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Photo: Nighthawk takes a break

WILDLIFE WATCHING — As many times as I've seen common nighthawks swooping and scooping bugs out of the sky with their distinctive staccato chirps, I've never seen one resting on the ground.

Check this instructive photo from Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

"We often times see these birds in flight, but don’t get the chance to see them landed very often!

"They have huge mouths, their small beak makes it look small – but it goes back to their eye!"

Deer problems expected on charred Methow winter range

WILDLIFE — At least one farmer already is experiencing deer damaging an alfalfa field in otherwise charred landscape in the Methow Valley region, according to the latest report from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department's wildlife program.

The Carlton Complex fires burned and leaped across more than 256,000 acres in July and August, the largest fire covering recorded in Washington. And to add to the issues, mudslides and flooding has resulted from recent thunderstorms over the denuded landscape.

Department biologist say significant portions of mule deer winter range have been burned. Some has been burned badly, but the burning varied in intensity and some areas are starting to sprout green and recover with the rains. Seed is being ordered for revegetating some areas.

Grazing permits have been effected and department staff is working with some farmers and orchard operators who are scrambling to replace burned fences to keep deer out of their crops.

Hunters will have to appreciate this portion of the report on this week's activities:

Specialist Heilhecker visited with a landowner in Tonasket who is experiencing deer damage to her alfalfa field. This individual called last year at this time with the same concerns of not being able to get a third cutting. Specialist Heilhecker issued a kill permit and a damage permit valid until the start of general season and reminded her that she needs to open her land to some public hunting. Whether public hunting is allowed on the property will more closely monitored.

 

Mountain lion kitten’s captivity serves a purpose

WILDLIFE — A three-week-old mountain lion kitten orphaned in northeastern Washington is headed for a zoo, and that's not all bad, state Fish and Wildlife Department officials say.

 “Education is important at American Zoological Association-accredited zoos, which have on-site staff to teach visitors about the natural history of these critters,” said department cougar specialist Rich Beausoleil.

He said the kitten will be transported to ZooAmerica in Hershey, Pennsylvania, which has a reputation for good, natural facilities and education.

The kitten found this week in the Kettle Falls area will join the other 32 cougar kittens from Washington that have been rescued over the past 12 years and placed to live out captive lives.

But think of it this way.   These mountain lions are in facilities in urban areas where they’re seen each year by a total of 17 million people.

“These are people who get a chance to learn something about a critter they’d never otherwise see,” said Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman in Spokane.

Craig Mountain fires controlled; roads reopening

PUBLIC LANDS — The 67,000-acre Big Cougar Fire near the confluence of the Salmon and Snake rivers has raised hell with one of Idaho's choice public-land hunting areas in Hells Canyon.  But there's still a lot of terrain, which hunters now are able to re-explore.

Main roads, including the Zaza road, in the Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area are being reopened to pre-fire status on Saturday, Aug. 23, the Idaho Fish and Game Department says. Some of the roads are normally closed to motor vehicles to protect wildlife.

Officials say firefighters are still doing work in the area and warn of hazards:

Trees and snags Obviously burned or compromised trees have a high potential of falling but also unburned trees may be more susceptible to falling if they’ve lost the shelter and support from neighboring trees. Be very cautious during windy conditions.

Rocks The dislodging and falling of rocks is another significant risk, especially in steep sloped areas such as the breaks and grasslands of Craig Mountain.

Unstable ground Soils will be more unstable after a wildfire when they’ve lost the stability from plants and trees. This may result in less stable hiking conditions or even may lead to landslides, especially during or after a heavy rain event.

Root wells After a wildfire has burned through a forested or shrubby area, sometimes the root system of shrubs and trees are also burned out leaving a void that may still be covered by ash and debris.

Info:  IFG regional office in Lewiston, (208) 799-5010.

Idaho license plates focus on wildlife

CONSERVATION — First the state bird, then an elk, and a trout. 

These iconic Idaho species are featured on the state's wildlife specialty license plates that can be seen on the front and rear bumpers of thousands of vehicles in Idaho in license plate program that raises money for wildlife conservation.

Funding from sales of these plates is earmarked for managing wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—more than 10,000 species or 98 percent of Idaho’s species diversity. 

Idaho Fish and Game has received about $850,000 a year in recent years from revenue generated by the three wildlife plates.

  • Idaho’s 30 specialty license plates — benefiting non-profit efforts including trails work and even a Corvette club and an appaloosa horse club — raise $1.6 million a year for the various groups that benefit from them.

