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Mountain bikers going 24 Hours Round the Clock

CYCLING — They started at noon today — 9 hours ago — and they're not even half way finished.  A total of 675 riders in 109 teams plus a contingent of crazy solo riders are in the groove for the 24 Hours Round the Clock mountain bike race at the Seven Mile airstrip area of Riverside State Park.

In addition to a great race, it's a fine campout and all-night party for the teams and spectators.

Check it out Sunday.   The race ends at noon.

Photo: Northern lights frame Glacier Park - whoa!

NIGHT SKIES — Wherever you're headed outdoors this holiday weekend, I hope Nature leaves the Lights on for you.

Government hunters prepare to kill salmon-eating birds

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Not since the market hunting days have waterfowl gunners set their sights so high.

Government hunters reportedly are scouting an island at the mouth of the Columbia River as they prepare to shoot thousands of hungry seabirds to reduce the numbers of baby salmon they eat.

Biologists blame the cormorants for eating millions of baby salmon as they migrate down the Columbia to the ocean. Some of the fish are federally protected species.

Hunters from Wildlife Services went to East Sand Island on Thursday to look over the lay of the land before starting to carry out plans to reduce the population of double crested cormorants from about 14,000 breeding pairs to 5,600 by 2018, said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokeswoman Diana Fredlund. 

An environmental impact statement calls for them to shoot adult birds, spray eggs with oil so they won’t hatch, and to destroy nests.  

  

Memorial Day 2015 holiday offers choice conditions for fly fishing

FISHING — Although fish managers and anglers are a puckered about this year's low snowpack and how that will play out for our trout fisheries through the summer, conditions are generally GREAT for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

In the 37 years I've written about the prospects for Memorial Day, I recall that the norm for most years was to report that area rivers were too high for good fishing.

Not this year.

Sean Visintainer of Silver Bow Fly Shop in Spokane Valley has been on all the area rivers recently and he agrees.  Here are some tidbits from his full blog post on the holiday weekend fishing forecast:

  • North Fork Coeur d'Alene — "Wow, looks like late June or July up here!"   River's in great shape for this weekend. Many riffles are already skinny — wade fishing or pontoons will be best options, since drift boats and larger rafts would have to be dragged in many cases. Recommended patterns: PMD's, caddis, March browns, yellow sallies and brown drakes. Expect to have company on the river.
  • St. Joe River — In great shape for Memorial Day weekend, but avoid the river downstream from Calder, where fishing will and access within 50 feet of the river will be prohibited Saturday and Sunday for the Race the Joe! jet boat races.  Above Calder, the river is at a late June level and great for wading or floating. "The river near Spruce Tree Campground is on the colder side; fish are there, but will be lethargic in the morning. Best fishing will be below Gold Creek. Recommended patterns: Stoneflies, brown drakes, March Browns, caddis, PMD's and yellow sallies.
  • Spokane River — Closed until June.
  • Clark Fork — "Big, but on the drop." Clarity already is good enough to fish. If it stays course, flows should be a suitable for fishing, although the possibility of rain could change that. Recommended patterns: Skwala with a drake or March brown should get fish up, but also consider a San Juan dropper.
  • Local Lakes — Fishing has been good overall, and competition is light now that most anglers are heading to streams. Amber, Medical, West Medical are all good options now. Recommended patterns: Damselfly nymphs or similar patterns fished on intermediate or sink-tips; Chironomid and callibaetis nymphs for still fishing well in less than 15 feet of water; balanced leech.

Fire danger prompts shooting restrictions on Wenas Wildlife Area

PUBLIC LANDS — Target shooting on the Wenas Wildlife Area will be restricted to the hours between sunrise and 10 a.m. from May 22-Sept. 30 because of fire danger, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today.

The department has restricted target shooting on the wildlife area, located between Yakima and Ellensburg, every year since 2012. This year’s restriction takes effect earlier in the year and reduces by one hour the number of hours per day that target shooting is allowed, said Cindi Confer Morris, manager of the WDFW wildlife area.

With drought conditions across the state, anyone heading outdoors for the long Memorial Day weekend should be aware of fire risks, said Clay Sprague, manager of the WDFW lands division.

  • Information about local fire-danger is available here.

“It’s essential that we protect public lands for both recreation and wildlife habitat,” Sprague said. 

Shooting on the Wenas is being allowed in early morning when the risk of starting a wildfire is less severe.

According to the WDFW media release:

Target shooting has caused several wildfires on the wildlife area in recent years including three fires in 2014 alone. Last summer’s Cottonwood No. 2 fire burned almost 9,000 acres and cost $800,000 to suppress. Restoration of the charred landscape has cost another $500,000 so far.

