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Oldest banded albatross, 64, returns to mate again

BIRDS — Wisdom — a 64-year-old Laysan albatross — returned to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge on Nov. 19 after a year at sea. A few days later, she was observed with her mate on the low coral island that's merely a speck on the map in the Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii.

Did you catch that she's 64? You go girl!

Mating was documented (see photos above) and Wisdom departed soon afterward. Refuge workers expect her back any day to lay her egg.

Wisdom showed up among the world’s largest nesting albatross colony almost exactly a year from when she returned last year.

Read more about Wisdom here.

Located on the far northern end of the Hawaiian archipelago, Midway Atoll is located within the nation's largest conservation area, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. It is one the oldest atoll formations in the world that provides nesting habitat for millions of seabirds and it a touchstone for one of the most significant naval battles in our human history.

Bald eagle count grows at Lake Coeur d’Alene

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Kokanee are spawning and dying in North Idaho's two largest lakes and bald eagles are loving it.

Dozens of eagles are congregating at Granite Creek and in the Bayview shoreline area to take advantage of revived kokanee fisheries in Lake Pend Oreille.

Lake Coeur d'Alene is better known for the eagles that congregate from November into January to feast on the kokanee — land-locked sockeye salmon — spawning in Wolf Lodge Bay. 

The number of eagles varies from year to year, with 44 adult (white-headed) eagles and 10 immatures counted today in a weekly survey by Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist. She tallied a total of 40 eagles last week.

This week's count is well above the 11 adult bald eagles counted in the Wolf Lodge Bay area at this time in 2013, but far below the 100 eagles counted during this week in 2012.

The eagles provide a popular wildlife-viewing attraction with numbers of birds and viewers increasing into December.

Eagle numbers have been lower in recent years, probably owing to more eagles attracted to revived kokanee fisheries in Lake Pend Oreille, where the salmon population crashed in the 1990s.

Good eagle viewing points around Wolf Lodge Bay include Higgens Point and turnouts off Highway 97, including Mineral Ridge.

Idaho State Patrol officers warn eagle viewers that traffic rules must be followed and vehicles must be parked properly off the highway.

Idaho moves ahead with sage grouse plan

THREATENED SPECIES —  Idaho officials on Tuesday approved implementing the state’s plan to protect habitat for greater sage grouse on endowment lands, despite frustration with federal land managers.

The Montana Land Board approved restrictions meant to protect sage grouse habitat earlier this month.

According to the Associated Press, the Idaho Land Board voted 5-0 to have the Idaho Department of Lands move forward with actions set out in the 82-page Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan the board approved in April.

Implementation of the plan for endowment lands was made contingent in April on federal agencies incorporating a much larger Idaho plan called the Governor’s Sage-Grouse Alternative concerning federal lands in Idaho.

Federal officials did include the governor’s plan but added more restrictions in late September when the Obama administration said greater sage grouse didn’t require federal protections under the Endangered Species Act.

“Not listed but here’s a whole bunch of new rules and regulations,” Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said just before Tuesday’s vote. “I’m convinced that, like many federal agencies, it’s not about saving the bird, it’s about control. And that kind of control is just unwarranted in this case.”

The additional restrictions, officials fear, could limit ranching, oil and gas development and other activities.

A few days after the no-listing decision, Otter sued in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., contending federal officials wrongly ignored local efforts to protect the bird.

However, Land Board members on Tuesday said it’s important that Idaho still move forward with its plan on endowment lands so sage grouse aren’t eventually listed anyway.

“We’re recognizing the importance of preserving sage grouse and acting affirmatively to provide that protection,” Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said after the meeting.

The Idaho Land Board makes decisions concerning 2.4 million acres of land and is obligated by law to see that the land generates the most amount of money possible over time. That means trying to find a way to meet the constitutional mandate while protecting sage grouse habitat.

In Idaho, more than 10 million acres are designated as important sage grouse habitat. Idaho endowment land comprises only about 620,000 surface acres. However, that’s about 40 percent of endowment rangeland in the state.

“I think our sage grouse plan is effective and will actually increase the number of sage grouse, and I think that’s the goal of everyone involved,” Secretary of State Lawerence Denney said after the meeting.

State Controller Brandon Woolf and Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra also voted to implement the sage grouse plan.

Kokanee-eating bald eagles liven up Bayview area

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Reviving the kokanee fishery at Lake Pend Oreille is attracting more than fishermen.

A good number of bald eagles are congregating in the Bayview area to hunt spawning kokanee, and those eagles are attracting bird watchers.

Norma Jean Knowles caught the photo above on a Monday visit. She said she was attracted to the area by the second annual Eagles of Bayview Photo Contest sponsored by Bayview Chamber of Commerce.

Lake Coeur d'Alene's spawning kokanee also are attracting bald eagles to Wolf Lodge Bay.  BLM counted at least 40 bald eagles there last week.  No official count is being conducted at Lake Pend Oreille.

Bald eagles returning to Lake Coeur d’Alene

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The annual congregation of bald eagles at Lake Coeur d'Alene has begun.  The eagles also are showing up to feed on spawning kokanee at Priest Lake and Lake Pend Oreille, but the birds that return to Coeur d'Alene's Wolf Lodge Bay are notably accessible for viewing.

