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Great Blue Heron stalks dining diversity

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Here's a great glimpse into the versatility in hunting and feeding skills of a great blue heron, known to eat a lot of fish and amphibians geared to water.

Watch it to the very end.

Nothing but the freshest food for this fella.

Photos: birder focused on pileated woodpeckers

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Birder/photographer Ron Dexter has made sure improvements to his property in the foothills of Mount Spokane haven't spoiled the neighborhood for some of his most colorful neighbors.  In posting these photos, Dexter said:

A pair of pileated woodpeckers has nested in a snag in the woods behind us at least 3 times now. The loggers were careful to not knock the snag down, so the woodpeckers may add more holes in the future.

These are the largest woodpeckers in the United States, possibly the world. Their length is up to 18” and wingspan up to 30”.  An ornithologist dissected one and counted approximately 2,500 carpenter ants in the stomach. So you can see, they help save the forests and maybe your house.
 
They chop out large rectangular holes in trees to get to the ants and grubs, but their nest holes are shaped like a raindrop as you can see in the photo. They actually spend the majority of their feeding time on the ground or on fallen trees, snags or stumps that contain grubs, ants. etc. 

I see and hear them every year in our woods. They are in the area year round.

  

Mama beaver, kit fail in bid to make Eagle grocery store their new home

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: EAGLE, Idaho (AP) — A beaver and her baby have been captured after trying to get into a southwest Idaho grocery store and will be released into the wild. An Ada County sheriff's deputy responded Monday morning about 6 a.m. to an Eagle grocery store where the adult beaver and her kit repeatedly tried to enter. The Idaho Humane Society arrived and captured the pair near a bin filled with willow bundles and turned them over to another group. Animals in Distress spokesman Tony Hicks says the beaver and her kit will be released north of Idaho City in an area with plentiful willow and aspen bark. Hicks says it's not clear why the two left several ponds near the grocery store.

Bats, bears, bighorns and more at Sinlahekin seminars

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Experts will be making free presentations on bats, bears, bighorns and much more July 26-27 on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in northcentral Okanogan County as the celebration continues for the 75th anniversary of Washington’s FIRST wildlife area.

It’s the third summer weekend in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife “Explore the Sinlahekin – Past and Present” series of free public field trips and presentations on the fauna, flora, geology and history of the area south of Loomis. 

Sessions scheduled on Saturday, July 26, include:

  • Bighorn sheep of the Sinlahekin by Okanogan assistant district wildlife biologist Jeff Heinlen.
  • Bats of the Sinlahekin by wildlife biologists Ella Rowan and Neal Hedges.

Sessions scheduled on both Saturday, July 26, and Sunday, July 27, include:

  • Forests of the Sinlahekin by U.S. Forest Service and Washington State University foresters;
  • Role of wildfires in the evolution of the Sinlahekin’s landscape by a Central Washington University paleobotanist;
  • Historical photo point tour by veteran Sinlahekin manager Dale Swedberg;
  • Bears, cougars, coyotes and other carnivores by Okanogan district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin.

Click here for more information about the July 26-27 weekend sessions, and a complete schedule of upcoming weekends (Aug. 23-24, Sept. 6-7, and Sept. 27).

Send your kids to “wildlife” camp near Coeur d’Alene

NATURE — WREN, a Coeur d'Alene-based environmental education and conservation nonprofit organization, is accepting applications for its July 11-12 wildlife camp for youths ages 11-13.

The campers will meet in Coeur d'Alene before heading to wildlife education field trips in the lower Coeur d'Alene River chain lakes one day and Farragut State Park on the other.

Instructors are professional wildlife biologists and educators.  Fun, hands-on activities include field trips, live raptors, a butterfly survey and outdoor games. 

A living history presentation about the animals Lewis & Clark discovered and other features are new for this year’s camp.  Students will also explore wildlife tracking and bird identification.  They will learn how scientists study wild animals and their habitats.  

Pre-registration is required.  Cost: $75. 

Info:Jenny Taylor, (208) 755-4216. 

Lawsuit filed to protect lynx from Idaho traps

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Five conservation groups filed a lawsuit today against the governor of Idaho and other state officials to halt trapping that can harm or kill Canada lynx, one of the rarest cats in the United States.

