a pasture south of Dillon, surpassing the number of sheep killed by wolves in the entire state in 2008, state wolf managers said.

Sheepherders for the Siddoway Sheep Co. heard the wolves at about 1 a.m. Saturday, but didn’t know the extent of the damage until they saw the sheep piled up on each other at daybreak.

J.C. Siddoway of Terreton says almost all of the sheep died from asphyxiation. About 10 died of bite wounds and one was partially consumed.

Grimm says a dozen wolves have been removed from the Pine Creek area this year. 

Mountain goat brightens Sunnyslope yard

WILDLIFE — Mountain goats normally are found in the highest rocky mountain areas during summer.

But a Sunnyslope woman documented a mountain goat in her yard on Wednesday, and the photo was confirmed as a mountain goat by a state biologist.

  See the photo and story from the Wenatchee World.

Idaho commission to consider elk plan

WILDLIFE — Idaho Fish and Game biologists will present a proposed 10-year elk management plan for approval at the Fish and Game Commission meeting Monday, Aug.19, at the Upper Snake Region office, 4279 Commerce Circle, Idaho Falls. 

If approved, Fish and Game will release the proposed plan or a 30-day public review and comment period.

A live, online chat would be held 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. PDT, Aug. 29, to discuss and answer questions about the plan.

Also on the agenda is a proposed 2013-2014 waterfowl season of 105 days and a two-day youth hunt, along with some changes in goose seasons and limits.

The proposed seasons would separate Canada geese and white-fronted geese seasons with two options to accommodate white-fronted goose hunting opportunities for the 2013-2014 season in the southwest part of the state.

Commissioners also will consider a proposed sage-grouse season, with the opening day on September 21. The seven-day sage-grouse season would run through September 27, with a one bird daily bag limit and a two-bird possession limit.

Other agenda items include approval of the fiscal 2015 budget request.

No public hearing will be held during this one-day meeting.

Idaho wildfires take toll on wildlife

WILDLIFE — An aerial survey of the Elk Fire Complex on Thursday showed a number of animals and birds were killed by the wildfire burning east of Boise, Idaho Fish and Game Department officials say. 

After a two-hour overflight, a U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologist Scott Bodle reported seeing a total of 14 elk, 31 mule deer, one bear, one osprey, one coyote and one raccoon killed by the fire.

A number of birds were found on the ground, apparently dead of asphyxiation.

  • Several other major fires are burning, including blazes that are threatening Hailey and Sun Valley.

Bodle estimated that most of the animals died in the initial 48 hours of the fire when fire conditions resulted in extremely rapid growth. Winds of about 30 mph carried burning embers that started spot fires up to half a mile ahead of main fire.

Witnesses describe it as a fire tornado, Bodle told Idaho Fish and Game. In the first three days the fire grew to more than 100,000 acres.

Most of the animals were seen in small groups at the upper ends of drainages where they were unable to escape when fire conditions turned extreme.  About half of the fire area where the extreme fire conditions occurred was surveyed. The flight crew also observed many, estimated in the hundreds, live deer and elk in burned areas and in live vegetation.

The fire was started by lightning in the evening of Thursday, August 8, about 10 miles southwest of Pine. As of Friday afternoon, August 16, the fire perimeter enclosed about 125,000 acres.

The fire growth has slowed significantly.

The Idaho Fish & Wildlife Foundation has established an emergency fund for wildlife habitat rehabilitation in response to the fires. To make a donation, go to https://www.ifwf.org/donate/.

Diseases suspected in Montana deer deaths

HUNTING — Drought may be delivering another blow to deer herds in a portion of Montana, where disease and tough winters already have lowered deer numbers in recent years.

Dead white-tailed deer, possibly killed by epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD, have been reported in north-central Montana, state wildlife officials said on Tuesday.

Dead and dying whitetails have been spotted from the Great Falls area to Simms on the Sun River north to the Marias River and even north of Chester. according to a story in the Billings Gazette. While the number of dead deer is not clear, it appears to be at least dozens, based on people calling about finding dead whitetails.

EHD has not been confirmed yet; Fish Wildlife and Parks officials are awaiting test results.

EHD is spread among deer, primarily whitetails, by biting midges. It is one of several hemorrhagic disease viruses found in wild and domestic ruminants.

A related disease, bluetongue virus, affects domestic livestock. While EHD can also infect livestock, it has not been proven to spread from deer to livestock or vice versa. The disease poses no threat to humans.

High-density deer herds may have higher mortality rates; however, the relationship of deer density to the severity of EHD is not clear cut.

Spread of the disease normally stops when the first frost of autumn kills the infecting midges.

Feds forming panel to determine wolf status

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  This is going to take some time…

USFWS to begin again on panel selection for wolf review
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday that it will begin again on selection of an independent panel to review a proposal to remove federal protection for most wolves in the lower 48 states, a decision that may delay a final decision on the species' status due in June in 2014.

New wolf pack has pups in Oregon

ENDANGERED SPECIEDS — A new wolf pack with pups has been confirmed in the Oregon portion of the Blue Mountains, according to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department.

The two wolves discovered earlier this year in the Mount Emily Unit have reproduced, department officials confirmed with photos from monitoring cameras that have documented at least three pups by this pair.

The pair was discovered in April in Union County northwest of Summerville, Ore. 

Oregon wildlife officials have confirmed reproduction in seven known packs this year (Imnaha, Minam, Mount Emily, Snake River, Umatilla River, Walla Walla and Wenaha), though the exact number of pups is not yet known in all of the packs. 

IN WASHINGTON, about half of the 10 confirmed wolf packs have been documented with pups so far this year.

No wolf packs have been confirmed in the Washington side of the Blue Mountains, although at least one of the Oregon packs in the Blues is known to roam into Washington