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Wildlife refuge cameras catch cats in the act of poaching

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A Florida research project on endangered species in the hammocks of North Key Largo uncovered an unwanted cast of video stars: Cats perched atop man-made woodrat nests.

“The cats are doing the things that cats do when they hunt,” Jeremy Dixon, manager of the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge says in a story by KeysInfoNet.

“It's not the fault of the cats,” Dixon said. “It's the fault of owners who allow their cats to trespass into the refuge, or people who dump cats on North Key Largo.”

My stand on the issue of domestic cats that are let loose to kill birds and other critters:

Loose-running domestic cats kill for fun. These cats are not wildlife. They should be licensed and required to abide by seasons and quotas just as human hunters.


13 trumpeter swans scoping open water at Turnbull Refuge

WILDLIFE WATCHING — For 22 years through 2009, only one trumpeter swan reliably returned to Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge each winter or spring — whenever enough open water was exposed by ice thawing at the headquarters-area ponds.

Now the legacy of Solo, the lone male trumpeter that finally found love in 2009, lives on in at least a baker's dozen.

Nesting is likely.  Broods usually hatch around Father's Day.

Here's today's swan observation from Mike Rule, refuge wildlife biologist:

We watched 13 swans  flying down the creek in front of the office this morning .  They landed on Winslow Pond and Middle Pine.    There were

5 cygnets  and 9 adults. 

Four of the adults are likely the 2 breeding pairs from last year.  The age of  other  5 adults is unknown. They could be any combination of the 9 swans fledged in 2009, 2010, or 2012.   We potentially have four unaccounted for breeding age swans from Solo's 2 broods.  Hopefully we'll get another nesting pair established this year.

This same group was seen for a couple days in mid-January during a short thaw.


Turnbull trumpeters a splashing autumn sight to behold

UPDATED 11-6-13 at 3:10 p.m.

WILDLIFE WATCHING — This year's crop of trumpeter swans was still putting on a snow last week for visitors to Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge headquarters area.

For the first time in decades, two pairs pulled of clutches of cygnets this spring.  The families provided plenty of wildlife viewing entertainment during the spring and summer.

Each family lost at least one of the offspring, but the survivors are looking strong and frisky and ready to migrate to wherever they go when iced-over ponds force them to leave Turnbull during winter.

Local photographer Carlene Hardt, who produced a book about the Turnbull trumpeters that's available at the Turnbull store, snapped these photos of one family and the playful cygnets last week.  Said Hardt:

 I was at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge last Friday and I was delighted to see both Trumpeter swan families on Middle Pine. It was good to see that one swan pair still has three cygnets. Unfortunately, the other pair has only two remaining cygnets (out of the 4 that hatched). One cygnet was recently found dead. 

I started photographing them just before sunset when they were very active and vocal. They were interacting with each other and sometimes chasing each other. It was fun to watch!

Mike Rule, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife biologist at Turnbull offered these encouraging insights into what's going with the refuge swans:

The loss of the 2 cygnets from the Middle Pine Lake pair was unfortunate.  One was lost  about 3-4 weeks after hatching.  We never found the carcass.  The death of the 2nd cygnet occurred  on the   22nd or 23rd of October.   I am not sure of the cause of death , but I don't think it ever fledged like the other two in that brood.  I observed the 2 adults  and 2 cygnets flying around on the 19th and the one cygnet was still on Middle Pine. We did collect the body and it has been sent to the Madison Wildlife Health Lab.  Hopefully we will hear back soon about the cause of death.  

We have recently been seeing a group of 11 flying around  so the 2 pairs and there young of this year have picked up a couple of swans from the previous years' broods.  I expect to see more  any day now.  We are hoping more of the 2009 and 2010 cygnets will return to nest next year. Winslow Pool, which has been dry for 2 years now because of a failed water control structure, has been repaired and is refilling.  This has been an important swan pond, it is the original swan display pond  where the first cygnets were released on the refuge. So having it functioning again is a real plus for the swans. 

Shutdown ends: Lake Roosevelt launches to reopen Thursday

UPDATED 10-17-13 at 9:15 a.m.

