Category Archives: Editor’s Blog

More On Pronghorn Capture

A pair of news articles on the Jan. 15 capture of 100 Nevada pronghorns and shipment back to Washington’s Yakama reservation hit the Internet this weekend — as did killer videos of actual capture moments.

While tribal officials remain mum on the whole situation, Rich Landers of the Spokane Spokesman-Review and Scott Sandsberry of the Yakima Herald-Republic pieced together articles after talking with a variety of sources, including Glenn Rasmussen of Safari Club International’s Central Washington Chapter, and to whom we spoke to for our piece last Monday.

Part of Rich’s article and four pics can be found at the paper’s Web site. All of the words have been posted at Hunting Washington, and the Seattle PI picked up the story.

It appears that all of Scott’s piece plus two images from Nevada Department of Wildlife are available online.

For video, check out these two links posted by mrmaddiesdad on YouTube.

SCREEN GRAB FROM SECOND VIDEO OF NEVADA ANTELOPE CAPTURE. (MRMADDIESDAD/YOUTUBE)

The second video captures the amazing fluidity of the pronghorns moving through the sage — like tawny water.

Calling BS On A Wolf Story

Wolves!

They’re driving me nuts!!

Actually, it’s not so much the wolves as it is wolf people.

Specifically those who want to have assloads of them to romp in the daisies with and to hell with how the locals feel about it; and those who come up with utter bullshit stories about ravening 250-pound Canadian werebeasts being released willy-nilly around Washington.

As a hunter, I’m more worried about the latter camp, however.

As wolf populations continue to grow, our rabidly howling fringe has the potential to drag the reputation of sportsmen as a whole down with it and break bridges with wildlife-oriented groups that we otherwise share common goals with, namely protecting habitat and having lots of critters in the woods.

Since reading it in the preface to E. Donnall Thomas’ fantastic book, How Sportsmen Saved The World, my motto has become, “When wildlife advocates work together, wildlife wins; when they bicker, they lose.”

If we let those of us who spout lies about wolves, threaten to shoot legislators because the state can’t do anything about federal protections, or allegedly poach elk while preaching that Canis lupus is the enemy, control the campfire, it’s going to go out in the future for want of company.

AND NOW FOR THE OBLIGATORY I-ain’t-a-wolf-lover/hugger/apologist statement to assure the foaming folks that, although I’m a defender of wildlife, I am most definitely not a member of Defenders of Wildlife.

I am not a wolf lover, wolf hugger or wolf apologist.

I wish wolves had remained north of the 49th Parallel.

I wish they weren’t in the same valley that I’ve hunted deer in for the past decade and a half.

But they are, and that’s how it is.

Just like moose showing up all over Eastern Washington and Northeast Oregon from their Idaho strongholds, mountain goats wandering from the Beaver State’s Elkhorns clear across the Columbia to the Mt. Adams area, wolves have legs too and they like to wander, and what the hell can you do to stop them from crossing lines on a map?

Legally.

And since I am a law-abiding sportsman — as are the vast majority of us — you won’t even hear me telling the very stale joke, “Those aren’t wolves, boys, those are just real big coyotes, and coyote season’s open, yuck, yuck, yuck.”

FOR WHATEVER REASON, we in the media gravitate like flies to poop to the loudest, shrillest voices in the tiniest of minorities, overlooking the quiet, moderate middle ground.

Guilty. As. Charged.

Some of it is to “stand up for the little guy” — a good idea in many instances — but how long before guys like “Wolfbait” at a popular hunting board pop up as “Concerned Local Hunter” on the evening news spewing their factless stories?

Because it really is only a matter of time that one of the reporters from the revolving door that is KOMO News drives over the pass and knocks on Wolfbait’s door and sticks a mic in his face and thinks he/she has the scoop of his/her life — and then all of us hunters suddenly look like kooks?

This week Wolfbait is continuing to peddle his illicit Twisp wolf release tale.

(You can replace the word “malamute” with “wolves” below because someone in the thread above Wolfbait’s post suggested that canids seen in cages elsewhere in the state might actually have been, say, sled dogs.)

In 09 when the WDFW released malamutes in the Methow Valley, less than a mile from down town Twisp I might add, we had malamutes sightings and malamute problems all summer long. The malamutes were killing chickens and a cow and her calf, we even have pictures of these malamutes in town. Funny after winter came the malamutes disappeared, and we haven’t seen any malamutes around town since. Some who know wolves, er malamutes say that after these critters were released they didn’t know where to go so they hung around where they were released and then when winter came they dispersed.

Wolfbait and his story first began to pop up in May 2009, which wasn’t too long after a dead cow was discovered on the Golden Doe Wildlife Area above Twisp. A local rancher says he saw two wolves by the carcass. Tracks of coyotes, ravens and dogs were also around it, but a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service agent couldn’t tell what had killed it. Then, by July, someone going by the name of Longshot — who may or may not be Wolfbait by a different name — was spreading the wolf-release story on a Methow Valley community bulletin board.

Wolfy made his latest malamute/wolf allegations in a thread asking about releases near Mt. St. Helens.

Since a June 2010 article in a Lewis County paper about WDFW’s wolf management plan and one man’s comments in that piece that, if it’s ever approved, wolves could theoretically be translocated to the flanks of the volcano, the land of Bigfoot has apparently also become the land of sneaky state biologists trucking in wolves to reduce the elk herd.

Never mind that we hunters have been providing that service for free to the cash-strapped agency the past several years since WDFW began giving us more opportunities to help trim the St. Helens herd to better match the available habitat.

