Tag Archives: king county

Biologists ‘Extremely Excited … Dumbfounded’ By Wolverine Sighting Near Snoqualmie

As I’ve written before about wolves, dispersal’s a dangerous game for critters seeking out new habitat and mates.

Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it often reveals surprises and insights into the natural world.

In the latest example from Washington, a wolverine visited a very, very non-wolverinelike part of King County late last month.

A WDFW REPORT INCLUDES A SCREENSHOT (LEFT) FROM A VIDEO OF A WOLVERINE MOVING THROUGH LOW-ELEVATION TIMBERLANDS NOT FAR NORTH OF THE CITY OF SNOQUALMIE LAST MONTH. (VIA WDFW)

The huge mustelid was captured on video by a trail cam May 28 several miles north of the city of Snoqualmie, somewhere along the fringe of Campbell Global’s Snoqualmie Forest, heavily logged lowland timberlands.

The camera belongs to a local resident, one of several neighbors who like to see what roams the nearby woods, and who forwarded the video to WDFW wildlife research scientist Brian Kertson who’d studied cougars in the area for several years earlier this decade.

“Everyone that has seen the video has been extremely excited — and extremely dumbfounded,” said Kertson.

That’s because wolverines are best known for haunting the rugged, snowy heights of Washington’s North and Central Cascades, but for some reason — perhaps on a clear day it saw the Olympics and thought there might be some of its species over there? — this particular one decided to head downhill.

“This wolverine was likely a dispersing individual because it was detected in a low-elevation forested habitat near developed areas, which is not considered highly suitable wolverine habitat,” WDFW noted in its latest weekly Wildlife Program report.

Who knows exactly how far west it went, but at some point it must have turned around and headed east, back to the mountains.

Unfortunately, it was probably the same wolverine that was found dead a week and a half later along I-90 more than 20 road miles to the southeast of Snoqualmie.

The carcass of the 37-pound male spotted by a trucker near Bandera on June 7 had distinctive chest blazes that suggest it was one and the same, according to WDFW.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE LOCATIONS OF WHERE THE WOLVERINE TURNED UP ON A TRAIL CAM AND WHERE THE SAME ONE IS BELIEVED TO HAVE BEEN STRUCK ON I-90. (WDFW)

Though a sad ending for the editor’s mascot species and, more seriously, a reminder of the need for wildlife passage across the busy east-west interstate, it still was a remarkable journey for several more reasons.

It’s only the second wolverine known to have been roadkilled in Washington in the past 20 years.

The other, a juvenile female, was discovered along Highway 20 near Concrete in 1997.

That one’s now a specimen at the Burke Museum, on the University of Washington campus.

Biologists hope to preserve the recently roadkilled male for outreach and education.

And it’s also a sign of a growing population.

Wolverines are turning up more and more in Washington’s Cascades, mostly to the north of I-90 but earlier this year a mating pair and two kits were photographed in the William O. Douglas Wilderness east of Mt. Rainier, the first evidence of reproduction in those parts in half a century.

The dispersing male was found dead 10 road miles and 7 air miles from I-90’s Gold Creek wildlife underpass at the head of Lake Keechlus, and another 8 miles from the wildlife overpass being built near its lower end.

Unusually, its path also echoes that of a wolf that was caught on a backyard-mounted trail cam near Snoqualmie in late April 2015 and was struck on I-90 between mileposts 41 and 42, about 10 miles west of Bandera, later that same month.

While an unfortunate ending for the wolverine, the video of it in the lowland woods of eastern King County is “another great example of how the proliferation of trail cams among the interested public is providing valuable information to wildlife professionals,” says WDFW’s Kertson.

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.

Elk, Habitat, Hunters In 16 Washington Counties Benefit From $233K In RMEF Grants

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUNDATION

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation awarded $233,373 in grant funding for nearly two dozen conservation projects in Washington that enhance wildlife habitat, assist research and promote hunting heritage.

FUNDS FROM THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUNDATION WILL HELP TREAT 300 ACRES OF THE OAK CREEK WILDLIFE AREA WITH FIRE. (RMEF)

The grants benefit 4,966 acres across Asotin, Clallam, Chelan, Columbia, Cowlitz, Douglas, Ferry, Garfield, Grant, King, Pierce, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Skamania, Snohomish and Yakima Counties. There are also two projects of statewide benefit.

“Forest management techniques like thinning, prescribed burning and noxious weed treatments improve habitat in Washington for elk and many other species,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “This grant funding will help with those efforts and supply research dollars to benefit elk management.”

Since 1985, RMEF and its partners completed 621 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Washington with a combined value of more than $121.5 million. These projects conserved and enhanced 471,547 acres of habitat and opened or secured public access to 125,245 acres.

Here is a sampling of the 2017 projects, listed by county:

Asotin County—Apply noxious weed treatment across 700 acres on the W. T. Wooten and Chief Joseph Wildlife Areas within the Blue Mountains Wildlife Area Complex to keep weeds in check on year-long elk range (also benefits Garfield and Columbia Counties).

Clallam County—Thin 203 acres of elk summer range in the Upper Sitkum Watershed on the Olympic National Forest where overly dense forests led to documented low body condition scores for elk as well as downward trends in pregnancy rates.

King County—Provide funding to acquire one new GPS collar and refurbish four others for a study to determine if elk are using new habitat areas created by the Snoqualmie Valley Elk Management Group as well as determine a better herd population estimate and seed 50 acres of a newly cleared area in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.

Yakima County—Apply prescribed fire to 300 acres on the Oak Creek Wildlife Area as part of a larger, wide-scale effort to benefit wildlife by rejuvenating native grasses, forbs and shrubs as well as mitigating wildfire hazards.

Go here for a complete project listing.

Washington project partners include the Colville, Gifford Pinchot and Olympic National Forests, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and private landowners as well as sportsmen, government, civic and other organizations.