Latest from The Spokesman-Review
HUNTING — It looks as though Congress is going to make it easier for sportsmen to one-stop-shop for state and federal waterfowl hunting licenses. That's good news for the sport and for wetland habitats.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 373-1 recently to forward a bill that would allow hunters to buy their federal duck stamps online, similar to the way state hunting licenses can be purchased.
The e-Duck Stamp program started four years ago on a trial basis in eight states, including Idaho (but not Washington). The program allows hunters 16 and older to purchase temporary duck stamps online until their physical stamps arrive in the mail.
Prior to this pilot program, waterfowl hunters were required to buy federal migratory bird hunting and conservation stamps, or duck stamps, at post offices and sporting goods stores. The trouble came when suppliers ran out of stamps early in the season or small rural post offices didn't carry the stamps at all.
If the U.S. Senate follows the overwhelming approval of the House vote, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would have the authority to make the program permanent and extend it to all states.
The Federal Duck Stamp was created in 1934 as a federal waterfowl hunting license and a means to conserve waterfowl habitat. The program has generated more than $800 million to protect more than 6 million acres of waterfowl habitat in the United States, land now part of the USFWS National Wildlife Refuge System. The stamps cost $15 per year, with 98 percent of revenue going straight to land purchases, easements and leases.
WETLAND CONSERVATION — The Pullman chapter of Ducks Unlimited will hold its annual fund-raising event on Feb. 12 at the Paradise Creek Brewery in downtown Pullman.
Social hour starts at 4 p.m. A ticket gets you in for heavy hors doeurves, a drink of choice, the fundraising auction and membership in Ducks Unlimited, which is celebrating its 75th year of efforts for waterfowl conservation.
For tickets, contact Joe Ford (509) 872-3030; Vic DeMacon (509) 336-9151, or Jeremy Lessmann (509) 336-9559.
Since 1937, DU has conserved 12 million acres of habitat across North America, benefiting more than 900 different species of wildlife.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — A duck normally only seen in Asia has somehow turned up in California, drawing excited bird watchers from all over the U.S. and Canada to a wildlife refuge in the state’s Central Valley, the Associated Press reports.
Wildlife officials say a male falcated duck, a bird common in China, was first spotted at the refuge on Dec. 8.
Since then, thousands of birders have observed it paddling among mallards, pintails and geese, said Lora Haller, who works at the Colusa Wildlife Refuge’s visitor center.
Most falcated ducks breed and live in China, and smaller populations live in Japan, North Korea and South Korea. The ducks can also sometimes be found in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, Haller said.
The celebrity bird has a silvery plumage with iridescent green and bronze on its head. “Falcated” or “curved and tapering to a point” refers to the male duck’s long wing feathers near the body that overhang onto the tail.
HUNTING — I had the privilege to hunt the Lower Coeur d'Alene River area with a yellow Lab named Gunner this weekend. It was a good day.
WATERFOWL — She’s back! A wood duck once again is bringing the “White Christmas” spirit to Riverfront park.
The mystery has been solved about the wood duck bringing a white Christmas spirit to Riverfront Park.
Some speculated it was an albino, others suggested the duck with the pink eye rings was a leucistic bird in disguise.
The bird has been feeding among the mallards for several weeks in the Spokane River between the Opera House and Carousel. Local birder Buck Domitrovich photographed what likely was the same bird last year at the park (left).
Wild wood ducks normally migrate away from the Spokane-North Idaho area around mid-October. Most birders agreed this woodie might be the product of captive breeding, but nobody seemed to know for sure — until local birding expert and breeder Dennis Dahlke chimed in.
"This white duck is a captive bred female wood duck," he said. "She is not albino, just a color variation. Belonged to a friend of ours. Coyotes helped her escape when they killed most of the other ducks in that pen last winter."
The woody is smaller than the mallards she paddles around with, but she holds her own — she's not afraid to take after bigger birds that get in her way.
Freak show: One birder emailed me with an interesting observation about the way many of us view wildlife: "It's interesting to me that human freaks freak us out but other animal freaks turn us on," she said.
WATERFOWLING — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has a new waterfowling website ready for hunters to take advantage of the best forecast fall flight of ducks since 1955 — and the foul weather that's ushering them southward and into our region.
The site has information for new or returning waterfowl hunters, ranging from the basics of duck and goose identification to details on hunting locations, equipment, licensing requirements and handling harvested waterfowl.
One portion of the site is devoted to helping hunters zero in on places to hunt waterfowl. The information isn't necessarily specific. Hou'll still have to go out and do your homework.
