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Photos: Bucks and bulls in prime condition this week

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Big-game headwear is in the spotlight this week as Montana outdoor photographer Jaimie Johnson

gives us a look at what's been developing all summer.  The photos (above) of a bull elk plus pronghorn, mule deer and whitetail bucks were snapped this week.

Most hunters know the difference, but in casual conversation it's not uncommon to hear reference to something like a bull elk with “horns” that raked the sky. An elk has antlers, but the colloquial term “horns” rolls easier off the tongue.

Nevertheless, even sportsmen have misperceptions about what it takes to grow antlers and why not every deer and elk that reaches maturity will sport massive headgear, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologists.

Here are some basics.

Antlers grow on male members of the deer family, including deer, elk and moose. They fall off each year during winter and grow back during spring and summer.

Horns are permanent growing features on the heads of mountain goats, bighorn sheep and bison.

Exceptions include:

  • Male and female caribou, which are in the deer family, both have antlers.
  • Antelope have horns but they shed the outer covering or sheath each year.

Genetics and nutrition play major roles in horn growth. Generally, genetics determine the form of antlers while nutrition dictates their size. Some deer or elk simply lack the bloodlines to grow trophy-class racks of multiple points and width no matter what they're fed.

A study of white-tailed deer compared the offspring of yearling bucks with relatively large branched antlers versus yearlings with only spikes. Because both sets of deer were captive in the controlled experiment they were fed identical diets. The yearlings with larger antlers sired only 5 percent spikes, while the spike yearlings produced 44 percent spike antlered yearlings.

However, one study of mule deer has shown that in wet years, which mean increased availability of food, there are fewer spike bucks and larger number of yearlings with forked antlers.

Bottom line:  The highest scoring trophy big-game usually are produced from a combination of good genetics and nutrition.

Bull moose a picture of autumn

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Montana outdoor photographer Jaimie Johnson caught this bull moose last week feeding among autumn colors.

The moose, the largest member of the deer family in North America, is in the final stages of rubbing velvet off the huge antlers its grown since spring — a ridiculously short period for developing two massive bones that likely weigh around 15 pounds apiece.

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

Inland Northwest bucket list: moose chase

WILDLIFE WATCHING — I was minding my own business running through the woods near my South Side house this morning at 5:30 a.m. with my dog when the yearling bull moose started chasing us.

Your bucket list isn't complete unless you've had that thrilling experience.

Lesson: Never be far from a big ponderosa pine in moose country.

Ruckus along the river revolves around rattled young moose

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — State wildlife officials say Tuesday afternoon they have tranquilized a moose on the east side of Boise and are moving it to a remote area. Idaho Department of Fish and Game spokesman Mike Keckler says the 400-pound yearling has been living on the east side of the city but has recently started moving toward downtown. Keckler says it was a dangerous situation because moose are large animals and that area of the city has a popular path on both sides of the river that draws walkers, runners and bikers. He says officials had to remove a moose from the east side of Boise last year but it's not clear if it's the same moose. State Conservation Officer Bill London said it was doubtful the moose would return to the city.

Today’s moose apprehension was quite the event, after the female moose became agitated and escaped police, firefighters and biologists for more than an hour, KTVB reporter Katie Terhune reports.

The animal swam in the Boise River, roamed the banks, grazed on green lawns and prompted a Greenbelt closure and even the evacuation of several nearby businesses; see Terhune's full report here. People with offices in the area were treated to quite a show, and the moose chase and takedown generated a big buzz on social media.

Moose-Palooza at Twin Lakes

WILDLIFE WATCHING —  Ed Cairns had a great critter-watching experience at the upstream end of Twin Lakes near the Washington-Idaho border.

“Five moose eating and swimming in the video.
“Lots of birds, even a couple of Great Blue Herons…..one is sitting on the fence line at about 14 seconds into the video.
“I saw nine moose (one baby), three rabbits, one elk and several deer.”
  

Video: Moose gives birth to twins in backyard

WILDLIFE WATCHING — “Only in Alaska,” says Levi Perry in posting a YouTube video of a cow moose giving birth to twins —  in the backyard of his girlfriend's home on the east-side of Anchorage.

The video captured Sunday by Victoria Hickey and Sarah Lochner recaps the birth of one calf and the loving attention of the mother to clean up the youngster. Minutes later you realize that while she was tending to the first-born, she was nonchalantly giving birth to the second calf.

It only takes minutes for her to get them looking clean. The little ones waste no time testing their legs and moving in for dinner.

