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Photo: Bobcat visits Northwest Neighborhood

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A bobcat made a guest appearance in a northwest neighborhood recently.
The photo was captured by Sarah Lathrop above Park Boulevard at Glass and H streets — just above Downriver Golf Course. It was posted on the Northwest Neighborhood - Spokane Facebook page.
David Taylor, a mail carrier, had this comment:

Saw this little guy on my mail route a few weeks ago, didn't get a picture but just found out a neighbor did, this is just above Downriver golf course. I see all kinds of wildlife, like deer, coyotes, turkeys, skunks, et.c., never thought I'd see one of these. We were about 10 feet apart. He went his way, I continued on mine. I call him Bob.


Biologists collar 24 moose in northeastern Washington

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists recently battled difficult weather to capture 28 moose and put radio collars on 24 moose in northeastern Washington. That brings the total to more than 50 collared moose involved in the state's first major study of the species.

A gunner in a helicopter targeted the moose with tranquilizer darts while ground crews rushed in to take blood samples, measurements and other information before attaching the collars that hold GPS transmitters.

The project began last year with the capture of 28 adult cow moose for a five-year study of their habits, movements and survival rates.

Researchers monitor the moose year-round.

Bighorn sheep dying of pneumonia near Yellowstone

WILDLIFE WATCHING —  Disease that's ravaged wild sheep in parts of Washington, Idaho and Montana in recent years has shown up in one of America's most prized wildlife preserves.

A pneumonia outbreak has killed at least ten bighorn sheep near Yellowstone National Park.

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks officials said Monday that the outbreak was in the Upper Yellowstone sheep herd near Gardiner, where bighorns are often highly visible to the public.

The dead animals include a mix of rams, lambs, and one adult ewe.

Sheep in the Gardiner area have experienced smaller pneumonia outbreaks in the past few years.

There are domestic sheep in the same area.

State officials say research has shown that bacteria can be transmitted from healthy domestic sheep to bighorn sheep, causing pneumonia in the wild sheep.

Related reading:


Idaho trophy species rule proposals revealed

HUNTING — An increase in Idaho Panhandle moose hunting opportunity and other proposals for next year's trophy big-game seasons will be presented at an open house meeting, 3 p.m.-6 p.m., on Thursday, Dec. 18 at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game Panhandle Region Office, 2885 W. Kathleen Ave. in Coeur d’Alene.

Meetings are being held on statewide proposals affecting hunting for moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats. However, no changes are proposed for mountain goat or bighorn sheep hunting in the Panhandle.

The open house format allows visitors to attend at any time during the session to visit with Fish and Game personnel about the proposals.

The Panhandle Region proposal includes the addition of 20 bull moose tags:

Unit 4 would have a long season (Sept. 15-Dec. 1) with an increase from 15 tags to 20 tags.  “Harvest success rates have been high in Unit 4 and the average number of days of hunting to harvest a moose in the unit is decreasing,” said Phil Cooper, department spokesman. “There has not been a decrease in antler spread of harvested bulls, and this proposal would increase hunter opportunity.”

Two new short season hunts are proposed for Unit 5 with five permits in each hunt. One hunt would run Oct. 1-14 and the other Nov. 1-14.  The current long season in Unit 5 would not change.  The moose population size and bull and calf ratios indicate Unit 5 can withstand increased hunting, he said.

Unit 6 currently has three moose hunts, including one long hunt from Sept. 15-Dec. 1. Each of the hunts has had 15 tags.   The proposed season would increase the number of tags in the long hunt to 20.  The two shorter seasons would not change in dates or permit levels under the current proposal. 

“The change is proposed because harvest rates are high, the average number of days hunted to take a moose is decreasing, and there has not been a decrease in the antler spread of harvested bulls from Unit 6,” Cooper said.

All comments will be presented to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission prior to setting the seasons at their meeting on Jan. 22.

34 bald eagles counted at Lake CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted 34 bald eagles today in the Wolf Lodge Bay area of Lake Coeur d'Alene.  That's up from 18 eagles counted last week during her weekly survey. Two weeks ago she counted only four.

Bald eagles traditionally show up from early November into January for a winter feast of spawning kokanee.

However, last year by the second week of December Hugo had counted 57 eagles and in 2012 the count was well over 130 eagles.

The 2013 bald eagle count at Lake Coeur d’Alene peaked at 217 on Dec. 30.

Hugo said she plans to survey areas on Lake Pend Oreille to see if the lake's revival of kokanee at has siphoned off some of the eagle interest in Lake CdA.

Whitetail buck a warrior, survivor

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The dust has settled from the rut. Whitetail bucks are licking their wounds and trying to recover their strength after the rigors of avoiding hunters while displaying dominance and winning the chance to mate.

