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Sinlahekin wildlife area anniversary features summer programs

WILDLIFE WATCHING — See the complete list of the free Sinlahekin Wildlife Area 75th anniversary events, programs, field trips and clinics scheduled this summer in Okanogan County starting Saturday.

The list is long and offerings are impressive.

Events are scheduled for this weekend as well as on June 14-15, July 5-6, July 26-27, Aug. 23-24, and concluding with National Hunting and Fishing Days, Sept. 6-7. 

Idaho won’t kill ravens to save sage grouse, yet

WILDLIFE — Decisions, decisions.

Idaho delays plan to kill ravens to save sage grouse for a year
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services missed its deadline to complete an environmental review of Idaho's plan to kill up to 4,000 ravens to help increase the number of sage grouse in the state, and for that reason, the state cannot implement the plan until next year.
—Twin Falls Times-News

Moose-Palooza at Twin Lakes

WILDLIFE WATCHING —  Ed Cairns had a great critter-watching experience at the upstream end of Twin Lakes near the Washington-Idaho border.

“Five moose eating and swimming in the video.
“Lots of birds, even a couple of Great Blue Herons…..one is sitting on the fence line at about 14 seconds into the video.
“I saw nine moose (one baby), three rabbits, one elk and several deer.”
  

Grizzly bear dies in fall in Glacier National Park

WILDLIFE WATCHING  — The death of a grizzly bear in Glacier National Park is a reminder to hikers and climbers that spring and summer trekking across steep snowfields can be hazardous.

 A member of the Glacier Park road crew found a male grizzly bear dead on Going-to-the-Sun Road on Thursday morning.

An initial investigation by the National Park Service indicated the bear, one of about 300 grizzlies in the park, probably fell onto the road from a steep snowbank.

A necropsy revealed the 190-pound bear suffered head injuries, broken ribs and other internal injuries consistent with a fall. Park officials say the terrain above where the bear fell includes a steep snowbank, some steep cliffs and a drop of approximately 12 feet.

Floods, Flowers, Feathers festival at Turnbull Refuge May 31

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A windfall of local nature expertise is converging at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge on May 31 to give programs and lead tours on everything from bugs to wildflowers. This is the perfect antedote for nature deficit syndrome or simply for filling gaps in your natural knowledge, regardless of your age.
The annual Floods, Flowers and Feathers Festival, 8 a.m-3 p.m., helps the public experience and learn about the exceptional wildlife, habitats and geology of the unique Channeled Scablands landscape. 
Activities and programs cover aquatic invertebrates, songbird banding, exploring soils, birding scavenger hunt, nature photography, geology tour, a rangeland fire demonstration, refuge management tour and several guided walks to focus on wildflowers, birds and other wildlife.
The leaders for all of these activities, such as photographer Chuck Kerkering, know their stuff. Other groups participating include wildlife biologist, the Spokane Conservation District, Spokane Audubon, Eastern Washington University, Spokane Audubon, Inland Northwest Land Trust, Ice Age Floods Institute and Friends of Turnbull.
See Activity and Booth Descriptions

Grizzlies isolated in Cabinet Mountains

THREATENED SPECIES — Our big bears  need lots of room to roam, something that's in short supply in our ever-more-developed world.

 Grizzly bears in NW Montana face trio of obstacles
An estimated 45 grizzly bears reside in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem in the northwest corner of Montana. In most cases, their lineage traces back to a female grizzly from British Columbia that was trapped and released to the area in 1993 to boost the population. The effort continues as the species struggles with isolation from other populations, conflicts with humans and habitat.
—Missoula Independent

Fawn photo: Big-game birthing season underway

WILDLIFE WATCHING — “This is the first fawn we’ve seen this year – we took a couple quick images and moved on – mom was still working on having another one!” says Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Wildlife officials in Washington, Idaho and Montana all are issuing reminders to leave fawns alone if you find one.  Even though they may seem abandoned, it's normal for whitetail or mule deer does to stash their fawns motionless in a hiding spot for up to 8 hours before returning to feed.

Video: Moose gives birth to twins in backyard

WILDLIFE WATCHING — “Only in Alaska,” says Levi Perry in posting a YouTube video of a cow moose giving birth to twins —  in the backyard of his girlfriend's home on the east-side of Anchorage.

The video captured Sunday by Victoria Hickey and Sarah Lochner recaps the birth of one calf and the loving attention of the mother to clean up the youngster. Minutes later you realize that while she was tending to the first-born, she was nonchalantly giving birth to the second calf.

It only takes minutes for her to get them looking clean. The little ones waste no time testing their legs and moving in for dinner.

