Tag Archives: mountain goats

The Mountain Goat That Wouldn’t Go

Whatcom County Farmer’s Lassoed Billy Was To Be Part Of 1925’s Olympic Peninsula Introductions

There’s goat roping, and then there’s mountain goat roping.

Yes, the latter is as much of a cluster as it sounds.

(DETAIL, “MOUNTAIN GOAT,” 1951, UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER, GENERAL SUBJECTS PHOTOGRAPH COLLECTION, 1845-2005, WASHINGTON STATE ARCHIVES, DIGITAL ARCHIVES, HTTP://WWW.DIGITALARCHIVES.WA.GOV, ACCESSED JUNE 19, 2019)

With Washington’s various wildlife managers just about to begin year two of an effort to move the wild goats in the Olympics over to the species’ home range in the Cascades, I want to draw your attention back to the mid-1920s and the veritable “fifth Beatle” of the peninsula’s original quartet.

As she works on her genealogy projects, my mom occasionally forwards me old newspaper articles about Northwest fish and wildlife back in the day.

(You may remember last year’s Great Elk Drive Of Snohomish County).

Mom’s latest finds detail the capture of what would have been one of the first five members of the OlyPen’s herd, a particularly ornery — not to mention wayward — billy.

She happened across the stories while researching friends of her grandfather on her mother’s side. My great-grandpa Smith Miller worked for various local logging outfits back in the first half of the 1900s, down in National, up on Lake Shannon, and while in the North Cascades he became acquainted with the Galbraith clan.

They were a collection of tough hombres — timber cruisers, mill builders and farmers, as well as Mom says “inveterate hikers and woodsmen who would race up the slopes of Mt. Baker” as part of a short-lived local marathon that became the inspiration of today’s Ski to Sea relay.

Joe Galbraith won the inaugural race in summer 1911, which also included a road rally from Bellingham, and during the final weather-marred run to the top of the volcano and back down two Augusts later, his cousin Vic (who would years later give my uncle, then an infant, a backpack as a present) had to be rescued from a 40-foot-deep crevasse.

A SCREENSHOT OF A HEADLINE AND STORY FROM A JANUARY 1925 EDITION OF THE SEATTLE DAILY TIMES, NOW THE SEATTLE TIMES, DETAILS THE CAPTURE OF ONE OF THE ORIGINAL MOUNTAIN GOATS RELEASED IN THE OLYMPICS FROM THE NORTH CASCADES. (GENEAOLOGYBANK.COM)

THIS PARTICULAR TALE OCCURRED IN 1925, when Joe lived on his farm outside the town of Acme, which is east of Bellingham and north of Mt. Vernon, and it involves a mountain goat that inexplicably turned up in his back 40.

Details come from the pages of the Bellingham Herald and the Seattle Daily Times, today’s Fairview Fannie, as well as the journal The Murrelet.

According to reporters’ stories, on January 4, the first Sunday of 1925, Galbraith spotted the billy lying in one of his fields and immediately set out to lasso it, per the Herald.

What followed was described by the Daily Times as “an hour’s rumpus scattered over a ten-acre patch,” a battle that apparently left both the goat roper and ropee pretty banged up.

“Galbraith lassoed the goat with a forty-foot throw, but before he had subdued it he suffered skinned hands and shins, had bumped into stumps and had knocked over a fence post or two,” the paper reported.

It’s not clear why the billy had come so far down into the lowlands, but the Herald says it was believed to have been chased there, “possibly by coyotes or a cougar,” perhaps off of its winter range, or maybe it was stricken with the wanderlust males of a species get, or something else entirely.

Koma Kulshan — the native name for Mt. Baker — and its environs have long been a stronghold for Oreamnos americanus; in summer 2016, a whopping 90 were photographed on a single snowfield.

After subduing it, Galbraith tied the goat up and word of its capture quickly reached state game and fish managers.

They had just recently acquired four Canadian mountain goats via British Columbia from the Banff area (other records say the Selkirks to the west), and released them on New Year’s Day at the foot of Mount Storm King by Lakes Crescent and Sutherland outside Port Angeles.

“When the crates were first opened the goats refused to come out, being somewhat dopey from their long confinement. First one large one came out and (Olympic Forest Reserve ranger Chris) Morganroth (sic) attempted to photograph it. Down went the head and the goat made a plunge for Morganroth. Right there Morganroth proved that a man who can escape death by airplane can certainly beat a goat to safety. After the misdirected lunge the goat went up the rock cliff and found a crag satisfactory to him, and looked over Lake Crescent and surrounding country, going higher up a short time afterward.” —The Murrelet, January 1925.

Between J.W. Kinney, who supervised hunting and fishing in Washington at the time, local federal forestry officials and leadership of the Klahhane hiking club, it was believed the animals would do quite well in the peninsula’s rugged heights, according to The Murrelet, a local biological journal now published under another title.

So Kinney sent word for Joe Galbraith to hold onto his goat “until such time as it has regained its strength” following its flight out of the North Cascades and its battle with the farmer, and then arrangements would be made to ship it across Puget Sound.

Ultimately, 12 goats were set loose in the Olympics between early 1925 and some point later in the decade, according to The Murrelet, with most coming from Alaska as part of a swap for elk.

