Tag Archives: poaching

Shot Fired As WDFW Officers Serve Warrant In Ferry Co.

Updated 5:40 p.m., Friday, June 7, 2019

A standoff appears to have ended in Ferry County where WDFW is now reporting “officers have confirmed one deceased individual in the barricaded residence” where one shot was fired this morning as game wardens served a warrant for alleged illegal wildlife trafficking and hunting violations.

 

That occurred at 10 a.m. and one of two residents left the abode afterwards, but the second did not.

Afterwards the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office flew its SWAT team to the site.

Very little information was initially available on the situation, likely because it was active but also due to the remote location described as near Republic, the county seat.

“Part of the issue is it’s so far out there reception is bad, so we’re not getting a lot of info,” said WDFW spokeswoman Staci Lehman in Spokane.

She reported that a chaplain for her agency and the state patrol, as well as the Ferry County coroner were onsite.

Lehman also thanked the Spokane and Ferry Counties Sheriff’s Offices for assistance.

More details as they emerge.

WDFW Reports 2 Stevens Co. Wolves Killed, 1 in Self-defense

A Stevens County man shot and killed a wolf in self-defense after it turned towards he and his daughter last weekend while they were on a hike, but the death of a collared wolf elsewhere in the county is under investigation.

WDFW Capt. Dan Rahn says the latter animal, a female, was killed off Highway 20 near the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE RANGE OF THE STRANGER PACK IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON. (WDFW)

“It was transmitting a mortality signal — that’s how we found it,” he said. “We recovered it on May 27.”

He said that any tips can be phoned in to his agency’s regional office in Spokane at (509) 892-1001.

Conservation Northwest is offering a $7,500 reward for info leading to a conviction.

As for the other incident, state wolf specialist Ben Maletzke said the man and girl left their home late Sunday afternoon to go on a hike on an ATV trail onto public land when they encountered the wolf.

“About 30 yards up the trail a wolf came out of the brush,” he says.

The man, who was carrying a shotgun, “felt threatened and shot the wolf at 25 yards,” Maletzke said.

“It’s just one of those things. They just kinda crossed paths at a bad time,” he said.

Maletzke said the duo left the uncollared female wolf and returned to their home and reported the incident to WDFW.

In 20 minutes an officer arrived and began investigating, determining it had been in self-defense.

“The wolf was running at them and they were concerned for their safety,” said Capt. Rahn. “You have the right to protect yourself.”

Both he and Maletzke agreed that calling in the incident immediately was the right thing for the man to have done.

It’s the latest where state residents have been found to have been justified in shooting a wolf.

Other cases include a Blue Mountains cabin owner afraid for his dogs; a northern Ferry County livestock producer who caught a wolf in the act of attacking his cattle; an Adams County ranchhand who observed a wolf chasing cows; and a northeast Okanogan County rancher who saw a wolf approaching his day-old calves.

This most recent incident occurred in the south end of Stevens County, in the range of the Stranger Pack and most likely was a member of that group of wolves, Maltezke said, though it might also have been a wandering Huckleberry wolf.

Wolves in Northeast Washington were delisted in 2011 and this corner of the state is where most packs and individuals live. They remain state listed.

Maletzke also shared some nonlethal ways to deal with wildlife encountered afield.

“Stand tall, make yourself look big to make it go away,” he said.

Raising your voice can also help, Maletzke added.

Last summer, after wandering too close to a wolf pup rendezvous site and drawing the attention of protective parents, a Forest Service worker climbed a tree, twice.

And before he retired, Rich Landers, longtime outdoor columnist at the Spokesman-Review, posted a great video with advice for recreating with dogs where wolves might be encountered.

Corvallis Man Loses Hunting Privileges For 8 Years After Wildlife Crimes

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON STATE POLICE FISH AND WILDLIFE DIVISION

Anthony A. Coleman, age 33, from Corvallis, pleaded guilty in the Benton County Circuit Court to two counts of Taking, Angling, Hunting, or Trapping in Violation in Wildlife Law or Rule and Possession of Prohibited Firearm as Class A Misdemeanors.

