Tag Archives: cougars

4 Cougars Spotted On Banks Of Cowlitz Near Toledo

A man captured a rare sight last week — a quartet of cougars along the banks of a famed Southwest Washington salmon and steelhead river.

Three approach the Cowlitz just downstream from the Blue Creek ramp and appear to take a drink or smell something on the gravel bar, while the fourth sits in the treeline.

AS A FLOCK OF DUCKS LOOKS ON, TWO COUGARS STAND BY THE BANKS OF THE COWLITZ RIVER WHILE A THIRD STROLLS AWAY FROM THE RIVER AND A FOURTH WATCHES (TAN SPOT AT RIGHT) FROM THE TREELINE. (ED TORKElSON, COWLITZRIVERLIVE.COM)

The scene was filmed by local resident Ed Torkelson late last Wednesday afternoon and posted to he and wife Gladys’s website, Cowlitzriverlive.com, billed as “The fisherman’s window on the river.” The video lasts five minutes.

Gladys says that Ed had been watching a beaver acting oddly, sniffing the air and swimming in circles before slapping its tail.

Several ducks can also be seen moving off the bank into the river.

As Ed focused on the beaver he saw four paws on the rocks and raised the camera to see a single cougar strolling up the bank.

A BEAVER (BOTTOM CENTER) WAS INITIALLY WHAT ALERTED LOCAL RESIDENT ED TORKELSON THAT SOMETHING UNUSUAL WAS GOING ON. AFTER SEEING PAWS WALK PAST THE TOP OF THE FRAME, HE RAISED THE CAMERA TO CAPTURE A COUGAR STROLLING BY. (ED TORKELSON, COWLITZRIVERLIVE.COM)

“He was all eyes,” Gladys says of Ed.

The cat walked a bit further before cutting into the trees, and then two minutes later a pair come out and walk over to the river.

A third joins them while the fourth watches from cover.

“Who ever sees four cougars in the wild? You hardly ever see one,” says Gladys.

She says in the four years they’ve run the camera on their property located a river bend downstream from the famed steelheading boat launch and at which they’ve lived on for a decade, they’ve seen deer, sea lions and otters, “but never a cougar.”

THREE COUGARS AT THE EDGE OF THE COWLITZ. (ED TORKELSON, COWLITZRIVERLIVE.COM)

Brian Kertson is WDFW’s cougar researcher and says he’s “pretty certain” the Torkelsons’ video shows a family group.

“That would be my first guess. Litter sizes are typically two to three,” he says.

The area is a rural part of Lewis County with scattered homes, a few farms and logged-over hillsides nearby.

What makes this more unusual, though, is that the group was viewed in real time rather than recovered later from a stationary trail cam, as with the images of eight cougars that a Wenatchee hunter found on his device posted in Moses Coulee in early 2011.

Kertson says that that was likely two related lions and their litters meeting where their ranges overlapped. He says that GPS collars are also revealing that the big cats interact more than previously believed. He says that while they are loners, “they’re not necessarily asocial.”

He relates story about how an adult female killed a deer and shared it with not only her three subadults but likely their father.

(ED TORKELSON, COWLITZRIVERLIVE.COM)

Cougars have been in the news a lot in recent years, for killing a Washington bicyclist and Oregon hiker last year, turning up in the wrong places — Mercer Island last month and a Spokane neighborhood last week — and their impact on Idaho elk herds compared to wolves.

Now they’re giving a pair of local residents and others reason to pay closer attention to their wildlife cams — and not just for river and fishing conditions — and help shed more light on the Northwest’s critters.

WDFW Mulling Cougar Hunting Changes Ahead Of 2020 Season

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has assembled an internal working group of department biologists and enforcement officers to develop recommended changes to the cougar hunting seasons.

WASHINGTON HUNTING MANAGERS ARE DEVELOPING POTENTIAL CHANGES TO COUGAR SEASONS. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

After hearing from concerned constituents at the March 2019 commission meeting, the department began reviewing its current cougar hunting rules in order to bring the commission potential amendments for their consideration.

“Our group has met five times over the last six months to discuss changes to the hunt structure,” said Anis Aoude, WDFW game division manager. “After completing our internal process, we will begin a public engagement process to receive feedback from our stakeholders.”

In the coming months, WDFW will discuss progress with the Fish and Wildlife Commission at their Wildlife Committee meetings, seek input from key external stakeholders, open a public comment period, host a digital open house with a question and answer session, and provide information through social media.

In addition, the commission will seek public comment as they consider changes during a public hearing on proposed rules in March prior to making a decision in April 2020.

“Public safety remains one of our highest concerns,” said Aoude. “This internal cougar working group continues to work at finding the balance between maintaining sustainable cougar populations while also addressing public safety.”

On March 5, the department filed a CR-101 that advertises the intent of possible rule making. The CR-101, and any future filings related to this process, can be found at wdfw.wa.gov/about/regulations.

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Study On Wolf Pack Size And Elk Survival Spotlights Strong Cougar Impact

A longterm study of wapiti and wolves in Idaho turned up some pretty interesting results.

Mountain lions appear to kill more cows and calves and could also be having a larger impact on the elk herds, but wildlife managers can also increase the ungulates’ survival during snowy winters by downsizing large wolf packs preying on them.

A 197-POUND MALE NORTHEAST WASHINGTON COUGAR SNARLS AFTER BEING TREED DURING A PREDATOR-PREY RESEARCH STUDY. (WDFW)

The study also tied calf survival to predation by either toothsome species by how robust the young elk were going into their first winter, which in turn is linked to the quality of their habitat.

“There’s kind of something for everyone in there, and that’s OK, because it’s reflecting the real complexity of the system” Jon Horne, an Idaho Department of Fish and Game researcher, told David Frey of The Wildlife Society for a story entitled “JWM: Wolves reduce elk survival — but they’re not alone.”

JWM is the organization’s Journal of Wildlife Management, in which Horne and IDFG colleagues Mark Hurley, Jon Rachael and Craig White recently published “Effects of wolf pack size and winter conditions on elk mortality.”

For it, they paid close attention to 1,266 cows and 806 calves (captured at half a year old) in 29 herds from across Idaho between 2004 and 2016 to come up with a model that could predict the risk of death for the elk, according to the paper’s abstract.

(ROGER PHILLIPS, IDFG)

They found that outside of hunting harvest, 9 percent of cows and 40 percent of calves died annually.

