Latest from The Spokesman-Review
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:
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.
- Space is limited for some activities so it’s best to pre-register here.
Info: Turnbull Refuge, (509) 235-4723.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Downhill mountain bikers try to stay their course on Beacon Hill
- Downhill biking trail planned at Mount Spokane
- Local Trail Angel Peter Jantz digs for downhill mountain bikers
- Creepy flying ants blanketing region on first hot day of spring
- Field Reports: Road-kill pickup crew salvages tons of meat for needy… PikePalooza offers $5,000 in prizes…Native plans bugged
- Idaho Fish and Game approves spring chinook fishing seasons
- Spring chinook anglers could find holes crowded on Clearwater River
- Dishman Hills trails makeover resisted by some hikers
- Disease dooms Tieton bighorns near Yakima
- Out & About: Migratory Bird Week activities set… Wolf experts to speak in Spokane… Fishing clinic for kids
- Cooperation key in grizzly plan
- Weekly Hunting-Fishing Report
- Plastic pipes in ground fatal to nest-seeking birds
- Montana to keep river gauges operating
- USGS minimizes budget cut impacts on river gauges
- Day hikes are cheap outdoor elixir for mind, body, social well-being
See a longer list and many outdoor links and features on the S-R's Outdoors topics web page.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?”
- New York Times Dot Earth blogger Andrew Revkin offers this report on the conference
- See what Revkin calls a superb and detailed framing paper for the meeting posted here.
- Ed Yong, who blogs on science for National Geographic, has filed “Can We Save the World by Remixing Life?”
- 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?
Revkin concludes with three thought-stimulating articles:
- Synthetic Biology and Conservation of Nature: Wicked Problems and Wicked Solutions, Kent H. Redford, William Adams, and Georgina M. Mace].
- A look at “de-extinction” in a recent Nature news article.
- “The dawn of de-extinction. Are you ready?” from Stewart Brand’s TED talk.
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.”
PUBLIC LANDS — Two short documentaries about the grassroots effort to secure wilderness status for the Scotchman Peaks northeast of Lake Pend Oreille will be presented Thursday (April 25) at Gonzaga University.
The films and a presentation by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness will begin at 7 p.m. at the Jepson Center’s Wolff Auditorium.
“The Fight for Wilderness in Our Backyard” is one in a series of presentations for the Earth Week activities sponsored by GU students.
The local effort to designate a Scotchman Peaks Wilderness northeast of Lake Pend Oreille has been a classy act from the beginning — starting with the founding of the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness in 2005.
The effort is revealed in all its home-grown glory in the documentary, Grass Routes: Changing the Conversation.
A second film, “En Plein Air” chronicles the experiences of artists during a five-day trek through the Scotchma Peaks as they capture the natural beauty of the area through their artistic styles.
- Yes, the Scotchman Peak mountain goats are among the cast in the film, portraying themselves.
The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness is a volunteer-driven group of more than 3,900 supporters from North Idaho and Western Montana working to protect the 88,000-acre Scotchman Peaks roadless area through wilderness designation. The area straddles the borders of Idaho and Montana as well as the boundaries between the Idaho Panhandle and Kootenai national forests.
PREDATORS — A wolf witnessed hunting a deer in a Wenatchee residential area Tuesday is a dose of reality a little too close to home for some people.
It's a reminder that urban deer need to be controlled, and that we need to have measures in place so we can control wolves.
We need to be aware of wolves — all of us. The landscape has changed.
Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman magazine offers this reminder of the well reported developments in the past few years:
It’s a reminder that it’s not just ranchers who will need to adapt to living with the species, but mountain bikers, hikers, mushroom pickers and others who frequent the woods. They will also need to adjust their behavior and become more alert in the outdoors and better understand wolves’ proclivities to avoid the rare negative interactions.
TRAILS — In mid-April last year, several off-leash dogs were attacked by coyotes that were defending the territory around a den near a popular South Hill bluff trail below High Drive.
Candace Hultberg-Bennett, a local wildlife biologist, will present a short program on what people can do to live safely and peacefully in the same neighborhood with coyotes.
- The program starts at 7 p.m. at St. Stevens Church Parish Hall, 5720 S. Perry.
The Friends of the Bluffs have asked her to speak on her studies on how urbanization and the reintroduction of wolves have impacted coyote populations in northeastern Washington.
A public sentiment that emerged from the coyote-dog conflicts last year was the simmering discontent trail users have with people who violate city-county laws by walking, running and even bicycling with their unleashed dogs.
HELP IMPROVE BLUFF TRAILS
The Friends of the Bluff have scheduled another trail work party, 9 a.m.-noon, on April 27.
Meet at the High Drive and Bernard trailhead. Wear suitable work clothes and gloves, bring water to drink.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Hummingbirds have been known to begin trickling into the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene area as mid-April.
- Fill the feeders with sugar water, made by combining four parts hot water to one part white sugar, boiled for one to two minutes. NEVER use honey, which promotes the growth of harmful bacteria, or artificial sweeteners, which have no nutritional value. Also avoid red food coloring.
- Clean the feeders with a solution of one part white vinegar to four parts water about once a week. If your feeder has become dirty, try adding some grains of dry rice to the vinegar solution and shake vigorously. The grains act as a good abrasive. Rinse your feeder well with warm water three times before refilling with sugar solution.
NATURE – Local Audubon chapters are sponsoring free 7 p.m. nature progams this week:
Wednesday (April 10): "For the Love of Ants: a Superorganism," by Laurel Hansen, EWU natural science professor, at Riverview Retirement Center auditorium, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave., sponsored by the Spokane Audubon Society.