And the agency’s been working with Weyerhaueser to open up hundreds of thousands of acres of their woods to us.

AND making money off of us through general and permit hunting license fees.

Talk about crafty bastards!

As the St. Helens wolf story goes, a guy’s buddy heard something on a local talk radio station a few days before and … well, pretty soon someone with “credible” sources inside WDFW reported that the agency is indeed gonna turn loose hordes of packs inside Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument to eat up the elk.

Of … course.

As if there is some sort of holding facility somewhere stocked with wolves that Harriett Allen or Ed Bangs can call up and place an order any ol’ time.

“And will you be paying for your two large Canadian wolf packs, one medium-sized pack plus four loners with a credit or debit card?”

Never mind all that red tape that actually keeps government from doing anything that fast.

Like doing a study to make sure that the habitat is suitable for wolves and they’re not compounding one wildlife problem with another.

Or holding public meetings in the area.

Or writing up a draft management plan.

And then having a public comment period on the plan.

And then rewriting it.

And then getting the Fish & Wildlife Commission to sign off on it.

Hell, WDFW’s been working on their wolf plan since 2007, and it’s STILL three-quarters of a year away before the commission looks at it.

And even then state environmental policy act, or SEPA, studies will have to be done before any wolves are loaded into crates and actually released.

Never mind all that, because it just doesn’t fit into the narrative of sneaky/greenie biologists hell-bent on killing hunting as we know it.

BUT TWO MORE LUDICROUS STORIES of the big bad wolf being loosed in Southwest Washington sure do.

One has it that 25 were parachuted into Weyerhaueser lands west of I-5 “to help eliminate elk and deer which were feeding on young trees the timber companies planted.”

Never mind that liberalizing deer and elk seasons would have accomplished the same thing for the timber company.

And Weyco wouldn’t have had to pay a penny for chopper pilot time.

Another story, related to me via email last year, is of 10 wolves spotted in the woods outside Pe Ell in 1995.

I don’t know what the emailer really saw, but I don’t think that two wolves somehow managed to find their way to the Willapa Hills, discovered true love, raised a litter and then completely disappeared off the face of the earth without being seen by anyone else except the emailer. It just doesn’t pass the smell test.

The Willapa Hills are not deepest darkest Central Idaho.

They are not close to the Canadian border whatsoever.

They are a low mountain range shot through with logging roads on the other side of a major metropolitan area as well as at least two interstates and several U.S. highways.

A story that fantastic would surely have caught the attention of even the laziest reporter at the Aberdeen, Centralia or Longview papers, and then made it into the Seattle Times where it could be dredged out of its much-searched-for-wolf-news archives as proof that the Lookout Pack wasn’t the first pack in the state in 70 years.

When I tried to jar the longtime Willapa Hills wildlife biologist’s memory about the episode, he hadn’t the foggiest idea of what the hell I was talking about.

He probably now has my work number on call block.

His counterpart to the east of I-5 did have a very cloudy recollection that at some point in the 1990s there was a group of animals that were hanging out in the Mt. Adams area one fall and winter. Two or three were shot, one or two died. He figures they were dog-wolf hybrids because of the way they hung around a campground.

Do wild wolves hang around campgrounds?

I’m no expert, but maybe if they did, Idaho hunters would have had a better wolf hunt last winter instead of failing to meet the quota by a couple dozen animals.

And did wild wolves hang around Twisp hassling chickens in summer 2009, like Wolfbait asserts?

I’m no expert, but if they did, maybe a search of the Methow Valley News‘ Web site for “chickens Twisp wolf” would have turned up more than one result — a dead-of-winter 2010 interview with the owner of the Red Cedar Bar whose grandparents lived up Wolf Creek and had a mess of hens.

I was once a weekly news reporter and for the life of me, I cannot imagine that the folks at the paper — which is based in Twisp — would not have been all over the story of a clandestine wolf release gone horribly awry …

“TWISP–The bloody mauling of a Rhode Island red nicknamed ‘Henny’ behind the Antlers Tavern at Twisp and Glover last Tuesday evening has revealed a state plot to seed Okanogan County with hundreds — maybe even thousands — of gray wolves.

“Bloody paw prints from the scene of the attack lead straight back to the headquarters of the Methow Wildlife Area, where reporters for this newspaper surprised a half-dozen WDFW employees bottle-feeding wolf cubs …”

SOME SPORTSMEN HAVE HAD ENOUGH of Wolfbait’s claim that he has proof wolves have been released all over the state. They’ve been demanding factual evidence, but Wolfy hasn’t produced any so far.

He instead promises some sort of documentary that’s coming out sometime soon and we’ll all just have to wait to see the mountain of evidence that’s been amassed.

Since it apparently will talk about the Methow Valley, where I hunt deer and obsessively report on, I’ll watch it.

Will it gel with what the biologists tell me?

I doubt it, because the biologists aren’t to be trusted, after all.

That’s because in the back of many hunters’ minds is Lynxgate.

As the first act of the story goes, in the late 1990s WDFW, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Forest Service folks hell bent on locking up the woods for the little kitties slipped some bobcat and tame lynx hair into samples sent to a lab for DNA tests. An alert reporter at the Washington Times caught wind and the rascals were caught red-handed.

Eco-fraud exposed!

However, Act two, which hardly anyone sticks around for, shows that the bios actually were suspicious that lab workers couldn’t tell lynx fur from Lulu-Belle hair, and they were right.

End. Of. Story.

But never mind that, because it doesn’t fit the narrative.