The lawsuit charges Gov. Butch Otter, the director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and members of the state Fish and Game Commission with violations of the Endangered Species Act resulting from state permitting that leads to trapping of lynx, a threatened species numbering as few as 100 animals in Idaho.

The state has not taken action to satisfy the previous complaints, the organizations said in filing the suit. The groups include the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, Friends of the Clearwater, WildEarth Guardians and the Western Environmental Law Center.

The groups say increases in fur prices, especially for bobcat, have increased interest in trapping and cited at least three confirmed incidents of lynx being unintentionally trapped in the last two years.

The groups say the Idaho Department of Fish and Game should develop a conservation plan with measures to minimize incidental trapping of lynx. Such a plan would include restrictions on body-crushing and steel-jaw traps and snares, reporting requirements, and a daily trap check requirement throughout lynx habitat. They say similar lawsuits in Minnesota and Maine have led to such restrictions.

Last year the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed more than 26 million acres of critical habitat across six states for the Canada lynx, which faces ongoing threats from habitat destruction and reduced snowpack from climate change.

Lynx are medium-sized, long-legged cats, ranging up to 24 pounds. They are generally nocturnal and well adapted to hunting snowshoe hare at high elevations.

The lawsuit, which was filed today in federal district court in Boise, can be read here.

Photo: Whitetail buck in velvet

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A promising sight to behold.

Thanks to Western Western Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson for this week's antler-development update.

Sinlahekin wildlife celebration has eye on critters tiny to large

WILDLIFE — The 75th anniversary celebration for Washington’s first wildlife area – the Sinlahekin in northcentral Okanogan County near Loomis– continues with free public field trips and presentations on butterflies, bats, deer and more on Saturday and Sunday, July 5-6.

Sponsored by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the July 5-6 sessions are the second in the “Explore the Sinlahekin – Past and Present” summer weekend series on the area’s fauna, flora, geology and history.

Sessions are led by scientists, researchers, and experts from colleges and universities and other natural resource management agencies, along with WDFW staff.

Saturday's offerings include a butterfly tour and programs on grassland ecology, “Predators, Parasitoids, Pollinators and Pretty Insects,”  “Deer and Moose,” and ending with an evening program on bats.

Sunday's activities include a butterfly tour and programs on “Restoring Altered Habitat,” “Dragonflies and Damselflies,” and “Deer and Moose.”                    

The Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, which covers 14,314 acres west of U.S. Highway 97 between Loomis and Conconully, was established in 1939 to protect winter range for mule deer. The first parcels of mule deer winter range were purchased with revenue from a federal tax on hunting arms and ammunition. The area’s diversity of fish and wildlife today draws not just hunters and fishers, but also wildlife watchers, hikers, campers, and other outdoor recreationists.

Birders count 82 species at Little Pend Oreille Refuge

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge is celebrating its 75th anniversary with various activities to help introduce the public to an area that's been wildly upgraded in recent  years.

This is a great time to visit the refuge.  See upcoming events, including the first ever bicycling event at the refuge.  I have a details story coming up in Sunday Outdoors.

Earlier this month, refuge biologists Mike Munts led a birding tour.

We did the bird tour for the refuge 75th anniversary today (June 7). Ten people came out for a great day of birding. We saw/heard 82 great birds during the day.

  • A total of 206 bird species have been documented at the refuge over time, Munts said.
  • Another birding tour is planned for Saturday, June 28. 

Following is the list of species the group identified:

  • Canada Goose
  • Wood Duck
  • Gadwall
  • Mallard
  • Cinnamon Teal*
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Ruddy Duck*
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Pied-billed Grebe*
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Osprey
  • Bald Eagle
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • American Kestrel
  • Sora
  • American Coot
  • Killdeer*
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • Mourning Dove
  • Common Nighthawk
  • Black-chinned Hummingbird
  • Calliope Hummingbird
  • Rufous Hummingbird
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Western-wood Pewee
  • Willow Flycatcher
  • Dusky Flycatcher
  • Hammond’s Flycatcher
  • Pacific-slope Flycatcher
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Cassin’s Vireo
  • Warbleing Vireo
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Black-billed Magpie*
  • Common Raven
  • Tree Swallow
  • Violet-green Swallow
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  • Bank Swallow
  • Barn Swallow
  • Mountain Chickadee
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Chestnut-backed Chickadee
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Pygmy Nuthatch
  • House Wren
  • Pacific Wren
  • Marsh Wren
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Western Bluebird
  • Veery
  • Swainson’s Thrush
  • Hermit Thrush
  • American Robin
  • Varied Thrush
  • Gray Catbird
  • European Starling
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • McGilllivray’s Warbler
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Townsend’s Warbler
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Lark Sparrow
  • Song Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Sparrow
  • Western Tanager
  • Black-headed Grosbeak
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Western Meadowlark*
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Red Crossbill