ANTHONY A. COLEMAN. (OSP)

He was sentenced to:

· Hunting privileges suspended for a period of 8 years

· 36 months bench probation to include no participation in hunting, trapping, or shed hunting activities

· $20,400 in fines, fees, and restitution

· 30 days of work crew

· Forfeiture of all seized rifles, bows and animal parts

· 10 days in jail

AN IMAGE ACCOMPANYING AN OREGON STATE POLICE PRESS RELEASE ON THE CASE SHOWS NUMEROUS TROPHY MOUNTS AS WELL AS A BOW. (OSP)

The charges stemmed from an investigation which resulted in the service of several search warrants by the Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division Mid-Valley Team last year.

The investigation began when an anonymous person advised Troopers of Coleman killing two bull elk on the same day. The search warrants served led to multiple other charges to include a buck deer that was killed out of season and a short-barreled rifle found in possession of Coleman.

The three charges Coleman plead guilty to was part of a plea agreement offered by the Benton County DA’s Office. Multiple charges relating to the unlawful taking of big game animals were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

Deer ‘Poaching’ Call In Central Cascades Turns Up Felon, Firearms

Washington game wardens are investigating a bizarre incident involving a dead blacktail deer literally pumped full of lead, five people found a few miles away, and the recovery of numerous firearms with missing serial numbers or without any at all.

A SCREENSHOT FROM A USGS MAP SHOWS THE GENERAL LOCATION OF WHERE THE DEER WAS KILLED AND THE FIVE INDIVIDUALS ENCOUNTERED NORTH OF NORTH BEND AND SNOQUALMIE. (USGS)

“We still don’t know for sure what happened,” said WDFW Sgt. Kim Chandler this afternoon. “They either flat-out poached a deer or, according to them, hit it with their car and shot it 100 times.”

“I don’t know if it was 100 times, but there were shell casings from three different weapons,” he said.

What is known is that last Friday four men and a woman whose ages and hometowns weren’t immediately available apparently drove up the North Fork Road outside North Bend east of Seattle for whatever reason and at some point 3 to 4 miles from the end of the gravel they encountered the deer.

Chandler said that there was a small crack and some deer hair on the bumper of their car, and that the deer had a broken leg, which might suggest it was run into.

But he also said the leg could have been broken due to the “dozens of dozens of rounds” of .223 and 9mm ammo shot at the animal.

The carcass was butchered — “They obviously didn’t know what they were doing,” the officer said — and put in a cooler, and the quintet apparently continued to the end of the road in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest for the night.

On Saturday, a hiker came upon the remains of the deer “in the middle of the road” and called it in as a poaching, according to Chandler.

A WDFW officer dispatched to the scene found it and in trying to figure out what had happened, called in another warden to help.

As they searched the area past the carcass and shells in the road they came across two men and a woman asleep in a car, with one of the men “on top of all kinds of AR-15s,” said Chandler.

After the trio were woken up, one of the firearms — a 9mm AR-15 pistol — came back as stolen, while others — which Chandler described as “AR-15 build-it-yourself weapons” — didn’t have serial numbers whatsoever.

When they were asked who the vehicle belonged to, they gave a name of a man who was not present and who they said had gone hiking.

As the officers were talking with the three, that man apparently came down the trail while carrying a .380-caliber handgun, along with a fifth person carrying an “assault rifle,” Chandler said.

“They did a double take, saw all the police, and headed into the brush,” he said.

That precipitated a call for backup to the King County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol and a canine unit, which caught the attention Living Snoqualmie, which first reported the incident.

Once the officers were all assembled, a public address system was used to call in the two individuals who’d run off.

The man who allegedly owned the car came out, though not with the handgun he’d been carrying, nor with the fifth person, who never came out, Chandler said.

The end of the North Fork Road is about 24 miles from North Bend.

As things began to get sorted out, it was discovered that one of the men who’d been asleep in the car with all the ARs was a convicted felon who wasn’t supposed to be around guns at all.

He was subsequently booked into King County Jail, Chandler said.

Chandler said he’s seen a lot of cases in his years with WDFW but this turned out to be among the more unusual ones.

“At the very least, it’s a violation of the (roadkill) salvage law. You have to wait for an officer to dispatch” struck and injured animals, he said.

“These guys didn’t have a clue about the salvage law, but now they do.”

While happy that the situation wasn’t anything like it seemed like — the parade of police vehicles heading up the North Fork Road sparked a rumor that a WDFW warden had been shot, Chandler said — and that nobody got hurt, it’s still an active investigation.

“It turned into a whole lot more than a poached deer,” he said. “Some serious stuff there. The ATF is very interested in all the guns without serial numbers.”