JANUARY 6 HEADLINE FROM THE BELLINGHAM HERALD. (GENEAOLOGYBANK.COM)

FAST FOWARD 90-PLUS YEARS AND TODAY’S state wildlife managers along with the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and various tribes are gearing up to for another round of translocating the several hundred descendants of those animals roaming the slopes of Hurricane Ridge, Mt. Olympus and other peaks over to the Cascades.

The idea is to reduce the environmental damage the nonnative species is causing to plants and terrain in the Olympics and bolster herds in their native habitat along the spine of the Evergreen State.

“We’ll start captures on July 8, go for 12 days; then start again August 19 for another 12 days,” says WDFW’s goat manager Rich Harris.

He says that based on last September’s two-week effort that saw 98 successfully moved, twice as many could be caught and transferred to the North and Central Cascades this summer.

Overall 115 were captured in 2018, with eight dying in the process, three deemed to be unfit and were euthanized, and six parentless kids transferred to Northwest Trek.

The other 68 nannies and 30 billies were released at five sites, including two near Darrington, one north of Rainy and Washington Passes in the North Cascades, one northwest of Kachess Lake by Snoqualmie Pass, and one in the headwaters of the Cedar River southwest of Snoqualmie Pass.

Two radio-collared goats were taken down by cougars, Harris says, while at least one of the Cedar animals went for a walkabout and showed up on Rattlesnake Ledge near North Bend last fall.

The translocation is expected to continue again next year before lethal removal is considered for any remaining cantankerous holdouts.

THREE MOUNTAIN GOATS ARRIVE BY HELICOPTER AT A RENDEZVOUS POINT DURING SEPTEMBER 2018’S TWO-WEEK-LONG CAPTURE AND TRANSLOCATION OPERATION. (NPS)

SPEAKING OF, THAT GOAT-ROPING ESCAPADE was thought to be just a warm-up act for the back-pasture billy.

“… (A) row is expected when Galbraith’s goat faces the buck on guard there” in the Olympics, the Daily Times wrote.

But it never made the trip to join 1925’s other four on the peninsula.

A “week to the hour” after its capture, it found itself “seeking eternal rest and evergreen pastures in a new stamping ground; perhaps where all goats go when they die …,” reported the Herald.

“… Joe’s goat, after spending a week a barn pending deportation to the Olympic mountains by the state game commission turned up its hoofs and passed out,” the paper stated.

The billy was said to announce the abrupt change of plans with a “feeble bleat.”

HEADLINE FROM THE JANUARY 13, 1925 BELLINGHAM HERALD. (GENEAOLOGYBANK.COM)

Despite the best efforts of a local veterinarian and the local game warden, the animal couldn’t be revived, the Herald stated.

But all was not lost. Shortly afterwards, its head, horns and coat were removed.

That October, what was billed as “the most striking exhibit ever,” a mounted mountain goat, was given to the local chamber chamber of commerce by the county game commission and Galbraith, reported the Herald.

Who knows why the billy that turned up in the lowands actually died, but the last story my mom found said it was estimated to have stood three and a half feet tall at the shoulders, would have dressed out at 250 pounds, and was estimated to be 15 years old, making it a very old goat indeed.

But then again, maybe it just didn’t want to leave its home mountains and take a long and winding road to strange new heights.

Loon-loving 8th Grader, Wenatchee Sportsmen, Castle Rock Hunters/Craftsmen Honored For Critter Work

It was ages ago now, but camping and fishing one summer in the eastern Okanogan Highlands I was enthralled to hear the haunting call of loons.

That memory stuck with me and I closely followed the debate about banning small lead-based fishing gear at Lost Lake and 12 other known loon-nesting waters, mostly in Washington’s northeast corner but three on the Westside too. I also wrote about a misguided effort in the legislature to institute a much wider ban.

MADELINE ASHMORE WAS NAMED WDFW’S CITIZEN EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR. (WDFW)

Somewhere around that time, little Madeline Ashmore sent WDFW a brief note to say, “I am four years old. I do not want lead sinkers in loons.”

This week she’s being honored by the agency as its Citizen Educator of the Year for her work to protect the rare birds from ingesting lost lead tackle.

“Madeline has worked alongside others to have lead banned in loon nesting lakes, and to educate the public on the alternatives to lead in fishing gear. Madeline has sold loon-themed greeting cards and cookies, dressed as a loon for Halloween, and encouraged the sale of lead-free tackle at local businesses to support her education efforts,” WDFW detailed on its Medium page.

Ashmore also handed over “hundreds of dollars” worth of tackle from a presentation she gave at a local organization’s Highland Wonders series of lectures.

Where she’s shown “drive, determination and care” in her short time on this Earth so far in earning her award, the Wenatchee Sportsmen’s Association’s 70-year history of doing good deeds for critters contributed to it earning WDFW’s Organization of the Year honor.

“Their contributions are wide and varied in scope and scale and in terms of dollars and volunteer hours. The association has worked to build and fix fences, plant shrubs after wildfires, conduct wildlife surveys, develop kid’s fishing events, and process seized meat from poachers to provide for local charitable organizations,” the agency stated.

When WDFW was forced to remove the Wedge Pack in 2012, the governor’s office received 12,000 emails opposed to the removal, and only one note from a hunters’ group in support — the Wenatchee Sportsmen’s Association.

