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Sunny outlook for Bare As You Dare bike rides

BICYCLING — We're happy to report that none of the hundred or so participants in Missoula's recent Bare As You Dare bike ride was arrested, although some riders may have suffered sunburn — and severe chaffing.

See the Missoulian story and check out the photo gallery — if you dare.

  • Would any group, other than baristas, dare to be bare riding bikes in downtown Spokane?

Model perfect fit for Beartooth Wilderness photo

BACKPACKING — I'm very picky about models for my outdoors photos.

For example, this ad for our newspaper Outdoors sections features writer Jim Kershner, who joined me on a multi-day backpacking trek over the high plateau of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.

Had I been with any other hiking/angling buddy, there likely would have been a fish in the picture. That would have cluttered up the scene and detracted from the clean look of the ad.

Thanks, Jim, for a job well done.

Pro-wolf groups pressure Gov. Inslee to curb wolf control

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Environmental groups who've been unable to persuade Washington wildlife officials into letting wolves eat as many sheep as they like in southern Stevens County are pressuring Gov. Jay Inslee to clamp down on wolf management when it comes to lethal control efforts.   Here's the story just moved by the Associated Press:

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Environmental groups on Thursday asked Gov. Jay Inslee to push for the creation of strict rules limiting when wolves can be killed in response to livestock depredations.

Their petition sought to limit when the state Department of Fish and Wildlife can kill wolves. It would also require ranchers to use nonlethal measures to protect their livestock.

Rules similar to those requested by the petition are in place in Oregon.

The groups made the request as the state was in the process this week of trying to kill four wolves in the Huckleberry Pack in an effort to protect a herd of sheep. One wolf has been killed so far.

Wolves were hunted to extinction a century ago in Washington. Since the early 2000s, the animals have started to make a comeback by entering Washington from Idaho and British Columbia. The state is estimated to have 52 wolves in 13 packs.

“All we’re asking for are some very reasonable standards on what ranchers need to do to protect their livestock and when the state can step in and kill an endangered species,” said Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity.

The governor’s office has 45 days to respond to the request. The office has received the petition and will review the request, Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith said.

In 2012, the state killed seven wolves in the Wedge Pack despite the fact that the rancher had taken little action to protect his stock, the environmental groups said.

They contend the situation is similar with the Huckleberry Pack.

However, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has said the owner of the sheep herd has taken numerous nonlethal steps to protect his 1,800 animals. But wolves keep killing the sheep.

Conservation groups filed a similar petition in 2013, but they withdrew it based on promises from the Fish and Wildlife to negotiate new rules governing lethal methods of wolf management. No negotiations have taken place, the environmental groups said.

The groups appealing to Inslee also include Cascadia Wildlands, Western Environmental Law Center, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, The Lands Council, Wildlands Network, Kettle Range Conservation Group and the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Huckleberry Pack attacks more sheep in Stevens County

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Even though two more sheep were found injured from wolf attacks this week, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department is planning to suspend trapping and ground helicopter gunners through the Labor Day weekend to avoid conflicts with recreationists and hunters out for the Sept. 1 opening of grouse hunting season.

At least 24 sheep have been killed in eight confirmed wolf attacks on a flock of 1,800 sheep grazing private timber company land in southern Stevens County since Aug. 14

One wolf was killed by a helicopter gunner on Aug. 22.  Although officers and ranch crews have been authorized to shoot up to four wolves in the pack of up to 12 members, no others have been killed.

Meanwhile, rancher Dave Dashiell of Hunters apparently is making plans to move some or all of his sheep flock to other pasture he's secured.

Here's the latest update, through today and looking at plans from next week, from Nate Pamplin, WDFW assistant wildlife program director:

WDFW staff, along with the rancher, a contracted range rider, and four guard dogs continue to provide on-going presence to protect the flock of 1,800 sheep.

Two injured lambs were found by the operator yesterday.  This morning, one lamb died of its injuries, the other was euthanized.  Investigators attributed the injuries to wolves, making this confirmed depredation event #8.  The attack likely occurred a few days ago. 

As of this morning, no wolves were trapped/euthanized.  Trapping will cease after tomorrow morning.  Also, there will not be further aerial operations this weekend (the last flight was Tuesday morning).  We want to avoid conflicts and possible public safety issues with Labor Day weekend recreationists and Monday’s grouse and archery deer hunting opener.  Department staff and the rancher will continue to have authorization to lethally remove up to two wolves observed in the vicinity of the flock, and we will not exceed a total of four wolves removed under the current authorizations for all lethal methods being utilized.

We learned that the rancher will likely be able to move his sheep off of this allotment and to an interim pasture next week.  We appreciate his efforts to expedite the move and will continue to offer and provide assistance where it is needed.

We have discussed compensation for sheep injured and killed by wolves with the rancher and will continue that dialogue with him at a later date, once the more immediate issues are resolved.