Nor will coming news that WDFW actually wasn’t trying to block the return of Nevada antelope to Washington.

UNASKED FOR, I GOT SOME ADVICE earlier this week from someone who has read almost everything that’s been reported on wolves the past few years.

He said:

“What I see is a lot of time spent debating wolves as a surrogate for states’ rights and animal rights (fringe issues). There is a lot of survey data that suggests most people are happy to have wolves managed like other species; the problem is that the folks in the middle are silent on the issue while those on the extremes of the debate drive the rhetoric, polarizing what should be a non-issue. From a practical standpoint, wolves have been extremely divisive in the West, which doesn’t serve conservation well at all.

I hope you folks in Washington have a better go of it than your friends to the East.”

I also hope that.

And as hunters, I hope that we continue to pay attention, inform ourselves and participate in all things wolfish. We have a lot of valid concerns that need to be addressed.

But wild tales of wolves illicitly released at the doorstep is not one of them.

WA Wolf Bills ‘Spectacular In Their Awfulness’

A spokeswoman for an organization working on wolf, wildlife and wildland issues in Washington is panning a trio of Canis lupus-related bills introduced in Olympia last week.

“They are spectacular in their awfulness and in the way they distort the truth,” says Jasmine Minbashian of Bellingham-based Conservation Northwest about House Bills 1107, 1108 and 1109, which we reported on yesterday.

She predicts a quick death for them.

One of her coworkers, Derrick Knowles, a Spokane hunter, is among the 17 members on the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Wolf Working Group which since 2007 has helped shape the state’s draft wolf management plan.

It is expected to be finalized this year, but under HB 1109, would first have to come to the Legislature for approval. If lawmakers give it a thumbs down, it would have to go back to WDFW for revisions.

“Never in history has the state legislature been required to approve a recovery plan for an endangered species,” says Minbashian. “Eleven-oh-nine would allow politics to interfere with science and collaborative decision-making – making the problem worse not solving it.”

In a sense, the bill echoes what happened at the national level last fall when several Congressmen introduced legislation to remove wolves from the endangered species list after the animals were put back under federal protections throughout the Northern Rockies in August, and in Idaho in the early 2000s when the Legislature washed the Department of Fish & Game’s hands of wolves. Management was then turned over to the Nez Perce tribe.

HB 1107 would require the state Department of Health to work with WDFW and the state vet to “implement a program to detect, interdict, and assess the epidemiological consequences of diseases that may afflict or may be carried by wolves and the actual and potential impact of wolves’ role in such diseases upon human health in the state,” as well as identify people whose jobs or lifestyles might put them at higher risk to the illnesses.

Minbashian says it “unnecessarily stirs up fears about wolves and disease, not to mention wasting money.”

Fears of one that 1107 would screen for, hydatid disease, have been fanned in the past but seem to have calmed down of late. Ed Bangs, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s lead for wolves in the region, has told me you basically have to eat the poo of infected animals to catch it.

“Good hygiene and simple precautions will greatly reduce or even eliminate the risk,” says Minbashian. “But creating a big government program is overkill and, frankly, a tactic to scare people.”

As for 1108, in Minbashian’s reading, it would:

“Circumvent a four-year, collaborative process to develop a balanced, scientifically based wolf management plan for Washington;

“Challenge the authority of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect wolves in Washington and make it virtually impossible for the state to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on wolf recovery;

“Support wolf poaching by prohibiting the citation or arrest of anyone who illegally kills a wolf.”

The bill sets the wolf population bar at 150 and would also tie Washington’s management to how successful deer and elk hunters are over three-year periods.

“It makes the entirely false and outrageous claim that wolves are having a negative impact on deer and elk populations in Washington without any factual evidence to back it up,” Minbashian says. “According to recent reports it seems like big game populations (and hunter success rates) in Washington are as high as ever – especially in Northeast Washington where we know we have wolves.”

Wolves have also been in the Methow Valley since at least 2008, but preliminary data from a voluntary hunter checkpoint and state stats show that hunters here have also enjoyed the best seasons since 2005 in recent years.

However, in some parts of Montana and Idaho, elk hunter success rates have plummeted since wolves were reintroduced in the mid-1990s, though many herds also remain at or above management goals.

“Overall, I think these bills will die a quick death in the legislature. There’s just not the public support out there for this kind of radicalism,” Minbashian says.

She points to a 2009 mail survey of 4,183 Washington residents that, according to a draft posted on WDFW’s site, found 74.5 percent were in favor of allowing wolves to recolonize on their own, 65.9 percent were in favor of killing wolves that kill livestock, 69.8 percent were in favor of limiting wolves in areas where they were heavily impacting game herds, and 63.5 percent were in favor of wolf hunts once state recovery goals were met.

However, over 50 percent were against compensating ranchers for cow, sheep and other animal losses.

“The sad thing is that the sponsors don’t realize how good our wolf plan really is for hunters and ranchers,” Minbashian says. “It has provisions for managing wolves in areas where they may be having a problematic impact on deer and elk populations. It has probably the best compensation package in the West.”

After Rep. David Taylor, who cosponsored 1107, 1108 and 1109, filed a request last year for any and all things wolfish at WDFW, the amount of email traffic between Conservation Northwest and the agency raised his eyebrows.

“If you’re putting in time and money, there is some sort of payback – influence in the [wolf] plan or something,” he told me last fall.

But unlike some wildlife advocacy groups, Conservation Northwest’s tack appears to be to work towards common solutions that benefit, among others, hunters.