Tiz the season of renewal! Wildlife watching at its best.

Moose in the garden? It happens

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A few years ago, I'd get several photos a week from readers sharing the sight of moose in their yards or on their walks or adventures.

Nowadays I get very few. The reason: moose sightings are almost common.

Phil Cooper of Idaho Fish and Game's Panhandle Region has a column this week with all sorts of details about moose and why the department sometimes will respond and remove a moose that's wandered into town — and why the staff sometimes just leaves them be.

Summary:  Don't be fooled by their calm demeanor — keep your distance!  And never provide food for moose.

Read on for the details from Cooper.

Pregnant cow moose shot, left to rot in Benewah County

POACHING —The Idaho Fish and Game Department is looking for tips that might solve the case of a pregnant cow moose killed  along Penny Lane off Sanders Road about three miles north of Emida in Benewah County.

The cow that was carrying a fetus a little more than a month away from birth, department officials say. 

Conservation Officer Rob Morris said the moose was shot on the afternoon of April 22.  No meat was taken from the cow and there were no apparent indications that anyone made an effort to retrieve the animal.

“The person who did this took not only the cow moose from the people of Idaho, they also killed her unborn calf,” Morris said. 

If you have information about this or other wildlife crimes, contact the IDFG Panhandle Region Office, (208) 769-1414; or, contact Officer RMorris (208) 993-0283. 

  • The statewide Citizens Against Poaching hotline is (800) 632-5999.  

Video cam captures spectrum of critters in Stevens County

WILDLIFE WATCHING — How many species of critters will pass the lens of a trail camera positioned at one spot in Stevens County, Wash.?

You'll be surprised.

Keep your eye open for the bobcat.

Study launched on northeast Wash. moose

WILDLIFE — State Fish and Wildlife biologists put GPS tracking collars on 28 northeastern Washington moose in December for a long-term study on the largest member of the deer family.

Other states, including Minnesota and Montana, have launched studies to understand why moose are declining in much of their range.

Rich Harris, Washington’s special species manager, said moose still appear to be expanding range and possibly their numbers in Washington.

All moose captured so far, using tranquillizer guns fired from a helicopter, were adult or yearling cows.

Teen snowboarder fined for chasing moose

WILDLIFE — After a video showing a snowboarder chasing a moose down a ski run on Montana's Big Mountain went viral, the Flathead National Forest tracked down the snowboarder and fined him $255 for harassing wildlife, and forest officials issued warnings to other recreationists to leave wildlife alone.

See the Kalispell Daily Interlake story.

Antlers or horns, big ones rack up a hunter’s desire

WILDLIFE — Most hunters know the difference, but in casual conversation it's not uncommon to hear reference to something like a bull elk with “horns” that raked the sky. An elk has antlers, but the colloquial term “horns” rolls easier off the tongue.

Nevertheless, even sportsmen have misconceptions about what it takes to grow antlers and why not every deer and elk that reaches maturity will sport massive headgear, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologists.

Here are some basics.

Antlers grow on male members of the deer family, including deer, elk and moose. They fall off each year during winter and grow back during spring and summer.

Horns are permanent growing features on the heads of mountain goats, bighorn sheep and bison.

Exceptions include:

  • Male and female caribou, which are in the deer family, both have antlers.
  • Antelope have horns but they shed the outer covering or sheath each year.

Genetics and nutrition play major roles in horn growth. Generally, genetics determine the form of antlers while nutrition dictates their size. Some deer or elk simply lack the bloodlines to grow trophy-class racks of multiple points and width no matter what they're fed.

A study of white-tailed deer compared the offspring of yearling bucks with relatively large branched antlers versus yearlings with only spikes. Because both sets of deer were captive in the controlled experiment they were fed identical diets. The yearlings with larger antlers sired only 5 percent spikes, while the spike yearlings produced 44 percent spike antlered yearlings.

However, one study of mule deer has shown that in wet years, which mean increased availability of food, there are fewer spike bucks and larger number of yearlings with forked antlers.

Bottom line:  The highest scoring trophy big-game usually are produced from a combination of good genetics and nutrition.

Where is the moose?

Instead of playing “Where's Waldo?”, today we have a game of “Where's the moose?” in Spokane Valley. The moose was spotted near City Hall on Sprague Avenue shortly before 9 a.m., then he was reported near Sprague and University Road. He jumped a fence to get away from police and is still wandering around somewhere. If you spot this critter, call Crime Check at 456-2233. Do not approach the moose, however. They can be a bit cranky. Photo courtesy the Spokane Valley Police Department.