In addition to continued work with this operator, Department staff will reach out to neighboring livestock owners.  Our focus is to ensure awareness of this wolf pack, and to offer technical and cost-share assistance to in an effort to avoid and minimize potential depredations to these adjacent operations. 

Attached is a chronology of activities associated with the Huckleberry Pack.  We will update it next week, once sheep are removed from the allotment.  It has been a dynamic situation, with information coming from the field, often times as new events are unfolding.  We understand the intense interest in and the desire for us to get information out to all interested parties.  Thus the chronology may have additional technical edits as field staff review and update


Documents:

Slobs win: W. Medical Lake fishing access closed

FISHING — A chronic littering problem has resulted in the closure of the unofficial fishing access site at the north end of West Medical Lake in Spokane County.

Rudy Lopez of the Washington State Veterans Cemetery confirmed that the gate to the access site off Espanola Road has been locked, “no trespassing” signs have been posted and the Sheriff's Department has been asked to cite violators.

“It’s one of those cases of a few people ruining it for the majority,” Randy Osborne, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife district fisheries biologist, said last week in an appeal for anglers to clean up their act.

While Fish and Wildlife owns the public fishing access at the south end of the lake, the informal access at the north end is state land managed by the Veterans Cemetery. The road into the spot serves the pump that irrigates the cemetery.

Lopez said the littering has been persistent for the year and a half that he's worked at the cemetery.

“We're not directing blame on any one individual, but when we've contacted fishermen there they always say it's somebody else doing the littering,” he said. “We've hoped that they would support us by chipping in, doing the Boy Scout thing, leaving the place better than they found it.

“We did reach out the the prison at Airway Heights and they've been sending a detail out once a month to pick up. We're out there weekly picking up and Fish and Wildlife people come out regularly, but we can't keep up. It just gets trashed again.”

The public access at the south end of the West Medical will continue to be open through the lake's fishing season, which closes Sept. 30. Vehicles must display a Discover Pass or the Fish and Wildlife vehicle access pass that comes with the purchase of a fishing license.

Ranchers: wolf attacks shouldn’t force sheep off private land

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Northeastern Washington ranchers are standing up for private property rights to counter pro-wolf groups that are pressuring Washington Fish and Wildlife officials to force a sheep rancher off private timber company lands to avoid wolf attacks.

Following is the media release just posted by the Stevens County Cattlemen's Association.

HUNTERS, WA — As the situation with the Huckleberry wolf pack continues to worsen and the pack continues to kill sheep from the Dashiell ranch on private grazing ground near Hunters, some groups are pressuring the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to make the rancher leave the area. Stevens County Cattlemen’s President Scott Nielsen said that option is “unacceptable.”

“We know that at as this situation worsens, there are those who believe that forcing the rancher to leave his grazing lands will solve the problem,” said Nielsen. “But preventing the legitimate use of private land to meet political goals is always unacceptable. Under this logic, we have seen endangered species policy ruin businesses and deny people’s property rights. We do not want that to happen here.”

Over 22 sheep have been killed since the Huckleberry pack started targeting the Dashiell’s sheep herd earlier this summer. Non-lethal deterrents including a range rider, the work of up to four WDFW department staff, four guard dogs and herders have provided an on-going presence to try and stop the depredation. A helicopter was authorized to remove up to four wolves on Aug. 22, but only one was killed. The helicopter was recalled and padded leg-hold traps have been deployed to catch the wolves and euthanize them.

SCCA argues that if the state does not follow through on their commitment to remove the problem wolves and prevents allowing the Dashiells to fulfill their grazing contract with the private landholder, Hancock Timber, a series of negative circumstances can occur.

“That timberland is being grazed to the benefit of the timber stands, the reduction of wildfire fuel loads and improvement of wildlife habitat,” Nielsen said. “If we call all of that management to a halt because we refuse to deal with a predator crisis, we are moving in the wrong direction.”

Nielsen also said while SCCA supports the attempt to lethally remove the wolves, he said that the current crisis was caused by denying ranchers the information they needed to keep their herds away from wolf areas.

“We need to remember that if the Dashiells had the collar data as they had requested last year, there would likely never have been livestock herds in proximity to this wolf den. Excuses that the information could not be obtained from the tribe are not valid, as the department has had over a year to sort that issue out,” Nielsen said. “The rancher has every right to be on that land and should not be forced to leave.”

Oregon wolf pack one livestock attack away from lethal action

ENDANGERED SPECIES — One of Oregon’s wolf packs is one livestock attack away from becoming the first to be considered for a kill order under the state’s unique rules.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said Wednesday that the Umatilla Pack, which roams mostly private land about 30 miles west of Pendleton, has been confirmed responsible for killing a sheep last week in a private pasture. Two other attacks occurred in June.