FISHING — ŸA deal that ended the federal government shutdown tonight is reopening national wildlife refuges and parks sometime on Thursday.

Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area boat launches are being reopened after Congress voted to end the shutdown, Superintendent Dan Foster said moments ago.
“Our people are on furlough but on short notice to be back to work as quickly as possible once we get the directive,” he said. “Our business is not to be closed.”
Nobody is happier than Foster to see the national parks reopened. Word has been spreading that some anglers were told they had to stay off water managed by the National Park Service.
All public boat launches on the reservoir had been closed since Oct. 1, but some anglers were legally launching at Two Rivers Marina, which is managed by the Spokane Tribe. 
A few boaters were told – it’s not clear by whom – that they had to remain on the half of the reservoir closest to the Spokane and Colville tribal lands as long as the national parks were closed. 
Technically, it would have  been a violation of the park closure to be on land or water managed by the Park Service, Foster confirmed.
It has nothing to do with the legal limbo over where state or tribal fishing licenses are required, he said, noting, “Fisheries are not our jurisdiction.” 
He said he hasn’t had the manpower during the shutdown to enforce the closure on land and on the water and that rangers weren’t directed to go out looking for boaters.
He said he was glad boaters haven't forced his agency to enforce the rule. “The shutdown reduced our staff from almost 70 down to eight,” he said. “We haf seven rangers patrolling 320 miles of lakeshore. 
“Closing the lake is a terrible stupid thing but it’s what we’ve had to do under our responsibility to protect the resources and the public. 
He said staff  would be reopening launches, visitor centers and other facilities for all visitors, including anglers eager to tap the popular Roosevelt trout fishery, as soon as possible on Thursday.
Here is a statement issued Thursday morning from Superintendent Foster:

“We are proud to be a part of this area and are happy to welcome visitors back to the park.  We express gratitude to the public as there are great people in this area that have displayed understanding and respect during this difficult time.”  

Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area has a significant effect on the local economy. Together, the economic impacts from visitor spending, federal jobs created, and jobs created in the local market supporting local tourism are estimated to be over $40 million a year generated in the communities around Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.  The economic impact of closing Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area for 16 days has been extremely difficult on local communities, businesses, neighbors, and park partners.  We look forward to working with you on ways to lessen that impact.

Read on for the National Parks Conservation Association reaction to the government shutdown:

Three tips for top fall hiking trails

HIKING — Fall is a stunning time to walk through the region's wildlands, from the scablands to the national forests.

Here are three of my many “favorite” fall walks, all of which are detailed in my latest co-authored guide book, Day Hiking Eastern Washington.

1.       Abercrombie Mountain (west of Ione) – The trail to the summit of Eastern Washington’s second-highest peak leads to sweeping views of fall colors, especially the larch that are in the prime of their “goldness” in the Pend Oreille River Valley by the third week of October.

Note: Road improvements are planned on the Abercrombie access roads this fall. Contact the Colville National forest Three Rivers District for updates on restrictions.

2.       Hall Mountain (east of Metaline)– The rigorous hike to the former site of a forest fire lookout overlooking Sullivan Lake and the Salmo-Priest Wilderness passes a variety of fall color scenery with a brilliant red bonus. Near the trailhead, visit the bridge over Harvey Creek next to Sullivan Lake to see thousands of spawning kokanee for their run that peaks in early November.

3.       Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge (south of Cheney)– An easy stroll along the  refuge’s Pine Lakes rewards hikers with colorful fall scenery worth the trip in itself. But bring binoculars to appreciate the even more vivid wild art of migrating waterfowl. The hike leads past waters frequented by trumpeter swans that produced two hatches of cygnets this year  that will be fledging this fall.  

Turnbull Refuge hunters could be shut out by shutdown

HUNTING — Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge officials are hoping Congress sorts out its issues, passes a budget and reverses the government shutdown that went into effect today.

Refuge manager Dan Matiatos told state wildlife officials that if the shutdown continues through the weekend,  hunters with special elk controlled-hunt permits will not be allowed on the refuge. 

