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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Idaho salmon-crab poachers tell truth, eventually

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — Washington Fish and Wildlife police must feel like parents dealing with kids sometimes. I'd like to hear the author of this poaching enforcement report tell the story over a couple of beers.

Sgt. Chadwick contacted a recreational boat returning to the dock in Westport late Sunday evening. The four Idaho men on board the craft were happy to show Sgt. Chadwick their limit of four Chinook. The open bow of their boat was already covered with canvas, however Sgt. Chadwick noticed there were bits of wet grass up underneath, as well as a crab caliper, which indicated they may have been crab fishing. When questioned, they denied having any crab on board and claimed their pots had been stolen.

Despite their denials, Sgt. Chadwick conducted an inspection and found 11 crab in a live well up front. Looking at the live well on the opposite side, he found it was full of rain gear and a life jacket with a couple of fresh scales. Digging a little deeper, Sgt. Chadwick found two extra Chinook hidden under the rain gear.

Officer Do arrived to assist and asked the foursome where they were staying. At that point, the men had already been advised of their rights, and decided to confess to having three more over their limit back at camp. The Officers followed the four men back to camp and found they had a total of five Chinook over the limit. The fish were seized and various citations issued.

Piranhas, alligator seized on South Hill

Piranhas and a small alligator were seized from a South Hill apartment on Friday. (submitted photos)

Piranhas offered for trade on Craigslist led state fish and game agents to seize several of the exotic, human-eating fish from an apartment on Spokane’s lower South Hill.

 The rare find took another surprising twist when agents also found a small alligator in Christopher Ryan Harper’s apartment at 1206 W. 6th Ave. on Friday, as well as a suspected marijuana-selling operation, police say.

The alligator is being cared for at SpokAnimal, the piranhas were killed and taken as evidence, said Madonna Luers, spokeswoman for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Luers said she couldn’t confirm the number of piranhas seized. Police said 20, but Harper said he only had six.

Read the rest of my story here.

Washington issues new fish advisories; toxics found

FISHING — Specific types of fish from the Upper Columbia and Pend Oreille rivers contain toxic chemicals according to analysis of two recent studies that's prompted a new fish consumption advisory this week from the Washington Department of Health.

Interestingly, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife knew it was coming by March when the agency published its 2012-2013 fishing regulations pamphlet.

Most of the recommendations of which fish to avoid — such as Pend Oreille River northern pike longer than 24 inches — are already published on page 20 of the pamphlet.

Based on mercury and Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCBs) contamination, the state Department of Health is advising people to avoid or limit certain types and amounts of fish they eat from the affected areas.

Read on for details from the Health Department media release.

Fish and Wildlife dedicates building to Shiosaki

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department today is re-dedicating its Eastern Region headquarters in Spokane in the name of Fred Shiosaki, a former state Fish and Wildlife Commissioner who lives in Spokane Valley.

In addition to his service to fish and wildlife, Shiosaki last fall received the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony honoring the Nisei Soldiers of World War II.  Shiosaki was a member of the U.S. Army All Volunteer Japanese-American 442nd Infantry Regiment.

Shiosaki was instrumental in getting the new Fish and Wildlife facilities completed in Spokane in 2009. 

Patrol issues tickets to ORVers in Colville area

PUBLIC LANDS — They had no trouble finding violations.
A group of state and federal officers who conducted an ORV emphasis patrol recently on public lands east of Colville filed the following stats:
  • 207 ORV/User Contacts
  • 21 Citations (i.e. no helmets, road closure, fishing w/o a license)
  • 22 Verbal Warnings
The patrol was designed to address heavy ORV use on forest roads and trails in sections of Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties, especially in areas where soil and vegetation degradation has been an issue.
It's pretty clear from the results that emphasis is warranted.


New construction permit fee keeps shoreline protections

RIVERS —  Starting July 10, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will charge $150 to process the state permit required for construction projects in and around state waters.

The permit, called a hydraulic project approval (HPA), has been issued to the public at no direct cost since 1943, when it was created by the state Legislature to ensure that projects such as bulkheads, culverts and dock construction meet state standards for fish and shellfish protection.