Here's the first report of the season on the weekly bald eagle count at Coeur d'Alene filed Friday by BLM wildlife biologist Carrie Hugo:

Boy if anyone has asked me last week what I thought I would find on the first eagle count this week I would have responded with a resounding "zero"!  And boy would I have been wrong!!!  Only one year since counting began has this number been as higher!  That was in 2012.

The count today was 40 adults and 12 immature with lots of activity and eagles spread fairly well throughout the viewing area.  The one exception to this was Blue Creek Bay, no eagles there yet.

This bodes well for the eagle viewing season and for our veterans cruise December 5th!  One other cool thing to note was an immature eagle in Beauty Bay that had a lot of white plumage.  All immature eagles will have some white on the body and flanks, especially as they get closer to maturity, but this one just stood out because it was so light in color.

Chronic wasting disease detected in deer near Yellowstone

WILDLIFE — A buck white-tailed deer killed Nov. 1 in a hunting area about 25 miles east of Yellowstone National Park has tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

The case of fatal neurological disease that infects elk, deer and moose hadn't previously been discovered close to the park.

During a July conference about another disease, the park’s chief of wildlife P.J. White said chronic wasting disease might already be in the park even though it hasn’t been detected.

The disease is similar to mad cow disease and not known to be contractible by humans.

CWD has not been detected in Washington.

Tangled buck freed by Idaho officer; video goes viral

WILDLIFE — Last week I posted a video showing the bold effort of a man releasing a frantic entangled buck that calmed down to let the rescuer help. Now here's the rest of the story from Idaho Fish and Game:

It wasn't an average day at the office for Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer John McLain when he encountered a white-tailed buck tangled in baling twine, but his average days don't go viral on the Internet, either.

In August, McLain received a call about an entangled buck near Orofino, and he went to investigate it. Finding the buck, he turned on his body-mounted camera and thought, "this might be a video of me getting my butt kicked, or it might turn out alright."

Fortunately, it was the latter, although not without some drama that he captured on video. Upon seeing McLain, the buck panicked, but the twine had wrapped around its front leg and prevented it from fleeing. The buck quickly exhausted itself, and that's when McLain went to work carefully cutting the twine from its leg and antlers.

Once freed, the deer remained on the ground for a few seconds, then bound away and appeared uninjured by the experience.

It wasn't the first time McLain dealt with entangled deer during his nine years as a Fish and Game conservation officer. Another time, he untangled a deer from a soccer net, and in a sports-related coincidence, another deer wandered into a batting cage in Orofino. When McLain tried to help it get out, "I kind of went for a ride," he said.

After posting his video to his Facebook page, he watched in amazement as the world took notice.

"I knew it would get some shares, but when it hit 100,000, I was like ‘Wow,'" he said.

So far, the video has been shared more than 147,000 times and liked more than 69,000 times. He received hundreds of friend requests and personal messages because of it.

Wildlife rescues are common for Fish and Game's Conservation officers, who may be called on to deal with all types of situations. They can be as routine as herding a wild animal out of town, to as bizarre as tranquilizing a bull elk to remove porcupine quills from its nose.

"It happens," McLain said. "I just happened to catch this one on video."

Bald eagle viewing cruise for veterans set on Lake CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Military veterans and active duty personnel are invited to sign up for free bald eagle viewing cruises on Lake Coeur d'Alene set for Dec. 5.

If the past is an indication, the cruises to view the annual gathering of eagles will fill within hours of the reservations sign-up this week.  Registration will begin at 9 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 13. Call the U.S. Bureau of Land Management at (208) 769-5004 or (208) 769-5011 to reserve seating. 

The event is limited to veterans, active duty personnel and their families who have not participated on previous cruises.  Registration is required and party size is limited to 6 persons.   

A morning cruise is offered from 10 a.m. to noon followed by an afternoon cruise from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.  Both cruises offer participants birds-eye views of our national symbol, the bald eagle, in flight above Lake Coeur d’Alene and perched on public lands near Mineral Ridge. 

The event is organized by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in cooperation with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Lake Coeur d’Alene Cruises. 

Status of available seating will be updated Friday on the BLM’s Coeur d’Alene District website at http://www.blm.gov/id/st/en/Districts-Idaho/CDA.html as well as BLM's Idaho Facebook page. 

Rules governing wildlife conficts to be considered by panel

WILDLIFE - The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider approving revisions to rules addressing sources of conflict between people and wildlife, such as wildlife damaging crops or harming livestock, at a meeting Nov. 13-14 in Olympia. 

Also on the agenda is a public meeting on Puget Sound and Washington coast sportfishing rule proposals and consider land transactions in Cowlitz county as well as 2,061 acres of riparian and high meadow lands in Asotin County to protect habitat for fish and wildlife.

The commission, a nine-member panel that sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), will convene at 8 a.m. both days in Room 172 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St., on the state Capitol Campus.

WDFW is seeking a variety of changes rules relating to interactions between humans and wildlife such as deer, elk, cougars or wolves. These revisions, for example, address reporting and permit requirements for people dealing with a wildlife conflict.

One proposal clarifies requirements for a crop or livestock producer to receive state compensation for losses caused by wildlife.

