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Hiker finds Blue Mountains elk herded up with young in tow

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The Blue Mountains delivered a Yellowstone-like wildlife watching experience for hiker Ken Vanden Heuvel of Newman Lake last weekend.

He was solo hiking one of the ridge trails that lead into the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness when he came across a herd of elk — at least 46 cows, yearlings and calves.

I cropped in on the left portion of Ken's main photo for a blow-up shot of the left portion of the herd where at least 12 calves were concentrated for protection.  

“When they came back up the ridge in front of me, the calves were whining,” Ken said, noting that he held still to watch the spectacle. “As I waited for them to cross, a few of the calves were nursing.”

A few weeks ago, the cows were all off on their own delivering their young of the year.  As soon as the calves were strong enough, they joined up with other cows and yearlings for strength in numbers — more eyes and ears to help detect danger from predators.

This looks like a good crop.

The bulls, by the way, are off on their own — until September

Elk hoof disease prompts survey, euthanasia for severely inflicted

WILDLIFE — A mysterious hoof disease that's been crippling significant numbers of elk in southwestern Washington for at least six years has prompted the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to begin organizing a survey for this summer. Staff likely will euthanize elk with severe symptoms.

To help with the survey, state wildlife managers plan to enlist dozens of volunteers to assist them in assessing the prevalence and geographic distribution of the disease in the St. Helens and Willapa Hills elk herds.

To minimize the spread of the disease, WDFW is also proposing new regulations requiring hunters to leave the hooves of any elk taken in the affected area on site.

WDFW announced its plan today, two weeks after a 16-member scientific panel agreed that the disease most likely involves a type of bacterial infection that leaves elk with missing or misshapen hooves.

Members of the panel, composed of veterinarians and researchers throughout the state, agreed that the disease closely resembles contagious ovine digital dermatitis in sheep.

Dr. Kristin Mansfield, WDFW epidemiologist, said the panel’s diagnosis is consistent with the findings of the USDA National Animal Disease Center and four other independent diagnostic laboratories that have tested samples of elk hooves submitted by WDFW since last year.

Mansfield said treponeme bacteria have been linked to an increase of hoof disease in sheep and cattle in many parts of the world, but have never before been documented in elk or other wildlife.

Nate Pamplin, director of WDFW’s Wildlife Program, said the diagnosis limits the department’s management options, because there is no vaccine for the disease and no proven options for treating it in the field.

“At this point, we don’t know whether we can contain this disease,” Pamplin said, “but we do know that assessing its impacts and putting severely crippled animals out of their misery is the right thing to do.”

Since 2008, WDFW has received increasing reports of elk with misshapen hooves in Cowlitz, Pacific, Lewis, Clark, Wahkiakum and Grays Harbor counties, all within the range of the two elk herds.

Scientists believe the animals pick up and transmit the disease through wet soil, characteristic of the lowlands of southwest Washington.

“There is no evidence that the bacteria are harmful to humans, and tests have shown that the disease does not affect the animals’ meat or organs,” Mansfield said. “But treating infected animals has posed a real challenge for the livestock industry for nearly 30 years.”

Some livestock producers bathe the hooves of infected sheep and cattle in an antibiotic solution, but many become re-infected and are ultimately sent to market, Mansfield said.

“In any case, daily footbaths are not a realistic solution when you’re dealing with thousands of free-roaming elk,” she said.

The primary focus of WDFW’s work this summer will be to assess the geographic spread of the disease and the proportion of the herd that is affected, Pamplin said. The department will enlist the help of volunteers to run survey routes and report their observations.

Information gathered from the survey will be compared against sightings of diseased elk reported by the public since 2010 using WDFW’s online reporting system, he said. Reports can be filed at wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/health/hoof_disease/reporting/.

Next winter, WDFW will capture and fit elk with radio-collars to determine how the disease is affecting area elk populations, survival rates and calving. Wildlife managers will likely remove elk showing severe symptoms of hoof disease to end their suffering, Pamplin said.

In a separate measure, the department has proposed new regulations requiring hunters to leave the hooves of any elk taken in the affected area on site. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to hear public comments and take action on that proposal in August.

