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Olympics Enchanted Valley closed to camping as hiker trash lures bears

CAMPING — Sloppy campers have trashed the opportunity for hikers to tent overnight in the popular Enchanted Valley of Olympic National Park, at least for the next 30 days.

Backpackers reported cleaning up pasta and trash left behind by hikers ahead of them earlier this month, the Washington Trails Association reports.

Black bears were lured in by the food and were reported to be unafraid of people.

"Park staff closed the popular valley to overnight camping for 30 days," WTA reports. "During the closure, rangers and wildlife biologists will monitor the situation."

 

"Bears that eat human food come to consider people as a food source, and are extremely dangerous," said Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum. "Sadly, bears have gotten into and consumed human food this spring in Enchanted Valley and we have closed the area to camping effective immediately."

 

Pack it in, pack it out is the standard rule in national parks and national forests, including camping areas in the Colville and Idaho Panhandle national forests.  Wildlife that becomes conditioned to eating human food become a risk of injury or disease.  Usually, it's the critters that lose.

Pledge to keep trails clean

Two Spokane adventurers reported safe in Nepal

ADVENTURE — Two well-known Spokane adventurers in Nepal have reported they are unharmed and doing OK as earthquakes continue to rumble and cause widespread havoc and death in the Himalayan country.

Jess Roskelley, who's on a filming expedition to climb Annapurna, the 10th highest peak in the world, has contacted friends and family and said he's OK. 

Allison Spencer, Roskelley's fiance in Spokane, said the group is in good shape at basecamp and waiting until conditions stabilize.

"They're unsure on next steps; their hearts are with everyone affected by the damage on Everest and in Nepal," she said.

  Climbers on Mount Everest have not been so fortunate. Some have died in avalanches caused by the earthquakes, including a Seattle-based Google executive, while other climbers are stranded.

Hazen Audel, former Ferris High School biology teacher, is in Nepal during travels for filming his starring role in the series "Surviving the Tribe" for the National Geographic Channel.  He just arrived in Kathmandu as the earthquakes were taking their toll.  Here's an update he posted today on Facebook to friends concerned about his safety:

Everyone in the city is pretty on edge and disturbed. But everyone is helping everyone in every way they can. Some places have been really hit harder than others. I am safe with my Nepali family. We are camping outside in the yard for most safety. There have been over 42 significant earthquakes happening over the last two days. We think most aftershocks are over.

If all goes right, I get to get on a plane home can't wait to see long awaited Spokane spring. I want to see my family, friends, my cat, lilacs, arrowleaf balsam root and the Spokane river. Thank you all for your prayers and concerns and support.

Meantime, Nepal officials are calling for international help to aid earthquake victims.

Video graphically documents demise of Glacier Park glaciers

ENVIRONMENT — In 1910 when Glacier National Park was created there were about 150 glaciers. By 2030, they will all have disappeared.

This short MSNBC Shift video compiling federal government photos of the glaciers past and present rams home the point.

This might be a good summer to get on board with the effort to confront climate change.  

It's also the summer you should put visiting Glacier Park's ice fields on your backpacking bucket list. 

Don't wait too long.

Biologists present clinic on living with moose

WILDLIFE – Moose have found their way into Spokane-area neighborhoods in a big way in recent years.

This is good, until it goes bad with an 800-pound critter stomping through playgrounds, breaking down fences, chasing dogs, bolting across heavily-traveled roads and defending their calves.

Tips on living peacefully and safely with moose will be shared with the public by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife staff:

  • Tuesday, April 28, 6:30 p.m., South Hill Library, 3324 S. Perry St.
  • May 11, 6:30 p.m., North Spokane Library, 44 E. Hawthorne Rd.
  • May 20, 6 p.m., Fish and Wildlife Department Eastern Regional Office, 2315 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley.

Wildlife biologists, conflict specialists, and enforcement officers will present information about moose biology, including habitat use and
movements, how to safely handle situations when moose wander into urban areas and when and where to call for assistance.

Blustery weather doesn’t dampen opening day fishing success

FISHING — Saturday's opening of Washington's lowland trout fishing season was blustery, wet and cold, but anglers who toughed out the conditions were handsomely rewarded.