A public hearing is scheduled Saturday on proposed sportfishing rule changes for freshwater areas of Puget Sound and the Washington coast. The changes cover fishing seasons, daily limits and other rules. The department’s North Coast Steelhead Advisory Group recently provided its recommendations for sportfishing rules protecting wild steelhead in several coastal rivers. Those recommendations include: 

  • Requiring the release of all wild steelhead and rainbow trout on select streams.
  • Limiting the use of bait to times and locations hatchery steelhead return.
  • Prohibiting fishing from floating devices equipped with internal combustion motors on all north coast rivers.

To review and comment on the advisory group recommendations and proposed sportfishing rules, visit WDFW's webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/rule_proposals/. Comments will be accepted online through Nov. 12.

Fishery managers recommended that 50 sportfishing rule proposals move forward for additional review. One of those is a proposal on the lower Columbia River that was held over from last year in order to coordinate with fishery managers in Oregon.

The commission will also receive briefings on:

  • The wildlife program’s citizen science initiative.
  • Two forest restoration projects in Okanogan County and one in Garfield County.

Audel, of NatGeo TV’s Survive the Tribe, tells tales of natural history

NATURE —  Hazen Audel, a former Ferris High School biology teacher and more recently the host of NatGeo TV's Survive the Tribe, will present a program this week entitled “Fascinating Stories of Natural History and the People that Live Along Side Them” for the Spokane Audubon Society.

The program, open to the public, is set for Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. at the Riverview Retirement Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave.

Audel is a natural communicator — don't miss this opportunity to hear him in person.

Before he was being featured by National Geographic, he started sharing his love of nature and adventure through The Wild Classroom, a non-profit online web series offering teachers and students quality, natural history educational videos for use in the classroom and home. 

He's been a wilderness instructor and guide for Outward Bound Outdoor School, Boulder Outdoor Survival School and he has guided nature trips to the Amazon, Central America and the South Pacific.

Hazen has recently finished filming, Primal Survivor, a major new series for the National Geographic Channel set to air in 2016. It documents his adventures living with and working alongside indigenous people in some of the most remote places in the world.

Born and raised in Spokane, Washington, Hazen is a Kootenai and Salish Native American and Greek by descent. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and went on to post graduate studies at the University of Hawaii. He also has a Master’s degree in teaching from Whitworth University.

Elk Foundation honors Jack Ward Thomas

WILDLIFE — Former U.S. Forest Service Chief Jack Ward Thomas has received the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's highest honor.

The Wallace Fennell Pate Wildlife Conservation Award was presented to the wildlife biologist last week for his contributions of lasting significance to the benefit of elk, other wildlife and their habitat across North America.

“The four founders of the RMEF started this organization with a Bible in our right hand and the elk hunter’s bible, Elk of North America: Ecology and Management (written by Thomas), in our left hand,” said Bob Munson, RMEF co-founder.

“I can name less than 10 people who are pretty much responsible for founding RMEF and Jack Ward Thomas was one of those people," said Charlie Decker, RMEF co-founder. "Jack’s tenure on the board (1997-2003) was extremely critical and important,”

Thomas earned a bachelor’s degree in wildlife management from Texas A&M University, a master’s degree in wildlife ecology at West Virginia University and a doctorate in forestry from the University of Massachusetts. He worked a decade for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and spent 27 years conducting research in Virginia, Massachusetts and Oregon.

In 1993, President Clinton appointed Thomas the 13th chief of the U.S. Forest Service. He retired in 1996 and accepted a position at the University of Montana as professor of wildlife conservation that he held until his official retirement in 2006.

Thomas has more than 600 publications to his credit covering elk, deer and turkey biology as well as wildfire habitat, songbird ecology, northern spotted owl management, forestry, land use planning and hunting.

Over his five-decade professional career, he taught and mentored hundreds of students and employees.

"We don't just manage land," he wrote. "We're supposed to be leaders. Conservation leaders. Leaders in protecting and improving the land."

In accepting the award Thomas said, “For a lot of reasons I had a good, long career. The last line in one of my books…is that everybody has their idea of heaven and my punchline in the end is ‘if I could just do it all over again.’”

Wallace Fennell Pate, RMEF’s first president and chairman of the board, dedicated his time, energy and financial resources for the betterment of wildlife in North America. Now deceased, Pate became a national role model for groups or individuals concerned with natural resources conservation.

Biologist brings climate change message for hunters, anglers

CLIMATE — A wildlife biologist and conservationist will present a free program in North Idaho illustrating the potential impacts of climate change on fish and wildlife as well as on hunting and fishing.

Bill Gear also will offer options sportsmen have for action when he speaks at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3, at the Coeur d’Alene Resort.  Geer’s speech will open the sixth annual Northwest Climate Conference, which is sponsored in part by the University of Idaho.

Geer will speak about how sportsmen and women can work together to protect and pass on the Northwest’s outdoor heritage in light of climate change impacts such as reduced stream flows, increased wildfires and changes in habitat.

Geer spent 38 years as a professional fish and wildlife conservationist, is treasurer of the Conservation Hawks board of directors and recently retired from his position as the climate change initiative manager for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

The conference is a gathering of scientists, resource managers and policy makers from universities, agencies, tribal nations and other organizations across the Northwest. Attendees share the latest climate science, discuss the challenges climate presents to infrastructure, industry, environment and communities, and work toward adaptive solutions.