Mountain lions accounted for 45 percent of calf deaths, 35 percent of cows. They’re an ambush predator, better in rougher, denser terrain.

Wolves were responsible for 32 percent of cow mortalities, 28 percent of calves. They’re a coarser, more effective in open country.

“Wolves preferentially selected smaller calves and older adult females, whereas mountain lions showed little preference for calf size or age class of adult females,” the researchers state.

They were able to best predict whether a calf would die based on its chest girth — a measure of how healthy it was — the average number of wolves running in nearby packs, and how deep winter snows were, in that order.

For cows, it was age, average number of wolves, and snow depth, again in that order.

SNAKE RIVER PACK WOLVES CAPTURED BY REMOTE CAMERA IN THE HELLS CANYON NATIONAL RECREATION AREA. (ODFW)

It all led to some conclusions for hunters, biologists, managers and policy makers to mull:

“Although our study was prompted by management questions related to wolves, mountain lions killed more elk than wolves and differences in selection of individual elk indicate mountain lions may have comparably more of an effect on elk population dynamics,” the researchers’ abstract states.

And:

“Our study indicates managers can increase elk survival by reducing wolf pack sizes on surrounding winter ranges, especially in areas where, or during years when, snow is deep,” they write.

And:

“Additionally, managers interested in improving over?winter calf survival can implement actions to increase the size of calves entering winter by increasing the nutritional quality of summer and early fall forage resources.”

While the results were not uniform, varying by region, that last point has been repeated a billion times, and here I’ll make it a billion and one — habitat is the key.

Elk country really needs to continue to be improved with the ungulates in mind to make them stronger, more fit and able to evade predators.

As for improving survival, in winter 2013-14 a professional hunter sent by IDFG into the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness to kill wolves to improve elk survival ended up taking out two entire packs before he was yanked out of the woods.

That’s unlikely to happen in Washington, but the state wolf management plan does say that if “at-risk” big game herds are found to fall 25 percent below population benchmarks for two straight years or see their harvests decline by a quarter compared to the 10-year average for two consecutive seasons, it could trigger consideration of reducing local wolf numbers if the wolf recovery zone that the deer, elk, moose, etc., herd occupies has four or more breeding pairs.

“Under this form of management, wolves would be controlled by moving them to other areas, through lethal control, and/or with other control techniques. While wolves are recovering, non-lethal solutions will be prioritized to be used first,” WDFW’s plan states.

It’s probably not the final word, but the IDFG biologists’ study is sure to kick up more sparks in the blazing fire that is the debate about the impact wolves are having on our region’s elk herds.

But two things are for sure: It appears that a whole ‘nother species — cougars — are playing an even bigger role in things than we’ve suspected, and this latest insight helps flesh out how complicated it all is.

“What we’re realizing now is that to really understand these systems, we have to treat them as multiple-predator, multiple-prey systems,” Horne told The Wildlife Society’s Frey.

In the coming years, details more specific to Washington should begin to come out through WDFW’s big predator-prey study in the Eastside’s northern tier. It’s looking at deer and elk, and wolves, cougars, coyotes and bobcats.

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Washington Game Commissioners Hear About Northeast Predator, Prey Issues

With the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission’s monthly meeting being held in Spokane, members had a chance to hear about the region’s predator and prey issues from local residents this morning.

A 197-POUND NORTHEAST WASHINGTON COUGAR SNARLS AFTER BEING TREED FOR A PREDATOR-PREY RESEARCH STUDY. (WDFW)

And from too many cougars to not enough deer to wolf management, hunters, homeowners and ranchers gave WDFW’s citizen oversight panel an earful, and then some, during public input.

In testimony that was being live-streamed, some talked about how few deer they were seeing anymore where once they would routinely see hundreds.

One hunter who had been afield for 40 years and whose family has a longtime deer camp near Sherman Pass spoke of seeing only one mature mule deer buck and a handful of does last season.

He tearfully called for a six-year deer hunting moratorium across Eastern Washington so future generations would have opportunities to see the animals.

A Colville-area man proposed a pilot Sept. 1-March 31 lion season in WDFW’s District 1, the popular game management units of Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties.

His idea called for a minimum harvest of 45, but if the take fell below that the hunt would be restricted as a sign of a declining population.

RESIDENTS EXPRESS CONCERNS ABOUT NORTHEAST WASHINGTON PREDATOR AND PREY POPULATIONS BEFORE THE FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION. (WDFW)

Another talked about fearing letting his kids play in the backyard, relating a story about a cougar having been as close as 3 feet from someone.

Some called for reinstating hound hunting, and another spotlighted one tribe’s predator and prey management, essentially saying that big game is their primary priority.


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A man with a CDL volunteered to help translocate wolves out of the region.

And a livestock producer told commissioners how ranchers were poo-pooed that one wolf pack had twice as many members as state managers thought, but were vindicated when a recent aerial survey showed just that.

He also indicated he was more comfortable speaking in Spokane than Olympia, where he said he felt like he might be shot in the back by audience members.

Speaking of Olympia, several predator and prey bills that could affect Northeast Washington have been active there.

SB 2097, directing WDFW to review the status of wolves in Washington, has been amended after pushback to kill the possibility of considering regional delisting;

SB 5525 deals with whitetail deer surveys and gives the agency a goal of increasing counts to eight to nine per mile;

And HB 1516 and SB 5320 would create a program for training dogs for nonlethal pursuit of predators by vetted houndsmen to protect stock and public safety.

Meanwhile, for this hunting season, WDFW is proposing to eliminate antlerless whitetail tags and permits for youth, senior, disabled, second deer, early and late archery and early muzzleloader seasons in GMUs 101 through 121 to try and increase the herd.

Back in Spokane, the commission’s public input period was scheduled to run from 8:15 to 8:45 a.m., but didn’t wrap up until 10:48 a.m. such was the number of people who wanted to speak.

“We heard you and we’ll start discussing this internally and see what we can do,” said Chairman Larry Carpenter in closing testimony.

At the end of today’s session, Carpenter touched on predators again, as did another commissioner.

“We’re not headed on the right compass course,” said Jay Holzmiller of Anatone, who said it was a bad idea “to keep walking down the road fat, dumb and happy.”

“We’re sitting on a powder keg,” he said.

Oly Update II: Gill Net Ban, Bainbridge Wolf Preserve Bills Introduced

Just a brief update from the Olympia Outsider™ as the second week of Washington’s legislative session comes to a close.

