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Whitman geology prof to speak on Grand Coulee origins

THE LAND — The Cheney-Spokane Chapter of the Ice Age Floods Institute is sponsoring a free public lecture “Latest Pleistocene Geologic History of Upper Grand Coulee” by Dr. Patrick Spencer on Thursday, (Nov.17), 7 p.m., on the Eastern Washington University, Cheney Campus, in Science Building, Room 137.

Dr. Spencer,  professor of geology, Whitman College will lecture on recent work on fine grained sediment in Upper Grand Coulee, including analysis of grain size distribution, sedimentary structures and radiocarbon age dates on key localities, suggesting that some of the sediments accumulated in a calm-water setting, possibly in a lake behind a moraine-dam.  Grand Coulee was then swept by Missoula Floods, leaving behind a record of high energy processes. 

Woman deer hunter details unnerving encounter with wolves near Chelan

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A woman scouting for deer during Washington's early deer hunt details her tense encounter with two wolves that apparently were defending their deer kill near Lake Chelan in this blog post by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman.

No shots fired. I admire her poise.

Lake CdA eagle cruise for veterans, military and families

WILDLIFE WATCHING  – Veterans and active military are being honored with a special eagle-watching cruise set for Nov. 26 on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

The free two-hour partyboat cruise to view the annual congregation of bald eagles is organized by the U.S  Bureau of Land Management and Idaho Fish and Game.

Participants are invited along with their immediate families must make reservations by calling (208) 769-5043. Seating is limited to 160.

Migrating eagles visit the Coeur d’Alene area in winter to take advantage of the kokanee spawning in Wolf Lodge Bay. 

The eagles already are starting to show up and numbers will build to a peak in December before the birds start moving on the spawning ends in January.

Last winter, a record 254 eagles were counted in the bay by BLM biologists on Dec. 21.

Is Landers the only one skunked by whitetails this weekend?

DEER HUNTING — Nothing resembling the buck above showed its face to me in the whitetail thickets of northeastern Washington today. 

Less than one week to go in the 2011 late buck hunt.

Inland Northwest Land Trust annual party is Monday

 CONSERVATION — The Inland Northwest Land Trust, which works quietly with landowners to preserve the landscape with conservation easements and other methods, will hold its annual meeting and Harvest Party Monday, 5:30-7 p.m. at the Community Building lobby, 35 W. Main Ave. in Spokane.

INLT vital statistics:

44 conservation easements

29 partner projects

33.9 miles of shoreline protected

12,174 acres conserved

Hunting groups support Ore. order to shoot wolves

WILDLIFE – Three hunting groups are supporting the state of Oregon in a lawsuit trying to overturn state authority to shoot wolves that attack livestock, the Associated Press reports.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Oregon Hunters Association, and the Oregon chapter of the North American Wild Sheep Foundation have all asked the Oregon Court of Appeals to allow them to file friend of the court briefs supporting the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Conservation groups are trying to overturn a department order to kill two wolves from the Imnaha pack that have been blamed for livestock attacks in northeastern Oregon.

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation says in a statement that elk herds are struggling to survive in places wolves have been reintroduced.

Conservation groups counter climate change and habitat are more likely causes than wolves.

Winter Sports Kickoff at REI on Saturday

WINTER SPORTS —  Pick up season lift passes for your favorite mountains, talk to vendors, enter to win outdoors gear and get free info on outside in the winter on Saturday (Nov. 12) at the annual Winter Sports Kickoff, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at REI, 1125 N. Monroe St.

Birding groups call on mayors to rein in cats

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Mayors of major U.S. cities received a letter from a major bird advocacy group this week asking them to stop the epidemic spread of feral cats that threaten national bird populations as well as scores of other wildlife.

Letters were mailed to mayors of the fifty largest cities in the Unites States by the American Bird Conservancy urging them to support responsible pet ownership and oppose Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) programs that promote the feeding of outdoor cats.

 “Cat overpopulation is a human-caused tragedy that affects the health and well-being of cats, our native wildlife, and the public,” says Darin Schroeder of ABC. “Numerous published, scientific studies have shown that trap, neuter, re-abandon programs do not reduce feral cat populations, and that outdoor cats, even well-fed ones, kill hundreds of millions of wild birds and other animals each year in the U.S., including endangered species. Birds that nest or feed on the ground are especially vulnerable to cat attacks.”