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.”

Moose hunter makes once-in-a-lifetime tag count

HUNTING — Alex Harris of Coeur d'Alene has been putting in for Idaho's once-in-a-lifetime bull moose tag for 10 years and even at that he was lucky to draw a 2013 tag.  

Some hunters have applied for decades and are still coming up zip.

So the 37-year-old hunter made his opportunity count.

“I have hunted the St. Joe River drainage in Unit 6 for elk, deer, bear, grouse and turkey since the fall of 1996 and have seen many nice moose in the area where I was lucky enough to spot this monster,” he said in an email with the photo above.

“It is also in the same area that my Aunt and Uncle (my hunting mentors) have taken two 40-plus-inch moose in the past.” 

This season was different on all counts, since it was Harris who had the moose tag in his pocket.

He said he'd passed up a few smaller bulls during the early stages of his hunt last week, but couldn’t resist the chance to take this bull — the rack measures 52 inches wide — on Sept 19,  the evening of the fifth day of moose season. 

“I will be doing a European mount of the head and (wife willing) will be hanging it in our living room,” he said.  “I had to go out and purchase a new freezer in anticipation of the meat returning from the butcher. Enjoyed fresh moose tenderloin last night and probably liver and onions by the end of the week.”

Harris's moose-chasing companion found adventure simply by being WITH the holder of a coveted Idaho moose tag:

Hunting partner, heavy lifter, and expert knot tier Jacob Rothrock snapped the photo just before a smaller bull moose charged him trying to get to the newly single cow who had bedded down above us.

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.

Hunters, birders eye forest herbicide use in NE Washington

FORESTS – A Stimson Lumber Co. application to spray herbicides on forest land in Pend Oreille County is drawing concern from wildlife enthusiasts.

Timber companies have been getting permits from the Washington Department of Natural Resources for aerial spraying for years to kill brush that competes in harvested areas with newly planted trees.

But birding groups and some hunters are concerned about the toll the herbicides are taking on native plants and the birds and wildlife that depnd on them, expecially moose.

The Stimson application is for prime moose habitat in the Skookum Lake-Half Moon Lake area as well as around North Baldy and Pelke Divide.

Washington big-game hunting permit drawing results available

HUNTING — Check in and cheer or cry:   The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife special permit drawings for 2013 have been conducted.  

To view your drawing results, visit the WDFW website.

Moose killed in Spokane Valley after vehicle collision

WILDLIFE — A moose was killed by law enforcement officers after being severely injured in a collision with a car early this morning near the Spokane Valley Mall.

The moose — described by wildlife officials as a yearling — was hit by a large sport utility vehicle in the area near Evergreen Road and Indiana Avenue. The driver was not injured.

A police officer shot the animal and the meat will be donated to the Union Gospel Mission.

Fly fishers rescue drowning moose calf on Big Hole

WILDLIFE — A Pennsylvania OB-GYN doc on a guided fishing trip in southwestern Montana went home with an amazing tale of hauling in a 25-pound lunker — a baby moose plucked from the rushing waters.

Karen Sciascia of Red Hill, Pa., and guide Seth McLean with Four Rivers Fishing Co. were fishing the Big Hole River on Saturday when they spotted a cow moose with a calf trying to cross the river.

Sciascia told the Missoulian that the mother moose struggled to cross and when her calf tried to follow, it was swept away.

They followed downstream, finally spotting the tiny moose’s nose just above the water.

Sciascia says she scooped the moose out of the water and McLean rowed the raft upriver so they could return the calf to her mother.

Special big-game hunting tag application due Wednesday

HUNTING — Wednesday (May 22) is the deadline to apply for Washington's special big-game hunting permits for deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons.

Apply online.

Permit winners will be selected through a random drawing in late June.

Update your email and mailing address in the system when purchasing your special permit applications and licenses. Each year, hundreds of special hunting permits are returned because of invalid addresses, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officials say.

Idaho's first controlled hunt application period ended April 30.  The second CH application period for leftover tags is June 15-25.

Montana's main deer and elk special permit application period ended March 15.  Applications for antelope and secondary elk and deer permits is June 1.

Ticks: tiny wolves at work on area moose

WILDLIFE — Hans Krauss, a Spokane Valley wildlife enthusiast and photographer, shot these photos of a bull moose in the Ponderosa neighborhood a few days ago. 

What first caught his eye are the bases of where antlers had fallen off, and where the new antler growth soon will be sprouting.