But it's a tough life, even for the bucks on the top of the heap.  The fighting, and mating is over, and buck hunting seasons are closed.

Now — winter.

“This guy is a warrior,” says Montana outdoor photographer Jaimie Johnson. “He had a really close call jousting – almost lost his left eye!”

Would you shoot an all-white deer adored by local residents?

HUNTING — That's the question of the day after a bowhunter legally tags a buck in Missouri that was more than just a white-tail.

The all-white whitetail was something of a celebrity in Cape Girardeau. Some locals felt a connection with it and would notice the animal on drives through the Southeast Missouri city.  It was hard to miss.

The hunter is getting bombarded with criticism for taking a particular animal that stood out so significantly to others.

Even though he had every legal right to do it, was it ethical?

Over in Idaho, our Huckleberries blogmaster is asking: Question: Would you have killed the albino deer, if given the chance?

Wild turkeys window shopping in Dayton

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Downtown Dayton, Wash., is a hot spot for wild turkeys, who apparently feel at home on Main Street even in the week before Thanksgiving.

Reports the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

This was the scene in downtown Dayton (Columbia County) this week.  Hunters are hoping at least some of these big birds “head for the hills” come Thursday, Nov. 20, when the late fall general either sex wild turkey hunting season opens in eastern WA game management units.

Details on that season here.

Trail cams stolen from I-90 wildlife collision study

WILDLIFE — I don't have numbers, but I have enough information from hunters, wildlife watchers and wildlife researchers to confidently say that theft of trail cameras has reached epidemic levels.

I've seen posts from a few anonymous thieves rationalizing their behavior by saying they don't want people snooping into land they love or they don't want other hunters figuring out what they already know. 

But the greedy creeps are still thieves, any way you look at it.

Here's news of another assault on ethics, research and public safety.

Nine wildlife cameras used to track elk near North Bend have been stolen.

The Transportation Department was using the cameras in a project to prevent elk collisions on Interstate 90.

Workers noticed nine of the project's 18 Reconyx cameras missing on November 10th. The cameras had protective steel boxes, media cards, and shielded padlocks. Some were camouflaged into their surroundings to deter people from stealing them.

Crews removed nine other remaining cameras as a precaution.

One of the cameras took a picture (above) of a possible suspect, a man with a bandanna over his face.

“These cameras were doing important work that were able to help us build something that could really stop these collisions from happening,” said Harmony Weinberg, DOT public information officer. “It was really crucial work.”

Study: Polar bears decline 40 percent in a decade

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The heat is on this indicator species. Who's next?

Study finds 40% decline in polar bear numbers in E. Alaska, W. Canada
A study done by researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and Environment Canada, as well as other groups, followed polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea from 2001 to 2010, and found that numbers declined 40 percent during that decade.
—Los Angeles Times

$15,000 reward offered in Washington wolf shooting case

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  Conservation groups announced today a $15,000 reward for information that helps convict a poacher who killed a federally protected wolf near Salmon la Sac.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials confirmed this week that a female gray wolf from the Teanaway pack in Upper Kittitas County died last month from being shot.
The public is being asked to report any information or sightings from Oct. ​17 to Oct. 28 dealing with the case. Information can be reported by phone at (425) 883-8122.  Tips also can be reported on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife recorded poacher hotline, (877) 933-9847.

Groups contributing to the reward include Conservation Northwest, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Woodland  Park Zoo and the Humane Society of the United States.

  • After a wolf from the Smackout Pack was found dead Feb. 9 near Cedar Lake in northeast Stevens County, conservation groups joined with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to offer a $22,500 reward for information about the case. However, the case still has not been solved.
  • The investigation continues into the October shooting of a wolf in Whitman County.
  • Twisp ranching family members were ordered to pay fines totaling $50,000 in 2012 for killing two Lookout Pack wolves in 2008.

The carcass of the breeding female recovered Oct. 28 in the Teanaway Pack’s habitat area was found on the north side of the Paris Creek drainage in the Salmon la Sac area north of Lake Cle Elum, says Brent Lawrence with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Portland. The area is within the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

  • The person who killed the Teanaway wolf could set back state de-listing of wolves from endangered species protections. Washington's wolf management plan sets a goal of having wolf packs in three areas of the state. The Teanaway Pack ranges very close to the last of the three zones — the southern Cascades — which is still unoccupied. Wolves ranging out of that pack could be the ticket to de-listing.

The wolf was fitted with a radio telemetry collar and was recovered by federal wildlife officials and those with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Gray wolves in the western two-thirds of the state (with U.S. Highway 97 the boundary) are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act and a similar state law, Lawrence said.