Pamplin noted that hoof disease is one of a number of illnesses without a cure affecting wildlife throughout the nation. Chronic wasting disease, epizootic hemorrhagic disease and tuberculosis all take their toll on elk and deer each year in other states.

“Bacterial hoof disease in elk presents a huge challenge for all of us,” Pamplin said. “We will continue to work with scientists, hunters and local communities to assess its toll on area elk herds and determine our course of action.”

Idaho hunters still waiting for controlled hunt drawing results

HUNTING - Some big-game hunters who applied for Idaho controlled hunting permits got all excited last week when Washington announced the results of its 2014 big game hunting permit drawings.

But Idaho hunters are still weeks away from getting the good/bad news and planning their vacations accordingly.  Says Idaho Fish and Game:

Q: When will the deer, elk and pronghorn drawing results be available?

A: Successful applicants will be sent a post card to the address listed on their hunting license by July 10. Results will also be available on the Fish and Game website

Elk group gives Idaho $276K for projects

WILDLIFE — Shoshone County is one of 10 Idaho counties that will be sharing a $276,584 Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation grant for wildlife habitat projects on nearly 76,000 acres in the state. 

Shoshone County's portion will be used in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to aerially ignite 1,200 acres to improve big game forage, stand conditions and reduce natural fuels on elk summer range within the Heller Creek and Wisdom Creek drainages on the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.  

This project is part of a larger plan to treat 3,750 acres with prescribed fire resulting in up to 21 percent of the project area becoming forage openings, according to RMEF officials.  Prescribed burning also will be applied to 1,500 acres in the Lost Creek area of the Coeur d’Alene Mountains as part of a 5-10 year habitat enhancement project. 

The grant also will help fund statewide research in areas where elk are declining, especially in the Clearwater region.

The steady elk decline in the Clearwater Basin of north-central Idaho over the past three decades is attributed to substantial loss of habitat, human pressures and the reintroduction of wolves, RMEF officials said. Money in that county will be used for a multi-year elk nutrition study and developing habitat models.

Read on for details about the grant funding for other counties and statewide projects.


Elk Foundation funds Washington habitat projects

WILDLIFE – Nine counties in Washington have been granted nearly $180,000 for habitat projects and research from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. 

The 2014 grants will affect nearly 1,600 acres in Asotin, Cowlitz, Jefferson, King, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Pierce, Skamania and Yakima Counties.

 The money will boost local, state and federal programs for prescribed burns, forest thinning, meadow restoration, noxious weed treatments and other projects, said David Allen, RMEF president.

“We also committed considerable resources toward three different elk studies including one focused on determining the cause of hoof rot,” he said.

RMEF volunteers in Washington raised the money through banquets and activities.

 Since 1985, RMEF and its partners completed 521 different conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Washington.

Read on for the specific projects funded by the 2014 grants.

Despite elk-loss research, Montana hunters protest increased quota on cougars

HUNTING — Here's an interesting twist to the turmoil about predators and their impact on Montana elk populations.

Even though research has indicated that mountain lions kill way more elk than suspected in the Bitterroot Mountains — way more than wolves — there's opposition to reducing the cougar population, and it's coming from mountain lion hunters.

Borthwestern Montana cougar hunters roundly criticized Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ proposed lion quotas for the next two seasons at the Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting in Helena last week, reports Brett French, outdoor writer for the Billings Gazette.

Read on for the details in the rest of French's story.

Video: motorist sees elk herd from wolf’s perspective

UPDATED April 10 with background about video, which went viral after the initial posting. 

WILDLIFE — Watch this video of a massive elk herd crossing a road near Bozeman, Mont., and envision which of these critters you'd zero in on if you were a predator.

Read on for the story behind the video.



Reward in Stevens County wolf poaching case jumps to $22,500

POACHING — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking the public's help to identify the person or persons responsible for shooting and killing a gray wolf last month in Stevens County.

A 2-year-old black female wolf from the Smackout Pack was found dead Feb. 9 near Cedar Lake in northeast Stevens County. The condition of the carcass indicated it had died between Feb. 5 and Feb. 7, and a veterinarian's examination confirmed it had been shot.

Wildlife managers had captured the wolf about a year ago and fitted it with a radio collar so they could track its movements and those of her pack members.

