Category Archives: Headlines

Skagit-Sauk Catch Estimates Show A Hot Day, And Mostly Good Fishing

If you were lucky enough to be steelheading in Washington’s North Cascades on April 18, you most likely had a very, very good day.

DRIFT BOAT ANGLERS MAKE THEIR WAY DOWN THE SAUK RIVER DURING APRIL’S 12-DAY FISHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

One-fifth of all the wild winter-runs caught during the recently concluded 12-day catch-and-release fishery on the Skagit and Sauk Rivers were landed that Wednesday, according to preliminary estimates from state monitors.

That didn’t surprise Brett Barkdull, the district fisheries biologist, who’d dropped some not-so-subtle hints that it might be a good one to call in sick.

BOBBER AND SPOON RODS AWAIT EMPLOYMENT ALONG THE SAUK THIS SPRING. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“I thought the total catch on that first Wednesday when the Sauk was first in shape might have been higher actually,” he said.

The Sauk, which shot up to 9,500 cubic feet per second as rains swept in on the eve of opening weekend, had dropped back to 6,000 cfs by that morning, and the river’s fish had yet to feel the hidden sting of fishermen’s pink worms, plugs and spoons.

GLACIAL FLOUR FROM THE SUIATTLE RIVER CLOUDS THE SAUK BELOW GOVERNMENT BRIDGE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Barkdull cautioned that data his team of creel samplers collected haven’t been finalized yet, but the early estimates show that anglers caught 118 steelhead on April 18, or one for every 8.86 hours of effort that day, a figure that may be a high mark for some time to come.

“I don’t expect there will be a day like that again unless we get a year with a huge return,” noted Barkdull.

WHITEHORSE MOUNTAIN RISES OVER THE FLATS NEAR DARRINGTON. AT ONE TIME SEVERAL THOUSAND YEARS AGO, THE SAUK ACTUALLY DRAINED WEST THROUGH THE NORTH FORK STILLAGUAMISH RIVER VALLEY, BUT NOW MEETS THE SKAGIT AT ROCKPORT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Over the dozen days of fishing, 565 steelhead were caught in 11,504 total hours of fishing, or one every 20.36 hours.

A rate of 20 hours a fish is considered to be “off the charts good,” Barkdull said.

“Three hundred hours for a fish is more the norm for Puget Sound,” he said.

The slowest day was the final Saturday, April 28, when it zipped up to 85 hours a fish as several consecutive days of hot weather wilted mountain snowpack, sending both rivers back up.

While the National Marine Fisheries Service holds WDFW to a 10 percent mortality rate in C&R steelhead fisheries, Barkdull personally feels it’s likely far lower. He pointed to a study from the Vedder showing a 2.5 percent rate as a good surrogate, but acknowledged the feds’ 10 percent as the management standard.

Barkdull said there wasn’t anything unexpected in the preliminary figures, which he said are probably within 10 percent of where final ones will be.

“We put people right on top of a bunch of naïve fish late in the season when they were all upriver staging to spawn,” he said.

THIS DOUBLE-STACK SPOON HAS BEEN SLUMBERING IN THE EDITOR’S TACKLE BOX FOR NINE YEARS IN HOPES OF ONE DAY AGAIN SPLASHING DOWN IN THE SAUK. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

He doubts that this year’s 20-hours-a-fish rate will hold up in the coming four federally permitted winter-spring fisheries, what with their likely earlier start dates and longer seasons.

“The fish will trickle in, get caught, some will get smart, some will move out of the fishing area, and effort will even out and be less,” Barkdull forecasted.

It took what felt like forever to get this year’s fishery approved. The last season here was in 2009, and following a number of poor returns, the rivers were closed.

But in 2013, the group Occupy Skagit began rallying to reopen the rivers. A management plan that WDFW and three area tribes sent to NMFS in 2016 was finally approved early last month.

TILL NEXT SEASON! (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

It requires strict monitoring of catches, and Barkdull’s estimates show that steelheaders also kept three hatchery steelhead, released 219 bull trout, 12 rainbow trout, six cutthroat and three spring Chinook, rounding up and down.