They were also instrumental in preserving wildlife habitat in eastern Chelan County’s Stemilt Basin that at one point was going to be turned into high-elevation cherry orchards, a story that we covered in this blog and in our magazine.

As for the state agency’s volunteer of the year award, that went to four men, including three Castle Rock brothers/Master Hunters — Chris, John and Ken Ness — who “volunteered more than 600 hours of their engineering skills and craftsmanship to build 46 crates for transporting mountain goats and other wildlife for the department. Some of the crates were custom built to reduce stress on nannies with kids or to provide extra space for large billy goats.”

MASTER HUNTERS CHRIS, JOHN AND KEN NESS WORK ON ONE OF THEIR MOUNTAIN GOAT BOXES MADE FOR AN EFFORT TO TRANSLOCATE BILLIES, NANNIES AND KIDS FROM THE OLYMPIC MOUNTAINS, WHERE THE SPECIES WAS INTRODUCED BY HUNTERS IN THE 1920S, BACK TO THEIR HOME RANGE IN THE CASCADES. (WDFW)

Their handiwork was used during last September’s capture and translocation of wild goats in the Olympics, across Puget Sound to the North and Central Cascades.

The other VOTY awardee was Russ Lewis who has spent years keeping a 7-mile stretch of the Long Beach Peninsula that is “important to razor clams, raptors, snowy plovers, deer, elk and bear” as clean as possible, picking up 14,000 to 16,000 pounds of trash annually, WDFW said.

The Landowner of the Year award was given to Dave Morrow whose trees and property have gone towards restoring fish habitat on the Yakima River, though he might be more proud of the fact that, according to the agency, steelhead spawned in his backyard for the first time in three decades.

And Bob Palmer, who matriculated 166 new sportskids and others, was given the Terry Hoffer Memorial Firearm Safety Award for his hunter education work.

Kudos to all — you rock and are real heroes to Washington’s fish and wildlife!

If you’d like to volunteer your time towards noble causes like these, check out this WDFW page.

It details a number of upcoming projects — hatchery and habitat helpers, weed whackers, elk hazers, lek surveyors needed.

2018 Northwest Fish And Wildlife Year In Review, Part II

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 and more. Earlier we posted events of the first five months of the year, and below are what we reported during the next four, June through September.

JUNE

One of the region’s biggest fish of the year was hooked in late spring in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca, a 254- to 265-pound halibut. It was fought and caught by Tom Hellinger with help from son Caleb in late May, but word didn’t begin to hit the mainstream until early June. Though no official measurement was recorded, the 61/2-foot-long flattie was within 25 to 35 pounds of the Washington state record. “I was just really thankful and grateful,” Hellinger told us. “You don’t really realize how rare that is. Big fish are rare. To be an hour from my home and catch something like that is special.” His fish had a 42-pound head, and produced 140 pounds of filets and 1.5 pounds of coveted cheek meat.

ALEISHA, TOM AND CALEB HELLINGER AND LUKE REID POSE WITH TOM’S EASTERN STRAITS HALIBUT. (TOM HELLINGER)

Speaking of big fish, June 21 proved to be a very active day for state records in Washington, where not only was a new high mark set for redbanded rockfish — John Sly’s 7.54-pounder caught off Westport — but arrowtooth flounder — Richard Hale’s 5.93-pounder, landed out of Neah Bay. As 2018 came to a close, there were a total of eight new state record fish caught this year in the Northwest, twice as many as 2017, with seven coming from Washington and nearly all of those caught in the Pacific — three off Westport alone.

ISABELLA TOLEN AND HER 41-POUND TOPE SHARK, THE FIRST EVER SUBMITTED AS A WASHINGTON STATE RECORD. (VIA WDFW)

While mountain goats are meant to hang out in the mountains, federal wildlife managers issued a final record of decision that most of the progeny of those that were introduced by hunting groups in the Olympics in the late 1920s would be captured and taken to the North Cascades, while those that proved too hard to catch would be shot by, among others, “skilled public volunteers.” The two-week-long joint NPS-USFS-WDFW-tribal operation ultimately moved 68 nannies and 30 billies to the other side of Puget Sound, with six kids taken to Northwest Trek and 11 others either dying in the process or deemed “unfit for translocation.” Crews will return to the Olympics in 2019 for another round of removals.

THREE MOUNTAIN GOATS ARRIVE BY HELICOPTER AT A RENDEZVOUS POINT DURING SEPTEMBER’S TWO-WEEK-LONG CAPTURE AND TRANSLOCATION OPERATION. (NPS)

In an “anti-climactic” move, the Supreme Court left a lower court ruling stand that the state of Washington must continue to fix fish passage barriers. While the 4-4 decision was billed as a win for Western Washington treaty tribes, it also saw some sport angler interests side with native fishermen, a turnaround from the Boldt era. The Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association and Association of Northwest Steelheaders, among others, filed a friends of the court brief that stated, “With salmon populations hovering at such precariously low levels, the significant increase of spawning and rearing habitat that will result from removal of the state’s barrier culverts would be a lifeline for salmon and fishing families alike.”