Lawmakers continue to introduce fish- and wildlife-related bills, and several of note were dropped this week, some more serious than others.

A TONGUE IN CHEEK BILL INTRODUCED IN OLYMPIA THIS WEEK WOULD ESSENTIALLY DECLARE BAINBRIDGE ISLAND A WOLF PRESERVE. IT’S REP. JOEL KRETZ’S RESPONSE TO A LOCAL LEGISLATOR’S BILL THAT WOULD BAR WDFW FROM LETHALLY REMOVING DEPREDATING WOLVES IN HIS DISTRICT. NEITHER ARE LIKELY TO PASS. (THE INTERWEBS)

With our rundown last Friday starting with House bills, this week we’ll lead off with new ones in the Senate:

Bill: SB 5617
Title: “Banning the use of nontribal gill nets.”
Sponsors: Sens. Salomon, Braun, Van De Wege, Rolfes, Wilson, L., Rivers, Fortunato, Palumbo, Keiser, Das, Frockt, Randall, Warnick, Hunt, Honeyford, Brown, Cleveland, Saldaña, Nguyen, Darneille, Conway, Pedersen, Wilson, C., and Liias
Bill digest: Not available as the bill was just introduced this morning, but parsing through the text, which cites declining wild salmon runs, the importance of Chinook to orcas and reforms on the Columbia, it would phase out gillnets “in favor of mark selective harvest techniques that are capable of the unharmed release of wild and endangered salmon while selectively harvesting hatchery-reared salmon.” It would not affect tribes’ ability to net salmon.
Olympia Outsider™ analysis: First thing that jumps out about this bill is the massive number of cosponsors, 24 — nearly half of the Senate on board from the get-go. The second is its bipartisan support — 17 Democrats, seven Republicans. The lead sponsor is the recently elected Sen. Jesse Salomon of Shoreline, who defeated commercial fishing supporter Maralynn Chase last fall. It’s highly likely that the bill will make it through its first committee too, which is chaired by Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, one of the cosponsors. It also comes with some apparent backsliding led by Oregon interests on efforts to get gillnets out of the shared Columbia.

Bill: SB 8204
Title: “Amending the Constitution to guarantee the right to fish, hunt, and otherwise harvest wildlife.”
Sponsors: Sens. Braun, Fortunato, Takko, Wagoner, and Wilson, L.
Bill digest: Unavailable, but if passed would put the above up for a vote at the next general election.
OO analysis: The nut of this bill has been around for a few years, but here’s hoping it gets more traction this legislative session than 2017’s!

Bill: SB 5404
Title: “Expanding the definition of fish habitat enhancement projects.”
Sponsors: Sens. Rolfes, Honeyford, Van De Wege, McCoy, Salomon, Hasegawa
Bill digest: None available, but essentially adds projects restoring “native kelp and eelgrass beds and restoring native oysters” to those that could be permitted to enhance fish habitat.
OO analysis: A recall watching shimmering schools of baitfish off a pier in Port Townsend that had signs talking about the importance of eelgrass to salmon and other key species, such as herring. With so many acres of beds lost over the decades, this seems like a good idea.

Bill: SB 5525
Title: “Concerning whitetail deer population estimates.”
Sponsor: Sen. Shelly Short
Bill digest: None available, but directs WDFW to annually count whitetail bucks, does and fawns on certain transects in Northeast Washington with the ultimate goal of increasing deer numbers to 9 to 11 per mile.
OO analysis: State wildlife biologists already drive roads here in late summer to estimate buck:doe ratios, but we’re not going to argue with getting more deer in the woods!

Bill: HB 1404
Title: “Concerning a comprehensive study of human-caused impacts to streambeds.”
Sponsor: Rep. Blake
Bill digest:  Unavailable, but directs WDFW, DNR and DOE to review scientific literature for the effects that mining, running jet sleds and operating diversion dams, among other impacts, have on fish, gravel and water quality, with the report due next year.
OO analysis: Could be interesting to read that report.

Bill: HB 1516
Title: “Establishing a department of fish and wildlife directed nonlethal program for the purpose of training dogs.”
Sponsors: Reps. Blake, Dent, Chapman, Kretz, Walsh, Lekanoff, Orcutt, Springer, Pettigrew, Hoff, Shea
Bill digest: Unavailable, but essentially a companion bill to the Senate’s SB 5320, which yesterday had a public hearing and enjoyed widespread support from hunting, ranching, farming and conservation interests — even HSUS. It would create a program for training dogs for nonlethal pursuit of predators by vetted houndsmen to protect stock and public safety.
OO analysis: To quote the chair at Thursday’s hearing on the Senate side bill, “We love when there is widespread agreement.”

Bill: HB 1579 / SB 5580
Title: “Implementing recommendations of the southern resident killer whale task force related to increasing chinook abundance.”
Sponsors: Reps. Fitzgibbon, Peterson, Lekanoff, Doglio, Macri, Stonier, Tharinger, Stanford, Jinkins, Robinson and Pollet; Sens. Rolfes, Palumbo, Frockt, Dhingra, Keiser, Kuderer, and Saldaña.
Note: By request of Office of the Governor
Bill digest: Unavailable, but per a news release from Gov. Jay Inslee the bills “would increase habitat for Chinook salmon and other forage fish” through hydraulic permitting.
OO analysis: Good to see some teeth when it comes to overseeing projects done around water. Of note, this bill would also essentially reclassify some toothsome Chinook cohabitants, scrubbing smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and walleye from the list of officially approved state “game fish,” a precursor to slashing limits?

Bill: HB 1580 / SB 5577
Title: “Concerning the protection of southern resident orca whales from vessels.”
Sponsors: Reps. Blake, Kretz, Kirby, Peterson, Appleton, Shewmake, Morris, Cody, Jinkins; Sens. Rolfes, Frockt, Liias, McCoy, Dhingra, Hunt, Keiser, Kuderer, Saldaña, Wilson, C.
Bill digest: Unavailable, but per the Governor’s Office, “would protect Southern Resident orcas from vessel noise and disturbance. The bills would require vessels to stay at least 400 yards away from Southern Resident orcas and report vessels they witness in violation of the limit. It would also require vessels to travel under seven knots within one-half nautical mile of the whales. The legislation would create no-go and go-slow zones around the whales to protect them.
OO analysis: With vessel disturbance one of three key factors in why Puget Sound’s orcas are struggling, this bill follows on recommendations from Inslee’s orca task force. Having companion bills makes passage more likely.