Tiz the season of renewal! Wildlife watching at its best.

Wyoming least tolerant of wolves among managing states

PREDATORS — Wyoming's bottom line is at the bottom.

Wyoming manages wolves to keep number near allowable level
Of the five states that are managing wolves—Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Michigan and Wisconsin, Wyoming has set its sights on keeping the number of wolves in the state at the bare minimum required to comply with federal rules.
—Jackson Hole News & Guide

OR-7 may have found a wolf mate

ENDANGERED SPECIES — OR-7, a wolf originally from northeast Oregon, may have found a mate in southwest Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reports.

In early May, remote cameras on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest captured several images of what appears to be a black female wolf in the same area where OR-7 is currently located.  The images were found by wildlife biologists when they checked cameras on May 7. 

The remote cameras were set up by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of ongoing cooperative wolf monitoring efforts.  New images of OR-7 were also captured on the same cameras and can be accessed and viewed at ODFW’s wolf photo gallery (see first three images).

“This information is not definitive, but it is likely that this new wolf and OR-7 have paired up.  More localized GPS collar data from OR-7 is an indicator that they may have denned,” said John Stephenson, Service wolf biologist. “If that is correct, they would be rearing pups at this time of year.” 

The Service and ODFW probably won’t be able to confirm the presence of pups until June or later, the earliest pup surveys are conducted, so as not to disturb them at such a young age.  Wolf pups are generally born in mid-April, so any pups would be less than a month old at this time.

If confirmed, the pups would mark the first known wolf breeding in the Oregon Cascades since the early 20th century.

Wolf OR7 is already well-known due to his long trek and his search for a mate—normal behavior for a wolf, which will leave a pack to look for new territory and for a chance to mate.  “This latest development is another twist in OR-7’s interesting story,” said Russ Morgan, ODFW wolf coordinator.

The Service and ODFW will continue to monitor the area to gather additional information on the pair and possible pups. That monitoring will include the use of remote cameras, DNA sample collection from scats found, and pup surveys when appropriate.

Wolves throughout Oregon are protected by the state Endangered Species Act.  Wolves west of Oregon Highways 395-78-95, including OR-7 and the female wolf, are also protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, with the Service as the lead management agency.

At the end of last year, there were 64 known wolves in Oregon.  Except for OR-7, most known wolves are in the northeast corner of the state.

About OR-7

OR-7 was born into northeast Oregon’s Imnaha wolf pack in April 2009 and collared by ODFW on Feb. 25, 2011.  He left the pack in September 2011, traveled across Oregon and into California on Dec. 28, 2011, becoming the first known wolf in that state since 1924. 

Other wolves have traveled further, and other uncollared wolves may have made it to California.  But OR-7’s GPS collar, which transmits his location data several times a day, enabled wildlife managers to track him closely.

Since March 2013, OR-7 has spent the majority of his time in the southwest Cascades in an area mapped on ODFW’s website.

Endangered species issues stacking up in West

WILDLIFE — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a heaping plate of critter issues to consider across the country, with some very high-profile portions centered in the West:

Western states worry that sage-grouse listing could curb economy
As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service mulls protection of sage grouse, western states have put in place their own plans to protect the species as there are concerns that federal measures could halt grazing, mining and energy development on sage-grouse habitat.
—Washington Post

A four-year study done by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks of sage grouse in Powder and Carter counties found that the species is doing well in the southeastern counties in areas well-used for grazing.
—Associated Press

USFWS mines public comments on wolf delisting for new data
Idaho U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson said he believed that if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decides not to remove wolves from the endangered species list, Congress will step in and give states more authority to manage wolves, while Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, who said he does not believe the federal agency relied on the best science when proposing to delist the species, said he said if Congress does decide to give states more management authority, it will be a political, not a scientific decision.
—Portland Oregonian

Federal judge in Montana orders USFWS to write Canada lynx plan
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy gave the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 30 days to submit its proposed recovery plan for the Canada lynx.
 —Missoulian

Mother’s Bad Day: Moose loses fight with wolves for calf

WILDLIFE WATCHING — I hope everyone had a great Sunday honoring the mothers in your family. But in the world of wildlife, it may not have been flowers and breakfast in bed.

Don't watch this video if you don't want to see one of the most sobering lessons in the natural order. 

I'm posting this video because it shows a wild side of motherhood: A cow moose fighting bravely for the life of her calf against impossible odds: a pack of five wolves. A pack's efficiency and teamwork is at once fascinating and terrifying

This is simply educational: not pro-wolf or anti-wolf.

It's just the way nature is in all its rawness.