WDFW, with the help of three non-profit organizations, is offering a reward of up to $22,500 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case. Conservation Northwest, the Center for Biological Diversity, and The Humane Society of the United States, have each pledged $7,500 to create the reward.

Gray wolves are protected throughout the state. WDFW is responsible for management of wolves and enforcement of laws to protect them. The illegal killing of a wolf or other endangered fish or wildlife species is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

Sergeant Pam Taylor of the WDFW Northeast Washington Region is leading the investigation. She urged people with knowledge of the crime to report it confidentially by calling WDFW's poaching hotline, 877-933-9847, or by texting a tip to 847411.

State spays wild wolf after it’s bred by loose dog

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The saga of wolf recovery in Washington has taken a strange tryst.

A large domestic guard dog that took a month-long romp on the wild side in Pend Oreille County forced Washington Fish and Wildlife officials to capture and spay an endangered female gray wolf on Saturday.

“Our goal is restoration of a native wolf population not in producing a generation of hybrids we'd have to take care of in another way later,” said Donny Martorello, the department's carnivore manager in Olympia.

The wolf was one of two females in the new Ruby Creek Pack that biologists have been tracking with GPS collars since July.

The unusual action came after biologists learned that an Akbosh sheep dog climbed a 7-foot-tall fence from its yard near Ione and disappeared with the two female wolves for more than a month during February when wolves go into heat.

“If there had been a male wolf in the group, the dog would have been killed instantly,” Martorello said. But the two females tolerated  him and breeding occurred, he said.

Biologists easily tracked the GPS signal and used a helicopter to shoot tranquilizers and capture the wolves. One female was pregnant; the other was not, he said. Both were released in the Pend Oreille River area.

“Spaying (the pregnant wolf) was a better alternative than trying to go out and kill all the pups after they're born,” he said.

The dog had run off with the wolves for about a week in early January, but biologists were able to monitor the wolves and tell the dog's owner when they were back near the home.  The homeowner was able to call the dog in.

“We were already suspicious,” Martorello said. “Dogs and wolves usually don't mix.”

Wildlife officials advised the dog owner to restrain the dog for the rest of the winter.  While dogs can come into heat throughout the year, wolves generally come into estrus only in January and February, Martorello said.

“But when those females came back in a few days, one must have been in estrus because that big, intact dog climbed a seven-foot orchard fence and took off with them from mid-January through February,” he said.

  • Maybe this is the start of the new, more gentle guard dog: Keep the big bad wolves away from the sheep with a little love.


Pro-wolf group puts spin on Washington state wolf status sport

ENDANGERED SPECIES — It's instructive to notice the spin the Defenders of Wildlife is putting on the report on gray wolf recovery status in Washington, released today by state wildlife officials.


The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife just reported that gray wolves established four new packs and expanded their territory in the state over the past year. The headline on the media release said, ”State's wolf population kept expanding last year, according to a WDFW survey.”

Defenders of Wildlife responded within two hours to its constituents with its own media release, headlined: “Washington's gray wolf population remains stable.” 

Who are the experts on this report and who has their hands out for donations?

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife carnivore specialist Donny Martorello said the state confirmed the presence of 13 wolf packs, five successful breeding pairs and at least 52 individual wolves in 2013. “While we can't count every wolf in the state, the formation of four new packs is clear evidence of steady growth in Washington's wolf population. More packs mean more breeding females, which produce more pups.” 

Defenders said: “This year’s count tallied 52 wolves, an increase of one individual from the 2012 year-end population.” 

Clarification:  Last year's report estimated the wolf population in the state as ranging from a minimum of 51 wolves up to about 100 wolves.  So for Defenders to say this year's estimate is “an increase of one individual” is propaganda.

I asked Martorello personally why the agency did not give a population range this year as it has in the past. He repeated that there's no way to accurately estimate the high end of population “so we're not even going to try.”  Wildlife managers also emphasize that while 52 is what they can document, there are surely more.  

Good cases can be made for the populations of wolves in Washington at any one time could be more than 100.

And surely the number will be considerably higher after mid-April when this year's crop of pups emerges from their dens.