Overall, Spokane-region lakes produced some of the best opening day fishing in years, according to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife surveys.

"We arrived at 5:30 a.m. and we were the first ones here," said Carolyn Kitchens, who was at Waitts Lake with her husband and their two five-trout daily limits by 10 a.m.

"Fishing was good; took us less than four hours of fishing," said Randy Kitchens as they prepared to leave the Winona Beach Resort dock.

Angler turnout in the northeastern corner of the state ranged from good — "This is Chewelah's favorite fishing hole," said Sam Gould — to very light.  McDowell, a fly-fishing only lake on the Little Pend Oreille Wildlife Refuge, had only two pontoon boats on the lake at noon and nearby Bayley had only five vessels despite what appeared to be good fishing. 

(The water is low enough at Bayley to enable driving vehicles to the pontoon put-in. That's not always the case on opening day, when water often covers the gravel access road.)

Following are some of the most notable catch rates in the Spokane region on Saturday's opener:

PEND OREILLE COUNTY

  • Diamond Lake — 4.2 fish per angler caught; 3.2 kept.

SPOKANE COUNTY

  • Clear Lake — 6.2 fish per angler caught; 4 kept.
  • Williams Lake — 6.2 fish per angler caught; 2.2 kept.
  • Fishtrap Lake — 5.2 fish per angler caught; 3.8 kept.
  • West Medical Lake — 4.6 fish per angler caught; 4 kept.
  • Fish Lake — 1.3 fish per angler caught; less than one kept.

STEVENS COUNTY

  • Waitts Lake — 6 fish per angler caught; 2.5 kept
  • Rocky Lake — 5.7 fish per angler caught; 3.3 kept
  • Starvation Lake — 4.7 fish per angler caught; 4.7 kept
  • Mudget Lake — 4.5 fish per angler caught; 3.1 kept

About 1K spring chinook in Idaho as season opens

FISHING — About 1,000 spring chinook will be holding in Idaho water's when the season opens in the Clearwater Region on Saturday — and that's more than usual for the opener.

Joe DuPont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries managers made these observations Thursday:

  • This year’s run appears to be earlier than we have seen in the past few years, and I suspect by opening day there will be around 1,000 adult hatchery Chinook in Idaho.  I know this isn’t a lot, but that’s considerably more than we have seen on most opening days. 
  • We certainly won’t see good catch rates this opening weekend, but I bet we will see a few lucky anglers who catch a fish in the Lower Clearwater.   
  • Based on counts at Bonneville Dam, I suspect it won’t get real good around Lewiston for another 10 days. 
  • If these lower flows and clearer waters persist, the fish will move faster than they have in the past. 
  • When large numbers of fish start coming over Lower Granite Dam, they could reach the lower Salmon River and upper Clearwater River fisheries in a week.

S-R’s 2015 fishing stories, map compiled on website

FISHING — Fishing stories that will help guide you through the region's 2015 seasons are compiled on The Spokesman-Review's Outdoors webpage under 2015 Fishing Guide.

Check out the site regularly for additional stories as well as blog posts for updates.

Also, click on the "Documents" tab to see the beloved Inland Northwest Fishing Map that used to appear each year in the annual fishing tabloid sections.  It's very helpful in finding the general location of fishing waters in Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Western Montana.

Bird watcher thinks out of the (nest) box

WILDLIFE WATCHING — My Sunday Outdoors story on nest boxes for cavity-nesting birds struck a chord with Dick Thiel of Spokane:

Wrens and flickers are my favorite; flickers are so entertaining and wrens so busy and such beautiful singers.  Here's my latest wren palace, made from the slab ends from a portable mill a friend near Lake Eloika used to harvest last year's downed trees.  Heavy, but comfy.

‘Jumbo’ trout are big attraction in Eastern Washington lakes

FISHING — Two stories in the Thursday Outdoors special 2015 fishing coverage had errors regarding the term "jumbo" trout stocked into some Eastern Washington lakes. 