Volunteers invited to Turnbull Refuge planting party

PUBLIC LANDS — Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge and Spokane Audubon Society will host a community work party 9 a.m.-noon on Saturday, May 10. This is part of an ongoing community effort to restore native riparian habitat to benefit birds and other wildlife species.

Hundreds of native saplings will be ready to plant, and fencing to build at the project site to protect the trees from deer, elk, and moose browsing. Everyone is welcome!

The Refuge will also host a potluck lunch.
  • Where: Turnbull NWR Headquarters, 5 miles south of Cheney on Cheney-Plaza Road: turn left on Smith Road and drive 2 miles on gravel road to headquarters.
  • Clothing: Long-sleeved shirt, work pants, sturdy boots or shoes, gloves.
  • Equipment: (If you can) shovels and pliers.

Wyoming wolf quota increase fires up debate

PREDATORS — Few of the dozens of outfitters and conservationists who showed up for a Wyoming Game and Fish Department wolf meeting Wednesday saw eye to eye, or approved of the status of the hunt, according to a report in the Jackson Hole Daily.

Wyoming Game and Fish is proposing to target 46 wolves this fall — 20 more than last year — in the state’s trophy game management area. Managers aim to bring the population of wolves in Wyoming’s jurisdiction down to near 160, wolf program biologist Ken Mills said.

Big-game hunting outfitters want more wolves killed. Wildlife-watching outfitters want more restrictions on hunting wolves that venture out of  Yellowstone Park.

Researchers play chicken with sage grouse radios

WILDLIFE — My Sunday Outdoors stories about the fascinating grouse species of the West were packed with information about these novel birds, but a ton of details litter the editing room floor, so to speak.

For example, before they placed GPS transmitters on valuable sage grouse released in Washington last month, Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists practiced and fine-tuned the fitting process on a chicken at the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area shop (photo above).

“The group learned how to place the GPS transmitter/harness assembly onto a bird, and adjust for proper transmitter location and harness tension,” said Juli Anderson, Northeastern Washington Wildlife Area Complex manager.

Elk Foundation funds Washington habitat projects

WILDLIFE – Nine counties in Washington have been granted nearly $180,000 for habitat projects and research from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. 

The 2014 grants will affect nearly 1,600 acres in Asotin, Cowlitz, Jefferson, King, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Pierce, Skamania and Yakima Counties.

 The money will boost local, state and federal programs for prescribed burns, forest thinning, meadow restoration, noxious weed treatments and other projects, said David Allen, RMEF president.

“We also committed considerable resources toward three different elk studies including one focused on determining the cause of hoof rot,” he said.

RMEF volunteers in Washington raised the money through banquets and activities.

 Since 1985, RMEF and its partners completed 521 different conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Washington.

Read on for the specific projects funded by the 2014 grants.

Moose in the garden? It happens

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A few years ago, I'd get several photos a week from readers sharing the sight of moose in their yards or on their walks or adventures.

Nowadays I get very few. The reason: moose sightings are almost common.

Phil Cooper of Idaho Fish and Game's Panhandle Region has a column this week with all sorts of details about moose and why the department sometimes will respond and remove a moose that's wandered into town — and why the staff sometimes just leaves them be.

Summary:  Don't be fooled by their calm demeanor — keep your distance!  And never provide food for moose.

Read on for the details from Cooper.

Researchers finding more wolverines

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Remote cameras, GPS monitoring and DNA testing continues to reveal more about one of the most secretive of North American carnivores.

Montana, Alberta researchers report result of wolverine study
A $1.7-million study begun in 2009 by Parks Canada, the Miistakis Institute in Calgary and the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University to survey the wolverine populations in mountain parks has been completed, with 64 different wolverines identified.
—Calgary Herald

Dandelion: The weed that feeds

WILDLIFE WATCHING — I was driving through Canada's Kootenay National Park in spring early in the morning one year when I spotted a black bear paralleling the highway in the vegetation along the road.  I stopped and watched. The bear walked for a quarter mile eating the blossoms off dandelions like a kid in a candy store.

A few days ago, I filled my second tag in Washington's spring gobbler hunt.  When I checked the crop of my tom, it was full of dandelion blossoms.  He'd been taking advantage of the spring bloom.

Dandelion's are the weed that feeds wildlife.

Video: sharp-tailed grouse mating dance inspired Native Americans

WILDLIFE WATCHING — In paying tribute to Washington's seven grouse species in my Sunday Outdoors feature stories, I mention that the mating display of the sharp-tailed grouse inspired some traditional dances of Native Americans.

See for yourself above.

Observe other grouse that inhabit Washington in the following videos:

Readers photos capture the outdoor moment

PHOTOGRAPHY — Readers have shown their talents, outdoor savvy, enthusiasm and good humor with the photos they've submitted to our Outdoors Reader Photos Page.