Though the organization opposed WDFW’s pitch to introduce turkeys into Whatcom County a couple years ago, it’s also working on the Columbia Highlands Initiative, a big-tent effort to get Congress to aside around 215,000 acres in the Colville National Forest as new wilderness as well as keep local mills in business with a guaranteed supply of saw logs from an area at least twice that size.

It has drawn support from loggers, ranchers, outdoor recreationists as well as hunters such as Tony Heckard and Gregg Bafundo of Washington Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Leonard Wolf of the Spokane chapter of the Mule Deer Foundation, Richard Mathieson of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council and John Campbell of Pend Oreille Valley Sportsman in Newport. The effort is being led by the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition.

3 Wolf Bills In WA Legislature

Bills introduced in Olympia last week would insert the state Legislature into wolf management.

They are not unexpected. Last fall, Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, told this magazine that he was working on a draft that sounds like HB 1109. It would require WDFW’s final wolf plan to come to legislators for approval. The plan is otherwise currently slated for Fish & Wildlife Commission sign-off this coming fall.

He was joined by Reps. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley and Jim McCune, R-Graham, in introducing two other Canis lupus-related bills, 1107 and 1108.

Taylor, a mid-Yakima Valley rancher, terms 1107 the “most interesting of the three.”

It would require the Department of Health to work with WDFW and the state vet to “implement a program to detect, interdict, and assess the epidemiological consequences of diseases that may afflict or may be carried by wolves and the actual and potential impact of wolves’ role in such diseases upon human health in the state,” as well as identify people whose jobs or lifestyles might put them at higher risk to the illnesses.

It is also cosponsored by Reps. Kretz, Short and Condotta.

“Of the three, 1108 is the most comprehensive,” Taylor says. “It takes a different tack. It requires the state to actually manage wolf populations without Endangered Species Act considerations.”

Known as the “Washington wolf recovery act,” it would void existing state-federal agreements and require the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to, among other things, agree that 150 wolves is enough to sustain a population in the state, and ties state wolf management to how successful deer and elk hunters are over three-year periods as well as low livestock predation rates.

Eleven-oh-eight would also give the state attorney general the go-ahead to file damage claims for big game losses and makes those “responsible for inflicting wolves on Washington or preventing state management of wolves … civilly liable for any damages related to the serious physical injury or death of a human as the result of an attack by a wolf during any period of noncompliance with the provisions of this chapter.”

If such an attack were to occur, all wolves within 100 miles of it could be killed by anyone by any means.

And the bill would prohibit citing or arresting anyone for shooting a wolf on private or state land.

All three were referred to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee, chaired by Rep. Brian Blake, an Aberdeen Democrat who has bristled at part of WDFW’s draft management plan that would use “translocation” as a tool to move wolves from elsewhere inside the state to the Olympic Peninsula to aid recovery of the species.

“I’m fairly optimistic one of the three will get out of committee,” says Taylor, pointing to 1107 as the most likely candidate.

Other WDFW-related bills circulating in Olympia include HB 1087 and SB 5094 which merge the agency with the State Parks and Recreation Commission and the Recreation and Conservation Office.

“I think it needs some more work,” says Taylor of Governor Gregoire’s bid to reduce the number of natural resource agencies from 11 to five. “We need to look at the budget implications. The merger would only save $2.45 million.”

Last year, a state Senate bill tried to fold WDFW into the Department of Natural Resources.

Antelope Arrive In WA Over Weekend

Last week, they were racing across the northeast Nevada sage. Today, they’re learning about their new digs 450 miles to the north-northwest in South-central Washington.

In a lightning-fast move, 100 antelope were captured Saturday by the Nevada Department of Wildlife and dozens of volunteers, and 99 were driven in livestock trailers to the Mabton area of the Yakama Nation’s reservation and released.

“I had the last load, and unloaded them at 12:45 a.m.” Sunday morning, says Glenn Rasmussen of the Central Washington Chapter of Safari Club International.  “Oh, yeah (it’s exciting). This is something we’ve been working on for a long time.”

VOLUNTEERS AND OTHERS AWAIT THE ARRIVAL OF THE ANTELOPE HERD. (COURTESY SCI-CENTRAL WASHINGTON CHAPTER)

He says his organization had first tried to work with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife on reintroduction, including doing studies of potential release sites. But when that didn’t pan out, they found that the Yakamas were interested in bringing the so-called “speed goats” back to the reservation.

“It’s their project, we just arranged the financing,” says Rasmussen.

A HELICOPTER IS USED TO HERD THE ANIMALS TOWARDS NET TRAPS. (COURTESY SCI-CENTRAL WASHINGTON CHAPTER)

He says that nine or ten bucks rode back in crates on a flatbed driven by tribal representatives.

Due to the federal holiday, Yakama wildlife officials were unavailable for comment.

TEAMS WORK TO SUBDUE AND CALM THE ANIMALS. (COURTESY SCI-CENTRAL WASHINGTON CHAPTER)

Antelope were gone from Washington by the mid-1800s, but four releases were made between the Great Depression and the Vietnam War era, according to a 2008 article by the Seattle PI. The animals hung on on the Yakima Training Center, but over time the population waned and disappeared.

“We don’t know if it was soldiers shooting them or what,” says Rasmussen.

The idea for reintroducing the species came when the club was looking for a conservation project.

“My son, Eric, made the suggestion, ‘Why don’t we reintroduce antelope into Washington?” he says.

