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Spokane-area trail work projects fall into place

VOLUNTEERING OUTDOORS — Helpers are needed for two reconstruction projects on popular trails near Spokane this month.

The Washington Trails Association is coordinating the work as follows:

Mount Spokane, Sept. 1 and 15 – the last of several Thursday work parties on re-routes of trails popular with hikers and equestrians.

Iller Creek, Sept. 17, 18, 24, 25 and Oct. 15-16 – Rerouting 1,000 feet of trail around a nasty steep rutted section in the prized Conservation Futures area on the east side of Tower Mountain.

The work qualifies toward credit for free Discover Passes, said local WTA trail work crew leader Jane Baker.

Sign up for the work parties online.

Record number of rescues logged in Tetons

MOUNTAINEERING —  Major searches and rescues at Grand Teton National Park hit a single-year record last week.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports that park officials aren’t sure yet why there were so many rescues this year.

The record was eclipsed Aug. 20 when climber Lauren McLean of Lake Oswego, Ore., became the 31st major rescue since the park’s fiscal year began Oct. 1. McLean fell 20 to 30 feet because her belay system failed.

The busy year started right away for the Jenny Lake Climbing Rangers. Twelve major rescues were performed during the winter and early spring months.

Full-time ranger Chris Harder told the newspaper rangers normally perform three to four major rescues during the winter.

Michigan man killed in Yellowstone’s second 2011 griz fatality

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — In July, Yellowstone Park reported the first human fatality in 25 years from a grizzly bear attack.

Now there are two in a single season.

Yellowstone National Park officials say a grizzly bear killed a 59-year-old Michigan man whose body was found by hikers last week, according to the Associated Press.

The victim was identified Monday as John Wallace of Chassell, Mich.

Wallace’s body was discovered along a trail about five miles from the nearest trailhead. Results of an autopsy released Monday concluded Wallace died as a result of traumatic injuries from a bear attack.

It is the second time a visitor to the park has been killed by a bear this year.

Investigators were not immediately sure whether the grizzly caused the man’s death or disturbed his body after he died.

“Bears are opportunistic when it comes to food sources,” Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash said earlier. “It’s very clear that there was a bear around the victim’s body. What we don’t know is whether this was a bear attack, or whether the bear came upon this man’s body after he died.”

Authorities say the man likely died Wednesday or Thursday. His death comes after a female bear attacked and killed a 57-year-old California man on the popular Wapiti Lake Trail, several miles away from where the Michigan man was discovered Friday.

The female bear that killed the California man was not killed because officials said the sow was only defending its cubs and had not threatened humans before.

Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk has said that the hiker was found with a snack bar in his closed backpack, but that it appears the grizzly did not try to get at the food.

Washington’s Discover Pass inconvenience discussed

STATE LANDS — A bipartisan collection of 49 Washington state legislators is siding with state lands users who don't like the complexity of the new Discover Pass parking access requirements for state parks andother state lands.

Two weeks ago, 35 representatives and 14 senators signed and sent a letter asking Washington State Parks director Don Hoch, state wildlife director Phil Anderson and public lands commissioner Peter Goldmark to “refrain from enforcement of the current agency interpretation of non-transferability” until the issue could be readdressed in the 2012 legislative session.

That's silly, since they should know that the law the Washington Legislature passed this spring requires those state agencies to enforce the $30 annual pass.

But it sends a signal that some work needs to be done to improve the system, primarily the restriction prohibiting that pass from being valid for more than one vehicle.

Read on for a more detailed report from Scott Sandsbury of the Yakima Herald-Republic.

Skeeters with West Nile virus found in eastern Idaho

OUTDOOR HAZARDS — Officials in eastern Idaho’s Gem County say mosquitoes collected this week tested positive for West Nile virus. 

This follows a report in mid-August that the virus was found in a Mosquito near Yakima.