There’s a lot of grim news out there about Puget Sound these days — drugged-up mussels and Chinook, starving orcas, too much shoreline armoring, etc., etc. — but spring aerial photos from the state Department of Natural Resources revealed some good: the striking return of anchovy to the waters of the Whulge in recent years. WDFW biologist James Losee said it was part of some “exciting things” happening here from “a prey resource point of view.” In May, the Northwest Treaty Tribes blogged that an anchovy population boom in 2015 might have helped more Nisqually steelhead smolts sneak past all the harbor seals.

A SCREENSHOT FROM A DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY PDF SHOWS SCHOOLS OF BAITFISH OFF THE PURDY SPIT WEST OF TACOMA. (DOE)

Half a decade to the month after first proposing to declare gray wolves recovered across the western two-thirds of Washington and Oregon as well as elsewhere outside the Northern Rockies in the Lower 48 — a process subsequently derailed through lawsuits — the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service quietly put out word it had begun “reviewing the status of the species” again. The initial hope was to get a delisting proposal onto the Federal Register by the end of the year, but that did not occur and so the long, slow process will continue into 2019.

After narrowing the director candidate field of 19 to seven and then three, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission unanimously chose the Department of Ecology’s Kelly Susewind as the new WDFW chief head honcho. A lifelong hunter and lapsed fisherman, Susewind was hailed as a good choice by members of the sporting world, with Rep. Brian Blake of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and fellow Grays Harbor resident calling him “a force for positive change at DFW.” Susewind took the reins Aug. 1 and had to immediately deal with multiple wolf depredations in the state’s northeast corner.

WDFW’S DIRECTOR KELLY SUSEWIND AT HIS NEW DESK. (WDFW)

For years I’ve reported on the weird wanderings of Northwest wildlife, and June provided two more bizarre examples — a wolverine that visited a very, very non-wolverinelike part of King County in late spring, the woods just outside the lowlands town of Snoqualmie before being found dead along I-90 20 road miles away; and a pair of bull elk that swam over to Orcas Island and gave Uncle John Willis quite a start — “Well, this morning I planned on going to town, but chose not to do that. I looked out my window at my sister’s house and here are two bull elk eating leaves off of a filbert tree in front of her house,” he told us. “I was not quite ready to see two elk this morning.”

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)

Under pressure from federal overseers who want the state to end production of Skamania steelhead in Puget Sound streams, WDFW and the Tulalip Tribes came up with a plan to replace the strain in the Skykomish River with Tolt summers instead. The whole thing could take years to get approved let alone implement, but it’s also a testament to the lengths officials are willing to go these days for Puget Sound’s last consumptive steelhead opportunity and appears to be progressing. Later in the year and in Oregon, a study found “little evidence to suggest a negative effect of hatchery [Skamania] summer steelhead abundance on [wild] winter steelhead productivity.”

THE SKYKOMISH RIVER’S SKAMANIA-STRAIN SUMMER-RUN STEELHEAD LIKE THIS ONE CAUGHT ON A RAINY DAY BY WINSTON McCLANAHAN WOULD BE REPLACED WITH TOLT RIVER SUMMERS UNDER AN AMBITIOUS PLAN WDFW AND THE TULALIP TRIBES HATCHED TO SAVE THE POPULAR FISHERY. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

JULY

In a year of generally poor salmon returns to the Columbia, sockeye came back stronger than expected and that allowed for an unexpected opener on the upper river. And the shad run topped more than 6 million, thoroughly stomping the old high mark of 5.35 million.

SHAD SWIM THROUGH THE FISH LADDER AT BONNEVILLE DAM IN 2017. (ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS)

Washington steelheaders again have access to a coveted section of the middle Wynoochee with the opening of a new put-in just below the 7400 Line bridge, thanks to a five-year agreement between WDFW and Green Diamond Resource Company, which owns the land. The river is one of the most productive on the Westside, with over 1,200 winters and nearly 2,100 summers kept during the 2016-17 season, and it’s known for good fishing for wild fish too. But the agreement does come with a caveat, that “access is contingent on good citizenship of those who visit,” according to WDFW.

A MAP PUT TOGETHER BY WDFW SHOWS THE 7400 LINE ACCESS IN THE WYNOOCHEE VALLEY. (WDFW)

July marked the 10-year anniversary of when it became abundantly clear that wolves weren’t just moving through Oregon and Washington anymore, they were settling down and having families. In the subsequent years and along with all the accompanying angst, livestock depredations and poachings, this month also saw an unusual incident in North-central Washington, where a Forest Service stream surveyor was forced to twice climb a tree when she came across the rendezvous site of the very protective Loup Loup Pack. After initial WDFW hesitation about sending in a state helicopter, a DNR bird was dispatched to extract the woman. She was debriefed by a game warden whose after-action report procured through a public records request stated that “(The woman) at no time stated that she feared for her life, but did state that she was afraid.”

DNR CREW MEMBERS ON THE RESCUE MISSION INCLUDED DARYL SCHIE (HELICOPTER MANAGER), MATTHEW HARRIS (CREW), JARED HESS (CREW) AND DEVIN GOOCH (PILOT). PHOTO/DNR

WDFW began unveiling a new $67 million proposal to fill a large budget gap and enhance fishing and hunting opportunities. It would raise license fees but also puts the onus on the General Fund for three-quarters of the money. The latter is a fundamental shift from the agency’s previous increase pitch that leaned entirely on sportsmen and failed in the state legislature, but also reflects the feeling that the public at large has a larger role to play in helping pay the bills for WDFW’s myriad missions, especially following cuts due to the Great Recession that have not been restored. The Fish and Wildlife Commission initially balked at a 12 to 15 percent fee hike and wanted 5 percent instead, but at the urging of numerous sporting members of the agency’s Budget and Policy Advisory Group and others, went with 15. It’s now up to state lawmakers to approve.

