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Ducks Unlimited looking for helpers Thursday in Spokane

CONSERVATION — Ducks Unlimited is holding a recruitment meeting Thursday (Dec. 13) in Spokane for people interested in helping organize a fundraiser for wildlife habitat projects.

DU is a nonprofit (501.c.3), volunteer run, conservation organization, that covers the USA, Mexico and Canada.

Bernard Brown, DU's senior regional director for Washington, will meet with conservation-minded waterfowl enthusiasts from 5 p.m.-6 p.m. at O’Doherty’s Irish Grille, 525 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.

Contact Brown at (509) 860-1510 or email Bernard Brown bbrown@ducks.org.

Public can comment on getting nets out of lower Columbia

SALMON FISHING — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will take public comment on a proposed plan to restructure salmon and sturgeon fisheries on the lower Columbia River at a meeting Dec. 14-15 in Olympia.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 4-2 Friday to approve the plan, which forces commercial gillnets out of the rive rand into the tributaries.

  • Here's another report on the Oregon Commission's vote from the Vancouver Columbian.

In mid-November, a work group made up of representatives from Washington and Oregon developed a set of recommendations to restructure salmon and sturgeon fisheries in the lower Columbia River.

Members of the Tri-State Steelheaders are trying to get the commission to looking into aspects of spring chinook management that, in their opinion, short-change Eastern Washington sport fishermen.

For example, they say in the letter document attached below, "37 percent of the Columbia River Salmon & Steelhead Endorsements are purchased by anglers in communities located in Eastern Washington, while only 12 percent of the  harvest for spring chinook has been allowed to occur above Bonneville Dam."

Click "continue reading" below for a list of key provisions in the proposed plan as cited by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Also on the commission's Dec. 14-15 meeting agenda are proposed rules for compensating livestock operators for losses to bears, cougars and wolves.


Should hunting regulations pamphlet include a calendar?

HUNTING — It's safe to say most sportsmen would rather not see the Washington hunting regulations pamphlet get any larger.

But Stevens County hunter Fred Phillips is adamant that something should be added:  a calendar.

Phillips has been writing back and forth to the agency trying to make his case FOR 10 YEARS, but officials have told him, among other things, it would cost money to add more pages to the pamphlet.  A staffer who answered from Olympia said they can't justify adding the extra element considering most hunters have a calendar on their wall, in their rigs or on their smartphones.

Here's Phillips' case:

So let's look at my request from a hunters point of view. First I must reserve vacation time from my employer for next years elk hunt, the 2012 pamphlet on page 46 tells me the season starts Oct 27, but no day, so I must look at calendar for the day.

if I wish to put in for special permits, I go to page 84 and it states I must have the application sent by May 18, but no day. and no calendar to look at.

If I am drawn for special elk season, page 52 informs me it starts Oct. 22. but no day.

This goes on and on in the pamphlet , all dates and no DAYS. A number of years I started getting myself a calendar every year and stapled it to the front page. But his year I said why should I do that? It would be NO trouble for the WDFW to add a calendar for the ease of hunters to utilize this document.

If you look at the 2012 pamphlet, page’s 19, 46, 48, 57 and 80 have more then ample room to incorporate a small calendar. 

Personally, I've never had an problem since I always seem to have a calendar around. BUT, if it's the wildly popular idea Phillips suggests, maybe the free enterprise system could take care of it. 

Perhaps an advertiser looking for a hook to get hunters to check out its ad should include a CALENDAR along with its message.  WDFW could make the stipulation that only one advertiser could sponsor the "calendar ad" each year and charge a premium for the privilege.


Colville Tribe: “Wolves starting to have an impact”

ENDANGERED SPECIES — No wolves have been killed yet in the first regulated wolf hunting season within the borders of Washington, the Colville Confederated Tribes report.

Although gray wolves are still protected by state endangered species regulations, the tribe opened a season two weeks ago to tribal members, with an overall quota of nine wolves in three sections of the 1.4 million acre reservation.

"Wolves are starting to have an impact," a tribal spokesman told the Seattle Times in this report.

Montana panel votes to protect wolves in areas just outside Yellowstone

PREDATORS — After seven of Yellowstone National Park's roughly 88 wolves had been legally shot in recent weeks while traveling outside the park — including five wolves that had been radio-collared for research — Montana wildlife commissioners voted today to close some areas outside the park to wolf hunting and trapping.