*Birds Munts saw at Horsethief Lake after the field trip

 

Court asked to speed up Canada lynx recovery work

THREATENED SPECIES —  Wildlife advocates want a federal judge to force the government to move more quickly on a recovery plan for imperiled Canada lynx, according to this story just moved by the Associated Press.

The U.S. government declared the snow-loving big cats a threatened species across the Lower 48 states in 2000. But officials haven’t come up with a mandated recovery plan.

After a federal judge criticized the delay, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed completing the plan by early 2018.

A coalition of wildlife advocacy groups says that’s not soon enough. They’re asking U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy to order the work done by late 2016.

Lynx are rarely seen and there’s no reliable estimate of their population. Their 14-state range includes portions of the Northeast, the Rocky Mountains, the Great Lakes and the Cascade Range of Washington and Oregon. 

Hiker finds Blue Mountains elk herded up with young in tow

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The Blue Mountains delivered a Yellowstone-like wildlife watching experience for hiker Ken Vanden Heuvel of Newman Lake last weekend.

He was solo hiking one of the ridge trails that lead into the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness when he came across a herd of elk — at least 46 cows, yearlings and calves.

I cropped in on the left portion of Ken's main photo for a blow-up shot of the left portion of the herd where at least 12 calves were concentrated for protection.  

“When they came back up the ridge in front of me, the calves were whining,” Ken said, noting that he held still to watch the spectacle. “As I waited for them to cross, a few of the calves were nursing.”

A few weeks ago, the cows were all off on their own delivering their young of the year.  As soon as the calves were strong enough, they joined up with other cows and yearlings for strength in numbers — more eyes and ears to help detect danger from predators.

This looks like a good crop.

The bulls, by the way, are off on their own — until September

Elk hoof disease prompts survey, euthanasia for severely inflicted

WILDLIFE — A mysterious hoof disease that's been crippling significant numbers of elk in southwestern Washington for at least six years has prompted the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to begin organizing a survey for this summer. Staff likely will euthanize elk with severe symptoms.

To help with the survey, state wildlife managers plan to enlist dozens of volunteers to assist them in assessing the prevalence and geographic distribution of the disease in the St. Helens and Willapa Hills elk herds.

To minimize the spread of the disease, WDFW is also proposing new regulations requiring hunters to leave the hooves of any elk taken in the affected area on site.

WDFW announced its plan today, two weeks after a 16-member scientific panel agreed that the disease most likely involves a type of bacterial infection that leaves elk with missing or misshapen hooves.

Members of the panel, composed of veterinarians and researchers throughout the state, agreed that the disease closely resembles contagious ovine digital dermatitis in sheep.

Dr. Kristin Mansfield, WDFW epidemiologist, said the panel’s diagnosis is consistent with the findings of the USDA National Animal Disease Center and four other independent diagnostic laboratories that have tested samples of elk hooves submitted by WDFW since last year.

Mansfield said treponeme bacteria have been linked to an increase of hoof disease in sheep and cattle in many parts of the world, but have never before been documented in elk or other wildlife.

Nate Pamplin, director of WDFW’s Wildlife Program, said the diagnosis limits the department’s management options, because there is no vaccine for the disease and no proven options for treating it in the field.

“At this point, we don’t know whether we can contain this disease,” Pamplin said, “but we do know that assessing its impacts and putting severely crippled animals out of their misery is the right thing to do.”

Since 2008, WDFW has received increasing reports of elk with misshapen hooves in Cowlitz, Pacific, Lewis, Clark, Wahkiakum and Grays Harbor counties, all within the range of the two elk herds.