He said the state crime lab might also be able to raise those that had been filed off one weapon.

Another Southwest Washington Poacher Sentenced

The third of four major members of a loose-knit Southwest Washington poaching ring was sentenced earlier this month.

A Skamania County judge ordered Joseph A. Dills to serve a year and pay $14,000 in fines after he pled guilty to illegal big game hunting, hound hunting and wasting game, according to The Daily News of Longview.

AN IMAGE RECOVERED DURING AN INVESTIGATION OF A SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON POACHING RING SHOWS A BEAR SURROUNDED BY HOUNDS. HOUND HUNTING HAS BEEN BANNED IN THE STATE SINCE THE MID-1990S. (WDFW)

Dills was also told to stay away from other members of the group, including his father, for half a decade, and he cannot own hunting dogs.

The newspaper reported that the 32-year-old can do his time on work release to pay the fine, but noncompliance could bring even heavier fines and result in hard time instead.

It’s at least the second time in the past dozen years that Dills has been sentenced for poaching. He was a member of the “Kill ’Em All Boyz” and in 2007 pled guilty to second-degree hunting violations and illegally baiting bears. He was sentenced to over two months in jail and to pay more than $2,000 in fines.

His most recent conviction came out of a December 2016 traffic stop by Oregon State Police wildlife troopers investigating a string of headless bucks shot and left on winter range near Mt. Hood.

They matched a trail cam photo of a truck with one spotted in The Dalles and pulled it over.

Inside were William J. Haynes and Erik C. Martin, whose cell phones led to a treasure trove of evidence linking that duo with Joseph Dills and his father, Eddy Dills, and accusations they and others were complicit in the illegal killings of dozens upon dozens of deer, elk, bears and bobcats in Washington and Oregon.

Since pleading guilty to 15 counts, including five felonies, in January (Northwest Sportsman, March 2019), Haynes was sentenced to a year in jail and fined $14,800, according to The Daily News. Eddy Dills received three-plus weeks of home detention.

As for Martin, per the paper, he is scheduled to go on trial in Skamania County on May 13 for 28 wildlife violations.

Once again, hat tip to prosecutors for following such a massive case through.

Cannon Beach Ocean Patrol Finds Big Overlimit Of Lings

Five people stopped off Oregon’s North Coast were criminally cited for going way over the limit on lingcod and rockfish as well as retaining undersized fish, and apparently it wasn’t their first time doing so.

A CROPPED OREGON STATE POLICE IMAGE SHOWS THE OVERLIMIT CATCH OF LINGCOD AND ROCKFISH. (OSP)

“The boat owner said that they had done this before, and if he had seen the troopers coming from further away, he would have dumped all of the extra fish overboard,” reported state fish and wildlife troopers in their latest newsletter.

The incident occurred during a joint OSP-WDFW ocean patrol from the mouth of the Columbia River south to Cannon Beach.

Somewhere off the popular seaside destination, the crew spotted a fishing boat and decided to make contact with it.

As they approached, one occupant of the boat tossed a couple lings overboard, according to OSP, and when they came alongside troopers also saw “multiple undersized lingcod on the deck.”

The quintet claimed that those fish and some in a cooler were the only catch of the day, but a consent search turned up many more.

In the holds were 37 lings, 16 of which were under the size limit – the daily limit is two, 22 inches or better – and 22 rockfish, according to troopers.

“The anglers were found to be 27 lingcod over their daily limit and six rockfish over their limit,” OSP reports.

The five received criminal citations for exceeding daily limits on lingcod and marine fish, and retaining undersized lings. The fish were seized.

The case is similar to one reported here last year in which four individuals checked at the Hammond Marina were criminally cited for being 54 over the limit on rockfish, and one of them for keeping a too-short ling and an off-limits cabezon.

Seized fish are typically donated to local food banks.

Willamina Cow Elk Poaching Update: Tip Leads To Citations For 3 People

OSP update  1:50 p.m., March 28, 2019

Thanks to a tip from the public, Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Troopers cited three subjects for Unlawful Take/Possession of Antlerless Elk.  The elk meat was seized and donated to local charities.

Oregon State Police would like to thank the public and media for assistance in bringing this case to a resolution.

THE FOLLOWING IS THE ORIGINAL PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON STATE POLICE FISH AND WILDLIFE DIVISION

Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Troopers are seeking the public’s help in identifying suspect(s) involved in the killing of 3 cow elk on Willamina Creek Rd, just past mile post 8 near the upper bridge.

