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Pronghorns give North America distinction

WILDLIFE — I go home to my hunting roots in Montana every year at this time, and the photo below (click continue reading) by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson illustrates one of the reasons why.

A photo I made from my annual Montana hunting trip, above, illustrates several more reasons.

Read on for a few biological pointers on why the pronghorn (also called antelope) is so special.

Elk rut winding down; bulls headed for deep, dark woods

HUNTING — Just in time for the the big-game rifle seasons, the elk rut is winding down and the big bulls will be slinking away from their harems to recover and hide in thick dark woods — wherever they can avoid attention from huners and wolves.

Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson caught the the bull above in September, during the peak of its glory — and vulnerability. 

Now the bull's world is all about surviving through winter.

Moose on the loose around town

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Moose are looking for love this time of year, and, as in humans, it can make them goofy.

This is OK when they're out in the woods, but it's not uncommon to see moose around Spokane, Post Falls, Coeur d'Alene and other towns in the region. 

Give moose a wide berth. Enjoy them from a distance.

Here's a report from Spokane's South Hill by Robert Estuar:

Might be time to remind people to be wary of moose off the South Hill bluff. I mountain bike the trails about 4 times per week and I've seen moose on 4 separate occasions over the past 3 weeks.

Yesterday around 6 pm, I happened on 3 moose (looked like a cow and 2 calves) about 25 feet off the trail. I've seen the moose on the lower trails -southwest of the powerlines.

Great to have wildlife sightings so close to home but I worry about problem interactions with people and their dogs.
  

Garden expert Pat Munts offers more on the subject today in this column.

Whitetail bucks playing make-believe with their antlers

WILDLIFE — The mating season for white-tailed deer is a month or more away, but bucks already are tuning up.

Montana wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson has been noticing bucks testing their new growth.
 
For the past week, we’ve noticed the whitetail rattling antlers. Nothing serious, more for fun.
Tonight we observed these bucks jousting. One would watch while the other two rattled antlers.
Then they would switch and the observer would join in while another watched.

Wyoming whitetails die from disease

HUNTING — Tough times for deer in a corner of Wyoming, similar to the outbreak that swept through portions of Montana two years ago:

Whitetail deer die-off in NE Wyoming worst in decades
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department said epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD, a disease spread by a biting gnat, has caused the worst die-off of whitetail deer in northeast Wyoming in decades.

California bans hound hunting for bears

HUNTING — Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill banning hound hunting for bears in California, 16 years after Washington state did the same thing by voter initative

Both campaigns were primed and pumped by the Humane Society of the United States and other anti-hunting groups.

Black bear slaughter prompted by feeding

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Don't bite the hand that feeds wildlife.

Chop it off.

Montana wildlife agents euthanize five food-conditioned bears
After neighbors complained about someone in Heron feeding bears, Montana wildlife agents investigated and found five, well-fed food-conditioned black bears that they had to kill.
  

Photographer leaves no doubt: elk are in the rut

WILDLIFE — In case you had any doubts about the elk mating season being in full swing, Montana wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson offers this photographic evidence.

Notice I didn't say this is image is proof.  After all, hitch-hiking is legal in Montana.

Never trust your hunting dog with a gun

HUNTING — Two men, on opposite sides of the world, have been shot by their alleged best friends, reports News.com.au.

One man's shooting trip in Utah, US took a surprise turn when he was shot in the buttocks - by his own dog.

Meanwhile in France, a 55-year-old hunter had to have his right hand amputated after his dog accidentally shot him has said he doesn't blame the pet, which he still considers “adorable”.

Read more.

Losing Rammel no loss to Idaho elk, hunters

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — It's one thing to be an anti-government blowhard. 

It's another thing to be detrimental to Idaho's public resources and the state's very valuable wild elk herds.

Good riddance, Rex Rammel.

See the story here, and we hope it's the last we hear of him.

Boo Boo the bear may get back to the woods

WILDLIFE REHABILITATION — Boo Boo, the black bear cub found by fire crews with second degree burns on all four paws last month,  has been moved to a rehabilitation area in central Idaho.

Idaho Fish and Game biologist Jeff Rohlman picked up the young bruin today at the Humane Society shelter in Boise where he has been recuperating.

Rohlman took the bear to the Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary in the mountains outside McCall. The sanctuary is dedicated to the care and rehabilitation of injured and orphaned wildlife. Since 1989 it has housed and cared for a range of large and small mammals and birds in distress from injury, loss of parents, or loss of habitat.

Boo Boo weighed in at 46 pounds today, up from just 23 pounds when Fish and Game wildlife veterinarian Mark Drew transferred the bear to the Idaho Humane Society on Aug. 31.

He will spend the first night in a pen about the size of a single-car garage, which is attached to a two-acre enclosure at the sanctuary. When released from the pen, he would be free to roam the enclosure.

If he continues to mend, he would be released to wild. Perhaps as soon as later this fall.