“Last year’s fires followed by this year’s drought compel us to take a more cautious approach,” Confer Morris said.

Public notice of the limited hours announced today will be posted at all entry points and at established target shooting sites in the wildlife area.

WDFW adopted the restriction in cooperation with the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which owns lands within the 114,150-acre wildlife area.

In addition to this restriction, the department is considering a proposal to permanently restrict target shooting to two designated sites and would continue to restrict target shooting to morning hours during late spring and summer, when fire danger is the greatest. The department held two public meetings this spring to discuss this target-shooting proposal for the Wenas Wildlife Area.

WDFW will continue to involve the public in developing a plan for target shooting on the wildlife area. The department expects to make the decision later this fall.

Like all of WDFW's wildlife areas and water-access sites across the state, the Wenas Wildlife Area also has prohibitions on fireworks and incendiary devices, including tracer rounds and exploding targets, to reduce the risk of wildfire.

Lands manager Sprague reminds people who plan to visit WDFW wildlife areas in south central Washington – including the Wenas, Colockum, L.T. Murray, Oak Creek and Sunnyside-Snake River wildlife areas – of a campfire ban that’s in place through Oct. 15. Visitors to the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area in Grant and Adams counties also should be aware of a campfire ban until Oct. 31.

Find more information on WDFW wildlife areas.

Wolf documented between Leavenworth and Stevens Pass

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A gray wolf was photographed in February by a trail cam between Leavenworth and Stevens Pass, state and federal biologists have confirmed.

The confirmation is another piece of mounting evidence that the wolves are advancing their recovery toward the West Side of the Cascades.

The gray wolf is still protected under state and/or federal endangered species laws in Washington. Wolves must establish a breeding presence in three regions of the state, including Western Washington, before they can be considered for delisting.

The February photos, released today, were captured by Conservation Northwest’s Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project northwest of Leavenworth. The wolf in the photos is the first officially documented in the area since wolves began to recolonize Washington state in the late 2000s.

“This exciting discovery shows that wolves are continuing to naturally regain their historic range in the Pacific Northwest,” said Chase Gunnell, Conservation Northwest spokesman.

The photos underscore the importance of educating the public on the value of wolves for healthy wild ecosystems, gathering accurate data on impacts to big game and other wildlife species and furthering collaborative efforts that are to reduce conflicts between wolves, livestock and domestic animals in Washington, he said.

Biologists believe the animal is likely a dispersing wolf that traveled into or through the area.

An established wolf pack has not been confirmed in the area, although wolves have likely moved through the region previously to establish the Teanaway and Wenatchee packs to the south, Gunnell said.

While hikers, backpackers and others recreating in wolf country should take some sensible precautions just as they would around bears and other large wildlife, including properly storing food and keeping dogs on leash, wild wolves have posed little threat to humans in North America.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife offers these tips regarding wolf-human interactions:

In the February photos the wolf near Leavenworth, a gray and white animal with a classic coat, is seen sniffing and lying in the snow at a camera station set out to capture photos of wolverines, another elusive carnivore making a comeback in the Cascades. Confirmed wolf tracks were also found within the same area.

The group's citizen-science monitoring program previously made headlines in 2008 by capturing photos of the first wolf pups born in Washington in about 80 years. The project has also photographed and documented scientific data on wolverines in Washington and Canada lynx in British Columbia.

The Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project, led by Conservation Northwest in coordination with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, Wilderness Awareness School and other partners, uses citizen-scientist volunteers to better inform conservation programs and priorities in the Pacific Northwest.

By training hikers, climbers, backcountry skiers, and other outdoor recreationists in tracking, wildlife biology and remote camera use, volunteers are able to support ongoing wildlife research efforts in the Cascades and the Kettle Range of northeast Washington and southeast British Columbia, the group says in a release.

Project efforts typically cover geographic areas outside those where professional research efforts are ongoing, adding to and strengthening the work of agencies, biologists, researchers and conservation organizations.

More information about the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project is available from Conservation Northwest online or in a video.

Photos and full scientific reports on each wildlife monitoring season are also available.

Spokane River at Post Falls opens for boating, but Q’emiln launch closed

WATERSPORTS — The Spokane River has opened to recreation from the Spokane Street Bridge downstream to the boater safety cables above the Post Falls Dam. River flows have dropped sufficiently to allow all of the spillway gates at the hydroelectric facility to be closed, Avista Utilities officials announced today.

However, the Q’emiln Park boat launch, managed by the City of Post Falls, will not open to the public until sometime in mid-June.

Equipment is in the area for the South Channel Dam Rehabilitation Project.

The boat launch usually opens around June 22nd each year, and Avista expects to have its work done around that time.