The Teanaway River valley and the area north of Lake Cle Elum is in the part of the state where wolves continue to be under both state and federal protection.

East of the highway, wolves have been taken off the federal endangered list but continue to be protected by state law. The federal agency is the lead investigator of wolf mortalities in the western two-thirds of the state.

Lawrence said the wolf’s telemetry collar signaled that it wasn’t moving, which led to the search and recovery of the carcass. The preliminary necropsy revealed the wolf was shot in the hindquarters. He had no additional information to share about the investigation or a possible suspect.

Last chance to comment on game management plan

HUNTING — Trends in controversial issues such as big-game baiting, lead shot restrictions and wolf management are mapped out in Washington's draft 2015-21 Game Management Plan that was revised in October.

The plan is online and available for public comment through Monday,  Nov. 17.

The plan, which must be approved by the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, will guide the Washington’s game-management policy over the next six years.

Dave Ware, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife game manager, said the revised plan includes a number of changes proposed by the public during the initial comment period.  Key issues addressed by those changes include predator/prey relationships, deer and elk predation, and wolf, cougar and bear management, he said.

“These changes were significant enough that we wanted to give the public another chance to comment on the plan before we recommend it to the commission,” Ware said.  The commission is scheduled to consider adoption of the plan during a public meeting in December.

The main issues identified by the public were categorized into several key areas:
• Scientific/professional management of hunted wildlife
• Public support for hunting as a management tool
• Hunter ethics and fair chase
• Private lands programs and hunter access
• Tribal hunting
• Predator management
• Hunting season regulations
• Game damage and nuisance
• Species-specific management issues

New issues or emphasis areas that surfaced during the initial comment period and meetings include:

• Wildlife Conflict Management
• Recruitment & Retention of Hunters
• Disease Impacts
• Non-toxic Ammunition
• Re-introduction of pronghorn
• Wolf Management

Note: The Game Management Plan is separate at this point from the three-year package of hunting regulations proposals for  2015-17. The deadline for comment on the initial proposals ended earlier this fall.

However, the hunting regulations proposals touch on some of the same topics, including possible restrictions on baiting for big game.

Other issues under consideration by the department for upcoming seasons include:

  • Setting spring and fall black bear seasons.
  • Early archery elk seasons.
  • Modern firearm mule deer seasons.
  • Hunting equipment, including non-toxic ammunition, expandable broadheads and crossbows.
  • Special permit drawings.

Specific recommendations for 2015-17 hunting seasons will be drafted and available for further review in January. 

Final recommendations will be presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission for adoption next spring.


State buys wildlife land, updates rules on work near waters

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to buy more 4-0 Ranch land along the Grande Ronde River and updated rules for work that impacts state waters during a meeting last week in Olympia.

The commission approved the purchase of 2,005 acres of riparian and high meadow lands in Asotin County, the latest deal in a six-phase decade-long real estate program to buy nearly 12,000 acres of the Odom/4-O Land & Livestock, LLC.

The land will be purchased with $3.6 million in state and federal funding and be added to the the 6,431 acres the state already has acquired from rancher Milt (Mike) Odom II. The funding sources include the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office and a grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is acquiring the land to expand the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area of the Blue Mountains Wildlife Area Complex and preserve critical habitat for threatened salmon, steelhead and trout, as well as deer, bighorn sheep and elk.

The new acquisition, when closed with the 4-O Land & Livestock, LLC, will include a mile-long section of the Grande Ronde River and stretches 1.5 miles on either side of Wenatchee Creek.

“This acquisition contains some of the best wildlife mosaic currently available. Historically, the property has been managed as a working ranch with a focus on wildlife habitat providing trophy big game hunting opportunities. Management practices include scattered dry land farming, moderate cattle grazing and timber production. The value of this property includes riparian habitats beneficial to endangered fish species and forestland and high meadow complexes beneficial to ungulates including bighorn sheep, deer and elk,” said Julie Sandberg, WDFW real estate manager.

Past stories related to the 4-0 Ranch acquisitions include:

The commission also approved dozens of changes in the statewide hydraulics rules during a public meeting on Friday and Saturday. Common projects requiring approval under the state's hydraulic rules include work on bulkheads, culverts, piers and docks.

Miranda Wecker, who chairs the commission, said the revised hydraulic code rules reflect developments in environmental science, technology, and state law since the last comprehensive update in 1994.

The updated rules also “reflect the department's efforts to streamline the application process for permits required to conduct work in and around state waters,” she said.

Some of the rules proposed by WDFW set new standards for projects ranging from culvert design to decking materials that allow light to penetrate to the water below. Others clarify existing policies, including a statewide ban on the use of creosote in aquatic areas.

