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Have a wild Thanksgiving

HUNTING — Have your fill of turkey or whatever today. You deserve it.

Bald eagle count grows at Lake Coeur d’Alene

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Kokanee are spawning and dying in North Idaho's two largest lakes and bald eagles are loving it.

Dozens of eagles are congregating at Granite Creek and in the Bayview shoreline area to take advantage of revived kokanee fisheries in Lake Pend Oreille.

Lake Coeur d'Alene is better known for the eagles that congregate from November into January to feast on the kokanee — land-locked sockeye salmon — spawning in Wolf Lodge Bay. 

The number of eagles varies from year to year, with 44 adult (white-headed) eagles and 10 immatures counted today in a weekly survey by Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist. She tallied a total of 40 eagles last week.

This week's count is well above the 11 adult bald eagles counted in the Wolf Lodge Bay area at this time in 2013, but far below the 100 eagles counted during this week in 2012.

The eagles provide a popular wildlife-viewing attraction with numbers of birds and viewers increasing into December.

Eagle numbers have been lower in recent years, probably owing to more eagles attracted to revived kokanee fisheries in Lake Pend Oreille, where the salmon population crashed in the 1990s.

Good eagle viewing points around Wolf Lodge Bay include Higgens Point and turnouts off Highway 97, including Mineral Ridge.

Idaho State Patrol officers warn eagle viewers that traffic rules must be followed and vehicles must be parked properly off the highway.

Thanksgiving fishing derby racking up catches at Lake Pend Oreille

FISHING — After four days of fishing in the 2015 Fall Derby at Lake Pend Oreille, the top fish include a 20-pound rainbow and a 20-pound mackinaw.  The contest sponsored by the Lake Pend Oreille Idaho Club takes a break for Thanksgiving and continues Friday through Sunday.

Following are the rankings after four days of fishing:

Rainbow Ranking

Mike Halford - Weight: 20.14lbs. - Length: 32.5 inches.

Scott Teneyck - Weight: 18.54lbs. - Length: 33.5 inches.

Chad Kimball - Weight: 18.30lbs. - Length: 32 inches.

Chuck Bennett - Weight: 15.52lbs. - Length: 32 inches.

Calvin Nolan - Weight: 15.16lbs. - Length: 33.25 inches.

Junior Division Ranking

Trey McCorkle - Weight: 14.56lbs. - Length: 31.5 inches.

Dylan Moore - Weight: 10.66lbs. - Length: 32 inches.

Kameron Roslak - Weight: 8.9lbs. - Length: 27.5 inches.

Mack of the Day Ranking

Scott Plue - Weight: 14.54lbs. - Length: 33 inches.

Dale Greene - Weight: 11.56lbs. - Length: 31 inches.

Miles Crawford - Weight: 10.66lbs. - Length: 30.5 inches.

Scott Plue - Weight: 20.14lbs. - Length: 36 inches.

Mackinaw Ranking

Scott Plue - Weight: 20.14lbs. - Length: 36 inches.

Gale Belgarde Sr. - Weight: 13.72lbs. - Length: 33 inches.

Jim Brewer - Weight: 11.94lbs. - Length: 31.5 inches.

Gale Belgarde Jr. - Weight: 11.62lbs. - Length: 31 inches.


Youth "A" Division Ranking

Carson Laybourde - Weight: 13.46lbs. - Length: 30 inches.

Patrick Elmore - Weight: 6.88lbs. - Length: 25.25 inches.


Youth "B" Division Ranking

Emerson LaRue - Weight: 12.66lbs. - Length: 29.5 inches.

Justin Gaffeney - Weight: 9.58lbs. - Length: 28 inches.

Fisher LaRue - Weight: 8.14lbs. - Length: 27.5 inches.

Idaho moves ahead with sage grouse plan

THREATENED SPECIES —  Idaho officials on Tuesday approved implementing the state’s plan to protect habitat for greater sage grouse on endowment lands, despite frustration with federal land managers.

The Montana Land Board approved restrictions meant to protect sage grouse habitat earlier this month.

According to the Associated Press, the Idaho Land Board voted 5-0 to have the Idaho Department of Lands move forward with actions set out in the 82-page Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan the board approved in April.