Oregon's rules prevent wildlife officers from killing a wolf unless three conditions are met:

  • There’s hard evidence the pack is responsible for four livestock attacks over the past six months,
  • the rancher has taken nonlethal steps to protect his livestock,
  • the department feels wolf attacks are likely to continue even with more nonlethal protections.

“Under these rules, the key consideration for lethal control or any other actions will be to take an action that minimizes the risk of further depredation,” department spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said in an email.

Here's more information on the Oregon situation, with background on wolf attacks on livestock, from the Associated Press:

The rules were adopted last year as the result of a lawsuit by conservation groups.

Joseph cattle rancher Todd Nash said he was looking forward to the day when Oregon’s wolves are numerous enough to be taken off the state endangered species list, and the Oregon Wolf Plan would go into Phase Two, when lethal control rules would ease.

That could happen after this winter’s statewide wolf count. The Oregon Wolf Plan sets a goal of four packs successfully producing pups for three consecutive years before delisting can be considered. That has been met the past two years.

Dennehy said delisting is not automatic, and would have to go through a public process. Even under Phase Two, there would be rules for considering lethal control, though they would be less stringent than they are now.

Rob Klavins of the conservation group Oregon Wild said they would prefer a science-based conservation goal for delisting, rather than one set by political negotiation.

“Oregon is doing better than any other state in trying to balance legitimate concerns with science-based conservation and Oregon conservation values,” he said. “It isn’t perfect, but it’s better than any other state.”

Overall, the number of confirmed wolves statewide has grown from 48 in 2012 to 64 last year. The number of packs grew from six to eight, though only four successfully raised pups last year.

So far this year, there have been six confirmed wolf attacks on livestock in Oregon, according to the department website. There were 13 in 2013, eight in 2012, and 10 in 2011. Other packs have come within one attack of coming under consideration for lethal control.

Photo: Northern Lights over Priest Lake

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY — It pays to lose yourself watching the stars on a clear summer night.

In the photo above, Craig Goodwin, pastor of Millwood Community Presbyterian Church, sits by the still-glowing embers of a fire some other Priest Lake visitors to Hill's Resort had enjoyed.  But they left at a reasonable hour early Wednesday morning.

Goodwin, who's become entranced with photographing the Milky Way this summer, stayed around past 2 a.m. …. and the Northern Lights were his payoff.

Eddie Vedder skateboard auction benefits Ferry County rail trail

TRAILS — Eddie Vedder and the rock group Pearl Jam band members are rallying to support the 25-mile Ferry County Rail Trail in northeastern Washington by signing and donating a cool skateboard to an online auction that's underway on eBay.

At last look, the bids were in the $2,000 range.

The auction is set to close Sunday, Aug. 31, at 7:24 p.m. (PDT).

Funds generated will be used to enhance the surface of the abandoned railway that connects four towns, two school complexes and meanders along miles of pristine waterfront, including Curlew Lake and the Kettle River.

“Over the years, the Ferry County Rail Trail Partners have done well competing for state and federal development funds,” said Bob Whittaker, president of the non-profit group, which is seeking more funding.

“We have 25 miles of donated property, much of it waterfront, along the Kettle river,” he said. “We have a 770-foot trestle over Curlew Lake that was decked with $200,000 in bicycle/pedestrian safety funds, but we need surface improvements and we need them yesterday.

“An improved surface means more users, a healthier community, and happy, repeat visitors to the region.”

The “Longboard” style skate was signed by all the members of the band back stage before their sold out concert at the Spokane Arena last November. “It was a fun night- and all for a good cause,” Whittaker said. “Ferry County even got a shout out from Eddie while on stage. How sweet is that!”

Included as part of this auction is an original photo taken by Bob Whittaker and signed by PJ frontman Eddie Vedder. The photo of Vedder on a canoe originally appeared in Vedder’s “Ukulele Songs” songbook. Vedder autographed a uke used in that recording and donated it to the Ferry County group for an auction that raised $17,000 for the trail.

The current auction is listed by Keith Bell, Vice President of Ferry County Rail Trail Partners. 100 percent of the proceeds go directly to this all-volunteer federally recognized non-profit organization.

The auction can be found by visiting FerryCountyRailTrail.com

Hiking trail record breaker speaks at library tonight

HIKING — A world-class hiker who's put her pen where her feet were is giving a program about her latest book TONIGHT, 7:30 p.m. at the Moran Prairie Library.

Jennifer Pharr Davis first hiked the 2,181-mile Appalachian Trail as a 21-year-old college graduate, all on her own.

Her most recent book, Called Again, tells the story of setting the 46-day record for the trail and growing closer to her husband (her support crew), in the process.

The program she'll be presenting speaks to inspiration, love and endurance in tales from the trail.

Wolf update: Huckleberry Pack avoids helicopter gunners

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Still only one wolf has been killed in a helicopter gunning operation that started Aug. 22 to kill up to four wolves from the Huckleberry Pack that's been attacking sheep in southern Stevens County.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has issued an update on the operation to relieve attacks that have claimed at least 22 sheep from a flock of 1,800 grazing on Hancock timber company land.