Bill: HB 1639
Title: “Ensuring that all Washingtonians share in the benefits of an expanding wolf population.”
Sponsor: Rep. Joel Kretz
Bill digest: Unavailable at this writing, but essentially declares Bainbridge Island a wolf preserve and would translocate most of the state’s wolves there so “they can be protected, studied, and, most importantly, admired by the region’s animal lovers,” as well as sets new limits for considering when to lethally remove depredating wolves, including after four confirmed attacks on dogs, four on domestic cats or two on children.
OO analysis: Rep. Kretz is known for dropping some amusing wolf-related bills in the legislature, often at the expense of lawmakers who live on islands, and this latest one needles Bainbridge’s Rep. Sherry Appleton, whose HB 1045 would bar WDFW from killing livestock-attacking wolves to try and stave off further depredations in Kretz’s district and elsewhere in Washington. Neither bill is likely to pass, but the text of HB 1639 is a hoot.

Op-Ed: More Intensive Cougar Management Tools Needed In Oregon — OHA

THE FOLLOWING IS AN OP ED FROM THE OREGON HUNTERS ASSOCIATION

By Jim Akenson

The fatal cougar attack on a hiker in the Mount Hood National Forest last year was a tragic thing. Evidence evaluation indicated the cougar was a female in good health. Is this a surprise? Not really.

OREGON WILDLIFE MANAGERS IDENTIFIED THIS COUGAR AS THE ONE THAT KILLED HIKER DIANA BOBER IN LATE SUMMER NEAR MT. HOOD. THE ANIMAL WAS TRACKED DOWN AND LETHALLY REMOVED. (ODFW)

Cougar numbers are at all-time highs for our state, and the distribution of these cats encompasses the entire state. What has accounted for this cougar population expansion from an estimation of less than 3,000 in the mid-1990s to well over 6,000 today? Some of the answer is biological, some is social, and much is connected to management capabilities and practices. We need to find a way to return to this socio-biological balance, and looking to the recent past might just be the best bet – back to a time when hound hunting was a legal and effective management tool in Oregon.

What are the consequences of there being double the number of cougars in Oregon? These effects are best described as alarming and pattern changing. One such pattern is for prey animals, specifically deer, relocating to human development areas to avoid a higher predation risk. This relocation is also drawing in cougars that will go where the next meal can be found. Many hunters and state wildlife managers report that deer are now less abundant in the wilder mountain, high desert, and canyon regions of our state. Meanwhile, Oregon cities are wrestling with the number of deer inhabiting city limits, and cougars are showing up in backyards and schoolyards.

As cougars become more comfortable in human-altered landscapes, the probability of negative encounters with humans, as well as pets and livestock, increases.

JIM AKENSON. (OREGON HUNTERS ASSOCIATION)

So, what is the solution? Biologically, it is plain and simple – more intensive cougar management through various hunting techniques. With an estimated population of 6,400 cougars, and roughly 14,000 people hunting cougars and harvesting from 250 to 300 cats per year, this only equals a harvest rate of 4 percent, which is not enough to even flatten the ever-rising cougar population curve.

Reducing human threat, increasing deer and elk survival, and bringing a cougar population back in balance with other interests in our state will require increased management action and efficiency. According to the 2017 Oregon Cougar Management Plan, the success rate for 2016 cougar hunters was 1.9 percent, with 13,879 people reporting that they did hunt cougars. Contrast that with 1994 data, the last year that dogs were allowed in conservatively controlled, limited-entry cougar hunting, showing 358 people hunted cougars and harvested 144 for a success rate of 40.2 percent. Bottom line: hunting efficiency with dogs is dramatically higher, and provides wildlife managers a reliable tool for maintaining the cougar population within its management objectives.

Oregon’s cougar management and record keeping are divided into six zones, each of which is assigned a desired harvest quota to keep the population in balance with the varied activities of all Oregonians. Employing the current limited management methods, only one of the six zones has met the harvest quota in recent years. A criterion for quota establishment is complaint frequency. By far the most cougar complaints are recorded on the west side of the Cascades, including the coastal region, in Zones A and B. This is also where the bulk of the human population lives. More than 350 cougar complaints per year were received during the last decade in these two zones. Unfortunately, this recording system was not initiated until 2001, so we don’t have data for the time before the dog ban of 1994. We do have records for administrative actions connected to human safety and pet conflicts before and after the dog ban of 1994. For eight years before the ban, they averaged only four per year, and then seven years after the dog ban these complaints increased to 27 per year – nearly a seven-fold increase.

Oregon does have a legislatively authorized agent program wherein highly vetted houndsmen are permitted to lethally remove cats to reduce human conflict and bolster deer and elk survival. These agents work closely with ODFW district biologists. Even with this program in place, cougars are steadily increasing in Oregon, where hunting them is very impractical without the aid of dogs. At present, the law authorizing the use of agents is up for renewal, and hopefully it will receive legislative support and then be applied more broadly for both reaching zone harvest quotas and to help curb the upward statewide population trajectory.

Editor’s note: Jim Akenson is a wildlife biologist, book author and Conservation Director for the Oregon Hunters Association (oregonhunters.org). He invested much of his career in researching the Northwest’s predators.

2018 Northwest Fish And Wildlife Year In Review, Part I

As 2018 draws to a close, we’re taking our annual look back at some of the biggest fish and wildlife stories the Northwest saw during the past year.

While the fishing and hunting wasn’t all that much to write home about, boy did the critters and critter people ever make headlines!

If it wasn’t the plight of orcas and mountain caribou, it was the fangs of cougars and wolves that were in the news — along with the flight of mountain goats and pangs of grizzly bear restoration.

Then there were the changes at the helms, court battles, legislative battles — ah, nelly, we could go on and on, but we’ll save some of our thunder for parts II and III. Meanwhile, here are events we reported on from January through May.

JANUARY

The month’s biggest Northwest fishing and hunting news came in late January when WDFW’s Jim Unsworth submitted his resignation letter, ending a rocky three-year stint as the agency’s director.

JIM UNSWORTH. (WDFW)

His tenure was marked by intense allocation battles with Western Washington tribes over declining salmon returns, an ill-fated license fee increase bid, an embarrassing run-in with state senators during a legislative hearing, and overreaching promises.