Implementation of the plan for endowment lands was made contingent in April on federal agencies incorporating a much larger Idaho plan called the Governor’s Sage-Grouse Alternative concerning federal lands in Idaho.

Federal officials did include the governor’s plan but added more restrictions in late September when the Obama administration said greater sage grouse didn’t require federal protections under the Endangered Species Act.

“Not listed but here’s a whole bunch of new rules and regulations,” Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said just before Tuesday’s vote. “I’m convinced that, like many federal agencies, it’s not about saving the bird, it’s about control. And that kind of control is just unwarranted in this case.”

The additional restrictions, officials fear, could limit ranching, oil and gas development and other activities.

A few days after the no-listing decision, Otter sued in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., contending federal officials wrongly ignored local efforts to protect the bird.

However, Land Board members on Tuesday said it’s important that Idaho still move forward with its plan on endowment lands so sage grouse aren’t eventually listed anyway.

“We’re recognizing the importance of preserving sage grouse and acting affirmatively to provide that protection,” Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said after the meeting.

The Idaho Land Board makes decisions concerning 2.4 million acres of land and is obligated by law to see that the land generates the most amount of money possible over time. That means trying to find a way to meet the constitutional mandate while protecting sage grouse habitat.

In Idaho, more than 10 million acres are designated as important sage grouse habitat. Idaho endowment land comprises only about 620,000 surface acres. However, that’s about 40 percent of endowment rangeland in the state.

“I think our sage grouse plan is effective and will actually increase the number of sage grouse, and I think that’s the goal of everyone involved,” Secretary of State Lawerence Denney said after the meeting.

State Controller Brandon Woolf and Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra also voted to implement the sage grouse plan.

Outdoors Blog exceeds 1 million page views, again

OUTDOORS NEWS — I used to think a million was a big number.  Nowadays if you get and say you feel like a million bucks your spouse might wonder what's bugging you. 

A millionaire can't feel financially secure anymore. Taylor Swift can tweet what she's eating for lunch to a couple million people in an instant.

Nevertheless, this Outdoors Blog has once again exceeded one million page views for the year, and it's still November.

Thanks for checking in.

Lookout Pass, Schweitzer resorts opening lifts for skiers, snowboarders

WINTERSPORTS — Lookout Pass will open for skiers and snowboarders on Thursday and Schweitzer Mountain Resort in Sandpoint will open Friday, becoming the first of the Inland Northwest’s five ski areas to start up the lifts for the 2015-2016 season.

Lookout Pass, off Interstate 90 at the Montana-Idaho border, plans to open Thanksgiving Day and operate through the weekend with discounted tickets and at least nine runs groomed, resort operators say in a media release.

Schweitzer began making snow earlier this month and also has received about a foot of natural snowfall, said Mountain Operations Director Bill Williamson in a news release. “With the cold temps last week, we were able to keep our snow machines turning, giving us another foot or so. It’s nice to see Midway in such great shape.”

“There is snow in the forecast and the weekend looks fantastic with sunshine and cold temps,” said Marketing Manager Dig Chrismer

Schweitzer plans to operate the Basin Express Quad with limited operations on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with adult full day lift tickets at $40. The mountain will close mid-week and reopen the following Friday.

Lookout Pass plans to open all services and operate Lift 1, with top to bottom skiing on the front side of the mountain, plus Chair 4, the beginner lift, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday.

Tickets will be $28 for adults and 410 for juniors and seniors.

New Washington wolf pack news sparks rare poetic debate

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Today's news that a new wolf pack — the Loup Loup Pack — has been confirmed in north-central Washington near the towns of Omak and Twisp has sparked a trend on the newspaper reader comments thread that's rarer than an endangered species: opinions on wolf management that are worth reading!

Indeed, a few readers are responding to the news in Haiku.

Says Wedeln6969:

Today, I'd like to offer a "wolfku" which is a wolf themed haiku (5-7-5 syllable structure, no rhymes, no humans!)

wolf in winter

wolf puppy howls, branch
sees, quiet coy flame bragging
melting angels groan

I don't know exactly what that means, but this is remarkable for no other reason that some wolf zealots are disciplining their response to a measured number of lines and syllables.  Eureka!