OREGON STATE FISH AND WILDLIFE TROOPERS BELIEVE THE THREE COW ELK WERE SHOT ABOUT 8 MILES NORTH OF WILLAMINA. (OSP)

Troopers found evidence of 3 elk that had been shot with high powered rifles on private timber property and pulled out to Willamina Creek Rd with ATV’s. A tip later the next day led Troopers to three cow elk hides dumped on NW Fir Crest Rd just west of the town of Carlton. Based on the evidence found at both sites, the elk were most likely killed between March 20, 2019 and March 23, 2019.

THE HIDES OF THREE ELK WERE FOUND DUMPED SOUTHWEST OF CARLTON. (OSP)

Please see the attached maps for precise location information of the kill sites and the dump site. Anyone who may have information that will help identify suspect(s) is asked to call the TIP line at 1-800-452-7888 or dial *OSP and refer information to Senior Trooper Boeholt or Trooper Tayler Jerome.

GOOGLE MAPS SHOW THE LOCATION THE HIDES WERE DUMPED. (OSP)

Information leading to an arrest is eligible for either a cash reward or up to 6 Preference Points. Oregon Hunter’s Association (OHA) has pledged an additional cash reward for a total cash reward option of $2500.

4 Elk Poached, Wasted In 2 Oregon Coast Counties

Oregon wildlife troopers are asking for the public’s help to solve a trio of recent poaching cases involving four elk and a hawk.

TWO OF THREE COW ELK FOUND DEAD EAST OF TILLAMOOK EARLIER THIS MONTH. (OSP)

They say that the three cows and five-point bull were found earlier this month in Tillamook and Lincoln Counties, all shot by a rifle, and they say a redtail found injured in Jackson County had been shot as well.

The cow elk were investigated Jan. 12 and were found in a clear-cut 2.5 miles up a road off Highway 6 in the Fox Creek area east of Tillamook. OSP reported that they had been killed with a high-powered rifle and left to waste, but said that evidence was gathered at the scene.

Tipsters are being asked to call OSP Dispatch (503-842-4433) and reference case number SP19-013862.

As for the bull, it was found by a landowner on Jan. 8 near Hidden Valley Road just west of Toledo.

It too was left to waste, OSP reported. Informants are being told to contact Trooper Jason Adkins (800-452-7888; 541-961-8859; TIP@state.or.us) and to reference case SP19-022825.

And the hawk was found Jan. 16 in Central Point behaving oddly and determined to have been shot. It was captured and taken to a local wildlife rehab center but died from its injury.

Anyone with info can call OSP dispatch (541-776-6111) and reference case SP19-018083.

OSP Looking For Tips In Whitetail, Elk Poaching Cases

Oregon state troopers are looking for information on whomever killed three deer and an elk in different parts of the state recently.

They say three whitetails were illegally shot in Baker County and their heads and hides were dumped northeast of Keating.

It wasn’t clear when the deer were shot or their sex, but their remains were located on Mother Lode Road.

OSP is asking anyone with info to call their dispatch center (800-442-2068) or dial *OSP and ask for Sergeant Cyr.

As for the elk, the cow was shot with a rifle and left to waste the morning of Thursday, Dec. 27, in a clearcut northwest of Roseburg by Douglas County’s Wolf Creek Ranch.

(OSP)

“A vehicle of interest is a compact truck occupied by two or more adult males (late teens or early 20’s) which traveled from Bullock Road to Tyee Access Road that morning,” OSP said in a press release.

Informants are asked to call (800)-442-2068) or dial *OSP and reference Senior Troopers Stone or Weaver.

Those whose tips lead to an arrest or citation stand to collect a reward or preference points.

2018 Northwest Fish And Wildlife Year In Review, Part III

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 then June through September. Below we wrap up with October through December.

OCTOBER

Oregon began offering big game preference points instead of just cold, hard cash for those who help state troopers arrest or cite fish and wildlife poachers. The new option in the Turn In a Poacher program awards five points for cases involving bighorns, mountain goats, moose and wolves; four for elk, deer, antelope, mountain lions and bears. While the points all have to go to either elk, buck, antlerless deer, pronghorn or spring black bear series hunts, it significantly raises the odds of being drawn for coveted controlled permits.