Idaho’s first wildlife license plate, the mountain bluebird, was approved by the Legislature in 1992 and went on sale July 1, 1993. A second plate, the Rocky Mountain elk, was added in 1998, followed by the cutthroat trout plate in 2003.

No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs, nor are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent to implement wildlife diversity management and conservation. The primary source of revenue is the Idaho wildlife specialty license plates, partnered with direct donations, federal and private grants, and fundraising initiatives.

WSU study: Can grizzlies make use of tools?

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — Washington State University researchers are learning whether grizzly bears make and use tools.

With claws and teeth that can rip open anything from a beer can to beaver dens and moose carcasses, it seems as though tools would be unnecessary.

But while it’s too soon to reach a broad scientific conclusion, researchers say at least one female bear at the WSU lab is demonstrating that use of tools comes naturally.

The study, being conducted at WSU’s Bear Research Education and Conservation Center, is documenting eight grizzlies faced with the challenge of getting their claws into a dangling food snack that’s too high to reach, reports Linda Weiford of WSU News. No training is involved. The researchers are chronicling innate learning behavior.

Information gleaned from the study can be used to help wildlife managers solve grizzly-related challenges and problems, according to researchers, and also assist zookeepers in keeping captive bears mentally and physically stimulated. The study should be completed this fall.

“While it’s generally accepted that grizzly bears are intelligent creatures, until now no scientific research had been conducted on their problem-solving skills,” said WSU veterinary biologist Lynne Nelson, who is overseeing the study.

Here are more details from the WSU report:

In WSU’s controlled setting, eight brown bears—three males and five females—are being tested separately and are at various phases of the experiment, said Nelson. To date, a 9-year-old grizzly named Kio has sailed through each phase, essentially nailing the hypothesis that the species is capable of tool use.

Here’s how the study works: Inside the grizzly bears’ play area, a donut is hung on a string from a wire, too high for the animals to reach. First, each bear is tested to see if it will stand on a sawed-off tree stump to reach up and get the donut down. Once this is mastered, researchers move the stump away from the hanging donut and place it on its side.

Here’s where things get challenging. The bear must move the stump until it is positioned underneath the donut and then flip the stump over into a makeshift footstool.

Kio mastered this early: “She manipulates an inanimate object in several steps to help her achieve a goal, which in this case is to obtain food,” said Nelson. “This fits the definition of tool use.”

The other grizzlies are in the process of figuring out the feat, she explained, which confirms what the center’s scientists have long suspected about the keen brain power of bears. Frequently, Nelson and her colleagues witness grizzlies doing remarkable things, including using a single claw in a key-like manner to try to open locks.

Why should humans scientifically assess tool use among America’s greatest predators?

  • “If grizzly bears are capable of using tools to interact with their environment, that’s important for us to know because it provides a fuller picture of how they think,” said WSU veterinary student Alex Waroff, who designed the study and who, with Nelson, tests the bears five mornings a week.
  • “By better understanding their cognitive abilities, we can help reduce encounters that can turn deadly for bears and humans alike,” he said.
  • Such understanding also could shed light on whether the species is capable of manipulating its environment when faced with changes in the wild, such as shifts in habitat conditions or declining food sources, he explained.

Most of the center’s grizzly bears were deemed “problem bears” in the wild and were brought to WSU as an alternative to being shot and killed.

“Grizzlies are smart foragers and they’ll work hard to get at food – which, as we’re seeing, can include some pretty sophisticated strategies,” Nelson said.

Incidentally, the glazed donuts, donated by a local grocery store, are used to entice the bears for the study and aren’t part of their normal diet, said Nelson.

“Yes, they like sweets – just like humans,” she said. “But we’re careful to restrict their intake.”