Good for the state to see the need to continue this oversight. For example, the city of Spokane is leaving consumers prey to unscrupulous businesses by eliminating the one-man local weights and measures department that helps assure gas pumps and scales are accurate. The city says it can't afford the luxury of oversight.

Because the state is willing to take the criticism of establishing a fee, fish and streams and the people who need them will be better served.

Read on for details about the WDFW hydraulics permit program and the need for the permit fee.

Last chance: Confiscated antlers being auctioned online

WILDLIFE — Poachers are contributing to anti-poaching efforts as nearly a thousand antlers seized from wildlife cases over the last decade are being sold by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in an online auction that closes Tuesday (June 5).

At last check, the bid for a 6-point bull elk rack that started two weeks ago at under $30 was up to $227.50. 

Items available during the auction include:

  • 33 trophy elk racks.
  • 22 trophy deer racks.
  • Five trophy moose racks.
  • About 450 pounds of single large and medium elk antlers (large size antlers - 3 bundles; medium size antlers - 18 bundles).
  • About 250 pounds of single small elk antlers in one lot (tote).
  • About 120 pounds of single large size deer antlers (10 bundles).
  • About 140 pounds of single small/medium deer antlers in one lot (tote).
  • About 40 pounds of single moose antlers (2 bundles).

The auction, conducted by the State Department of Enterprise Services (DES), will conclude the afternoon of June 5. Photos of the antlers and other information about the auction, including how to view the items in person, are available online

Register here to participate in the online auction.

While this is a good opportunity for the public to obtain hard-to-get antlers, the auction also highlights poaching as a serious problem in Washington, said Mike Cenci, the agency's deputy chief of enforcement.

“Poachers steal directly from the citizens, and disadvantage hunters in Washington – the vast majority of which follow the law,” he said.

Many legal hunters wait years to draw a special permit allowing them to harvest trophy animals, said Cenci. “Ethical hunters’ chances of harvesting a trophy animal can be greatly reduced by poachers, especially those that kill multiple animals.”

WDFW’s Enforcement Program includes 134 Fish and Wildlife police officers stationed throughout Washington. However, WDFW still relies on tips from the public, Cenci said.

Report wildlife violation by phone (877) 933-9847), email (reportpoaching@dfw.wa.gov) or text message (847411 TIP411).

Funds from the antler auction will be used in the fight against poaching, which includes paying rewards to people who report fish and wildlife violations that lead to a conviction, Cenci said.

Catch of the day: Fishing 101 class for adults

FISHING – Sign-up is underway for limited openings in a two-session fishing clinic for adults who haven’t been introduced to the sport.

The clinic seeks to fill the gap to help people learn how to catch fish even if they don't come from a fishing family.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and volunteers from the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council are teaming to teach non-fishing adults age 16 or older. 

The clinic involves an evening session on June 7— a suggest born from last year's clinic — followed by a weekend daytime session at Williams Lake.

The on-the-lake clinic is set for June 9, which is free fishing weekend in Washington – no fishing license required!

Sign up: 892-1001 or email teamspokane@dfw.wa.gov.

Read on for more details.

Mt. Spokane ski expansion plan comment ends Tuesday

PUBLIC LANDS — A years-old effort to expand lift-assisted skiing to the “back side” of Mount Spokane State Park will enter its final stage with Tuesday’s deadline for public comment on environmental impacts.

Details are on the Washington State Parks planning website.

Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park has been seeking permission from Washington State Parks to add a lift and expand the downhill ski area into the forested northwest side of the mountain. Ski area managers say they need to expand their terrain to remain competitive with other area ski resorts.

Washington Fish and Wildlife Department biologists have warned that clearing ski runs could impact wetlands and other wildlife habitat in the remaining third of the upper mountain not already impacted by the ski area.

Groups such as The Lands Council, Spokane Mountaineers and Sierra Club oppose the expansion, saying the resort should spend money upgrading existing facilities rather than invading an intact forest and meadows favored by backcountry skiers.