 There's no disputing that. But cat lovers have been living in denial forever.

Good luck in your attempt to use logic and facts to save millions of birds a year, ABC.

Whitetail bucks coming out of the closet; rut heads for Nov. 20 peak

DEER HUNTING — Whitetail bucks are geting on with the rut, chasing does during daylight in some areas despite the bright full-moon phase. Western Montana wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson delivered some proof in the photo above, snapped on Sunday.

He said bucks in his area were on the move and necks on most bucks were clearly swollen.

The activity isn't the same across the board, but no hunters should be going out this week without a plan to do some rattling.

Here are a couple of the latest reports:

Eastern Washington — “Pictures on my trail camera indicate much more activity during daylight hours,” said Nate Krohn, who seriously hunts the eastern Okanogan region. “The majority of the activity seems to be in the early morning. I did notice one area in the snow where it appeared two medium sized bucks were locking horns. It didn’t appear to be very intense, but still a sign of change for the better. All of the decent sized bucks I am getting on my trail camera are still by themselves, but I am guessing that will change soon.”

Let's hope so. Washington's late whitetail buck rifle hunt in northeastern Washington ends Nov. 19.

North Idaho — “Guys in this region are seeing plenty of whitetail rubs,” said Tom Anderson, who's been posting more buck photos on the brag board at Big R near Sandpoint. The mule deer rut appears to be peaking right now, and the peak for whitetails usually follows by a week or more.

Idaho whitetail seasons hunts continue into December in some units.

Wildflowers, trees of High Sierra featured in SCC show

NATURE — Andy Buddington, a hiker and local science prof, will give a free slideshow on “Flowers and Trees of the Highest Sierra” on Wednesday (Nov. 16), 12:30 p.m., at Spokane Community College, Buildling 27, Room 201. 

Post Falls boat ramp closing for season on Monday

BOATING — The Q’emiln Park boat launching ramp on the Spokane River in Post Falls will be closed for the season beginning Monday (Nov. 14).

The ramp, situated upstream from Avista’s Post Falls Hydroelectric Development, is closed each year in mid-November because of weather conditions and dropping water levels.

Generally, the ramp re-opens in the late spring or early summer, depending on the amount of inflows into Coeur d’Alene Lake.

Avista’s annual drawdown of Lake Coeur d’Alene will cause Spokane River levels above the dam to drop to about 3 feet below the summer full-pool elevation of 2,128 feet on Nov.14. Water levels may drop by as much as 5 additional feet by the end of January.

Updates: Avista has a 24-hour telephone information line that provides notification of anticipated elevation changes on Lake Coeur d’Alene, Lake Spokane and the Spokane River.

  • In Idaho, call (208) 769-1357.
  • In Washington call (509) 495-8043.

Roosevelt near full pool, but slight drop forecast

COLUMBIA RIVER — The level of Lake Roosevelt was 1288.31 at 8:06 a.m today.

The elevation of Lake Roosevelt is expected to draft slightly and be operated in the 1286-1288 range over the next week, the Bureau of Reclamation says.  The reservoir is being operating the boost chum spawning in the lower Columbia River and for power. 

Throughout the month of November lake levels are predicted to slightly decrease as chum spawning continues.

Daily lake level forecast: (800) 824-4916. This forecast is updated at 3 p.m. each day.


Steelhead fishing access pinpointed on Snake tributaries

FISHING — After reading my outdoors column on steelheading puzzles along the Snake River and tributaries, some readers are asking where they can go fishing on the Touchet and Tucannon rivers.

Touchet River steelheading is allowed during the June-through-October gamefish season, as well as during the steelhead season that runs Nov. 1-March 31.

Much of the Touchet is private, but anglers find access:

  • At levees within the towns of  Dayton and Waittsburg.
  • Between the two towns at Lewis and Clark Trail State Park.
  • At the WDFW Dodd fishing access site nine miles north of Touchet and Highway 12.
  • And from private landowners who often give permission to anglers who ask.