Idaho's Gem County Mosquito Abatement District director Jason Kinley says a small number of mosquitoes are infected. The district is treating any standing water that is producing mosquitoes and spraying to control adult mosquitoes.

 West Nile virus is a mosquito and bird disease. Animals and people can be infected when bitten by a female mosquito infected with the virus. 

Kinley says because it’s so late in the season, it’s not likely the virus will spread throughout the district before cold weather kills the insects.

According to the Center for Disease Control:

Most people bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile virus show no symptoms, while about 10 percent develop West Nile fever. Less than 1 percent suffer an infected brain or spinal cord.

Montana grizzly bears relocated after killing chickens

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Montana wildlife officials trapped two grizzly bears responsible for killing more than 100 chickens at a residence south of Glacier National Park and relocated them about 20 miles away, near the Hungry Horse Reservoir.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear specialist Tim Manley told KCFW-TV that this year’s late snowpack is responsible for an increase in human/bear encounters. Manley says in a normal year, he captures and relocates about 15 bears. Through Thursday, that number stood at 11.

The bears relocated on Thursday killed the chickens at a residence near Lake Five.

Manley says with fall approaching, people need to be careful about what they leave outside. He also asks people to notify wildlife officials if bears are hanging around their property before they become a problem.

Okanogan-Wenatchee forests reschedule “webinar” on manement plan revisions

NATIONAL FORESTS — The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests have rescheduled the Aug.18 Forest Plan Revision webinar — cancelled by technical difficulty — for Thursday (Sept. 1) from noon to 1:30 p.m. The webinar for the Colville Forest plan revision has already been held.

Thursday's webinar is a toll-free online informational public meeting to provide opportunities for the public to learn about the Draft Proposed Actions for the Forest Plan Revision.

The webinar will include a 20-minute overview of the Draft Proposed Actions, plus time for clarifying questions and responses.

The purpose of the webinar is to provide you with an opportunity to learn more about Forest Service proposals for long-term management of the Colville and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests. The Forest Service will also explain how you can submit written comments on the proposals, how your comments will be used, and about future opportunities for public involvement.

To participate, you must pre-register here.

Direct further questions to Debbie Kelly, Forest Plan Revision Public Affairs Lead, email r6_ewzplanrevision@fs.fed.us.

Steelhead fishing tips for staying ‘legal’

STEELHEAD FISHING — Catching a steelhead on the Snake or Clearwater rivers is a lot more fun when the experience isn't marred by getting a ticket.  Here are some reminders to keep your fishing a memorable experience:
  • Make sure you have a valid fishing license and steelhead permit.
  • Pinch barbs on hooks.
  • Record catch-and-keep on steelhead cards.
  • Immediately release steelhead that haven’t had their adipose fin clipped (hatchery steelhead are marked by having their fin clipped).
  • Know the difference between a steelhead and a salmon. If the fish you caught has black gum lines and a black tongue, it’s a fall chinook salmon. Check rules carefully about the potential for keeping salmon in limited seasons.

The region’s whackin’ and stackin’ griz this year

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The recent news about charges pending against a North Idaho Man for the May 8 killing of a grizzly bear in his yards wasn't an isolated case.

The region had a virtual grizzly killing spree in May as two grizzly bears also were shot and killed in western Montana, according to a story by The Missoulian.

An antler hunter shot a sow grizzly bear — orphaning two cubs — in the Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials.

In a separate incident, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Wildlife Management Program said a 2-year-old female grizzly was shot and killed by a Ronan-area landowner as it went after his chickens.

Grizzly bears are a threatened and endangered species protected by the Endangered Species Act. They are among the rarest species in the region.

The young grizzly shot near Ronan was the fourth bear lost from the Flathead Indian Reservation's grizzly population in 10 months due to grizzly-chicken encounters.

Bucks looking ragged as they shed velvet

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Whitetail bucks are making that transition from growing velevet-covered antlers to hardened racks that will play into their stature for breeding.