Wolves are a cash cow for animal rights-type groups as long as the species is threatened or endangered.  

While I take in all sides of the debate on wolf reintroduction, it's important to realize that for some interests there's no money in declaring a species recovered.

Status report: Wolves continue expansion in Washington

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  Gray wolves established four new packs and expanded their territory in Washington over the past year, state wildlife managers told the state Fish and Wildlife Commission at a public meeting in Moses Lake today.

Coming Sunday, March 9, in The Spokesman-Review's Sunday Outdoors section:  A package of stories about Washington wolf status and monitoring.

Click “continue reading” to see the media release the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife issued today, March 8, 2013, regarding the updated satus of wolves in Washington:

Idaho wolf control: 23 wolves for $30K

PREDATORS —  Idaho Fish and Game estimates that last month’s wolf control action in the Lolo elk zone cost approximately $30,000 resulting in the taking of 23 wolves in an effort to bring back the struggling elk herd. 

The entire cost will be paid using license dollars paid by sportsmen and women.  Fish and Game receives no state general tax dollars.

I have a problem with much of the news coverage of this event, including the story moved by the Associated Press out of Boise. A longer version of the story that ran in the S-R ran in the Missoulian. You'll notice that the story goes right from saying 23 wolves were killed to quoting the Defenders of Wildlife saying they are disappointed. OK. But where's the quote from sportsmen and outfitters who are saying thanks for trying to bring some balance?  No such quote. No balance there, either.

Here's the explanation from IFG:

Fish and Game announced late last week that the agency, working in cooperation with the USDA Wildlife Services, had completed another wolf control action in northern Idaho’s Lolo elk zone near the Idaho/Montana border to improve poor elk survival in the area.

In February, Wildlife Services agents killed 23 wolves from a helicopter.  The action is consistent with Idaho’s predation management plan for the Lolo elk zone, where predation is the major reason elk population numbers are considerably below management objectives.

The Lolo predation management plan is posted on the Fish and Game website

This is the sixth agency control action taken in Lolo zone during the last four years.  25 wolves were taken in the previous five actions.

Fish and Game authorizes control actions where wolves are causing conflicts with people or domestic animals, or are a significant factor in prey population declines.  Such control actions are consistent with Idaho’s 2002 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Idaho Legislature.

Fish and Game prefers to manage wolf populations using hunters and trappers and only authorizes control actions where harvest has been insufficient to meet management goals.  The Lolo zone is steep, rugged country that is difficult to access, especially in winter.

In addition to the animals killed in this control action, 17 wolves have been taken by hunters and trappers in the Lolo zone during the 2013-14 season – 7 by hunting and 10 by trapping.  The trapping season ends March 31, the hunting season ends June 30.

Fish and Game estimates there were 75 -100 wolves in the Lolo zone at the start of the 2013 hunting season with additional animals crossing back and forth between Idaho and Montana and from other Idaho elk zones.  Fish and Game’s goal is to reduce that Lolo zone wolf population by 70 percent.

The Lolo elk population has declined drastically from 16,000 elk in 1989 to roughly 2,100 elk in 2010, when Fish and Game last surveyed the zone. Restoring the Lolo elk population will require liberal bear, mountain lion, and wolf harvest through hunting and trapping (in the case of wolves), and control actions in addition to improving elk habitat.  The short-term goals in Fish and Game’s 2014 Elk Plan are to stabilize the elk population and begin to help it grow.

Helicopter crews are now capturing and placing radio collars on elk, moose, and wolves in the Lolo zone in order to continue monitoring to see whether prey populations increase in response to regulated wolf hunting, trapping and control actions.

Oregon releases statewide gray wolf status report

WILDLIFE — Oregon is reporting significant growth in wolf packs in its annual status report on gray wolf recovery released Tuesday. The status reports from all the western recovery states are filed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

At the end of 2013, Oregon officials say the state had at least 64 wolves in eight packs, up from 48 wolves in six packs estimated at the end of 2012.  The number of livestock killed increased to 13 confirmed kills involving three packs.

In 2009, the first year of Oregon's reports on the endangered species' recovery in the state, officials listed two packs: the Imnaha pack with 10 wolves and the Wenaha Pack with four wolves.