Here is the full update from Nate Pamplin, WDFW assistant wildlife program director. It addresses helicopter flights, continued use of non-lethal measures and moving the sheep away from the wolves to other pasture:

Helicopter flights occurred on Saturday, August 23 through Tuesday morning, August 26.  As we noted in Monday’s news release, one female wolf has been removed.  Helicopter activity provided hazing which may have kept wolves from the flock, and we have had only one sheep injured by a wolf attack, found on Sunday morning (and was later found dead this week, and it is being investigated).  As indicated before, on the Saturday morning flight (and the subsequent ground investigation), five sheep were found dead and three were injured.

We did not fly on Tuesday evening and do not plan to fly today.  We have established a trapline and have provided instructions to euthanize up to three more wolves caught.  We also have ongoing authorization for our staff and the rancher to kill up to two wolves observed in the vicinity of the flock.  We will continue to assess these efforts each day, and the directive is to remove up to four wolves from the Huckleberry pack. 

Nonlethal measures continue to be in place, with the rancher, a range rider, and up to four department staff, and four guard dogs providing an on-going presence.

We continue to work with the producer to try to find an alternative grazing location.  We’re hoping that will occur soon, and the producer understands our desire that for this particular situation, we’re hoping to eliminate the killing of his sheep by wolves by moving the sheep to their winter range.  He received a communication yesterday saying that he should be able to move the sheep soon. 

We’ve received a lot of inquiries about why moving sheep hasn’t happened sooner.  A couple items I hope you’ll keep in mind.  First, with the Carlton Complex Fire in Okanogan County and other fires across the state, there has been a tremendous demand for alternate pasture for displaced livestock operations.  We’re offering whatever assistance we can to help the operator with the various logistics. 

Second, I think it is important to remember that neither the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan nor our preventative measures checklist suggest that moving livestock off of an allotment is a requirement to address wolf-livestock conflicts.  With the operator moving his sheep to winter range anyway, we’re hoping to work with him to expedite that move.  But in the long run, and in other conflict situations that we will face, it is not likely to be feasible for a rancher to move livestock out of the vicinity of problem wolves.  Maintaining working lands and the livestock industry is important both from the perspective of social tolerance of wolf recovery, and the overall maintenance of viable local economies and support for working lands (and the wildlife conservation benefits of those lands continuing in that status). 

Finally, we have approached the rancher about compensation for sheep injured and killed by wolves and will likely continue that dialogue with him at a later date, once some of the immediate issues are resolved.

Dogs protecting sheep from predators testy toward hikers

HIKING — The large guard dogs such as great Pyrenees and Akbash that pro-wolf groups recommend for guarding livestock from predators such as cougars, bears and wolves don't necessarily distinguish between 4-legged and 2-legged critters passing through public lands:

Guard dogs for sheep herds continue to be a problem for hikers in Colorado
Hikers are reporting more conflicts with the large, white Akbash dogs that guard sheep herds in San Juan County, and one hiker recently asked the Colorado county's commission to work with the multiple federal and state land agencies and the ranchers with grazing allotments to develop new policies to help keep the hikers and the dogs apart.

Photo: Nighthawk takes a break

WILDLIFE WATCHING — As many times as I've seen common nighthawks swooping and scooping bugs out of the sky with their distinctive staccato chirps, I've never seen one resting on the ground.

Check this instructive photo from Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

“We often times see these birds in flight, but don’t get the chance to see them landed very often!

“They have huge mouths, their small beak makes it look small – but it goes back to their eye!”

Deer problems expected on charred Methow winter range

WILDLIFE — At least one farmer already is experiencing deer damaging an alfalfa field in otherwise charred landscape in the Methow Valley region, according to the latest report from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department's wildlife program.

The Carlton Complex fires burned and leaped across more than 256,000 acres in July and August, the largest fire covering recorded in Washington. And to add to the issues, mudslides and flooding has resulted from recent thunderstorms over the denuded landscape.

Department biologist say significant portions of mule deer winter range have been burned. Some has been burned badly, but the burning varied in intensity and some areas are starting to sprout green and recover with the rains. Seed is being ordered for revegetating some areas.

Grazing permits have been effected and department staff is working with some farmers and orchard operators who are scrambling to replace burned fences to keep deer out of their crops.

Hunters will have to appreciate this portion of the report on this week's activities:

Specialist Heilhecker visited with a landowner in Tonasket who is experiencing deer damage to her alfalfa field. This individual called last year at this time with the same concerns of not being able to get a third cutting. Specialist Heilhecker issued a kill permit and a damage permit valid until the start of general season and reminded her that she needs to open her land to some public hunting. Whether public hunting is allowed on the property will more closely monitored.