The closures were approved on a 4-to-1 vote by Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission, the Associated Press reports.

The most recent to be shot, the collared alpha female from the park's well-known Lamar Canyon pack, was killed last week in Wyoming. The pack is often viewed by park visitors.

Also shot in recent weeks were four collared wolves originally from the park but now living outside it. Three more shot in the vicinity of the park had unknown origins, park officials said.

Saturday is the opening day of Montana’s first wolf trapping season since the animals lost federal protections last year.

With at least five collared wolves from the park shot this year, commissioners say they want to guard against too many being killed.  However, wildlife officials say the statewide wolf harvest is down 18 percent this year.

Before the meeting, Montana wildlife commissioner Shane Colton told the Ravalli Republic, "We don't want to close any area off if we don't have to. But if we keep losing collared wolves … management becomes difficult. We want to do this first trapping season right."

Ex-duck group president sentenced for duck baiting

HUNTING - The former head of an Idaho group whose mission it is to protect ducks is being punished for using illegal methods to hunt them.

Charles D. Steele of Hagerman was sentenced today to a year of supervised probation, a $2,000 fine and 25 hours of community service in U.S. District Court, according to the Associated Press.

On Sept. 25, he pleaded guilty to violating federal bird-protection laws by baiting ducks placing corn on private farmland near Gooding to attract waterfowl — and enhance hunting opportunities.

The 48-year-old Steele is the former president of the Hagerman Chapter of Ducks Unlimited.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

While on probation, Steele is forbidden to hunt in the United States.

Schweitzer benefit features $10 lift tickets Dec. 14

WINTER SPORTS — Schweitzer Mountain Resort will be offering $10 lift tickets on Friday (Dec. 14) with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting Community Cancer Services and the Bonner Partners in Care Clinic. The event is Schweitzer’s first major event of the winter season.

Schweitzer plans to have about 2,000 acres of skiable terrain open and operate seven lifts next weekend as it plays host to the Community Day fundraiser. Lifts will run from 9am – 3:30pm.
“Community Day is a great opportunity to say “thank you” to our loyal skiers and support two organizations that provide much needed services in Bonner County”, said Schweitzer President and CEO Tom Chasse.
Tickets are available in advance at Schweitzer.com or in person at either organization. Early purchasers will be allowed to choose which organization they wish to support. During the day of the event, tickets will be available at the Schweitzer Guest Services, Activity Center and Snow Sports Center.
Info: Schweitzer’s Activity Center, (208) 255-3081.

WDFW extends deadline for fishing rules comments

FISHING — The public will have more time to review proposed changes to state sportfishing rules under an extended comment period announced Friday by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Under the new timeline, WDFW will accept written comments through Jan. 29 on the proposed regulations – more than a month longer than previously announced.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, which sets policy for WDFW, also has postponed a public hearing on the proposals until its February meeting in Olympia. Written testimony also can be submitted during that meeting.

The commission is scheduled to take action on the proposed rule changes during its March meeting in Moses Lake.

Craig Burley, WDFW fish division manager, said the public hearing was postponed to allow for additional time to draft the rule language that the commission will consider.

“Making that change also gives people more time to review and provide comments on the proposals,” Burley said.

Click here to review and comment on the proposed rules.

The website includes information on the nearly 70 proposed rules, some of which are recommended by WDFW fishery managers and some of which are not.

G-Prep wrestlers build cedar canoe with teamwork

PADDLING – Gonzaga Prep wresters are pinning their annual fundraising goals on a 17-foot cedar-strip canoe they built with their own hands.

“We started during summer and we’re just doing the hand-caned bamboo seas and putting the finishing touches on it,” team Coach Danny Pearson said last week.

The team is selling tickets to raffle the canoe in a drawing that will be held at the school on Tuesday (Dec. 13).

Click here to see the work in progress and raffle form

Assistant coach Dane Vulcan recruited his father, Doug, to teach the team how to build a Minnesota Canoe Association guide-model boat. Doug Vulcan, a retired wrestling coach in Montana, has been building canoes for 30 years and conducts workshops on the craft.