The Q’emiln Park swim beach is open but the area will not have lifeguards on duty until the Park’s normal schedule begins after school is out.

Wildlife lovers should refrain from robbing the cradle

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The annual pleas are coming from Idaho, Washington and Montana fish and wildlife agencies as birds and big-game animals are bringing off this year's crop of offspring.

"IF YOU CARE, LEAVE THEM THERE," says the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department for the umteenth time.

 

Every spring Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks issues a message to Montanans to leave new born fawns, birds, and other infant wildlife where people find them.

"If you care, leave them there," said Ron Aasheim, spokesman for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks in Helena.

Aasheim said that most birds, for instance, learn to fly from the ground up, and not from the nest.

"Whether you find a fawn or fledgling bird under a tree in a neighbor's yard or bunny under a bush it's important to know that wild animals commonly cache their young for periods of time to protect them from predators while the adults are feeding."

Montana law prohibits the capture, feeding, possession and harassment of wildlife—both game and nongame species. These laws also protect Montana’s wild animals from becoming "pets."

To learn more about living with Montana’s wildlife, visit the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov then Living With Wildlife .

Rattlesnake strike easier to handle in slo-mo

WILDLIFE WATCHING — "They are pretty misunderstood creatures – honestly they will do almost anything to not bite someone."

That's the up-close observation of Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson, who's been spending some quality time with rattlesnakes lately.

He and his wife, Lisa, have been concentrating on close head shots, such as the one above.  Check out more of their rattler head shots here.

"We also captured some pretty neat video of a rattler striking our video camera twice! The camera ended up covered in venom.. yuk.

"We don’t make a practice of bothering them, but wanted to capture in slow motion some actual strikes.

'Video was shot at 240 frames per second – then slowed down to 24 frames per second."

Emphasize fun while fishing with kids

FISHING — Fishing is a time-tested, generations-approved way to have quality time with kids.

But keep it cool.  Going fishing is a way to get away from the pressure kids feel in mainstream sports and school.

Idaho Fish and Game staffers have assembled some kid-fishing tips worth reviewing.

“Be positive, make it fun and remember it’s not just your fishing trip – it’s theirs too,” said Adare Evans, Wildlife Educator for Fish and Game in Boise. “Consider it as an investment — do it right and payback time will come years later when they take you fishing.”

To help ensure your youngster’s fishing trips are not their last, Fish and Game provides the following suggestions:

  • The younger the child, the shorter the attention span.  If the fish aren’t biting, don’t keep them chained to their fishing poles or held hostage in a boat.  Allow some breaks for rock skipping, swimming, enjoying some beach time, catching frogs – whatever keeps them happy and lets them enjoy the outdoors.
  • Be patient. Accept that they may not keep quiet and they probably will get a few tangles. Keeping the outing short (under an hour for beginners) and ending on a cheerful note before anyone gets crabby will set you on course for cultivating a lifelong fishing buddy.
  • Keep it Simple - Short poles and closed-face reels are good choices. A small tackle box with a few small hooks, a few 1-inch bobbers and sinkers is all you need to get started.
  • If bait is used, encourage them to bait their own hooks. Let them practice with plastic worms. Eventually, they’ll get used to the idea of doing it themselves.
  • Pack a cooler with sandwiches, some cookies and water. Remember to take garbage bags to pack out your trash, and encourage the kids to pick up too.  
  • Essentials - Be sure to take sunscreen, a few Band-Aids and a fishing license if required.
  • Quantity not Quality - Your kids will have a lot more fun reeling in several easy to catch stocked trout rather than waiting for a 5-pound lunker to bite. Finding a well-stocked pond or lake is essential to hooking youngsters to fishing.  

Fish and Game’s “Take Me Fishing" trailers are making appearances at well-stocked fishing holes across the state.  The trailers are full of basic fishing equipment that can be checked out for free on a first-come, first-served basis. Fish and Game staff will also be available to answer questions and help those new to the sport. 

Scotchman Peaks group plans hikes, trail work

PUBLIC LANDS — The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness are launching another ambitious season of guided hikes, outings, trail work — along with gentle advocacy for securing wilderness designation for a little piece of heaven northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

The group's newsletter, Peak Experiencelists a number of upcoming attractions, starting in Sandpoint with the May 28  State of the Scotchmans program — always a worthwhile gathering. Guest speaker this year is Doug Scott, who was involved with writing the original 1974 Wilderness Act. He'll be speaking on the role of grass roots advocacy — how wilderness gets done.

The Scotchmans group is scheduling a long list of hikes for the season to acquaint people with portions of 88,000-acre proposed wilderness area.

