Tag Archives: Washington

Washington Bass, Walleye In Crosshairs For Orca Recovery?

Smallmouth, largemouth, walleye and other popular but nonnative gamefish species might one day be reclassified as invasive in Washington, a proposal meant to help out the prey of struggling killer whales but one that would further alienate warmwater anglers who already feel like the state’s redheaded stepchildren.

A POTENTIAL RECOMMENDATION BY WASHINGTON’S ORCA TASK FORCE COULD PUT A CHILL ON WALLEYE, A NONNATIVE SPECIES THAT ALSO CONSUMES CHINOOK AND OTHER SALMONID SMOLTS WHILE PROVIDING EXCELLENT FISHING OPPORTUNITIES IN FALL, LATE WINTER AND SPRING ON THE COLUMBIA NEAR TRI-CITIES. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

A Seattle TV station got ahold of that and other draft recommendations that Governor Jay Inslee’s state orca task force has developed ahead of their Monday, Sept. 24 release for public comment.

According to KCPQ, “Prey Potential Recommendation 27” calls on Inslee to support adding bass, walleye, catfish, perch and more to a list that includes northern pike, several species of carp and northern snakeheads.

The idea is “to allow and encourage removal of these predatory fish in the waters containing salmon or other ESA-listed species,” according to documents that reporter Brett Cihon cites.

The papers state:

“Walleye in the Columbia River are reported to consume more than two juvenile salmon daily while bass are reported to consume more than one juvenile salmon per day. There are likely millions of these non-native predatory fish in Washington waters, including Lake Washington and other water bodies, containing salmon. Twenty-four million salmon smolts are consumed by these non-native species between McNary Dam and Priest Rapids dam.”

It wasn’t clear where the reported figures originated, but walleye do now occur throughout much of the Columbia and Snake Rivers, as well as many Columbia Basin reservoirs and lakes.

These waters are so rich with forage – and not just salmonid smolts but young shad, perch, catfish and squawfish, according to guides quoted in a Northwest Sportsman article during last winter’s trophy fishery period – that anglers come from the home of walleye, the Upper Midwest, to try and catch fish into the high teens if not set a new state or world records, or at least personal bests.

Bass are simply everywhere, in lakes and slower, warmer rivers across the state, and support a number of fishing tournaments.

A 2011 paper KCPQ cited captured the dichotomy between the species’ value to anglers and fisheries and its danger to native fish. Researchers said there were 75,000 smallmouth bass anglers in Washington in 2006, or 14 percent of the state’s fishermen, and they spent 1.1 million days afield to the tune of $32.6 million in economic activity.

Those figures were also mostly below 1996 levels in not only Washington but Oregon and Idaho. The paper suggested site-specific regulations for areas of known salmonid smolt concentrations.

Since it came out, Washington and Oregon have moved to liberalize walleye, bass and catfish regulations, dropping size and daily limits on the Columbia and its tributaries, after pressure from federal overseers to show the states are doing something to reduce predation on ESA-listed salmon and steelhead smolts.

But now the focus is on orcas and their prey. Fall Chinook from the Lower Columbia and its tribs, as well as the Hanford Reach and Snake River, along with spring and summer king stocks from the Cowlitz, Kalama and Idaho rivers were found to be among the most important to southern resident killer whales, according to a new analysis out earlier this summer.

Anglers are being paid to remove northern pikeminnows, a native but numerous species that have benefited from the damming of the Columbia and Snake Rivers, and they’re also getting cash to cut off the heads of northern pike in Lake Roosevelt.

KCPQ also reported that among other potential recommendations, the task force suggests removing three smaller dams on the Middle Fork Nooksack, Pilchuck and Naches Rivers; support efforts in Congress to make it easier to remove sea lions from more Lower Columbia Basin waters; establish a “no white-water wake” within half a mile of orcas; and develop a new limited-entry whale-watch boat permit program.

Some observers of the process are reported to feel that the measures aren’t strong enough or that their effects are too short-term.

US, Canada Agree To New West Coast Salmon Treaty

Updated 4:29 p.m. Sept. 17, 2018

US and Canadian salmon managers have reached a new 10-year agreement 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.

GUIDE BOB REES NETS A CHINOOK AT BUOY 10. SALMON RETURNS TO THE MOUTH OF THE COLUMBIA WOULD SEE ADDITIONAL PROTECTIONS WHILE TRANSITING NORTHERN WATERS DURING YEARS OF LOWER RUNS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Fisheries off Southeast Alaska would be cut as much as 7.5 percent from 2009-15 levels in those years, while those off the west coast of Vancouver Island would be pruned up to 12.5 percent.