Study: Wolf impact significant on Minnesota moose

BIG GAME — Wolves likely have played a bigger role in the serious decline of northeast Minnesota’s moose population than originally believed, and there’s no evidence yet that climate change has been a major factor, according to a new analysis by renowned Minnesota wolf researcher Dave Mech.

The story was reported last week by Doug Smith of the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune.

Mech doesn’t dismiss climate change as a possible factor in the declining moose herd, but said evidence presented in earlier research done by the Department of Natural Resources “just doesn’t hold up.”

Instead, an increasing wolf population in at least part of the northeast moose range might have contributed to the decline, Mech and John Fieberg, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, concluded in a recently published paper. The state’s northeast moose herd has fallen 50 percent since 2006, to an estimated 4,350 animals last winter.

In the earlier studies, DNR researchers considered the statewide wolf population stable between 2000 and 2010, which was correct, Mech said. But they didn’t consider that the wolf population in an area that Mech has been studying - which overlaps part of a moose study area - had increased to the highest levels in 40 years.

“My data tends to indicate the problem was there were more wolves,” Mech said in an interview. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the only answer. Is there some change affecting moose that allows wolves to take more of them, or is it merely that there’s more wolves?”

If wolves are a major factor in the moose decline, Mech said the DNR could allow hunters to kill more wolves in the moose range until the population recovers.

Michelle Carstensen, DNR wildlife health program supervisor, who in 2013 began conducting an adult moose mortality study using radio-collared animals, said the previous DNR studies looked at overall mortality, but researchers weren’t able to determine cause of death in most cases.

“We assumed wolves were accounting for a portion of that mortality, but we didn’t know how much,” she said.

But now officials are finding how much impact wolves are having on moose mortality. The study radio collars alert researchers when an animal has died, and provide GPS coordinates so they can be quickly located and a cause of death determined.

So far in the study, the overall mortality rate is 26 percent, which is a concern. Normal stable moose populations have an 8 to 12 percent mortality rate. Wolves have accounted for 55 percent of the mortality (17 of 31 deaths); the rest died from health issues.

“The level of wolf predation on the adults is well in line with what we’d expect,” Carstensen said. “It’s the overall mortality 61/87from all causes63/87 that has us concerned.”

She noted that the northwest moose herd plummeted from about 4,000 in the ’80s to fewer than 100 today, and wolves had nothing to do with that. Those moose died from health-related issues, possibly driven by climate changes.

And, she said, adult moose in the northeast keep dying in summer, fall and early winter “when they shouldn’t be dying.”

Carstensen said the results from current ongoing moose studies, which also include moose calves, habitat and diet, should eventually provide researchers with answers to the mystery. “There still might not be a smoking gun; it might be very complex,” she said.

So far, in a different study involving collared moose calves, 67 percent of the mortality was due to wolves.

“Wolf predation is probably a little higher than we expected,” DNR researcher Glenn DelGiudice said. “But we knew it would be a main source,” he said, and it’s far too early to draw any conclusions.

He is planning on collaring more moose calves next spring, and said several years of data are needed.

Mech’s latest report says the northeast moose population was relatively unaffected by wolves from 1997 to about 2003 and that wolf numbers tended to parallel moose numbers. However, after the wolf population in his study area jumped 81 percent between 2000 and 2006 - from 44 animals to 81 - moose numbers began declining.

“We don’t know how far and wide that increase 61/87in the wolf population63/87 took place, but it did in our study area, and that area was adjacent to the moose study area,” Mech said. He said it’s reasonable to surmise the wolf population in the rest of the moose study area also was rising, rather than remaining stable, as it was elsewhere.

Moose are a prime food source for wolves in the northeast, so as the moose population declines, one would expect the wolf population to eventually fall, too. “That seems to be happening in our study area,” Mech said. The wolf population there increased until 2012, but he said it appears to have since declined.

The DNR estimated the state’s wolf population last winter at 2,423, stable from 2013.

So if the wolf population in moose country is declining, will moose rebound?

“That depends on what’s going on,” Mech said. “If it’s strictly wolves, the moose population will recover. But if there are other factors involved - parasites, disease or warming temperatures, then it’s hard to say.”

And if wolves turn out to be a major factor, then the DNR will have to decide whether to try to lower the population of one iconic animal to try to boost the population of another.

Tracks: wildlife stories in the snow

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The weather presented only one brief opportunity for good tracking conditions through fresh snow during the nine-day Washington modern firearms elk hunting season that ended on Sunday.

Fresh snow is to hunters what the pages of a book are to voracious readers. We long for it.

Even though I tried to focus on elk tracks on the one day of snow we had in the Blue Mountains last week, I couldn't help but be sidetracked by other creatures and the stories they left in the snow for me to read.

In this case, my pursuit of wapiti was interrupted by a fling with, perhaps, chickati.

