All posts by Andy Walgamott

OlyPen Senator Named Natural Resources Committee Chair

A state senator representing a fish- and wildlife-rich part of Washington — and who’s known to dangle a hook there — will head up the committee where WDFW-related issues come before lawmakers.

Sen. Kevin Van De Wege of Sequim was named the chair of Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks by fellow Democrats after last week’s special election in which they picked up a seat and became the majority party in the legislature’s upper chamber.

SENATOR KEVIN VAN DE WEGE REPRESENTS THE 24TH DISTRICT, WHICH ENCOMPASSES ALL OF THE OLYMPIC PENINSULA EXCEPT MASON COUNTY. (WASHINGTON LEGISLATURE)

Van De Wege, a firefighter, had been the ranking minority member in former Sen. Kirk Pearson‘s Natural Resources and Parks Committee, and was believed by observers to be interested in the chairmanship.

The senator, who was also a five-term state representative for the sprawling 24th District, enjoys fishing. A quick scan of his personal Facebook feed shows he and family members on the saltwater with bottomfish and salmon. And in March he was among those calling for a seven-day halibut season this year.

Through bills he’s sponsored, Van De Wege has shown an interest in regulating the fishing guide industry, particularly out-of-state entrants, and one he introduced earlier this year addressing Olympic Peninsula rivers led to WDFW’s ongoing meetings around the state on managing salmon and steelhead guiding.

Also this session, he twice voted against Senate Joint Memorial 8009, which called on Washington DC to expedite Puget Sound hatchery reviews.

The committee Van De Wege now heads is where many WDFW-related bills originate in the Senate, and the chair has the power to hold public hearings on them and determine if they advance. This past session, the agency’s fee increase package got zero traction with Pearson in charge. When Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island) was chair, he questioned WDFW’s 2012 lethal removal of the Wedge Pack and planned to hold hearings before election results changed the equation and Pearson came in.

Sen. John McCoy, the Tulalip Democrat who was also a member of Natural Resources & Parks, will sit alongside Van De Wege as the committee’s vice chair.

Van De Wege will also serve on Ways & Means and Health & Long Term Care Committees.

“These committees focus on major issues critical to all Washingtonians but particularly critical to 24th District residents,” he said of all his committee assignments in a press release. “I look forward to solving problems confronting residents of our district as well as prioritizing legislation that will lead to stronger households and communities across our state.”

More Details Emerge On Tractor Man, Alleged Elk Poacher, L.E. Response

The story of a man, his tractor and an alleged elk poacher and his truck has attracted a lot of attention since it was first reported on Facebook Monday morning.

Many cheered the actions of the Pierce County resident who used heavy equipment to push the Chevy parked on his land into some trees, disabling it.

TractorMan for Sheriff!!??” posted one person.

A neighbor who jumped on the thread filled in details about how long after hearing shots in the dark and calling 911 it was before help arrived, as well as the actions local residents took in the meanwhile.

(WDFW)

Today, it led Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers to post a “further clarification” to their initial report on the incident.

It provides information on how quickly state wardens were on the way to the scene once they learned about the incident, how the 16-year-old boy who allegedly shot a cow elk came to think he could do so, as well as apologies from WDFW for the overall slow response from law enforcement.

And it serves as a reminder about the overwhelming amount of country in Washington that the state’s 135 wildlife officers have to cover at all hours of the day.

To wit:

First and foremost, we apologize for the poor response from law enforcement – no one should fear being on their own property, and we take the threat of endangerment of the public’s safety very seriously.

Fish and Wildlife Police did not receive a 911 dispatch nor a formal request for help from County Officers. An online post on a local neighborhood group reported poaching occurring on their property. The reporting party read the post several hours later and called the officer on his personal cell phone. Officer Flowers was en-route within ten minutes of receiving the phone call and on scene within 30 minutes. Officer Prater being in the local area and in-service until midnight assisted officer Flowers. Both officers were in-service until 1am the following morning.