“Doug is a canoe guru and was really involved last year when we built our first cedar canoe,” Pearson said. “This year he came over to supervise, but we had students and coaches who’d been involved with the first canoe and we could do a lot more of the work.”

Vulcan helped the team build their own forms to shape the elegant canoe that requires a long series of steps to construct. The flat-bottom, no-keel tandem boat is made of Western red cedar strips with mahogany gunwales, thwarts and face plates. It weighs 70 pounds and has a 750-pound capacity.

“Caning the seats is the most tedious work,” Pearson said. “It requires sitting down for hours and weaving."

The coach went on to explain why they're taking the hands-on approach to fundraising:

“Team building a big part of why we do this. We could sell frozen pizzas to raise money for our travel and equipment, but there’s little benefit to the students other than the money.

“But in building the canoe, the kids come up, sp end a day or two working with each other, milling down the boards, running the table saw and route, troubleshooting and figuring out problems.

“It’s a way for the wrestling team to spend time together other than wrestling.

“This isn’t the easiest or most efficient way to make money, but we want to have a community aspect to our program, and this seems to be a winner.”

  • Canoe raffle tickets are $10, available at Gonzaga Preparatory School, 483-8511.

Fire burns Panhandle warming hut; tips sought

PUBLIC LANDS — Forest Service law enforcement officers are investigating the destruction of the Skitwish Warming Hut, which was discovered this morning to have been destroyed by fire sometime during the past 48 hours.
The warming hut is located approximately 14 miles east of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, on National Forest System Lands in Skitwish Saddle and is popular among snowmobile enthusiasts in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains.
The hut is valued at approximately $30,000 and is maintained by the CDA Snowmobile Club.
The hut’s destruction was reported by a local citizen recreating in the area who reported it to the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office. The cause of the fire is unknown but foul play is suspected.
Anyone with information about the fire is encouraged to contact Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer Dan Schneider at (208) 664-2318.

Could winter recreation resorts be left out in the warm?

WINTER SPORTS — Warm thoughts for the future of ski areas….

Report pegs cost of warming climate to winter tourism at $2B annually

The "Winter Tourism in Peril" report released Thursday by Protect Our Winters and the Natural Resources Defense Council said that warming temperatures and less snowpack could cut $2 billion annually from the $12.2-billion-a-year winter tourism industry in the United States. — Denver Post

EWU student wins Othello Sandhill Crane Festival art contest

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A graphic design student at Eastern Washington University has captured the grace of the Othello Sandhill Crane Festival's featured attraction in artwork that has won the $500 top prize in the festival's annual art contest.

Xengyeng Xiong's computer-generated design, inspired by traditional origami cranes, will be featured on brochures and posters for the April 5-7 festival based out of Othello.

“I knew that one of (the committee’s) main goals was to attract a wide range of audience, so I wanted to make the poster modern…that’s how I ended up with a very geometric and clean layout design for the poster,” she said.

Biologists, geologists, birders, local farmers, authors, and historians will be leading tours and lectures at the annual event, which highlights the annual migration of the large cranes through the area.

The theme for this year’s festival will be “Migration” in honor of the dozens of bird species that travel through central Washington every spring and fall.

The Othello Sandhill Crane Festival is a nonprofit event chaired by an all-volunteer committee, and proceeds generated by the event go toward providing the following year’s festival activities.

Practical outdoorsman eyes wedding dress in closet

HUNTING — I'm thinking this man isn't hunting; he's running scared.

On the other hand, I've always thought it would be cool to haul out my game on a train.

Editorial: Breaching dams cheaper way to save Idaho sockeye

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Another point of view…

Breaching dams a better, cheaper way to save Idaho's sockeye

The Seattle Times' recent article on the federal government's work to save sockeye salmon estimated that the per-fish price tag of raising wild fish in hatcheries was $9,000, a spendy proposition that still has not pulled the species back from the edge of extinction, and a better method would be to remove the dams that block the wild fish's age-old migration from the West Coast to Redfish Lake in Central Idaho, according to an Idaho Statesman editorial.

Click "continue reading" to see the entire editorial:

Another $65 million geared to mitigating mining damage to Clark Fork River

RIVERS — The riches of the Butte-area mining have evaporated in Western Montana as the federal government continues to try to undo the century-old environmental havoc the leftover heavy metals contributed to the Clark Fork River.