Some things were beyond Unsworth’s control, but among the final straws was developing the proposed Puget Sound Chinook Harvest Management Plan without knowledge of the Fish and Wildlife Commission, which hires and fires directors.

As Joe Stohr held down the fort in the interim, the citizen panel soon launched a search for someone who would lead the agency through a “transformative” period.

California sea lions reached their “optimal sustainable population,” federal biologists reported in the Journal of Wildlife Management. The 275,000 roaming up and down the West Coast and up several rivers were at their habitat’s carrying capacity.

AN AERIAL IMAGE FROM SHOWS CALIFORNIA SEA LIONS FEEDING IN THE LOWER COLUMBIA. (STEVE JEFFRIES, WDFW, VIA NWFSC)

ODFW released news that it had its first pack of wolves in the North Cascades, and later in the year said the duo in southern Wasco County had had a pair of pups.

Better late than never — Washington lawmakers finally passed the 2017 Capital Budget, with $74 million for WDFW hatcheries (if only they’d purchased a new backup generator for Minter Creek!), critical wildlife habitat and fish passage barrier removal projects. The infrastructure budget was held up during 2017’s legislative session due to disagreements over how to address the state Supreme Court’s Hirst Decision and its impacts on rural landowners.

And late in the month, several Washington agencies pinned the August 2017 Atlantic salmon netpen collapse on an “excessive buildup of mussels and other marine organisms” that Cooke Aquaculture failed to deal with, allowing the nets to act as de facto underwater sails. The state legislature went on to end farming the fish by 2025.

WRECKAGE OF COOKE AQUACULTURE’S CYPRESS ISLAND NETPEN WHICH HAD HOUSED 300,000-PLUS ATLANTIC SALMON BEFORE BREAKING. (DNR)

FEBRUARY

Also in Olympia, Rep. Joel Kretz’s (R-Wolf Country) wolf translocation bill was not only translocated out of committee but the state House as well. “This is not the be-all, end-all solution by any means,” Kretz said. “But my constituents need something.” It died in the Senate.

The number of Northwest rivers getting the Google Street View treatment grew thanks to an outfit called FishViews. Basically, they strap a 360-degree camera in the middle of a raft, jab another one underneath the water and push off, recording video and environmental data the whole way, and posting it for all to see.

A SCREENSHOT FROM THE FISHVIEWS TOUR DOWN THE SKAGIT RIVER. (FISHVIEWS)

Oregon fish and game protectors added an even easier way to report poachers — dialing *OSP from your smartphone puts you in touch with the state police’s dispatch center.

WDFW also began to get more high tech with beta testing for the launch of the new Fish Washington app. The free app is meant to make it easy to see the fishing regs for the water you’re on as well as spotlight angling opportunities across the Evergreen State and how to take advantage of them. By year-end the app had 2.8 and 2.2 ratings out of 5 on the Apple App Store and on Google Play, where it is available for free.

The Oregon Hunters Association announced that 2017 saw a record payout of $24,200 through the Turn In Poachers fund, likely due to increased reward amounts. Later in this year, ODFW preference points instead of cash were made available for those whose tips lead to arrests or citations.

We looked into exactly how much of our fishing and hunting fees go to DFWs and the answer was surprising — and it wasn’t. Essentially all of your license dollars go directly to state fish and wildlife management. And what’s more, that money brings in even more federal and state dollars because for agencies to receive Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson excise tax revenues, the states must provide a 1:3 match for PR and DJ. The federal acts also “require the states to not divert funding from license fees,” WDFW’s Nate Pamplin added.

Using state and federal grants, Washington’s Fish and Wildlife Commission signed off on buying the last parts of a 31-square-mile wildlife area known as Big Bend in northern Douglas County. The multi-phase, multi-year deal secures sharptail grouse habitat and hunting access in a largely privately owned portion of Eastern Washington. WDFW hopes to build a new boat launch there for Lake Rufus Woods anglers.

THE 2018 PASSAGE OF THE 2017 WASHINGTON CAPITAL BUDGET INCLUDED $3 MILLION FOR THE MULTIPHASE ACQUISITION OF THE GRAND COULEE RANCH IN NORTHERN DOUGLAS COUNTY. (WASHINGTON RECREATION AND CONVSERVATION OFFICE)

Near the end of February, Colville wildlife managers reported that for the first time since a hunt opened in 2012, the wolf quota of three animals had been met on their sprawling North-central Washington reservation. Later in the year, the tribal Business Council would vote 9-1 to eliminate the quota in favor of an “unlimited” annual harvest.

And on the month’s last day, news broke that a WDFW IT staffer for Region 5 offices had been fired for allegedly stealing nearly $80,000 worth of fuel using his and other state staffers’ gas cards and pin numbers. According to fish and wildlife officers’ reports, Robert “Bob” D. Woodard used them to fill up his diesel pickup, his wife’s Honda, his old fishing boat, as well as his gas cans over a period of eight years.

MARCH

The smelt run was so poor that for the first time in half a decade, there wasn’t even a chance to try to dipnet them on the Cowlitz River through the population monitoring fishery that federal overseers have allowed the state to hold on the ESA-listed stock. It followed on a 2017 opener that was, in the words of one observer, actually more about paddling the river along than dipping smelt.

SMELT DIPPERS AND OBSERVERS GATHER ALONG THE LOWER COWLITZ ON FEBRUARY 25, 2017, DURING A FIVE-HOUR OPENER THAT WAS DESCRIBED AS “PRETTY MUCH A BUST” WHEN FEW CAUGHT ANY. (OLAF LANGNESS, WDFW)

In Washington’s opposite corner, wildlife biologists were “gobsmacked” at the size of a cougar they captured — a 197-pound, 9-year-old male mountain lion. It was tracked down, darted and collared for a research project studying how predators and prey, as well as wolves and lions, interact across the game-rich northern tier of the eastern half of the state. Northwest cougars would go on to be a big news story as the year wore on.

The National Marine Fisheries Service reported that the North Pacific was recovering from The Blob — the return of “friendly faces,” coldwater copepods, got them excited later in the year — but that it would take awhile for salmon to benefit from the demise of the giant pool of warm water that began to form in 2014 and altered the food web. The poor rearing conditions for young Columbia Chinook and coho that entered the ocean in 2016 and 2017, respectively, led to low returns this past summer and fall, but there is hope at least for the latter species as the spring 2018 survey found well above average numbers of juvenile silvers at sea.

