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Double the pleasure: 2 trumpeter swan pairs nesting at Turnbull

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pronghorns check out the digs in Asotin County

WILDLIFE — Although 91 pronghorns were imported from Nevada and released on the Yakama Indian Reservation in 2011 (see story), a few of the speedster species may have hoofed into Washington on their own from Oregon.

Two bucks and a doe were reported this month in northern Asotin County, according to a report by Paul Wik, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife southeast wildlife biologist.

“It is not known how long it has been since naturally recolonizing pronghorn have been seen in the state, but it has likely been a very long time,” he said on the agency's website.

It's also possible the trio are spinoffs from the pronghorns released in Yakima. Those animals have reproduced and ranged widely off the reservation, but details are hard to get from the tribe.

WDFW wildlife mangers say they've had informal talks with landowners about moving reintroducing pronghorns to Walla Walla County. 

Meantime, report any Washington pronghorn sightings by email to Wik, Paul.Wik@dfw.wa.gov, or state special species manager Rich Harris, Richard.Harris@dfw.wa.gov.

Outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson snapped the pronghorn buck image above near his home in Montana, where antelope still roam widely.

Enforcement officer takes helm of WDFW region

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Jim Brown, a sergeant in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife   enforcement program, has been named regional director for the agency’s North Central region based in Ephrata, according to an agency media release.

Brown, who has worked as a fish and wildlife enforcement officer since 1992, will begin his new job June 3, overseeing all WDFW work in Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties.

“Jim Brown is a problem solver, who knows how to bring people together to find common solutions,” said WDFW Director Phil Anderson. “He’s direct, organized and very knowledgeable about the region’s issues from the years he’s spent in law enforcement. I look forward to working with Jim in his new capacity as regional director.”

Brown, 48, succeeds Dennis Beich, who is retiring after serving as WDFW’s Region 2 director since 2000.

Through his experience as a law enforcement officer and supervisor, Brown has been involved in issues ranging from salmon management, habitat protection and hydropower mitigation to resolving public conflicts with cougars and bears. He has also played an active role in developing fish and wildlife policies and building partnerships with area tribes.

“Enforcement officers are on the front line of a lot of contentious issues,” Brown said. “But whether you’re in a board room or talking over the tailgate of a pickup, the important thing is to listen and look for ways to address people’s concerns. That’s a skill I can bring to this position.”

In his current position, Brown has been a member of the Okanogan County Dangerous Wildlife Task Force, a multi-agency Homeland Security planning team and a cooperative fisheries enforcement effort with the Colville Tribe on Lake Rufus Woods. He has received a number of awards for his job performance during his career at WDFW. 

Brown completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Washington State University in 2010, with coursework in public policy development and natural resource issues. He and his wife, Katherine, have two daughters.

Remorseful camper contributes to junk-food elk

CAMPING — Many families consider Memorial Day weekend the kickoff for the camping season. Unfortunately, it's also the start of some bad habits for wildlife attracted to the food and garbage campers make available.

Luring wildlife to camping areas with food creates pests that can bother or injure campers that follow. In some cases, especially with bears, a junk-food addict usually must to be killed for public safety.

Also, wildlife attracted to food are  more likely to be around roads where they can be hurt in vehicle collisions. 

But even with that knowledge already firmly in his camping routine, James Pelland was chagrined to find elk rustling through untended garbage at his camp over the weekend.   Here's his report and heads up to other campers.

"My family and I enjoy floating and camping up on the N.Fk CDA. Over the years we've seen plenty of deer, elk and moose.

"Around 5 a.m. Monday morning I woke to what sounded like something rummaging through our camp gear. I had gone to bed early and left it up to my wife and daughter, who were enjoying the campfire, to make sure our site was properly "secured" (food put away etc). I poked my head out of the tent and saw our small trash bag had been left hanging on a tree and the elk (not raccoons, not crows) in the attached picture were helping themselves to leftover pita chips and clam chowder. The yearling was using its nose to try to open our cooler!

"We feel sorry for furthering the habituation of these elk to people and people food, and feel sorry for the elk. The camp  hosts told us that the elk drink the soapy water from their cleaning pail."