Outdoor photographers Jaime and Lisa Johnson of Lincoln, Mont., keep track of such things. 

Check out their gallery.

Idaho wolf hunting season opens Tuesday; nonresident tags marked down

HUNTING — Idaho's second wolf season in history opens Tuesday, and it's a bargain for nonresidents.

Last month, the state Fish and Game Commission reduced the price of non-resident wolf tags to $31.75 to encourage more hunters to buy them.

Sales of resident and nonresident tags are down significantly from the first season, which was held two years ago.

There’s no quota on wolves this time around in most units controlled trapping will be allowed.

Idaho Fish and Game has all the details at its website here.


Prosecutor releases details of North Idaho grizzly killing case

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Boundary County Prosecutor Jack Douglas has sent a letter to media outlets with his account of the May 8 grizzly bear shooting that has resulted in federal charges against Jeremy Hill, 33, of Porthill, Idaho.

Douglas said neither he nor the Idaho Fish ad Game Department was involved in filing charges against Hill and makes the case that Hill never should have been charged.

Click continue reading below to see Douglas's letter, released this afternoon, and details on the case he said he's learned from interviews with IFG officers and the Hill family.

For background:

S-R reporter Becky Kramer covered Monday's hearing in which Jeremy Hill, 33, pleaded not guilty to the charges, backed by a lot of community support.

The S-R's Boise reporter, Betsy Russell, has filed this report on Otter's request that the U.S. Secretary of Interior step in and have the charges dropped.

See my Thursday Outdoors column for less politically popular thoughts on the case from the grizzly bear's side of the story — at least until more details are revealed from the investigation.

Court rejects appeal to put Idaho, Montana wolf hunts on hold

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A federal appeals court on Thursday denied a request by environmental groups to halt wolf hunts that are scheduled to begin next week in Idaho and Montana, the Associated Press reports.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the request by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and other groups. The groups were seeking to cancel the hunts while the court considers a challenge to congressional action in April that stripped wolves of federal protections in Montana and Idaho, and in parts of Washington, Oregon and Utah.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula reluctantly upheld a budget rider that was inserted by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. It marked the first time since the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973 that Congress forcibly removed protections from a plant or animal.

Read on for more details.

Crews trying to get handle on western wildfires

PUBLIC LANDS —  Fire crews dug in to gain control over some of the largest wildfires in the West Friday, taking advantage of a break in the weather before hot temperatures and gusty winds return over the weekend.

However, a Wednesday thunderstorm started 18 new fires in the Clearwater-Nez Perce National Forests of Idaho.

Almost 3,000 firefighters are working dozens of blazes that flared up in recent days in forests and shrubland in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Oregon. Active fires in those states have scorched almost 175,000 acres. That’s about 270 square miles.

Read on for more details from the Associated Press and staff reports; click here for information on large fires around the nation.

Lucky sucker sets Idaho fishing record on SF Snake River

FISHING — A fly-fisher is taking a ribbing from his buddies, but he can stand tall in his waders for making the Idaho state fishing records with a 25-inch long Utah sucker weighing 7 pounds, 13.8 ounces. 

Rick Thompson, 47, of Idaho Falls caught the fish Saturday on the South Fork of the Snake River with a No. 18 Pheasant Tail nymph, according to a story by Rob Thornberry in the Idaho Falls Post Register.

He thought he was stalking the brown trout of his dreams.

Read on for the details from Thornberry's fish story.

Jet boat races to roar on Snake River this weekend

RIVER RUNNING — The jet boats are coming!

Boating enthusiasts are being advised that ON SHORE is going to be the safest place along the Snake River in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. this weekend.

Some of the fastest boats in the world will be traveling up and down the Snake River this weekend as jet boat races return to the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley.

Participants are expected to reach speeds up to 130 mph as they race from Hells Gate State Park to Bear Bar in Hells Canyon.

Read on for details in a report from Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune.