Those are key areas that Washington- and Columbia River-bound kings travel through during their ocean sojourn and a bone of contention for managers at all levels.

“I think that thorniness is why it took the countries two and a half years and numerous negotiation sessions,” said John Field, the executive secretary of the Pacific Salmon Commission.

The update to the international treaty would run from Jan. 1, 2019 through 2028 and be in effect down to Cape Falcon, Oregon. It also covers chums, sockeye, pinks and coho.

Field termed the section on Chinook a “long and complicated chapter” and said that all parties are acknowledging that the species isn’t recovering as well as we’d like, so the burden of harvest cuts is being spread out.

According to Governor Jay Inslee’s office, “Fisheries in Washington will remain tightly constrained unless runs exceed management objectives.”

Alaska salmon managers report that Washington and Oregon fisheries could see reductions from 5 to 15 percent.

Washington’s member of the salmon commission, Phil Anderson, the retired WDFW director, said the plan would “create a better future for salmon in Washington.”

Field, who counts himself as a sports fishermen, said that fellow anglers can rest assured that Chinook management will be improved with “augmentations” in the treaty, including improved tagging for mark-selective fisheries, a 10-year schedule to upgrade monitoring of “sentinel” stocks and a review after five years to see if the reductions are actually yielding better king runs.

The importance of Chinook has been in the spotlight of late with the plight of southern resident killer whales and the likely death of yet another one, J50.

According to Inslee’s office, US salmon commissioners will seek out more money from Washington DC for habitat and hatchery work.

“Additional federal funding is essential in order to make the key conservation work possible to recover salmon, and in turn, our orca,” Inslee said.

“Successful updates to the Pacific Salmon Treaty through 2028 will help ensure long-term sustainable and healthy salmon populations that are vital to the people of the Pacific Northwest, and to the entire ecosystem,” said Oregon Governor Kate Brown in a press release.

 

2018 Washington Deer Hunting Prospects: A Better Hunt This Fall?

Following Washington’s worst deer season in 20 years, there are signs the harvest may rebound.

By Andy Walgamott

On the bright side, Washington deer hunters have nowhere to look but up after 2017, one of the worst falls in 20-plus years.

That might be the most positive way to look at this season’s prospects across the Evergreen State, where bowhunters took the field earlier this month, muzzleloaders at the end of September and riflemen give it a go starting the second Saturday of October.

A BIG HARVEST IN 2015 AS WELL AS DROUGHT, WINTERKILL AND THE SECOND LOWEST NUMBER OF HUNTERS AFIELD LED TO AN ABYSMAL HARVEST IN 2017 FOR WASHINGTON SPORTSMEN. DESPITE IT ALL, HUNTERS LIKE CHUCK HARTMAN WERE ABLE TO TAG OUT AND CAN LOOK FORWARD TO A POTENTIAL REBOUND THIS FALL. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

There actually are some good signs out there – solid postseason buck escapement numbers in places, an easy winter that should mean more available deer in previously hard-hit units, and a liberalized bag limit in a key area for certain weapons types.

But it will be interesting to see if the hangover from 2017, when only 23.6 percent of general season hunters tagged out – the second lowest this millennium – has worn off.

Indeed, following 2015’s decade-high overall harvest of 37,963 deer, nearly 11,500 fewer whitetails, muleys and blacktails were killed during 2017’s general and special seasons, the fewest in more than 20 years.

Part of that was probably due to a near-new low number of hunters last year – 106,977, down 46,000 from the last year of the 20th Century – but also lingering aftereffects of 2015’s harvest as well as drought and harsher recent winters that depressed deer production and numbers.

Still, crying in our beer ain’t gonna fill a tag, so here’s what biologists around Washington are forecasting for this season:

A SOUTHEAST WASHINGTON MULE DEER BUCK PUTS DISTANCE BETWEEN ITSELF AND PHOTOGRAPHER-HUNTER CHAD ZOLLER LAST FALL. POSTSEASON COUNTS FOUND GOOD NUMBERS OF BUCKS IN COLUMBIA BASIN UNITS, BUT LOWER FIGURES IN CHELAN AND OKANOGAN COUNTIES. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

NORTHEAST

In terms of sheer numbers, with all its whitetails and good habitat, harvest in the upper righthand corner of the state will always be hard to beat. And for this year, bowmen and muzzleloaders will again be able to take any whitetail, which hopefully produces an uptick in the take.

“My goal is to keep steadier harvest regulations,” says district biologist Annemarie Princee.