“We saw no illegal kept fish of any sort,” he added.

He said there are plans in the works to break out catches for bank, jet, drift, conventional, fly, and guided and unguided anglers.

Crabbing Won’t Open In South Sound This Summer

Bad news for Tacoma and Olympia crabbers: Marine Areas 11 and 13 won’t open for Dungeness — or even red rocks — this summer.

PUYALLUP’S JASON BROOKS PULLS A POT OFF FOX ISLAND DURING THE 2013 SEASON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Dungie numbers have crashed in recent years and state managers say the idea behind the full closure is to try and rebuild the populations.

Tribal commercial fisheries will also not open.

It’s unclear why the crabs are not doing well, but a recent presentation to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission pointed to three possibilities: excessive harvest, poor water conditions, and distance larva must ride currents to here from primary breeding areas.

That PDF also shows how bad it is.

Graphs in it show state and tribal crab harvest in Area 11, off Tacoma, peaked in 2014 at about 225,000 pounds, produced 200,000 in 2015, then dropped like a rock to 50,000 in 2016 and half that last year.

Similarly, Area 13, deep South Sound, peaked in 2012 at 300,000 pounds, but zipped downhill like a ski jumper to an almost negligible amount last year, 9,462 pounds, or one-tenth of one percent of all that were harvested in Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

WDFW GRAPHS SHOW HOW DUNGENESS HARVEST IN MARINE AREA 13 (CRAB AREA 7) AND AREA 11 (CRAB AREA 6) HAVE TANKED OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS. (WDFW)

Test fishing earlier this year found one legal Dungie a pot in Area 11 and maybe a quarter of one in 13.

On the flip side, those graphs also reveal the extreme spike in harvest, tripling and even quadrupling from the 100,000- and 50,000-pound ranges of the last decade.

A rather frightening graph WDFW also put together shows that two entire back-to-back year-classes of crabs are “missing, not detected.”

Those would be year 2 and year 3 Dungies.

Year 4 crabs — which would be legals in summer 2019 — are also said to be “greatly reduced.”

That means we may be in for a few years of rebuilding the stock.

“It is a very sad day when a family activity such as Puget Sound crabbing is shut down due to very foreseeable and predictable mismanagement,” said Puyallup shellfisherman and Northwest Sportsman contributor Jason Brooks. “Overharvest by other user groups and a lack of enforcement, along with winter and summer seasons, and it’s pretty apparent the crab numbers will dwindle.”

The last winter recreational season in Areas 11 and 13 occurred in 2015

Last year, as it became blindingly obvious there were very few Dungeness and even red rocks around the South Sound, crabber ire turned towards tribal fishermen who were said to have put out huge numbers of pots in recent years, perhaps a sign they were also having trouble finding legals.

Another theory revolves around The Blob years, 2014-15, and how high water temperatures as well as low dissolved oxygen levels could have negatively affected juvenile crabs.

The book The Highest Tide aside, because of the inland sea’s shape, the Tacoma Narrows restricts the flow of saltwater that might otherwise carry larval crabs into the South Sound. But it’s been like that since the end of the last ice age too.

Whatever the cause, it’s all leading state shellfish managers to take another look at how they manage crabs in South Sound.

Currently, it’s done with the 3-S model — restricting harvest by size, sex and season.

“The 3-S model of management was developed for open systems, such as coastal waters, where the effects of harvest are mitigated by regular larval production and recruitment,” says the WDFW presentation. “A confined system like South Puget Sound may need to incorporate a 4th metric, larval production and juvenile recruitment.”

“Shellfish populations become stressed when critically low density levels are reached, and reproductive success is greatly diminished,” it continues. “This is known as an Allee Effect. For Dungeness crab extremely low density could affect successful mating.”

WDFW had also considered just barring Dungie retention or reducing limits and seasons. It said that some recreational crabbers supported closing it down.