The $100-million project to remove Milltown Dam is complete.

Here's the latest step on the course back to a natural river, and wonderful fishery.

Final plan to clean up Upper Clark Fork River in Montana approved

The Trustee Restoration Council charged with allocating the funds from Montana's settlement with Atlantic Richfield Co. over natural resource damage caused by decades of mining in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin signed off on a 20-year plan that will fund $65.5 million worth of projects crafted to improve water and land in Anaconda, Elliston, Drummond and Missoula, and another $40 million on groundwater projects in Butte and Anaconda, and now Gov. Brian Schweitzer must sign off on the plan. — Helena Independent Record

Effort to save woodland caribou has clashed with snowmobiling

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A few rebel snowmobilers helped write a restrictive sentence for Selkirk Mountains snowmobilers with the tracks they left along the Selkirk Crest in the early 2000s. 

Warned to stay away from areas protected for the survival of the last remaining woodland caribou herd venturing into the Lower 48 states, they kept coming, defiantly.

Several conservation groups took to the air, photographed the snowmobile tracks in proximity to wintering caribou areas, and made their case to a federal court, getting an injunction on snowmobiling on a larger area of the crest in 2005 and a court ruling in their favor in 2007.

The closure continues this winter as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Idaho Panhandle National Forests continue to work through the science, lawsuits, budget woes and other issues related to managing on-snow motorized recreation with wildlife protection.  (See my Thursday outdoors column.)

Following are links to maps, documents and background stories related to caribou and snowmobiling in the Selkirk Mountains:

2012-2013 map and Snowmobile Guide for Priest Lake, Bonners Ferry and Sandpoint Ranger Districts. The dark purple areas are closed to snowmobiling, with the exception of specific marked routes, because of the 2005 court injunction.

Critical habitat designated for Selkirk woodland caribou, US FWS media release, Nov. 27, 2012

Bonner County files petition to delist caribou, S-R, May 10, 2012

Public land decisions run into roadblocks, S-R, Feb. 26, 2012 

Caribou face precarious prognosis, S-R, Feb. 26, 2012

Caribou protection worries officials, S-R, Dec. 21, 2011

Plan designates land for Selkirk caribou, S-R, Nov. 30, 2011

Agencies increase snowmobile protections for caribou, S-R, Dec. 3, 2010

Lawsuit filed to protect caribou, S-R, Jan. 17, 2009

British Columbia announces caribou plan, S-R, Oct. 18, 2007

U.S. Forest Service crafting caribou plan, March 20, 2007

Caribou buffer zone in Selkirks expanded, S-R, Feb. 28, 2007

Snowmobiles and caribou: Tense trail mix in the Selkirks, S-R, Dec. 17, 2006

British Columbia to transplant more caribou, S-R, Dec. 6  2006

Snowmobilers lose access in court case, S-R, Sept. 26, 2006

Ungroomed ghost town, S-R, Jan. 29, 2006

Group wants snowmobiling halted through caribou land, S-R, Dec. 6, 2005

Caribou numbers desperate, S-R, Nov. 30, 2005

Canada might abandon caribou recovery, Oct. 29, 2005

 Opinion: Caribou lawsuit forced by agency inaction, S-R, Sept. 3, 2005

More snowmobiling restrictions advocated, S-R, Dec. 14, 2004

Caribou facing uphill battle to survive, S-R, July 2, 1997

Caribou transplants survival low, but inching to success, S-R, March 3, 1996

Rare caribou dwindline to 13 in Idaho, S-R, Sept. 3, 1995

More caribou habitat off-limits to snowmobilers, S-R, Jan. 3, 1995

Hunter earns reward for turning in gate-busting ATVers

HUNTING — A national sportsman's conservation group has paid a $500 reward to an Idaho bear hunter who provided the information game wardens needed to cite hunters using all-terrain vehicles in habitat protected from motorized traffic.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is a national group of outdoorsmen and women who value hunting and fishing in the peace and quiet of natural conditions, said Holly Endersby, BHA acting director who lives in Pollock, Idaho, in announcing the reward.