WORKERS HOLD UP AN IV DRIP BAG FOR AN OVERHEATED ANTELOPE. (COURTESY SCI-CENTRAL WASHINGTON CHAPTER)

A year ago, it looked as if it was on, but a helicopter crash scrapped plans to trade live buffalo from the Yakamas for antelope from the Duck Valley Reservation on the Nevada-Idaho line, Rasmussen says.

He has high praise for NDOW: “Boy, that Nevada game department is efficient.”

They were assisted by Nevada Bighorns Unlimited.

A DOE IS JUST ABOUT TO BE LOADED INTO A LIVESTOCK TRAILER FOR TRANSPORTATION TO WASHINGTON. (COURTESY SCI-CENTRAL WASHINGTON CHAPTER)

After the animals were netted, they were blindfolded and hobbled and taken to a staging area where a veterinarian drew blood samples and gave them shots, Rasmussen says.

Then they were moved into waiting trailers.

“That was the rodeo part — loading them in,” he says. “Every time you opened the door, the others were jumping to get out.”

CAPTURED AND TAGGED ANTELOPE AWAIT THE BEGINNING OF THEIR JOURNEY NORTH TO WASHINGTON. (COURTESY SCI-CENTRAL WASHINGTON CHAPTER)

Ironically, the one radio-collared antelope in the bunch escaped.

Rasmussen says they were given drugs for the ride back, a rainy slog north up U.S. Highway 93 then west on I-84. He drove a couple dozen animals to Washington.

“Releasing them was real simple, and was almost an anticlimax,” he says.

One in Rasmussen’s trailer had a broken leg and had to be put down, however.

THE BUCKS WERE TRANSPORTED IN CRATES. (COURTESY SCI-CENTRAL WASHINGTON CHAPTER)

The tribe identified 40,000 acres of the reservation that would make “fair to good” habitat for the species, although there’s currently also an overpopulation of mustangs on its 1.2 million acres.

A grad student may follow the herd around, Rasmussen says.

“If there’s a huntable population, that’s fine,” he says, “but I don’t think anyone’s concerned about that. When you travel through Wyoming, it’s just nice to see them. I don’t expect to go shoot them.”

A NEW HOME, A NEW RANGE FOR A NEVADA DOE RELEASED ONTO THE YAKAMA RESERVATION SOUTH OF MABTON. (COURTESY SCI-CENTRAL WASHINGTON CHAPTER)

In other tribal wildlife releases news, last year saw the introduction of 170 turkeys onto the Tulalip Reservation north of Everett, Wash.

Blanca Bear Poop, Hair Neg For Griz

Poop and hair gathered in Washington’s North Cascades near where a possible grizzly bear was photographed last summer turned up … regular old Ursus americanus.

That’s the word from expedited DNA tests on eight samples taken from a bait and barbed wire “corral” and the woods around tiny Virgin Lake in eastern Snohomish County.

“All of the bears that were attracted to the site … were kind enough to leave hair, and all poop in the area came from black bears (despite their coat color),” reported Donald Gay, a wildlife biologist for the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, by email this morning.

Trail cameras captured at least two black bears hanging around the bait station, but one of the animals decided to play with the camera so that the next series of shots are messed up, though show a large eyeball and some brown fur.

(USFS)

Brown was the color of the top half of a large bear seen foraging along the shores of the lake the month before. At least two photos of it were taken on an iPhone by hiker Sue Warga who was passing by.

In one, there’s an apparent hump behind the neck of the animal. When Gay sent the image to other bios, two-thirds thought it could be a grizzly.

VIRGIN LAKE BEAR. (SUE WARGA VIA USFS)

But when he obtained a second image that showed a better facial profile and a less pronounced hump, the experts were far less sure.

Biologists have been running bait corrals elsewhere in the Cascades, so roughly two weeks after the photographs turned up, one was placed a kilometer south of Virgin Lake, according to Gay. They did so because the lake is along the arduous but popular hiking trail to Blanca Lake in the headwaters of the North Fork Skykomish River. It was baited with a “lure that’s really effective at drawing in animals,” Gay says.

“I don’t know all of the items or their ratios, but I believe that I’ve heard that its most active ingredients are fish blood and fermented road-killed deer. In the presentations I’ve heard, the field crews have vomited more than once after opening a bottle, and take serious precautions about getting the stuff on their clothing,” says Gay.

Researchers ultimately collected two hair samples from the trap as well as six poop samples from around the lake, and sent them off to a lab in Nelson, British Columbia.

All eight turned up as black bear.

Gay says there still is a remote chance that the bear Warga photographed was a griz.

“It is possible that the bear made a long-distance movement and was not in the vicinity by the time the trap was installed,” he says.

But “in all likelihood, (the poop samples at the lake) came from that bear,” he says.

Which would make it one of Smokey’s distant relatives.

The search for Ursus arctos horriblis in the Cascades continues, though. Gay says another animal from the Cascade River area was said to have “exceptionally long claws, but other signs of being a black bear.”

The current population estimate of grizzlies in the North Cascades is from zero to 20 animals

“It’s real possible there are none on the U.S. side,” Gay told me last September. “We do know that in April, there was one on the Canadian side.”

The last confirmed mortality occurred 44 years ago. I wrote about that one in F&H News. It was shot by a hunter in the Thunder Creek area in fall 1966 and reported on in the Skagit Valley Herald.

Anderson Meets With Spokane Sportsmen

UPDATE: JAN. 13, 2010: Rich Landers of the Spokesman-Review has a good piece on the meeting.

Don’t like the proposal to merge WDFW and State Parks?

Contact your legislator.

Have something to say about fishing and hunting license fee increases we hope legislators pass?

Contact your legislator.