Spokesfolk responds:

snug in LL Bean quilts, urbanites
text, chilled range rider shudders
mother cow drags entrails.

Ah, gore in beautiful poetic rhythm.  We're on to something here, despite the plea of Lysanders_muse:

wolf thy neighbor not
taste forbade enjoying haiku
please stop please stop now

Mtharves borrows a line from Aldo Leopold to launch this observation:

Eyes of green fire
Howls sounding through the moonlight
My neck hairs rising

Jamtowzer speaks clearly for the anti-wolf crowd:

Blam blam blam gray pelts
Ultimate predator wins
Problem solved, next pest.

Rosehips calls for moderation and coexistence:

hungry like a dog
master-mind of survival
keep your livestock safe

After that,  the usual taunting and ranting takes over and it gets boring.

Next pack, please.

Here's the rest of the news story about the state's 17th wolf pack:

OMAK – A new wolf pack has been confirmed in Okanogan County, bringing to 17 the number of packs in Washington state.

The new pack, which may have two to six members, is being called the Loup Loup Pack, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials who announced the new pack on Tuesday. It has been sighted in the Twisp and Omak areas. Loup Loup Pass was is a prominent place within the wolves’ range in the Methow Valley.

This is the fourth confirmed wolf pack in North Central Washington, including the Wenatchee Pack, which was discovered south of Wenatchee in March 2013. That pack had only two known adults found in a survey last December. Scott Becker, wolf specialist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said now that there’s snow on the ground, they’re beginning to look in the pack’s territory to see if there’s continuing wolf activity in the area.

In Okanogan County, there’s also the Lookout Pack to the east of the new pack, and the Hozomeen Pack, which mainly lives in British Columbia but occasionally comes into northern Okanogan County, officials said.

The current status of the Lookout Pack near Twisp – the first confirmed pack in the state – is also unknown, said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin. He said a radio collar on one female in that pack stopped transmitting on Oct. 20. “We don’t know whether her collar just failed, or if she got poached. We have no idea what happened,” he said. In Mid-October, the pack had three or four adults and several pups, he said.

Fitkin said it’s reasonable to assume one or more members from the new Loup Loup Pack dispersed from the Lookout Pack. But, he said, they could have come from quite a ways away. One of the wolves that was collared in the Teanaway Pack dispersed this year and showed up well into the North Cascades National Park this summer,“ he said.

Scientists hope to get a collar on one of the new pack members next year to better track the pack, said Ann Froschauer, a spokeswoman for the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Confirmation of the new pack was made by staff from the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. Froschauer said the new pack is probably an offshoot of one of the other packs in the Pacific Northwest, as gray wolves are known to travel long distances.

The gray wolf is federally listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and the Fish and Wildlife Service is the primary agency responsible for managing wolves in the western two-thirds of Washington, including the area where the new pack was confirmed. Wolves are listed statewide as endangered by the state of Washington.

”This is a sign that wolves are continuing to re-establish themselves in the state,“ Froschauer said. ”We want to move them toward recovery and take them off the endangered species list.“

Both of the agencies will continue to work to reduce conflicts between wolves and livestock grazing in the state, she said.

Confirmation of the new pack came after reports of public sightings of multiple wolves in the area. The wolves’ presence was later confirmed through surveys by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and USDA Wildlife Services.

Washington’s wolf population has continued to grow. At the end of 2014, the state had at least 68 wolves in 16 wolf packs with a total of 5 successful breeding pairs.

Kokanee-eating bald eagles liven up Bayview area

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Reviving the kokanee fishery at Lake Pend Oreille is attracting more than fishermen.

A good number of bald eagles are congregating in the Bayview area to hunt spawning kokanee, and those eagles are attracting bird watchers.

Norma Jean Knowles caught the photo above on a Monday visit. She said she was attracted to the area by the second annual Eagles of Bayview Photo Contest sponsored by Bayview Chamber of Commerce.

Lake Coeur d'Alene's spawning kokanee also are attracting bald eagles to Wolf Lodge Bay.  BLM counted at least 40 bald eagles there last week.  No official count is being conducted at Lake Pend Oreille.