It is simply not true that we don’t work at night. What is true is that we have 135 people to serve 7 million people when they go into the outdoors…(i.e. our activity to protect resources and the public’s safety doesn’t just involve those that hold hunting and fishing licenses). There is no second shift when our folks sign out of service after a long day and we rely on dispatch centers to get the info to us.

The 16 year old who shot the cow elk and his grandfather are new to Washington State. The minor did have a North Carolina hunter Education card. The minor took bad advice from classmates that he could kill a cow elk. The case will be forwarded to the County Prosecutor. Charges could include, closed season poaching with fines and mandatory hunter education training. The landowner who used a tractor to total the 16 year old’s truck may face charges of malicious mischievous. The case is ongoing and has not been forwarded to the County Prosecutor. Keep in mind that there are a number of extenuating circumstances that will be considered in the final outcome.

Follow up will be taken to address this miscommunication from 911 dispatch, as we cannot respond if it is not dispatched to us.

Bottom line, it may pay to not only have 911 on your speed dial but also the number for your local, hardworking game warden.

Also, don’t be Tractor Man.

And never ever take something your classmates tell you at face value without checking it out yourself in this thing we call the hunting pamphlet.

OSP Looks For Tips On 3 Headless Blacktail Bucks Found Near Butte Falls

OSP PRESS RELEASE

The Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division in Central Point is asking for the public’s assistance in locating the persons responsible for the unlawful killing and waste of three black tail deer that were discovered just outside of Butte Falls. 

(OSP)

On Saturday, November 11, 2017, the Oregon State Police investigated three black tail deer that were dumped just outside of Butte Falls. Only the heads and some meat were taken. The deer appeared to be dead only a couple of days. Currently, there is an archery deer season in this unit. 

A reward is being offered by the Oregon Hunters Association through the Turn-in-Poachers (TIP) program for any information leading to an arrest in this or any other wildlife case. Callers can remain anonymous. The TIP program number is 1-800-452-7888

Anyone with any information is encouraged to contact either the TIP hotline or by calling Oregon State Police Dispatch at 541-776-6111

Another Ferry Co. Wolf Depredation, Another CBD Lawsuit

Usually Washington’s wolf world cools off as winter approaches. Not this fall.

WDFW this afternoon is reporting a second depredation in northern Ferry County this month just as an out-of-state environmental group has filed a second lawsuit against the agency this autumn.

As the kids like to say these days, let’s unpack these one at a time.

THE LATEST DEPREDATION — a dead calf — was discovered Nov. 8, six days after another calf was reported injured nearby.

Both attacks occurred on a local livestock producer’s fenced private land though in different locations.

NORTHEAST WASHINGTON HAS SEEN MORE DEPREDATIONS THIS FALL THAN PAST AUTUMNS.  (WDFW)

The dead calf was found as a cattle herd was being moved, and was tarped to preserve evidence.

The next day, WDFW determined it to be a confirmed depredation, based on bite marks, signs of struggle, wolf tracks and the injured calf.

The two depredations follow on the heels of another rancher catching a wolf in the act of attacking their stock in late October and killing it, which is legal in this part of Washington.

That wolf was killed less than 3 miles from where the dead calf was found, according to state wolf managers.

Even with two confirmed attacks in less than 30 days, it’s unclear what pack may be to blame should state gunners be authorized for lethal removals. Reporting on the injured calf earlier this month, WDFW said that attack occurred outside known ranges.

“The producer checks on the cattle multiple times every day during feedings,” the agency noted in today’s update. “The producer has also used range riders periodically this year and last year. The producer removes sick or injured cattle from the area. The producer also received locations of nearby collared wolves via WDFW’s Sensitive Wildlife Data Sharing Agreement.”

In October, there was a confirmed depredation in Stevens County by the Smackout Pack. In previous years, livestock attacks have mostly occurred in June, July, August and September.

AS FOR THAT LAWSUIT, it was filed by the Center For Biological Diversity in Thurston County Superior Court against WDFW over public records.