These jumbo fish are meant to be "big" attractions to anglers headed out for the lowland lake trout season that opens Saturday, April 25.

Here's the definition of jumbo trout from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website:

Jumbo Trout
In 2015, the Department will stock hundreds of lakes throughout the state with 144,700 jumbo trout averaging greater than 14 inches in length and 1 pound or larger in weight.  Included in this Jumbo stocking  will be 52,000 triploid trout that average 1½ pounds each. The triploid trout are purchased by the Department from private growers. About 42,000 of these trout will be stocked in April and May and an additional 10,000 will be stocked in June for a statewide Father's Day fishing promotion.

Click here to keep track of when Jumbo Trout are stocked in real-time.

Jumbo trout are especially effective in jumpstarting lakes such as McDowell, which was was rehabilitated last year and had a clean slate to start this year's fishery.  Fry also are being stocked as a lower-cost fishery that will grow naturally in the lake and put smiles on anglers' faces next year.

Barbed hooks OKed for salmon in Wind River area

FISHING — Anglers will be allowed to use barbed hooks through June at Wind River and  Drano Lake while fishing for hatchery chinook and steelhead, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced.

Location and effective dates:

  • Wind River from mouth (boundary line markers) upstream to 400 feet below Shipherd Falls: April 24 through June 30;
  • Wind River from 100 feet above Shipherd Falls to 800 yards downstream of Carson National Fish Hatchery (except closed waters from 400 feet below to 100 feet above coffer dam): May 1 through June 30;
  • Drano Lake from mouth (Highway 14 Bridge) upstream to markers on point of land downstream and across from Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery:  April 24 through June 30.
  • Other information: All other permanent rules apply including only barbless hooks can be used when fishing for sturgeon.   

The night closure and anti-snagging rules will be in effect at Wind River above Shipherd Falls during the spring chinook season from May through June. When the anti-snagging rule is in effect, only fish hooked inside the mouth may be retained. 

Reason for action:  Implements a public proposal recently approved during the 2015 North of Falcon Process.  Analysis based on recent years’ sampling showed few wild salmon and steelhead are typically handled from mid-March through June. Surplus hatchery origin spring chinook are available for harvest. 

“Take Me Fishing” trailer to outfit new anglers at Idaho lakes

FISHING —  The Idaho Fish and Game Department's  “Take Me Fishing” trailers have geared up and scheduled 16 days of equipping novice anglers for fishing fun at Idaho Panhandle lakes.

 Stocked with fishing tackle, the trailers travel to local fishing spots to promote fishing.

Each trailer contains tackle, bait and hundreds of fishing rods rigged and ready to be signed-out for free to anyone who shows up and registers at the trailer. 

Agency staffers will be on hand to help get kids and adults started and deal with any beginner issues, such as tangled lines. 

No fishing license is required during the events and everything is free. 

The fishing opportunity is open to people of any age, Idaho residents and non-residents alike, during the hours of each event as long as they are signed in at the trailer.

All other rules such as size limits and daily bag limits are in effect. 

Equipment is checked out on a first-come, first-served basis.

While Idaho children 13 years old and under can always fish for free, these events give their parents, older siblings and friends the opportunity to try fishing without purchasing a license, said Phil Cooper, Idaho Fish and Game spokesman in Coeur d'Alene.

Info: (208) 769-1414.

Panhandle Region “Take Me Fishing” Trailer Schedule 2015 public events:

  • May 2 — Fernan Lake, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • May 7 — Chase Lake, 3 p.m.-6 p.m.
  • May 9 — Cocolalla Lake, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • May 12 — Rose Lake, 3 p.m.-6 p.m.
  • May 14 — Jewel Lake, 3 p.m.-6 p.m.
  • May 16 — Fernan Lake, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • May 19 — Fernan Lake, 3 p.m.-6 p.m.
  • May 21 — Post Falls Park, 3 p.m.-6 p.m.
  • May 28 — Dawson Lake, 3 p.m.-6 p.m.
  • May 30 — Steamboat Pond, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • June 2 — Hauser Lake, 3 p.m.-6 p.m.
  • June 4 — Spicer Pond (St. Maries), 3 p.m.-6 p.m.
  • June 6 — Perkins Lake, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • June 9 — Fernan Lake, 3 p.m.-6 p.m.
  • June 11 — Jewel Lake, 3 p.m.-6 p.m.
  • June 13 — Rathdrum City Park, 9 a.m.-noon.   