Mount Spokane nordic trails clogged with blowdowns

TRAILS — Many of the region's trails are littered with blowdown trees after the Nov. 17 wind storm, and the most desperate situation is at Mount Spokane, where the 60 kilometers of cross-country ski trails are virtually clogged with timber.

Volunteers organized by the Spokane Nordic Ski Association were on the trails Saturday, busy with chainsaws and even a front loader. But much more needs to be done before a state park groomer could take advantage of any snow that might be coming.

Stay tuned for another volunteer opportunity coming up soon.

As if we needed another reason for water conservation…

WATER — "Drink before you're thirsty," says the savvy coach of endurance sports.

The same logic and science can be applied to conserving water locally and globally before there's an obvious need.

Here's the latest research to back me up:

International study finds world's groundwater resources unrenewable
The results of an international study that mapped the Earth's groundwater supplies found that most of those resources are not renewable and that only about six percent of the 23 million cubic kilometers of the Earth's groundwater supply is renewable over 50 years.
—Calgary Herald

Kayakers talk on tackling Great Slave Lake wilderness voyage

PADDLING – "Great Slave Lake Expedition," a program by wilderness paddling adventurers Harvey Brown and Rosemarie Bisiar, will be presented at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 23, at Mountain Gear Corporate offices, 6021 E. Mansfield in Spokane Valley.

The couple flew in with inflatable sea kayak to begin their voyage across the remote lake in Canada's Northwest Territory.

Bald eagles returning to Lake Coeur d’Alene

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The annual congregation of bald eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene has begun.  The eagles also are showing up to feed on spawning kokanee at Priest Lake and Lake Pend Oreille, but the birds that return to Coeur d'Alene's Wolf Lodge Bay are notably accessible for viewing.

Here's the first report of the season on the weekly bald eagle count at Coeur d'Alene filed Friday by BLM wildlife biologist Carrie Hugo:

Boy if anyone has asked me last week what I thought I would find on the first eagle count this week I would have responded with a resounding "zero"!  And boy would I have been wrong!!!  Only one year since counting began has this number been as higher!  That was in 2012.

The count today was 40 adults and 12 immature with lots of activity and eagles spread fairly well throughout the viewing area.  The one exception to this was Blue Creek Bay, no eagles there yet.

This bodes well for the eagle viewing season and for our veterans cruise December 5th!  One other cool thing to note was an immature eagle in Beauty Bay that had a lot of white plumage.  All immature eagles will have some white on the body and flanks, especially as they get closer to maturity, but this one just stood out because it was so light in color.

Leavenworth Hatchery workers avert near disaster to salmon crop

FISHERIES — Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery employees worked all night Tuesday and Wednesday to save 1.2 million fingerling salmon from debris-choked flood waters that swept down Icicle Creek.

“The last flood this bad was 2005,” said Travis Collier, Assistant Hatchery Manager. Nearly two and a half inches of rain fell, melting recently fallen snow to swell the river flows above 11,000 cubic feet.

The hatchery faced two primary problems: the volume of water, and the debris it carried, officials said.

Flood diversion channel was overwhelmed with water and water in the natural channel swelled to dangerous levels.

“We don’t know exactly how much water came through (the hatchery) because it washed out the gauging station,” Travis said.

Logs were swept downstream, clogging the water intake for the hatchery, slamming into the bridge at the spillway, breaking through the fence, and damaging the fish ladder. Tribal fishing platforms were destroyed and the hatchery building was flooding. Staff took on the hazardous work of climbing down into the flooded structure to drag out branches in an urgent bid to get water moving again in the system, Travis said.

According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service release:

Water from the intake is piped first to a settling chamber. Because the intake was blocked, the settling chamber  was completely dry. Normal water flow in a 10 by 100 foot raceway is 900 gallons per minute. For an hour, no water was coming from the river at all. Hatchery workers switched on every well and re-used w water was available to keep water in the raceways where spring Chinook salmon are raised.

Their efforts succeeded but the hard work continues. Once the blockage was cleared the water coming into the hatchery was loaded with silt. Five inches of mud filled every raceway on Wednesday and must be cleaned out as the flood subsides. Exhausted employees continued to clear debris Wednesday morning, assessing what repairs will be needed.