Then Pelland pointed out:

I remember a couple years ago a bear chewed on someone's ear through his tent near St. Regis… The camper got there at night and didn't notice that the previous folks had left a huge food mess. My buddy and I had driven right past that site the next day on our way to fishing… I always remember that story and don't need a bear chewing on my ear (or worse).

Hummers nesting in the yard; something to sing about

WILDLIFE — You're living well when hummingbirds chose your yard for their nursery.

This is the second consecutive year Bill Bender has had a nest off the back porch of his South Hill home.

The chicks are seven days old in this photo from the weekend.

Wildlife areas topic at CdA Sportsmen’s Breakfast

WILDLIFE — Idaho Fish and Game Department regional habitat biologists will discuss southern Panhandle wildlife management areas at the monthly informal Coeur d'Alene Sportsmen's Breakfast, 6:30 a.m., Tuesday (May 21) at Lake City Senior Center, 1916 N. Lakewood Dr.

Cost: $7.50 for breakfast, tax and gratuity

Oregon town still struggling with geese in parks

WILDLIFE — An infestation of Canada geese has been converting  portions of Bend, Ore., parks into latrines for years. Frustrated parks staff and health officials raised the ire of animal rights activists when they killed about a hundred geese a few years ago — probably some of the same folks who at turkey at Thanksgiving.

So the battle continues.  Read on how everything from vegetable oil to kayaks is being used to control the problem.

Surprising predator gets some blame for killing Yellowstone Park elk calves

WILDLIFE — Which predator gets the blame for poor survival of elk calves in Yellowstone National Park?

A. Gray wolf.

B. Grizzly bear.

C. Lake trout.

Answer:  All of the above.

Check out the Billings Gazette story on the latest suprising research — which shouldn't be all that surprising to wildlife enthusiasts who understand the complex ways nature is connected.

Every bird dog owner needs a skunk kit

HUNTING DOGS — It's easy to be prepared for the unexpected but inevitable day your hunting dog is sprayed by a skunk.

And you should ALWAYS be ready. Even at home, as I experienced this week when my dog was sprayed in the backyard just before I was to leave for work.

Since an Eastern Washington University chemistry professor tipped me off to the formula in the 1980s, I've kept a skunk kit in my pickup and in my bird hunting gear basket. I've given the kits as holiday gifts to my hunting buddies.

(See my dog, Scout, above, looking at the kit as though he knows it's his only ticket back into the house.)

I once took a midnight call from a friend who was in Montana with his daughter and dog. They were in a pickle. They were camping with his wife's new SUV and she'd warned them they'd better take care of it in her absence. But their dog got sprayed by a skunk 300 miles from Spokane and father-daughter needed the recipe or they'd be in the dog house with the dog.

I gave them the recipe and two days later I found a thank you note and a bottle of wine on my door step.

THE RECIPE is simple: One quart of hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda, 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap.

THE KIT makes it easy to apply. Buy a small Tupperware-type container just big enough to hold two quart bottles of hydrogen peroxide, two plastic zipper bags with measured amounts of baking soda and a small plastic bottle with dish soap.

(I like this "double" recipe approach just in case two dogs get too friendly with a skunk at one time. You don't have to make choice on which dog "gets lost" on the way home.)

Also in the container, include one or two pairs of Latex or rubber gloves, a wash rag and a small drying towel. You're set.

Should your dog get sprayed, you can remove the skunk odor in the field (if you have rinse water) without stinking up your rig.

Mix the ingredients at the time they are needed, NOT BEFORE. Wash the dog with all of the solution. Having the washcloth helps you keep it out of the dog's eyes.

Rinse thoroughly. You may want to do a second wash with dog shampoo, but a thorough rinse seems to work fine and prevents the peroxide from changing the color of your dog's fur.

Done. Whew!

By the way, when I came to work Monday and mentioned that my dog had been sprayed by a skunk, a colleague came over with her wallet and pulled out the de-skunking recipe I'd published in the S-R Outdoors section years ago. "It saved me once, and I wanted to make sure I always had it just in case," she said.

Rabid bat flies into Kootenai County home

WILDLIFE — A rabid bat flew into a Kootenai County home. Residents couldn't verify whether anyone was bitten, so they're undergoing rabies treatment.

Read the story from S-R reporter Betsy Russell.