Bedtime coming soon for grizzly cub

WILDLIFE WATCHING — This grizzly bear cub photographed last month by Montana outdoor photographer Jaimie Johnson appears to have had a great first year in the field.

In a few weeks, depending on the weather, this cub, its sibling and mother will be snuggling into a den for a long winter's nap.

Grizzly cubs usually spend three years with their mothers before heading off on their own.

Says Johnson:

We were able to spend some time this fall with a sow grizzly and her two cubs.

It was a lot of fun watching mom teach the two cubs how to eat berries from the bushes.

This image is one of the cubs walking through the berries.

Idaho Fish-Game Commission confronts dog-catching traps

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT —  Proposals to reduce the chance that dogs will be caught in deadly body-gripping traps will be considered Nov. 12-13 when the Idaho Fish and Game Commission meets in Post Falls.

A public meeting will be held on Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Red Lion at 414 East 1st Ave. Citizens are invited to address the commission regarding agenda and non-agenda items.

The commission meeting will begin at 8 a.m. on Nov. 13 as the panel tackles agenda items that range from revenue issues to  discounting nonresident tag fees for mountain lion, black bear and gray wolf.

The proposal to modify regulations related to the use of certain body-gripping traps is likely to generate the most wide-spread interest.

Last winter, along with the widely-reported deaths of two dogs caught in traps, state wildlife officials received numerous complaints from bird and waterfowl hunters and other outdoor recreationists about safety in areas where their activities overlap with trapping.

“We also received input from at least one land management agency that they would consider area closures for land sets if public demand continued and other measures were not instituted by Idaho Department of Fish and Game,” officials say in a report to the commission, apparently referring to the U.S. Forest Service or BLM.

In response IDFG convened small working groups in each region to brain-storm ideas that could be considered to reduce
conflicts. The department has been working on three points of consensus:

  1. Set up an online trapper education course which is available through the IDFG website. Train 30 IDFG staffers for more widely available trapper education courses.
  2. Produce a video detailing how to release a dog from a trap or snare. The video (above) has received more than 5,300 online views. A second video on how to identify traps and trapping activity in an area should be available this month. A brochure on releasing pets from a trap also is available.
  3. Propose changes to state trapping rules that restrict the use of body-gripping traps that address the recommendations of the working groups.

Here are the proposals the commission will consider:

  • Body-grip traps with jaw openings greater than 4.5 inches and less than 7 inches across can be used on dry land only when set 7 inches or more back inside a hard container made with wood, plastic, fiberglass, or metal with opening that is no larger than 7 inches in width and total size of opening does not exceed 52 square inches, OR when set at least 4 feet above ground or snow.
  • Any body-grip traps with jaw openings greater than or equal to 7 inches can be used only in water and must be completely submerged when set and immediately after checking at 72 hour intervals.

A “body gripping” trap” is defined as a Conibear or similarly-operated trap designed to snap closed on the target animal’s body killing the animal.

Biologist promotes bats in free CdA program

WILDLIFE WATCHING – A wildlife biologists will present a free program, “Bats: Wonders of the Night, at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 3, at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library, 702 E. Front Ave.

Jenny Taylor plans to explain why bats are important to everyone, debunk bat myths and feature bats of North Idaho.

Taylor works with WREN, a Coeur d'Alene-based environmental education and conservation nonprofit organization.

Video: Terror in the trees as hawk hunts squirrel

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Through the tranquility of autumn leaves falling from the trees, life and death situations play out in our forests on a daily basis beyond human eyes.

This video of a red-tailed hawk hunting a tree squirrel is pieced together to depict an actual predator-prey encounter. The photography is absolutely stunning.  Check it out.

Chronic-wasting disease shows up again in Wyoming deer

HUNTING — Others issues like wolves, EHD in deer and antelope, brucellosis and elk hoof disease have occasionally lured our eye off the chronic wasting disease that became such a big concern more than a decade ago.

In 2011, the issue was rekindled with new cases.

This season, we're getting another reminder:

Chronic-wasting disease found in new hunting areas in Wyoming
Wyoming Fish and Game officials said chronic-wasting disease, which is always fatal to elk, deer, was found in mule deer in hunt areas 84 and 36, districts that border other districts where the disease had previously been found.
—Jackson Hole News & Guide

Glacier Park grizzly shooter case dismissed

WILDLIFE — The case against a Texas man accused of illegally discharging a firearm in Glacier National Park this summer, when he shot a grizzly bear he said was charging him, went no further than his not-guilty plea in a federal court late last month, the Missoulian reports

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has dismissed the charge against 57-year-old Brian D. Murphy.

The charge was dismissed with prejudice, meaning a final determination has been made based on the merits of the case. Murphy cannot be re-charged at a later date, reports Vince Devlin.