Archival film recounts Idaho’s parachuting beavers

WILDLIFE — More than half a century after a group of beavers parachuted into the Idaho backcountry, officials have uncovered footage of the quirky wildlife management moment and digitized the film for YouTube.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game was struggling with an overpopulation of beavers in some regions in the 1940s when wildlife managers settled on a novel idea. They captured beavers and other furry rodents, packed them into special travel boxes, attached parachutes and dropped them from a plane into the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.

The plan was outlined in a 1950 paper, Transplanting Beavers by Airplane and Parachute, by Idaho Fish and Game's Elmo W. Heter pointed out that beavers would be beneficial to fish and wildlife habitat in the state's abundant remote backcountry if a viable transportation method were devised.

Although the story has been told many times in newspapers and magazines, the film (see below) showing the beaver drops, made around 1950, had been lost, according to Boise State Public Radio.

Fish and Game historian Sharon Clark recently uncovered the fragile film, dubbed “Fur for the Future,” which had been mislabeled and stored in the wrong file.

The agency still traps and relocates beavers occasionally, although less dramatically by vehicle.

One project moves beavers to the Owyhee desert, in the state’s southwest corner, to help restore vegetation stripped away by years of watershed use. Wildlife managers say beavers will make ponds in the region, which can hold water year-round for the benefit of other wildlife and fish.

Video: Hunting dog refuses to be prey in wolf attack

WILDLIFE — Wolves will be wolves. Their nature is to defend territory and kill for their food.

But the reality of that wildness is gut-wrenching if you're a dog owner who takes the 10 minutes to watch the video (below) of a wolf attack on a moose hunting dog in Sweden captured by a GoPro camera mounted on the dog's back.

Warning:  The video is very upsetting even though it's not really graphic. I don't necessarily recommend subjecting yourself to it except in the name of learning more about wildlife interactions.

The attack continues for more than 8 minutes and gets particularly horrifying around 5 minutes into the film as the second wolf jumps into the fray in what appears to be a territorial encounter.

For five minutes the two wolves have the dog on the ground fighting for its life.

This dog inspires me. It wasn't willing to give up and be prey, although it was near its end when the hunter said he apparently unwittingly spooked the wolves away.

The hunter was able to get the dog to a vet and after hours of treatment and stitching it survived. It suffered permanent injuries, according to the story in Svensk Jakt, a popular Swedish hunting magazine. The story refers to the dog as a 4-year-old Jämthund bitch.

Think about this if you let your dogs run off-leash in wolf or even in coyote country.

States gearing up to oppose Obama’s new rules to check climate change

GLOBAL WARMING — The head-in sand approach to our planet's future — and the existence of critters such as polar bears and cutthroat trout - is alive and well.

Publication of President Obama's climate regulations prompt lawsuits
The Environmental Protection Agency's regulations that are at the center of President Obama's climate change agenda will publish today in the Federal Register.  The rules set state-by-state goals on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but at least 25 states are ready to file lawsuits challenging the rules.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is introducing resolutions to block the rules, which President Obama will likely veto should they pass.
—New York Times

Publication of Clean Power Plan rules prompts Colorado AG's vow to fight
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman renewed her vows to fight the federal Clean Power Plan. Coffman said Colorado was one of 24 states that will sue to stop the plan, and that more states are considering joining the lawsuit.
—Denver Post

This ultimately may boil down, excuse the pun, to a battle between bass anglers and trout-salmon anglers.

Winter can’t come soon enough for Yellowstone grizzly bears

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Here's the latest of several disturbing reports about the impact this year's drought is having on bears.

Grizzlies in Greater Yellowstone dying at a rate of 1 every 2 days
Forty-six grizzly bears have died this year in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and in mid-September to mid-October, they were dying at the rate of about one every two days, due in part to poor natural food resources. Fourteen of those deaths were attributed to removals because the bears were killing livestock. Ten remain under investigation. The details of deaths due to conflicts with hunters may be available by the time the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee’s Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee meets on Nov. 3 and 4.
-Jackson Hole News & Guide

Columbian whitetails poised for relisting from endangered to threatened

WILDLIFE — After decades of federal protection, the Columbian white-tailed deer could be reclassified from “endangered” to “threatened."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in its proposal, is characterizing the move as a success story, saying conservation efforts under the Endangered Species Act have helped bring the animal back from the brink. 

Here are more details from the Associated Press:

Columbian white-tailed deer numbers have grown substantially since the 1960s, when they were first listed as endangered, in Southwest Washington and northwest Oregon. A separate population of white-tailed deer in Oregon’s Douglas County was removed from the endangered species list in 2003, the agency says.

The proposed downlisting of the deer won’t happen until next spring at the earliest, said Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Elizabeth Materna. The agency is in a 60-day public comment period that ends Dec. 7, she said. After that, officials will consider the information they’ve received and evaluate whether it supports the move based on several factors, Materna said.

There are about 900 Columbian white-tailed deer around the Lower Columbia River. That’s a 10-year high, and about double the historic low point when the species was listed as endangered, said Paul Meyers, a wildlife biologist at the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge.