Scientists believe the animals pick up and transmit the disease through wet soil, characteristic of the lowlands of southwest Washington.

“There is no evidence that the bacteria are harmful to humans, and tests have shown that the disease does not affect the animals’ meat or organs,” Mansfield said. “But treating infected animals has posed a real challenge for the livestock industry for nearly 30 years.”

Some livestock producers bathe the hooves of infected sheep and cattle in an antibiotic solution, but many become re-infected and are ultimately sent to market, Mansfield said.

“In any case, daily footbaths are not a realistic solution when you’re dealing with thousands of free-roaming elk,” she said.

The primary focus of WDFW’s work this summer will be to assess the geographic spread of the disease and the proportion of the herd that is affected, Pamplin said. The department will enlist the help of volunteers to run survey routes and report their observations.

Information gathered from the survey will be compared against sightings of diseased elk reported by the public since 2010 using WDFW’s online reporting system, he said. Reports can be filed at wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/health/hoof_disease/reporting/.

Next winter, WDFW will capture and fit elk with radio-collars to determine how the disease is affecting area elk populations, survival rates and calving. Wildlife managers will likely remove elk showing severe symptoms of hoof disease to end their suffering, Pamplin said.

In a separate measure, the department has proposed new regulations requiring hunters to leave the hooves of any elk taken in the affected area on site. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to hear public comments and take action on that proposal in August.

Pamplin noted that hoof disease is one of a number of illnesses without a cure affecting wildlife throughout the nation. Chronic wasting disease, epizootic hemorrhagic disease and tuberculosis all take their toll on elk and deer each year in other states.

“Bacterial hoof disease in elk presents a huge challenge for all of us,” Pamplin said. “We will continue to work with scientists, hunters and local communities to assess its toll on area elk herds and determine our course of action.”

Wild turkeys are brooding below Mount Spokane

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Local birder/photographer Ron Dexter caught this wild turkey hen marching a newly hatched brood of eight chicks near his property at the foothills of Mount Spokane on Sunday.

Looks like they got through last week's cold and rain just fine.

Two grizzly bears relocated to Cabinet Mountains

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Two female grizzly bears have been transplanted from the Whitefish Range to the Spar Lake area of the Cabinet Mountains as part of an ongoing effort to boost the struggling Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear population.

The 2-year-old siblings were captured in the Deadhorse Creek drainage on the Flathead National Forest and moved Friday to the West Cabinets and a drainage with a hiking trail to Spar Lake near the Montana-Idaho border.

The bears have no history of conflict with people and have never been captured before, wildlife officials told the Daily Interlake.

Those factors plus their young age are part of the criteria for the augmentation program, a cooperative effort between Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The state agency captures the bears while the federal agency monitors them after their release. The bears are fitted with Global Positioning System tracking collars to allow for their movements to be monitored.

Friday’s release marks the 12th and 13th grizzly bears to released into the Cabinets since 2005.

In the early 1990s, three grizzly bears were moved into the Cabinets. Most of the bears that have been moved have been females.

Last year, a study that made use of genetic analysis of bear hair samples produced a population estimate of 42 bears for the Cabinet-Yaak region.

Wayne Kasworm, a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service based in Libby, said that estimate means that there may have been fewer than 15 grizzly bears prior to 1990, and that indicates that the grizzly population might have vanished without the augmentation efforts.

As of last year, it was still unknown if any of the bears that have been moved since 2005 have reproduced. That’s partly because the young bears were moved well before they reached reproductive age of 5 or 6 years old, and they drop their tracking collars within a couple of years.

Today: Kootenai Wildlife Refuge celebrates 50 years

WILDLIFE WATCHING — See an eagle fly to freedom today, and marvel at a marvelous habitat for wildlife in North Idaho.

Statistics to help Montana count wolves

PREDATORS — The bottom line is that state's can't afford to continue spending millions of dollars to monitor wolf populations. There has to be an easier more affordable way.

Montana researchers come up with a new way to count wolves
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks' requirement to provide minimum wolf counts to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expires in two years, and researchers from the state wildlife agency and the University of Montana have developed a new statistical technique to come up with wolf numbers.
—Helena Independent Record

Grizzly bear at home on the range

WILDLIFE WATCHING — No cowboys were trying to rope this stray and put their own brand on it Tuesday, for good reason.