A WDFW GRAPHIC SHOWS WHERE ITS BUDGET GOES, WITH FISH PRODUCTION AND MANAGING ANGLING OPPORTUNITIES ACCOUNTING FOR LARGE CHUNKS. (WDFW)

A new analysis by federal and state biologists showed the importance of Puget Sound Chinook for the inland sea’s orcas. Fall kings from the Nooksack to the Deschutes to the Elwha Rivers were ranked as the most important current feedstocks for the starving southern residents, followed by Lower Columbia and Strait of Georgia tribs. It led to more calls to increase hatchery production.

The summer of 2018 will long be remembered for what felt like months and months of choking smoke that settled in the Northwest, but the heat was notable too, with Maui-warm waters forming a thermal block at the mouth of the Yakima that forced WDFW to close the Columbia there to prevent overharvest of Cle Elum-bound sockeye, and low, 79-degree flows that led ODFW to reinstate 2015’s trib-mouth fishing closures on the lower Umpqua to protect returning steelhead and Chinook. A couple weeks later Oregon added hoot owl closures on the North Umpqua to protect wild summers that came in well below average.

A FLY ANGLER WORKS THE NORTH UMPQUA (BLM, FLICKR, CC 2.0)

Speaking of well below average and too-warm water, the Ballard Locks count for Lake Washington sockeye came in as the second lowest since 1972, but the grim news only got worse between there and the spawning grounds and hatchery on the Cedar. An “all-time low” entered the river, just 23 percent of how many went through the locks, likely victims of prespawn mortality caused by fish diseases that are “becoming more prevalent/effective with the higher water temperatures” the salmon experience as they swim the relatively shallow Ship Canal to the lake. “Now just about everything that can go wrong is going wrong,” lamented longtime metro lake angler and sportfishing advocate Frank Urabeck, who earlier in the year had helped organize a meeting on how to save the fish and fishery.

RUB A DUB DUB! THREE MEN TROLL FOR SOCKEYE DURING THE 2006 LAKE WASHINGTON SEASON, WHICH YIELDED THE HIGHEST CATCH IN A DECADE BUT HAS ALSO BEEN THE ONLY FISHERY IN A DOZEN YEARS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The Center for Biological Diversity got a Thurston County Superior Court to temporarily block WDFW from taking out one member of the Togo Pack for a string of cattle depredations, earning the out-of-state organization a strong rebuke from in-state wolf advocates as well as representatives of the hunting community on the Wolf Advisory Group, which helped craft the lethal removal protocols that CBD wants to derail. “Sadly it is all about cash flow,” said WAG member Dave Duncan. A judge ultimately denied CBD’s bid, sending relief — good for some, bitter for others — through Washington’s wolf world and greenlighting WDFW to kill the breeding male, though the group’s underlying beef will still have its day in court.

TOGO WOLF. (WDFW)

Unlike the other end of the wildlife spectrum, sportsmen conservationists don’t often go to court, but hunters heralded a federal judge’s preliminary decision against a plan to build 137 miles of new offroad trails in a Central Oregon national forest. “We fought for elk, and won,” said Jim Akenson, conservation director for the Oregon Hunters Association, among several parties that filed a lawsuit to halt a U.S. Forest Service bid to put in the off-highway vehicle trails through critical habitat in the Ochoco National Forest east of Prineville. They argued that the forest plan violated road density standards and didn’t adequately consider how it would affect calving and rutting elk.

With one of the worst returns of steelhead in dam counting history underway, state managers closed the Deschutes River coolwater plume to all fishing — even fall Chinook — then shut down steelhead retention on 300-plus miles of the Columbia and portions of the lower John Day, closed Drano Lake and Wind River at night, and dropped limits from three to one a day in the Snake watershed. It’s the second season in a row of such strong measures to ensure enough return for spawning needs.

A FISH PASSAGE CENTER GRAPH SHOWS THIS YEAR’S STEELHEAD RUN (RED LINE) AT BONNEVILLE DAM AS IT COMPARES TO LAST YEAR’S LOW RETURN (BLUE LINE) AND THE TEN-YEAR AVERAGE (BLACK LINE), A DECADE THAT SAW A RECORD 604,000 IN 2009. (FPC)

There were a number of large-scale poachings in 2018 — the three people who’d dug 37 times their daily limit of clams, for instance — but one of the most jaw dropping was the de facto commercial fishing operation a 74-year-old Kitsap County resident was running in the Strait of Juan de Fuca off Sekiu. When his 23-foot Maxxum was boarded, a state game warden and sheriff’s deputies found he had five more lines out than allowed, six barbed hooks and was in possession of eight more fish than permitted — including five off-limits wild kings and wild coho. The consensus was that this was not the guy’s first rodeo, given the complexity of fishing five commercial flasher-lure combos off bungees behind two downriggers. The boat, which was seized, is now the property of the state of Washington as its forfeiture was not contested, along with the gear, and the man has been charged by county prosecutors with 10 criminal violations.