The population has seen sudden jumps and crashes in the past, which isn’t unusual for many species, including deer, Meyers said. The recent gains have been more gradual, he said, and that’s generally a good thing.

“This population increase looks a lot more sustainable than the last one,” Meyers said.

The Julia Butler Hansen Refuge, near Cathlamet, was established largely as a haven for Columbian white-tailed deer. More recently, the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding area has become home to dozens of the animals. Most came during a three-year relocation project that moved the deer from the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge, where habitat was in danger of flooding due to a dike failure. That issue has since been fixed, Meyers said.

Many factors to consider

The deer at the Ridgefield refuge don’t always stay within its boundaries, said refuge biologist Alex Chmielewski. Some wander into private land, or even swim across the Columbia River to Sauvie Island, he said.

The number of fawns born in the area has more than made up for losses due to mortality, Chmielewski said.

“So far we’ve been successful, and I’m hopeful we’ll be able to maintain a secure population here into the future,” Chmielewski said.

The factors involved in a downlisting process include threatened habitat range, disease or predation, natural or human activities affecting its existence and other considerations, according to Fish and Wildlife.

Changing the white-tailed deer’s status from endangered to threatened would change the rules on interacting with them, Chmielewski said. If a deer caused agricultural damage, for example, a private landowner would have more options to haze or relocate the animal, he said.

A special rule proposed with the downlisting would also allow states, tribes and others more flexibility in moving the deer, Materna said.

Fish and Wildlife officials said they believe the downlisting is valid given the deer’s gains while under federal protection. The agency has taken on restoration efforts in partnership with the states of Washington and Oregon and the Cowlitz Indian Tribe.

Deer thrive near nature near downtown Spokane

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Spokane is a remarkable city for many reasons, including the perk of being able to pass deer on the way to the office each morning just four blocks from Monroe and Riverside in downtown Spokane.

That — coupled with seeing a cow and calf moose on a city trail while walking the dogs before leaving home — got my day off to a good start this morning.


Car’s interior tasty treat for hungry bear

WILDLIFE — It's been a rough year for bears as they've tried to navigate fires and find food in a bad berry year complicated by drought.

But in some cases, the bear's get a chance to turn the tables on vehicles.  We've all heard about the Yosemite National Park bears that have honed vehicle break-ins to an art form.

Montana black bears go about it this way, according to a recent story by Brett French of the Billings Gazette:

A black bear that entered and then got trapped inside a Toyota Camry recently south of Red Lodge demolished the interior of the car, went to the bathroom and finally exited by bolting out through the front windshield when it was startled by a human.

“The whole inside is destroyed,” said Greg Creasy, who shot photos of the car that was parked outside the Yellowstone Bighorn Research Association’s lodge near the base of Mount Maurice.

Despite the destruction, the car’s owner — retired Pittsburgh middle school teacher Ellen Stolpe — said she laughed because the incident was so unusual.

“I guess it’s part of the Montana experience to get claw marks on the dashboard,” she said.

The incident was one of several over the the span of a few days in September. Earlier in the week a bear chewed up two motorcycles to get to food inside saddlebags while the bikes were parked at Rock Creek Resort, also south of Red Lodge. And bears have broken into two homes in the area, as well.

The raids have prompted Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to remind residents and visitors to remove any food from around their homes or in their vehicles, including anything that smells like food — such as pet food and garbage.

Yet Creasy said the bear that has frequented the YRBA lodging area appears to have figured out how to open car doors.

“It did get into a couple of other cars and pulled the consoles off,” he said. “It pulled the handle off of one door.”

Advised of the break-ins when she arrived, Stolpe said she removed all of the food from her car but after four days of driving there were apparently “residual smells” that attracted the bear. With the vehicle parked on a hillside, it would have been easy for the door to slam shut behind the bear, trapping it inside, she added.

Inside the Camry, Creasy said the bear had pulled on the driver-side door so hard in an attempt to get out that it bent the metal inward. Photos show the upholstery shredded and a large pile of scat left on the floor.

“That was clearly a panic dump,” Stolpe said. “Oh my goodness, that poor bear.”

During late summer and fall bears are instinctively trying to add fat reserves for winter hibernation, so FWP suggests that residents store all garbage, barbecue grills, pet food and horse pellets in a locked building. They should also remove bird feeders from their yards and clean up

Agency finds home for rescued Grande Ronde cougar kittens

WILDLIFE — It's not a perfect ending, but at least it's a happy one to the unsettling story — Orphaned cougar kittens have sobering tale — reported in Sunday Outdoors.

The two emaciated cougar kittens were reported along the highway near the Grande Ronde River hanging out by the picked-clean carcass of their road-killed mother. They were captured by Washington Fish and Wildlife staff.

While bear cubs are omnivores that can be raised in captivity and released back into the wild with high survival rates, cougar kittens are a different animal.

"Cougars are carnivores and humans don’t have an effective way to teach a baby mountain lion how to hunt for its food,” explained Madonna Luers, Fish and Wildlife Department spokeswoman.

That left the pair of 7-week old kittens two options:  Placement in a zoo or being put down.

The outcome: Washington's cougar and bear specialist Rich Beausoleil just reported that after a week-long search, the two cougar kittens from Asotin County were placed today with Alexandria Zoological Park in Alexandria, Louisiana.