Western Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson had been sitting in a blind near a fox den before he headed toward  home near Lincoln.  

“As I drove along a back prairie road, I noticed a strange dark-colored cow being chased by the other cows. As I got closer I realized….. that’s no cow….  Weird to see grizzlies on the prairie.”

He apologized for the quality of the image but said he had to document the sighting.

Head 'em up!   Move 'em out!

Washington game plan focus of meeting for hunters

WILDLIFE — A proposed plan for managing game animals in Washington will be presented in a public meeting starting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 19, at the Double Tree by Hilton Spokane City Center, 322 N. Spokane Falls Court.

The plan will help Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials guide management of species from deer to wolves.

Key issues considered in the draft plan include:

  • Promoting hunter recruitment and retention;
  • Managing predator/prey relationships;
  • Maintaining hunter access to timberlands;
  • Managing wolves after they are no longer classified as an endangered species; and
  • Possible new rules requiring the use of non-toxic shot.

Final recommendations for the six-year plan will be presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission for a public hearing in August and adoption in September. 

Also in August, the agency will hold meetings on possible changes in Washington’s hunting rules for the 2015-17 seasons. 

Smokey Bear sparked legacy of fire prevention art

PUBLIC LANDS — The legacy of Smokey Bear is celebrating its 70th anniversary of fire prevention messages this year. 

The campaign's roots date back to 1942, when the U.S. Forest Service’s popular icon of wildfire prevention was conceived during World War II to publicize the need to protect a critical natural resource—wood. The first artist’s rendering of Smokey was created by Albert Staehle in 1944.

 The ad campaign: “Remember… Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires”, was created in 1947 by The Advertising Council.

The ad campaign got a flesh and blood boost starting in 1950, when firefighters working a blaze in New Mexico's Capitan Mountains came back to camp packing an orphaned six-week-old black bear cub with singed hair and burned feet.

Ray Bell, a state Game and Fish Department ranger and pilot, flew the bear to a veterinarian in Santa Fe for initial treatment and then took the cub home, where his wife and daughter helped him nurse the bear back to health over two months.  Initially, they had to get the cub to suck a mixture of honey, milk and baby food from their fingers.

The cub originally was named “Hot Foot Teddy,” but U.S. Forest Service officials saw the potential for news about the cub to translate into a hot campaign for forest fire prevention.  They renamed the bear Smokey.

The cub was taken to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., later that summer, where he became an instant celebrity as he grew into a 400-pound bear. Smokey lived there for 26 years before his death in 1976.

While preventing forest fires continues to be a noble cause, the Forest Service in recent years has had to come to terms with over-protection of some forest areas. Education efforts have expanded to showing that that fire suppression in some cases can let fuels build up on forests to a degree that a fire sparked by humans or nature can blow up to catastrophic proportions.

  • The goal and theme of the Smokey Bear campaign was adjusted in the last decade, from “Only you can prevent forest fires” to “Only you can prevent wildfires.” The purpose is to respond to the criticism, and to distinguish 'bad' intentional or accidental wildfires from the needs of sustainable forests via natural 'good' fire ecology.

Meanwhile, the 70 years of Smokey Bear campaign created a legacy of artwork, some of which can be viewed online.  Federal land agencies and Firewise are producing an exhibit of Rudy Wendelin’s famous Smokey Bear prints at the Idaho Capitol Building in Boise through June

Wendelin worked for the US Forest Service from 1949-1973 and took the approach to “soften & humanize” the appearance of Smokey Bear to gain the attention of children. This method was successful in helping spread the fire education message “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires.”

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Researchers set grizzly bear snares near Priest Lake

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Researchers are setting snares in the Hughes Meadows area north of Priest Lake this month in an ongoing effort to capture grizzly bears and fit them with radio collars.

As of Tuesday, the two-man crew working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had caught one bear – a black bear. The 5-year-old male, weighing 134 pounds, was ear-tagged and released, said Wayne Wakkinen, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager.