But my first reaction was, “That poor bugger is infested with ticks.”  If the grayish look, and the hair rubbed off in patches including the ears aren't an obvious clue, the engorged ticks on the moose's rump are graphic.

Indeed, Krauss's email with the photos came while I was on the phone conducting an interview with Rich Harris, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist in charge of special big-game species, such as moose. I was researching the decline of moost published for stories published in the Sunday Outdoors section:

I forwarded the photos to Harris, who in turn forwarded the photos to Kristen Mansfield, the state's wildlife veterinarian.  Here are their comments:

__________________________

Kristin:

…. Would appreciate your ideas. Rich Landers sent me these photos yesterday, nice close up of a bull photographed yesterday. He looks somewhat emaciated to me, and I wonder if this amount of grey color is shedding, old age, ticks, normal end of winter condition, or other? What do you think?

— Rich Harris

___________________________

Rich,

The whitish-grayish coloring of the legs is normal.

The thin hair and whitish-grayish coloring in the saddle area, neck, and rump are where he's been scratching at winter ticks. I think you can even see several ticks in his perineal area.

He does look thin, but not really emaciated to me. Kind of what I'd expect this time of year in an animal that appears to have had a miserable winter dealing with lots of ticks.

— Kristen Mansfield

Fewer moose permits proposed in Idaho

HUNTING — Fewer numbers of moose in Idaho have prompted proposals for fewer moose hunting permits as the Idaho Fish and Game Department takes comments on changing moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat seasons and rules for 2013-2014.

Proposed changes in moose tags are in response to decreased success rates in past years and fewer moose. However, Fish and Game biologists are proposing an increase in tags and new hunts where moose are doing better.

Proposed changes are posted on the Fish and Game website for review and comment.

The proposals will be submitted along with public comments to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission for consideration and action during the annual meeting Jan. 17.

Comments may be entered online or by email to idfginfo@idfg.idaho.gov.

Read on for more details.

Video: Officer frees bull moose tangled in swing

WILDLIFE — A moose was freed from a strange backyard entanglement this summer thanks to a brave Utah deputy and a pair of cutters.

Maybe you read the story about the bold and unusual rescue.

But the video above offers a clearer image. 

Anyone who's tried to handle deer, elk or moose for research or whatever can tell you that one lightning-fast kick can cause serious damage.

Good work, officer. 

Moose doubles as Minnesota Clydesdale?

CRITTER STUFF — OK, I can't verify this, nor do I need to.  But the story of the photo goes like this:

Only in Nordern Minnesnowta! 

This guy raised an abandoned moose calf with his horses, and believe it or not, he has trained it for skidding logs and other hauling tasks. Given the 2,000 pounds of robust muscle, and the splayed, sure-grip hooves, he claims it is the best work animal he has.

He says the secret to keeping the moose around is a sweet salt lick, although, during the rut he disappears for a couple of weeks, but always comes home.

For the record:  I new this was a fake when I posted it.  But I didn't know there was an authentic photo of a moose being harnessed as a beast of burden. Thanks to a reader, check it out here.

Dead moose near Harrison Lake prompts warning

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A fresh moose carcass was discovered TODAY along the Selkirk Crest’s popular Harrison Lake Trail prompting local Forest Service officials to issue a wildlife hazard warning.

No conflicts between humans and wildlife have been reported, but officials recommend that hikers choose another trail and avoid traveling within the vicinity of the carcass, which is likely to attract large carnivores.

The carcass is a half half mile from the trailhead and is likely to attract wildlife including predators such as grizzly bears and mountain lions.

It is unknown what caused the moose’s death, said Jason Kirchner of the Panhandle National Forests.

Info: Sandpoint Ranger District, (208) 263-5111.

Alaska hunter’s bull moose puts all other game in perspective

HUNTING — Moose are the largest of North American big-game animals.

But the size of a trophy bull tagged recently by a hunter in the Brooks Range emphasizes that the moose we see in the Inland Northwest are pip-squeaks compared with the Alaskan variety that stand about 7 feet tall at the shoulders.

Bob Condon, 73, of Soldotna, Alaska, was in a remote, fly-in area when he bagged the bull that's sure to make the record books.

The bull weighed more than 1,500 pounds.

The antlers — 10-inches in circumference at the base with a spread of 73 inches and palms large enough to cradle a grown man — weighed 98 pounds alone.

Condon reportedly made a great 400-yard shot, and his comeback from five heart bypass surgeries as well as being attacked by a big bull moose in recent years, is compelling.

Read the full story from the Redoubt Reporter of Soldotna.

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.