He was rescued August 26 by firefighters working on the Mustang Fire burning north of Salmon. His feet were badly burned, and he was treated initially at Idaho Fish and Game's Wildlife Health Lab in Caldwell.

The young bear has continued to improve. No infection in any of his foot pads has been detected despite second-degree burns on all four feet, Drew said.

State auctions Roosevelt shed elk antlers online

WILDLIFE —  More than 200 Roosevelt elk shed antlers seized by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife can be purchased during an online auction that's underway. Bidding for about half of the items will close Sept. 19, and bidding for the other half of the items will close Sept. 20.

Items available during the auction include:

• More than 100 large individual shed antlers.
• Four sets of matched antlers.
• 26 bundles of large shed antlers.
• One large skull cap plate with antlers from a Rocky Mountain bull elk.
• One large set of mounted antlers from a trophy mule deer buck.

To participate in the online auction you must pre-register.

The shed antlers, seized because they were collected illegally, have been sorted into three grades: fresh (picked up the same year as shed), one-year white (picked up one or more years after being shed), and two-year white (picked up two or more years after being shed).

More than 100 of the individual shed antlers have had gross scores determined, many of which qualify for entry into the Boone and Crockett record book, said Sergeant Carl Klein of the WDFW Law Enforcement Program.

Read on for more details:

Video: When people mix with elk in the rut…

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — This BBC film clip offers a glimpse of a town and tourists in the midst of the annual autumn mating season for elk.

The footage is as funny as it is sad to see people so nonchalant and clueless about walking past hormone-charged 800-pound animals with antlers.

Video: How dumb can Yellowstone tourists be around bison?

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Every year we read about a tourist in Yellowstone National Park being hurt or killed by a bison.

The park warns people to give bison plenty of distance; change course if necessary; leave them alone because while they're amazing creatures they're also unpredictable and dangerous.

The same goes with moose we see around the Inland Northwest, and even mountain goats (see previous post).

The incident in this video won't make headlines because nobody was hurt.  But if the child being chased had tripped, it would be a different story.  

This was really stupid, especially since adults are involved.

Hot summer leaves bears vulnerable to traffic

WILDLIFE — A summer heat wave and poor huckleberry crop is causing trouble for bears in the region by forcing the bruins to lower elevations where they run into conflicts with people.

Heads up:  A grizzly has been seen near Priest Lake.  Keep a clean camp and a garbage free cabin area.

The problem has been more than apparent farther norther in Canada.

This year, 16 black bears, a wolverine, several wolves, and countless elk and deer have been killed on the highways and railways in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks.

The human-caused animal death toll keeps rising — due, experts say, to a late spring and hot summer that has kept bears in the valley bottoms, and also to increased traffic speeding through the park.

Read more in this Calgary Herald story.

Whitetail buck offers sure sign fall is coming

BIG GAME — Antlers raw from freshly shed velvet, this whitetail buck's clock is ticking toward the rut.

The image was made last week by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

There are four-legged real estate agents

And soon they will be showing Inland Northwest lake places to various critters in the market for winter homes.

www.dnr.wi.gov

“This next cabin I'm going to show you has loads of charm.”

Judge denies claims in mountain goat goring case

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS —  A judge has dismissed most of a widow’s claims in a $10 million suit against the federal government after her husband was killed by a mountain goat at Olympic National Park two years ago, saying that even if it seems unfair, the park can’t be sued for the decisions it made, according to the Associated Press.

Robert Boardman, a 63-year-old registered nurse, was trying to protect his wife and friend when the 370-pound billy goat gored him, severing arteries in his thigh, on a trail near Hurricane Ridge in October 2010. The goat is believed to have been one that harassed park visitors for years.

His wife, Susan Chadd, sued, accusing the government of negligence in its management of the goat, known as “Klahanne Billy” for the name of a nearby ridge. She also alleged that the park botched the rescue effort – the one claim that was not dismissed in U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan’s ruling in Tacoma this week.

Bryan said even though the park could have acted more quickly to kill or relocate the goat, its actions are immune from lawsuits under the Federal Tort Claims Act because they involved an exercise of discretion related to public policy.

The one remaining claim is that the park staff failed to act quickly once the attack was reported, AP reported.

Guidelines posted for hiking near mountain goats

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

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

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

If you only remember two guidelines around mountain goats:

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

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

Photographer makes time; pikas respond

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

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

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

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

Crew paints yellow line over dead raccoon

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

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

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

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

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

But the crew did try to stop the paint gun.

New flick raises bar for elk hunting filmmakers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tennessee hunter wins Idaho bighorn raffle tag

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read on for more details.

Bear hunters join hikers, campers, berry pickers in mountains

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

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

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

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

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

Idaho Wildlife Summit addresses pressing trends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mountain goat man lives the high life

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

Read the AP story here.

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

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

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

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

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

Swine line lets you squeal on a feral pig

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Truck wipes out 30 percent of bighorn herd’s lambs

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

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

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

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

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

East Side shoulders weight of Washington wolf recovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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