Radio collars have been helping wildlife biologists monitor North Idaho grizzly bears, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act, since the first grizzly was collared in the Selkirks in 1983, Wakkinen said.

More than 80 different grizzly bears have been captured.

“There have been some years when we didn't trap in Idaho but we've generally been trapping in either Idaho or the British Columbia portion of the Selkirk ecosystem since then,” he said.

This year, the first significant research trapping in Washington occurred in May. The federal crew set snares in the Molybdenite Mountain south of Sullivan Lake. No grizzly bears were captured.

“The crew places warning notices at all major access points and trailheads in the area,” Wakkinen said. “They place more signs closer to the actual snare site.”

Researchers also are trapping bears in the northeastern corner of Idaho near Copper Creek and Copper Lake in the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear recovery area, he said.

Wayne Kasworm, federal grizzly bear biologist who's supervising the collaring project, said his crews plan to be trapping high in the mountains in July and August.

“We currently have five female grizzly bears with collars in the Selkirks and we hope to collar four or five more,” he said.  

Snares are checked at least once a day, or twice a day in hot or cold and rainy weather, he said. Most of the traps have transmitters that signal if they’ve been triggered with a radio signal to the crew.

The snare sites are placed well off of trails to reduce the chance of an encounter with humans, Wakkinen said. 

Snare sites are baited, typically with road-killed deer.  “If a person smells something stinky the best bet is to not investigate,” he said, “but this advice holds true whether there is trapping going on or not.

“If there's something stinky there's a chance that a predator of some sort – black bear, cougar, grizzly bear – may be around to check it out.  Or you might be poking your nose into a recent kill site where a cougar has stashed its prey.

“Radio collars can yield a great amount of information such as survival rates, cause of mortality, reproductive output, cub survival and identification of seasonal ranges and dispersal,” he said. “These data in turn can be used to make informed land management decisions.”

Found bighorn just short of Boone and Crockett world record

WILDLIFE — Close but no cigar for a bighorn skull found in Canada. It just misses world record status, the Boone and Crockett Club says.

A long winter buried in snow apparently swelled the horns of a bighorn sheep that died of natural causes. The ram was found this spring by Alberta wildlife officials and green-scored as a potential new world record. 

Following the Boone and Crockett Club's mandatory 60-day drying period, the ram's horns lost an astounding four inches in net score. The original scorers reconvened to find that every measurement was smaller on both horns. 

Still, with a final score of 205-7/8, the ram ranks No. 5 all time. It has been entered into Boone and Crockett records on behalf of the citizens of Alberta. 

The reigning World's Record, taken by a hunter in Alberta in 2000, stands at 208-3/8. 

“Though it's not a World's Record, it is another tremendous specimen symbolic of continuing, successful conservation programs. For that, we congratulate Alberta wildlife officials,” said Richard Hale, chairman of the Club's Big Game Records Committee. 

Hale added, “Biologists speculate this latest ram died of old age in early summer 2013, so the horns were exposed to the elements through the remainder of summer, all fall and all of a wet, snowy winter. Apparently, the horns absorbed an incredible amount of moisture, because four inches of shrinkage during the 60-day drying period is very rare.” 

The Boone and Crockett Club, long recognized as the leading authority on big-game recordkeeping, requires air drying all trophies at habitable room temperature for 60 days immediately prior to final scoring. It's a rule made precisely for this kind of situation. 

“By standardizing the scoring process as much as possible, we ensure the credibility of our records. That's very important for the biologists who use these data to compare and contrast outstanding habitat, strong recruitment into older age classes, sustainable harvest objectives and other elements of sound wildlife management. It's also important to sportsmen in that all trophies are being treated as equally as possible,” said Hale. 
  

Washington developing game management plan; meetings set

HUNTING — The public is getting a chance to help shape the Washington's game management plan at a series of public “open house” meetings scheduled by the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) this month.

The public can also comment on key aspects of the six-year plan via an on-line survey, from today through July 18.

The meetings are scheduled to run in Eastern Washington from 7 p.m.-9 p.m. as follows:

  • June 17 – Wenatchee, Red Lion Inn Wenatchee , 1225 N. Wenatchee Ave.
  • June 18 – Kennewick, Red Lion Inn Kennewick, N. 1101 Columbia Center Blvd.
  • June 19 – Spokane, Double Tree by Hilton Spokane City Center, 322 N. Spokane Falls Court..