University of Idaho students top competition in outdoor skills

OUTDOOR SKILLS — Idaho college students have proved they can shoot, call game and find their way with the best of them.

The University of Idaho Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society brought home top honors from the Western Student Conclave, one of five regional events held annually across the U.S. and Canada.

The event, held recently at Texas A&M in Kingsville, Texas, is a three-day competition of skills in telemetry, orienteering, plant and animal identification, fly fishing, skeet shooting, game calling, photography and more.

“The events are incredibly diverse and give each student a chance to bring out their talents and knowledge,” said club advisorJanet Rachlow, professor of wildlife in the College of Natural Resources.

The team of 12 students had been training with Rachlow since last fall to prepare for the event.

Individual awards were won by:

  • Katey Huggler, Priest River, first place, orienteering (team with Anderson)
  • Shelby Anderson, Twin Falls,  first place, orienteering (team with Huggler); first place, whitetail deer calling
  • Mike Berg, Sandpoint, second place, air tranquilizer context
  • Jenna McCullough, Boise, first place, trail camera photography; first place, sculpture art
  • Tyler Westbrook, Potlatch, first place, rifle shooting contest
  • Luke Teraberry, Nampa, first place, skeet shooting; third place, waterfowl calling contest; third place, casting competition
  • Courtney Comer, Coeur d’Alene, Best of Show, photography; first place, animal photography
  • Kyle Grunwald, Coeur d’Alene, first place, landscape photography

Other students competing were Mikaila Bristow, Sandpoint; Nichol Weiland, Roy, Washington; Caitlyn Reeves, Couer d’Alene; and Meaghan Elliot, Boise.

Idaho on board with sage grouse conservation plan

THREATENED SPECIES — Idaho officials have approved a plan to protect habitat for greater sage grouse on state endowment lands as part an effort to avoid a federal listing of the bird under the Endangered Species Act.

The Associated Press reports that Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and four other statewide elected officials on the Idaho Land Board on Tuesday voted 5-0 to adopt the 82-page Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan that details conservation measures developed by the Idaho Department of Lands.

The document now goes to federal authorities who face a Sept. 30 deadline to decide whether to propose greater sage grouse as needing protections that could limit ranching and other activities in 11 Western states.

Important sage grouse habitat is found on 700,000 acres of Idaho endowment lands, about 44 percent of endowment rangeland in Idaho.

Reader photo: Ospreys put on fishing clinic at Fernan Lake

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY — If you haven't been checking out The Spokesman-Review's Outdoor Reader Photo Gallery,  you don't know what you're missing.

Tim Colquhoun, for example, just posted a dramatic photo series of an osprey diving into Fernan lake to snatch a big fish. Awesome.

Check out the gallery to be inspired about what's going outdoors in the region.

And don't hesitate to upload your best shot.

Bighorns killed on Bison Range to curb disease

WILDLIFE — More bad news for bighorn sheep.

Six young bighorns that escaped the fence around the 19,000-acre National Bison Range near Ravalli, Mont., were shot last week in a measure to confront disease that's been killing the wild sheep on several fronts.

Sport hunting for bighorns in that portion of the Cabinet Mountains will be closed this fall.

Bighorn die-off prompts Montana to close hunting district near Plains
An aerial survey in early April of Hunting District 122 in Western Montana found just 18 bighorn sheep, the lowest number since the herd was reintroduced into the area in 1979. State wildlife officials said the deaths of 90 sheep in the area over the past two years was likely due to pneumonia picked up from domestic herds that wintered in the area in 2012 and 2013.

Due to the die-off, the state closed the hunting district for this year.
—Missoulian

 

Canada kills 11 wolves to aid dwindling Selkirk caribou

PREDATORS — Eleven wolves were killed in the Southern Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia during a winter effort to reduce predation on endangered woodland caribou that range in Canada as well as in Idaho and Washington.