Crab seasons for the rest of Puget Sound are expected to be announced later this month after state and tribal managers agree to them. No other similar closures are expected, according to WDFW.

According to the agency, nearly 5.1 million pounds of crabs were harvested in the San Juan Islands last year (and who knows how many more from Canadian poachers), almost 3 million pounds worth in Areas 8-1, 8-2 and 9 alongside Whidbey and Camano Islands, and 864,000 pounds in Area 6, the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca.

AN AUGUST 2017 WDFW GRAPH SHOWS STATE (GRAY) AND TRIBAL (BLUE) CRAB HARVEST OVER THE PREVIOUS 25 YEARS. THE STATE SHARE IS COMPRISED OF COMMERCIAL AND RECREATIONAL AND WAS DOMINATED BY THE FORMER UNTIL 2011 AND FAIRLY CLOSE EVER SINCE. (WDFW)

Idaho Commission OKs Issuing 1 Grizzly Bear Permit For Fall Hunt

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME

Idaho Fish and Game commissioners on Thursday, May 10 approved a hunting season for grizzly bears in a portion of eastern Idaho with one tag offered.

WITH GRIZZLY BEARS IN THE GREATER YELLOWSTONE ECOSYSTEM — THIS ONE WAS PHOTOGRAPHED IN THE PARK’S HAYDEN VALLEY — LONG SINCE RECOVERED, IDAHO FISH AND GAME MANAGERS WILL OFFER A SINGLE TAG TO HUNT ONE IN THE GEM STATE, THOUGH OFFICIALS CAUTION THE SEASON MAY BE CHALLENGED IN COURT, IN WHICH CASE THE TAGHOLDER’S MONEY WOULD BE REFUNDED. (NPS)

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear population has met federal recovery criteria since the early 2000s. The state of Idaho and its professional wildlife managers played a key part in this population’s recovery, in partnership with other states, and federal, tribal and local governments. In 2017 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took the population off of the Endangered Species Act list, and Idaho will continue to responsibly manage the population in coordination with Wyoming and Montana now that federal protections are lifted.

The conservation strategy for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly population includes hunting as a management tool when the population is more than 600 bears.

The 2017 population estimate is 718 grizzly bears in the greater Yellowstone “demographic monitoring area” (DMA), which encompasses suitable grizzly habitat in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. The DMA includes all of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, but no hunting will occur in either national park. The population in the DMA has been stable over the last decade with annual population estimates in the monitoring area ranging between 694 and 757 grizzlies.

Idaho grizzly bear hunt

Fish and Game will offer one tag for the opportunity to hunt a grizzly bear in a controlled hunt, random drawing limited to Idaho residents. Application period will be June 15 through July 15. Resident hunters who applied for any other controlled hunt in 2018 may also apply for the grizzly bear hunt.

The hunt will run Sept. 1 through Nov. 15. No baiting or hound hunting will be allowed for the grizzly bear hunt. Grizzly bears, like bull moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat, limit tags to successful hunters “once in a lifetime.”

Because actual implementation of the grizzly hunt may be subject to a pending lawsuit in federal court, hunters applying should beware that the hunt could be canceled, in which case the pre-paid tag fees would be refunded, but the controlled hunt application fees would not.

How is the number of bears available for harvest determined?

Idaho, Wyoming and Montana have agreed to manage the Yellowstone grizzly bear population in the DMA between 600 and 748 bears, which corresponds to the average population from 2002 to 2014. No hunting will occur if the population is below 600 bears in the DMA.

Scientists have determined how much mortality on male and female bears can occur while managing for a sustainable population. Hunting can occur if the measured and predicted annual grizzly mortality is less than the total allowable mortality in any given year. Hunting opportunity is determined by subtracting the known and predicted annual mortality from the total allowable mortality for the population.

Why a single tag?

Idaho, Montana and Wyoming allocate available hunting opportunity based on the proportion of land each state has within the DMA (excluding Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks where no hunting is allowed).

Idaho has 8 percent of the land in the DMA, and in 2018, 8 percent of the total allowable mortality available for hunting represents one male bear.