Video hints at rewards of hiking up Scotchman Peak

Scotchman Peak Teaser from Bob Legasa on Vimeo.

HIKING — Bob Legasa, the North Idaho videographer best known for footage of hotdog skiers getting air and breaking pow, is working on a video of the critters he met on his recent hike to the summit of Scotchman Peak northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

Here's his teaser.  I'll let you know when the finished product is out.

Scotchman Friends print cards to educate hikers about mountain goats

HIKING — Mountain goats continue to make friendly appearances to reward hikers who make the steep 7-mile round trip to the summit of Scotchman Peak northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness would like to see that great relationship continue, but they've learned for experts that even docile-looking mountain goats can become unpredictable and dangerous if humans spoil them.

Read and heed the etiquette so nicely summarized on the card. 

And enjoy mountain goats wherever you find them.

The Friends are handing out the goat cards at the Bonner County Fair!

Catch-and-keep chinook fishing starts Sept. 1 on Snake

SALMON FISHING —Anglers in Washington waters will be able to keep hatchery chinook salmon caught on the Snake River starting Thursday (Sept. 1) through Oct. 31, the Fish and Wildlife Department has announced.

The Washington season coincides with the Idaho catch-and-keep season for fin-clipped chinook.

Washington's open area is upstream from the mouth of the Snake River, beginning at the south-bound lanes of the Highway 12 Bridge (near Pasco) to the Oregon State line (about 7 miles upstream of the mouth of the Grande Ronde River).

Wildlife officials are expecting the largest return of fall chinook salmon to the Columbia and Snake rivers in years. The large return should allow fishing for adult chinook along the entire length of the Snake River, said Glen Mendel of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife office in Dayton. 

“This is the first year that we've been able to open the entire Snake River,” said Mendel, who is the district fishery management biologist. The forecast is for 60,000 to 80,000 fish passing by Lower Granite Dam with up to 30,000 of those being jacks, or immature fish, he said.

Read on for more details.

Triploid trout fishery below Chief Joseph Dam to close early

FISHING — The special fishery for triploid rainbow trout below Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River will close Aug. 26 at midnight, five days earlier than initially announced.

State fishery managers decided to close the fishery to minimize the risk to wild steelhead moving into the area, said Jeff Korth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regional fishery manager.

The special fishery, launched to remove triploid trout that escaped from a net-pen facility on Rufus Woods Reservoir in June, was originally scheduled to run through Aug. 31.

Triploid trout are “voracious” eaters and can pose a threat to juvenile steelhead, many of which listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act, Korth said.

“Just as we’d hoped, anglers caught hundreds of runaway triploids over the past few weeks,” Korth said. “But now, with increasing numbers of steelhead passing Wells Dam, we decided it was time to close the fishery.”

During the triploid fishery, anglers were required to release any steelhead they intercepted, said Korth, noting that creel checkers found no steelhead in the catch.

“Anglers demonstrated they could distinguish a steelhead from a triploid trout and were diligent about releasing the few steelhead encountered during the fishery,” he said.

The triploid fishery has been open since Aug. 1 on a 17-mile stretch of the Columbia River between the Highway 173 Bridge in Brewster to the Highway 17 Bridge in Bridgeport.

Recent Selkirk region human-caused grizzly deaths recounted

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Further clarification from today's outdoors column on the case of a North Idaho facing federal charges for shooting a grizzly bear in his yard on May 8.

2007 was a notably bad year for Selkirk grizzlies.

  • One was killed by indiscriminant hunters northeast of Sullivan Lake near Pass Creek Pass. They were from Moses Lake and were later prosecuted in Spokane.
  • One grizzly that wandered far south was killed by a black bear hunter near Kelly Creek.
  • Another grizzly was killed that year near Priest River. That bear had become addicted to human food after a photographer essentially baited the animal for better pictures.

Readers are pointing out that a Rose Lake elk rancher killed a grizzly that reportedly was harassing his animals two years ago. Apparently he was given permission to shoot a black bear threatening his elk, but it turned out to be a grizzly. I’ll need to check on the resolution of that case.