Another 73 wolves were killed farther north to boost caribou in the South Peace region, the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations announced last week.

The effort began on Jan. 15 and concluded this month. This is the first year of a five-year project of wolf removal that is being employed in conjunction with ongoing habitat protection efforts, British Columbia officials said.

In the South Selkirks, 11 wolves were removed from packs that range into the USA. Of the wolves targeted, seven to 10 remain and are now being monitored to track their movement. To date these wolves have not ranged into caribou areas, so are not candidates for removal.

In the South Peace, 73 wolves were removed, with the majority being in the vicinity of the Moberly and Quintette caribou herds. In one case, six wolves were removed as they were actively stalking 14 caribou.

Both the South Selkirks and South Peace herds have experienced significant losses to wolf predation.

The South Selkirk herd numbered 46 caribou in 2009, declining to 14 in the most recent survey conducted in March 2015. This is a loss of four caribou since the 2014 census. The cause of these recent losses is not known, but likely occurred prior to wolf removal actions being taken. Predation on caribou is more common in the fall and summer

In the four caribou herds in the South Peace (Quintette, Moberly, Scott and Kennedy-Siding), populations are also decreasing and wolves are a key factor. At least 37% of all adult mortalities have been documented as wolf predation.

Hunting and trapping of wolves has not effectively reduced populations and may even split up packs and increase predation rates on caribou. Habitat recovery continues to be an important part of caribou recovery, but cannot address the critical needs of these herds in the short term.

Quick Facts from B.C. government officials:

  • In 2012, the B.C. government endorsed a Peace Northern Caribou implementation plan to increase the population of seven Northern Caribou herds in the south Peace area of B.C.
  • Through a combination of measures the Peace Northern Caribou Plan will ultimately protect over 498,000 ha of high elevation winter range caribou habitat out of a total of 553,477 ha available.
  • In October 2007, the provincial government endorsed the Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan
    • Included among the Province's commitments to Mountain Caribou recovery implementation are the protection of 2.2 million hectares of habitat, including 95% of high-suitability Mountain Caribou habitat, from logging and road building and managing recreation to reduce human disturbance.
    • For the South Selkirk herd, a significant portion of core caribou habitat (61,000 ha.) has been closed to snowmobile use and almost all core caribou habitat (108,000 ha.) has been protected from logging and road building.

Fly fishing clinics on Yakima River Saturday at Red’s Rendezvous

FISHING — The annual Red's Rendezvous along the Yakima River, set for Saturday, April 25, has an attractive schedule of events and seminars to lure fly fishers from across the state.

The event will run 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at Red's Fly Shop and Lodge south of Ellensburg, 14706 Highway 821 near mile marker 15.

You might even plan to fish the Yakima River while you're there.

Fly casting and Spey rodding clinics are planned for all levels, some especially for kids and women, plus live music, food and prices. 

Indoor and outdoors seminars will cover knot tying, fly tying, fly fishing for bass and planning exotic fly fishing trips to Cuba, Christmas Island and Ascension Bay.

The event features live music by Zach Hinson.

Cost: $5.

Anglers find big difference between Medical lakes

FISHING — There's a  big difference this week between Medical Lake and West Medical Lake near the Cheney.

Fishing will open at West Medical with the general lowland lake season opener on Saturday, April 25.  The daily limit will be five trout. Use of bait and powerboats will be allowed.

Medical Lake, however, already is open for fishing under "selective fishery" rules, which prohibit the use of bait and. In the case of Medical Lake, no motors are allowed. Single barbless hooks are required and the limit is restrictive — most anglers who fish here catch and release.

Lanney Martin already has been enjoying the difference between the two lakes with his fishing partner Dick Thiel. The pair boated several very healthy rainbows in the 17- to 19-inch range last week. 

Thiel said they hooked their fish at depths of 18-20 feet. 

"Strongest, deepest rainbow I have encountered in Washington," Thiel said. "Lost two that jumped up to five times like a bass to shake the hook."