The site also is a quick stop for hunters checking on waterfowl regulations and seasons, especially for the more confusing seasons for Canada geese. Goose management in much of Estern Washington restricts hunting to Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays, but late fall and winter bring added opportunity on holidays including the Thanksgiving holiday Nov. 24-25, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 16.
HUNTING – Hunters have until Nov. 16 to comment in an online survey on two new proposals for 2012 hunting regulations being considered by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Electronic decoys: Several waterfowl hunting guides have petitioned the state to consider allowing electronic decoys for waterfowl hunting starting in 2012. Vote here.
East-West elk tags: Some elk hunters want to elminate the East Side-West Side elk tag designations they can apply for special permits on both sides of the state. Vote here.
Have your WILD ID from your hunting or fishing license ready in order to complete the one-question surveys.
More than 3,000 people participated this summer and fall in the online scoping survey on the first round of proposals for the 2012-2014 huning seasons. See the results.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife commission will consider the refined proposals this winter.
WATERFOWLING — Idaho Fish and Game officials say the time chart on Page 11 in the 2011-2012 Waterfowl Seasons and Rules book has some incorrect times for five days in January in southern Idaho area.
The opening times on January 22 through 27 in the column for Ada, Adams, Boise, Canyon, Elmore, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, Valley and Washington counties and part of Idaho County, all in the Mountain Time Zone areas are off by three hours.
The correct opening times in those areas are: January 22 - 7:41 a.m.; January 23 - 7:40 a.m.; January 24 - 7:39 a.m.; January 25 - 7:39 a.m.; January 26 - 7:38 a.m.; and January 22 - 7:37 a.m.
The correct closing time for January 27 is 5:49 p.m.
The times for all other days are correct.
For a correct table, see the waterfowl rules on the Fish and Game Web site.
CONSERVATION — America's wetlands declined slightly from 2004-2009, underscoring the need for continued conservation and restoration efforts, according to a report issued last week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
This is merely affirmation of an old story. The federal agency's Status and Trends Wetlands reports from previous decades have documented a continuous albeit diminishing decline in wetlands habitat.
Read on for more details.
CONSERVATION — With waterfowlers gearing up for the fall general season start (Oct. 15), the West Plains Chapter of Ducks Unlimited is sponsoring BBQ buffet dinner and fundraising auction Oct. 6 at Northern Quest Casino.
Many species of wildlife benefit from the work of DU and the generosity of sportsmen and other conservationist to preserve and restore wetland habitats.
Buy tickets online by Oct. 1 for a chance on $100 Duck Bucks to use on the Live Auction!
Read on for details.
WETLANDS CONSERVATION – Ducks Unlimited is asking duck hunters and other waterfowl enthusiasts to “double up for the ducks” by purchasing two federal duck stamps this year.
“The federal duck stamp has been an important tool in waterfowl habitat conservation for 77 years, but its ability to purchase and conserve important waterfowl habitat has been greatly diminished by inflation and rising land prices,” DU CEO Dale Hall said. “The purpose of the ‘Double Up for the Ducks’ campaign is to show that hunters support the program and are willing to pay more for the duck stamp in order to conserve waterfowl habitat. We view the duck stamp as an investment in conservation, not as a tax on hunters.”
This effort is part of a larger campaign currently being led by Ducks Unlimited to increase the price of the federal duck stamp.
Read on for details.
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.
WATERFOWLING — Duck and goose hunting in Washington this fall will be roughly the same as last year under the season adopted last week by the state Fish and Wildlife Commission approved.
Statewide duck hunting season will be open Oct. 15-19 and from Oct. 22-Jan. 29.
A special youth hunting weekend is scheduled Sept. 24-25.
Special limits for hen mallard, pintail, redhead, scaup, canvasback, goldeneye, harlequin, scoter and long-tailed duck will remain the same.
Goose hunting seasons vary by management areas across the state, but most open Oct. 15 and run through January 2012.
Details on the waterfowl hunting seasons will be available later this week on WDFW’s website.
Duck production surveys indicate a great crop of waterfowl in the western U.S.
HUNTING — Waterfowl hunters are being asked to responded to a survey on Idaho hunting season options by the end of the week.
"We’ve had some requests for more late season duck hunting, and we’re asking hunters statewide to weigh in on which way they’d like to go," said Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager in Coeur d'Alene, noting that the Coeur d'Alene area is in Area 2 for both ducks and geese.