 

This sort of paddling is appropriate for kids

WATERSPORTS — The older Bauer boys know how to make a canoe go fast, and the younger nephews are clearly into the game even at the end of the Spokane River Classic endurance event on Saturday.

Sponsored by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club, the event was for all abilities of paddlers with canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.

But this boat stood out in the crowd, as you can see by their faces.

Have you ever paddled a canoe this hard — for the fun of it?

Mosquitoes thick at Lake Roosevelt, officials warn

WATERSPORTS — No need to travel to Alaska for a good dose of pesky biting insects.

The National Park Service has issued a media release warning visitors heading to Lake Roosevelt for the holiday weekend to be ready for mosquitoes at the campgrounds, boat launches and day use facilities.

Conditions this summer at the reservoir that stretches up to 150-miles behind Grand Coulee Dam have been optimal for mosquitoes, officials say. 

“Visitors, park staff, our neighbors, and our partners have been dealing with an extraordinarily large mosquito population, especially in the north district near Kettle Falls,” says the release.

The National Park Service encourages visitors to plan to protect themselves from mosquitoes during their stay, especially at dawn and dusk.  Loose fitting long-sleeved shirts and pants that provide ‘depth’ combined with a mosquito repellant will offer good protection.  When using mosquito repellants look for products registered with the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, always follow label instructions, and take special care when applying to children.  Also, make sure screens to windows and doors on recreational vehicles and tents are in good working order.

While park staff understands from personal experience the desire to control the mosquito population, National Park Service regulations, policies, and guidance protecting natural resources of this area do not allow for spraying programs unless mosquitoes are found to be carrying diseases, such as West Nile. 

The National Park Service at Lake Roosevelt relies on monitoring information from the surrounding health districts, Washington State Department of Health, and the mosquito control districts of eastern Washington in determining the level of risk to human health from mosquito borne viral diseases.  

To date, the National Park Service is unaware of infected mosquitos found in the immediate vicinity of Lake Roosevelt.

SpokeFest among bounty of September cycling events

CYCLING — SpokeFest, one of the region's premier bicycling events with courses for every ability level based out of Spokane, is coming up Sept. 7

Register before Sept. 1 to avoid late fees and enter a drawing for a free bike from REI or a night at the Red Lion Inn at the Park..

But SpokeFest is just one of 18 bicycling events scheduled in the region during September, close to home as well as across nearby borders.

Here's a mere sampling:

  • Kootenai River Ride, Sept. 13: Ride 16, 60 or 100 kilometers near Kootenai River out of Bonners Ferry fairgrounds supported by Rotarians, followed by baked potato feed. $20.

    Blazing Saddles Bike Ride, Sept. 20: Combines 20, 40, 62 and 100-mile cycling routes out of Colville, Wash., with the Northwest International Chili Cook-Off and beer garden. Sponsored by Rotary Club. $60 (kids under 10 free), includes t-shirt and entry to chili festival.

    Valleyfest Trail Ride, Sept. 21: Family bike tour on the Centennial Trail starting at noon with other festivities at Mirabeau Point Park. Choice of 6.8-, 8.8- and 15.6-mile routes. $10 or $5 for kids under 11.

    Coeur d’Fondo, Sept. 27: The 3rd annual Gran Fondo style timed event begins and ens in Coeur d’Alene with competitive and non-competitive options. Choice of five distances: 15, 37, 47, 85 or 108 miles.

Check out the details in The Spokesman-Review's 2014 Northwest Bicycling Events Calendar for rides within 300 miles of Spokane.

Idaho joins hunt for citizen wolf observations

PREDATORS — Idaho is asking the public to help in the task of monitoring the whereabouts of wolves.

“Scouting for upcoming hunting seasons, huckleberry picking, and general late summer recreating are all good reasons for getting away to Idaho’s great outdoors,” says the media release. “If during these forays, you see a wolf, Fish and Game staff would like to hear about it.”

“We’re looking for basic wolf information from folks returning from the field,” Fish and Game wildlife manager Craig White said. “Where the wolf or wolves were seen, their behavior, size, coat color and any other details.”

The easiest way to report sightings is to use the Idaho wolf reporting form on the Fish and Game website. It's easy to use.

  • Washington's wolf reporting form was created for the same purpose of enlisting thousands of eyes in the field to help wildlife managers monitor an elusive species.

 

Idaho offers youth pheasant hunting clinic

HUNTING — This youth pheasant hunting clinic near Genesee, Idaho, isn't until Oct. 4, but sign up early. Space is limited.

Requirements: Kids must be ages 10-16 with Idaho hunting license and an adult companion age 18 or older.

Register with Idaho Fish and Game's Lewiston office, (208) 799-5010.

Fish biolgist hopes anglers clean up their act

FISHING — In case you missed this disturbing but  important heads up published on  Sunday….

Fishermen may be trashing their privilege to use a fishing access to West Medical Lake.