Tonight: The Making of ‘100 Hikes’

TRAILS — The Spokane Mountaineers are planning a series of events this year to celebrate the club’s centennial, including a free program, The Making of 100 Hikes, starting at 7 p.m. on Monday at Mountain Gear Corporate Offices, 6021 N. Mansfield.

Rich Landers — that's me — guidebook author and The Spokesman-Review’s outdoors editor, will offer insight into the years of effort that went into selecting and researching 100 of the region’s best routes for the popular regional guidebook.

Decades of Spokane Mountaineers’ outings to their favorite trails laid the groundwork for what would become the bible for the region’s hikers.

Aldo Leopold film screens Tuesday, free

ENVIRONMENT — Green Fire, the first full-length, high-definition documentary film about legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold, will be screened at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 21, at the Community Building Lobby. Admission is free.

The film showing sold out when it debuted in 2013 at the Riverfront IMAX Theater.

The late Leopold, known as the father of modern wildlife management, shares highlights from his extraordinary career, explaining how he shaped conservation and the modern environmental movement.

Leopold is the author of A Sand County Almanac, which should be required reading for everyone who steps foot outdoors.

This showing of Green Fire is courtesy of the Aldo Leopold Foundation and facilitated by the Inland Northwest Land Trust.

After the screening Kirk and Madeline David will lead a facilitated discussion about Aldo Leopold and his conservation ethic.

RSVP not required, but helpful. (509) 328-2939 or email Vicki at vegesdal@inlandnwlandtrust.org.

 

Wildflower bloom peaks along South Hill bluff trails

NATURE — The showy bloom of arrowleaf balsamroot has turned portions of the South Hill bluff into a wild version of sunflower fields.

The bloom is peaking under delicate white blossoms of serviceberry.

There's no better time to hike the 25 miles or so of trails below High Drive. 

If you've never been there, start from the parking area at 29th and High Drive or the one near 37th and High Drive.
  

Discarded fishing gear has fowl impacts

FISHING — Anglers have a responsibility to gear up properly to reduce break offs and clean up line and tackle as much as possible, whether it's theirs or that of another fisherman.

A lot of critters are out there making a living in and under favorite fishing holes. Fishing gear, from spent lead shot to monofilament can kill them.

While photographing waterfowl at Fernan Lake on Thursday, local birder Larry Krumpelman shot the image above of a male wood duck with fishing line hanging from its mouth — and probably a hook down its throat.

Something to thing about.

Vehicle break-in at Riverside State Park not unusual

PUBLIC LANDS — Climber-cyclists Eric Barrett has a first-person reason for repeating the warning state park rangers preach to visitors  leaving their vehicles in any park or Centennial Trail trailhead.

Hey Riverside State Park users, I had my car broken into at Bowl & Pitcher Overlook parking lot on Wednesday night.

Keep your stuff out of sight and call in any suspicious looking vehicles!

Chris Guidotti, Riverside State Park manager, said he didn't have good statistics on vehicle break-ins around the park, since most of the vehicle prowls are reported to Crime Check and not park staff. 

"I do know that vehicle prowls are a huge problem in the Spokane Area in general and definitely at our trailheads as well," he said.

"We have pulled Crime Check stats in the past and it does show a significant problem in our area.  It is definitely impacting our visitors and we will be investing resources in an effort to reduce the problem."

Glacier Park lowland camp sites beginning to open

PUBLIC LANDS — Services remain limited at Glacier National Park, but access is gradually opening earlier than normal as snow recedes.

The road to Two Medicine and a loop of the Two Medicine Campground near East Glacier should be opening this weekend. 

Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow said, “We are pleased to have the Two Medicine area accessible to the public this early in the year.”  Mow said snow conditions across the park are varied and park personnel are busily working to provide public access.

The St. Mary Campground, located on the east side of the park, is open for walk-in campers only and closed to vehicle traffic, through June 4, 2015.  The campground will remain in primitive status, with no flush toilets and no water during this time. 

Primitive camping is available in the Apgar Picnic Area through April 30 on the west side of the park. 