Avoiding female bears

Fish and Game biologists will work with the person who receives the tag to ensure the hunter understands rules, hunt boundaries and how to distinguish male bears from females.

At any given time, roughly half the female bears will be with cubs or juvenile bears, none of which are legal to harvest under the rules of the hunt. That means about 75 percent of the unaccompanied adult bears are male, and the identification training provided by the department will help the hunter avoid harvesting a female bear.

History

Grizzly bear population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has recovered since being listed as endangered in the 1970s. The population has increased from less than 200 in the 1970s to the current 718 bears. Biologists saw consistent population growth (between 4.2 percent and 7.6 percent annually) from 1983 to 2002, then slower population growth (.3 percent to 2.2 percent) from 2002 to 2014. Biologists say the slowed growth rate and stable population in the monitoring area suggest the population is at, or near, the carrying capacity of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

The Greater Yellowstone population met the recovery criteria outlined in a 1993 recovery plan by the early 2000s. State and federal agencies finalized a long-term conservation strategy in 2007, and the Yellowstone grizzlies were removed from federal protection that year.

In 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed legal challenges to delisting, finding that regulatory mechanisms were adequate to support the recovered Yellowstone population. But the court ordered the bears to go back on Endangered Species list until the Fish and Wildlife Service analyzed if a decline in whitebark pine threatened the bear population’s recovery.

The bears were delisted again in July, 2017, and Fish and Game proposed its grizzly hunting season in March, 2018. The proposal garnered more than 900 comments to Fish and Game’s website during the public comment period in April and early May. Comments greatly varied, but the majority favored moving forward with a grizzly hunt.

Columbia Subarea All-depth Halibut Fishery To Close After Friday

THE FOLLOWING ARE A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE AND AN EMERGENCY RULE-CHANGE NOTICE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The Pacific halibut all-depth sport fishery in the Columbia River Subarea will close effective Friday, May 11, 2018 at 11:59 p.m., fishery managers announced today.

The all-depth fishery from Leadbetter Point in Washington to Cape Falcon in Oregon opened on May 3 and was scheduled to be open every ThursdayFriday and Sunday through Sept. 30 or the harvest of 11,182 pounds of Pacific halibut, whichever came first.

Preliminary estimates indicate that landings are nearing the quota and not enough remains for additional open days. The season will be closed until the end of the year. Effort in the Columbia River Subarea in 2018 was higher than in 2017 and catch rates were good, enabling anglers to harvest the entire quota for this fishery after just five days of fishing.

The Columbia River nearshore fishery (inside the 40-fathom line off of Oregon) remains open Mondays through Wednesdays until Sept. 30 or until the quota of 500 pounds is reached, whichever comes first.

Opportunities to fish for Pacific halibut remain open in other areas of Oregon:

Off central Oregon between Cape Falcon (near Manzanita) and Humbug Mountain (near Port Orford), anglers may fish for halibut inside the 40-fathom line beginning June 1, seven days a week through Oct. 31 or attainment of the harvest quota (25,856 pounds) for that fishery.

The spring season all-depth halibut fishery off central Oregon (quota of 135,742 pounds) is next scheduled to be open May 24-26, with additional fixed open dates scheduled for June 7-9 and June 21-23.

The summer season all-depth is scheduled to begin on Aug. 3-4 every other Friday and Saturday until Oct. 31 or the quota of 53,866 pounds has been met. The high-relief area of Stonewall Bank, west of Newport, is closed to all halibut fishing.

The area between Humbug Mountain and the OR/CA Border is open at all depths for Pacific halibut seven days a week through Oct. 31 or until the quota of 8,982 pounds has been met, whichever comes first.

Days on which Pacific halibut fishing is open will be announced on the NOAA Fisheries hotline (1-800-662-9825) and posted on the Pacific Halibut sport regulations page,  https://myodfw.com/pacific-halibut-sport-regulations

…………………………

Pacific halibut fishing to close after May 11 in Marine Area 1

Action: Close recreational halibut fishing at the end of the day Friday, May 11 in Marine 1.