Their hard work paid off: the salmon they have raised through drought and flood are alive today, still on schedule to be released in April, meeting the hatchery’s mission of mitigating for the impact of Grand Coulee Dam. Leavenworth Fisheries Complex Manager Dave Irving said, “Without their dedicated service, we’d have lost all the fish and had severe damage to the infrastructure. I appreciate their hard work under hazardous conditions. They have a real passion for fulfilling our mission.”

Pheasant release planned; last of season

HUNTING — Pheasants are scheduled to be released this week at up to 44 Eastern Washington sites that are detailed in the Fish and Wildlife Department’s Pheasant Enhancement Program website.

The first releases occurred in September in advance of the youth upland bird season. This week will mark the fourth and last release at most sites.

"We usually do not say when we release pheasants, but our last release of the year usually has been the week of Thanksgiving," said Joey McCanna, who coordinates the release of pen-raised pheasants in the Spokane Region. "All sites in Region 1 will receive pheasants."

He pointed out that there's also a good crop of wild birds holding out in good habitat around the region, although he's had reports that wild roosters have been flushing wild.

Chronic wasting disease detected in deer near Yellowstone

WILDLIFE — A buck white-tailed deer killed Nov. 1 in a hunting area about 25 miles east of Yellowstone National Park has tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

The case of fatal neurological disease that infects elk, deer and moose hadn't previously been discovered close to the park.

During a July conference about another disease, the park’s chief of wildlife P.J. White said chronic wasting disease might already be in the park even though it hasn’t been detected.

The disease is similar to mad cow disease and not known to be contractible by humans.

CWD has not been detected in Washington.

Officials snuff out feral pigs near Potholes; eyes out for more

INVASIVE SPECIES — A pair of feral pigs reported by a bird hunter near Potholes Reservoir were recently killed along the Winchester Wasteway by a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officer. The state has a no-tolerance policy for the non-native species known to be efficiently destructive to native habitats as well as livestock operations.

The source of the animals and how long they'd been roaming the Desert Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area aren't known, wildlife officials said.

The animals that were killed are described in a department report as a nursing sow and a subadult. That leaves open the possibility that there are more feral pigs out in that section of Grant County, although no pigs have turned up on trail cam images from a bait station officers set up.

The agency encourages sportsmen to report any sightings of feral pics to the Region 2 office in Ephrata,  (509) 754-4624 or, as Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman calls it, the toll-free "federal squeal-on-a-pig hotline," (888) 268-9219.

Northern pike in John Day Pool apparently was pikeminnow, officials say

FISHING — The "northern pike" reported to have been captured in the John Day Pool and mentioned in this blog this week was a mistake, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fish managers say.

The so-called pike showing up in the John Day Pool mentioned in the Northwest Power and Conservation Council agenda apparently was a northern pikeminnow improperly identified on paper, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say. WDFW staffer Stacie Kelsey, who's involved with the state and tribal fish monitoring in the Columbia River, said she hadn't heard a report of a northern pike showing up that far downstream.

"I've received several contacts over the last couple of years about anglers thinking the pike and pikeminnow were the same fish," she said.

Stacy Horton, state policy analyst/biologist, wrote the agenda summary for the council meeting.

The Kettle Falls area remains the farthest downstream in the Columbia that northern pike have officially been confirmed, says Bruce Botka, WDFW spokesman.

Washington’s ski season starts today, at least at Mt. Baker

WINTERSPORTS – Washington state’s ski season begins today, Nov. 19, as Mt. Baker Ski Area opens with a good base of cold snow.

Many ski areas in Washington usually don’t open until Thanksgiving or later. Recent storms have brought fresh powder to the region, but the high slopes of Baker, one of Washington's volcanoes, is leading the way in snow accumulation.

Mt. Baker says it has a good base to start the season and would be running several chair lifts.

Crystal Mountain had tentatively planned to open its gondola and another chair on Friday, but the resort announced today that stormy weather had knocked out power and crews were busy cleaning up debris.

Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort had hinted it might open Saturday, its website has been changed to read like most of the region's resorts — hoping more snow falls so they can open the day after Thanksgiving.

Nordic skiing also is underway in Washington.

As reported earlier, Methow Valley groomers were out midweek to pack snow from storms. Today Methow Trails began their earliest season ever by grooming throughout the day in Mazama, Sun Mtn, and Winthrop.