New this year are Field Day Fridays, geared to doing something fun, educational and meaningful outside every Friday from June 12 through Sept. 25.

The biggest trail news is the impending start of rebuilding the lower mile of Trail #65 on Scotchman Peak, the most popular day-hiking destination in the area.

Consider lending a hand.

Rattlesnake aversion clinic offered for dogs

HUNTING DOGS — A rattlesnake aversion clinic for dogs is being offered June 26 in Lewiston by California-based Natural Solutions.

The clinic is promoted by Lewiston-area resident Shelly DeAtley, who lost her dog to a rattlesnake bite two years ago.

"This is the second year I've hosted these trainers and we've had a great response from owners whose dogs went through the training last year," DeAtley said. "This is the only stop the trainers will make in Idaho." 

After researching several outfits offering the aversion clinics – including some that do not use live snakes – she said she found good reviews for Natural Solutions. "What really sold me was that they care for their snakes as part of their team."

She talked the company into coming to Lewiston. Permits had to be obtained to bring their snakes into the state.

"We had 28 dogs, mostly sporting dogs, go through the stations and successfully complete training last year," she said. "I'm hoping for 60 dogs this year.

"Natural Solutions again gave us a discounted rate of $70 per dog and I am donating my time and space so the costs stay as low as possible."

Sign up: DeAtley, (208) 413-3032, email shellyd181@gmail.com.

Wise words on sign at Spokane River boat launch

WATERSPORTS — Words to live by have been posted along the Spokane River courtesy of a savvy watersports enthusiast.

Elk foundation grants boost Washington elk habitat, research

WILDLIFE — Prescribed burning, noxious weed treatments, forest restoration and big-game related research will get a boost in Washington this year from grants awarded by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

 The Missoula-based group has announced it has designated $212,692 to help it's partners fund 15 conservation projects benefiting 8,760 acres of elk habitat in Washington.

The projects are in Asotin, Chelan, Columbia, Cowlitz, Garfield, Kittitas, Klickitat, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Skamania, Stevens and Yakima Counties.

“These projects will help improve elk habitat in areas where encroaching weeds and forest overgrowth have a detrimental effect on wildlife,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “We are also providing funds for research regarding forage availability for elk and other wildlife near Mount St. Helens.”

Allen thanked RMEF volunteers for their hard work and dedication in raising funds for projects in Washington.

Since 1985, RMEF and its partners have completed 551 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Washington with a combined value of more than $112.3 million, the group says in a media release. These projects have protected or enhanced 453,854 acres of habitat and have opened or secured public access to 118,756 acres. 

Here is a sampling of Washington’s 2015 projects, listed by county:

Garfield County—Burn 2,685 acres within the broader Asotin Creek Prescribed Fire Project area to restore native grasslands and improve wildlife forage. To ensure the establishment of native grasses, 435 acres will be aerially seeded after the burn on a landscape that is a summer, winter and calving area for elk as well as bighorn sheep range.

Skamania County—Provide funding for continuing research to address the interaction of forage availability and nutritional quality on the elk population within the Mt. St. Helens eruption blast zone on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest compared to state and federal land outside the zone. The results provide a foundation for evaluating forest management, predicting future habitat condition trends and a basis for elk population management in the area.

Yakima County—Seed 820 acres with grasses, forbes and sagebrush to restore habitat for elk and other wildlife within the Cottonwood 2 Wildfire area that burned nearly 9,000 acres of winter range in 2014 (also affects Kittitas County).

  • For a complete list of Washington’s projects, go here.
  • Partners for the Washington projects include the Colville, Gifford Pinchot and Umatilla National Forests, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, private landowners and various sportsmen, wildlife, civic, and government organizations.

Deadlines loom for special hunt permit applications

HUNTING — The clock is ticking for hunters hoping to fulfill their dreams in special fall hunts: Permit application deadlines are coming up.

In Idaho, April 30 was the deadline to apply for moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat controlled hunts.

In Montana, March 31 was the deadline for multiple-season permits and May 1 was the deadline for bison, moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat.

In Washington, hunters have to be aware of last year's major wildfires as they plan fall hunts and select special permit opportunities. Scope out possible long-term closures on U.S. Forest Service roads in areas of northcentral Washington (Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest) where wildfires burned last summer and managers have to be careful about landslides and other hazards.  These closures could significantly complicate access to some hunters’ traditional favorite spots. Hunting seasons remain open, but access is never guaranteed; it is up to hunters to check out access before applying for permits.

Check out the Forest Service alerts and notices webpage.

More deadlines are coming up as follows.