Here's the rest of Devlin's report;

Murphy’s attorney, Jason T. Holden of Great Falls, called it a “perfect scenario to have a case dismissed with prejudice.”

“The government did the right thing because Mr. Murphy did the right thing,” Holden said, adding that Murphy “had every right to act in defense of his life.”

Holden described his client as a part-time Montana resident who spends summers in the state, and is “an avid hiker and photographer with great respect for our national parks, their resources and wildlife.”

Murphy, he said, did not fire his .357 revolver until the charging bear – a grizzly, Holden said DNA tests later confirmed – was 7 to 10 feet away, and not until bear spray discharged when the animal was 15 to 25 feet away failed to deter it.

The wounded bear was never located. DNA samples were obtained from blood and fur at the scene.


Murphy was hiking the Mount Brown Lookout Trail, one of Glacier’s most challenging, on Saturday, July 26.

Although he was hiking alone, which park officials advise against, Murphy was wearing bear bells and packing bear spray, Holden said, and also “yelping” to warn any bears in the area of his approach, and because he was aware other hikers were behind him on the trail.

“When Mr. Murphy first saw the bear it was running down a hill toward the other hikers,” Holden said. “He yelled, ‘Bear!’ to warn them, and as soon as he yelled, the bear turned and came straight at him.”

Murphy first discharged his bear spray using his left hand, and when that didn’t stop the animal, fired with the .357 in his right hand, according to Holden.

“The bear fell back and was motionless,” Holden said. Murphy “withdrew and double-timed it out of there, taking the two hikers who were behind him with him. He stopped everyone else on the trail, too, told the first ranger he came to what had happened, and fully and voluntarily cooperated with rangers.”

When rangers arrived at the scene the grizzly was gone, but there was evidence it had been wounded. Murphy turned his revolver over to rangers, who reported it contained five unspent rounds and one spent casing.


While a 2010 federal law makes it legal to carry firearms in national parks, it remains illegal to discharge one in many of them, including Glacier.

Murphy was not charged by park rangers with the misdemeanor, which carries a $500 fine, until nearly two months later.

Holden appeared on his behalf in West Glacier on Sept. 26 to enter the not-guilty plea in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Strong.

“I informed the court we would raise the affirmative defense of self-defense, and after we presented our case to the government, they agreed it was an appropriate case to dismiss with prejudice,” Holden said.

Michael S. Lahr, an assistant U.S. attorney in Helena, filed the motion to dismiss the charge with prejudice. Strong granted the motion Thursday.

Lahr did not return a message Tuesday seeking comment.

“In a situation such as Mr. Murphy’s, where his life was in mortal danger, he has a right to defend his life,” Holden said. “That is not against the law, and that’s why the government dismissed this case.”

“I don’t want to give the wrong impression,” he went on. “You can’t willy-nilly fire a gun in a national park – you can’t. You can’t if a bear is 50 feet from you. But this was a full, straight-on charge and attack.”

Role of wildfire topic of Colville program

FORESTS — A burning issue will be discussed in Colville on Oct. 22:  “Fires and Forests, East of the Cascade Divide” will be presented by  John F. Marshall sponsored by the Panorama chapter of the Society of American Foresters, Northeast Chapter of the Washington Farm Forestry Association and Humanities Washington.

  • The free program starts at 6 p.m. in the theater of Colville campus of Spokane Community College, 985 South Elm St.

Marshall, a professional speaker, fish and wildlife authority and photographer from Wenatchee, plans to evoke a conversation about fires and firefighting, past and present.

“The only thing for sure is every wild land area will burn. We can take a measure of control through prescribed fire, or we can take a random chance through wild fire,” he says.

“With this past summer’s horrific wildfires fresh in peoples’ memories, this is a conversation that communities like ours should be having to better prepare for the eventual wildland fire in our area,” said Bart Ausland, chair of the Panorama Chapter of the SAF.

Even in national parks, wildlife subject to vehicle collisions

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Why did the deer cross the road and risk its life against speeding vehicles?

Because it wanted to get to the other side, the way it evolved to move from cover to feed, bedding spot to water, and summer range to winter range over the centuries.

Tough year for wildlife in Canada's mountain parks
Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 6, 10 black bears and one grizzly bear were struck and killed by vehicles or trains in Yoho and Kootenay national parks in B.C. and Banff National Park in Alberta; 16 elk have died on the parks' roads, as have five moose, three wolves and one cougar. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Ponderosa moose family livin’ the life

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Moose in wild and not-so-wild areas are popular subjects for in Inland Northwest shutterbugs, as one can see in a glance on our Readers' Outdoor Photo Gallery.

But some neighborhoods are more oriented to family living than others.