Tucannon River steelheaders find easy public fishing access in the first mile of river up from the Snake.

Farther upstream, one encounters mostly private land for miles. Permission for one property often is granted at the Tucannon River RV Park above Starbuck.

Anglers also can find access on state and national forest land farther upstream to the Tucannon Hatchery, but most of the steelhead harvest occurs downstream from Highway 12.

Historically, December is an excellent month for steelheading on the Tucannon.

Where would you go to see a moose?

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A reader emailed me today asking where he could bring a friend from out-of-state to see a moose.

Most of us who live in this region take moose for granted.  We see them regularly, if not predictably. Seeing a moose for the first time would be a big deal for this reader and his friend.  But where to send them?

I had a moose in my yard near Hangman Creek a few weeks ago, but I haven't seen hide nor hair of the bull since.

Mike Miller of Spokane snapped a photo of this bull moose on Wednesday while dayhiking along the Little Spokane River.

Just last year, moose were chasing dogs accompanying hikers in the Dishman Hills.

I put out a few queries to Fish and Game officers. So far, they haven't come up with an area where you could regularly be likely to drive up and see a moose, although moose are being poached not far from I-90 near Cataldo.

One moose was killed in a collision with a motorist off Highway 2 just north of Spokane this week and another was killed by a vehicle two weeks ago off Highway 195 just south of town.

Moose are all around Spokane and Coeur d'Alene, and up the logging roads throughout the region. I saw one near Liberty Lake last week. Elk hunters have told me they've been seeing more moose than elk up the logging roads from Idaho's St. Joe River area to 49 Degrees north in Washington.

 But it's tricky to tell somebody where he could go out and see one tomorrow.

Ski resort chain offers guarantee for bad skiing days

DOWNHILL SKIING – Tired of paying big money for bad skiing? A condominium and home-rental company is offering a fix.

ResortQuest, which has properties in Colorado, Utah and Idaho, is offering clients a snow guarantee that allows guests to move to one of its other resort destinations at no extra charge in the event of less-than-favorable snow.

The resorts involved include Aspen, Breckenridge, Keystone and Steamboat in Colorado, Sun Valley in Idaho and Park City in Utah.

Northern Regional forester named deputy chief; headed to D.C.

NATIONAL FORESTS — U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell has named Northern Regional Forester Leslie Weldon the deputy chief of the agency, the Associated Press reports

Weldon will move from Missoula to Washington, D.C., early next year to take over the position, which has been vacant since Joel Holtrip retired two months ago. 

Weldon has overseen 15 national forests and four national grasslands in the states of Montana, Idaho and North Dakota since 2009. She took over Tidwell’s job as regional forester when he was named the agency’s chief. 

Tidwell says Weldon’s management, community involvement and partnership skills were key considerations in her promotion. He says her experience, judgment and leadership will serve the agency well

Bucks safe on one side of road, targets on the other side

DEER HUNTING — Why did the buck cross the road?

In Northeastern Washington, it might be for a little safety afforded by the new four-point minimum buck rule.

After many hours of hunting, Elizabeth Odell — a few days shy of her 14th birthday —  got her four-point buck in Unit 117 last weekend (top photo), maintaining her goal of bagging at least one turkey and one deer since she was 9 (photo at left). Odell is from Spokane hunts with her father, Jim, and grandpa, Dick.

This buck, shot in Stevens County, would have been legal in any northeast unit that's open for the late whitetail buck hunt through Nov. 19.

However, bucks with fewer than four points on at least one antler are not legal for hunting this year in Units 117 and 121.

Just east of Highway 20 in Pend Oreille County, any whitetail buck is legal.

No virus found in B.C. salmon; testing continues

FISHERIES — Canadian government officials said Tuesday they have found no signs of a potentially deadly, infectious salmon virus in British Columbia, according to an Associated Press report.

Researchers with Simon Fraser University in British Columbia announced last month they had detected infectious salmon anemia, or ISA, in two wild juvenile Pacific salmon collected from the province’s central coast, prompting fears the influenza-like virus could wreck the salmon fishing industry in the Pacific Northwest.