WASHINGTON

  • May 20  — Deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep and turkey.
  • July 15 for buying 2015 big-game raffle permit hunt tickets

Info: wdfw.wa.gov/hunting

IDAHO

  • June 5 for deer, elk, pronghorn, fall black bear and fall turkey. 

Info: fishandgame.idaho.gov

Also see Idaho's drawing odds by hunting unit.

MONTANA

  • June 1 for the elk B, deer B and antelope.

Info: fwp.mt.gov .

Video: Prep inflatable life vest for boating season

WATERSPORTS — With their small, comfortable size, inflatable life jackets make it easy and convenient for boater to wear a PFD while on or around the water.

But these self-inflating vests require a little preparation for the season that’s best done at least a day before your first outing.

Here’s a quick five-step prep as well as an inflatable life jacket maintenance video from the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety:

  1. Open it up and look: Gently open the life jacket, usually by pulling apart any Velcro covers or flaps and then unfold. This thin walled bladder could be the only thing keeping your head above water, so take your time looking for any tears or abrasions. Are the waist strap and any buckles ok?
  2. Remove the cartridge: Unscrew the CO2 cartridge and ensure it hasn’t been discharged, sometimes indicated by a small puncture in the center of the threaded end. Check the cartridge and inflation mechanism for corrosion. Some inflator mechanisms have a little “pill” or “bobbin” that dissolves in water allowing for automatic inflation. It should be in good shape. If not, purchasing a rearming kit can solve the problem. Some inflators will have a green ready-to-go indicator.
  3. Make like a birthday balloon: Using your mouth, blow up the life jacket using the manual inflation tube which is found on the upper left front of the life jacket. This tube may also be used as a back up to fill the jacket with air, so familiarize yourself on how it works.
  4. Go wax the boat, organize a tackle box, or do some other busy work while you leave the fully inflated life jacket alone for 24 hours.
  5. If, after the time is up and the life jacket still holds air, deflate and repack according to the instructions which can usually be found on an inside flap. Congrats – you’ve got a another comfy and safe season of boating, fishing or sailing ahead of you.

Click here for more videos on inspecting and repacking belt pack and harness style inflatable life jackets.

St. Joe National Forest Avery Office reopening for season

PUBLIC LANDS — The Avery office on the St. Joe Ranger District of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests is opening Monday, May 18 after being closed for the winter.  The office has a range of information and resources available for visitors.

The office is along the scenic St. Joe River, a popular fishing and camping destination upstream from St. Maries, Idaho.

Firewood permits are available for $5 a cord (minimum purchase is 4 cords and maximum is 12 cords) and are valid on all public lands managed by the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management. 

Interagency Annual Access and Senior Passes are also available.  These passes cover entrance and standard amenity fees at a variety of Federal recreation sites.  Persons 62 years or older can purchase a Senior Pass for $10 and persons with a permanent disability can acquire an Access Pass with proof of required documentation.

Brochures detailing recreation opportunities on the St. Joe Ranger District are available, covering hiking, horseback riding, or riding a motorcycle on the district's trail system. 

Access is nearby for the world-famous 15 mile long Route of the Hiawatha Trail and the Emerald Creek Garnet Area. 

A cabin rental program includes the Arid Peak or Surveyors Ridge historic fire lookout towers. 

The Avery office is open Monday – Friday 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is closed from noon to 12:30. 

Info: St. Joe Ranger District Avery Office, 208-245-4517 or the St. Maries office,208-245-2531.

Hands-on primitive skills and living event May 26-30

PRIMITIVE SKILLS — The third annual Between the Rivers Gathering, an extended ancestral living skills workshop geared for families, is returning May 26-30 in Valley, Wash., north of Spokane, sponsored by the nonprofit group Bridges to the Past.
What: Hands-on primitive skills instruction, from Upper Paleolithic to Early American homesteading with camping, communal meals and camaraderie for all ages.
Who: Nearly 30 instructors to teach primitive skills to participants.
Classes: Bows; basketry; blacksmithing; bookbinding; buckskin tanning; camp craft; clothing and decoration; fibers, cordage and weaving; flint knapping; leatherwork; traps and snares; lithic (stone) tools; seed saving and sustainable gardening; shelters; survival skills; weapons; wild food; wild medicinals; woodworking and more.
Attractions: Archery range and instruction, atlatl throwing, traveling museum, on-site tent camping.
Cost: Classes, workshops and meals are for paying participants. Most participants will take classes all week, camp on site and eat meals communally. Day fee for non-campers. No fee for daily observers.
Info: betweentheriversgathering.com

Photo: avalanche forces rescue of Idaho climbers in Alaska

MOUNTAINEERING — A massive avalanche and the potential for more of the same forced to Idaho climbers to call for a helicopter rescue this week as they aborted their attempt to climb and Alaska mountain.  Following is the story from the Fairbanks News-Miner:

 
Idaho climbers rescued after avalanche in Denali National Park and Preserve
 

FAIRBANKS—Two mountain climbers were evacuated safely by helicopter Monday evening after triggering an avalanche on Mount Dickey in Denali National Park and Preserve.