Forest Service biologist to lead nature hike

HIKING — Join a Colville National Forest wildlife biologist on his annual naturalist’s tour of the Elk Creek Trail near Sullivan Lake on May 18. 

Mike Borysewicz, a veteran wildlife biologist at the Sullivan Lake District, will show participants an old prescribed burn heavily used by elk, a cascading waterfall and a wildflower meadow on this delightful two-mile-long loop trail. 

Meet at the Elk Creek Trailhead with shoes, clothing and a pack with lunch and water.

When: Saturday, May 18, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. 

Where: Elk Creek Trail Head.  Five miles northeast of Metaline Falls. Drive east from Highway 31 on County Road 9345 (toward Sullivan Lake).  The Trail Head is located at the Mill Pond historic site northwest of Sullivan Lake.

Info: Mike Borysewicz, Sullivan Lake Ranger District, Wildlife Biologist, (509) 446-7500

BPA paid $644 million for fish-wildlife in 2012

RIVERS — In Fiscal Year 2012, the Bonneville Power Administration reported $644.1 million in total costs for its federally mandated actions to mitigate the impacts Columbia River Basin hydroelectric development has had on fish and wildlife.

The costs are listed an annual report released last week by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council to the governors of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. 

The Northwest Power passed by Congress in 1980 requires BPA, which markets power generated at federal dams in the region, to fund the NPCC programs undertaken by state and federal agencies and some tribes.

Bonneville estimates the grand total expended since 1978, when the costs began, through 2012, is about $13 billion, not including $2.27 billion in capital investments for fish hatcheries and fish passage facilities at dams.

Read on for a summary of the 2012 costs, compiled by the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

Floods, Flowers, Feathers Festival May 18 at Turnbull Refuge

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

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

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

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

State leaders oppose plan to protect wolverines

ENDANGERED SPECIES — While 25 environmental groups quickly applauded a federal proposal to protect wolverines under the Endangered Species Act last week, officials from Idaho, Montana and Wyoming have declared the effort unnecessary.

“There is no evidence suggesting that wolverines will not adapt sufficiently to diminished late spring snow pack (assuming there is any) to maintain viability,” Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead wrote in a letter sent Monday to federal officials.

Read on for the story from the Associated Press.

Camera collars let biologists tag along with bears

WILDLIFE — Biologists at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are getting a peek into what city bears do all day.

Six bears were equipped with rugged video cameras attached to collars around their necks, which are allowing biologists to get a good idea of how the four black and two brown bears spent their time last summer.

See the story and video clips.

Homeowners need to be ‘bear aware’

WILDLIFE — The region's black bears are out of their winter dens and on the move, looking for food sources that might help them regain weight lost during hibernation.

Homeowners can avoid problem encounters with bears by being aware.

High calorie human foods are a major attractant, particularly if they are easy to obtain, such as out of a bird feeder or garbage can.

Idaho Fish and Game officials urge homeowners who live rural and suburban settings to take small precaution that can make a big difference in safety and to the welfare of the bears.  Whether it's a black bear or a grizzly, a bear lured into a yard or campground by food or garbage is likely to be killed for public safety.

“All bears are opportunists; their whole life revolves around food,”  Fish and Game conservation educator Evin Oneale said. “They remember every single location where they receive a food reward, and if they get one from your residence, or your neighbor’s residence, they will be back for more.”

The result is always the same – a dead bear.

Read on for easy solutions for homeowners living near prime bear country.

Bald eagles raising young over Lake CdA, throughout region

UPDATED 12:30 p.m. with info from Idaho Fish and Game.

WILDLIFE — May is family time for bald eagles, which have been steadily gaining a greater foothold in the Inland Northwest as they're considered one of the shining examples of Endangered Species Act recoveries.

This bald eagle family was photographed at Lake Coeur d'Alene over the weekend by Larry Krumpelman and posted on the Coeur d'Alene Audubon Society website.

Idaho will conduct a bald eagle nesting survey next year, the first since 2008, when more than 50 breeding territories were documented in the Panhandle from Lake Coeur d'Alene and northward.  Surely there's that many or more.

Spokane County alone has 15-20 active nests, said Howard Ferguson, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department area wildlife biologist.