"They will fly out Tuesday morning," he said.

In 15 years, the agency’s staff had captured 35 orphaned cougars and transferred the kittens to facilities across the county. “Those mountain lions from Washington are seen across the country by 25 million people a year who are enjoying and appreciating them, and hopefully learning something about them,” Luers said.

The Grande Ronde kittens will bring the number to 37 orphaned cougars from Washington becoming wildlife ambassadors.

I-1401: nice sentiment but bad law

WILDLIFE — Everyone who appreciates wildlife can appreciate attempts to protect endangered species from poaching, even if the victims are critters halfway around the world from where we live.

But that doesn't mean we have to vote for a law that will do nothing more than be a costly pain in the butt for honest citizens and law enforcement officials alike.

Washington's Initiative 1401 would saddle the state's already understaffed and overburdened Fish and Wildlife police with new responsibilities in monitoring the public as well as state ports, shops and restaurants for ivory and other animal parts killed in other parts of the world.

The United States already has such laws, but I-1401 would take them to extremes, for instance — making grandma's a criminal for selling ivory jewelry she got 50 years ago.

There are definite currents of anti-hunting sentiment in this campaign, which further distracts from the real problem: commercialized poaching.

Microsoft co-owner Paul Allen and other deep-pocket supporters have ponied up millions of dollars to force this bad law on the public and law enforcement. The money would be better spent in the countries where the poaching is underway.

I-1401 backers are spreading the myth that we have the means to enforce technically unfair and tedious legal requirements.

We don't have the enforcement. Our Fish and Wildlife officers already are spread too thin.

I-1401 is another law that threatens law abiding people with "ivory tower" hopes of applying justice to the real international poaching culprits.


North Side black bear indicates lean fall food supply

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The black bear that Washington Fish and Wildlife officers are currently attempting to catch in North Spokane is another indicator that the 2015 drought has left some wildlife short on food.

The bear is in a neighborhood near Nevada and Lyons. Officers are trying to tranquilize, catch and relocate the bear into the wild.

It's not new to occasionally have bears in town, but this incident is one in a larger trend this year as many of the normal berries and other foods bears need in preparation for denning have dried up.

"This is typical of other incidents that are happening more this year than usual because of the drought leaving wild food sources scarce for bears now trying to fatten up before hibernating," said Madonna Luers, Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman.

The issue is region-wide.  More bears are dying in in vehicle collisions, and so on.

People can help bears out by not luring them into trouble in rural home areas or suburban neighborhoods with improperly stored garbage, pet food, bird seed or other temptations.

For details check out:

Washington mule deer plan meeting tonight in Spokane Valley

HUNTING — A proposed plan for managing mule deer in Washington will be presented by the Department of Fish and Wildlife during a public meeting at 7 p.m. tonight, Oct. 15, at Center Place Regional Event Center, 2426 N. Discovery Pl. in Spokane Valley.

“This plan will serve as the foundation for sustainably managing mule deer throughout their range in Washington,” said Jerry Nelson, the agency’s deer and elk section manager. “We encourage people to give us feedback on the management approaches we’ve identified.”

Comments will be accepted through Oct. 31.

The plan seeks to maintain stable deer populations while reducing damage caused by deer to crops and personal property, he said.

The department separates the state’s mule deer population into seven geographic management zones including the north Rocky Mountains, Okanogan highlands, Columbia Plateau, Blue Mountains, east slope Cascades, Naches and east Columbia Gorge.

“Having sufficient habitat for mule deer is always a concern – particularly after two tough fire seasons,” Nelson said. “Overall, though, our mule deer populations are generally in good shape.”

The plan, which can be updated in the future, will go to WDFW’s director for final approval later this year.

Dead or dying deer in the neighborhood? Here are your options

UPDATED 11:25 a.m. with comment from WDFW on  carcasses attracting wolves.

WILDLIFE — The drought-related outbreak of bluetongue that’s killing white-tailed deer in the region by the hundreds, is adding urgency to a commonly asked problem:

“What do we do with the dead or dying animal in our neighborhood?”

Here are some guidelines:

Inland Northwest Wildlife Council members (487-8552) licensed for big-game recovery will respond in the Spokane region (with the exception of the city of Spokane Valley) to salvage meat from freshly road-killed animals for the needy. They also are state-certified to euthanize dying game.

“Beyond that, it’s a case-by-case scenario for us,” said Wanda Clifford, council executive director.

“We can put an animal down if it’s suffering, but we’re not going to salvage one with spoiled meat or one that’s obviously sick. We don’t just collect roadkill. That’s the job of the road or highway crews. And nobody picks up carcasses off private property.”

County Sheriff’s deputies may respond to euthanize dying animals in some cases, but they do not collect the carcasses.

Department of Transportation crews (324-6000) pick up on state highways.

Spokane County road crews (477-3600) pick up on county roads.

City of Spokane (755-2489) will pick up carcasses in a city road right of way within 24 hours, weekends excluded. The hotline for reporting illegal garbage dumping in the city also can be called, 625-6083.

City of Spokane Valley (921-1000) takes reports of dead big game by phone or online at spokanevalley.org/cares

State Fish and Wildlife officers respond to poaching-related cases (call 911 or the county sheriff dispatch). The agency asks the public to report sick or dead big game (892-1001), but staff normally won’t pick up carcasses.