The flurry of squirrel photos triggered by the submission (above) by Phil Hough of Sandpoint was a hoot.

Check out all of the great photos here, and get ready for May!

Idaho spring bear hunting seasons underway

HUNTING — Here's a cue for hikers to wear colorful clothing — no black or brown.

Idaho's spring black bear hunting season opened April 15 throughout the Idaho Panhandle Region.

Season ending dates vary by unit.  In units 2, 3 and 5 the season closes May 15.  Units 1, 4, and 4A close May 31.  The higher elevation units close later with unit 6 open through June 30.  Units 7 and 9 close July 31.  Hunters may use a second bear tag and electronic calls in units 4, 6, 7 and 9 where bear numbers are higher and predation is depressing deer and elk numbers.

Only black bears may be hunted. Grizzly bears could be encountered throughout much of the Panhandle, but grizzlies are protected by state and federal law.

While grizzlies are most commonly found in big game unit 1, they may be found in any of the Panhandle hunting units. Several years ago, a grizzly showed up near Rose Lake in unit 4.  To get there it crossed through several big game units where grizzlies are very uncommon.

Also keep an eye out for this bear, as described by Idaho Fish and Game:

Last fall, a female grizzly collared in NW Montana crossed into Idaho big game unit 4.  This 16-18 year old bear then spent several weeks in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains. Apparently the area was not where she wanted to settle down for the winter, so she traveled toward the Silver Valley, crossed I-90 somewhere near Kingston or Pinehurst and made her way into the upper St Joe. She likely denned somewhere in the St. Joe drainage.

Her collar was programmed to automatically turn off for the winter to save battery power, so her exact den location is unknown.  

The collar is programmed to be back on now, but no signals have been detected.  The lack of a signal indicates she is likely still in her den. 

As she did not have cubs with her last fall, there is a good possibility she may have new cubs with her when she emerges.

Only the bear knows if she will move back toward Montana, or take up residence in the St. Joe country.  Because of the uncertainty of this bear’s next move, bear hunters should be aware that this (or another) grizzly could show up in any Panhandle big game unit.

IDENTIFICATION

Under field conditions, it can be very difficult to distinguish grizzly bears from black bears.  The mistaken shooting of grizzlies has been a significant factor limiting the recovery of grizzly bears in northern Idaho.

Grizzly bears have a hump on their shoulders, a dished face, longer claws on their front feet, and shorter more rounded ears than black bears.  

Size and color are not reliable features to identify the bears.   Black bears can be any color from black or brown to blonde; and, grizzlies can be so dark as to appear black.  A young grizzly can be smaller than an adult black bear and have a very small shoulder hump.

To prevent mistaken identity, bear hunters must learn to accurately identify black bears and distinguish them from grizzly bears in the wild, often in poor light conditions and possibly from long distances.

Bear spray is a good item to carry regardless of whether you're a hunter, hiker mushroom picker or anyone heading int North Idaho mountains.

Research has shown that bear spray is more effective and easier to use to deter a bear/human interaction than a firearm. 

Pregnant cow moose shot, left to rot in Benewah County

POACHING —The Idaho Fish and Game Department is looking for tips that might solve the case of a pregnant cow moose killed  along Penny Lane off Sanders Road about three miles north of Emida in Benewah County.

The cow that was carrying a fetus a little more than a month away from birth, department officials say. 

Conservation Officer Rob Morris said the moose was shot on the afternoon of April 22.  No meat was taken from the cow and there were no apparent indications that anyone made an effort to retrieve the animal.

“The person who did this took not only the cow moose from the people of Idaho, they also killed her unborn calf,” Morris said. 

If you have information about this or other wildlife crimes, contact the IDFG Panhandle Region Office, (208) 769-1414; or, contact Officer RMorris (208) 993-0283. 

  • The statewide Citizens Against Poaching hotline is (800) 632-5999.  

Spring showers bring out wildlife at snail’s pace

WILDLIFE WATCHING — This is what I get for sending my daughters to college in Western Washington, where rain brings out the wildlife.

What would you do in this situation? Bear spray or lemon-butter sauce?

Hunters missed shot at possible world record bighorn

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A massive bighorn sheep that died of natural causes and was later found by wildlife officials could be a new world record, according to the Missoula-based Boone and Crockett Club.

The ram was found in Alberta. The skull is in possession of provincial officials and will be entered into Boone and Crockett records on behalf of the citizens of Alberta.