The case dates back to spring of 2011, when Ted Koch and two friends were hunting for black bears on the Nez Perce National Forest. They planned to hike into an area where roads had been closed to vehicles, but hike-in hunters were allowed.

As they hiked in, they observed hunters on ATVs driving around the locked gate. They also found bait stations the hunters had left behind.

“We planned to enjoy a quiet evening looking for bears,” Koch said. “Instead, the evening was shattered by noise and exhaust where it did not belong.”

Koch lived in Boise at the time of the hunt, but has since moved to Reno, Nev. He pointed out that he and his hunting partners own dirt bikes or all-terrain vehicles, but stay within the bounds of the law.

“Hunters and wildlife alike need some places entirely apart from the noise and disturbance of motor traffic,” Koch said. “Owning an ATV does not mean you can re-write the rule book.”

Koch noted the license plate numbers of the hunters’ vehicles, took GPS readings, recorded the date and time and wrote detailed descriptions of the riders. He reported the incident to Roy Kinner, a senior conservation officer from Idaho Department of Fish and Game in Grangeville.

“Mr. Koch gave us exactly the kind of information we needed to launch a successful investigation,” Kinner said. “I don’t usually get that kind of high quality information.  It was just priceless.”

In the end, three hunters pleaded guilty to the road closure violations and were fined $500 each. Other charges of leaving bear bait too close to a stream were dismissed.

BHA has a dedicated reward fund for aiding the conviction of law-breakers who abuse public hunting and fishing areas with motorized vehicles.

Bald eagle numbers increase at Lake CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING —  A total of 121 bald eagles were counted Tuesday in the Wolf Lodge Bay area of Lake Coeur d'Alene, up from 100 eagles counted on Nov. 27 during their annual congregation to feast on spawning kokanee.

BLM wildlife biologist Carrie Hugo said she counted 84 adults (white heads) and 37 juveniles this week.

She notes that 36 eagles were spotted on Mineral Ridge, with a lot of flying action around the boat launch around 1 p.m.

More eagles

Lake Coeur d' Alene doesn't have claim to the only eagle congregation in the region, although the Wolf Lodge Bay eagles are the most accessible for viewing.

Idaho Fish and Game Department hatchery workers collecting kokanee eggs on Lake Pend Oreille counted 129 bald eagles last week near Granite Creek, a 45-minute boat ride out of Bayview.

Spokane makes top 10 ‘winter vacation cities’ list

WINTER SPORTS — Spokane has been named to a list of Top 10 Best Winter Vacation Destinations by Livability.com, a national website that highlights more than 500 of America’s best places to live and visit.

Note: It's not clear if Mayor Condon owns this site.

The list highlights "communities that embrace their cool climates and offer residents and visitors a wealth of outdoor recreation, arts and culture, dining and entertainment options."

Note: Salt Lake City is not on this winter destination list, for some reason.

To narrow down the list, editors started by identifying those cities with an average temperature below freezing and an average annual snowfall over 25 inches.

Editors looked for cities that offer an ample number of outdoor recreation options – cities near ski slopes or frozen lakes or with large open areas perfect for snowshoeing or snowmobiling.

Note: Spokane is on the same list with Casper, Wyo.  (See below).

“Winter can be a great time to travel because often hotels and attractions are more willing to offer discounts to get people in the door,” says John Hood, spokesman for Livability.com. “But just because a city has cold weather does not make it a good winter vacation destination. We chose cities that offer the amenities tourists look for – good, local and independent restaurants, a thriving arts scene, nightlife, shopping, and plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities.”

Note: OK, we can go with that.

Says Mr. Hood:

Moonlit snowshoe hikes, snowmobile tours and downhill skiing are just some of the winter activities visitors and residents enjoy in Spokane. A hot nightlife scene, unique restaurants and a large collection of theaters, art galleries and museums provide plenty of ways to stay entertained and warm during Spokane's coldest time of the year.

Spokane's location near five ski mountains, lakes and forests puts it in a prime spot for winter recreation. Spokane's cultural and historic attractions music and art lovers from around the region. An annual Bach Festival, which begins in late January, showcases the city's talented collection of orchestral musicians, while venues like the INB Performing Arts Center, Bing Crosby Theatre, and the Knitting Factory Concert House offers stages for popular rock, pop and country acts.