WDFW OFFICER BRYAN DAVIDSON POSES WITH THE 23-FOOT MAXUM CABIN CRUISER, TRAILER, DOWNRIGGERS, FISHING ROD AND COMMERCIAL FLASHER-LURE COMBOS SEIZED FOLLOWING AN AT-SEA INSPECTION THAT TURNED UP EGREGIOUS FISHING RULES VIOLATIONS. (WDFW)

SEPTEMBER

Just a week after ODFW lifted the Deschutes plume fishing closure, allowing anglers to target fall Chinook there as the Columbia’s upriver bright run got going, Oregon and Washington salmon managers shut it and the rest of the big river from Buoy 10 to Pasco due to lower than expected returns and catches of Snake River wild kings that were subsequently in excess of ESA mortality allowances. Not long afterwards, the limit in the free-flowing stretch of the Columbia above Tri-Cities was also reduced to one. It all felt like a stunning U-turn from just three Septembers before, when managers had adjusted their fall Chinook forecast upwards to a staggering 1,095,900 — ultimately 1.3 million entered the river — to cap off three successive gargantuan runs. But on the bright side, late October’s King of the Reach live-capture derby brought in a record number of fish — over 1,200 — to fuel a hatchery broodstock program.

A HELPER AT KING OF THE REACH HOLDS A NICE WILD FALL CHINOOK BUCK BROUGHT IN BY ANGLERS DURING THE LIVE-CAPTURE DERBY. (VIA PAUL HOFFARTH, WDFW)

As if wolf issues weren’t hot enough in August, things really heated up in September when what was eventually named the Old Profanity Territory Pack killed one calf and injured three others. While WDFW built its case, key groups balked at going lethal though the protocol had been met because of the fast, repeated nature of depredations there. As more occurred, Director Susewind ultimately gave the go-ahead to kill a wolf or two to head off more livestock attacks, and after histrionics on Twitter, in superior court and at the steps of the state capital, the next week WDFW took out a juvenile.

US and Canadian salmon managers reached a new 10-year West Coast Salmon Treaty on Chinook harvest and conservation, one that must still be approved in the countries’ capitals but calls for reduced northern interceptions when runs are poor. Fisheries off Southeast Alaska would be cut as much as 7.5 percent from 2009-15 levels in those years, those off the west coast of Vancouver Island up to 12.5 percent, while Alaska salmon managers report that Washington and Oregon fisheries could see reductions from 5 to 15 percent.

In a great-news story, Boggan’s Oasis, the famed waystation on the Grande Ronde River that burned down in November 2017, reopened and was again serving up its famous milkshakes and more to hungry and thirsty steelheaders, travelers and others along lonely Highway 129 in extreme Southeast Washington. “The layout’s about the same, but it’s a bigger building,” said coproprietor Bill Vail, who added that he and wife Farrel were “happy to start the next chapter in our lives.”

(BOGGAN’S OASIS)

With a win-win habitat project mostly wrapped up, Oregon’s Coquille Wildlife Area reopened in time for the start of fall waterfowl seasons. Restoration of the Winter Lake Tract will provide young Endangered Species Act-listed coho salmon with 8 miles of winding tidal channels and will also help local cattle ranchers stay in business. “The tide gates, working with reconnected channels and new habitat will provide the best of both worlds,” said the National Marine Fisheries Service, which stated that 95 percent of the Coquille’s best salmon habitat has been lost since settlement.

AN AERIAL IMAGE SHOWS NEW CHANNELS FOR FISH HABITAT CREATED AT WINTER LAKE, PART OF THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE’S COQUILLE VALLEY WILDLIFE AREA. (CBI CONTRACTING VIA NMFS)

And in what certainly was the Northwest poaching case with the highest fine, Hoon Namkoong of Orient Seafood Production of Fife was sentenced to pay Washington and Westside tribes $1.5 million in restitution for buying and selling 250,000 pounds of sea cucumbers illegally harvested by tribal and nontribal divers in Puget Sound in recent years. The activities came at a time that concerned fishery managers were lowering quotas for legal harvesters due to declining numbers of the echinoderm, but the illegal picking was actually increasing. “It is no wonder, then, that we have failed to see signs of recovery as a result of the work of sea cucumber managers and the sacrifices of the lawfully compliant harvesters,” said a WDFW manager in presentencing documents. Namkoong was also sentenced to two years in prison.

Editor’s note: OK, this was supposed to be just a two-part YIR, but I gotta catch my breath now so I can try to put together the events of October, November and December in a couple days.

Olympic-Cascades Mountain Goat Project Wraps Up With 98 Translocated

Nearly 100 mountain goats from the Olympic Mountains are now kicking up their heels across Puget Sound in Washington’s Central and North Cascades after a two-week capture-and-transfer project wrapped up earlier this week.

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

State and federal wildlife officials plan to come back the next two summers to remove as many billies, nannies and kids from the rugged peaks of the peninsula, where the species was introduced in the 1920s by hunters, as they can to help bolster herds in their native habitat along the spine of the Evergreen State and reduce environmental damage from the species in the Olympics.