Refuge staff pans to contact affected hunters beginning tomorrow, but they're holding off as long as possible to see if things get sorted out today.  Washington muzzleloader elk hunts open Saturday.

Following is a press release just issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding area refuges:

Cheney, WA - The Federal Government will be closed as current funding expired on September 30, 2013.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is very much aware that any lapse in appropriations imposes hardships on those we serve.  Due to this event, the Turnbull and Inland Northwest National Wildlife Refuge Complex office will be closed to the public.

For programs experiencing a lapse in appropriated funding, only limited functions would continue, such as those necessary to respond to emergencies and to protect human life or property.  While a lapse in appropriations remains in effect, public access to Service properties will be prohibited and fish and wildlife management activities and public programs will be cancelled. All Refuge field trips and school programs, hunts, and public access will be canceled during the shutdown.

Additional information is available at DOI.gov/shutdown and oneINTERIOR.gov, as well as at OPM.gov, which will contain information about the government’s operating status on Tuesday, October 1, and the days following.

Government shutdown leaves options for outdoors enthusiasts

PUBLIC LANDS — As the House and Senate continue to battle over a budget compromise, the impact of a potential government shutdown on Washington state would be a pain for some people, but it wouldn't necessarily be earth-shattering to the short-term plans of outdoors enthusiasts.

If Congress fails to reach an agreement by midnight, all national parks and refuges would be closed, as well as national monuments like Mount St. Helens, and Forest Service ranger stations would be closed.

Visitors using overnight campgrounds or other park facilities would be given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements and leave the park. 

However, access would still be allowed to national forests and state lands would not be affected.

Hunting, fishing options could expand on 26 national wildlife refuges

HUNTING — The Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge in North Idaho and the Willapa Refuge in Western Washington are among 20 federal refuges that could see hunting opportunities expanded under a proposal released today by Interior Sally Jewell.

In addition, six refuges in four states would be opened to hunting for the first time.

While waterfowl hunting already is allowed at the Kootenai Refuge near Bonners Ferrry, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department plans to also allow limited upland bird hunting.

“Sportsmen and women were a major driving force behind the creation and expansion of the National Wildlife Refuge System more than a century ago and continue to be some of its strongest supporters, especially through their volunteer work and financial contributions,” Jewell said in a statement released today. “Keeping our hunting and angling heritage strong by providing more opportunities on our refuges will not only help raise up a new generation of conservationists, but also support local businesses and create jobs in local communities.”

Under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, the Service can permit hunting and fishing along with four other types of wildlife-dependent recreation where they are compatible with the refuge’s purpose and mission.

Controlled elk hunts debuted in 2010 at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge south of Cheney geared primarily to reducing the habitat damage being caused by the growing herd. The refuge also hosts a limited number of youth hunters in designated blinds for Washington's special two-day youth waterfowl hunting season in September.

Hunting, within specified limits, is permitted on more than 329 national wildlife refuges. Fishing is permitted on more than 271 wildlife refuges. Find specifics for each refuge here.

“After careful consideration and review from the Service, this proposal represents one of the largest expansions of hunting and fishing opportunities on wildlife refuges in recent years,” said Dan Ashe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director.

Read on for details on the 26 refuges involved in the proposal.

Photo: Turnbull trumpeters tending to young

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Photographer Carlene Hardt and numerous other wildlife watchers have been watching trumpeter swans at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge south of Cheney as they raise their young that hatched last month.

Here's the photo and the note she sent this week after spending some time watching the family of two adults and four cygnets off the paved walking trail near Middle Pine pond.

The rules say I can't go off trail on Cheever so I will not be able to see the second family. 

Isn't it wonderful that there are two Trumpeter pairs and two new families! The cygnets are so adorable and I know they will grow up fast! I watched them imitate their parents eating and preening. 

Two trumpeter swan broods hatch at Turnbull Refuge

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Trumpeter swans are doubling the fun Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge this summer with two nesting pairs, each of which has hatched a brood of cygnets in the past week.