Comments should be directed to:

Project lead: Randy Kline, Environmental Program Manager
E-mail: randy.kline@parks.wa.gov 

Mail: P.O. Box 42650, Olympia, WA 98504-2650

Also underway, the State Parks Commission is seeking input about the future of Washington State Parks  including Mount Spokane and Riverside State Park.


Mt. Spokane Ski Area Expansion

Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park

Mt. Spokane Coalition

Washington State Parks – Beyond 2013

New WDFW site details potential wildlife land acquisitions

PUBLIC LANDS – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife unveiled a new web page this week that details a wish list of private properties the state is aiming to purchase to preserve fish and wildlife habitat.

The site includes a virtual tour of 21 proposed land acquisition projects that could take years to complete.

One proposal for Spokane County seeks $1.85 million to purchase 920 acres on Mica Peak adjacent to Inland Empire Paper Co. land to prevent subdividing and fragmenting wildlife habitat protected by adjacent Inland Empire Paper Co. land.

Some of the proposals cover more than 10,000 acres at costs of more than $8 million, including areas in Douglas County, Benton County and a group of areas along the Grande Ronde River in Asotin County.

The agency relies on state and federal grants and help from non-profit groups for most of its acquisitions.

 Among the top grant sources are the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Hard to believe, but Spokane hasn’t always had moose

WILDLIFE — After reading my blog about the moose poaching case on Beacon Hill, a woman who lived in this area from the 50s through the 70s wrote to say she never knew there were moose around Spokane.

It's not she wasn't observant.  Moose are relative newcomers to the region, showing up roughly with the first big waves of Californians.

Washington's moose population has been slowly growing since the first confirmed moose sighting was made in Pend Oreille County in the early '50's. Wildlife research pegged about 60 moose in the northeast corner of the state in the early '70s.

The first moose hunting season was authorized in 1977 with just three permits, all for the northeast portion of Pend Oreille County.

This year, 150 moose hunting permits are being offered for a moose population estimated at more than 1,000 — although that estimate appears to have been made before the wolves gained a foothold in northeastern Washington in recent years.

Since the 90s, moose have spread into Stevens and Spokane counties and beyond, where they've been showing up in towns, in school yards, in swimming pools on a hot day. A few people have been charged by moose.  Some have had the misfortune of colliding with moose on area roads.  Heck, one calf fell through a window into the basement bedroom of a home in north Spokane.

 They've only been common for a couple of decades, but nowadays everybody in this area has a moose story.

Suspects named in Beacon Hill moose poaching case

SPOKANE— Two brothers suspected of illegally killing a cow moose with archery gear on the north side of Beacon Hill in Spokane Valley around April 10 have been identified from the search warrant served in the case by Washington Fish and Wildlife Police.

Donald Gilbrech and San Gilbrech will be charged with several counts pending the results of DNA testing on the 95 pounds of moose meat seized from the men, Spokane officers said, without referring to the suspects by name.

Also confiscated was deer meat and Don Gilbrech's SUV, which contained moose hair and blood, the case report said.

A limited number of coveted special permits are required for hunting moose in Washington and the seasons are held in late summer and fall.

Fish and Wildlife Department officials say tips from the public helped officers make the case against the Gilbrechs.

An animal welfare group had offered a $2,500 reward for tips that lead to a conviction in the case.

Officers said a worker near Beacon Hill had seen a cow moose in the area.  Circling birds later prompted the informant to check out the area, where a moose head, guts and hide were found.

A bow and arrow matching the arrowhead found on scene were seized at San Gilbrech's house, officers said.

Each man faces fines of about $5,000 if convicted on the various possible charges for killing the moose and deer, officers said.

$73,000 in fines for wolf poaching: a slap on the wrist?

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Three members of a Methow Valley family who raised havoc with the Lookout Pack, the first re-population of wolves discovered in Washington, were fined a total of more than $73,000 in plea agreements entered in Spokane federal court.

Some conservation groups are making headlines saying they think those penalties weren't enough, arguing the family members should get jail time.

Maybe, maybe not.