By the numbers from a joint Olympic National Park-Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest-WDFW press release, here’s what the first year’s effort looks like:

Olympic Range mountain goat population pre-project: ~725

Original introduction: 12 animals (released 1925 to 1929 near Lake Crescent)

Mountain goats captured: 115

Translocated to Cascades: 98

Nannies translocated: 68

Billies translocated: 30

Nannyless kids transferred to Northwest Trek: 6

Capture mortalities: 6

Euthanized: 3 (“unfit for translocation,” per NPS)

Transport mortalities: 2

People involved: 175 (National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, area tribes, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Leading Edge Aviation, etc.)

Volunteers: 77 (from WDFW)

Length of operation: 14 days

Flyable days: 10* (work ended early on several days, per NPS)

Cascade release sites: 5 (2 near Darrington, 1 north of Rainy and Washington Passes in the North Cascades, 1 northwest of Kachess Lake by Snoqualmie Pass, and 1 in the headwaters of the Cedar River southwest of Snoqualmie Pass)

Estimated results of three-year project: 90 percent removal of population (“The remaining 10 percent would be addressed through ongoing maintenance activities which would involve opportunistic ground- and helicopter-based lethal removal of mountain goats, with a focus on areas near high visitor use and areas where goats are causing resource damage,” says the park service.)

Mountain Goats On The Move: Olympics-to-North Cascades Effort Starts Next Week

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

Starting September 10, a coalition of state and federal agencies, with support from local tribes, will begin translocating mountain goats from Olympic National Park to the northern Cascade Mountains to meet wildlife management goals in both areas.

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

This effort to translocate mountain goats from the Olympic Peninsula is a partnership between the National Park Service (NPS), the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW), and the USDA Forest Service (USFS) to re-establish and assist in connecting depleted populations of mountain goats in the Washington Cascades.

Area tribes lending support to the translocation plan in the Cascades include the Lummi, Muckleshoot, Sauk-Suiattle, Stillaguamish, Suquamish, Swinomish, Tulalip, and Upper Skagit tribes.

In May, the NPS released the final Mountain Goat Management Plan which outlines the effort to remove the estimated 725 mountain goats on the Olympic Peninsula. Both the plan and the associated environmental impact statement were finalized after an extensive public review process which began in 2014.

This month’s two-week effort to move mountain goats to native habitat in the northern Cascades is the first translocation operation since the release of the final Mountain Goat Management Plan. Two additional two-week periods are planned for next year. Mountain goats were introduced to the Olympics in the 1920s.

“Mountain goat relocation will allow these animals to reoccupy historical range areas in the Cascades and increase population viability,” said Jesse Plumage, USFS Wildlife Biologist.

While some mountain goat populations in the north Cascades have recovered since the 1990s, the species is still absent from many areas of its historic range.

Aerial capture operations will be conducted through a contract with a private company that specializes in the capture and transport of wild animals. The helicopter crew will use tranquilizer darts and net guns to capture mountain goats and transport them in specially made slings to the staging area on Hurricane Hill Road beyond the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center in Olympic National Park. The staging area will be closed to public access.

The animals will be examined by veterinarians before WDFW wildlife managers transport them overnight to staging areas in the north Cascades for release the following day.

During this first round, WDFW will only translocate goats from the park to non-wilderness release sites in the Cascades. There will be no closures for release operations in the national forests in 2018. To maximize success, goats will be brought directly to alpine habitats that have been selected for appropriate characteristics. To access these areas, goats will be airlifted in their crates by helicopter.

WDFW plans to release the mountain goats at five selected sites in the Cascades this month. Two release areas are near mountain peaks south of the town of Darrington, on the Darrington District of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (MBS). The others are near Mt. Index, on the Skykomish Ranger District of the MBS, Tower Peak in the Methow area of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and the headwaters of the Cedar River Drainage, which is land owned by Seattle Public Utilities.

“The translocation effort will relieve issues with non-native mountain goats in the Olympics while bolstering depleted herds in the northern Cascades,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum. “Mountain goats cause significant impacts to the park ecosystem as well as public safety concerns.”

Mountain goats follow and approach hikers because they are attracted to the salt from their sweat, urine, and food. That behavior is less likely in the north Cascades where visitors are more widely distributed than those at Olympic National Park, said Rich Harris, a WDFW wildlife manager who specializes in mountain goats.

“In addition, the north Cascades has an abundance of natural salt licks, while the Olympic Peninsula has virtually none,” Harris said. “Natural salt licks greatly reduce mountain goats’ attraction to people.”

For more information about mountain goats in Washington state, see WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/living/mountain_goats.html.

Along with the staging area closure on Hurricane Hill Road, several trails in Olympic National Park will be closed for visitor and employee safety during helicopter operations. For more information and updates, visit www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/mountain-goat-capture-and-translocation.htm.

Olympic Mountain Goat Removal Approved

Federal and state wildlife managers now have the green light to begin removing those white-coated denizens of the Olympic Mountains.

A BILLY GOAT RESTS ON KLAHHANE RIDGE INSIDE OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK. (NPS)

The National Park Service issued its final record of decision to mostly translocate mountain goats off the peninsula to the North Cascades starting this summer, and kill those that prove too hard to capture.

“We are very pleased to collaborate with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Forest Service to relocate mountain goats from the Olympic Peninsula,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum in a press release. “In turn, we support the state, the U.S. Forest Service, and area tribes to re-establish sustainable populations of goats in the Washington Cascades, where goats are native, and populations have been depleted.”