Mount Dickey is a technical climb about 15 miles southeast of the Mount McKinley base camp on the Kahiltna Glacier.

Climbers Michael Wachs, 24, and Saxon Spellman, 27, both of Idaho, were 7,500 feet up the west face of the 9,545-foot mountain on Monday when they triggered, but were not caught in, an avalanche, according to a news release from the National Park Service. Neither climber was injured, but the slide cut off safe routes down the mountain.

The two waved their hands and caught the attention of an air taxi pilot. They had stamped the letters "SOS," which represent a distress call, in the snow. The two also activated SPOT satellite tracking beacons to call for help.

At about 6:30 p.m., the Talkeetna-based National Park Service's mountaineering rangers responded by sending the high altitude A-Star B3e helicopter, which landed on a flat section of the peak near the stranded climbers. The helicopter crew picked up the climbers and was back in Talkeetna within two hours, Talkeetna-based Park Service spokeswoman Maureen Gualtieri said.

Several feet of snow fell over the weekend in the Alaska Range and high winds swept through the area. Park Service rangers spotted widespread avalanches in the Ruth and Kahiltna glacier areas in the last few days. Mountaineering rangers are reporting daily updates on conditions online at nps.gov/dena/mountainblog.htm.

No other climbers were seen on Mount Dickey on Monday. There were 134 climbers on Mount McKinley on Monday, according to the Park Service blog.

Glacier Park’s “Sun Road” plowing weeks ahead 2014

PARKS — Glacier National Park plowing crews are weeks ahead of last year in their annual effort to clear snow off the Going to the Sun road over Logan Pass.

The snowpack is significantly less this year, but it's too soon to plan an opening date.

So far, 15.5 miles of the scenic road that have been cleared and open for motorized travel from the West Entrance to Avalanche

Hiker/Biker access extends 8 miles past the vehicle closure to The Loop while the road crew is working.

Here are a few more details from a longer Missoulian story by Vince Devlin:

The annual opening of this iconic two-lane highway through the heart of Glacier National Park signals the full-bore start of tourist season in this part of Montana, and so the date Going-to-the-Sun is ready for traffic is an important one to lots of people.

And we don’t know it.

Not yet.

What we do know is that when snowplow crews on the west side reach Oberlin Bend near Logan Pass, Glacier officials escort a gaggle of reporters up to watch them work.

That happened Monday, as machinery labored its way through a winter’s worth of snow, even as more snow fell.

A year ago – with significantly more snowfall for crews to deal with – the annual journalists’ trek to Oberlin Bend didn’t happen until June 5. The road went on to open on July 3.

This year, they’ve reached Oberlin Bend almost four weeks earlier than last year, but, as is always the case, Mother Nature will have the biggest say in how work progresses from here.

“We’ve had blizzards in June, and it’s not even mid-May yet,” explained Glacier spokeswoman Denise Germann.

Video: Eagle eyes guide stoop from world’s highest building

 

FALCONRY — Just how sharp are an eagle's eyes?

Good enough to find a rabbit in range land, for sure. But could an eagle pick out a single human standing on a red carpet in a major city?

Check out this video captured by a tiny camera harnessed to the back of an imperial eagle named Darshan. The eagle was launched in Dubai, capital of the United Arab Emirates, from the top of 2,722-feet high Burj Khalifathe, the world's tallest building. 

This two-minute clip is an edited version of a flight that lasted five minutes as the eagle captured breathtaking views of the city while taking cues from its trainer on the ground.

The eagle flight was arranged by the nature conservation group Freedom Conservation to draw attention to eagle conservation.  This white-tailed eagle has been critically endangered for 50 years, the group says.   

Check it out.

Razor clam digging closed for season on Washington Coast

SHELLFISHING — Digging will remain closed on ocean beaches for the remainder of the razor clam season because of elevated toxin levels, state shellfish managers announced today.

The closure to protect public health ends one of the best razor clam seasons in decades.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has canceled two openings that were tentatively scheduled to start May 15 and May 22 because of high levels of domoic acid.

The agency canceled three days of a four-day dig earlier this month because of elevated toxin levels.

Domoic acid, a natural toxin produced by certain types of marine algae, can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities. Razor clams absorb domoic acid into their fat cells and can retain it there long after the ocean water is free of toxins, said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for WDFW.  