Washington officials say they will present their annual wolf status report at the Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting March 7-8 in Moses Lake. At the end of 2012, Washington reported up to 100 wolves in the state in nine packs.

Weather prime for low-flying wildlife researchers

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — The region's wildlife researchers are flying high — and low — with this week's weather.

The big dump of snow followed by clear weather is perfect for using helicopters to locate and capture critters so transmitter collars can be attached for research.  Fleeing animals bog down in the snow giving the pilot and gunner the best conditions for capture.

Methods used include shooting tranquilizer darts directly from the helicopter to the animal in a low-flying chase or shooting a net from the helicopter before landing and administering the drug after subduing the animal.

Washington Fish and Wildlife staffers took advantage of the weather Monday to recapture a female wolf near Ione to replace a faulty collar that had been attached after the wolf was trapped in July. On Tuesday they caught another female wolf in the same area and attached a collar. The staffers are working to put collars on other wolves in these prime conditions.

Idaho is scrambling to get more collars on elk in the Coeur d'Alene River drainage this week for a large-scale study.

Panhandle elk collared for research

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — More elk are likely to be wearing research “necklaces” in the Coeur d'Alene River drainage by the end of the week if Idaho Fish and Game researches get good weather for flying.

The agency worked with a private helicopter contractor on Jan. 14-15 to tranquilized and fit transmitting collars on 22 cow elk in the Cataldo area (north and south of I-90) and in the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River.

The project design calls for a total of 45 elk to be collared in the study so that IDFG can monitor survival rates, habitat use and seasonal movements. If weather is suitable for flying, additional elk will be collared on Friday, Feb. 28, and Saturday, March 1.

Cow elk are being captured with either nets or tranquilizer darts depending upon the terrain and density of the forest canopy, said Phil Cooper, department spokesman. Once an elk is restrained or under anesthesia, a handler fits the animal with a GPS collar. Blood and fecal samples are taken for disease and pregnancy surveillance. An estimate of each animal’s age is made by a tooth examination and a measure of body condition is taken. The elk is then released at the capture site and the search for another elk begins.

Read on for more details from Cooper about the research and the status report of the initial 22 elk that were collared.

Idaho’s first elk preserve created in 1909

WILDLIFE — About 107,000 elk roam in Idaho today, a stark contrast to a century ago when elk numbers were so low officials had to declare a moratorium on elk hunting in parts of the state.

In 1909, concerned about the decline in elk, deer and game birds, Boise National Forest Supervisor Emile Grandjean asked the State Legislature to establish a 220,000-acre game preserve in the Payette River drainage west of the Sawtooth Mountains.

The Legislature approved the preserve on March 13, 1909, and it became the first of many game preserves especially designed to restore wildlife to Idaho.

It would be off-limits to hunting and trapping – except that cougars, lynx, wolves and coyotes could be killed by wardens. Forest rangers would act as deputy game wardens.  

Read more about game preserves and fish and wildlife management efforts in the series of stories marking the Idaho Fish and Game Department's 75th anniversary.

Trail Cam proves wildlife around when hikers aren’t

WILDLIFE WATCHING — In December, Parks Canada posted this time-lapse video from a trail camera in Waterton Lakes National Park spanning over a four-month period when the area was closed to hikers as a result of flood damage.

See how the animals took advantage of a human-free trail and used it for an easy travel route.

How many species do you count?  

Lottery winner’s first purchase: Lifetime membership to Elk Foundation

CONSERVATION — A Spokane man who won a big lottery jackpot put wildlife on the top of his list of benefactors from the windfall.

Kelly Cruz, 53, a local carpenter, scored a win in the Lucky for Life scratch ticket and will receive $1,000 a week for life.

That's a bit short of the mega millions jackpots we hear about every few months, but still a nice security blanket for anyone to win and still enough to give a man a shot at opening his wallet to a worthy cause.

According to today's story in The Spokesman-Review:

“With the money, he plans to buy a lifetime membership in the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and probably will give to more causes. But he doesn’t plan to move or make major changes in his life. 