Wayne Kruse, the last regular hook-and-bullet writer for a large newspaper in the Puget Sound region, announced it was time to “hang up my hoochie.” He enjoyed a long career towards the end of the era when sharing news about where the fish were biting, clams being dug and ducks flocking to were staples in Thursday sports sections of dailies.

WAYNE KRUSE’S MUG SHOT (THIRD FROM LEFT) APPEARS IN THE OCT. 4, 1975 ISSUE OF WESTERN WASHINGTON FISHING & HUNTING NEWS, IN WHICH HE HAD STORIES ON RABBIT HUNTING IN THE SAN JUAN ISLANDS AND DUCKS ON THE SKAGIT FLATS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Greg Schirato, a former WDFW wildlife manager, was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison after being convicted of second-degree rape of a coworker, as well as 34 months for burglary in the first degree. Later in the year, his victim, Ann Larson, would come forward to accuse Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island) of sexual harassment and creating a hostile workplace following a consensual relationship they’d had a decade ago.

In March, WDFW reported that its wolf population grew for a ninth straight year, while in April ODFW said its numbers were also up 11 percent over the previous year, which led an actual Oregon wolf to heckle the wolfies who had been fretting the Beaver State’s growth had “stalled” and that it was “stagnant.”

JIMBO THE OREGON WOLF DOESN’T HAVE HIS OWN TWITTER ACCOUNT LIKE HERMAN THE STURGEON, BUT DOES OCCASIONALLY BLOG. (ODFW)

In what was the kickoff of a year-long focus on helping out starving southern resident killer whales, Governor Jay Inslee issued an executive order that called for increased hatchery production of Chinook and formed a task force to come up with other ways to increase SRKW numbers. At that point there were 76 members of J, K and L Pods, but that would dip to 74 with the heart-wrenching loss of one calf that was carried by its mother for two and a half weeks, and the death of another young ailing orca, despite efforts to feed it Chinook. Lack of salmon, along with pollution and vessel disturbance were identified as major causes for their low numbers. Later in the year the task force would make a set of recommendations that now must be funded and see new laws implemented by lawmakers.

WDFW STAFFER EDWARD ELEAZER PRACTICES RELEASING A CHINOOK DURING SEA TRIALS FOR AN EFFORT TO FEED A STARVING, ILL ORCA. (NMFS)

A footloose Oregon cougar discovered there was no room at the inn when it wandered into a room under construction at a hotel in The Dalles. With the big cat’s unusual behavior to come so far into the city it was deemed a “public safety risk” and put down, the sixth to that point in 2018.

A pair of relatively unlikely Washington fish and wildlife commissioners — at least according to conventional wisdom — said they wanted to know whether WDFW’s 2011 wolf management plan was actually working in a key area and if it could be tweaked. The effort was led by Jay Kehne, the Conservation Northwest staffer based in Omak, and Kim Thorburn, the Spokane birder, and later in the year WDFW began developing a timeline for coming up with a “long term wolf plan” for post state delisting management.

From the perspective of late December, federally restoring grizzly bears to the North Cascades seems a lot less likely than it did on March 23 when Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke told reporters gathered in Sedro-Woolley that “the winds are favorable” for the longterm effort. The embattled former Montana Congressman’s recent resignation from the post seems to have stilled the winds, for the time being.

SECRETARY OF INTERIOR RYAN ZINKE SPEAKS BEFORE REPORTERS AND OTHERS ON MARCH 23, 2018, ON RESTORATION OF GRIZZLY BEARS TO THE NORTH CASCADES. (CHASE GUNNELL)

Also in the North Cascades, federal fishery overseers were said to be “wrapped up in paperwork, ass-covering, scary numbers and veiled lawsuit threats” over whether they would allow the state to open the first catch-and-release opener for wild steelhead in the Skagit and Sauk Rivers since 2009. Public comment had wrapped up months before and the delay in approving a season, not to mention low level of state funding, ultimately narrowed the window of opportunity to just 12 days in April — but oh was it glorious to get back on the river again. A three-month 2019 fishery is out for NMFS review.

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

APRIL

In an extraordinary moment during the annual North of Falcon salmon-season-setting process, tribal and state fishermen spoke together on the importance of habitat and working on key issues affecting Washington Chinook, coho and other stocks. Two longtime sportfishing observers called it “historic” and “unprecedented,” while Ron Garner, president of Puget Sound Anglers, who in a very rare honor would later in the year attend a NWIFC meeting, said that if all fishermen worked cohesively, we could “move mountains.” The history of acrimony between the groups was referenced by Lummi Nation’s G.I. James, who said, “It’s a bit weird. It’s the first time I’ve been with a bunch of (sport) fishermen and haven’t heard, ‘Why are the nets all the way across the river?’” Expect more along these lines in the new year.

WDFW’S RON WARREN AND NWIFC’S LORRAINE LOOMIS SPEAK DURING A RARE BUT WELL-ATTENDED STATE-TRIBAL PLENARY SESSION LAST WEEK ON WESTERN WASHINGTON SALMON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Word that a second northern pike had been caught in Lake Washington but was released led yours truly to ask anglers who catch any of the unwanted nonnative species illegally introduced by bucket biologists to “Slash its gills, slit its belly, hack it in half, singe the carcass over high heat,” as well as offer a $50 reward. That caught the attention of KING 5’s Alison Morrow who, later in the year, put me on camera to talk about the problems with pike after a single female was caught within 10 miles of Grand Coulee Dam and roughly 40 miles from the Columbia’s anadromous zone. While hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on salmon and steelhead restoration weren’t at stake at Idaho’s Lake Cascade, IDFG said it was still “disheartening” when a walleye was caught there, forcing them to pull resources from elsewhere to check for more at the trophy perch fishery.

Fishing and hunting funnyman Patrick McManus passed away in early April at 84 years old. A true Northwest gem, McManus wrote for national magazines, and his works were compiled into beloved books such as A Fine and Pleasant Misery, They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They, Never Sniff a Gift Fish, and The Grasshopper Trap. Over his lifetime, McManus sold more than 5 million copies of those and a fictional series, and along with a Distinguished Faculty Award from Eastern Washington University, where he taught, in 1986 he won the Outdoor Writers Association of America’s highest honor, the Excellence in Craft award.