Biologists react to photo of two-mouth trout

FLY FISHING — I posted the explanation for this photo of a two-mouth cutthroat trout caught Saturday by fly fisher Jay Kirchner in my blog earlier in the week.

Here's the reaction from two North Idaho fisheries biologists, indicating the rarity of the catch — and release.

“Never heard of such a thing!”

Jim Fredericks, IFG Panhandle Region fishery manager

“That looks like damage due to hooking disfiguration. I've seen this before, but never to that degree.

“Very rarely, we've documented two headed fish in hatcheries, but those fish look considerably different than that cutthroat trout.”

Joe DuPont, IFG Clearwater Region fisheries manager, formerly the field biologist who conducted definitive studies of Coeur d'Alene River cutthroats.

“I have seen fish like this while doing electrofishing surveys, in several rivers. In most cases I believe the deformity is due to a severe hooking injury, but there are other possible explanations (pretty sure in most cases it's the result of an injury and not a genetic deformity). It's not really a second mouth, but the separation of the tissue that connects the jaw with the gular (tongue) structure. Remarkably, these fish are often healed up and in pretty good condition in many cases.”

Chip Corsi, IFG Panhandle Region manager and fisheries biologist. 

Idaho sets fall waterfowl hunting seasons

HUNTING — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission adopted a 107-day waterfowl season for 2011-2012 during its meeting Wednesday.

A youth hunt was set for Sept. 24-25.

Read on for other details of bag limits and other seasons that begin in October.

Discover Pass sales net (only) $2.9 million so far

STATE LANDS — During the first six weeks of sales, Washington’s new Discover Pass raised $2,914,434 to support state parks and other state recreation lands, the state Parks and Recreation Commission reported Wednesday.

That leaves much to be desired in making up for the $65 million loss in general fund support to state recreation lands.

Sales include $1,008,469 during July collected by state parks and another $1,905,965 made through the Washington Interactive Licensing Database (WILD) managed by Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) through a private business vendor.

Don Hoch, Washington State Parks director, said those sales are critical to the future of state parks, which must now rely on user fees and donations to cover costs. WDFW and the state Department of Natural Resources also receive a percentage of those fees to maintain public access to lands they manage.

“And we are optimistic that sales will continue to grow to help fund our state recreation lands,” he said.

Read on for more details and comments.

Oregon gets fishing bait makers to limit use of harmful chemical

FISHING — Should the manufacturers of artificial fishing baits and egg cures use a chemical that kills small fish?

Seems like a no-brainer, but Oregon is the first state in the region to deal with the issue

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reached an agreement last week with fish bait manufacturers to limit, but not end, their use of sodium sulfite, a popular preservative that's been found to be lethal to small fish in high doses.
Upon final approval, all cures manufactured for sale in Oregon after Oct. 1 must have a reduced level of sodium sulfite. Products will be labeled “meets Oregon guidelines.”
Read on for the rest of the story by Bill Monroe of the Oregonian.

Scotchman Friends educating hikers about mountain goats

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Mountain goat watching has become an attraction luring hikers up the significantly steep 7-mile round trip to the top of Scotchman Peak northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

Unfortunately, some hikers are urinating on the mountain top and making food available to the goats. Goats are attracted to the salt in urine and can become aggressive in defending their “salt licks.” They also can become dangerous with their sharp horns if they become addicted to human food. 

Considering the number of hikers climbing up the peak nowadays, the cumulative effect of these actions could lead to a goat's demise.

NOTE:  An aggressive mountain goat gored and killed a hiker in Olympic National Park last fall. The goat as killed by rangers. The family has just filed a $10 million wrongful death suit against the park…. you can see how serious this gets.

The Friends of of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness recognize the threat to their iconic goats, so they're posting signs — see pdf document with this post — and asking Scotchman visitors to act in the best interest of the goats.