The bald eagle, one of the first species to receive protections under the precursor to the Endangered Species Act in 1967, was been removed from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants in 2007. After decades of conservation efforts, the bald eagle exhibited a dramatic recovery, from a low of barely 400 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states in 1963, to more than 10,000 nesting pairs.

Nesting bald eagles can be resiliant.  

A bald eagle nest surveyed near Post Falls Dam blew down during an early July 2008 windstorm. The nest was home to 3 chicks at or very close to fledging. All chicks were observed after the windstorm and presumed to have successfully fledged.

The eagle pair rebuilt their nest in the same tree in December 2008, according to the IFG survey report.

Fish and Wildlife panel thanks Douvia for service

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — In a somewhat rare sentiment, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has issued a letter thanking a departing commissioner for his service.

Gary Douvia of Kettle Falls served on the nine-member citizen panel since 2006.  His term expired on Jan. 1 and Gov. Jay Inslee chose not to reappoint him.  Three other commisisoners whose terms have expired also are likely to be replaced, possibly this month.

Over the years, quite a few of the commissioners, who serve without pay beyond travel expenses, have come and gone without much recognition.

Read on for the complete letter of thanks dated today. It's not signed, however the commission office staff says the letter is a collective effort by the commisison members.

Canada geese sign off for the evening; Landers, too

WATERFOWL — I'm thankful for today and looking forward to tomorrow, just as these goslings appeared to be saying at last light on Thursday, photographed by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

25 groups call for protecting wolverines

WILDLIFE — The Lands Council based in Spokane joined 24 other environmental groups today in calling for the federal government to protect wolverines under provisions of the Endangered Species Act.

In February, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to list the wolverine as a “threatened” species under the ESA primarily because of habitat fragmentation and losses from climate change. Wolverines, the rarest carnivore in the lower 48 states, depend on late spring snow for travel and protection of denning sites.

A list of the environmental groups and their common comments are posted here.

 Additional threats to the species include an exceptionally small and vulnerable population size in the Lower 48 – where the entire population is no more than 250-300 individuals – and mortality from trapping, which is legal on a limited basis in states such as Montana.

Today the Western Environmental Law Center organize and presented the comments for the groups. “We are supportive of the Service’s long-overdue proposal to protect wolverine under the ESA," said Matthew Bishop, attorney and lead author of the comments.  Bishop is in the Helena field office of the WELC, wich is based in Eugene.

Calling it "a huge step in the right direction, Bishop said, "the proposed rule does not go far enough to ensure the long-term survival and recovery of the species.  The groups say the wolverine should be given the more protective "endangered" status.

Idaho elk plan meeting Thursday in CdA

HUNTING — Idaho Fish and Game is beginning it's process to revise elk management plans with an open house at the Panhandle Region headquarters office from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. Thursday (May 2) in Coeur d'Alene.

Not to be confused with annual hunting regulations, species management plans provide direction for management of a particular species for the next 10 years or more.

Read on for more details from IFG officials.

Grouse puts wildlife police officer in pecking order

WILDLIFE — Washington Fish and Wildlife police officers are accustomed to dealing with testosterone-charged males strutting their stuff.

But officer Curt Wood stood up to a bird-brained attacker to get these photos.  Here are the details from an edited version of the agency's Enforcement Division's weekly report:

While patrolling Lincoln County for turkey hunters, Officer Wood encountered a male dusky grouse that was strutting head on a primitive road.  Officer Wood pulled his patrol vehicle up to the grouse and stopped.  

Within seconds, the grouse jumped up onto the front of the officer's pickup and started strutting on the hood.  Officer Wood was able to get one picture with his cell phone camera before the grouse jumped back onto the ground in front of the truck.  

Wood got out of his vehicle and eased to within a foot or so of the grouse.  While the officer was snapping more photos, the grouse suddenly attacked Wood’s hand, sending his camera flying several feet.  

Wood was able to get a few more pictures (and a few more pecks to the hand) before he returned to his vehicle and tried to get out of there with his ego intact.  While driving away, he observed the grouse chasing his vehicle for quite a distance down the road. 

At last report, no charges have been filed.

Gov. Inslee begins shake up of Fish-Wildlife Commission

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Gov. Jay Inslee is taking advantage of his authority to appoint members of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.