PATRICK MCMANUS AND SOME OF HIS FUNNIEST BOOKS. (EASTERN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY VIA FLICKR, CC 2.0)

An intensive late winter survey found only three members of an international mountain caribou herd that haunts the Washington-Idaho-British Columbia border — a 75-percent decline since 2017. What’s more, all three were cows and none were pregnant. Later in the year Canadian officials announced a desperate plan to capture the last two members of the South Selkirk Herd — the third was killed by a cougar — and another small band of southern caribou and put them in a pen near Revelstoke, 100 miles north of the border. Unless it works and a bolstered herd is returned to the region, it may mean that the two caribou spotted separately in fall in Northwest Montana are the last wild ones to visit the Lower 48.

With $172,000 from Washington’s legislature, Dr. Samuel Wasser and his dung-detection dogs were a go for sniffing out wolf doots in the South Cascades, where the number of public reports has grown but no packs let alone breeding pairs are known to exist. Last week, the University of Washington researcher said DNA sequencing results should be available by late winter.

Also in the South Cascades, the first case of elk hoof disease was found east of the crest, near Trout Lake, and that led WDFW to initiate the first euthanizations to control its spread. The agency’s coordinator for the problem, Kyle Garrison, says that 12 elk have so far been lethally removed through a combination of state staff and landowner efforts and special damage hunt permits, and that surveillance and training continues. Hoof samples were sent to Washington State University and Dr. Margaret Wild, who in June was chosen to lead the state’s research into what’s causing the “polymicrobial, multifactorial disease” to strike wapiti. Funding came from a 2017 bill passed by the legislature.

AN ELK’S HOOF AFFECTED BY THE CONDITION. (WDFW)

MAY

Early Washington actions to help out orcas included a “difficult request” from WDFW that anglers and boaters avoid a fishy strip along the west side of San Juan Island, a key foraging area the marine mammals targeting Fraser River-bound Chinook. The voluntary no-go zone was panned by some in the fishing community, including Kevin Klein who called it a “feel-good ‘win’” for the species’ enthusiasts. Eventually another idea came out of the governor’s task force — a moving no-go bubble around the pods. As for Canadian efforts to help out orcas, fishing was closed seasonally in portions of the BC side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Juan Islands.

(NORTHWEST STRAITS INITIATIVE)

Speaking of the islands, just offshore of Anacortes, the jump-off point to the San Juans, crews from the Northwest Straits Initiative Derelict Fishing Gear Removal Project located 614 lost crab pots strewn across the bottom, some still fishing with dead Dungies attracting still more. “It’s probably about the highest density we’ve seen,” a rep told a KOMO reporter. The pots were being collected and while crab numbers were still relatively good in the North Sound, it’s a far, far different story at the other end of the Whulge. Areas 11 and 13 were shut down for harvesting Dungeness and even red rocks after the former’s numbers crashed due to excessive harvest, poor water conditions, and the distance larva must ride currents to here from primary breeding areas. State managers say they want to try and rebuild the populations.

PUYALLUP’S JASON BROOKS PULLS A POT OFF MARINE AREA 13’S FOX ISLAND DURING THE 2013 SEASON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

What should have been an Idaho wildlife success story was derailed in federal court by a lawsuit. The Fish and Game Commission approved for the first time a grizzly bear hunt, with one tag on offer for the southeastern corner of the state, where Ursus horriblis has been recovered since the first years of this millennium and was delisted in 2017. But later in the year and spurred by the Humane Society of the United States, a U.S. District Court judge in Missoula effectively postponed the season in Idaho as well as Wyoming for the time being.

Washington State University and Rob Wielgus reached a $300,000 settlement for the professor to resign and leave as part of a deal in which neither party admitted wrongdoing following an academic freedom lawsuit. Wielgus once was a darling of wolf advocates but began to fall out of favor with some former allies, especially so after a summer 2016 claim he made led to a stunning rebuke from WSU.

Southwest Washington poaching suspects and others were hit with new charges in Oregon after county prosecutors in The Dalles filed 122 wildlife misdemeanors, including a combined 87 against the two men — Erik C. Martin and William J. Haynes — whose phones led game wardens in Oregon and Washington to discover a shocking amount of alleged illegal killing of wintering bucks for their antlers, as well as unlawfully chasing bear and bobcats with dogs. Cases in both states are still working their way through the court system.

The first of two fatal cougar attacks in the Northwest in 2018 occurred near North Bend, Washington, when an otherwise healthy lion went after a pair of bicyclists who successfully initially fended it off, but then came back and had Isaac Sederbaum’s head in its jaws before Sonja J. “SJ” Brooks attempted to flee but was run down and killed. The cougar was immediately tracked down and lethally removed, but it took longer to locate the one that killed Oregon hiker Diana Bober, who disappeared in late summer near Mt. Hood. A network of trail cams put up around the trail where her body was found turned up another otherwise healthy cougar and it was tracked down with the help of dogs and killed.

And finally, two weeks after a Thurston County judge dismissed one lawsuit against WDFW, over wolves, the Center for Biological Diversity was right back in superior court with another, this one concerning the removal of black bears damaging valuable private timber. The state agency ultimately had to temporarily halt issuing new depredation permits using dogs, bait and other methods banned by voters.

In the next installment, we tackle notable Northwest fish and wildlife events that occurred in June, July, August and September.

WDFW, UW Set To Again Collar Deer, Elk, Wolves, Lions For 5-yr NE WA Predator-Prey Study

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

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff will start capturing deer in northeast Washington in early December and fit them with radio-collars as part of an ongoing predator-prey study that began two years ago.

EARLIER THIS YEAR A TRAIL CAMERA IN STEVENS COUNTY CAPTURED WHAT’S BELIEVED TO BE A SMACKOUT PACK YEARLING PACKING FAWN QUARTERS BACK TO THE DEN. (JEFF FLOOD)

The study, scheduled to run at least five years, will help to assess the impact of wolves, cougars, and other predators on deer and elk by monitoring the interactions of all species.

This winter, researchers hope to capture at least 30 white-tailed deer in Stevens and Pend Oreille counties – primarily on public land, but also on private land where WDFW has secured landowner permission. Capture techniques include trapping animals using bait, entangling them in drop nets, and darting them with immobilization drugs from the ground.