“There is an increase in the number of goats, mostly younger, who are hanging around the top of Scotchman Peak,” said Phil Hough of the Friends group. “We're not sure if it's been a successfull couple years for goat reproduction, or if word has gotten out in the goat “social circles” that there are “yahoos” willing to do stupid things like feed them.

“We're trying to get the word out to leave them alone.  Just this week, our summer intern, Lauren Mitchell, finished a Goat Education Poster. We'll be displaying it at trail heads and events. 

Read on for some of the tips the poster offers for mountain goat encounters.


Grizzly bear case good political stage for Idaho politicians

ENDANGERED SPECIES — An Idaho state senator from Sandpoint and now Gov. Butch Otter have stepped up to chastise the feds for prosecuting a Porthill-area man for illegally shooting a grizzly bear.

This is about as politically risky in Idaho as saying American citizens have the right to bear arms.

But the facts of the case have not been disclosed. There might be a few other details to consider.

S-R reporter Becky Kramer covered Monday's hearing in which Jeremy Hill, 33, pleaded not guilty to the charges, backed by a lot of community support.

The S-R's Boise reporter, Betsy Russell, has filed this report on Otter's request that the U.S. Secretary of Interior step in and have the charges dropped.

See my Thursday Outdoors column for less politically popular thoughts on the case from the grizzly bear's side of the story.

Federal wildlife agents probably couldn’t win a popularity contest in hell, but the jury’s still out on whether they should be condemned for doing their job.

Monster chinook caught, released off Vancouver Island

SALMON FISHING — A salmon big enough to feed the Seattle Seahawks was caught and released off the Queen Charlotte Islands last weekend.

Chris Lewis broke the Queen Charlotte Lodge's 10-year-old record with a king that topped 84 pounds on Saturday.

Lewis was fishing with lodge guide Derek Poitras along the kelp beds just east of Klashwun Point when both rods went off in a matter of seconds, according to the lodge's website.

While Lewis played his fish, fishing partner Stephen Mason played and boated a hefty 31 pound king.

After a half-hour battle — the guides recognized quickly by the “shoulders” that the fish as extraordinary — the chinook was measured at 51.5-inches long, 35-inches in girth for a for a score of 84.12 pounds.

It was photographed, appreciated, and released.

Anglers set all-time record steelhead harvest on lower Columbia

FISHING — The estimated 9,800 hatchery summer steelhead kept on the lower Columbia River so far this month — through Aug. 22 — is an all time record not just for August but for any month since at least 1969, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has just reported. 

The previous record of 8,549 steelhead was set last month. 

A good run along with river flows that are higher and cooler than normal appear to be favoring the anglers.

MEANTIME, about 30,000 steelhead have run up the Snake River and climbed over Lower Granite Dam. They're coming at the rate of about a thousand a day.  Anglers are enjoying good catches of steelhead in Idaho's Clearwater River.

And, as the graph above shows, the big numbers are yet to come.

Volunteers tackle weeds on South Hill bluff trails tonight

TRAILS — Hikers and bikers are attracted to the trails on the South Hill bluff below High Drive — and so are noxious weeds!

Consider joining the group of volunteers donating some time to help manage the weed problem with a little muscle power.

The group met last week and the project continues TONIGHT.

Meet at 6:30 pm at Polly Judd Park at 1732 West 14th Ave. At 8 pm we will adjourn to the Rocket Market (or somewhere you suggest) for a beverage and to socialize!

“This week we will cut spotted knapweed plants away from sections of the trail where they are impeding trail use,” said facilitator Diana Roberts of the WSU County Extension. “We will create a demonstration area that will be sprayed with herbicide next spring to impede weed growth along the trail.”

Bring work gloves, sturdy garden clippers, and water to drink. Long pants, long sleeved shirts, and hiking boots are the recommended attire.
Info: Diana Roberts, (509) 477-2167 or email robertsd@wsu.edu.