But Tuesday, officials backed off.

“There’s no evidence that (the virus) occurs in fish off the waters of British Columbia,” Dr. Cornelius Kiley, a veterinarian with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Tuesday, announcing results from the government investigation.

Officials are continuing to test samples for the salmon virus, which has affected Atlantic salmon fish farms in Chile, Maine, New Brunswick and other areas. It does not affect humans.

Fastest steelhead fishing reported upstream in Snake, Salmon

STEELHEADING — The latest Idaho steelhead fishing harvest report indicates slower than normal fishing in the lower reaches of the Snake River, but good fishing upstream from the Salmon River.

Great fishing has been reported from the Salmon River area near Riggins.  Read on for details. 

City recruiting helpers to build trails in NW Spokane park

TRAILSSpokane Parks and Recreation Department is planning two volunteer trail building days at Wyakin Park. This undeveloped park is in the northwest part of Spokane at the corner of Assembly and Francis. 

“This area is about 20 acres and will make a great small trail area that is close to Riverside State Park, and the Merkel Trail system,” said Mike Aho, the city's outdoor program director. “It makes a great hiking, trail running, dog walking and Mountain Biking park for the northwest residents.”

“To make this happen we are relying on volunteer labor to help create another close to home nature area. Your help continues to make Spokane a great place to live and recreate by helping out.”

The work days are:

  • Friday (Nov. 11-Veterans Day), noon-3 p.m.
  • Saturday (Nov. 12), 9 a.m.-noon.

Sign up: Contact volunteer coordinator Ted Moon at  lunarover@comcast.net or 991-5166

Bring Trail tools (shovels, racks, litter bag, loppers), Gloves, Sturdy Shoes, water bottle and dress for weather.

Meet at the park just North of Francis Avenue on Assembly Street.

Who’s looking down on Mount Rainier?

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY — I love this autumn photo of Mount Rainier snapped by my backcountry skiing buddy, Rick Rocheleau. Even Seattle residents tell me they can't remember seeing a hole in the clouds so perfectly poised over the state's highest peak.

Resort proposes putting powder days in spotlight

SKIINGWhitefish Mountain Resort is proposing putting up beacons in downtown Whitefish to signal skiers when there are ideal conditions at Big Mountain.

The Missoulian reports resort marketing director Nick Polumbus presented the idea to the Whitefish City Council.

Under the proposal, a pair of beacons would be installed on the Great Northern Brewing Co., the tallest building in downtown Whitefish. A blue LED light would flash on days when the summit received at least 6 inches of snow overnight and an amber light would flash on inversion days, when the summit is above the clouds. The beacon would only be on between 8 a.m. and noon.

Polumbus says the resort had three inversion days last season and 18 days in which it received more than 6 inches of snow.

Everglades python not a dainty eater

SNAKES — Assuming you've eaten your breakfast, check out the AP photo from Everglades National Park showing the capacity of a Burmese python for consuming an ENTIRE deer — whole.

Indeed, they kill alligators, great blue herons and full-grown deer, but Florida wildlife officials say these large reptiles are unlikely to be aggressive to humans.  Read on for the story from the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel.

Electronic navigation devices can leave hikers out in the cold

HIKING/SURVIVAL — It's good news that a Leavenworth hiker who got lost last weekend walked out safely from the woods after spending an unexpected cold night in the mountains. He had the gear and know-how to survive. Yay!

But a few readers have been intrigued by one of the last graphs in the Associated Press story quoting sherrif's deputies who said the source of the man's trouble was electronic devices that weren't functioning properly because of the cold weather.

The story did not elaborate, leaving us to wonder what electronic devices he was relying on: GPS?  Headlamp?  Or God forbid, a smart phone with its notoriously poor battery life?

I don't know. But I can tell you this:  A map and compass require no batteries and work great in cold weather.

Just sayin'.

Idaho wolf trapping season opens Nov. 15

PREDATORS — Hunters and their guns have not been particularly effective in controlling wolf numbers in Idaho in the two seasons that have been held over the past three years.

This month, wildlife managers will turn to trappers to do the job.