Effective dates: 11:59 p.m. Friday, May 11, 2018

Species affected: Pacific halibut.

Location:  Marine Area 1.

Reason for action: The all-depth recreational halibut fishery in Marine Area 1 opened Thursday, May 3 and continued Friday, May 4 and Sunday, May 6. During those three days, anglers caught 8,455 pounds of the 11,182-pound quota for the all-depth fishery in the Washington portion of the Columbia River area.

There is sufficient quota remaining to continue the all-depth recreational halibut fishery through Friday, May 11 but not enough to keep the fishery open Sunday, May 13 without risk of exceeding the quota. The nearshore halibut fishery in Marine Area 1 will remain open Mondays through Wednesdays until further notice.

These rules conform to management actions taken by the International Pacific Halibut Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service. 

 

‘A Difficult Request,’ But WDFW Asks Boaters To Avoid Strip Along Fishy Western San Juan Island

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

State fish and wildlife managers are asking anglers and other boaters to avoid an area along the west side of San Juan Island in an effort to protect a dwindling population of southern resident killer whales.

Despite state and federal government protection, the population of southern resident killer whales has declined from 98 whales in 1995 to just 76 in December 2017. Major threats to the whales include a lack of prey – chinook salmon, in particular – disturbance from vessel traffic and noise, as well as toxic contaminants.

(WDFW)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will be working with partner agencies and stakeholder groups to help educate people about the voluntary “no-go” zone, which applies to all recreational boats – fishing or otherwise – as well as commercial vessels.

The no-go zone is located on the west side of San Juan Island, including:

  • From Mitchell Bay in the north to Cattle Point in the south, extending a quarter-mile offshore for the entire stretch.
  • In an area around the Lime Kiln Lighthouse, the no-go zone extends further offshore – half of a mile.

A map of these areas is available on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/orca/, where boaters also can find existing regulations on properly operating vessels near orcas.

These waters represent the areas in the San Juan Islands that southern resident killer whales most frequently use for foraging and socializing. To improve conditions for the whales, WDFW is asking vessel operators to stay out of these key areas to allow the whales a quiet area to feed.

“This voluntary no-go zone is a good step in helping to reduce human impacts in an important foraging area for southern resident killer whales,” said Penny Becker, WDFW’s policy lead on killer whales.

In March, the governor signed an executive order creating a task force and directing WDFW and other state agencies to take immediate action to benefit southern resident killer whales. In designing this year’s salmon fisheries, the department reduced fisheries in areas – such as the San Juan Islands, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Admiralty Inlet – important to orcas.

In late April, NOAA Fisheries asked the state to take additional action to protect southern resident killer whales during the upcoming fishing season. In response, the state included the voluntary measure in a set of actions NOAA should consider as the federal agency develops authorization for Puget Sound salmon fisheries.

“This step will help support killer whale recovery and prevents a potential delay in federal approval for our salmon fisheries throughout the entire Sound,” said Ron Warren, head of WDFW’s fish program.

Warren acknowledged that this is a difficult request to make of anglers who fish the San Juans, given the reduced opportunities for salmon fishing in the area this year. But there are a variety of other salmon fisheries in Puget Sound this season.

In particular, he noted that in other areas of the Sound anglers have more opportunities to fish for coho salmon than in recent years. More information about this year’s salmon fisheries can be found online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

Warren said there is an exception for vessels participating in a commercial fishery targeting Fraser River sockeye that takes place in the northern portion of the no-go zone, given the limited number of commercial openings (six to eight days) this year.

As part of the governor’s directive, WDFW is working with NOAA and state agencies to increase hatchery production of salmon to benefit southern resident killer whales. However, it will take three to four years for fish released from Washington hatcheries to be available as returning adults for the whales.

WDFW also will continue to work with tribal co-managers and other agencies to restore salmon habitat.

“Our efforts to recover killer whales ultimately will mean more salmon returning to Puget Sound each year, which will benefit anglers as well as orcas,” Warren said.