Once adopted, the plan will be used by WDFW to guide development of hunting seasons and other management policies in future years, said Dave Ware, WDFW game program manager.

“We want to hear people’s concerns, especially those that address significant conservation or management issues,” he said.

  • Key issues in the draft plan include:
  • Hunter recruitment and retention.
  • Hunter access to timberlands.
  • Possible new rules requiring the use of non-toxic shot. 
  • New proposals for managing predator/prey relationships.
  • Developing a plan to manage wolves after they are no longer classified as an endangered species.

Ware said comments received at the public meetings and from the online survey will be used to develop additional recommendations, which will be available for further review.

Final recommendations will be presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission for a public hearing in August and adoption in September.

Study: Midwest farming linked to decline of monarch butterflies

ENVIRONMENT — The Heartland is no longer the land of milkweed and honey for monarchs.

Study links farming methods in U.S. to rapid decline of Monarch butterflies
A new study published last week in the Journal of Animal Ecology said a change in farming practices in the Midwest of the United States that led to a rapid decline of milkweed, where monarch butterflies lay their eggs in the spring and summer, is tied to the marked decline in the number of the butterflies.
—Toronto Globe and Mail

Inland Northwest bucket list: moose chase

WILDLIFE WATCHING — I was minding my own business running through the woods near my South Side house this morning at 5:30 a.m. with my dog when the yearling bull moose started chasing us.

Your bucket list isn't complete unless you've had that thrilling experience.

Lesson: Never be far from a big ponderosa pine in moose country.

Lone fawns rarely deserted by Mother Deerest

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A wildlife population explosion takes place around this time every year and anyone can stumble onto a baby critter virtually anywhere outside. 

“Wild bird and mammal species typically produce young in the spring and early summer,” says Phil Cooper of the Idaho Fish and Game Department. “This allows the young to have time to gain the strength and size needed to survive the challenges of winter, or the rigors and dangers of fall migration.”

Wildlife managers make little attempt to hover and protect individual fawns and calves being born to deer, elk and moose this spring. Nature is geared to some surviving and some perishing to the benefit of other wildlife.

Wild animal newborns are particularly vulnerable to predators in the first few days of life until they are able to run or fly well enough to escape predation.

Predators such as wolves, mountain lions, bears, bobcats, eagles, raccoons, skunks, weasels and other species need to eat to survive. Nature provides for them.

But nature shouldn't have to provide for domestic dogs and cats.

Pet owners can reduce wildlife injury or death to wild newborns during this critical period by keeping pets confined.  Although pets may have plenty of food available, their predatory instincts can take over when allowed to run at large. 

People also can help young wildlife by leaving them alone.

Every spring,  fish and wildlife agencies around the region receive several calls a day about deer fawns that people see, with no doe visible in the surrounding area, Cooper said.  Callers are often convinced that the fawn has been injured, abandoned or orphaned.

“While fawns are occasionally injured or orphaned, they are never abandoned,” he said.  “An adult doe has extremely strong parenting instincts and will not abandon a fawn.”

Wild parents often leave their offspring for long periods while they hunt or gather food.  A doe can leave her fawn hidden in the grass for eight hours until she determines the time is right to return and nurse.

Hanging around a fawn or calf you might discover in the field likely will likely push a doe or cow farther away and deter it from returning.

“IDFG has had fawns brought in by people who say, 'I stayed there and watched it all day, and the doe never came back,'” Cooper said. “Without realizing it, the presence of a person likely kept the doe in hiding.”

“If you find a seriously injured animal; or, in those extremely rare instances where you know with certainty that a wild animal has lost its parent, intervention may be appropriate.  Contact the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for instructions on the next step.”

It is illegal to confiscate young wildlife and attempt to raise them on your own, he said, noting that cute babies can become a burden or a danger to people as they mature.

Groups try to restrict lethal action against cow-killing wolves

PREDATORS  — Conservation groups, including The Lands Council based in Spokane, are petitioning the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to limit the killing of wolves in response to livestock deaths.