But perhaps the Seattle PI online gives us a perspective on how these issues are viewed on Western Washington. There's nothing particularly wrong with the story, but the headline caught my attention:



What do you think? 

Is accurate to suggest a family that's had to pay $73,000 in fines and restitution is “getting off with probation?”

Wind, rain no joke for anglers out for April 1 fishing opener

FISHING – The April 1 fishing season opener at many lakes in the Columbia Basin indicates that anglers are still paying a price for the long, cold, wet spring of 2011.

That’s not to say this year has been much better, so far.

The number of anglers out for the opener was down throughout the Basin, with NO anglers observed at the Pillar-Wideon chain of lakes near Potholes Reservoir.

March 1 was the opener for most selective fishery waters in Eastern Washington. Most Spokane area lowland trout production lakes open for fishing on April 28.

At Dry Falls Lake, a spring favorite for fly fishermen, rain followed by high winds kept all by the most dedicated opening day anglers off the water.

Those who persisisted for three-five hours caught and released an average of five fish, said Chad Jackson, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife District biologist.  Trout size ranged from 10-20 inches.

Yearling trout, however, showed signs of last year’s shorter growing season, Jackson said.

”Yearlings should easily; be 12-14 inches by the opener instead of 10-12 inches,” he said.  ” Smaller yearling trout size has been observed in other lakes in the Basin this year.  Over the next couple months these trout should grow to a nicer size.”

Deadline looms for multiple season permit applications

HUNTING — Saturday, March 31st is the last day to purchase a Washington multiple season permit application for 2012. This permit allows a sportsman to hunt in the archery, muzzleloader and modern rifle seasons rather than having to choose just one weapon type.

The number of deer permits has increased this year from 4,000 to 8,500 and elk permits from 850 to 1,000.

Click here for more information.

Click here to purchase an application.

New map plots up to 10 wolf packs in Washington

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Up to 10 wolf packs could be roaming in Washington, according to a new wolf recovery map (above) posted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

If the evidence leads to confirmation, that would be 100 percent increase in the state's verified wolf packs over the past year.

Most of the wolf activity is in northeastern Washington, but the pack activity is being found in the Blue Mountains and even the North Cascades.

A good update on the Washington wolf situation, summarizing the presentation state wildlife officials made at the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commisison earlier this month, has been posted by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman Magazine.

The Washington Fish and Wildlfie Department recently introduced an online wolf-reporting tool that enables the public to help alert wolf researchers to expanding wolf activity.

Click here to listen to the audio transcript of the March 9 wolf presentation.

Time to start thinking about new fish, hunt licenses

HUNTING/FISHING — Washington sportsmen will need new 2012-2013 hunting and fishing licenses starting April 1.
Remember, even if you buy a new license, you still must have your 2011-2012 license in your pocket while hunting or fishing through March 31.
Spring chinook salmon are moving into the lower Columbia River, dozens of eastside lakes opened for trout fishing March 1 and a series of morning razor-clam digs is tentatively scheduled to run through early April.
A spring wild turkey season for hunters under age 16 is scheduled April 7-8 prior to the start of the general spring turkey hunt April 15.
The cost of some licenses will be higher than those purchased at this time last year. The new rates, which took effect last September, represent the first general increase in recreational license fees in more than a decade.
Fishing licenses, hunting licences and the Discover Pass are all available online, by phone (866-246-9453) and from license dealers around the state.

Revised master hunter elk season proposed near Turnbull

HUNTING — Yesterday, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife had not firmed up proposed revisions of the master hunter December elk hunts in units surrounding Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

Today it has.

Proposed hunting regulations for 2012-2014 are being updated here.

The proposals for master hunter seasons are being posted on a separate Master Hunter web page.

The revised master hunter proposals were posted here, highlighted in yellow, this afternoon.

Agency managers explain:

“Our original proposal was to completely eliminate this hunt, but it was a big change and many local landowners supported continuing the opportunity. So we have changed our recommendation to retain two GMUs, antlerless only to address damage, and retain the same dates.

The revised master hunter proposal:

GMU 127 & 130, general antlerless only, season Dec.9-31.