Animals that die on private property generally are the responsibility of the property owner, although exceptions may be made for large animals such as moose.

“If it's on private property in a rural area where natural scavengers like coyotes, ravens, etc. will clean up the carcass, it can remain there,” said Madonna Luers, Fish and Wildlife department spokeswoman. “If the carcass is too close to a residence, it can be moved to a more remote part of the property but we advise using protective gear like gloves before handling.

“If the carcass is on private property in an urban area, it can be transported to a dump, or to other rural property where permission has been obtained to leave it.”

Before transporting an game animal, call the department regional office so enforcement officers can be notified to avoid any misunderstandings, she said.

It’s illegal for the public to collect dead wildlife along roads for personal use.

  • Dead domestic animals found in the city or county should be reported to SCRAPS, 477-2532.

A note regarding carcasses attracting wolves:

Some readers have suggested the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department is saying one thing about leaving deer to scavengers in rural areas while telling other guidelines to ranchers about properly disposing of livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolves near sheep and cattle.

Here's a clarification from Luers:

Wolves, coyotes, cougars, bears and many other wildlife species normally feed on deer, including carcasses they scavenge.  As wildlife managers, we WANT them to feed on other wildlife, and NOT on domestic livestock.  We DO discourage disposal of multiple deer carcasses near livestock herds or flocks.  We work with producers to prevent wild carnivores from preying on their livestock in a number of ways, including secure confinement of sick animals and burying animal carcasses.

Grandma’s advice helps hunter ward off grizzly bear attack

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — In the past two months, I've written about hikers and hunters who have defended themselves in a grizzly bear attack by using bear spray as well as by using a handgun.

The latest case involves an alternative that's even more creative if not more desperate.

Hunter escapes attack by shoving arm down bear’s throat

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A bow hunter in Teton County is recovering after he survived a grizzly bear mauling by remembering a tip from his grandmother and shoving his arm down the animal’s throat. 

Chase Dellwo, 26, was hunting with his brother northwest of Choteau on Saturday when he came face to face with a 350 to 400 pound male grizzly, the Great Falls Tribune reports

Dellwo went to walk up a creek bed, hoping to drive a group of elk to a ridge where his brother was waiting. 

He was about three feet away before he realized he was near a bear that had been sleeping. With 30 to 40 mph winds with snow and rain, the bear hadn’t known Dellwo was coming. He said he only had time to take a few steps back before the bear knocked him off his feet and bit his head. 

“He let go, but he was still on top of me roaring the loudest roar I have ever heard,” Dellwo said. 

The bear then bit Dellwo’s leg and shook him, tossing him through the air. As the bear came at the man again, Dellwo remembered a magazine article his grandmother had given him. 

“I remembered an article that my grandmother gave me a long time ago that said large animals have bad gag reflexes,” Dellwo said. “So I shoved my right arm down his throat.” 

The advice worked and the bear left. 

Dellwo started to walk out, bloodied and disoriented.

"I saw a six point elk on the way out, that was disappointing," he said with a laugh.

He wasn't laughing at the time however.

"I forced myself to calm down and not to panic," he said. "I was lost. I cleared the blood out of my eyes. If I had allowed myself to panic I would still be in there."

Dellwo rejoined his brother who drove him to a hospital. He received stitches and staples in his head, some on his face, a swollen eye and deep puncture wounds on his leg. 

“I want everyone to know that it wasn’t the bear’s fault, he was as scared as I was,” Dellwo said

Hunter kills well-publicized collared grizzly bear near Wallace

HUNTING — The well-publicized Montana grizzly bear caught, radio-collared and released to near Idaho on Aug. 4 has been shot and killed by a hunter near Wallace, the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed.

The bear was shot Wednesday evening, said Phil Cooper, Idaho Fish and Game spokesman in Coeur d'Alene.

The bear was killed at the bottom of Kings Pass and Beaver Creek Road about 6 air miles north of Wallace, Idaho, the Sheriff reports.

An Idaho Fish and Game officer and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officer are on the scene, Cooper said, noting that he did not know more details, including who reported the shooting.

Grizzlies are federally protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Black bear hunters are supposed to know the difference between legal black bears and grizzly bears before shooting.

Legal baiting for black bear hunting was going in in the area, Cooper confirmed.

The 2-year-old male grizzly had been relocated by Montana and federal biologists as part of a periodic program to boost the Cabinet Mountains grizzly population.

Like many bears trying to survive the record-dry year, the bear appeared to be on the search for food, a task hampered by dodging fires, said Wayne Wakkinen, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager in Coeur d’Alene.

The bear had been captured on video in recent weeks checking out rural residences and old bear bait barrels that lured him with scent even if they were empty of animal fat and other bait.

"We knew it was bear season," Cooper said. "We'd been putting out a trap to try to catch him and  move him to an area where he'd be safer and not so accessible to people, but we didn't make it."

More on this unfortunate development as soon as details are available.


Woman sentenced to community service for killing falcon

WILDLIFE — A North Idaho woman who was found guilty in connection to the death of a hunter's trained gyrfalcon has been sentenced to community service.