The Arizona-based organization is trying to get ahold of details on the June caught-in-the-act shooting of a wolf by a Stevens County ranchhand, as well as information on the removal of much of the Profanity Peak Pack of northern Ferry County in 2016 for a series of depredations.

“The public has every right to know how and why wolves are being killed in Washington,” CBD’s Amaroq Weiss said in a press release. “Wolves are still in a fragile state in Washington. It’s frustrating that state wildlife officials won’t come clean with the full details on these lethal operations.”

It’s the outfit’s second lawsuit in two months, following on one in late September trying to stop lethal removals, and it “disappointed” instate wolf advocates.

“While this group spends money on lawyers and undermines Washington’s collaborative wolf policy process, Conservation Northwest funds range riders and on-the-ground field staff working to protect both wolves and livestock,” said spokesman Chase Gunnell. “Balanced coexistence, not courtroom wrangling, is the best path for long-term wolf recovery. We firmly believe that sitting down with other wildlife stakeholders to create common-ground policies and win-win solutions is far more effective than divisive lawsuits.”

While both organizations are listed as members of Pacific Wolf Coalition, CNW has a seat on WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group while CBD does not. The former is typically more in tune with on-the-ground realities in Washington’s wolf world than the latter, which attempts to paint the population as “fragile,” even as numbers increase year over year as more arrive from Canada, elsewhere in the Lower 48 and instate packs multiply and split.

“WDFW can’t comment at this point, since neither we nor our attorneys have had the opportunity to review the complaint,” said agency spokesman Bruce Botka.

Man Takes Out Alleged Elk Poacher’s Truck With Tractor

Don’t try this at home, kids.

Washington game wardens report a man on a tractor shoved the truck of an alleged elk poacher trespassing on his property downhill into some trees Saturday evening.

(WDFW)

The incident occurred in Pierce County after nightfall, and began with Officers Dennis Flowers and Justin Prater responding to a call about an active poacher.

“The first thing that Officer Flowers observed when he arrived in the area was a bit out of the ordinary,” WDFW officers reported on Facebook. “He witnessed a man on a tractor ram into the back of a parked pickup truck. The man on the tractor pushed the truck down an embankment into the tree line.”

The guy turned out to be the landowner who allegedly had taken “it upon himself to disable the poacher’s vehicle, which he totaled,” officers wrote.

As for said wildlife scofflaw, officers say a 16-year-old neighbor boy accompanied by his grandfather killed a cow elk during a closed season.

“Don’t be a tractor man,” says WDFW Deputy Chief Mike Cenci. “On one hand, I get it, but holy smokes.”

Officers instead urge anyone who sees a poaching in progress to call 911, while for nonemergency situations, they should call 1-877-933-9847.

Baker, Skokomish Sockeye Issues Raised With Washington Fish Commission

Sockeye issues are boiling to a head in Western Washington.

Sportfishing representatives went to the Fish and Wildlife Commission in late October to ask for a more equitable share of one river’s salmon.

And they expressed opposition to the use of eggs from those fish so a tribe elsewhere can try and jumpstart a run but in the meanwhile are blocking recreational fishermen from accessing state hatchery-raised Chinook and coho.

A SIGN POSTED ALONG THE SKOKOMISH RIVER BY THE SKOKOMISH TRIBE WARNS ANGLERS AWAY FROM THE BANKS AS 2016’S RETURN OF CHINOOK TO THE STATE HATCHERY FILLED THE RIVER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“This egg transfer program needs to be put on hold until the sportfishing harvest inequities for the Baker Lake sockeye run is addressed and the sport salmon fishery is reestablished on the Skokomish River,” Al Senyohl of the Steelhead Trout Club of Washington told the commission in late October. “What’s missing here in the whole equation is opportunity — opportunity for us to get our fair share on the Skagit River and opportunity for us to fish on the Skokomish River.”