Tonight: biologists explain plan for Pend Oreille River pike

FISHERIES MANAGEMENT — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Kalispel Tribe will present their plan to reduce northern pike numbers in Box Canyon Reservoir on the Pend Oreille River at meetings, starting at 6 p.m.:

Tonight: CenterPlace, 2426 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley.
Thursday: Community Hall, 2442 Black Road, Usk.

Fish managers plan to put out nets this spring to begin reducing the population of non-native pike in Box Canyon by up to 87 percent.

See Sunday's S-R story about Washington's plan for dealing with non-native northern pike.

Click here to see WDFW information on northern pike and reports regarding Pend Oreille River fishery surveys.

Biologists explain plan to reduce pike in Pend Oreille River

FISHERIES MANAGEMENT — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Kalispel Tribe will present their plan to reduce northern pike numbers in Box Canyon Reservoir on the Pend Oreille River at meetings, starting at 6 p.m.:

Feb. 15: CenterPlace, 2426 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley.
Feb. 16: Community Hall, 2442 Black Road, Usk.

Fish managers plan to put out nets this spring to begin reducing the population of non-native pike in Box Canyon by up to 87 percent.

See Sunday's S-R story about Washington's plan for dealing with non-native northern pike.

Click here to see WDFW information on northern pike and reports regarding Pend Oreille River fishery surveys.

Lincoln County teen injures buddy while shooting rabbit

HUNTING — Just in case it wasn't covered in your hunter education course: Never shoot a rabbit in a road culvert or irrigation pipe when your partner's on the other end blocking the rabbit from coming out.

Read on for the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department wildlife police officer's report of a hunting accident last week involving two 13 year-olds. One of them is lucky to be alive.

Washington to hire wolf trappers for research

OUTDOOR JOBS — A few good physically fit, personable men or women with biology degrees and outdoor skills are being sought for the newest job openings in the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department.

The agency plans to hire two wolf trappers and three assistants with job duties that include trapping, radio collaring and monitoring wolves in the North Cascades and Eastern Washington, plus mitigating conflicts and speaking to the public on wolf issues.

See the complete list of the agency's job openings.

Specifics of the gray wolf research positions are detailed here.

Applications are due by Feb. 14.

Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman has more details.

Washington releases flurry of stuff on fishing, hunting rules

FISH AND WILDLIFE — Fishing rules adopted for 2012… upcoming meetings about the Pend Oreille River pike fishery… revised hunting proposals for 2012-2014  — all of this is involved in a small blizzard of proposals and adoptions coming out of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department in the past few days.

It's taking time to get explanation for some of what's going on. Pursuing.

Apparently the agency's biologists defied conservation sense and collapsed to pressure — FROM WHERE?  — to lift selective fishery regulations and allow juveniles to use bait to fish for trout in the Kettle River from the Highway 21 bridge at Curlew north to the Canada border near Danville.

The justification remains unclear as to why the agency would want to back off a working conservation effort on native fish. Curlew area kids have an excellent bait fishing opportunity at Curlew Lake. These kids are losing a valuable conservation education opportunity with a new rule allowing adults to rig them up to kill native trout.

Here are links to recent announcements on three fish and wildlife developments we're following:

Commission adopts new sportfishing seasons, rules at weekend meeting in Olympia.

Click here for the agenda and revised summaries of what was voted on.

Pend Oreille River northern pike plans to be presented in Spokane, Usk on Feb. 15-16.

Proposed rule changes for hunting seasons in 2012-2014.

Proposed northeastern Washington elk management plan.

Read on for the initial response the agency offers for going ahead with the Commission-proposal to allow bait fishing on the Kettle River:

Wash. revised elk hunting proposals to be released Feb. 1

HUNTING — Washington's revised elk hunting season proposals are scheduled to be posted on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website on Wednesday (Feb. 1), the day a meeting is set in Spokane to discuss the different but related revision of the elk management plan for northeastern Washington.

The revised elk hunting season proposals will include formalized options for changing the Master Hunter late hunting seasons on lands outside of Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

Revised elk season proposals also will suggest ending either-sex elk general season hunts in northeastern Washikngton.