“This moose family visits us frequently in the Ponderosa neighborhood,” said Bob Fulton as he emailed the photo.

Montana may expand protection for Fish Creek

FISHING — Although it flows into the Clark Fork River below Interstate 90, Fish Creek is a sleeper resource unknown to most anglers. Luckly, Montana conservationists and fisheries managers have taken note.  

Here's the latest effort to preserve the habitat and potential for a fishery that extends to headwaters in the proposed Great Burn Wilderness area of the Bitterroot Mountains near Alberton.

FWP Seeks Comment on Proposed Addition to Fish Creek WMA

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) is seeking public review and comment on its proposal to acquire 158 acres adjacent to the 34,573 acre Fish Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA) west of Alberton.

The proposed addition includes one half mile of Fish Creek and would help protect important habitat for sensitive species such as bull trout, westslope cutthroat and Canada lynx, as well as elk and other wildlife species.

The lands under consideration are currently owned by Five Valleys Land Trust and would be purchased for $350,000, cost-shared by FWP’s Habitat Montana Fund, matching Pittman-Robertson funds from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Thompson Falls Mitigation Fund, and Westslope Trout Unlimited.

            FWP will hold a public hearing in Alberton on Tuesday, Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the Alberton Community Center (701 Railroad Ave) to discuss the proposal and take public comment.

            A draft environmental assessment on the proposal can be found online at fwp.mt.gov under “Public Notices.” Or, request it by mail from Region 2 FWP, 3201 Spurgin Rd., Missoula 59804; phone 406-542-5500; email shrose@mt.gov.

      Comments can be submitted online at fwp.mt.gov under “Public Notices,” or should be directed to Sharon Rose using the contact information above. Comments must be received by FWP no later than 5 p.m. on November 7, 2014.

      The Fish & Wildlife Commission will make a final decision on the acquisition at its December meeting in Helena, and the Montana Board of Land Commissioners must also review the proposal.

Hells Canyon bighorns removed for disease study

WILDLIFE —  Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife workers used helicopter net gunners Wednesday to capture eight infected bighorn ewes along the Grande Ronde River.  

The wild sheep are to be transported to a South Dakota State University facility for research on  pneumonia outbreaks that have been deadly to the bighorn sheep in the Hell's Canyon area as well as in the Yakima River area and in Montana.

Here's more detail on the capture and research project from Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune:

Bighorn sheep near Heller Bar infected with a newly discovered strain of the deadly pneumonia bacteria that has plagued wild sheep herds for decades will be captured and taken to a South Dakota research facility this week.

The capture is designed to prevent the spread of the new strain, which is killing both adults and lambs, to other nearby herds.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Idaho Department of Fish and Game plan to use a helicopter to capture eight ewes that are an isolated subgroup to the Black Butte Herd. They will be trucked to South Dakota State University, where scientists are studying the disease. Any sheep that can’t be captured will be euthanized, according to a news release from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The larger Black Butte Herd was initially infected with the bacteria, which causes pneumonia, in a 1995 outbreak that was traced to contact between bighorn sheep and a domestic goat. Die-offs of bighorn sheep throughout the West have followed contact between wild sheep and domestic goats and domestic sheep.

The 1995 outbreak led to mass die-offs of wild sheep throughout the Hells Canyon region.

In general, animals that survived the initial outbreak have been able to live normal lives and reproduce. But their lambs often suffer high rates of mortality year after year.

The new strain, discovered this summer, appears to be more deadly. Rich Harris, manager of sheep, goats and moose for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at Olympia, said adult sheep that have previously been exposed to the mycoplasma ovipneumoniae bacteria are dying from the new strain. Wildlife managers want to remove animals exposed to the bacteria prior to the onset of the bighorn mating period, which begins later this month. Rams travel beyond their normal home ranges while looking for mates during that rut, leaving open the possibility that a ram could mate with the ewes and then carry the new strain to other herds. Harris said the new strain has not been detected in sheep outside of the ewes living near Heller Bar.

“We believe these ewes are not only a remnant population with little chance of recovery, but a threat to other bighorn herds throughout Hells Canyon,” Harris said.

The new strain was identified by researchers at Washington State University. Harris said the bacteria has no adverse effects on humans and there is little risk to other animals.

Wildlife managers don’t know where the new strain came from or if there has been new contact between wild sheep and domestic sheep or goats.

Ready to walk the talk? Fish & Wildlife director job open

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — If you're one of those critics who always has a better idea for running Washington's Fish and Wildlife Department, here's your chance.

The $139,000-a -year top position will be open at the end of the year as WDFW Director Phil Anderson retires.

Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman puts the job into perspective:

Think you can handle managing all the fish and wildlife in Washington — not to mention the folks passionate about every single last critter, their legislators, plus deal with federal and tribal issues, manage 1,600 employees and a million acres, all without breaking down and running off to Paraguay with the $376 million annually budgeted to your agency?

The job is serious and complex, Walgamott points out, quoting Tony Floor of the Northwest Marine Trade Association:

“While the job carries a certain amount of prestige, it is thankless and controversial. Every decision the director makes brings a silent nod of approval from those who benefit from the decision, but more importantly, triggers a tsunami of manure from those who do not,” writes Floor, a former salmon program manager and agency spokesman.

“It’s hard to know if Washington will get a new director as flat-out dedicated to the job as Anderson,” Walgamott says. “But should you feel you’re up to snuff, here’s a link to the job posting.”

Name that bear: contest at Idaho zoo seeks to name grizzly

WILDLIFE — The Pocatello Zoo is holding the contest to name a grizzly bear that was moved into the facility after it became too accustomed roaming around rural residences in Wyoming.

The 2-year-old female grizzly that was recently relocated to the zoo from the Shoshone National Forest.

Submit names by Oct. 12 to pocatellozoosociety@gmail.com or call the Zoo at (208) 234-6264.

Zoo staff will choose three finalist names from the submissions, and the public will have a chance to vote online, via phone and at ZooBoo starting Oct 13. Voters are required to donate a minimum of $1 along with their vote. The winning name will be the one that gets the most donations and will be announced on Oct. 27.

The grizzly bear is currently in quarantine at the zoo, but will eventually be on exhibit with the zoo’s matriarch bear, Stripes.

“We are thrilled to be able to give this girl a home,” zoo administrator, Peter Pruett said. “She needed to be relocated and we have a beautiful home for her here at the Pocatello Zoo.

Infected bighorn sheep to be removed from southeast Washington

WILDLIFE – State wildlife officials plan to capture and remove eight bighorn ewes in southeast Washington this week to curb the spread of a bacteria deadly to other wild sheep in the area.

A contractor for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Idaho Department of Fish and Game will attempt to capture the animals near the confluence of the Grande Ronde and Snake rivers in southeast Asotin County using nets launched from a helicopter, Washington officials just announced in a media release.

The sheep will be transported in slings under the helicopter to a staging area near Heller Bar on the Snake River, and then loaded into a trailer.

The sheep will be taken to a captive facility at South Dakota State University where bighorn research is already under way to learn more about how to manage the bacterium Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae that causes fatal pneumonia in susceptible bighorns.

Any animals evading live capture will be euthanized, officials said.

Rich Harris, wildlife manager for WDFW, said the bacteria has no adverse effects on humans and there are no appreciable risks of exposing other animals during the capture and transport operation because it has poor survival beyond the respiratory system of sheep and goats.

“We believe these ewes are not only a remnant population with little chance of recovery, but a threat to other bighorn herds throughout Hells Canyon,” Harris said.

The sheep are a subgroup of the Black Butte herd, said Harris. The Black Butte herd historically included as many as 215 animals — including Washington's largest rams.

But it has suffered from pneumonia-related poor lamb survival on and off since an all-age outbreak in 1995 reduced the herd significantly. The ongoing pneumonia in lambs has prevented population recovery.

Over the past 20 years, bighorn sheep in the Hells Canyon region along both sides of the Snake River have suffered from pneumonia.

Typically adult bighorns surviving initial outbreaks of bacterial pneumonia have normal survival and reproduction, but few lambs survive to adulthood.

Researchers this summer discovered that in addition to 100 percent mortality in lambs, many of the relatively isolated ewes in the portion of the Black Butte herd range showed signs of pneumonia. Analyses conducted by the Washington State University diagnostic laboratory revealed that these ewes and their deceased lambs had contracted a new strain of the bacteria that appears to kill bighorns regardless of their prior exposure.

Harris said the inter-agency decision was made to remove the sheep now to keep them from spreading the bacteria to other animals during the mating season, which begins later this month.

Past outbreaks among bighorn sheep in Washington and other parts of the western United States have been linked to contact between wild sheep and domestic sheep or goats.  These domestic animals carry Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae but are unaffected by the bacteria.

The outbreak of the Black Butte herd in 1995 is believed to have originated from contact with a domestic goat. It is unknown at this time if there has been additional contact between domestic goats or sheep and the Black Butte bighorns.

Videos capture bears with cat-scratch fever

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WILDLIFE WATCHING  — The trail cam video of an Okanogan County black bear turning a scented tree into a massage parlor (at right) has been amusing thousands of viewers since it was posted this week by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin.

If you like the video posted here, you'll LOVE this video of GRIZZLY BEARS scratching their way into ecstasy — complete with music — in Banff National Park, Alberta.