Ultimately, Senyohl and others are trying to use whatever leverage they can to get more state focus on reopening the Skokomish, which was closed in 2016 and this year, and where some 35,000-plus surplus Chinook have returned to WDFW’s George Adams Hatchery this fall.

Fishing advocate Frank Urabeck reports that with the Skokomish Tribe having harvested 55,000 Chinook this year, he figures that if the river had been open, anglers might have caught as many as 15,000.

The Baker sockeye eggs come from several hundred fish captured at Puget Sound Energy’s Baker River trap and are part of a broader, longterm enrichment of salmon runs in southern Hood Canal as Tacoma Power updates their dams there.

But anglers are leery that they will ever be able to access those fish following on the Skokomish’s use of a federal solicitor’s opinion to take over the entire width of the river.

“Why are we rewarding a neighbor who is behaving badly? Why?” asked Norm Reinhart of the Kitsap Poggie Club. “I understand that the (sockeye) may not belong to WDFW, but we most certainly are supporting that transfer with our science and our staff. Why are we doing that?”

(For the state’s position, go here.)

It has angler advocates looking around for options.

“We’re going to have to play hardball again,” Ron Garner, state president of Puget Sound Anglers, told the commission.

Back up on the Skagit River, as sockeye runs have increased to the Baker in recent years, North Sound tribes and recreational anglers have benefited, but in two of the past four summers, there’s been a sharp harvest inequity in favor of the former fishermen.

That’s due to returns that have come in lower than preseason forecasts. While tribes fish to that forecast, it can mean far fewer sockeye are hauled up to Baker Lake, a prime sportfishing opportunity.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife staff outlined several possible ways to address that for the commission.

One idea is to use a Columbia River spring Chinook-like 30 percent run buffer before an inseason run update, but the agency appears hesitant to do that because of perceived tribal pushback because of potentially not being able to harvest their share.

Staffers appear to prefer improving run modeling and increasing the sport fishing area on the Skagit River to better balance the harvest.

But Urabeck wanted the commission to get involved.

“Given the complexity, seriousness of the situation, and inability so far for the Department to adequately address the harvest imbalance issues, we ask that the commission have your Fish Committee work with us and the department to achieve the cooperation of the affected Skagit Basin tribes to secure harvest fairness and equity,” Urabeck asked commissioners. “It might be appropriate to have the Fish Committee also take a look at the implementation plan for the transfer of Baker sockeye eyed eggs to the Skokomish Tribe’s Salt-water Park Sockeye Hatchery. We ask that you also could encourage (WDFW) Director (Jim) Unsworth and Governor (Jay) Inslee to renew their efforts with the Skokomish Tribe to allow Skokomish River sport salmon fishing to resume in 2018.”

Members of the Fish Committee include Vice Chair Larry Carpenter, Bob Kehoe, Dave Graybill and Kim Thorburn.

At least two expressed interest in taking some of the issues up. Carpenter noted that without other fishing opportunities on the Skagit in recent years, sockeye’s all that anybody — tribal and recreational alike — have really had.

Next Thursday, November 16, Tacoma Power is hosting a public meeting on Skokomish River salmon restoration. It will be held at the Cushman Fire Hall (240 North Standstill Drive) and begins at 6 p.m

From Very Low To Very High: Idaho Sportsman Wins NW Salmon Derby Series Boat

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE NORTHWEST MARINE TRADE ASSOCIATION

Gary March of Worley, Idaho, had hit a low point in his life while on a recent mule deer hunting trip at Fort Peck Reservoir in northeastern Montana.

“I was in an area that didn’t have cell phone coverage, and nine miles from the boat launch when I lost control of my truck and boat, and went off a 30-foot embankment,” March said. “There was a little damage to the boat, but the truck is totaled. It took me a few days to get the trailer fixed before I could get it home.”

GARY MARCH IS THE WINNER OF THE 2017 NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES GRAND PRIZE BOAT, THIS 22-FOOT HEWESCRAFT OCEANPRO, HONDA MOTORS AND MORE. (NMTA)

While waiting for repairs in Jordan, Montana, he sat in his hotel room, and noticed three voicemails on his cell phone that lifted his emotions.