"Trail conditions are improving with every pass we make," the website says.

Firm conditions this morning with a hard freeze last night. The snow will soften slightly as day time temps will rise slightly above freezing. The best skiing can be found mid morning from the Mazama corral trailhead with tracks set in the meadows. Skating on Thompson road up at Sun Mtn mid morning would also be a good option. Stay tuned.

Heller Bar boat ramp plan changed to avoid fishing area

FISHING — Plans to improve the boat launching area at Heller Bar on the Snake River are taking shape this month with revisions that should placate angler concerns about interference with a good shoreline fishing area.

Fishermen were alarmed in September when they saw Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife surveyors scoping out the possibility of putting a new ramp upstream from the existing ramp and downstream from the mouth of the Grande Ronde River in a stretch that's ideal for wade angling.

The $325,000 project, first proposed in 2012, would add a second boat ramp as well as upgrading the entire area, said Bob Dice, Blue Mountains Wildlife Area Complex manager in Clarkston.

"We looked at launch sites upstream and from an engineering perspective it would have been difficult to place a new ramp up there considering water depth, current flow and the risk of the thing being buried with sediment from the Grande Ronde River," he said.

Dice also factored in comments from bank fishermen who were not fond of the upstream ramp site option.

"The best location for a successful installation is next to the existing ramp on the downstream side," he said this week. "We didn't want to disturb or alter the upstream side where boats and rafts pull up to the beach."

Tentative plans call for repairing the upstream side of the existing ramp to allow vehicles to pull onto the ramp from the beach.  "That will allow one-way travel for vehicles loading rafts or supplies for power boats," he said. "As it is now, if they pull down there, they have to turn around to get off the beach, which causes some issues.

"We will be required to install an ADA parking spot near the top of the ramp for a vehicle with a trailer and one for a vehicle only.  We felt there would be sufficient room to do this and there is a couple of things we can do to improve the paved area at the top of the ramps for better vehicle flow.

"The rest of the access site will get a new gravel surface, new signs, a new informational kiosk and potentially some new fire rings at areas where folks traditionally camp."

Agency engineers say construction likely will begin in early 2017 after required permits are secured.

Campers have the edge in surviving urban blackouts

CAMPING — This week is serious business if you have a tree through your roof.

Otherwise, just get out the coolers, barbecue and camp cooking gear and carry on.

What are you cooking up while the town is dark?

Idaho deer tags nearly sold out

HUNTING — With whitetail hunting in full swing and reports of good hunting, nonresidents or Idaho hunters interested in a second tag may want to buy sooner rather than later.

Only about 1,300 white-tailed deer tags remained in the nonresident quota today, and all nonresident general deer tags have already been sold.

In recent years, nonresident hunters have had the option of waiting until the last minute to buy tags before their hunts, says Roger Phillips, Idaho Fish and Game Department spokesman. "Many nonresident hunters, especially in North Idaho, hunt during the Thanksgiving holiday, but with brisk sales, it’s possible the remaining quota may already be sold by then," he said.  

Fish and Game has had its highest sales of nonresident tags in seven years. Part of that is because of an improved economy that’s attracted nonresidents back to Idaho, but it’s also due to improved big game hunting. Sales of resident deer tags are also up this year, but they are not limited by a quota.

Idaho hunters can also buy nonresident tags as second tags, which have also become increasingly popular in recent years. But when the remaining nonresident deer tag quota is sold out, either to nonresidents or as second tags for residents, no more will be available this year.

Hunters buying a tag online must allow time for the tag to be mailed to them.

Residents who are interested in buying a nonresident white-tailed deer tag as a second tag can get details at https://fishandgame.idaho.gov/content/second-tag.

Burn off turkey dinner with Dishman Hills guided hike

TRAILS — Take a nature break on the day after Thanksgiving with a guided group walk suitable for families through the Dishman Hills Natural Area.

Jeff Lambert, Dishman Hills Conservancy executive director, will lead a hike of 2-3 miles at a moderate pace while identifying geological and natural features of the area.

The Dishman Hills will provide a free trail map and REI coupons to the first 30 people who arrive.

Meet at 10 a.m. at the Dishman Hills Natural Area winter parking lot at 320 S. Sargent Road in Spokane Valley.