A rocky point at the north end of the lake is regularly fouled with litter such as bait containers, food wrappers and lure packages despite repeated cleanup efforts.

“It’s one of those cases of a few people ruining it for the majority,” said Randy Osborne, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife district fisheries biologist.

While the agency owns the public fishing access at the south end of the lake, the informal access at the north end is state land managed by Washington State Veterans Cemetery.

The road into the spot serves the pump that irrigates the cemetery.

“There’s a tremendous garbage problem the cemetery workers have tolerated for a long time,” he said. “They’ve cleaned it up and our people have picked up, but there’s a percentage of people who use that site that won’t pack out what they pack in and it’s taking a toll.

“People like to fish off the rocks and the garbage they leave is not easy to collect. Cemetery workers are at the end of their rope on this. Access to that site is a privilege that anglers are going to lose if they don’t clean up their act.”

West Medical’s fishing season closes Sept. 30.

 

Correction: Huckleberry Pack can’t be sorted by color

ENDANGERED SPECIES — I have confirmed an error in my Sunday evening report  regarding the helicopter gunning operation to kill some wolves in the Huckleberry Pack that have killed at least 22 sheep and injured at least three more in six separate incidents on a flock of 1,800 sheep in southern Stevens County since Aug. 14.

Correction: My original report quoted the unofficial source as saying the adults are black and the  juveniles are light-colored and that helicopter gunners would try to use those colors to help them target the younger wolves. The source said that by avoiding shots at the adults the agency would try to protect the breeding pair and the pack's integrity.

Washington Fish and Wildlife officials called and said that is not true and at least one source who has photos of the Huckleberry Pack confirms that the animals are mixed colors… in other words, it's not a black and light situation.

  • The collared alpha male is gray, for instance (see photo).
  • The pups are different colors as seen in this video posted on the WDFW website (below).

Today, state Fish and Wildlife officials confirmed that efforts were continuing to find and remove up to four wolves from the pack. A federal wildlife agent contracted by WDFW killed one wolf on Saturday, as I reported Sunday night on information from the  unofficial source.

No information has been released on whether more wolves were killed today, Aug. 25. Wolves are protected by state endangered species laws in Eastern Washington except in cases when they pose a danger to people or domestic animals.

Fish and Wildlife officials in Spokane said they were not aware that Director Phil Anderson had received information that agency staff in the field were in some sort of danger, as reported to me by the unofficial source. So I cannot confirm or correct that statement.

Lentil Festival runs out of gas

BICYCLING — I'm getting this second hand, but some Spokane bicyclists who traveled to Pullman for the organized bike tour associated with the annual Lentil Festival came home, shall we say, deflated.

They said they were all geared up for a lentil burger to restore their energy after the ride, but there wasn't a lentil burger available from any of the vendors… just lentil ice cream.

Can that be true?

Does a cyclist have to pedal away from the lentil fields all the way to Boulder, Colo., Eugene, Oreg. — or Costco — to get a good lentil burger fix?

Hanford Reach chinook not biting, yet

FISHING — Patience.

A record run of fall chinook is headed to the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River below Priest Rapids Dam.

But they ain't there yet, according to this creek report from Paul Hoffarth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist in the Tri-Cities.

An estimated 212 boats fished for salmon in the Hanford Reach (Hwy 395 and Priest Rapids Dam) this past week.  WDFW staff interviewed 14 boats (25 anglers:100 pole hours) fishing for salmon with no catch. Staff also interviewed 8 bank anglers at Ringold with no catch.

Above are the latest graphs showing fish moving over Bonneville Dam, the first dam the fish encounter up the Columbia from the ocean, as well as McNary Dam, the last dam the salmon negotiate before heading either toward the Snake or up the Columbia into the Hanford Reach.

Annual Spokane River Clean-up canceled

CONSERVATION — The Spokane River Clean-up, an annual volunteer event started in 2003, is canceled for this year.

Tim Sanger of Friends of the Falls said in a media release the group did not have the resources to run the cleanup this year.

The group will focus on organizing a broader program next year, he said.

In recent years, as many as 800 volunteers enjoyed friendly competition that resulted in tons of garbage removed from the river corridor.

Snake River salmon fishing to open seven days a week

FISHING — Starting Saturday, Aug. 30, anglers will be able to catch and keep hatchery fall chinook salmon seven days a week on the Snake River.

Predicting another strong return of upriver bright chinook salmon this year, state fishery managers have expanded the daily catch limit to include six adult hatchery chinook, plus six hatchery jack chinook under 24 inches in length.

Anglers may also catch and keep up to three hatchery steelhead on the Snake River, but must stop fishing for the day – for both hatchery chinook and steelhead – once they have taken their three-fish steelhead limit.

Barbless hooks are required, and any salmon or steelhead not marked as a hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin must be released, along with any chinook salmon under 12 inches.