OSP SENIOR TROOPER DARIN BEAN POSES WITH THE HEADS OF THREE TROPHY BUCKS POACHED IN THE GREATER SILVER LAKE AREA. (OSP)

The lowest catch station recorded the highest haul when the Columbia-Snake 2018 pikeminnow sport-reward program wrapped up this fall. “It is the first time in the Pikeminnow Program’s 28-year history that the Cathlamet station has been the number one location,” noted Eric Winther, who heads up the state-federal effort aimed at reducing predation on salmonid smolts. With 25,135 turned in there, Cathlamet accounted for 14 percent of the overall catch of 180,309 pikeminnow this year. Boyer Park produced the second most, 22,950, while usual hot spot The Dalles was third with 22,461, less than half of 2017’s tally.

Using DNA from northern pike, USFS researcher Dr. Kellie Carim turned the widespread assumption about where the fish that have invaded Washington came from on its head. “The history we’ve told ourselves, the simplest explanation, is that the fish are flowing downstream from Western Montana,” Carim told us in early fall. “However, what the genetic analysis says is that those in Lake Roosevelt and the Pend Oreille River are closely related to those in the Couer d’Alene drainage.” In other words, a bucket biologist or biologists drove them between the watersheds. Also on the invasive species front, earlier in the year, scientists began to suspect that Sooke Harbor was not the source of the European green crabs showing up in Puget Sound waters but from somewhere on the Northwest’s outer coast.

SPECIALISTS FROM WASHINGTON SEA GRANT AND THE MAKAH TRIBE CONSIDER WHERE TO SET TRAPS IN AN ESTUARY FOR EUROPEAN GREEN CRABS. (WSG)

Oregon and Washington’s Fish and Wildlife Commissions were urged not to roll back the Columbia River salmon reforms by no less than the former governor who got the ball rolling. “There’s absolutely no reason to change right now, it makes no sense,” said Oregon’s John Kitzhaber in one of several short videos that came out ahead of indepth reviews for the citizen panels.

IN A NEW VIDEO, FORMER GOVERNOR JOHN KITZHABER URGES VIEWERS TO MAINTAIN THE COLUMBIA RIVER SALMON REFORMS.

With salvaging roadkilled deer and elk in Oregon set to begin Jan. 1, 2019, the Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted regulations for how the program will work. It’s similar to Washington’s, except that antlers and heads must be turned in to any ODFW office (here are addresses and phone numbers of the two dozen across the state) within five business days and Columbian whitetail deer may be salvaged, but only in Douglas County, where the species was declared recovered in 2003.

Idaho Fish and Game Commissioner Blake Fischer resigned after a distasteful photo of him with a dead “family of baboons” surfaced following an African safari with his wife. Fischer initially defended his actions, telling the Idaho Statesman, “I didn’t do anything illegal. I didn’t do anything unethical. I didn’t do anything immoral.” In accepting Fischer’s requested resignation, Gov. Butch Otter stated, “Every member of my administration is expected to exercise good judgment. Commissioner Fischer did not.”

FORMER IDAHO FISH AND GAME COMMISSIONER BLAKE FISCHER OF MERIDIAN RESIGNED AFTER GOVERNOR BUTCH OTTER REQUESTED HE DO SO. (IDFG)

This year’s return of coho to the Columbia River was woeful at best, but there was a glimmer of good news when the Nez Perce announced that the first adult in more than 50 years returned to Northeast Oregon, thanks to a joint tribal-ODFW release of half a million smolts in March 2017. At least 125 had arrived at a weir on the Lostine River as of earlier this month, and tribal fisheries manager Becky Johnson estimated there were 800 more still on their way at that point.

FEMALE COHO TRAPPED AT THE LOSTINE RIVER WEIR ON OCTOBER 26, 2018 — THE FIRST SINCE 1966. (NEZ PERCE TRIBE)

With small, 2- to 3-inch razor clams dominating the population in Clatsop County’s sands, Oregon shellfish managers with support from the public decided to postpone harvesting any until this coming March, in hopes they would be larger by then. On the north side of the Columbia River, Washington’s Long Beach will only see a limited opener this season due to low salinity levels in winter 2017 that affected survival and led to a higher concentration of small clams.