“Based on the most recent test results that show increased levels of domoic acid, razor clams will not be safe to eat for the remainder of this month,” Ayres said.

“We’re disappointed to close early, but it has been a remarkable season for razor clam digging in Washington,” Ayres said. “We’ve had healthy and abundant clam populations that have drawn thousands of visitors to our ocean beaches.”

Shellfish managers estimate diggers harvested 5.7 million clams since the season began last October. Diggers had more opportunities to hit the beaches than any season since 1989, Ayres said.

Annual razor clam seasons typically end in mid-to-late May, when the clams begin to spawn and are less desirable for eating, Ayres said. This razor clam season was scheduled to end after the May 22 dig.

WDFW will continue to monitor toxin levels and conduct razor clam stock assessments as usual this summer.

“We hope toxin levels will drop and razor clam digging can begin again this fall,” Ayres said.  

Since 1991, when the toxin was first detected on the Pacific coast, outbreaks of domoic acid have prompted the cancellation of three entire razor clam seasons in Washington - the last one in 2002-03. Kalaloch Beach, jointly managed by WDFW and Olympic National Park, also was closed for much of the 2004 season due to high toxin levels. In 2005, WDFW closed Long Beach for two days due to elevated toxin levels.

See more info about razor clam seasons.

Video helps anglers connect with North Idaho pike study

FISHING — A northern pike monitoring project on Idaho Panhandle waters helps biologists work to strike a balance between the species popularity with anglers as well as the toothy predator's potential to impact other fish species if its numbers are not kept in balance.

Fish and Game biologists keep regular tabs on northern pike populations in various North Idaho lakes.

A new video posted on the Fish and Game website shows how anglers help with northern pike population surveys through Fish and Game’s “Tag You’re It” program.

The video, filmed at Killarney Lake, also includes a demonstration on how to fillet a pike, which makes excellent table fare.

Studies offer grim prospects for woodland caribou survival

ENDANGERED SPECIES — In case you've developed some optimism over man's ability to live within the means of Planet Earth, here's some recent insight on our impacts to wildlife.

Researchers warn that B.C.'s woodland caribou headed for extinction
The five herds of woodland caribou in northeast British Columbia are in danger of going extinct, according to researchers from the University of Northern B.C. and the province's Ecosystem Protection and Sustainability branch. The province's efforts have not help, including a controversial wolf cull the study discounted as addressing a secondary threat to the caribou. Habitat fragmentation caused by oil and gas work, logging and other industrial development are identified the primary driver of the species' demise.
—Toronto Globe and Mail

Another report on sage grouse tangles Wyoming management of species
The results of a study commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts of sage grouse in the American West found that in Wyoming's Powder River Basin the number of sage grouse fell from 6,804 in 2007 to 1,651 in 2013, a 76 percent decline that could lead the species in the basin to extinction within the next 30 years.
—Casper Star-Tribune

Registration deadline extended for free Hunter Education Jamboree

HUNTING — Prospective hunters who have completed online hunter education coursework can complete field skills requirements at the Hunter Education Jamboree June 6-7 in Yakima.

This is an event worth looking into regardless of where you live in the state since scheduling the required field test can be difficult where qualified hunter education instructors are in short supply.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has extended the deadline to register for through May 25.

Field skills requirements include a review of the online course content, including safety, firearms, first-aid and conservation topics, as well as hands-on firearm handling and live fire practice.

The Jamboree will take place at the Boy Scouts of America Camp Fife, 8370 Bumping River Road, near Goose Prairie, south of Bumping Lake. Three field skills sessions will be offered: Saturday, June 6, 8 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1- 5 p.m., and Sunday, June 7, 8 a.m.-12 p.m.

Each of the three sessions can accommodate up to 100 preregistered students. The Jamboree will be conducted by WDFW hunter education coordinators and more than 30 volunteer instructors from all over the state, said Aaron Garcia, WDFW south central region hunter education and volunteer coordinator.

For more information on registration, and to register, visit the following webpages:

Many campgrounds are available in the area for use by those who want to arrive the night before a registered session.

All prospective Washington hunters born after January 1, 1972 are required to show proof of hunter education course completion before purchasing their first hunting license.  To learn more about online hunter education courses and the field skills requirement, new hunters can visit http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/huntered/.

Spring chinook harvest ends Sunday in lower Clearwater

FISHING —  A section of the lower Clearwater River will close to salmon fishing at the end of fishing hours (8:30 p.m.) on Sunday, May 17, the Idaho Fish and Game Department has announced.

The Clearwater River will close to all chinook fishing from the Camas Prairie Railroad Bridge near Lewiston upstream to the Cherry Lane Bridge.