Those calls were coming from Karsten McIntosh with the Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA). McIntosh had great news: March’s name had been randomly drawn on Nov. 5 at the Everett No-Coho Blackmouth Derby from more than 4,000 anglers following the conclusion of the 2017 West Marine Northwest Salmon Derby Series.

McIntosh had notified March that he had won the grand prize, a fully-equipped 22-foot Hewescraft OceanPro aluminum boat with Honda motors and trailer valued at around $85,000.

And this is where the story gets interesting since the boat that slipped off the side of a remote road along the fifth largest artificial lake in the U.S. was also a 22-foot Hewescraft OceanPro!

“(McIntosh) called me, told me I won a boat and I said you’ve got to be kidding me,” March said. “My emotions were pretty low at the time, and then I was right back on top. I had a pretty big swing of emotions at that moment.”

Call it divine intervention or fate, but according to March, everyone has always called him “Lucky” his whole life and winning this beautiful boat definitely sealed the deal!

March’s name was entered into the derby series drawing after fishing in The Big One Salmon Derby on Lake Coeur d’Alene in northern Idaho on July 26-30.

“I had a really slow tournament this summer, and have fished it for over 20 years with my wife Claire,” said March. “This was the first time I fished the tournament after a few years off.”

March, who lived most of his life in Spokane, had just retired back in March after a 45-year career with White’s Boot Company in Spokane.

The boat is the 14th grand prize boat, motor, and trailer package that has been given away since the Series was created in 2004. This year’s Hewescraft 220 OceanPro boat is powered by a 250-horsepower Honda and a 9.9-horsepower Honda trolling motor, on an EZ Loader tandem axle trailer. The boat came fully-equipped with top-of-the-line extras including Raymarine electronics, Scotty Downriggers, and a Dual Electronics stereo.

“How exciting for Gary to win this fully-loaded boat, and I can’t wait to see him out on the water at Coeur d’Alene next summer,” said Mark Yuasa, who coordinates the Northwest Salmon Derby Series and chatted with the “Lucky” derby winner. “There was nothing more thrilling than to hear how happy he was after winning this impressive fully-geared fishing boat.”

The West Marine Northwest Salmon Derby Series is a fishing promotion program directed by the NMTA that encourages boating and fishing in the Northwest. In 2017, the Series included 14 derbies in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia, Canada. For each derby an angler competes in, they get one entry into the drawing for the grand prize boat held at the final derby in the Series.

Now that March is retired and has a new home on Lake Coeur d’Alene he plans to make good use of the boat and hopefully eclipse his best chinook catch of 24.9 pounds on the expansive 25-mile lake.

“I’m retired and with this waterfront home on the lake and now the owner of a new boat, I will definitely be fishing this derby every summer,” he said with excitement.

For more information on the West Marine Northwest Salmon Derby Series, visit www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com.

The Buck

Editor’s note: This morning I received the following text from a buddy out in the woods in search of a bruin or wapiti but who ran into another critter he likes to hunt.

By Eric Bell

It starts with a sound.

Deer season in my unit has come to end but I find myself up here this morning pursuing other game. Mainly it’s for the exercise, but there’s always a chance of coming home with a bear or elk.

A RUTTY BUCK RUNS THROUGH A STREAM. (TERRY WIEST)

I passed another hunter on my way up, both of us exchanging pleasantries and cursing at the steep climb we have just made. He’s after bear and is not too familiar with the area, so I give him directions on where to try since I’m going further back.

Now I near an abandoned spur road that holds a lot of memories and personal history — losing a machete as well as a slip-on recoil pad on my rifle. The brush is thick.

I hear a noise. I know what it is. It’s the same sound I wanted to hear during my unsuccessful deer season that ended 10 days ago.

A part of me wants to see what materializes out of the brush and another part is reluctant.