Methow forest areas reopen as fires reduced

PUBLIC LANDS — Methow Valley and Tonasket Ranger Districts on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest have reopened many of the areas that were closed because of the Carlton Complex wildfires. Areas reopened on Sunday include:

  • East Chewuch area
  • Upper West Chewuch area,  including Andrews Creek and 30-Mile trailheads
  • North Summit and South Summit areas
  • Buttermilk Creek area south to Pateros, including Black Pine Lake, Foggy Dew, Loup Loup and JR campgrounds. West Fork Buttermilk, East Fork Buttermilk, Libby Lake, Crater Creek, Foggy Dew and Eagle-Oval Lakes trailheads
  • Sawtooth Backcountry

Areas that remain closed include:

  • 8-mile and Falls Creek drainages, including: Honeymoon, Ruffed Grouse, Nice, Flat, Buck Lake, Falls Creek, Chewuch and Camp 4 campgrounds; and the Billy Goat and Lake Creek Trailheads
  • Little Bridge Creek and Twisp River drainages, including: War Creek, Mystery, Poplar Flat, South Creek roads and campgrounds, and the Twisp River Horse Camp; War Creek, Williams Creek, Reynolds Creek, South Creek, Gilbert, Scatter, Slate Creek and Wolf Creek trailheads.
  • Road Closures: Finley Road #4100300 and Pole Pick Mountain Roads #4100500 and 4100535 as they are impassable. Other short-term temporary road closures may occur in the burned area due to heavy equipment doing road repairs.

The North Cascades Scenic Highway Corridor and Harts Pass, as well as east and west portions of the Pasayten Wilderness, Tiffany Springs Campground, Long Swamp and Chewuch trailheads were not impacted by the fires and remain open.

Info:  Methow Valley Ranger District at (509) 996-4000 or go to http://www.fs.usda.gov/okawen/.

Photo: bull elk trio displays great potential

WILDLIFE WATCHING  — This royal threesome of bull elk photographed in early July by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson is probably polishing up its act, so to speak, for the rut, which is just about ready to kick into gear in elk country across the west.

Photo: Mom’s lesson bears fruit for bear cub

WILDLIFE WATCHING — While bears have a well-known taste for huckleberries, they also cash in on other fruits.

This black bear sow appears to be giving its cub a lesson in the nutritional benefits of eating chokecherries, according to this great photo snapped this week by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Washington wildlife cops help Montana bag poachers

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — Washington Fish and Wildlife Police recently helped Montana Fish,Wildlife & Parks officers with a poaching case involving four large bull elk taken from a closed area in Eastern Montana, and multiple suspects living in the Grays Harbor, Pacific, and Thurston County areas of Washington.

Here's Washington Fish and Wildlife report on welcome cooperation to bust these scumbags.

Officer Fairbanks was able to use Montana’s probable cause to obtain a search warrant for evidence in the initial investigation into the poaching of a Montana bull elk. During thi…s investigation, a second illegal elk was identified. Officer Fairbanks organized eight interview teams to contact and interview eight possible suspects. The interview teams were able to identify the shooter of the second elk as two additional illegally harvested bull elk.

At the end of the day four 6x6 elk racks were seized, three of which will score as trophy class elk, which could result in fines of $8,000 per rack in restitution to the State of Montana.

Representatives of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks were extremely appreciative of our efforts, and happy to be taking the racks back to Montana with them. This is a great case of joint operations between Western States.

Backpacker gives grizzly bear right-of-way on Highline Trail

HIKING — This amazing photo of a hiker retreating to a precarious position on a steep, steep, slope to avoid a grizzly bear on Glacier National Park's Highline Trail was published in The Spokesman-Review on Aug. 2, but only in one edition.

I'm re-posting for those of you who may not have seen it.

Montana photographer Philip Granrud captured the image of a North Carolina man's close call with a grizzly bear while hiking along the trail, which has a dropoff on one side and a vertical cliff on the other.

Everything turned out fine for the hiker and the bear.

Here's a TV video interview with the photographer, including some of his other bear photos from years of cruising through Glacier Park

Here's the Missoulian story about the incident that presented the photo op above.

 

Reptiles, amphipbians, wildfire programs at Sinlahekin celebration

WILDLIFE — Free programs on snakes and other reptiles and amphibians, geology, wildfire history and prescribed burn management will be featured this weekend, Aug. 23-24, as the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area 75th anniversary celebration continues in northcentral Okanogan County.

It’s the fourth summer weekend in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) “Explore the Sinlahekin – Past and Present” series to spotlight the state's first wildlife area. All sessions begin at Sinlahekin headquarters, south of Loomis.

Sessions are scheduled on both Saturday, Aug. 23, and Sunday, Aug. 24, about the Sinlahekin’s wildfire history and prescribed burn management.

On Saturday afternoon, Okanogan district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin will lead a session on snakes and other reptiles and amphibians of the Sinlahekin, including close-up views and handling.