HUNTING — The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has scheduled an online chat, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., on Wednesday and Thursday (April 10 and 11) for the public to weigh in on the new blueprint for managing the state’s elk herds.
The agency’s big-game biologists and mangers statewide will be working online with transcribers to answer questions as they come in from people who connect through the agency website.
“We had good participation in the online chat we held this winter for waterfowl rules and licensing and that was held during mid-day when people were working,” said Mike Keckler, the agency’s communications chief.
“We’re thinking we’ll get even more participation if we hold it in the evening.”
The agency also will schedule an open house meeting in Coeur d’Alene this spring.
Revisions currently under consideration are based on elk hunter surveys, habitat changes and other factors.
If you fish, hunt, dig clams or enjoy watching birds, keep your eye on the calendar this month:
April 9-14 - A six-day morning razor clam dig is tentatively scheduled on various Washington ocean beaches.
April 15 - Washington's general spring turkey hunt opens for hunters of all ages and runs through May 31.
April 24-30 - The month’s second morning razor clam dig is tentatively scheduled on various ocean beaches.
April 26-28 - The Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival, based in Hoquiam, celebrates shorebirds.
April 27 - Hundreds of lakes, including West Medical and Williams in Spokane County, open to trout fishing across the state for the biggest "opening day" of the year.
See The S-R's special 2013 Fishing Section coming Thursday.
WILDLIFE WATCHING – If you don’t think crows are cool, you haven’t read “In the Company of Crows and Ravens,” (Yale University Press) by John Marzluff, a University of Washington professor of Wildlife Science.
It’s one of many fun events set for EWU’s Get Lit! literary festival.
Marzluff’s latest book, “Gift of the Crow,” (Free Press) combines biology, conservation and anthropology to present an in-depth look at the way humans and crows have mutually influenced each other. The illustrated book reveals how crows share human behaviors such as delinquency, risk-taking, and even language.
TRAILS — Local writer Jim Kershner, a household name to long-time readers of The Spokesman-Review, is having a ball watching spring explode along the trails of the South Hill bluff below High Drive.
Last week he found a few bunches of arrowleaf balsamroot blooming a bit ahead of normal.
On Saturday he found the slopes alive (above) with grasswidows — that clearly were having nothing to do with being alone this season.
Coyote advisory: Remember last year, when several dogs were attacked by denning coyotes as they joined their owners for hikes or runs on the South Hill Bluff trails?
The Friends of the Bluffs are sponsoring a free program, "Living with Coyotes," at 7 p.m., April 17, at St. Stevens Church Parish Hall, 5720 S. Perry.
Meantime, be proactive in your dog's favor: Keep your dog on a leash.
WILDLIFE — Northern Rockies gray wolf packs are highly structured socially. Only the alpha male and alpha female breed.
Generally, according to Washington Fish and Wildlife biologists:
- Mating occurs in January.
- Pups are born in dens in April and the pack supports the nursing mother with food.
- The female and pups begin uniting with the pack at a rendezvous site in May.
- Pups are weaned in June.
- By October, the pups are actively hunting with the pack.
- By December, the pups appear full size and some older wolves may have been dispersed from the pack to take care of themselves and find new mates and territories.
- Wolf packs are known to kill other wolves as they expand or defend territories averaging 350 square miles. Dispersing wolves are especially vulnerable.
A pack is defined as a minimum of two wolves hanging out together.
A breeding pack must have a minimum of one male and one female wolf hanging out together during the winter breeding period.
WILDLIFE — Noting that at least 25 wild sheep have already been found dead, state wildlife officials announced today they plan to euthanize a large percentage bighorns remaining in the Naches area to curb the spread of a deadly pneumonia outbreak running through the herd.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists and U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services staff plan to shoot wild sheep over the next few weeks in the Tieton herd, about 10 miles west of Naches.
Because most of the sheep are believed to be infected with a disease that causes pneumonia, almost all of the animals will likely need to be euthanized, said Richard Harris, WDFW manager for special species.
This is just the latest of several outbreaks that have wracked the region's bighorns.
Read on for details.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Where's a good tree when you need it?
Two cougar kittens used their climbing skills and a wooden fence to evade five coyotes on the National Elk Refuge near Jackson, Wyo., as shown in a series of photos by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Outdoor Recreation Planner Lori Iverson.
Iverson witnessed a spectacular standoff between two juvenile mountain lions as the coyotes let the cats know they weren’t welcome in the area. The mountain lions sought safety on a buck and rail fence for over an hour while the coyotes lurked in the background.
Here, one of the coyotes has moved in closer. Notice the flattened positions of the mountain lions.
Click here to see the rest of Iverson's photos.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Organizers have assembled a collection of field trips and speakers while nature is supplying the wildlife for the 16th annual Othello Sandhill Crane Festival. Sign up in advance on the website; many activities fill quickly.
Events kick off Friday (April 5) with boat tours on Potholes Reservoir and a “biking for cranes” tour.
- Dr. Richard Johnson, an ornithologist from WSU, is the featured speaker on Friday night.
Saturday’s events include tours of burrowing owl/ground squirrel habitat, tours that feature geology shaped by prehistoric flooding, tours of prime crane viewing locations, and dozens of lectures at Othello High School. Lecture topics this year will cover everything from crane biology to wildlife photography.
- Idie Ulsh, master birder and former president of Seattle Audbon, will be the banquet speaker on Saturday night during the silent auction.
Vendors, children’s activities, and the opportunity to view raptors up close and in person will be also available throughout the day on Saturday. More tours will be available on Sunday.
The Othello farming community plays a central role in supporting crane migration each year. Cranes and other migrating birds feast on corn and grain left over from last year’s harvest, and some fields are left open through the migration season to allow birds the chance to rest during their travels.