The first wolf trapping season in decades opens Nov. 15-March 31 in the Lolo zone; Selway zone; Middle Fork zone; Dworshak-Elk City zone, except Unit 10A; and the Panhandle zone, except for units 2 and 3. All other zones are closed to trapping, subject to an Idaho Fish and Game Commission review in January.

Trappers must complete a required wolf trapping class before they can buy wolf trapping tags, valid only in zones with an open wolf trapping season. Licensed trappers may buy three tags per trapping season. Wolf tags cost $11.50 for resident hunters, and $31.75 for nonresidents. Trappers also may buy an additional two hunting tags per calendar year.

See details of wolf hunting and trapping seasons and rules here.

Read on for more information for trappers — as well as for the public who might encounter wolf traps on their own or with their pets. 

Also, read this disturbing story from the Great Falls Tribune about a bird hunter whose dog had a near-death experience with a snare trap, which is legal under the Idaho rules.

Long-time hunters scare up a few tricks for elk camp

HUNTING — Regardless of whether they fill their tags or not, it's clear that Ron and Jeannie Worley of Loon Lake had a good time at their elk camp up Coleman Creek on Halloween. They decorated their campsite and let any potential trick or treaters know they were entering the realm of graying “brush shooters, whiners and cry babies.”

Hunter numbers down, poachers up, Idaho Fish and Game officers say

HUNTING ENFORCEMENT — “I patrolled nearly 2000 miles of back roads during October and encountered fewer elk hunters and far fewer elk camps than in the recent past,” said Jerry Hugo, Idaho Fish and Game Department conservation officer in North Idaho. “Panhandle resident elk camps far outpaced non-resident elk hunting camps this fall.”

But there's been no shortage of poachers, officers say.

Tips are being sought to help nab whomever killed two moose shot and wasted near Cataldo around Oct. 29.

District Officers operated several bull and cow elk decoys during closed seasons in an effort to enforce our current Panhandle big-game regulations.

“I saw and heard from hunters that they were seeing LOTS and LOTS of moose,” Hugo said. “Moose are definitely enjoying the abundance of the new found forage in Unit 6 and are not as vulnerable to severe winter weather conditions as elk and deer are. But the roads make moose far more vulnerable to poachers.

Some hunters might think they're a cut above a poacher by putting out salt licks in Idaho to lure big game. While that's legal in some states, it's illegal in Idaho.

“District Officers found several more salt licks this fall,” Hugo said. “Officers are gathering the locations of every salt lick that we find and we are saving the GPS coordinates. It is unlawful and unfair chase to hunt elk over any form of salt.

“Idaho Geologists assure us that there are NO naturally occurring salt licks in north Idaho. We are currently devising ways to catch these poachers on site.”

Dishman Hills group celebrates 45 years — with more conservation plans

The  Dishman Hills Natural Area Association is the low-key local conservation group that just keeps on giving. Consider joining the celebration and seeing what the groups in planning next.

Winter Wildlands Backcountry Film Fest coming to Gonzaga

BACKCOUNTRY SKIING — Human-powered winter pursuits will be featured in nine films to be screened during the Winter Wildlands’ 2011-12 Backcountry Film Festival presentation coming to Spokane.

And a long list of door prizes is being accumulated, including ski gear and even a two-day trip into the Wing Ridge tent camp in the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

When: Friday Nov. 11; doors open at 6:30 p.m., shows at 7 p.m.
Where: Gonzaga University’s Jepsen Center, Wolfe Auditorium.
Tickets: $7 general admission, $3 students (with student I.D.)  Purchase tickets in advance Here.

Check out the films in the festival road tour.

Presented by Gonzaga Outdoors and the Stevens Peak Backcountry Coalition in conjunction with the Spokane Mountaineers and Spokane Mountaineers Foundation.  All proceeds to benefit Gonzaga Outdoors and the Stevens Peak Backcountry Coalition.

The evening is especially geared toward skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing with chances to win related door prizes. The festival highlights Winter Wildlands Alliance’s and other grassroots groups’ efforts to preserve and conserve winter landscapes for quiet users. The festival travels to more than 75 communities throughout the United States, and then overseas to Antarctica, Europe Australia and Asia.

Read on for the list of films.