More information about the governor’s task force is available online at https://www.governor.wa.gov/issues/issues/energy-environment/southern-resident-killer-whale-recovery-and-task-force.

Dramatic Dropoff In Lake Sammamish Kokanee Population Spurs Action

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM KING COUNTY

A work group created by King County is taking emergency and long-term action to counter an alarming downward trend of Lake Sammamish kokanee, a native salmon population that appears closer than ever to extinction.

Adult kokanee Lake Sammamish’s Ebright Creek. King County officials say less than 20 were counted in tributaries last year. (ROGER TABOR, USFWS)

County and state biologists counted fewer than 20 kokanee in the most recent return, five years after more than 18,000 spawners returned from Lake Sammamish.

“The native kokanee salmon – important to our history, our culture, our environment – are facing new challenges that potentially threaten their very existence,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Together with our partners, we will take new, immediate actions to protect the iconic species and continue our long-term work to create healthier salmon habitats throughout our region.”

(KING COUNTY)

Biologists are investigating a number of possible factors that led to the most recent dramatic decline, including the increasing frequency and magnitude of harmful high temperatures and low-dissolved oxygen conditions during summers in Lake Sammamish. They are also beginning to study the compounding effects of parasites, bacteria, and related diseases during these events.

The Lake Sammamish Kokanee Salmon Work Group – which King County created in 2007 to help guide strategies to protect the unique species – recommended a series of immediate and long-term actions:

  • Use specially designed traps to capture returning spawners for the hatchery program
  • Use the latest technology to protect the unique genetic stock of Lake Sammamish kokanee
  • Release young salmon into Lake Sammamish in the fall of 2019, after the lake’s temperature cools and oxygen levels rise
  • Reintroduce kokanee salmon to additional creeks in the watershed, reducing the risk that a flood or drought in a single creek will wipe out the entire run
  • Lead technical work to understand and guide strategic actions to address the underlying factors that are threatening the kokanee population

For the past decade, the Kokanee Work Group – an alliance of tribal and local governments, state and federal agencies, landowners, and residents of the watershed – has worked together with the shared goal of a healthy, stable kokanee population.

The Work Group continues to make progress, with more than 18,000 spawners returning to Lake Sammamish during the 2012-13 run. But scientists are concerned that the new challenges have the potential to wipe out the remaining kokanee population unless immediate action is taken.

Working together to restore healthy salmon habitats throughout King County

King County and other land managers are continuing their habitat-restoration work that will improve the health of the kokanee salmon population. The ongoing work includes:

  • Removing barriers to healthy habitats, such as replacing fish-blocking culverts along the East Sammamish Trail and Parkway so salmon can move up and down streams
  • Planting thousands of trees and shrubs that provide shade and cover for salmon
  • Increasing public awareness and education to reduce stormwater pollution
  • Partnering with the Issaquah Hatchery to help secure remaining kokanee population

In addition to being culturally significant, the native kokanee are important to the bio-diversity of our region. They have a unique genetic signature, having adapted to the unique Lake Sammamish ecosystem, making them impossible to replace. Genetic diversity makes the natural environment healthier and more resilient, which is particularly important in the face of climate change.

(KING COUNTY)

The kokanee run that occurs in November and December – known as “the late run” – is the only remaining native run. The two other native runs that historically occurred between late August and early November no longer occur because those kokanee have been extinct since the 2000s.

The Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group active membership includes the Snoqualmie Tribe, each of the five local jurisdictions in the Lake Sammamish watershed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington State Parks, Trout Unlimited, Mid-Sound Fisheries Enhancement Group, Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, Friends of Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, Save Lake Sammamish, Friends of Pine Lake, Friends of Lake Sammamish State Park, and residents who live in the watershed.

Washington Bear Also Slumbered Winter Away In Rarefied Air

There wasn’t a live streaming webcam pointed at it, but Washington had its own high-rise black bear hibernating way up a cottonwood tree this past winter.

The 4-year-old female denned in a niche 28 feet above the ground near Lake Wenatchee, according to Lindsay Welfelt.