Just seven years ago, only one trumpeter called Turnbull home. I named him Solo in a column documenting his lonely two decades of seeking a mate.

In 2009, Solo, by then a geriatric swan age 35-48, attracted a viable mate. He sired the first brood of trumpeters on the refuge since his first mate was killed on her nest by a predator in 1988

Solo disappeared two seasons later, but his mate bonded with another male to produce a brood last year.  This year, it appears that one of the birds produced by the swans also has returned with a mate.

Here's today's report from Mike Rule, refuge wildlife biologist:

Both nesting pairs of trumpeters at Turnbull NWR have hatched.  The pair on Cheever Lake  hatched 3 cygnets  on June 13 and the Middle Pine pair hatched 4 cygnets on June 19 or 20.   The female of the Middle Pine pair is likely Solo's (the really old swan) mate who started the ball rolling again in 2009.

Double the pleasure: 2 trumpeter swan pairs nesting at Turnbull

WILDLIFE — Turnbull Wildlife Refuge south of Cheney is in a family way this month with critters birthing and hatching young all over the place. (See list of 108 bird species documented at Turnbull in just two weeks at end of this post).

Fans of the late the trumpeter swan named Solo will revel in news that TWO trumpeter pairs are nesting at the refuge this year, up from one pair last year and no pairs for 22 years before 2009.

Solo was one of the original Turnbull trumpeters who lost his mate to a predator in the 1980s. He defended his territory at Turnbull through a 22-year drought without a suitable breeding partner before siring a family in 2009.  

The trumpeters are crowd pleasers because they're so visible. The nesting pairs are on Middle Pine and Cheever ponds. If all goes well and their cygnets hatch in June, the attentive parents will parade their families for all to see from the visitor paths all summer and into the fall.

Amateur photographer Carlene Hardt focused on the trumpeters for two years and recently published a nifty book of photos and trumpeter information, “A Swan and His Family.” The book, available at the Turnbull Refuge headquarters store, chronicles Solo's family life for several years.

Also worth checking out at the store is the booklet, “Discover Birds at Turnbull,” published after years of research by students at the former Discovery School.  The book has good information about a variety of Turnbull bird species with photos by local expert photographers.  

The book is a showcase for Turnbull's service in providing wildlife and nature education for up to 8,000 students who visit the refuge each year.

Meanwhile, don't forget all the other bird species found at the refuge.  Click “continue reading” for Tuesday's report report from Mike Rule, refuge wildlife biologist.

Floods, Flowers, Feathers Festival May 18 at Turnbull Refuge

OUTDOORS – Experts in wildlife, wildflowers and geology will combine their talents for a festival of nature walks, youth activities and educational information on Saturday (May 18) at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

The second annual “Floods, Flowers, and Feathers Festival” – completely free, including no entry fee into the refuge – will include nature hikes dealing with topics such as Ice Age Floods and Channeled Scablands, spring birds, wildflower and insects.

The refuge is 4.2 miles south of Cheney, off Cheney-Plaza Road.  Drive to the refuge headquarters.

Info: Turnbull Refuge, (509) 235-4723. 

Sandhill Crane Festival set with birds, speakers

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Organizers have assembled a collection of field trips and speakers while nature is supplying the wildlife for the 16th annual Othello Sandhill Crane Festival.  Sign up in advance on the website; many activities fill quickly.

Events kick off Friday (April 5) with boat tours on Potholes Reservoir and a “biking for cranes” tour.

Saturday’s events include tours of burrowing owl/ground squirrel habitat, tours that feature geology shaped by prehistoric flooding, tours of prime crane viewing locations, and dozens of lectures at Othello High School. Lecture topics this year will cover everything from crane biology to wildlife photography.

  • Idie Ulsh, master birder and former president of Seattle Audbon, will be the banquet speaker on Saturday night during the silent auction. 

Vendors, children’s activities, and the opportunity to view raptors up close and in person will be also available throughout the day on Saturday. More tours will be available on Sunday.

The Othello farming community plays a central role in supporting crane migration each year. Cranes and other migrating birds feast on corn and grain left over from last year’s harvest, and some fields are left open through the migration season to allow birds the chance to rest during their travels.