Even though the state has take significant steps and statewide guidelines for preventing wolves from being attracted to livestock, the groups filed their petition late on Friday, asking the state to require ranchers to exhaust nonlethal options to prevent their livestock from being preyed on by wolves before killing the predators.

The Associated Press reports the groups are still hung up on the rare extreme action the state took in 2012 when Fish and Wildlife aerial gunners killed seven wolves in the Wedge Pack. The groups contend the northern Stevens County rancher didn't go far enough in taking nonlethal actions that might have prevented wolves from attacking his cattle. The rancher endured 17 attacks on his cattle on private and public land.

The groups say that ranchers and sports-hunting groups have refused to consider their proposals, and that the state is moving forward with less protective wolf-control rules.

The groups filing the petition include the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, Western Environmental Law Center, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, The Lands Council, Wildlands Network, Kettle Range Conservation Group and the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Department of Fish and Wildlife officials did not immediately return a message to the Associated Press. 

Go wild with family on Fathers Day

WILDLIFE — The topics for the Fathers Day weekend family-oriented programs at the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in northcentral Washington are delicious: Birds, bees, bears,  wildflowers, mosses, lichens, mollusks, geology, even a little history lesson.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife celebration of the Sinlahekin's 75th anniversary — the state’s first wildlife area – continues after the June 7 kick-off with these “Explore the Sinlahekin – Past and Present” free public field trips and presentations on Saturday, June 14, and Sunday, June 15.  They’re the first in our summer-long, six-weekend series on the area’s fauna, flora, geology and history.

These sessions are led by scientists, researchers, naturalists, authors and experts from colleges and universities, WDFW and other natural resource management agencies. Several presentations or field trips are conducted on both Saturday and Sunday, so that weekend visitors to the Sinlahekin can take in a variety of sessions that run concurrently.

Information about all “Explore the Sinlahekin – Past and Present” events through the summer is available on the WDFW website.

Comments due on Idaho’s wolverine plan

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Monday, June 9, is the deadline to comment on the Idaho Wolverine Conservation Plan proposed by the state Fish and Game Department's. The document was released May 19 for a 21-day public review.

Wolverines are members of the weasel family. In the northern United States, they occupy high-elevation alpine and subalpine habitats with spring snow cover and cool summer temperatures.

The plan lays out the state's course in protecting wolverine populations and their habitats to ensure their long-term viability in Idaho. The plan includes statewide wolverine status and distribution, factors affecting population and habitat, priority areas for conservation, and supporting actions to benefit wolverines in Idaho. 

Elk group gives Idaho $276K for projects

WILDLIFE — Shoshone County is one of 10 Idaho counties that will be sharing a $276,584 Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation grant for wildlife habitat projects on nearly 76,000 acres in the state. 

Shoshone County's portion will be used in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to aerially ignite 1,200 acres to improve big game forage, stand conditions and reduce natural fuels on elk summer range within the Heller Creek and Wisdom Creek drainages on the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.  

This project is part of a larger plan to treat 3,750 acres with prescribed fire resulting in up to 21 percent of the project area becoming forage openings, according to RMEF officials.  Prescribed burning also will be applied to 1,500 acres in the Lost Creek area of the Coeur d’Alene Mountains as part of a 5-10 year habitat enhancement project. 

The grant also will help fund statewide research in areas where elk are declining, especially in the Clearwater region.

The steady elk decline in the Clearwater Basin of north-central Idaho over the past three decades is attributed to substantial loss of habitat, human pressures and the reintroduction of wolves, RMEF officials said. Money in that county will be used for a multi-year elk nutrition study and developing habitat models.

Read on for details about the grant funding for other counties and statewide projects.

 

Survey: Sportsmen’s groups top list of wildlife habitat supporters

CONSERVATION — I write often about the contributions hunters and anglers make to preserving fish and wildlife habitat in contrast to animal rights and anti-hunting groups that have never made the commitment to help critters on the ground where it counts.

Here are the latest hard numbers. 

The chart above illustrates the response to just one of many questions on wildlife management posed last month in a rare random survey of 904 adult residents across the state commissioned by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Department.

  • See all 190 pages of the the survey report as well as the summary.
  • See my column on the survey, which deals primarily with public opinion on wolf management in Washington.