The Missoula-based RMEF, which has about 200,000 members, raises money and recruits volunteers to improve habitat for a wide range of wildlife, especially elk, across the country.  A lifetime membership will set Cruz back for a week and a half of lottery winnings — a noble share to the cause.

Since it was founded in 1984, RMEF has: 

  • Protected and enhanced more than 6.4 million acres
  • Opened and/or secured for public access for hunting and other outdoor recreation more than 667,000 acres

The group also has organized more than 8,500 projects for permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration, conservation education and hunting heritage.

Biologist: Feeding elk in masses an invitation for disease

Former USFWS biologist: Wyoming elk feedgrounds disaster in the making
Bruce Smith, a longtime biologist at the National Elk Refuge, gives Idaho credit for phasing out its elk feeding operations and said that Wyoming's persistence in continuing to feed elk during the winter will likely cause an epidemic of chronic wasting disease, which is always fatal, and could force the state to kill a large number of animals to stop the spread of the disease.
— Jackson Hole News & Guide

Trophy-size bummer for elk hunter with bull of a lifetime

HUNTING — A friend sent a message of holidays woe that only a lifelong hunter, who knows the odds of bagging a trophy bull elk, can fully appreciate. 

Read a Christmas letter today from a guy I hunted with a few times, back in the '80s. This year he shot a record-book bull elk at 11 yards in the first half-hour of the archery season. He took the head to a Thurston County taxidermist for mounting. On December 5, my friend, a lieutenant in the Olympia Fire Department, heard that the shop was on fire. Later, he drove out to take a look and noticed that there were few remains of any mounts in the ashes.

The fire since has been ruled an arson to cover a burglary, and the biggest trophy of Brian's life is gone.

Wolf hunting derby highlights myths of extremists

HUNTING — I'm not big on contests that promote killing predators, but it's almost humorous to watch the reaction to the two-day wolf-coyote hunting derby being promoted for Dec. 28-29, out of Salmon, ID.

The controversy is like putting a spotlight on the extremist views of wolf reintroduction and the perpetuation of myths about wolves.

Sunday's story by the Associated Press did a decent job of pointing out the claims and the BS.

“This is a wolf massacre,” said Wayne Pacelle, the Washington, D.C.-based animal-rights group’s president, in a letter to members Thursday that was geared more to fundraising opportunity than to reality. 

  • Fact: Only 1-3 wolves are likely to be killed by the 300 or so hunters who are predicted to sign up. Wolf hunting has proved to be very difficult as detailed by Idaho Fish and Game Department wolf harvest statistics.

Shane McAfee, who guides clients on hunts around Salmon, Idaho, organized the derby mainly to boost local business and  raise awareness about a parasite he believes could be transmitted from wolf feces to domestic dogs and possibly humans.

  • Facts: “Echinococcus granulosis is one of many naturally occurring parasites that occur in wildlife,” said Idaho state epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn. Human infections are rarely reported in Idaho. A firm link between humans and wolves isn’t established.
  • A human would have to come into oral contact with a wolf’s feces to contract the tapeworm, a WSU expert says.
  • A 2011 report produced by Mark Drew, state wildlife veterinarian with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, found just a few documented human cases that may have originated in Idaho. All were reported before wolves were reintroduced 18 years ago.
  • In 2011, Hahn issued a call to Idaho’s medical community for possible cases as concerns among some wolf foes surfaced about the parasite being transmitted to humans from the predators.
  • In an interview last week, Hahn told the AP that effort found human cases in Idaho among people who had brought the parasite in from other countries, but no evidence of transmission in Idaho.

People concerned about the parasite should take appropriate precautions, she said: Treat their dogs and cats for tapeworm, practice good hygiene, avoid harvesting sick animals, and wear rubber gloves when field dressing wild game, among other things.

“Precautions for Echinococcus are really no different than for a host of other diseases that occur naturally in the environment and can infect humans.” 



Conservation group staffer admits to elk poaching

HUNTING — The Idaho director for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition has pleaded guilty to charges of illegally killing and wasting elk, according to an Idaho State Journal report.

Marv Hoyt is set to retire from his position at the end of this month following and Idaho Fish and Game Department investigation that led to his admissions last month that he illegally killed and wasted two elk, coalition staff confirmed to the Journal.