OREGON SHELLFISH MANAGERS SAY ITS NORTHERN RAZOR CLAM POPULATION IS ON THE SMALL SIDE AND SEASON WAS POSTPONED TILL MARCH. (ODFW)

WDFW’s new Director Kelly Susewind hit the highway, the airwaves and the interweb to flesh out his thinking on hot-button fish and wildlife issues, set the tone for what his priorities are going forward, and listen to the needs of sportsmen and Washington residents. He hosted half a dozen meetings across the state, appeared on TVW’s Inside Olympia and did a webinar as the agency tried to build support for its $67 million ask of the legislature in 2019.

It wasn’t just small clams on the Oregon Coast sparking concerns — low early returns and catches of fall Chinook led ODFW to restrict fishing from the Necanicum to the Siuslaw, closing all the rivers above tidewater and reducing limits in the bays from three to one for the season. When subsequent surveys began to show more fish arriving on the spawning grounds, sections of the lower Siletz then Alsea and Yaquina Rivers were reopened, but further south, it wasn’t until late November before ODFW was able to lift gear restrictions on the low-flowing Chetco and Winchuck Rivers.

NOVEMBER

Western Washington tribes launched an ambitious, coordinated, long-term effort to identify and restore key salmon habitats as well as gauge land-use decisions in the region. The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission’s Tribal Habitat Strategy was described by chair Lorraine Loomis as an “effort … based on what we know is actually needed to achieve ecosystem health, not what we think is possible to achieve given current habitat conditions.”

THE COVER OF THE NORTHWEST INDIAN FISHERIES COMMISSION’S NEW “TRIBAL HABITAT STRATEGY” REPORT SHOWS A KITSAP COUNTY CULVERT ON CARPENTER CREEK THAT HAS SINCE BEEN REMOVED, IMPROVING FISH PASSAGE AND ESTUARY FUNCTION. (NWIFC)

Cattle depredations that seemed like they’d never end in Northeast Washington led to essentially three different lethal wolf removal operations ongoing at once, two by WDFW targeting all the remaining OPT wolves and one Smackout Pack member, and one by a producer for any Togo wolves in their private pastures. By year-end at least four wolves had been killed by state shooters in hopes of reducing livestock attacks, and the Capital Press reported at least 31 calves and cows had been confirmed to have been either killed or injured by wolves in 2018, “more than double any previous year.”

LIFE COULD BE WORSE — YOU COULD GROW A BUCK ON YOUR BUTT … OR AT LEAST HAVE A TRAIL CAMERA RECORD SOMETHING ALONG THOSE LINES. THIS UNUSUAL ALIGNMENT WAS RECORDED AT A WASHINGTON WILDLIFE AREA IN THE NORTHEAST CORNER OF THE STATE DURING THE FALL RUT. (WDFW)

Significantly increasing Chinook abundance to help out starving orcas was among the key recommendations Washington’s Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force voted to forward to Governor Jay Inslee after months of discussion and public comment. Members also urged suspending southern resident killer whale watching for all fleets — commercial, recreational, kayak, rubber dingy, etc., etc., etc. — for the next three to five years. The recommendations were generally supported by sportfishing reps who took part in the task force’s work. “Production needs to be ramped up immediately, and follow the recovery/ESA sidebars in the recommendations,” said Liz Hamilton of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, who also expressed concern about “organizations who will file lawsuits to fight increased production no matter how thoughtfully done and no matter how dire the need.”

A PAIR OF SOUTHERN RESIDENT KILLER WHALES SWIM IN INLAND WATERS EARLIER THIS MONTH. (KATY FOSTER/NOAA FISHERIES)

IDFG Director Virgil Moore announced that he was retiring in January after eight years at the helm of Idaho fish and wildlife management and a four-decade-long career in the field, including a year as ODFW’s director. “Working together, Fish and Game and our wildlife resources are in excellent shape and ready to be handed off to new leadership,” he said in a press release. Fellow Fish and Game honcho Ed Schriever was named as Moore’s replacement.

Federal researchers found that one top way to recover Chinook in Puget Sound streams is to restore side channels. Providing space for the young ESA-listed fish to grow as well as shelter from flood flows adds complexity to river systems, increasing its potential value as habitat. The work, some of which was done on the Cedar River, could help answer where and how to get the best bang for restoration dollars. In a related story, for the first time since the project wrapped up in 2014, a pair of kings chose to spawn in a portion of a Seattle stream that had been engineered for salmon to dig redds. “That’s a vote of confidence!” said a utility district biologist.