The study plan also calls for radio-collaring wolves, cougars, bobcats, and coyotes in Stevens, Pend Oreille, and Okanogan counties. Some wolves are already radio-collared in those areas, but researchers want to maintain collars on at least two wolves in each of the packs within the study area. Cougar capture work with the use of dogs will get underway in late November, followed by bobcat and coyote captures using box traps and foothold traps after Jan. 1.

Collaborating researchers from the University of Washington (UW) will join WDFW research scientists and field biologists to monitor radio-collared ungulates and track their movements, distribution, habitat use, diet, productivity and survival. Cougars will be monitored to learn about changes in social behavior, population dynamics, prey selection and movements in areas where wolves also occur.

State wildlife managers ask that hunters who harvest a radio-collared deer or elk – and residents who encounter a dead radio-collared animal – contact WDFW’s Eastern Region office in Spokane Valley (509-892-1001), so researchers can recover the collar and collect biological samples from the carcasses.

Funding for the five-year study comes from a 2015 state legislative appropriation, federal Pittman-Robertson funds, and state wildlife funds.The UW also secured National Science Foundation grant funds for part of the project.

WSU Wolf, Cougar Researcher Resigning In Settlement

Washington State University and a wolf and cougar researcher there are parting ways under a $300,000 settlement.

Rob Wielgus will resign as part of the deal in which neither party admits wrongdoing following an academic freedom lawsuit filed by the professor and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility against the school.

WSU’S ROB WIELGUS SPEAKS DURING A WOLF SYMPOSIUM. (YOUTUBE)

A brief statement from WSU said the money would come from the state.

Over the years, Wielgus garnered attention with his counterintuitive carnivore studies, and was a darling of wolf advocates with his research that appeared to show killing livestock-depredating wolves just resulted in more attacks.

But other researchers found lethal removals could yield different results, and Wielgus began to fall out of favor with some former allies following his summer 2016 claim that a Northeast Washington livestock producer had turned out his cattle “directly on top” of a wolf den but in fact were released 5 miles away and which led to a stunning rebuke from the university.

Subsequent articles by The Seattle Times detail tensions over Wielgus between ranching and political interests and university officials and programs.

In a PEER press release, Wielgus said WSU’s Large Carnivore Conservation Lab, which he headed up, will close.

PEER claimed that without the professor’s work, “Washington lacks a coherent, science-based wolf management policy.”

The lab’s listed assistant director is now WDFW’s statewide wolf specialist.

Predators May Be To Blame For Recent Moose Calf Survival Issues In Part of NE WA

Washington wildlife managers looking into how a growing suite of hungry predators are affecting deer, elk and moose populations believe a Shiras subherd in the state’s northeast corner bears watching.

WDFW reports an unusual signal seen in moose calf survival in east-central Stevens and southern Pend Oreille Counties in recent years.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS TWO MOOSE STUDY AREAS, THE NORTHERN ONE OF WHICH SAW LOWER CALF SURVIVAL THAN THE SOUTHERN ONE. (WDFW)

It was lower in back-to-back years than in a study area just to the south and a cause for concern, biologists say.

“Calf-survival in the northern area, particularly during 2014, was low enough to elicit concern for population stability,” note authors Brock Hoenes, Sara Hansen, Richard Harris, and Jerry Nelson in the just-posted Wildlife Program 2015-2017 Ungulate Assessment.

They’re not sure why that is, except to say it’s probable some — maybe all — of the calves in question ended up as dinner and that more study will help flesh that out.

“Calf mortality occurred irregularly, with no discernible seasonal concentration,” they report. “We are unable to attribute specific causes to any of the calf deaths (the study is not designed to attribute specific causes to any of the calf deaths). That said, it is likely that at least some of the calf deaths were caused by predators.”

Among the toothsome crew roaming this country are cougars, black bears, perhaps a grizzly or two, and wolves.

According to WDFW’s latest wolf map, the Carpenter Ridge, Dirty Shirt, Goodman Meadows and Skookum Packs occur entirely or partially in the northern moose study area, and  all of which were successful breeding pairs in 2016. And in the past the Diamond wolves were here too.

A CLOSE-UP OF WDFW’S MARCH 2017 WOLF MAP SHOWS PACK LOCATIONS. THE NORTHERN MOOSE STUDY AREA OVERLAPS ALL OR PORTIONS OF THE DIRTY SHIRT, GOODMAN MEADOWS, CARPENTER RIDGE AND SKOOKUM PACKS. (WDFW)

By contrast, in the southern moose study area — Blanchard Hump and Mt. Spokane — there are no known packs, or at least were at the time of the biologists’ review last December.

Their 186-page report was posted late yesterday afternoon, two days before the state Fish and  Wildlife Commission will be briefed on wolves, wolf management and the future thereof by WDFW Wolf Policy Lead Donny Martorello.

It’s important because buried in the aforementioned wolf plan is a section addressing the species’ impacts on ungulates.

If “at-risk” big game herds such as woodland caribou are found to fall 25 percent below population benchmarks for two straight years or others see their harvests decline by a quarter compared to the 10-year average for two consecutive seasons, it could trigger consideration of reducing local wolf numbers if that particular recovery zone has four or more breeding pairs, regardless of statewide delisting.

As for the assessment of the rest of Washington’s moose, as well as its wapiti, deer and bighorn sheep, the report looks at each species, breaking them down by major herds or zones, details recent hunter harvest, and discusses other sources of mortality and factors that may influence population dynamics, before wrapping up with “Sub-herd Concerns” and “Management Conclusions.”

“Using the data at our disposal, none of the ungulate populations in this assessment appear to show clear signs of being limited by predation,” state Hoenes, Hansen, Harris, and Nelson in the executive summary.

That conclusion may not go over well with some Evergreen State hunters concerned about what their and others’ observations are telling them about how the animals are doing in the woods.

And it’s not to say that bucks and bulls, does and cows, calves and fawns aren’t affected in other ways by mountain lions, bruins, coyotes and wolves. They are, of course.

New research is beginning to show how wolf packs affect mule deer and whitetail behavior in North-central Washington, leading to different use of habitat than before.

The authors also acknowledge that limitations in the data sets “might preclude the ability to detect impacts of predation on a specific ungulate population.”

But the assessment is another way WDFW is attempting to show hunters it is keeping its eye on wolf impacts as numbers of the wild dogs near recovery goals and the conversation begins to turn to post-statewide delisting management.

Biologists will also take to the air and woods again soon for year two of a half-decade-long predator-prey study in the Okanogan, and Huckleberry and Selkirk Ranges.