Bring water and sturdy shoes. Note: The upper parking lot and bathrooms are closed.

Info: Jeff Lambert at 999-5100.

Boyer Park recreation area to be expanded on Snake River

WATERSPORTS — The Port of Whitman County is moving ahead with plans to expand Boyer Park, its popular dock-and-campground facility located on the Snake River at Almota, according to the Lewiston Tribune.

The project includes adding 13 camping sites with 40-foot recreational vehicle pads and 110-amp electrical services, as well as four wooden cabins on a paved road by the beach. The RV overflow area will also be paved, the asphalt in the existing campground will be repaired, and irrigation will be installed in the day-use area.

Palouse River Rock, based in Colfax, bid $578,200 for the entire package.

The port intends to purchase about $50,000 in playground equipment in addition to the contracted work.

Groomed nordic ski trails open today after storm

WINTERSPORTS — Cross-country skiers are waxing up TODAY and hitting groomed trails in a couple of the region's most consistent early season destinations.

  • The Rendezvous Ski Trails near West Yellowstone are being groomed this week for the first time of the season after a good dump of snow.
  • SilverStar Resort near Vernon, British Columbia, an early season favorite for national team nordic skiers, has 13 trails open and groomed this week.
  • Methow Trails based in Winthrop, Wash., reports the first significant storm of the season has dropped enough snow for groomers to begin packing trails on the Mazama, Rendezvous and Sun Mountain areas. The goal was to pack and preserve the snow through the warming temperatures predicted for today so the next storm would have a base that would allow the ski trails to be formally opened.

It’s official: CdA angler catches Washington record opah

FISHING — An opah, also known as moonfish, caught by a North Idaho angler on Sept. 27, 2015, has been confirmed as a Washington state record.

Jim Watson of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, caught the large-eyed, orange-red colored, disc-shaped giant–while fishing with anchovies 45 miles offshore of Westport in Grays Harbor County.  The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed its weight at 35.67 pounds and measured 37-7/8 inches.

“Catching the fish was a lot of work, but fun. They really fight, and it took a while,” said Watson. “The captain and crew came unglued, because you just don’t see these fish very often.”

Watson shared the fish with the charter crew, family and friends.  “It was not like any fish I’ve tasted, but it was really good,” said Watson. “Every bit of it went to good use.”

Opah are the only fish found to be warm blooded throughout their bodies, a discovery first reported in the journal Science in May.

The new opah record exceeded the previous by 7.49 pounds. That record was held by Rick Shapland on a fish that was also caught in the Pacific Ocean off of Westport in 2013.

Northern pike control in Columbia likely to be stepped up

UPDATE 11-19-15:   The northern pike found in the John Day Pool and mentioned in the NPCC agenda apparently was a northern pikeminnow improperly identified on paper, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say.  The Kettle Falls area remains the farthest downstream in the Columbia that northern pike have officially been confirmed, they say.

FISHING — State and tribal fish managers are in Portland today requesting continued funding from the Northwest Power and Conservation Council for controlling non-native northern pike that are seeping into the Columbia River.

A northern pike was captured in the John Day pool recently, increasing the urgency the fisheries managers generated last year as pike began showing up in spawning numbers in the upper reaches of Lake Roosevelt.

One of the first confirmed pike holding up in Lake Roosevelt was caught by an angler in 2011. The way the catch increased caught fish managers' attention this year.

A netting program to assess the pike distribution in Roosevelt was launched this year.

The co-managers of Lake Roosevelt, including the Spokane and Colville tribes and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, are concerned about the continued expansion of the voracious predator in Lake Roosevelt and the resulting in impacts to native fish populations.

"In addition, pike pose an enormous threat to salmon and steelhead recovery efforts below Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River," the co-managers say in their presentation summary.

The Council already has declared actions to preserve Fish and Wildlife Program effectiveness by aggressively addressing non-native and invasive species as its third highest emerging priority.

Background: See the northern pike presentation by the Kalispel Tribe, Spokane Tribe, Colville Tribe and WDFW from the June 9, 2015 Council Meeting in Coeur d’ Alene, ID.