Celebrities flock in for Othello Sandhill Crane Festival

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The headline attraction at the annual Othello Sandhill Crane Festival has already arrived for the April 5-7 series of programs, field trips and banquets based out of Othello and the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge.

More than 1,000 sandhill cranes were at the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge last weekend, said Spokane outdoor photographer Craig Goodwin.

Of course, plent of other birds, including long-billed curlews, and waterfowl, are enjoyed by viewers on festival field trips.

Saving Columbian whitetails rife with pitfalls

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Wildlife agents plan to use a helicopter to drive deer into nets TODAY (March 19) at a refuge along the Columbia River at Cathlamet, Wash.

They hope to capture about a dozen endangered Columbian white-tailed deer at the Julia Butler-Hansen Refuge to move them to a refuge near Ridgefield.

An effort that began in January to move about 50 deer isn’t going as well as wildlife officials hoped, according to the Daily News:

  • Agents have captured 23 deer, but one died while being transported, apparently from stress.
  • Another was later found dead and three more were killed at Ridgefield by a coyote or other predator.

Officials are moving the deer because they fear a dike will break, flooding the refuge.

Trails group recruiting volunteers for summer trail projects

OUTDO – The Washington Trails Association is recruiting volunteers for an ambitious lineup of trail-building and maintenance projects in far Eastern Washington this season.

Every year as the budgets for parks and forests dwindle, volunteers become more important, said Jane Baker, local WTA trail crew leader in Spokane.

 The work parties range for day-jobs at the Rocks of Sharon to multi-day trips in the Salmo-Priest Wilderness that combine backpacking with trail clearing.

WTA is a third of the way to meeting the 2,000-hours of work at Liberty Lake County Park the group pledged in order to get a state grant.  The first of several work parties planned at Liberty Lake is set for March 16, followed by work in April, May, June and July.

Other project areas include the  Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge, Dishman Hills, Mount Spokane and Sullivan Lake.

Sign up online.

Info: (206_ 625-1367.

Endangered Columbian whitetails moved from Cathlamet

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is in the process of moving about 50 Columbian white-tailed deer from a refuge near Cathlamet where they could drown because an old dike is expected to fail.

If they didn’t drown the deer — the western-most subspecies of white-tailed deer — might die of hypothermia of starvation, setting back efforts to restore the animals, a state endangered species.

The Daily News reports the deer are being moved from the Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge to another federal preserve near Ridgefield.

Work began in January and 11 deer had been moved as of Tuesday. Wildlife agents are taking special care while darting or netting the deer to avoid stress that could kill them.

Columbian white-tailed deer are native to parts of southwest Washington and northwest Oregon.

The Columbian white-tailed deer was federally listed as endangered in 1968, at which time only a small population was known to survive on islands and a small area of mainland in Washington along the lower Columbia River. In 1978, a small population of Columbian white-tailed deer was identified in Douglas County, in Southwest Oregon, and subsequently listed as endangered. A recovery plan was published in 1983. Since then, the Douglas County population has rebounded and was delisted in July 2003.

Turnbull cygnet makes first short flight

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The ducks that were hatched this spring have been flying for months. But ducks and even geese aren't the largest of all native North American wildfowl. 

The trumpeter swans that hatched in mid-June at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge have required the entire summer and several weeks of autumn to grow, muscle up and feather out enough to flap their 15- to 20-pound bodies into the air from a dramatic running-on-top-of-the-water takeoff.

Carlene  Hardt has been following the Turnbull trumpeters closely this year and she has captured good photos of their development.

“The cygnets have all their flight feathers and could fly anytime,” Hardt reports this week. On Sunday, one of the cygnets made a very short flight with the parents! The other two have not shown any interest so far but I am sure they will soon.

“The parents leave for about an hour each day. I wonder if they leave them so long to encourage them to learn to fly so they can follow!”

Even the adult turmpeters were flightless during a portion of the summer. They swam closely with their offspring at Middle Pond near the refuge headquarters while they molted their feathers.