The WDFW has set two meetings next week, starting at 7 p.m., to present the draft plan for public comment:

  • Feb. 1, at Center Place, 2426 N. Discovery Place, in Spokane Valley.
  • Feb. 2, at the Northeast Washington Fairgrounds, 317 W. Astor Ave. in Colville.

The draft plan is available for review here, where a link provides opportunity to submit comments through Feb. 10.

The public comment period on the hunting rules revisions will begin Wednesday when the package is released on the WDFW hunt rules revision web page.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to review proposed new hunt rules during its March meeting in Moses Lake. The commission would vote on adopting the 2012-2014 rules in April.

Wildlife area closing temporarily to protect Colockum elk

WILDLIFE — For the fifth consecutive year, about 44,000 acres of state wildlife land east of Ellensburg will be closed to motor vehicles Feb. 1-April 30 to protect wintering elk from disturbance.

Keeping the elk on the state wildlife areas should keep more elk from moving to private lands where they can cause crop damage, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The agency will temporarily close the Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area and a portion of the Quilomene Wildlife Area in Kittitas County. The area to be closed is north of the Vantage Highway, south of Quilomene Ridge Road, east of the Wild Horse Wind Farm and west of the Columbia River.

Read on for details from the WDFW:

Wolf issues targeted in Washington Legislature

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington lawmakers last week began consideration of a pair of bills that deal with wolves.

Senate Bill 6139, which was requested by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlfie, would set a cap of $50,000 per year on the compensation the agency could pay from its wildlife account for claims related to wolf attacks on livestock.

Dave Ware, WDFW Game Division manager, said the bill seeks to balance the needs of humans and wildlife. It would also add the gray wolf to the state's definition of big game.

Senate Bill 6137 would provide an affirmative defense for killing a wolf caught in the act of attacking livestock. The defense would be allowed only where wolves have been taken off the federal endangered species list — the eastern third of the state — and only if the WDFW was notified within 72 hours.

Both bills have been discussed by the Senate Committee on Energy, Natural Resources and Marine Waters.

See details in this story by the Capital Press.

Meetings set to explain Northeastern Washington elk management plan

HUNTING — The luxury of targeting  ”any elk” during general hunting seasons in portions of northeastern Washington would end under a proposed plan to boost numbers of elk in Okanogan, Ferry and Stevens counties.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has set three meetings, starting at 7 p.m., to present the draft plan for public comment:

  • Jan. 26, at the Okanogan County Public Utility District Main Office, 1331 2nd Ave. N., in Okanogan.
  • Feb. 1, at Center Place, 2426 N. Discovery Place, in Spokane Valley.
  • Feb. 2, at the Northeast Washington Fairgrounds, 317 W. Astor Ave. in Colville.

The draft plan is available for review here, where a link provides opportunity to submit comments through Feb. 10.

The current plan has called for limiting the number of elk in most of northeastern Washington primarily to prevent elk from becoming a nuisance to landowners on the region’s limited  winter range, wildlife managers say.

“We have managed elk in this part of the state—where elk groups are small and scattered—with liberal hunting rules to keep elk numbers low and minimize agricultural damage,” Robinette said. “But we have heard from hunters that they want to see more elk.”

Paving the way for the revised plan are efforts by the Colville National Forest and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to improve elk habitat in the region, he said.

Robinette said the proposed plan should result in greater elk numbers by shifting from ‘any elk’ hunting seasons to restrictions on antlerless elk hunting in the Pend Oreille sub-herd areas, including units 101, 105, 108, 121 and  204.

“If agricultural damage problems should arise, we would address them through a variety of tools we use throughout the state,” Robinette said.

Although the document is titled “Selkirk Elk Herd Plan,” covers elk management in Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens, Ferry, Lincoln, Whitman, and eastern Okanogan counties –Game Management Units 101 – 142 and 204.

The plan considers elk in two distinct sub-herds–the Pend Oreille sub-herd and the Spokane sub-herd.