Top 10 Best Winter Vacation Destinations
1. Anchorage, AK
2. Spokane, WA
3. Minneapolis, MN
4. Traverse City, MI
5. Reno, NV
6. Waukesha, WI
7. Missoula, MT
8. Bangor, ME
9. Concord, NH
10. Casper, WY

Feds consider hunting season on Yellowstone-area grizzlies

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Federal authorities are laying groundwork for possible trophy grizzly bear hunts around the Yellowstone area as soon as 2014, the AP reports.

It's the surest sign yet that more than 30 years of federal protection for grizzlies in the area is nearing an end as their population recovers.

Canada considers bull trout for threatened status

FISHING — Not unexpected….

Canada lists bull trout in Alberta, Saskatchewan as species of concern

On Monday, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada listed 42 species as at risk, including the bull trout, which is Alberta's provincial fish. — Calgary Herald

Alaska plans 5-year, $30 million study of ailing king salmon stocks

FISHING — Following dismal returns that forced closure of some king salmon fishing seasons this year, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell has announced that his Fiscal Year 2014 budget will contain $10 million for the first component of a five-year, $30 million comprehensive Chinook Salmon Research Initiative.

See details in this story by the Columbia Basin Bulletin.

Colville Tribe opens wolf hunting season on reservation

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Wolf hunting has arrived in Washington.

Although gray wolves are still listed by the state as an endangered species, the Colville Confederated Tribes have opened a wolf hunting season for tribal members on a portion of their reservation, according to the 2012 Tribal Member South Half Gray Wolf Regulations posted on the tribe's website.

Tribal officials aren't answering calls from the media, but Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman magazine has put together a detailed report on this milestone in wolf management.

The Tribal Council approved a season that opened last week on the south half of the 1.4 million-acre reservation in Okanogan and Ferry Counties where at least two and possibly three packs roam.

At least 12 wolf packs have been identified across Eastern Washington.

The minimum number of wolf packs have not been formed to trigger steps toward a hunting season in Washington outside the reservation, according to the state's Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

Nine permits are available to Colville tribal members, according to the online regulations. The season is posted to run through Feb. 28 or until  hunters have met the quota.

This fall, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers set another milestone in the process of wolves reestablishing themselves in the state by killing an entire wolf pack that had been attacking cattle in northern Stevens County.

Washington freezes Master Hunter Program enrollment

HUNTER EDUCATION – With current enrollment nearing 2,000 hunters, the Master Hunter Permit Program administered by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has stopped accepting new applications for membership until further notice.

The enrollment freeze is designed to give the department time to absorb an increase of nearly 30 percent more certified master hunters over the past four years and clearly define the program’s role, said Sgt. Carl Klein, WDFW program manager.

“Since 1992, the program has produced a highly skilled pool of volunteers that assist the department in controlling wildlife damage,” Klein said. “Now we need to make sure we can utilize the skills of all master hunters.”

Klein said WDFW often calls on master hunters to participate in hunts designed to remove problem animals that damage property or threaten public safety. To maintain their certification, master hunters are required to participate in volunteer projects, ranging from maintaining elk fences to restoring wildlife habitat.

Mike Britton, chair of WDFW’s Master Hunter Advisory Group, said he supports the department’s review of the program.

“There is an urgent need for WDFW to identify priority volunteer needs and to actively engage master hunters in meaningful work,” he said.

When is the best time to read the Outdoors Blog?

READER REACTION:  A woman just made this comment to me (slightly smiling): 

"I don't know why I read the Outdoors Blog while I'm eating lunch."

Apparently she's reacting to the graphic and educational and fascinating if not gross post of the local snowy owl giving a new definition to the term "expelled" at Mt. Spokane High School.

Question: Is there a BEST TIME to read the Outdoors Blog?  

Idaho anglers need new fishing license Jan. 1

Ask Idaho Fish and Game: New Fishing License

Q.      I just purchased a 2013 Idaho fishing license; can I use it to fish to the end of 2012?

A.      No. To fish in December 2012, you must have a valid 2012 fishing license. The 2013 license is not valid until January 1.

But a resident 2012 season fishing license is still available for $25.75. A resident can buy a one-day license for $11.50 plus $5 for each additional day when purchased at the same time. But a one-day license holder can't buy a salmon or steelhead permit. Resident anglers must first buy a full season fishing license to buy a salmon or steelhead permit for $12.75.