Background: See a summary of the northern pike presentation by the Kalispel Tribe, Spokane Tribe, Colville Tribe and WDFW from the June 9, 2015, Council Meeting in Coeur d’ Alene.

Tangled buck freed by Idaho officer; video goes viral

WILDLIFE — Last week I posted a video showing the bold effort of a man releasing a frantic entangled buck that calmed down to let the rescuer help. Now here's the rest of the story from Idaho Fish and Game:

It wasn't an average day at the office for Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer John McLain when he encountered a white-tailed buck tangled in baling twine, but his average days don't go viral on the Internet, either.

In August, McLain received a call about an entangled buck near Orofino, and he went to investigate it. Finding the buck, he turned on his body-mounted camera and thought, "this might be a video of me getting my butt kicked, or it might turn out alright."

Fortunately, it was the latter, although not without some drama that he captured on video. Upon seeing McLain, the buck panicked, but the twine had wrapped around its front leg and prevented it from fleeing. The buck quickly exhausted itself, and that's when McLain went to work carefully cutting the twine from its leg and antlers.

Once freed, the deer remained on the ground for a few seconds, then bound away and appeared uninjured by the experience.

It wasn't the first time McLain dealt with entangled deer during his nine years as a Fish and Game conservation officer. Another time, he untangled a deer from a soccer net, and in a sports-related coincidence, another deer wandered into a batting cage in Orofino. When McLain tried to help it get out, "I kind of went for a ride," he said.

After posting his video to his Facebook page, he watched in amazement as the world took notice.

"I knew it would get some shares, but when it hit 100,000, I was like ‘Wow,'" he said.

So far, the video has been shared more than 147,000 times and liked more than 69,000 times. He received hundreds of friend requests and personal messages because of it.

Wildlife rescues are common for Fish and Game's Conservation officers, who may be called on to deal with all types of situations. They can be as routine as herding a wild animal out of town, to as bizarre as tranquilizing a bull elk to remove porcupine quills from its nose.

"It happens," McLain said. "I just happened to catch this one on video."

State to acquire another chunk of 4-O Ranch near Grande Ronde River

WILDLIFE HABITAT — Washington's Fish and Wildlife Commission on Friday approved spending $3.7 million to purchase of 2,061 acres that nearly wraps up a multi-phased plan to transfer the 12,000-acre 4-0 Ranch to the state's Chief Joseph Wildlife Area.

 The state Fish and Wildlife Department's plan to acquire this land in Asotin County completes about 90 percent of a six-phase project to acquire the ranch and expand the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area above the Grande Ronde River.

The land will be especially effective in preserving critical habitat for threatened salmon, steelhead and trout, as well as deer, bighorn sheep and elk, wildlife managers say.

The department has secured state and federal funds to purchase the property, currently owned by 4-O Land & Livestock, LLC.

Montana approves sage grouse habitat restrictions


THREATENED SPECIES – The Montana Land Board has approved restrictions meant to protect sage grouse habitat.

The board voted unanimously Monday to prohibit breaking up native range and eradicating sage brush in the bird’s habitat, the Associated Press reports.

A waiver is possible for land-break requests of 20 acres or less by farmers seeking to square up field edges or to install irrigation systems.

Sage brush treatments that drop the canopy cover to 30 percent or less of the total area treated will require a plan to improve the habitat.

Department of Natural Resources and Conservation director John Tubbs says the agency receives very few requests to break blocks of native range or eradicate sage brush.

DNRC also will have to consider additional criteria when evaluating grazing leases. A corrective plan will be required if sage grouse habitat is being harmed.

Idaho to set fishing seasons at meeting in Hailey

FISHING — Idaho's fishing seasons for the next three years will be set by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission during a Nov. 18-19 meeting in Hailey. 

Routine agenda items include setting the 2016-2018 fishing seasons, approving the 2015 Strategic Plan and considering land acquisitions.  Commissioners also will hear updates on the FY 17 budget, upcoming legislative process, wolf plan and plans related to sage grouse. 

Fishing proposals include increasing the statewide “possession limit” to three times the daily bag limit after the second day of the season.  Currently, the possession limit is equal to the bag limit.

In the Panhandle region, a proposal for Lake Pend Oreille would reduce the rainbow trout daily bag limit from six to two fish, only one over 20 inches.