Trumpeter swans are typically gray when they hatch. Cygnets steadily lose their gray plumage and molt in pure white feathers by the time they are one year old. The change is not complete in the Turnbull birds.

Cygnets require 110-120 days from the time they hatch to the time they fledge — a moment that appears to be arriving this week at Turnbull.

Once they get the hang of it, these trumpeter swans will be able to fly between 40-80 miles per hour. They are susceptible to collisions with wires, especially when they migrate, but they offer an irresistible reason to crane our necks skyward for a look.

Click “continue reading” to see the difference in the Turnbull cygnets' wing development from the third week of August to the first week of October, as shown in Hardt's photos.

Trumpeter swans hatch five cygnets at Turnbull

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Trumpeter swans are back in a family way at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge this week.

The photo at the bottom of this post shows the female rising above a newly hatched FIFTH cygnet onThursday morning as two siblings look on from the nest. I made the photo just off the paved trail at Middle Pine Lake near the refuge headquarters.

The male was on the water with two cygnets that hatched on Monday or Tuesday when I arrived today just before 8 a.m.

Two more cygnets could be seen partially under the wing of the female on the nest.

I sat for a long time across from the nest, watching as the male took his pair to the far end of Middle Pine Lake and rested with them on the shore. 

At 9:30 a.m., the female began making muffled honks.  The male got in the water with the two cygnets and started swimming toward the nest.  Just as he got there, the two cygnets under the mother’s wing crawled out, the female stood up and Presto!  Up popped the very weak head of the FIFTH cygnet for a brief second before it lay back down. 

The male paraded past a few times, as shown in the other photo. The female seemed to be showing off the new arrival.

Visitors willing to walk less than a mile round trip will be able to enjoy the family all summer.

“The cygnets will be stuck there for awhile since we have Cheever Lake drawn down for dam repairs,” said Mike Rule, refuge biologist.

The female mated in 2009 with the late Solo, the male trumpeter who faithfully returned to Turnbull for two decades as a widower before finding a breeding female and ending Turnbull's drought of trumpeter production.

Read Solo's story here.

Solo and his new mate raised broods in 2009 and 2010. They returned last year, but Solo disappeared before they could mate, ending what biologists estimate was a remarkable 35-48 year tenure at the refuge.

Said Rule:

The identity of the father is unknown . We thought the swan hanging around with her since spring of last year was one of her 2010 cygnets. She was seen with a juvenile swan for most of 2011. This spring she has been with a single adult swan that was very territorial. Since her 2010 cygnet is not sexually mature, it is possible an unrelated older adult formed a pair bond this past spring as a few trumpeters move through the area at that time.

Turnbull festival combines geology, flora, fauna

NATURE — Floods, Flowers and Feathers is the theme for a new festival at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge that will feature elements of the Ice Age Floods that shaped the land along with the flora and fauna that flourish in this special channeled scablands habitat.

The festival, set for May 19 from 8 a.m.-3 p.m., includes several free outdoor elements:

  • Learn geology of the unique channeled scablands landscape.
  • Enjoy nature walks with native plant and bird experts.
  • Watch biologists band songbirds for research.
  • Examing reptiles and amphibians.
  • Learn how to track elk with radio telemetry.

Call (509) 235-4723 for more information and to make reservations for events.

Places in some events can be reserved online.

Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge is partnering with numerous organizations/agencies to make this Festival a wonderful outdoor event in a remarkable environment. Some of the partners include Eastern Washington University Biology Department, Friends of Turnbull Refuge, Ice Age Floods Institute-Cheney Spokane Chapter, Northeast Washington Chapter of the Native Plant Society, and Spokane Audubon Society.

The Refuge is located 4.2 miles south of Cheney, off Cheney-Plaza Road.

Turnbull Wildlife Refuge gets high marks from visitors

REFUGES — Most visitors to Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge in 2010 and 2011 were impressed with its recreational opportunities, education and services, according to a government survey released today.

About 90 percent of respondents gave consistent high marks to their refuge experience.