On Sunday morning, local geologists Don Hruska and Gary Mundinger will provide a primer on Sinlahekin geology for independent exploring of the Sinlahekin’s geologic features.

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

Livesock-killing grizzly euthanized in Idaho

WILDLIFE — On Sunday, Aug. 10, the Idaho Department of Fish & Game, with the permission of the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, euthanized an adult male grizzly bear that had been responsible for a series of livestock killings in the Island Park, Idaho.  The grizzly bear was trapped by Wildlife Services, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Wildlife Services is contacted whenever a predator is thought to be responsible for the death of domestic livestock.

The depredations had occurred on the portion of Harriman State Park that is located west of Island Park Reservoir.  Because of the age and history of the bear involved, the decision was made to remove the bear. 

Idaho Fish and Game officials say that once bears have learned to key in on a specific food source it is highly likely they will continue the behavior, even if moved to other locations.

Video: Momma bear gives cub tooth love

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The video above shows a savvy black bear sow doing what she needs to do to get her young cub out of danger from passing vehicles.

The short video was shot along the busy highway through Canada's Kootenay National Park north of Radium by Ricky Forbes.

Video: Carlton fires leave table bare for wildlife

Carlton Complex Fire Devastation Part 2 from Chelan HD, Sy Stepanov on Vimeo.

WILDLIFE — The Carlton Complex wildfires in the Methow Valley region — 250,500 acres and still burning; the largest recorded in Washington history — have destroyed about 300 human-related homes and structures and countless homes and habitat areas for wildlife.

  • The video above by Chelan HD Productions illustrates the point.

State wildlife managers are already looking into reducing the region's mule deer herd to prevent starvation and heavy impacts on farmer crops as wildlife search for food this winter. 

  • More antlerless deer opportunity in the area will be given to youths, seniors and disabled hunters.
  • Winter feeding is being planned to help keep some of the 10,000 migratory deer that will be coming out of the Cascades to the Methow from devastating orchards and irrigated crops this winter.  Indeed, more than 100 miles of the fence built to keep deer out of these crop areas even in good times has been destroyed by the fires.
  • Habitat replanting is being planned.
  • Road closures are likely.

A web page has been created to help the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife post information regarding developments involving wildlife, landowners and hunting.

Swimmers recovering after otter attack on West Side river

WILDLIFE — The two victims of an unusual otter attack last Thursday on Western Washington's Pilchuck River are back home and recovering this week.

They include an 8-year-old boy and his grandmother, who came to his rescue but paid the price of hundreds of stitches to her face, head and body and perhaps long-term damage to her right eye.

"It felt like little knives going in," said Lelani Grove, describing the 4-foot-long otter's bites as it turned its aggression from the boy to her after she'd swam out to the rescue.

Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officials said they haven't heard of similar attacks by otters in the state, but several over the years have been reported in North Idaho and in Montana, usually related to the otter defending young otters nearby.



  

Proposal: Give tribe control of National Bison Range

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Changes could be in store for one of the region's top wildlife-watching and wildlife photography areas as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to return the bulk of the management of the National Bison Range in Montana to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. 

The agency is taking public comment on the proposal through Sept. 4.

Deja vu: Bear cub rescued from fire; flown for treatment

WILDLIFE — The story of Cinder, the badly burned 37-pound black bear cub rescued Monday from the Carlton Complex fires in northcentral Washington (top) has a very similar ring to another true story that bloomed into a national forest campaign.

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

Great Blue Heron stalks dining diversity

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

Watch it to the very end.

Nothing but the freshest food for this fella.

Photos: birder focused on pileated woodpeckers

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

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

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

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

  

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

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

Bats, bears, bighorns and more at Sinlahekin seminars

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

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

Sessions scheduled on Saturday, July 26, include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-registration is required.  Cost: $75. 

Info:Jenny Taylor, (208) 755-4216. 

Lawsuit filed to protect lynx from Idaho traps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Whitetail buck in velvet

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A promising sight to behold.

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

Sinlahekin wildlife celebration has eye on critters tiny to large

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birders count 82 species at Little Pend Oreille Refuge

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

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

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

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

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

Following is the list of species the group identified:

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

*Birds Munts saw at Horsethief Lake after the field trip

 

Court asked to speed up Canada lynx recovery work

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

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

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

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

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

Hiker finds Blue Mountains elk herded up with young in tow

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

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

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

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

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

This looks like a good crop.

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

Elk hoof disease prompts survey, euthanasia for severely inflicted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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