“This is a great opportunity for anglers to catch hatchery chinook salmon during the traditionally productive Snake River steelhead fishery,” said John Whalen, regional fish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

New fishing rules set to take effect Sept. 1 on the Tucannon River will reduce the daily catch limit for hatchery steelhead to two fish to provide additional protection for wild steelhead. The new rules for steelhead and other gamefish also:

  • Require anglers to use barbless hooks and keep any hatchery steelhead they catch.
  • Close the fishery upstream from Marengo at Turner Road Bridge.
  • Establish new fishing boundaries at the mouth of the Tucannon.

Details of the Tucannon River fishery are posted on WDFW’s website at fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/.

Whalen said the upcoming fall chinook fishery on the Snake River is expected to extend through Oct. 31, while the season for hatchery steelhead and other gamefish will run through Feb. 28.

Of the 919,000 upper river brights projected to enter the Columbia River this year, 61, 000 are wild fall chinook bound for the Snake River. Retention of hatchery chinook won’t increase impacts to fish protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, so long as anglers release wild chinook as required, Whalen said. 

“We urge anglers to identify their catch before they remove it from the water,” he said. “State law prohibits removing chinook salmon or steelhead from the water unless they are retained as part of the daily catch limit.”

The fishery will extend from waters of the Columbia River from the railroad bridge between Burbank and Kennewick upstream approximately 2.1 miles to the first power line crossing upstream of the navigation light on the point of Sacajawea State Park and on the Snake River from the Columbia River confluence to the Oregon State line (approximately 7 miles upstream of the mouth of the Grande Ronde River).

Watch for updates on the WDFW website.

Volunteers sign up for annual cleanup of ocean beaches

CONSERVATION —Washington CoastSavers has opened registration for participating in the International Coastal Cleanup, Sept. 20, 2014.

Volunteers can select from dozens of beaches to clean in Washington, from the Long Beach Peninsula to the Olympic Peninsula.

“The annual coastal cleanup is one of the most inspiring events we participate in each year,” said said Don Hoch, Washington State Parks director. “It's heartening to see hundreds of caring volunteers get out and make a real difference by cleaning up our ocean beaches for the benefit of wildlife, habitats and the citizens who enjoy visiting our beautiful Pacific coast.”

Washington CoastSavers is an alliance of partners and volunteers dedicated to keeping the state's beaches clean of marine debris. 

Visit www.coastsavers.org for information on registering for this year's coastal cleanup, including what beaches will be cleaned, where to camp and special offers through local business specifically for cleanup volunteers. 

Donations for the effort are gladly accepted.

Helicopter gunners kill at least 1 Huckleberry Pack wolf

UPDATED WITH CORRECTION  6:17 p.m. on Aug. 25

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The first wolf was killed in a helicopter gunning operation to stave off attacks on a flock of 1,800 sheep in northeastern Washington Saturday evening. The kill apparently came shortly after Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials announced they had decided to kill at least four members of the Huckleberry Pack.

An unofficial source says WDFW Director Phil Anderson told staff to avoid talking about the operation through the weekend because he had been contacted by people who said the staffers in the field were in danger.

  • Managing wolves that are naturally repopulating their niches in Washington exposes the wide spread of opinion the species prompts, as can be see in the comments posted to the story linked above.

The decision to kill some of the pack, which numbers up to 12 wolves, came after at least 22 sheep pastured by Dave Dashiell of Hunters on private timber company land had been documented as killed by the wolves since mid-August. The attacks came despite the 24-hour protection of crews and four guard dogs. 

  • The dogs are crosses of the standard sheepdog breeds: Marema, Akbash and Pyrenees. The Dashiells report that one of the dogs has two large canine bites in one of his rear legs that may be from fighting off the wolves in the early attacks around Aug. 14.

Unofficial sources say the agency is trying to target the younger wolves to reduce the pressure on the pack to feed so many mouths, hoping they will turn back to feeding on wild game.

But wildlife officials said the situation will be re-evaluated on a daily basis as to whether more or less than four wolves will be killed.

No word has been released on how many wolves, if any, were killed today, Aug. 24.

Unofficial sources report that Anderson said the goal is to maintain the pack integrity.

Correction: My original report quoted the unofficial source as saying the adults are black and the  juveniles are light-colored. Wildlife officials called and said that is not true and at least one source who has photos of the Huckleberry Pack confirms that is not true. The collared alpha male is gray, for instance.

But apparently wildlife are trying to avoid harming the breeding pair, as originally reported.

Unofficial sources also say the rancher, who has been looking for alternative pasture since the attacks began, may have found an option south of Spokane, well out of the territory of the pack, which ranges mostly on the Spokane Indian Reservation in southern Stevens County.

Background

The Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association has criticized the state for not giving Dashiell radio collar information this spring that would have indicated the operator was planning to pasture sheep near the Huckleberry Pack’s denning area.