The survey, commissioned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and designed, conducted, and analyzed by researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey, evaluated responses from more than 200 adult visitors surveyed at the refuge between July 2010 and November 2011. Turnbull was one of 53 national wildlife refuges surveyed.

President Theodore Roosevelt designated Florida's Pelican Island as the first wildlife refuge in 1903. Today the 556 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System protect thousands of fish and wildlife while more than 400 of the refuges also are open to the public.

  • Many refuges are known as popular sites for recreation such as hunting and fishing, paddling and hiking, environmental education programs and wildlife observation.
  • More than 45 million people visited national wildlife refuges in 2011.

Where Turnbull visitors live: Seventy nine percent of Turnbull survey respondents live within 50 miles of the refuge but most nonlocal visitors said that visiting Turnbull Refuge was a primary purpose or sole destination of their trip. 

The top three activities respondents participated in included wildlife observation (82%), bird watching (71%) and driving the auto tour route (67%).

Turnbull created: Prompted by local activists, sportsmen, and naturalists, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established Turnbull in 1937 as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife.

Located south of Cheney, the 16,000-acre Refuge supports an extensive complex of wetlands, Ponderosa pine forests, Palouse steppe, and riparian habitats.  These habitats create exceptional species diversity, providing homes for hundreds of migratory birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, plants, and other life.

“Turnbull’s unique Channeled Scabland landscape formed by volcanic activity and glacial floods created diverse wildlife habitats that also attracts visitors from around the country,” said Turnbull Refuge Manager Dan Matiatos. 

The survey found 94 percent of respondents were satisfied with the refuge’s job of conserving fish, wildlife and their habitats.

U.S. House votes to allow oil drilling in ANWR

PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday night to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling as a provision of the Transportation bill.

This was proved to be a bad idea for the fragile arctic environemnt and the colossal wildlife values of the arctic plain in the 1990s.  It's still a bad idea.

Wildlife refuges play roles on silver screen

PUBLIC LANDS — This year’s Academy Awards holds special interest for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System. Some critics are listing “Meeks Cutoff,” with scenes from Malheur National Wildlife Refugein Oregon, as a possible Oscar contender. 

“Meeks Cutoff,” starring Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood and Paul Dano, is about pioneers stranded on the Oregon Trail and was filmed from federal lands adjacent to the wildlife refuge. 

Malheur Refuge manager Tim Bodeen knows why director Kelly Reichardt wanted to capture scenes of the refuge:

“We’re one of the nation’s great wild places where you can get wide open views of the natural environment,” he says. “And we have bountiful wildlife [including coyotes and mule deer] that people associate with historic America.” Today’s visitors can hike, bike, fish and hunt on the refuge as well as see wildlife and tour the 19th-century Sod House Ranch. 

Read on for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service observations on some of the better known refuge-linked movies:

Tribes balk at plan for hunters to cull elk at Hanford Reach monument

HUNTING — The Fish and Wildlife Service may allow hunting on Hanford Reach National Monument land near Rattlesnake Mountain to cull a herd of elk damaging nearby wheat fields.

Over several years, managers hope to reduce the heard of about 700 elk to about 350.

But area Indian tribes are balking at the proposal, as reported by Northwest Public Radio.

See the agency's draft plan. Deadline to comment is Dec. 30.

The Tri-City Herald reports the Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting public comment this month on the proposed elk hunt that would take place next fall.

The hunt would be limited to 10 hunters a day and would be managed by the state Fish and Wildlife Department and the Yakama Nation.

The Energy Department opposed an elk hunt in 2005 but is not opposing the current proposal because cleanup work has been completed in the area.

Feds get 25K comments on CM Russell Wildlife Refuge plans

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge no longer is just an expanse of wild prairie along the Missouri River Breaks in northern Montana. It's a lightening rod for how wildlands will be managed.

A proposed management plan would modify proposed wilderness areas — reducing acreage in the preferred alternative — and put fire and cows to work to enhance wildlife habitat.

The plan for the refuge — the second largest refuge in the Lower 48 — drew about 25,000 comments from the public, according to a story in the Great Falls Tribune.