A SEATTLE PUBLIC UTILITY IMAGE SHOWS A PAIR OF CHINOOK SALMON ON THE GRAVEL OF LOWER THORNTON CREEK, EAST OF NORTHGATE MALL. (SPU)

With the threat of a federal lawsuit hanging over their heads, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission voted in mid-November to suspend steelhead season in early December. IDFG’s permit to hold the fishery had expired nearly 10 years ago and other priorities had kept NMFS from issuing a new one, providing an opening for yet another low-hanging-fruit lawsuit from the usual suspects. “The loss of that opportunity, even temporarily, due to a lawsuit and unprocessed permit is truly regrettable,” said Virgil Moore in a letter to Idaho steelheaders. The pending closure didn’t affect Washington fishermen angling the shared Snake, and it led one of the six litigant groups to subsequently back out, saying its goal of spurring the feds into action had been achieved. But on the eve of the shutdown, an agreement was reached between a newly formed group of anglers and towns, Idaho River Community Alliance, IDFG and the other five parties. It kept fishing open, closed stretches of the South Fork Clearwater and Salmon, and included voluntary measures.

A LAST-MINUTE AGREEMENT KEPT STEELHEADING OPEN ON THE NORTH FORK CLEARWATER AND OTHER IDAHO STREAMS FOLLOWING A THREATENED FEDERAL LAWSUIT OVER A LACK OF A FISHERIES PERMIT. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The federal Fourth National Climate Assessment, released over Thanksgiving weekend, painted a rough go of it for fish, shellfish and wildlife in the Northwest. It projected that Washington salmon habitat will be reduced by 22 percent under a scenario that includes continued high emissions of greenhouse gases, razor clamming would decline “due to cumulative effects of ocean acidification, harmful algal blooms, higher temperatures, and habitat degradation,” and that more management to ensure sufficient waterfowl habitat would be needed. The report, required by Congress, did say deer and elk may actually thrive due to less winterkill and improving habitat because of increased wildfires, but could also be impacted by “increases in disease and disease-carrying insects and pests.”

ODFW launched its new electronic license program, so easy that even hook-and-bullet magazine editors can (eventually) figure it out. Essentially, the app allows sportsmen to carry an e-version of their fishing and hunting licenses on their phones, etc., as well as tag critters and fill in punch cards with an app that works even offline in Oregon’s remote canyons.

In what would also be a continuing news story in the year’s final month, ODFW received federal permission to lethally remove as many as 93 California sea lions annually at Willamette Falls and in the lower Clackamas. “This is good news for the native runs of salmon and steelhead in the Willamette River,” said ODFW’s Dr. Shaun Clements, whose agency had estimated that if nothing were done, there was a 90 percent chance one of the watershed’s wild winter steelhead runs would go extinct. “We did put several years’ effort into non-lethal deterrence, none of which worked. The unfortunate reality is that, if we want to prevent extinction of the steelhead and Chinook, we will have to lethally remove sea lions at this location,” he said in a press release.

And near the end of the month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 196 to 180 to fully delist gray wolves in the Lower 48. But that was as far as the Manage our Wolves Act, co-sponsored by two Eastern Washington Republicans, was going to get, as at the end of the year it went nowhere in the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works and the incoming chair of the House Natural Resources Committee flatly told a reporter that the panel won’t be moving any delisting legislation while he is in charge over the next two years. Meanwhile, WDFW and the University of Washington began year three of predator-prey research across the northern tier of Eastern Washington.

A TRAIL CAMERA CAPTURED WHAT’S BELIEVED TO BE A SMACKOUT PACK YEARLING PACKING FAWN QUARTERS BACK TO A DEN IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON. (JEFF FLOOD)

DECEMBER

Poor fishing up and down the West Coast in recent years was among the factors that forced the owners of Ollie Damon’s reel repair shop in Portland to close up for good this month, ending the run of a famed name that first opened for business in the late 1940s. “It’s sad for us but we can’t work forever,” said Rich and Susan Basch who bought the shop in the 1990s and used to service as many as 5,000 to 6,000 reels annually, and who said that they’ll miss their customers “immensely” as they also retire.