Duck production surveys indicate a great crop of waterfowl in the western U.S., so it's worth chiming in on seasons.
Read on for details on the proposals currently under consideration.
HUNTING– With the duck factories of North America producing a record high number of waterfowl, Montana and Idaho waterfowl hunters have something to look forward to this fall.
This year, 10 primary duck species on the traditional spring survey areas totaled about 45.6 million—a record high for the survey that dates back to 1955, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recent surveys.
That’s an 11 percent increase over 2010 and 35 percent above the 50 year long-term average.
“This year all parts of the 'duck factory' kicked in,” said Jim Hansen, the Central Flyway coordinator for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. “Just about all of the north central U.S. and Prairie Canada have been wet, but certainly it came with flooding that has been terrible.”
Mallards, the most sought-after species in Montana, were up 9 percent from last year at 9.2 million—22 percent above the long-term average.
Pintails, which have been in decline, showed a 26 percent increase and were 10 percent above the long-term average.
Redheads reached a record high, 106 percent above the long-term average.
HUNTING — For the second time since 1937, youngsters can apply for limited permits to participate in a two-day youth waterfowl hunt this fall at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will restrict the hunters under 16 to about eight hunting sites during Washington’s youth waterfowl season, Sept. 24-25.
Two youth hunters accompanied by one or two non-hunting adults will be allowed at each site. The hunters must have state small game and waterfowl licenses.
Hunters will be selected in a random drawing.
Applications will be accepted Aug. 1-15.
Apply on a U.S. Postal Service postcard. Include the youth's full name, address and telephone number.
Youths may apply with a youth friend or youth sibling on the same application.
Mail postcards to Refuge Manager, Turnbull NWR, 26010 S. Smith Road, Cheney, WA 99004.
The Spokane Chapter of the Washington Waterfowl Association will conduct a workshop the week prior to the hunt to help the youths select hunting sites and provide waterfowl identification and hunting tips.
Info: 235-4723; fws.gov/turnbull/
HUNTING– A waterfowl calling contest coming up in the Tri-Cities will give the open division winner an all-expense-paid trip to the hallowed quacking grounds of the World Duck Calling Championships in Stuttgart, Ark.
The sanctioned Washington Duck Calling Championships are set for Aug. 6-7 at Wholesale Sports in Kennewick, sponsored by the Washington Waterfowl Association.
In addition to the Open Duck competition, the event has eight other contests and divisions for duck, goose, youth and two-person competition.
Info: Abel Cortina, (509) 786-9196, email email@example.com.
Read on for details on the divisions.
WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The U.S. Senate Thursday evening confirmed Daniel Ashe as the 16th director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Ashe, a career employee of the agency, assumed his duties immediately.
Dale Hall, CEO of Ducks Unlimited — and the FWS director from 2005-2009 — praised the Senate action.
“I have known and worked with Dan for more than 15 years," Hall said. "He’s a strong supporter of wildlife resources, an avid outdoorsman and a committed conservationist. The Fish and Wildlife Service is an important partner to Ducks Unlimited, and we look forward to working together to tackle the challenges facing wetlands and waterfowl today."
Ashe has served as the Service's deputy director since August 2009. From 2003 to 2009, he was the science advisor to the Service's director with broad responsibility to develop and implement the agency's scientific policy and programs for resource management.
WILDLIFE RESEARCH– Biologists and a team of volunteers are herding Canada geese into pens and clamping leg bands on about 1,000 young birds in Eastern Washington for a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife study of goose population trends.
The teams were herding geese at Qualchan Golf Course this morning starting at 4:30 a.m.
They planned to trap and release geese later in the day at Gonzaga University and Liberty Lake.
In its fourth year, the study seeks to understand nesting declines, hunter harvest patterns and the birds’ use of urban and rural habitat, said Mikal Moore, state waterfowl specialist.
Since the study began, biologists have banded 2,523 geese from eight areas in Eastern Washington, Moore said. Of that number, 406 were observed with neck collars and 359 marked geese were taken by hunters.
The roundup is timed during the molt. Since the adults can't fly, the volunteers can herd the families into pens. After the goslings are inspected and banded, they're released.
Read on for details about the banding, the study and what birdwatchers and hunters can do to help the research.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Canada geese are in the full swing of raising their families around the region.
S-R photographer Dan Pelle captured his family unit basking in the sun along the banks of the Spokane River on Upriver Drive and Crestline this week.
Three goose pairs were seen with at least 17 young birds in this area.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Birds have giving a thumbs up, so to speak, for Ron Dexter and the seven wildlife ponds he's built on the family property near Mount Spokane over the years.