That’s the gist of what Phil Anderson told an audience in Spokane several times last night.

Doing so will help lawmakers hear the sporting public’s feelings as they work on a two-year budget that has a $4.6 billion hole in it.

In the latest of numerous meetings around the state, WDFW’s director and a handful of agency staffers from the local and Olympia offices descended on the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council’s headquarters to discuss Gov. Christine Gregoire’s budget plan to merge a number of natural resource bureaus as part of dealing with the revenue shortfall and their own pitch for hiking the price to hunt and fish for the first time in a decade.

The confab went from 6:30 p.m. to 9:15 p.m., according to Jim Nelson, who took notes on the proceedings for Northwest Sportsman. He called it “a great meeting and very well attended,” estimating that around 100 were there, including many hunters and fishermen including the Spokesman-Review‘s outdoor reporter Rich Landers. He said that Anderson stood and talked the entire time, only taking occasional gulps of water. He answered most questions, calling on his staffers to answer others.

The meeting began with a Power Point presentation on “budgets past and present, and future license increases and in a couple of cases decreases,” according to Nelson.

He says that WDFW’s proposed fee increase for elk tags — from $45.20 to $57.00, a 26 percent increase — “drew the most comments from the floor, mostly all negative, but positive comments on the other increases.”

Other hikes include 71 percent for a bear or cougar tag (from $14 to $24), 18 percent for the deer, elk, cougar and bear combo license ($81.20 to $91.50) and 24 percent for saltwater licenses ($24.20 to $30.05).

“Anderson pointed out we have not had an increase in 10 years and these increases are comparable, if not lower, than our neighboring states and Wyoming. Anderson certainly feels these increases are necessary to maintain any stability in personnel … and department morale as so many personnel have been laid off, and the ones who are left are working longer hours to cover the staff loss,” Nelson says.

In the past, Anderson — citing possible cuts of up to $20 million from his General Fund on top of $37 million the past two years, and another $6 million if a two-year 10 percent license surcharge which expires this coming June isn’t extended — has said that, if approved the suite of tag and license increases could raise $14.3 million and “help maintain fishing and hunting opportunities as well as support important conservation efforts now under way throughout the state.”

It would also help wean WDFW slightly from the embattled General Fund as most fishing and hunting license money goes into the more protected Wildlife Account.

Some licenses would decrease or stay the same, including deer ($45.20 to $44.90), second-pole endorsement ($24.50 to $14.80), Columbia River endorsement (no change from $8.75), and numerous permits for youth, senior and disabled vet sportsmen.

Nelson says that Anderson said budgetary woes show no signs of bottoming out soon, and urged the audience to contact their representatives and senators to support the fee increases.

INWC’s executive director Wanda Clifford, who also took notes for this magazine, says the director also spoke about the new proposed access pass to use some state lands.

“If you purchase hunting or fishing license, the access fee would be dramatically reduced. This would be a opt in or out fee. If you are fishing and do not need to use a launch or park area, you would not need the access permit,” she explains.

When it was proposed, the “Explore Washington” pass was set at $40 for general users age 19 and older, or $5 for those purchasing WDFW fishing or hunting licenses or a watchable-wildlife package. Sales were expected to raise $5.5 million a year, which would be split between WDFW and DNR to manage, police and maintain the lands.

Nelson says the gist of the director’s talk on the merger proposal was that it “is in the governor’s eyes the only way to help balance the state budget.”

“I asked from the floor what his gut feeling [on which way it would go] after talking to legislators and groups across the state,” says Nelson, “and he answered, ‘I believe this proposal of combining agencies will get some serious discussion in this legislative session. Do I have an idea which way it will go? No. Again, I urge you to contact your legislator.'”

Clifford says it’s unclear how a merger would shake out, but in the short term, if passed, it would go into effect in mid-2012.

“The merger would dissolve the game, parks and recreation (and conservation office) departments,” she says. “They would reform under a new agency [the Department of Conservation and Recreation] run by one director. They would still retain their [essences]: parks would be parks, game would be game, and so on. They would not blend the individual departments together, just run them under one new agency … The [Fish & Wildlife] commission would be advisory only, no power. New rules would be decided by the director.”

The DCR director would sit under the governor.

For WDFW, talk of folding the agency with others is nothing new — it is itself a product of the 1994 merger between the old Departments of Fisheries and Wildlife. Last session, a state Senate subcommittee’s proposed budget would have put WDFW under the wing of the Department of Natural Resources, but that was headed off partly by sportsman opposition. Gregoire also previously convened natural resource agency department heads to figure out better efficiencies.

Under the governor’s current budget proposal, combining WDFW with the State Parks and Recreation Commission, Recreation and Conservation Office and the Department of Natural Resources’ law enforcement arm — along with reducing the number of other natural resource agencies from 21 to nine — would save around $2.5 million and cut 14 jobs in the short term.

“From my perspective,” says Nelson, “it seemed a large majority in the crowd were receptive to his proposals. From the floor I told him I had conducted a little survey myself with hunting friends and landowners I know (10), and all were receptive to the increase and nonreceptive to the planned merger.”

“To which he replied, ‘Contact your legislator,'” Nelson notes.

Anderson’s been doing his own talking with lawmakers about the importance of fishing and hunting in Washington. In a guest column published in the January issue of Northwest Sportsman magazine, he notes:

What’s good for fishers and hunters is also good for the state as a whole. According to federal estimates, fishing and hunting generates nearly $5.3 billion in economic activity in Washington each year. Add the economic activity generated by wildlife viewing and the annual economic benefits grows to $6.8 billion.