The area, first designated as a game range in 1936 and jointly managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service for 40 years, was changed to a wildlife refuge in 1976 under sole management of the USFWS, with wildlife conservation the main mission.

Turnbull Refuge offers tours, activities Saturday

NATURE — Turnbull Wildlife Refuge staff and volunteers are leading several tours, walks and activities Saturday to coincide with the annual Jubilee in nearby Cheney.

Pre-register with group leaders for details and meeting places.

  • 8 a.m: A two-hour morning walk around the Pine Lakes area to see what birds can be found in summer.  Leader: Marian Frobe, 328-0621.
  • 8:45 a.m.: Biologist Sandra Rancourt will conduct a pond study for families that identifies aquatic macroinvertebrates and discuss the environmental importance of these creatures.  You will be collecting and identifying these critters.  Call Louise O’Leary, (509) 235-4531 or email looeezoleary@netscape.net
  • 9:45 – 11:15 a.m.:  tour of the Turnbull National Refuge that you don’t usually get to see.  Refuge biologist, Mike Rule will be your guide sharing some of the history of the refuge, the Native Peoples and pioneers of the area along with the current management of Turnbull.  Call Louise O’Leary, (509)235-4531 or email looeezoleary@netscape.net
Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge will have an information booth and kid’s activity table at the main events area at the Safeway parking area in Cheney with many other vendors and activities.  
Cheney Jubilee will provide transportation to and from Turnbull, if necessary.

Birdwatcher goes on snipe hunt — seriously

WILDLIFE WATCHING — “Remember the goofy snipe hunts you were encouraged to partake in at summer camps?” asks birding guide Woody Wheeler, in his Conservation Catalyst blog

“Often they took place at night and involved a large sack, a club and a flashlight,” he reminds us, and the “victim” wasn't a snipe, but rather the gullible 'snipe hunter.'

Wheeler recommends a different sort of snipe hunt that involves sleeping during the night. Then leave the bags, clubs and flashlights home and head out in daylight to a marsh or moist field with a good pair of binoculars. 

While their camouflage makes them diffuclt to see, the high-pitched “whoop, whoop, whoop,” sound of a male in its courtship flight often gives it away during April and May in the scabland areas west of Spokane. It sounds a little like Curly's call to action in the Three Stooges movies.

“During breeding season (now), Wilson’s Snipe make a haunting winnowing sound, often heard at dawn and dusk,” explain's Wheeler, who lives in Seattle. “This sound helps them establish territory and attract potential mates.  It is made by the wind whistling past their outstretched tail feathers after they first fly up and then descend rapidly.”

Source:  Cornell Lab of Ornithology: http://www.allaboutbirds.org;

Volunteers to spruce up Turnbull Refuge Saturday

WILDLIFE REFUGES — Volunteers are encouraged to sign up for the annual community work party Saturday at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

The event is sponsored by Spokane Audubon Society and The Friends of Turnbull in the continuing effort to restore native riparian habitat to benefit birds and other wildlife species.

Helpers will be planting native saplings and installing fence to protect the trees from deer, elk and moose browsing.

The refuge will also be host to a “potluck” lunch. Discovery School will be providing hamburgers.

Please call in advance to register, (509) 235-4723. Ask for Sandy.

Read on for more details.

National Wildlife Refuges taking comment on future goals

PUBLIC LANDS — Friday is the deadline for public comment on a draft vision of the future for the National Wildlife Refuge System.

A wide range of comments already has been posted on the elaborate website AmericaWildlife.org sponsored by the U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service. (This is the best place to start.) 

For example, some see wilderness values in many refuges.

The Izaak Walton League, which works to increase the number of hunters and anglers in America, is encouraged that one of the recommendations in the vision would double youth participation in hunting and fishing on refuges by 2020. Others are not so keen about hunting on refuges.

People are posting bold ideas and others are voting on them.

A vision document – to be adopted in July at a conference in Madison, Wis. – will guide this premier system for wildlife protection into the next decade and beyond. 

Read on for more details and links.