The Apgar Visitor Center is open weekends, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  

Going-to-the-Sun Road snow plowing continues with the west-side road crew approaching the Big Bend area.   Road crews on the east-side have reached the Siyeh Bend area, and are also working in the Many Glacier and Two Medicine areas on projects.

Hiker and bikers can access the Going-to-the-Sun Road past the vehicle closures when plow and rehabilitation crews are finished for the day and on weekends, or as posted.

Find more info here.

Big Hole brown trout survive threat in good shape

FISHING — Fly fishermen will be interested in the latest news coming from Western Montana's Big Hole and Bitterroot rivers:

Record brown trout numbers cited as reason for fungus in Montana river
The spread of a fungal infection known as Saprolegnia in the Big Hole River primarily between Jerry Creek to Browne’s Bridge in the fall of 2014 reduced brown trout numbers in the river. But the number of brown trout in the river is still near state objectives, fish biologists say.
—Montana Standard

Montana wildlife commission OKs seasonal closure of Bitterroot River
On Wednesday, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the temporary closure of a five-mile stretch of the Bitterroot River this spring if conditions warrant, due to the danger posed by the Supply Ditch irrigation dam. Under certain conditions, the dam can create recirculating hydraulics downstream.
—Ravalli Republic

White turkey with black beard comes to hunter’s decoy

HUNTING — Here's another unusual report from the April 15 opening day of Washington's spring gobbler season. This one, along with several photos, is from long-time Spokane-area hunter Ivan Lines:

Hi Rich: Enjoyed  your turkey hunting story in the paper this morning.  I've experienced all of the same trials and tribulations.

I had an interesting hunt yesterday as well.  At about 6 a.m. I had a snow white male turkey come strutting into my decoys.  He and a normally colored tom were fighting over my hen decoy. 

No dark coloring on this bird except for a black 4-inch beard.  The eye was dark brown or black so I believe this bird was leucistic rather than an albino. 

I've seen pictures of birds with a lot of white on them but never one that was pure white.

The bird hadn't hit the dinner table, yet. No confirmation on whether the drumsticks were white, too.

Prairie grouse are in the mood this month

WILDLIFE WATCHING — April is like party time for prairie grouse, as Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson reminds us with this photo of a dancing male sharptail.

Johnson shot the image above this week in Montana from a blind at the site — known as a lek — where males congregate to display and win the opportunity to breed with nearby females.

Columbian sharp-tailed grouse have declined dramatically in Washington, where there are efforts to protect habitat and revive their numbers.

 

Hunter-gatherer bags big day on spring gobbler opener

HUNTING — Opening-day reports are rolling in from Inland Northwest wild turkey hunters.

Family firsts, gobbler doubles and other memory-making hunts are already in the history books and the season runs until the end of May.

None so far is any better than the report from Spokane-are fly fishing guide G.L. Britton, who tells most of the story with the photo above:   Gobbler and morels — a true hunter-gatherer delight.

"I can't believe I noticed the morels while I was stumbling down a ridge towards distant gobbling at 7 a.m.!" he said.

The rest of Britton's story?

Then we drove home, and worked the trout over in Long Lake for an hour. Still home before noon!

Spokane Gun Club gets out of back-taxes trap

SHOOTING — The Spokane Gun Club will not have to pay more than $40,000 in back taxes at the end of the month on property its owned in Spokane Valley since the 1940s, according to a ruling issued this week.

See the story by S-R reporter Kip Hill.

Emergency rule OKs crossbows for turkey hunts

HUNTING —  For the first time, crossbows became legal to use for hunting wild turkeys this morning as Washington's spring gobbler season opened.

The change was allowed by an emergency rule vote of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission announced on Tuesday.

The commission made the change at its meeting last week in Tumwater. Hunting regulation changes usually take a month or more before they go into effect.  However, to avoid confusion, the commission decided to enact the rule with the opening of the season rather than midway through the season.

 The regulation pertaining to legal weapons for turkey hunting has been changed to read:

"It is unlawful to hunt turkey with a weapon other than shotgun shooting #4 or smaller shot, bow and arrow, crossbow, or muzzle loading shotgun shooting #4 or smaller shot."