A slightly higher ratio of fawns appears to have survived this winter than last in western and central Okanogan County.
The latest weekly wildlife report from WDFW says that biologists counted around 2,900 muleys in the Methow and Okanogan Valleys and found 34 fawns for every 100 adults.
Scott Fitkin and Jeff Heinlen estimated there was a 50 percent over-winter mortality for the young deer.
While that sounds bad, the biologists term it “slightly below average” and say it “translates into a roughly stable or slightly increasing deer population.”
Last year’s postwinter count was 31:100, down nine fawns from 2010, but also more than following the winters of 2006, ’07 and ’08.
High marks back through 1993 include 60:100 in 1999 and 56:100 in 2000 while low marks include 17:100 following 1996-97′s horrible winter and 18:100 coming out of 2005-06′s.
WDFW performs the spring count during the green-up when the deer are out and easier to count.
To the south, in Chelan County, a partial count found “normal” fawn counts.
But also found on each of five survey routes: deer affected by hairloss, which has taken a toll on muleys to the south in Yakima County.
Even worse news: It may be spreading to Okanogan County.
The weekly report mentions that a second deer with signs of it was spotted by Heinlen.
“Whatever the cause, it seems to be an isolated incident at this point. We will try to make an attempt to sample one of the infected animals this week,” they say.
Also in the region, the weekly newsletter mentions that trail cam photos captured two wolves “that may be a mated pair” traveling together in the Methow Valley.
Earlier this spring, a wolf watcher saw one wolf lift its leg and one wolf squat to pee, according to a U.S. Forest Service biologist we spoke to a couple weeks ago.
It’s unclear, however, if they’re mates or merely brother and sister from the Lookout Pack’s last litter.
By this time of season, it should be fairly apparent whether a female wolf is pregnant or not.
Only more photographs will tell.
If they are indeed a mated pair, for wolf advocates, it could be something of a Pyrrhic victory: The news comes the same week that the last two members of a Twisp family plead guilty to killing two wolves in 2008 and attempting to export the hide of one.
Under plea agreements reached with federal prosecutors, William White, Tom White and Erin White will pay a total of $73,000 in fines and be on probation for three years. While William White copped to felonies, Tom White’s settlement is for misdemeanors, which effectively saves his logging livelihood.
For more on WDFW’s statewide deer — including a Northeast Washington whitetail study and Westside blacktail study — habitat, and other work — hauling a dead moose out of a Methow Valley resident’s front yard — check out the informative weekly report, available as a 35-page PDF here.