As director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, I want to make sure that every state legislator recognizes the benefits – economical, cultural and ecological – of effective resource management. But I know lawmakers will also have other things in mind when they convene this month to develop a new state budget for 2011-13.

“Do I know more this morning than I did yesterday morning?” Clifford asks rhetorically. “I suppose so. I have a much better vision of the budget and how it is working, not a lot more on the merger … Was the evening worthwhile? Most definitely.”

At the end of the meeting, Anderson took a moment to update the gathering about Washington’s wolves. Workers are now putting together locational information for the state’s Diamond and Lookout Packs based on collar data from several of the animals, and WDFW will publish its first annual statewide wolf activity summary soon.

Northwest Sportsman has also learned this week that a contract pilot recently spotted a third wolf running with the two from the little-known Salmo Pack in extreme northern Pend Oreille County. One of the two, a then-50-pound pup, was captured and radio-collared near the end of last summer.

According to Nelson, other WDFW staffers attending the meeting included deputy director Joe Stohr and assistant director fish program Jim Scott, both from headquarters; Eastern Washington regional director Steve Pozzanghera and his lieutenants, John Whalen, the fish program manager, and Kevin Robinette, the wildlife program manager; Woody Myers, a deer/elk research specialist and biologist, and Madonna Luers, the local information officer.

Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Gary Douvia of Kettle Falls also attended, as did retired regional directors John Andrews and Ray Duff.

Anderson was to meet with staff in the region all day today.

WDFW HQ has also prepared a Web page with information on the upcoming legislative session. It has links to PDFs with more information on the proposed license increases and more.

Nelson is a former INWC president and has stayed active in the club. He has written several articles for this magazine, and authored the book The way it was and the way it is.

How To Tell If Your Desk Is Too Messy

How to tell if your desk is too messy:

You decide it would be easier to do a google search for the forgotten title of a book on poaching you were mailed because it’s simpler than looking for the screed under all the:

notepads (dozens)

map books (three for two states)

reader photos (dozens)

stray sheets of papers (hundreds)

scientific studies (many)

galley proofs of the Feb issue (several dozen)

coffee cups (four, but I swear a fifth is hidden somewhere)

fishing and hunting regs (dozens of copies back thru 2009)

Northwest Sportsman back issues (hundreds)

apples (four shiny red ones)

stray knives (including new fillet blade from Kershaw)

fishing gear (including Big Bro’s Bloodworm from Northland)

pit stick (one stick, 9/10ths used up)

Frangos wrappers

pens (wow sweet, more than I thought I had)

etc.

etc.

etc

Winter Turning Rosier Around Chelan For Anglers

I, Andy Walgamott, was wrong to question covering ice fishing in the Northwest this winter.

Back in early December, I said, “You can stick your ice auger up your a**, Jack Frost!”

The weather was all screwy, OK, and maybe I had too much caffeine that morning, plus I have a bad history with ice fishing coverage.

Today, however, I’m extending my humblest apologies to J. Frost, M. Nature, F. the Snowman, and all ya’ll of the frozen-fingered clan.

What’s prompting my change of heart? Anglers being able to get out and ice fish, of course.

“My dad hit Roses Lake yesterday and got a limit of nice pan-frying-size rainbows,” reports Northwest Sportsman contributor Jason Brooks this morning.

Roses is in northern Chelan County just outside Manson and can be pretty good in the winter for trout.

Brooks says his pa, Al, was using Pautzke’s Fire Corn.

AL BROOKS AND HIS LIMIT OF RAINBOWS FROM ROSES LAKE ON JAN. 6, 2011. (AL BROOKS)

“When I talked to him yesterday he had only been there about a half hour and had two on the ice and about 10 missed bites,” he emailed.

Perch are also available at the lake. WDFW provides directions on how to get there on its site.

The extended forecast calls for continued cold, with temps even dipping down to the single digits across Eastern Washington, though there’s a bit of crud to make it through first.

“Right now they’re catching some spinyrays, perch, crappie, walleyes, just south of the I-90 bridge” on Moses Lake, reports Leroy Ledeboer in the Columbia Basin town of the same name. “And if the cold snap we’re expecting this weekend and early next week materializes, ice conditions should be pretty good.  I’m ready to try either Long Lake, the one in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge,  or Banks, but today we have freezing rain, making the roads too treacherous.  Schools were canceled.”

South of the Columbia, a number of Southeast Oregon lakes are beginning to ice up or already serving up winter fish, including Unity Reservoir the hell and gone southeast of Baker City.

We previously reported on a mess more ideas for where to go ice fishing, and our January issue has tips as well.

Just use caution. Though WDFW isn’t sending its biologists and game wardens around to the ice caps with measuring sticks, the agency advises among other things:

* While ice safety can never be assured, no one should venture onto the ice unless it is at least 4 inches thick, clear and solid, according to U.S. Coast Guard guidelines. As much as 9 inches may be needed to safely support snowmobiles or other vehicles. Such ice depths can form after at least a week of below freezing temperatures, day and night.

* Don’t fish alone. Let others know exactly where you and your fishing partners are going and when you plan to return.

* Keep fishing holes small and few. When drilling fishing holes with an ice auger, keep the diameter under 8 inches. Bigger holes are not necessary to land fish and can create a safety hazard for others.

* Watch your step. Avoid ice fishing near feeder streams or known springs; brush, logs, plants or docks; multiple ice cracks or ice that is popping or otherwise audible; and dark-colored ice that may be weak.

* Spread out. Too many people congregated in one area may be more than the ice can safely support. Disperse weight and fishing holes.