Kootenai County District Court Judge James Stow on Monday ordered 60-year-old Patti MacDonald, of Hauser, to complete 20 hours of community service before the end of the year and pay $500 in court fees, The Coeur d’Alene Press reports. She was found guilty of pursuing a protected bird.

Stow said a letter from the falcon’s owner Scott Dinger asking that MacDonald not receive jail time was taken into consideration.

Contacted by The Spokesman-Review today, Dinger said, "I have a lot of emotions, but I'd rather keep my feelings to myself. It's time for me to get on with my life."

“It’s appropriate that there is some punishment,” Stow said, adding that it was also important to recognize that MacDonald’s actions were, “not something she instigated.”

Here's more from the CdA Press/AP story:

Prosecutors said MacDonald fractured the skull of the 8-year-old gyrfalcon named Hornet on Jan. 7 trying to save a mallard. Both birds died that day.

“Any reasonable person should see that’s not a situation you interfere with,” said prosecutor Art Verharen. MacDonald stopped her car to break up the fight when she saw the falcon wrestling with the mallard.

Verharen had recommended a jail sentence that MacDonald could have served in the Sheriff’s Labor Program.

“She showed no empathy to Mr. Dinger when it became clear that she was dealing with someone’s pet,” Verharen said. “She took a stance without remorse or respect for that. In her mind, it’s justified. In her mind, it’s OK. And I guess I see that as arrogance.”

MacDonald’s attorney Michael Palmer asked for a more lenient sentence, saying MacDonald’s actions were motivated by good.

“She tried to break up that fight,” Palmer said. “While they’re saying there’s no empathy, it would take a great deal of empathy to attempt to save that duck.”

Once again: Fed bear is dead bear, people injured

WILDLIFE — It's the same disheartening "Fed-bear Dead-bear" story retold this time with an additional little twist of human denial at best, or maybe just stupidity.

State wildlife officials have captured and euthanized two food-conditioned black bears west of Kalispell, but they say someone else continues to feed the bruins, making it difficult for them to catch a bear suspected of attacking and injuring an elderly woman in her house, according to the Associated Press.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks investigator Brian Sommers said the woman who was attacked on Sept. 27 had been regularly feeding the bears.

The two female bears that were euthanized on Sept. 29 and 30 had bellies full of sunflower seeds and bird seed.

 That means someone else is feeding the bears in the Ashley Lake area, hampering agency’s ability to trap the offending bear, Eric Wenum, FWP bear specialist says.

Sommers asked people to remove all supplemental feed from their yards and noted that whoever is feeding the bears can be cited for obstructing the investigation.

Mountain lion stands out in neighborhood; makes case for more trees

WILDLIFE WATCHING — An elusive mountain lion took up a very public perch atop a 35-foot utility pole in the California desert this week.

The big cat apparently got spooked by a bus of screaming school children and clambered up the wooden power pole Tuesday in rural Lucerne Valley.

The cougar stayed atop the pole all afternoon Tuesday but was gone by Wednesday morning, the Daily Press of Victorville reported.

A staffer for the newspaper snapped a picture of the rare pole cat roost. The creatures live throughout Southern California but are rarely seen.   Here's a witness observation from the Associated Press:

Jose Ruiz, who lives across the street, said the cat endured more than just stares from gawkers and the watchful gaze of two California Department of Fish and Wildlife officers who shooed onlookers away.

Several birds made a racket harassing the animal.

"It was funny," Ruiz said. "It was like the one crow was saying, 'Hey, you're not a crow.'"

Bears looking high, low in search for calories

WILDLIFE  — Wildlife officials were warning the public about hungry bears probing lowland areas for food before the black bear attack on a woman in her home near Kalispell and another grizzly killed by a vehicle — both in the past week.

Bears are desperately looking for food in the wake of a poor berry year in a drought-weary region. 

“We’ve got grizzlies getting into everything from seed spuds in the fields outside of Ashton (Idaho) to apple trees in people’s yards," said Charlie Anderson, Idaho Fish and Game Department conservation officer. 

The North Idaho and northeastern Washington areas also are experiencing significant lowland bear activity, officials say.

The bear attack on the woman near Kalispell could be related to bears being lured into an area by bird seed, wildlife officials say in an initial statement.

Here's an explanation and a plea from IFG bear experts:

Before bears enter into hibernation, they go through a period where they try to gain as much weight as possible.   The Latin term for this time is “hyperphagia” and basically means to pig out.   Bears are incredible omnivores and will seek out a surprising diversity of foods in order to gain the needed stored energy to survive the winter. Certain grizzly bears in the Yellowstone Ecosystem actually gain much of their needed winter weight by gorging on up to 40,000 army cutworm moths per day.  These moths head to mate on the high talus slopes east of Yellowstone National Park and are among the bear’s highest calorie food!

It is important that anyone living in bear country not only keep their garbage stored properly, but makes sure that natural food attractants like windfall fruit are kept picked up.   Even keeping an immaculate orchard is no guarantee of preventing problems, numerous reports exist of bears climbing into trees to pick apples or breaking off limbs.  Making sure that bears are not surprised by humans is a good first step in reducing conflict.  Turning on yard lights and making lots of noise are also good way to alert a bear of your presence.