“Many hunters are unaware that Boone and Crockett records include many found trophies,” said Richard Hale, chairman of the Club's Big Game Records Committee. “The main reason we keep records is to document conservation success. Although they aren't taken by hunters, found trophies are nonetheless an important gauge of outstanding habitat, strong recruitment of game animals into older age classes, sustainable harvest objectives and other elements of sound wildlife management. Picked-up trophies are an integral part of the conservation success story. Without them, the story is incomplete.”

Alberta biologists speculate the bighorn died in early summer 2013 at 10-1/2 years of age.

Boone and Crockett official measurers in Alberta taped the horns and alerted the Club they had totaled a preliminary green score that would exceed the current world record. That ram, also from Alberta, scored 208-3/8 B&C points and was taken in 2000.

Although Montana has been producing some tremendous rams in recent years, all Boone and Crockett world record bighorn sheep throughout history have come from Alberta.

The long-followed next procedural steps for certifying a new world record include an evaluation of an official score sheet (prepared after the required 60-day drying time) and photos, and officially entering the trophy into Boone and Crockett records. If all remains in order, the club will convene a special judge's panel to re-score the ram, confirm a final score and make a record determination.

An official announcement should follow within the next 90 days, said Hale.

Wyoming mule deer log longest migration

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A Wyoming herd of about 500 mule deer travels 50 miles from the Red Desert to the southern end of the Wind River Range, where it joins about 5,000 more deer to walk another 100 miles. It is the longest recorded mule deer migration in the world, according to the Wyoming Migration Initiative.

The research, presented today at the University of Wyoming in Laramie is more evidence to support the importance of migration corridors for the survival of our wildlife, a cause for future-wise wildlife and sportsmen's groups for years. 

“Migration corridors and habitats where big game animals rest and forage during migration are critical pieces in a complex habitat puzzle that is key to the health of populations of mule deer and other big game animals,” said Ed Arnett, director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Center for Responsible Energy Development. “If we do not safeguard all the pieces of that puzzle, including important habitats associated with migration, big game populations likely will decline and impact both our outdoor traditions and our hunting-based Western economy.”

The University of Wyoming's study and others like it will help point out the highest priority areas to target with conservation dollars for easements, habitat enhancement and other management  projects to best conserve these important areas for migration, he said.

  • The TRCP has proposed that the BLM should incorporate explicit language on big game migration corridors and associated habitats into its planning handbook to improve landscape planning and balance the needs of big game with energy development and other potential impacts

Birder counts woodies galore

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The sight of a wood duck will brighten anyone's day.  That's why Wayne C. Weber of Delta, British Columbia, is probably wearing sun goggles this week.  Here's his birding report from April 15 in northcentral Washington:

While birding in northern Okanogan County, I made a brief stop at Nighthawk, on the Similkameen River west of Oroville. From the bridge across the Similkameen, I noticed quite a few Wood Ducks in the river and perched on the banks, so I stopped to make an exact count. In three counts of the Wood Ducks, the number kept going up; my final count was 91 birds!  Most of these were perched along the riverbank from the bridge downstream for about 400 yards, and a small number were actually swimming in the river. There were about equal numbers of males and females.

This is easily the largest group of Wood Ducks I have ever seen in Washington. (The previous high count for Okanogan County in eBird was 20 birds!) Although I’m sure a few Wood Ducks breed along the Similkameen River backwaters near Nighthawk such as Champneys Slough, I suspect that this was a migratory concentration.  Whatever the reason for this aggregation of Wood Ducks, it was impressive!

Photo: five cougars near Newman Lake home

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Ken Vanden Heuvel got a big surprise when he checked out the photos on the trail cam that's pointed down the driveway of his Newman Lake-area home.

Check it out closely:  1, 2, 3, 4 — 5 cougars in one shot.

Time to keep the dog in the house!

  • Even more impressive is the photo I published in 2010 with the story about about the Wenatchee hunter who captured a pride of EIGHT mountain lions in ONE trail cam photo.  See the story and photo here.

Pheasants chicks available for raising, releasing

WILDLIFE – The Inland Northwest Wildlife Council will be distributing pheasant chicks to people who have facilities to raise 25 or more birds for around six weeks before releasing them into the wild.

 The council provides the day-old birds in lots of 25 and charges a fee to cover costs: 

  • 40 cents a hen
  • $2.25 for roosters
  • $1.50 for half roosters, half hens.

Starter feed is available, 50 pounds for $20.

The first shipment of chicks from Little Canyon Shooting Preserve in Peck, Idaho, will be April 29 and continue every Tuesday until late June, said program coordinator Larry Carey.

They will be available for pickup at the council office, 6116 N. Market.

Chicks must be reserved in advance: 328-6429.