The number of bald eagles has nearly doubled since last week for their annual gathering to feast on kokanee spawning in the northeast corner of Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted 66 bald eagles Tuesday – 58 adults and eight immature birds – in the Wolf Lodge Bay area. That’s up from 34 eagles counted Dec. 10 during her weekly survey. Two weeks ago she counted 18.
Bald eagles traditionally show up from early November into January in search of spawning kokanee.
This year, the gathering has been slower to grow. On Dec. 16, 2013, Hugo counted 129 bald eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay area. The 2013 bald eagle count at Lake Coeur d’Alene peaked at 217 on Dec. 30.
Jim Fredericks, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager, said efforts to improve kokanee numbers and spawning in Lake Pend Oreille have attracted dozens of bald eagles, which avoided the lake 15 years ago when the kokanee population was nearly a bust. Granite Creek attracted swarms of spawners to the Bayview area.
“Spawning gravel was layered onto the lake bottom this year in Idlewilde Bay near the Farragut boat ramp and the kokanee found it in a big way,” said Andy Dux, Pend Oreille Lake fisheries project leader. “The shoreline is littered with thousands of kokanee carcasses.”
But more eagles are finding their way, per tradition, to Lake CdA, where the kokanee population continues to be healthy, Fredericks said.
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Help needed on elk poaching case
Washington Fish and Wildlife Police are asking the public for tips to help solve an elk poaching case in Pend Oreille County near Ione.
Around midnight on Dec. 2, a spike bull elk was unlawfully killed by someone using a spotlight and high-powered rifle at about milepost 2 on Sullivan Lake Road.
Contact Officer Severin Erickson on his cell phone at (509) 671-0086.
Poaching activity also can be reported by calling (877) 933-9847, or by emailing WDFW at reportpoaching @dfw.wa.gov.
Rewards totaling up to $1,000 are offered by the Fish and Wildlife Department and the Pend Oreille County Sportsmen’s Club.
Wildlife officials feeding deer
Washington wildlife officials are temporarily feeding deer to lure the animals from damaging orchards in the fire-scarred Pateros area. They say widespread feeding of Okanogan County mule deer is not needed at this time.
Last summer’s Carlton Complex fires – the largest in state history – scorched tens of thousands of acres of wildlife habitat, including some traditional mule deer winter ranges. But a mild, rainy fall has produced some of the best forage for deer in recent years, both inside and outside of the burn area, said Jim Brown, Department of Fish and Wildlife northcentral regional director.
Most deer are faring well so far thanks to mild weather and below-average snow cover, he said.
“Deer often concentrate during the winter near Pateros’ fruit tree orchards – independent of the effects of fire – and cause damage,” Brown said. “Until more deer fence is repaired, we are using feed to draw deer away from the orchards.”
In general, wildlife managers discourage the public from winter feeding of deer and other wildlife because it can harm the animals, said Kristin Mansfield, WDFW wildlife veterinarian. Deer, for instance, need to feed on many kinds of plants to maintain a nutritionally balanced diet. Mansfield noted that some well-intentioned people have been feeding deer fruits and grains.
“Fruit and grains are not a normal part of a deer’s diet at this time of year and can be extremely difficult for deer to digest,” Mansfield said, adding that a steady diet of such high-carbohydrate fare can elevate the animals’ stomach acid levels and cause serious illness and even death.
Nearly $10,000 raised last month by the Mule Deer Foundation through its Methow Valley chapter will be used locally for range restoration activities such as shrub plantings and re-seeding the area burned by the Carlton Complex Fire.
“The long-range forecast for this winter bodes well for these deer – above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation,” said Scott Fitkin, area wildlife biologist. “We are prepared to provide supplemental feeding, on an emergency basis, if extreme weather conditions develop.”
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