Says Idaho Fish and Game:

This Idaho closure is being implemented because the harvest quota for adult Chinook salmon has been met in this river section. Harvest quotas in different reaches within the Clearwater River drainage were developed using public input. Those quotas help ensure all communities throughout the watershed have opportunities to harvest salmon.

Chinook salmon seasons continue on the Clearwater River upstream from the Cherry Lane Bridge and the North Fork Clearwater; as well as the South Fork Clearwater, Middle Fork Clearwater, Lower Salmon River, the Little Salmon River, Lochsa River, and Snake River.

Joe DuPont says chinook are well distributed where fishing will remain open.

"It looks like our harvest share will be between about 5,800 and 6,500 adult fish for the Clearwater basin; for the Rapid River run it will be around 9,000 to 9,800 fish; and for Hells Canyon it will be around 1,300 to 1,500 fish," he said, noting that this year's harvest share will be the highest in the Clearwater River basin since 2004. 

"If you like to salmon fish, you better get out this year as it may be a few years before we see numbers like this again."

Court won’t block salmon-saving plan to kill cormorants

WILDLIFE —  A judge has refused to block a plan to shoot more than 10,000 double-crested cormorants in the Columbia River estuary, the Associated Press reports.

The plan was released earlier this year by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It wants to stop cormorants from eating millions of baby salmon.

Conservation groups sought a preliminary injunction. They say hydroelectric dams — not cormorants — are the main threat to salmon. The groups filed suit in April against the Corps, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Wildlife Services agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Corps said Wildlife Services will manage the killing.

The plan also calls for destroying 26,000 nests on East Sand Island.

The decision came Friday from U.S. District Judge Michael Simon.

Draft plan released for Swanson Lakes, Revere, Reardan wildlife areas

WILDLIFE — ,A draft management plan for the Swanson Lakes, Revere and Reardan Audubon Lake wildlife areas in Lincoln and Whitman counties was released Monday for a 30-day public review on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website.

A public meeting is set for 6 p.m. May 19 at the agency’s regional office, 2315 N. Discovery Pl., Spokane Valley.

The public can comment on the draft plans here.

The Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area includes 21,000 shrub-steppe acres purchased in 1993 primarily to protect threatened sharp-tailed and sage grouse and other species. The property is adjacent to U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands and was purchased with Bonneville Power Administration funds set aside to mitigate for wildlife losses from construction of Grand Coulee Dam. Swanson Lakes is in Lincoln County, about 10 miles south of the town of Creston.

The Revere Wildlife Area includes 2,291 acres of Palouse grassland and shrub-steppe.  It was acquired in 1992 with Lower Snake River dam construction habitat mitigation funds from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Revere supports mule deer, upland game birds, raptors and other wildlife.

The Reardan Audubon Lake Unit, managed as a separate unit of the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area, includes 277 acres of wetlands, grasslands and a lake that support over 200 bird species.  Unlike Swanson Lakes and Revere, this small wildlife unit is not open to hunting. The popular bird-watching site, which is immediately north of US 2 at Reardan, is listed on Audubon Washington's Great Washington State Birding Trail and the Ice Age Floods Institute National Geologic Trail.  The site was acquired in 2006 with a state grant and help from the Spokane Audubon Society and the Inland Northwest Land Trust, which just recently added another section to the area.

 

Do hunting dads love sons more than daughters?

HUNTING — Regarding my Sunday story about a sociologist's research on women who hunt — I'm haunted by that one observation.

Of the 40 women hunters interviewed for the study, 39 are daughters of a man without sons. 

Sounds like the basis for a research project in itself.

Don’t paint women hunters a particular color

HUNTING — With the help of a sociologist's research, my Sunday Outdoors feature story related insights on the growing ranks of women hunters.

Here's another insight gleaned from the women’s panel discussion at Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Rendezvous in Spokane in March:

You can’t lump women in one basket any more than you can stereotype men in terms of their likes and attitudes about hunting.

Hunter Yana Robertson, creative director for onXmaps in Missoula, cringed at the marketing of women-shaped fishing waders and hot pink guns and camouflage. “Just treat us like any other sportsman,” she pleaded.

On the other hand, some women enjoy the look and comfort of anatomically contoured fishing waders. I've seen plenty of testimonials that a pink-stocked shotgun was the ticket that got a woman to try out the target range.

And pink camo? Don't shoot it down on sight.

U.S. military testing in the 1990s found hot pink to be one of the most visible colors in to the human eye – a major safety consideration– yet because hot pink is a a blend from opposite ends of the rainbow, deer see shocking pink as neutral gray, researchers say.

Strong women may not just embrace hot pink in their hunting camo, they might also buy it for their kids, as well as their boyfriends and husbands.