The release of the draft elk plan will coincide with the separate but related process to revise Washington’s hunting rules for the 2012-2014 seasons.

WDFW plans to release its revised hunting rule package at the end of January, Robinette said. Those proposals would include the elk plan’s proposal to end the ”any elk” seasons, he said.

That rules revision package also will formalize controversial proposals still being formulated to change the Master Hunter late elk seasons on the lands surrounding Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

The public comment period on the hunting rules revisions will begin when the package is released at the end of the month, Robinette said.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to review proposed new hunt rules during its March meeting in Moses Lake. The commission would vote on adopting the 2012-2014 rules in April.

Emphasis shifting in seasons for Master Hunters

HUNTING — A Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife plan to turn a prized December elk hunt for Master Hunters into a permit hunt is ruffling the feathers of sportsmen who had a lock on the land used by elk coming off Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

The plan is to use Master Hunters as on-call helpers to target elk causing damage to crops while developing a Landowner Hunting Permit Program to give more hunters access to the elk herd that must be kept from getting too large.

The Columbia Plateau Wildlife Management Association, which is being enlisted to help organize the landowners into this program, already has about six landowners and nearly 6,000 acres enrolled.

The agency, which is charged with protecting wildlife while providing the public with reasonable access to wildlife resources, already has changed a Master Hunter elk hunt in Western Washington that had become a trophy bull fest.

“Basically, we’re refocusing the program to have Master Hunters help the agency with damage problems rather than providing them with special hunts,” said Kevin Robinette, WDFW regional wildlife manager in Spokane.

It's not a done deal.  The proposals have to be approved in Olympia and then by the Fish and Wildlife Commission in March

GET MORE DETAILS in today's Outdoors column.

Then stay tuned.

Is selfishness a factor in Pend Oreille River northern pike debate?

FISHING — Some anglers share at least one trait with northern pike. They apparently wouldn't hesitate to eat their own kind.

Advocates of letting nature take its course in the invasion of northern pike down the Pend Oreille River seem to have little concern for the anglers downstream in the Columbia River.

While many anglers are enjoying the chance to catch pike in Pend Oreille County, state wildlife managers are concerned that increasing numbers and distribution of northern pike could impact vulnerable native species of trout, other game fish and non-game fish and even salmon and steelhead farther down the Columbia River system.

“That’s a big concern,” said John Whalen, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department regional fisheries manager. “If northern pike start spreading down the Columbia River, they could create significant ecological and economic damage.”

Perhaps pike advocates have not been paying attention to the decades of efforts and billions of dollars devoted to restoring salmon and steelhead runs damaged by hydropower projects. 

Do they know how much interest and economic impact has been generated by bringing back these fisheries from the mouth of the Columbia up to Chief Joseph Dam?

Other western states that have non-native populations of northern pike, are facing challenges similar to Washington. Although northern pike are native to much of Alaska, they are not native to the south-central part of the state where they have been illegally stocked and are considered invasive.

According to WDFW, pike have caused severe damage to native trout and salmon runs in several south-central Alaska watersheds and Washington is trying to learn from those events in order to prevent similar damage from occurring here.

WDFW is accept comments through Dec. 30 on proposed fishing regulations changes, including liberalizing the effort to reduce pike numbers in the Pend Oreille River.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will be hearing public comment on proposed fishing regulations when it meets Jan. 6-7 in Olympia.

The commission is scheduled to take action on those proposals at a public meeting Feb. 3-4 in Olympia.


Elk to be shot at Snoqualmie golf course

WILDLIFE — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department is getting ready to tee off on elk that have been tearing up the TPC Snoqualmie Ridge golf course, about 30 miles east of Seattle.

Some people are upset by the “damage hunt,” which will involve a few sportsmen who have completed the state's master hunter requirements.

But the protests should have occured when the golf course and other development was proposed in wildlife winter range. The rest is inevitable.

Since hazing efforts have failed, wildlife officials hope that killing a few of the elk will persuade the herd of about 25 to move to less expensive turf. 

For details on the hunt, which could start this weekend, read the Seattle PI online story.