WDFW’S LINDSAY WELFELT PEEKS OUT OF A BEAR’S DEN 28 FEET UP A COTTONWOOD STANDING NEAR LAKE WENATCHEE. SHE WAS REPLACING A GPS COLLAR ON THE FOUR-YEAR-OLD ANIMAL AS PART OF A RESEARCH PROJECT. (WDFW)

She should know, as she crawled in with the bruin — albeit, after it was temporarily immobilized.

Welfelt’s an assistant bear and cougar specialist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and says that this particular animal has been monitored for the past two years.

It’s part of a long-term research project she and fellow WDFW staffer Rich Beausoleil are running in this part of Chelan County and across the Cascade Crest in King County’s Snoqualmie area.

ANOTHER LOOK AT THE COTTONWOOD. (WDFW)

“We have been monitoring bears in these areas to look at survival, reproduction, population density, and den site characteristics,” Weltfelt says. “Most females do not reproduce in this area until they are five, so we went to this bear’s den to replace her GPS collar that will last another two years. Hopefully we will document her first reproduction next winter.”

According to WDFW’s latest weekly Wildlife Program report, where a fuzzy image of her den dive first appeared, she and Beausoleil had checked in on 56 hibernating bears, placing GPS collars on 42 and stationed cameras outside 13 dens to that point in mid-April.

A total of 198 bears are part of the study, 73 of which are “on the air,” meaning collared with telemetry.

Speaking of on the air, earlier this year, a male black bear slumbering some 50-plus feet up another cottonwood tree drew widespread interest when Glacier National Park managers trained a webcam on it.

That was deactivated after the bear wandered off, but Welfelt says tree-denning is “relatively common” for the species and that she and Beausoleil have had several hibernate that way.

“The advantage of a den up a tree would be additional safety during the denning period from larger bears or other predators. There is likely also a thermal advantage to keep them off the frozen or wet ground and protection from weather,” she says.

Of note, WDFW’s study bears seemed to stay indoors, if you will, a little longer this winter.

“Bears in our areas generally den for four to five months in the winter, but this year we documented several bears that were in dens up to six months, mid-October through mid-April,” Welfelt says.

A TRAIL CAM CAPTURED THE FEMALE BEAR’S LESS THAN ENTHUSIASTIC EMERGENCE LAST SPRING. (WDFW)

Still, Washington bears should now all be out of their dens and looking for grub.

Welfelt says that WDFW’s bear work now moves towards public education about “the big three.”

“Garbage, bird feeders, and fruit trees — if we could eliminate those attractants, we could virtually eliminate human-bear conflict,” she says.

WDFW Holding Public Meetings, Taking Comment On Columbia River Salmon Policies

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is inviting people to share their views at four upcoming meetings in Ridgefield on a draft assessment of a state policy that guides the management of salmon fisheries in the lower Columbia River.

 (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The policy, adopted in 2013 by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, is designed to promote orderly fisheries, advance the recovery of wild salmon and steelhead, and support the economic well-being of the Columbia River fishing industry.

WDFW has initiated a review of that policy at the request of the commission, a nine-member a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the department.

“Once completed, this review will provide a foundation for the commission’s assessment of the policy,” said Bill Tweit, a WDFW special assistant. “Commissioners have emphasized that the department’s review must be detailed, comprehensive, and open to public involvement.”

To encourage engagement, the department invites the public to join in discussions with two WDFW advisory groups at any or all of four meetings designed to inform the department’s policy review. All of those meetings will be held at WDFW’s regional office at 5525 S. 11th St. in Ridgefield:

  • The Columbia River Commercial Fishing Advisory Group: Meetings scheduled May 15 and July 31 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • The Columbia River Recreational Fishing Advisory Group: Meetings scheduled May 15 and July 12 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

An initial draft of the Comprehensive Review of the Columbia River Basin Salmon Management Policy is posted on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/comp_review_columbia_river_basin_salmon-C-3620.pdf.