Efforts will begin this summer to move as many of the 725 goats as possible to the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests, supplementing scattered herds there.

Though native to those parts of Washington, the species was introduced to the Olympics in the 1920s for hunting.

Creation of the national park precluded hunting and the population grew, leading to damage in the uplands and the fatal goring of a hiker.

The park service estimates that 50 percent of the goats will be translocated and another 40 percent lethally removed by federal, state and “skilled public volunteers” guided by spotter planes,  carried by helicopters and using nontoxic ammo.

Chopper flights will occur in July’s second half and at the end of summer. Salt licks will be used to draw goats to areas away from public view or closed to hikers for management activities.

While the goal is to remove all the goats, officials acknowledge they may not be able to get them all.

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.

Washington Special Permit Application Period Now Open

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

Hunters have through May 23 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons in Washington.

HUNTING ON A LATE KLICKITAT TAG IN 2013, BUZZ RAMSEY BAGGED THIS NICE BUCK ON DAY SIX OF HIS EIGHT-DAY SPECIAL HUNT WITH SON WADE. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

Permit winners will be selected through a random drawing conducted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) in June. Special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

To apply for a special permit, hunters planning to hunt for deer or elk must purchase an application and hunting license for those species and submit the application with their preferred hunt choices.

Applications and licenses are available from license vendors statewide or on WDFW’s website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/. Applications must be submitted on the website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free.

If purchasing and applying online, hunters must first establish an online account by creating a username and password. Information on how to create a username and password in the WILD system can be found at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/content/pdfs/WILD-Account-Instructions.pdf. Hunters can also click the “Customer Support” link on the WILD homepage for additional assistance.

Hunters who already have a username and password can login to purchase and submit their applications.

Most special hunt permit applications cost $7.10 for residents, $110.50 for non-residents, and $3.80 for youth under 16 years of age.

The exception is the cost for residents purchasing applications for mountain goats, any bighorn sheep ram, any moose, and “quality” categories for deer and elk. Those applications cost $13.70.

Instructions and details on applying for special permit hunts are described on pages 12-13 of Washington’s 2018 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet, available at WDFW offices, license vendors, and online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/.

Additional information is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/permits/faq.html.

Anis Aoude, WDFW game division manager, reminds hunters to update their phone number, email, and mailing address when purchasing their special hunting permit applications and licenses. Updates can be made by logging into the WILD system. Each year, hundreds of special hunting permits are returned due to invalid addresses.

Results of the special permit drawing will be available online by the end of June at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/. Winners will be notified by mail or email by mid-July.

Just 7 Days Left To Comment On WDFW 2018-20 Hunting Reg Proposals

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking public input on proposed recommendations for the 2018-20 hunting seasons.

HUNTERS DISCUSS THE DAY AROUND A CAMPFIRE IN THE OKANOGAN-WENATCHEE NATIONAL FOREST. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Through Feb. 14, WDFW will accept comments from the public to help finalize proposed regulations for hunting seasons that begin this year. To review and comment on the proposals, visit the department’s website starting Jan. 24 at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/seasonsetting/.

Developed after extensive public involvement, the proposed hunting season rules are based on the objectives and strategies contained in the new 2015-21 Game Management Plan, said Anis Aoude, WDFW game manager. The plan is available on the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01676/.

“We appreciate the input we’ve received over the past months and encourage everyone interested in the 2018-20 hunting seasons to review and comment on the proposed rules before final action is taken,” Aoude said.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, which sets policy for WDFW, will also take public comment on the proposed recommendations at its March 16-17 meeting at the Red Lion Hotel in Wenatchee. Final commission action is scheduled to take place at the April 12-16 meeting.

Comment Sought On Olympic Mountain Goat Management Options

Federal and state managers are looking for public comment on what to do with the Olympic Peninsula’s mountain goats.

They’re trotting out four alternatives, one of which would remove 90 percent of the population that hangs out in the heights, mostly in Olympic National Park but also Olympic National Forest.

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

Another option would move half the herd of roughly 725 animals by 2018 to either side of Washington’s North Cascades, bolstering herds and hunting opportunities in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests.

A third — the preferred one at the moment — would combine both alternatives to remove nine out of every ten mountain goats from federal lands on the peninsula, mostly by shooting by the fifth year of the operation.

A fourth leaves management as the status quo.

Olympic National Park, the U.S. Forest Service and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife came up with the draft environmental impact statement on the alternatives.

Goats aren’t native to the Olympics but were brought in somewhere in the early 1900s, before the national park was created in 1938.

They’ve done well, but are rough on soil and native plants, and with apparently no natural salt licks in the mountains, now associate humans with the mineral. An aggressive billy killed a hiker in the park in 2010.

Hunting of course isn’t allowed in the national park, but WDFW makes a handful of permits available to hunt national forest lands above Hood Canal through a conflict reduction permit.

Ten tags are currently offered for areas around Mt. Baker,  Lake Chelan and the Boulder River Wilderness, several more for the Goat Rocks of the South Cascades.

In the plan, the feds and state say that goats also have to be removed from the surrounding national forest because they’re part of the overall population.

Comment is open through Sept. 26.

For more details, go here.