This time I don’t prepare my rifle or binoculars. I don’t drop down to my knees. I don’t unholster my revolver.

I can’t. Season is over. So I stand there and do the only thing I can. Watch.

Sure enough, two gray bodies filter through the brush.

First is a doe, and hot on her heels is a magnificent four-point buck.

She spots me and blows her warning. He doesn’t care. He’s interested in only one thing and it isn’t me.

Both stand below me at 15 yards and I can’t take my eyes off of him. Seeing a mature blacktail buck in rut in his realm is an amazing sight.

His scent is strong as his odor reaches me. I’m in awe and I’m cursing him at the same time. Where were you hiding 10 days ago?

I slowly get my camera ready to take some pics, but the doe doesn’t like the movement and she starts to walk off. The buck isn’t going to let her get away. He pursues.

Two gray bodies moving through the brush.

I continue on further back.

It all started with a sound.

OSP Looking For Tips On Poached Starkey Buck

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON STATE POLICE FISH AND WILDLIFE DIVISION

The Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division is asking for the public’s help in locating the subjects who shot and left to waste a mature mule deer buck in the Starkey Wildlife Management Unit in Union County.

(OSP)

On Saturday October 28th, 2017 an elk hunter notified Oregon State Police that he had located the carcass of deer. Senior Trooper Kris Davis responded to the scene to investigate. It is believed the deer was killed on the evening or night of Thursday October 27th or the morning of Friday October 28th. During this time the 1st season Rocky Mountain elk season was open. Only the antlers and skull cap were removed from the deer, all of the meat was left and was wasted. The deer was killed off the 21 road, 500 and 410 spurs. This location is near Dark Canyon, west of the Spring Creek area off I-84 outside of LaGrande.

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Senior Trooper Kris Davis at the LaGrande Patrol Office, 541-805-4757. Callers can also stay anonymous by calling the Turn In Poachers (TIP) hotline at 1-800-452-7888.

WDFW Reports Ferry Co. Rancher Shot, Killed Wolf Attacking Livestock; Confirms Calf Injured Nearby By Wolf

THE FOLLOWING IS A WDFW WOLF UPDATE

On October 27, 2017, a livestock producer saw one wolf in the act of attacking their livestock on private grazing lands in Northern Ferry County. The producer shot and killed the wolf, and reported the incident to WDFW. WDFW Enforcement investigated the producer’s action and found it to be consistent with state regulations. In areas of Washington where wolves are not listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, WAC 220-440-080 states the owner of domestic animals (or an immediate family member, agent, or employee) may kill one gray wolf without a permit issued by the WDFW director if the wolf is attacking their domestic animals. The incident occurred outside any known pack territories and the wolf killed was an unmarked adult female.

A WASHINGTON WOLF TAKES A LOOK AROUND. (WDFW)

On November 2, 2017 WDFW was contacted by a different livestock producer in Ferry County about an injured calf that was discovered less than three miles from where the unmarked female wolf was killed under caught-in-the-act authority. A WDFW contracted range rider heard that there was a possible injured calf a day prior, but the calf could not be located at that time. Once the calf was found, it was taken to a holding pen for the investigation. The Ferry County Sheriff and WDFW management staff were notified of the pending depredation investigation as per the Wolf-Livestock Interaction Protocol. A Ferry County Officer was also in attendance for the depredation investigation.

The calf had injuries to both rear flanks and on both rear legs between the pin and hocks. Injuries on the rear flanks included bite lacerations and puncture wounds. Hemorrhaging was noted near bite lacerations in all four locations. After the wound was cleaned and dead tissue was removed, significant hemorrhaging was noted inside the wound, specifically around the wound margins. After a field examination of the injuries to the calf, it was determined to be a Confirmed Wolf Depredation. The determination was based on evidence and recent wolf activity in the area. Repeated reports from the producer and WDFW contracted range rider included recent wolf howls, tracks, scat, and cattle grouping behavior in the pasture where the injured calf was located. Information on the use of deterrence measures will be provided in our