A nonresident daily fishing license is available for $12.75 for the first day and $6 for each additional day, or a three-day license and permit for steelhead is available for $37.50.

See more information on Idaho fishing rules.

  • WASHINGTON's license year begins April 1.

Montana game wardens share bizarre stories from the field

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — "Sorry, officer, but I thought that llama was an elk — even after I gutted it out and put it in my pickup."

Sound like a tall tale? Nope.  Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks employees have seen some doozy cases over the years, as you'll read in Montana game wardens share some of their stranger tales, published in the Missoula Independent.

Indicentally, the 2009 llama incident mentioned above was well reported at the time.

Hog Canyon, 4th of July Lakes heavy with fish

WINTER FISHING — Hog Canyon had an average turnout, but the pressure was down somewhat at Fourth of July lake when the fisheries opened for their winter trout season on Saturday.

Fishing was good, but anglers had trouble getting their limits after catching two fast fish over 14 inches.

Problem:  Most of the fish are large and you can keep only two fish longer than 14.

Click here for the opening weekend report from Hatch and Williams lakes near Colville.

Following is the Hog Canyon/Fourth of July lakes report from Randall Osborne, Washington Department of Fish Wildlife area fisheries biologist:

Both lakes were ice free for the opener and with the forcast, should stay that way for a while anyway. Both lakes fished relatively well and should be good for quite a while through the season.

Hog Canyon Lake - this lake had a pretty good turnout for the opener. Rainbows averaged 16 inches and ranged from 9 to 20 inches. Average number of fish harvested by anglers that were creeled was 1.9 fish/angler.

Fourth of July Lake - Not the most people I have seen here in past openers, but still a pretty good turnout. Rainbows averaged 17.5 inches and ranged from 15.5 to 21.5 inches. Average number of fish harvested by anglers that were creeled was also 1.9 fish/angler.

When these two lakes are in form, like they are now, they tend to grow trout really, really well. This is the reason for the relatively low harvest rates. Most people harvested their two fish over 14 inches pretty quickly, but struggled a bit finding fish under 14 inches to fill in their limits.


Mt. Spokane HS snowy owl puts on digestion clinic

WILDLIFE WATCHING — An arctic migrant snowy owl  continues to treat birdwatchers near Mount Spokane High School, not only by perching and modeling for photos, but also by letting people watch as it hunts nearby for rodents.

Of course, most of what goes in must come out.

You don't need a degree in anatomy to guess that bones are expelled easier from the front end, rather than the rear. 

Owls have a cool way of internally wrapping the sharp bones they ingest in the fur and feathers of their prey. This neat little package, called an owl pellet or casting, is regurgitated — a prize for the curious, picked apart by many biology classes.

Local birder/photographer Ron Dexter caught the snowy owl in an act with his camera.  The photo above might leave you a little breathless to see the size of that pellet.  To the owl, it's just another moment of relief.

Here's Dexter's Monday report:

This is the Snowy Owl that is still hunting early morning and late afternoon at the Mt. Spokane High School on HWY 206.

I captured these images of it a few days ago as it regurgitated the large pellet from it's stomach after acids had eaten all of the meat and blood leaving just the fur and bones to be expelled.

I collected the pellet and disected it at home and found 5 rodent skulls and skeletons. Two of the skulls were twice the size of the other 3.

School students sometimes using charts can identify the exact type of rodent. I suspect the large ones are voles and the smaller ones mice. Lots of fun.

Afterthought:  A reader wonders about the timing of reading these Outdoors Blog posts.

Most Dworshak facilities closing for season

BOATING — Most of the recreation facilities at Dworshak Dam and Reservoir are buttoning up for the winter.

Dam View, Grandad and Canyon Creek campgrounds, and Merrys Bay day-use area are closed for the season and will reopen in the spring 2013 as weather conditions allow.

Dent Acres campground will remain open until Dec. 15, weather permitting, to accommodate late-season hunters.

Big Eddy, Bruces Eddy and the fishing wall area below the dam will remain open for use during the winter season. 

Roads accessing recreation areas can be challenging and icy during inclement weather.

Info: (208) 476-1255 Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.