"Besides great blue herons, belted kingfishers, etc., our main attractions are the wood ducks that have slowly increased in numbers," he reported this week.
"This morning there were 20, half males and half females. I have erected 22 nest boxes, so we still have room for more wood ducks, so if you see any, send them our way.
"Some years, we also have hooded mergansers nesting. At times they will lay in the same box and one or the other will set. The female will hatch out both species. The young stay in the nest box until she calls them out within 24 hours of hatching. They jump out of the nest box with tiny wings spread like parachute jumpers and bounce like corks when the hit the ground.
"They hang around the pond for a few hours, then mama will lead them on a trip through the weed to a nearby creek."
CONSERVATION– Ducks Unlimited has scheduled several upcoming fundraising events to benefit wetlands conservation. Amont them:
April 7 – Spokane DU annual dinner, doors open at 5:30 p.m. at The Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln St. Tickets $50 single, $275 sponsor.
Contact Gordon Hester, 755-7576 or register online.
CONSERVATION — Pullman Ducks Unlimited will hold its annual banquet and auction Saturday, March 26, at Banyan’s Restaurant at the Palouse Ridge Golf Course.
Social hour begins at 5:30 p.m.; dinner served at 7 and live auction at 8.
Tickets: Jeremy Lessmann, (509) 330-1822.
NATURE WATCHING — January's warm streak was cruel, luring buttercups to bloom prematurely west of Spokane. But now they're blooming with confidence around town, and birds are flocking in all around us.
Spokane Auduboner Kim Thorburn takes a special interest in the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area south of Creston, where she does bird surveys. Read on for her report from Wednesday:
HUNTING — The inscription on the metal bands used by the U.S. Department of the Interior to tag migratory birds has been changed, according to totally believable sources on the Internet.
The bands used to bear the address of the Washington Biological Survey, which was abbreviated:
Wash. Biol. Surv.
Supposedly that changed when the agency received the following letter from an Arkansas camper:
While camping last week I shot one of your birds. I think it was a crow. I followed the cooking instructions on the leg tag and I want to tell you it was horrible.
The bands are now marked:
Fish and Wildlife Service.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — The winter ice cap was almost gone from Sprague Lake a few days ago, but this week's cold snap has reversed the trend — and that's bad news for the coots that had taken up residence in the open waters.
Here's the Saturday scoop just received from birder Greg Falco of Sprague:
Today Sprague Lake is almost all frozen (minus 12 for a low at my place).
There are about 5 small openings in the ice with ducks, mostly Common Goldeneye, tightly packed. The coot flock was in one opening about 40 feet across, and getting smaller.
Twelve bald eagles were standing on the ice around the defenseless coots. More balds were perched around the lake.
Nothing scientific, but I’ll say the coot population has been reduced by more than 100 in the past week with about 50 birds left. I’ll be surprised if any are left tomorrow.
WATERFOWL — These ducks are offering their free services as models to promote the effective qualities of down insulation as they hang out comfortably on the ice in below-zero conditions.
Down is the lightest most compressible and efficient natural insulator for cold weather clothing.
But the ducks stress that consumers should insist on clothing filled with 100 percent GOOSE down.
WATERFOWLING — A friend told me today that his fingers were cramping shut after plucking waterfowl from a productive hunt. Been there, done that.
Nowadays I tend to breast-out most of my waterfowl.
A fun way to use duck legs is in the blind itself. Bring along a small barbecue and briquettes. After your group acquires a few ducks, remove the duck legs, sprinkle with Cajun seasoning or whatever suits your taste; then wrap in bacon using a toothpick to fasten it on.
Enjoy the warmth from the grill, the aroma and a great mash-shore snack while waiting for the next round of incomers.
WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — George Orr, the always quotable Washington Wildlife Commissioner from Spokane, announced today that he will be leaving the commission when his term expires next year.
Orr, a retired fireman and former state legislator, made the announcement during a commission conference all meeting called for other matters.
“I told the commission today that I’m not going to reenlist,” Orr said. “I’ve served God and country pretty handily since 1960: went into the military, served on school boards, union offices, PTA and elected and appointed offices around the state. Now it’s time to spend time with my wife and good buddy, and perhaps spoil my grandchildren a little more.
“Something else might come around later, but for now I’m not reenlisting.”
Orr’s announcement came four days after Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed eliminating the wildlife commission or making it merely an advisory group instead of a policy-making panel responsible for hiring and firing the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department director.