WDFW staff briefed the commission on an initial draft of its policy review March 17 at a public meeting in Wenatchee. Commissioners will receive regular updates from staff through mid-September, when they will meet to discuss WDFW’s final review of the Columbia River policy.

The Washington and Oregon commissions may also meet jointly in November to discuss the policy.

All of these meetings are open to the public.

Information about the upcoming meetings can be found on the advisory group websites (https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/advisory/) and the commission website (https://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/).

The Columbia River Basin Salmon Management policy, as revised by the Washington commission in January 2017, is available at https://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/policies/c3620.pdf

Olympic Mountain Goats To Be Moved To North Cascades, Under EIS Out For Final Review

Mountain goats are meant for the mountains, just not the Olympics, where the nonnative species will likely soon begin to be captured and relocated to the North Cascades, or shot on sight.

A TRIO OF MOUNTAIN GOATS CLING TO ROCKS ON THE RIDGE ABOVE THE ROAD TO HURRICANE RIDGE. (OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK)

Federal and state wildlife managers today announced that they want to remove billies, nannies and kids to reduce damage in the heights of the peninsula’s Olympic National Park.

A final environmental impact statement released this week will undergo a final 30-day comment period before the decision is final.

If no last objections are raised, efforts will begin this summer to move as many of the Olympics’ 725 goats as possible to the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests, supplementing scattered herds there.

A LARGE HERD OF MOUNTAIN GOATS GATHERED ON THE FLANKS OF MT. BAKER, IN WASHINGTON’S NORTH CASCADES, IN 2016. (FENNER YARBOROUGH, WDFW)

Special permit hunting opportunities in the region have been declining over time.

“Federal and state agencies are poised to begin the effort that will help grow a depleted population of mountain goats in the Cascades; and eliminate their impact on the Olympic Peninsula,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum in a press release.

The alpine wanderers were apparently brought to the Olympics in the 1920s for hunting before the mountains became a national park. It was a time when critters were moved around to replenish animal herds diminished by overhunting and settlement, or to provide new opportunities.

But with the peninsula’s goat population forecast to hit 1,000 in several years unless nothing is done, and with the fatal goring of a hiker in 2010, the time to act to halt impacts to mountain vegetation appears to be now.

After two years of capture and translocation operations, lethal removals would begin, though animals in unapproachable areas could be killed after the first year, according to the EIS.

Federal, state and “skilled public volunteers” would be tasked with taking out the last goats with nontoxic ammo.

To view the plan, go to https://parkplanning.nps.gov/OLYMgoat.

ODFW, OSP Team To Remove Arrows From 2 Shady Cove Does; Search Still On For Poacher

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Two deer, illegally shot with arrows in the Shady Cove area, were successfully tranquilized yesterday and the arrows removed.

(OSP)

ODFW wildlife biologists and Oregon State Police fish and wildlife officers worked together to track and tranquilize the deer, remove the arrows and treat the wounds. The deer, an adult doe and a yearling doe, were successfully released in good health with no visible infection.

(OSP)

“Pictures of these deer stuck with arrows have been circulating widely in the media and social media, and understandably, it’s upsetting to see. We are happy to say the arrows were removed and these deer have a very good chance of survival,” said Steve Niemela, Rogue District Wildlife Biologist.

Last week, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon State police began receiving calls from landowners in Shady Cove who saw these deer on their properties. Niemela said this is the second time in two years deer were illegally shot with arrows.

“This is not ethical hunting, it’s a twisted act of poaching,” said Zach Lycett, board member of the Rogue Valley Chapter of Oregon Hunter’s Association. “True ethical hunters respect the animals they hunt and are grateful for the opportunities to hunt. We do not stand for these kinds of criminal acts.”

OSP Sergeant Jim Collom said OSP is investigating and encourages anyone with information to call the TIP line at 1-800-452-7888.

The Rogue Valley OHA contributed $1,500, Ashland Archers contributed $100 and Dewclaw Archery contributed $500 to add on to the Oregon Hunter’s Association’s standard $500 reward for information leading t