Idaho targets two wilderness wolf packs for elk damage

PREDATORS — State wildlife officials have hired a hunter to eliminate two wolf packs in a federal wilderness area in central Idaho because officials say they are eating too many elk calves, according to the Associated Press.

Fish and Game Bureau Chief Jeff Gould tells the Idaho Statesman that hunters are having a difficult time getting into the Frank Church-River of No Return wilderness, so the agency hired hunter-trapper Gus Thoreson of Salmon to kill the wolves in the Golden and Monumental packs.

The U.S. Forest Service allowed the state agency to use an airstrip and cabin in the Payette National Forest as a base.

Fish and Game paid $22,500 for aerial killing of 14 wolves in the Lolo area in 2012. Gould said Monday he didn’t know how much the agency would end up paying for Thoreson’s salary and expenses.

Montana youth elk hunt an embarrassment to the sport

HUNTING — A mess of elk were slaughtered or wounded in a youth elk hunt that was marred by greedy adults last week in the Bitterroot Valley south of Missoula

The story by the Ravali Republic is among the saddest reports on sport hunting I've read all year.  

Click “continue reading” and check it out if you want to ruin your day.

$5,000 reward offered in Idaho cow elk poaching case

POACHING — Rewards of up to $5,000 are being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for illegally shooting a cow elk recently and leaving it to waste on private land between Moscow and Troy.

Anyone with information concerning the killing of this elk can call Idaho Citizens Against Poaching at 1-800-632-5999 or Idaho Fish and Game’s Lewiston office at 208-799-5010

Another human-fed wild creature bites the dust

WILDLIFE WATCHING — I don't have a crystal ball, but this one was an easy call.

The spike elk featured toying dangerously with a photographer in a video that went viral this month has been euthanized by Great Smoky National Park officials. The elk had become too accustomed to people and was posing a danger.

My blog post called it like it was — a death sentence.

Here's the latest update, which ends with the photographer whining that he's tired of being blamed.  


Idaho commission hears wolf complaints

Idaho Fish, Game Commission hears complaints about wolves
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission began its quarterly meeting in Jerome Wednesday, and at a public forum that evening, about half of the dozen residents that spoke up said they blamed wolves for the lack of elk.

The meeting continues today with both the westslope cutthroat trout management plan and an update of the 1999 elk management plan on the agenda.

—Twin Falls Times-News

Elk teaches photographers a few points on safety

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Serious wildlife photographers are not amused by this latest viral video of a man who exposed himself to serious danger with a yearling “spike” elk in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

One lunge and the man could have lost an eye or been killed. This is stupid, and the people who sat and watched are equally stupid.

The man made the initial error by getting too far from a vehicle and leaving himself exposed to the elk's advance.

The videographer who posted the video on YouTube apparently doesn't like the criticism going out on the internet and he/she deleted it from this post.

  • See the ABC news story with footage from the video plus an interview with the photographer, James York.

We already posted the news of the spike elk that Western Montana wildlife officials dispatched this fall after it became too aggressive around people who tried to treat it like a pet.  

Comments from professional wildlife photographers include:

This is the kind of idiot that prompts excessive and overbearing rules for photographers in national parks, wildlife refuges, etc.The guy could have easily stood up, waved his hat and yelled at the bull, but no, he had to play with it.  I'm sure he thought that such behavior was cute. What would not have been cute is when the bull lowered one of those antlers (or both) and impaled him through the chest… 

  • The guy is not a nature photographer; he is an idiot…
  • Sadly if the guy had gotten killed or even seriously injured, the bull would have been killed…
  • I seriously hope that the park where this took place look long and hard at prosecuting the guy in any way they can…  

—Tim Christie, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

Wildlife officers note gray area in elk hunting clientele

HUNTING — There's sad news in this comment by Capt. Dan Rahn in the weekly Washington Fish and Wildlife police report for far-eastern Washington following the opening weekend of elk hunting season:

Every officer commented on the overall decline in hunter numbers combined with an apparent aging of the hunter population as a whole.

On the other hand, it's good news for the hunters who continue to pursue elk — less competition overall, and especially in the hard-hunting spots where many elk tend to hide during the season.