Donny Martorello, WDFW state carnivore manager, said a wolf in the pack had been trapped and collared by the Spokane Indian Tribe under an agreement not to share the location of the wolf. Since the attacks, the tribe is allowing the location of the collared wolf to be shared, he said.

The Huckleberry Pack, one of about a dozen confirmed packs in Washington. The pack has not been associated with livestock kills until this month week.

The events are reminiscent of the 2012 wolf attacks on cattle in northern Stevens County that didn’t end until the state was forced to use helicopter gunners to kill all seven members of the Wedge Pack.

Fish and Wildlife officials reported spending $76,500 to end the pack’s livestock attacks but not before at least 17 calves had been lost, mostly on private land managed by Diamond M Ranch.

Spokane River Classic attracts colorful flotilla

PADDLING — Some very fast paddlers streaked across the Spokane River today in the debut of the Spokane River Classic, and they were followed by some not-so fast canoeists, kayakers, stand-up paddleboarders and one rowboat.

But it appeared as though everyone had a blast, as  you can see in my photo gallery from today's event.

State gunners ordered to kill 4 wolves in Huckleberry pack

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A death sentence has been issued for a portion of a wolf pack that’s killed at least 22 sheep this month in southern Stevens County

Efforts to haze and deter the Huckleberry Pack from attacking a flock of 1,800 sheep grazing on private timber land have failed and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say they have no other choice but to target the pack.

In an effort to break the predation cycle, agency Director Phil Anderson said he authorized the killing of four wolves from the pack, which is estimated at up to 12 members.

Officials will later evaluate whether that is enough lethal force to end the sheep attacks.

Gunners began flying the area near Hunters in a helicopter today. A wolf was spotted, but at 4 p.m. officials said no wolves had yet been killed.

“As of Friday, we had confirmed that 17 sheep had been killed by wolves in five separate incidents, and we continue to find more dead and wounded sheep from the flock,” said Bruce Botka, agency spokesman. 

Today crews found five dead and three injured sheep that were attacked last night, Botka said. Investigators confirmed that wolves were responsible for all of the latest attacks, despite night patrols and use of four guard dogs.

Botka said the situation meets the state's conditions for lethal removal of wolves, which are protected in Eastern Washington by state endangered species laws. The pack is one of about a dozen wolf packs confirmed in Eastern Washington.

“There have been repeated, documented wolf kills; non-lethal methods have not stopped the predation; the attacks are likely to continue, and the livestock owner has not done anything to attract the wolves,” he said.

Rancher Dave Dashiell of Hunters has worked with WDFW staff to try to prevent wolf attacks on his flock, Botka said.

This week, four department employees, two federal staff and two contracted range riders have been working with the rancher to prevent additional attacks, he said. 

“Despite those efforts, sheep continue to be killed by wolves,” Botka said.

Washington law allows ranchers to kill up to one wolf if caught in the act of attacking domestic animals. Earlier this week, Anderson gave Dashiell and the agency staffers guarding the flock greater authority to kill up to two wolves if spotted near the sheep even if they weren’t attacking.

On Friday, night conservation groups, including The Lands Council based in Spokane, appealed to Anderson to back off the authorization to kill wolves in the vicinity of the sheep.

“We appreciate the agency’s efforts to work with the rancher and use nonlethal means to protect sheep from further losses,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But the wolf kill order needs to be rescinded right away. Killing wolves is just not an effective means of protecting livestock.”

The groups were angered by today’s notice that the agency was targeting the wolves.

“Nonlethal measures, such as range riders and moving the sheep, were being put in place and should have been allowed to work before the agency moved to kill wolves,” Weiss said.

The events are reminiscent of the 2012 wolf attacks on cattle in northern Stevens County that didn’t end until the state was forced to use helicopter gunners to kill all seven members of the Wedge Pack.

The Huckleberry Pack, named for the nearby Huckleberry Mountains, was documented as a pack in 2012. The pack had not been associated with attacks on livestock until this month, officials said.

Mountain lion kitten’s captivity serves a purpose

WILDLIFE — A three-week-old mountain lion kitten orphaned in northeastern Washington is headed for a zoo, and that's not all bad, state Fish and Wildlife Department officials say.

 “Education is important at American Zoological Association-accredited zoos, which have on-site staff to teach visitors about the natural history of these critters,” said department cougar specialist Rich Beausoleil.

He said the kitten will be transported to ZooAmerica in Hershey, Pennsylvania, which has a reputation for good, natural facilities and education.

The kitten found this week in the Kettle Falls area will join the other 32 cougar kittens from Washington that have been rescued over the past 12 years and placed to live out captive lives.

But think of it this way.   These mountain lions are in facilities in urban areas where they’re seen each year by a total of 17 million people.

“These are people who get a chance to learn something about a critter they’d never otherwise see,” said Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman in Spokane.