* Be prepared for weather conditions. Dress in layers and wear thermal underwear, fleece or wool, and wind and waterproof outerwear, especially for feet, hands and head. Take extra clothes, food, water, sand for on-ice traction, and a sled for easy on-ice transport of all equipment.

* Be prepared for emergencies. Carry equipment such as ice picks or awls, rope, and personal flotation devices. Also pack a first-aid kit and matches for starting a fire.

UPDATE 12:55 P.M., JAN. 7, 2011: Jason Brooks just emailed and said, “Just got off of the phone with my dad…he’s back at roses with 4 fish already (less than an hour).”

UPDATE 2:58 P.M., JAN. 7, 2011: Ernie Buchanan, an Okanogan ice angler, reports 6 inches of ice at Rat Lake where the rainbows are running 12 inches. He says they’re on the “slender” side, but “lots of fishermen” are there anyway.

And here’s an uber-fresh pic from Fish Lake near Leavenworth.

ANGLER BRANDON BOREN WITH A FAIR MESS OF PERCH CAUGHT TODAY.

Be careful here, however. The report from Cove Resort is that it was 41 degrees around midday and someone fell through the ice recently.

Deer Decoy Follies

Ugh, I made it all the way to the second story in the OSP Fish & Wildlife Division’s October 2010 newsletter before I was simultaneously shocked at a father’s poor judgment and laughing at his stupidity.

To wit:

Sr. Tpr. Kipper, Sr. Tpr. Vanderwerf, and Sr. Tpr. Pearson (The Dalles) conducted a night deer [Wildlife Enforcement Decoy] operation near Dufur. A vehicle drove into the set, and the driver canted his vehicle toward the decoy to illuminate it with his headlights, parked, leaned over his 12-year-old son seated in the passenger seat, and fired a round out the passenger side window from a .300 magnum rifle.

The operator then jumped out of the vehicle, went through a ditch, grabbed the decoy, and then pulled it partway down the hill towards the road before being contacted and stopped. The troopers cited the man for Taking Deer (WED) with Aid of Artificial Light.

The eye rolls began with the third story:

Sr. Tpr. Merritt, Tpr. Stone, and Tpr. Baimbridge (Roseburg) conducted a closed season deer WED operation during the Cascade bull elk season. The first vehicle to observe the WED stopped, and the female passenger fired once using the truck window as a rest.

Upon contact, both the driver and passenger were laughing and explained that they knew it was a decoy, so the passenger shot over its back just to see what the officers would do; however, upon inspection, the brand new decoy had one well-placed bullet hole right through the ribcage.

Troopers cited the female for Unlawful Taking Deer (WED) Closed Season and the male driver for Aiding in a Wildlife Offense and seized the female’s rifle. Both admitted to knowing deer season was closed during the elk hunt.

The disgust with the fourth:

Sr. Tpr. Knapp (Enterprise) was off duty in the Sled Springs Unit when he saw a group of subjects driving the roads with rifles. Concerned there  may be illegal activities occurring in the area, he put together an operation using the 1 x 2 bull elk decoy.

The next morning, Knapp, Sr. Tpr. Coggins (Enterprise), and Sgt. Hawkins (La Grande) performed a WED operation on a well-traveled gravel road in the Sled Springs Unit. At about 7:40 a.m., a pickup drove by the decoy set, and the driver slammed on the brakes. Two occupants were in the vehicle, one adult passenger and one juvenile driver. The passenger put a rifle out the passenger side window and began shooting at the decoy. The driver jumped out, climbed in the back of the pickup, and began shooting at the decoy.

Seven shots where fired at the decoy before troopers could get them stopped. Knapp cited the passenger for Hunting from a Motor Vehicle, Aiding in a Game Violation (Hunting from a Motor Vehicle), and Open Container. The juvenile was warned for Hunting from a Motor Vehicle. They were also given several warnings on other miscellaneous violations.

And amazement at people’s idiocy with the fifth:

Sr. Tpr. Turnbo and Sr. Tpr. Reid (McMinnville) worked a deer WED operation near Timber. Two vehicles entered the set, and the drivers stopped and turned off their headlights. After about four minutes, two subjects got out with flashlights and located the decoy. Both subjects got back in their vehicles and left.

Turnbo then heard something; and, using night vision, he located a subject with a firearm walking toward the decoy. As he neared the decoy, the subject turned on a light and fired one shot with a shotgun at the decoy, causing the decoy to fall.

The subject celebrated his “victory” and walked over to the decoy. He picked up the decoy, threw it down, and took off running.

Reid arrived and announced over the PA for the subject to stop and he was under arrest. The subject ran down the trail that led right to Turnbo who told the subject he was under arrest and to stop. Turnbo saw the subject try to reload, but the subject could not find any rounds. The subject ran into the bushes. The troopers convinced him to come out, and he surrendered.

The troopers cited the subject for Taking Deer with the Aid of Artificial Light and Escape in the Third Degree.

Seriously, you go back and shoot a freakin’ deer decoy?

They don’t just wander around the woods by themselves, you know?

There’s usually a game warden or two or three nearby.

(OREGON STATE POLICE)

And that was just page 1 of the 14-page PDF.

Haysoos, I could probably spend another hour shaking my head at all the (alleged) ijits!

But in this case, I must actually get some work done today instead of blogging it all up.

(Turns out, I couldn’t look away.)

If you have time to burn, however, I heartily recommend downloading OSP game wardens’ October issue.

The November is expected to be posted fairly soon as well.

AW

NWS