PORTLAND’S OLLIE DAMON’S CLOSEd ITS DOORS DEC. 29, MARKING THE END OF AN ERA. (OLLIE DAMON’S)

We’ll know a lot more about 2019 salmon expectations later in winter, but the year’s first forecasts came out in early December, with Columbia River managers expecting an overall run of 157,500 springers, 35,900 summer kings, and 99,300 of the red salmon, all below 10-year averages but no surprise given recent ocean conditions. The outlook for upriver brights is similar to 2018, with tule Chinook below the 10-year average, but with spring’s offshore survey finding good numbers of young coho in the ocean and a strong jack return to the river this fall, there is some potential good news for silver slayers.

The poaching of one of Oregon’s rare moose north of Enterprise in November led to a handsome reward offer of not only $7,500 at last check but a guided elk hunt on the nearby Krebs Ranch, a $3,500 value in itself. “The poaching of a moose is a tragic thing,” said Jim Akenson of the Oregon Hunters Association, chapters of which stepped up to build the reward fund. “Especially because our moose population is low – fewer than 70 in Oregon.” This is at least the second moose poached in Northeast Oregon in recent years. Thadd J. Nelson was charged in early 2015 with unlawfully killing one in mid-2014. He was later killed by robbers.

OREGON’S MOOSE POPULATION WAS LAST ESTIMATED AT 75 OR SO. (PAT MATTHEWS, ODFW)

Washington Governor Jay Inslee touted an “unprecedented investment” of $1.1 billion to recover orcas and their key feedstock — Chinook — in his proposed 2019-21 budget. It includes $12 million for WDFW to maximize hatchery production to rear and release an additional 18.6 million salmon smolts, a whopping $205 million boost for DOT to improve fish passage beneath state roads, and $75.7 million to improve the state’s hatcheries (hopefully testing generators more frequently!). Inslee’s budget, which must still be passed by lawmakers, also includes the fee increase but $15 million WDFW asked for for conservation and habitat work was pared down to just $1.3 million for the former.

With the significance of Chinook for orcas in the spotlight of course a mid-December windstorm would knock out power to a state hatchery, and when the backup generator failed to immediately kick in, around 6 million fall and spring fry died. That angered fishermen and killer whale advocates alike, and led to a rare statement by a WDFW director, Kelly Susewind on the “painful loss.” As an outside investigation is launched into what exactly what went wrong, up to 2.75 million fish from a mix of state, tribal and tech college hatcheries were identified as possible replacements, pending buy-in from several more tribes.

SALMON INCUBATION TRAYS AT MINTER CREEK HATCHERY. (WDFW)

Federal, state and tribal officials agreed to a three-year trial to see if increasing spill down the Columbia and Snake Rivers can “significantly boost” outmigrating salmon and steelhead smolt numbers. The agreement came after early in the year U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon ordered spill to occur and Eastern Washington House of Representatives members tried to kill it. Testing begins this coming April — “It can’t happen soon enough,” said NSIA’s Hamilton.

WDFW’S FIRST KARELIAN BEAR DOG, MISHKA, PASSED AWAY LATE IN THE YEAR. HANDLER “BRUCE (RICHARDS) SAID OF MISHKA THAT WHAT HE ACCOMPLISHED IN ONE YEAR WAS AKIN TO WHAT ONE WILDLIFE OFFICER COULD ACCOMPLISH IN A LIFETIME OF WORK,” BEAR SMART WA POSTED ON INSTAGRAM. THE DUO HAD A LONG CAREER OF CHASING BEARS AND HELPING ON POACHING CASES IN GREATER PUGETROPOLIS. ALSO IN 2018, ANOTHER WDFW KBD DOG, CASH, DIED FOLLOWING A BATTLE AGAINST PROSTRATE CANCER. (WDFW)

And finally, and in probably the best news of the whole damn year — which is why we saved it to last, but also because it happened so late in 2018 — the Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act was signed into law by President Trump after zipping through the Senate and House this month. With bipartisan leadership from Northwest lawmakers and support from the DFWs, tribes and fishing community among others, the bill essentially provides up to five one-year permits to kill as many as 920 California sea lions and 249 Steller sea lions in portions of the Columbia River and its salmon-bearing tributaries. Not that that many likely will be taken out, but this should FINALLY help address too many pinnipeds taking too big a bite out of ESA-listed stocks and help keep one of their new favorite targets, sturgeon, from ending up on the list too.

And with that, I’m calling it a year on this three-part year in review — read the first chunk, covering January through May here, and the second, June through September, here.

Take care, and happy new year!

AW
NWS