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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Field reports: Extreme cold prompts refuge hunt restriction

HUNTING – Citing the extreme weather, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service closed part of the Whitcomb Unit of the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge to hunting early this season in order to protect waterfowl.

The partial closure started on Thursday, weeks before the end of the duck and goose hunting seasons.

Workers are knocking corn and other crops down in refuge fields to provide food for ducks and geese. Without a hunting closure this would create what’s known as a ‘baiting’ situation, agency officials say.

In Washington, it is illegal to hunt waterfowl in areas where food has purposely been provided.

The refuge is along the Columbia River in both Washington and Oregon.

“The unseasonable cold we’ve been experiencing is stressing wildlife,” said Lamont Glass, refuge manager. “Surveys of waterfowl in the area show that two-thirds are in poor condition. When it’s this cold, and with snow covering other food sources, waterfowl need additional resources in order to survive.”

Glass added, “any disruption in hunting is a difficult decision for us, but there is a crucial need to provide additional food sources for wildlife.”

This closure will impact approximately 2,000 acres of the Whitcomb Unit in Washington. The rest of the unit and all other hunting areas in the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge will remain open through the end of the season.

Ruling: keep drones away from orcas

WILDLIFE – Drones are to be regulated just like boats when it comes to protecting orcas, according Washington’s top legal official.

State law says “vessels and other objects” can’t come within 200 yards of an orca and that includes drones, Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in an opinion released on Friday.

Legislators most likely meant to include drones in the term ‘other objects,’ he said.

The case stems from Mercer Island photographer Douglas Shih, who was cited after using a drone to take pictures of orcas in the San Juan Islands last year.

The drone was 20-30 yards over a pod of whales, Fish and Wildlife Department police said.

Shih fought the ticket and won. He said the law didn’t specifically mention drones.

San Juan County Prosecutor Randy Gaylord asked the AG’s office for a clarification of the law.

Programs set by outdoors clubs

GROUPS – Outdoors-related programs presented by local clubs and open to the public this week include:

Birding Klamath Basin, by Suzanne Marshall, Tuesday at 7 p.m., at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey Rd. in Coeur d’Alene, for Coeur d’Alene Audubon.

Pollinators, by Jeanne Dammarell, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., at Riverview Retirement Center, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave., for Spokane Audubon.

Steelheading Central Washington, by Joe Rotter, Wednesday at 7 p.m., at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy, for Spokane Fly Fishers.

Snake River areas closed for work

WILDLIFE – Riparian habitat development to begin Monday at Rice Bar and Central Ferry habitat management units on the lower Snake River will require temporary closures in work areas, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operations officials.

Hunting will not be allowed in the areas. Maps showing temporary restricted zones will be at parking area kiosks.

The 40 acres of riparian plantings to occur at Central Ferry HMU and 20 acres at Rice Bar HMU mark the final stage of a multi-year effort to develop 200 acres of riparian habitat to meet the requirements of the Lower Snake River Fish and Wildlife Compensation Plan.

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