As rumored last week, commissioner Gary Douvia of Kettle Falls has been removed from his position and his slot is vacant. His term expired Dec. 31.  See current list of commissioners.  

Often Fish and Wildlife commissioners continue their roles even when governors change.

Even commissioners whose terms have expired usually are allowed to continue on the panel until a replacement is named, if that ever happens.

But in Douvia's case, the ax has fallen with no explanation and the governor's staff is activey interviewing candidates for the postition.

One candidate is retired Spokane firefighter George Orr, a Democrat, former state legislator and former Fish and Wildlife Commissioner.   His interview is this morning.

I've also learned that commissioner Chuck Perry of Moses Lake has been given his walking papers, but is being allowed to continue on the commission until he's replaced.

It's rumored that commission chair Miranda Wecker's expired position is in question.

More details on the shifting of commission positions are offered here in a post by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman.

What do you expect from a sage-land species?

USGS study finds sage grouse like undisturbed areas, quiet 

A new study led by U.S. Geological Survey biologist Steve Knick has confirmed that sage grouse need undisturbed habitat and solitude for successful reproduction.

Researchers found 99 percent of the active 3,000 leks studied in 355,000 square miles of historic sage grouse range in the West found were in areas where no more than 3 percent of the land had been disturbed by human activity. —Idaho Statesman

Synthetic wildlife biology offers hope, poses questions

WILDLIFE — Could genetic manipulation allow species to adapt to climate change or control an invasive species?

Could we bring back the passenger pigeon and other extinct speces?  Would we want to?

This is just a sense of the future of wildlife management through the door opened by genetic engineering. Scientists took a step through that door recently at Cambridge University to examine the question: “How will Synthetic Biology and Conservation Shape the Future of Nature?

 

Will synthetic biology help or hinder conservation efforts? This question was debated at the symposium organized by the Wildlife Conservation Society, but the answers won't come quickly.
 
More questions:
  • Could scientists change the biology of an organism to be more productive or enable it to grow in new environments?
  • Could we manufacture wildlife products like ivory in a lab?
  • Could the unintentional release of a synthetic organism destroy all the fauna in an ecosystem? 
"This new science might ultimately be another one of the tools that we could use to save our threatened natural world – which some surmise is approaching its sixth episode of extinction," Revkin said. "Could we pool our intelligence with this new group of colleagues to finally turn back the clock on the demise of Earth’s great diversity of life?"

Revkin concludes with three thought-stimulating articles:

Wolves call end to bull elk’s long tenure in Yellowstone Park

WILDLIFE — An internationally famous Yellowstone National Park bull elk has died, likely killed by the Canyon wolf pack, which was seen Saturday feeding on his carcass, according to today's report by Brett French of the Billings Gazette.

Elk No. 10, the last to wear a yellow ear tag with the number 10 on it, was found dead about a half mile east of the Wraith Falls trailhead in the park on Saturday, according to Al Nash, the park's chief of public affairs.  The elk was 16-18 years old.

Elk No. 10 became internationally famous after the British Broadcasting Corp. made a film on elk that featured the Mammoth animals as well as those in Estes Park, Colo. Clips from the films “Street Fighters” and “Showdown in Elk Town” can still be found on YouTube.

The large bull elk attracted attention in Gardiner in 2001 when he got his antlers tangled in a badminton net and poles at the Mammoth school. The only way to remove the net was to tranquilize the elk and saw off its antlers. That's when the elk was given its yellow ear tag to ensure that any hunters who saw it that fall would know the elk's meat was unsafe to eat because of the tranquilizer.

“I remember in 2006 when Elk 10 arrived on the Mammoth scene on Sept. 10,” wrote Jim Halfpenny, a Gardner-based naturalist who gives tours in the park, in an email. “He was now big and took the harem over from another bull. In the coming years, he and Elk 6 did battle on more than one occasion. In more recent years he did not come into Mammoth, but maintained a harem of his own between the YCC camp and Mammoth Terraces. Being slightly old, wiser, and lacking the body weight of his youth, it was now time to retreat to a more private place with a smaller harem. He let the younger bulls compete for the prime grazing habitat of Mammoth and the cows that are attracted there.”