Following the windfall of the end of the four-point whitetail minimum in two key game management units in 2015 and bucks-only rules for the aforementioned weapons types the past two seasons, harvest declined by nearly 3,000 deer, or 37 percent.

But even as those two GMUs (Huckleberry, 49 Degrees North) saw sharp declines, other units – Kelly Hill, Douglas, Aladdin and Selkirk – have kept on keepin’ on, producing near-similar harvests year after year from 2013 to 2017, with generally steady days-per-kill needed to notch a tag.

OPENING DAY WAS GETTING A LITTLE LONG IN THE TOOTH IN PEND OREILLE COUNTY WHEN THIS WHITETAIL POPPED OUT IN FRONT OF KYLIE CAREY, WHO MADE GOOD ON THE SHOT. IT WAS HER FIRST TIME HUNTING. “AWESOME EXPERIENCE!” EXCLAIMS HUSBAND LEVI. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

In the region’s core, Stevens County, longterm deer counts show fawn numbers getting back to about average of the past 10 years after a new low in 2016, and that should mean more forked horns and spikes on the landscape. Buck numbers are about average, or at least were going into last season.

In their 2018 prospects document, Prince and assistant biologist Ben Turnock rank the Douglas and Huckleberry Units as best for modern firearm hunters. Those two yielded 1.38 and 2.23 deer per square mile last year, with 36.7 and 38.2 percent success rates.

They’re on the lighter side in terms of public land, but it’s a much different story with Kelly Hill, Aladdin, 49 Degrees North, Sherman and Selkirk. The bios rank the first two units higher than the others, but the third actually has a better harvest per square mile than either.

As a reminder, youth and disabled riflemen can take whitetail does the first two weekends of general season. Senior hunters nobly opted out to provide more opportunity for others.

Prince is also making a special plea to youth and disabled hunters who take a doe this fall to stop by the check station so that biologists can extract their animal’s jaw bone to study body conditions and monitor for chronic wasting disease.

A 320-YARD SHOT LED TO A NOTCHED TAG FOR CRAIG WESTLIN. HE WAS HUNTING NEAR POMEROY, IN SOUTHEAST WASHINGTON, WITH GUIDE JACK PEASLEY OF DEADMAN CREEK OUTFITTERS. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

UPPER SCABLANDS, PALOUSE

Where Northeast Washington hunting lives and dies by its whitetail numbers, mule deer contribute well to the harvest in Whitman, Lincoln and Spokane Counties, spreading the risk and opportunity. Unfortunately for hunters, both species are still in recovery mode from recent years’ environmental setbacks that led to a 25 percent general-season harvest decline between 2015 and 2017.

“Though the white-tailed deer population is starting to rebound from the 2015 blue tongue outbreak and 2016-17 winter, hunters should still expect to have to put in more time to be successful,” biologist Michael Atamian and Carrie Lowe write in their game prospects. “With fawn-to-doe ratios rebounding from the droughts of 2014 and 2015, mule deer numbers should also be on the increase. Hunters should still expect to put in more time than in previous years to be successful.”

Days per kill has doubled in the Roosevelt and Cheney, and Harrington and Steptoe Units versus how long it took to tag out in 2008, rising from roughly 10 and seven to 20 and 15, respectively. It’s also risen in the Almota Unit, though not as much, but it’s now taking fewer days to bag a deer in the Mt. Spokane Unit.

The far northern Palouse is very light on public land and even farms offering access through state programs, but there are many more cooperators in the heart of the loess and along the Snake River Breaks.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON! JACK BENSON, AGE 11, FOLLOWED UP ON HIS DAD JEFF’S FINE WALLA WALLA COUNTY MUZZLELOADER BUCK WITH A GREAT FIRST BUCK DURING THE RIFLE SEASON. “HE SET THE BAR HIGH FOR HIS FUTURE HUNTS,” JEFF NOTES. WE’LL SAY! (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

BLUE MOUNTAINS

Better hunting is still a year away, according to biologists Paul Wik and Mark Vekasy. They say that 2015’s drought and the heavy winter of 2016-17 knocked back fawn numbers and led to 2017’s “poor” season and unfortunately the effects will linger into this fall with reduced numbers of legal bucks. Between 2015 and 2017 general season harvest declined 20 percent.

We “do not expect a return to average harvest until the 2019 hunting season,” they write in their game prospects. “Consequently, populations available for 2018 harvest are not expected to improve much over the poor 2017 season.”

Looking at recent years’ stats, hunter success has cratered in the wilderness Wenaha Unit, and while it’s dropped everywhere, it hasn’t been as bad in some. Rimming the edge of the mountains, Blue Creek, Dayton, Marengo, Peola and Couse have seen relatively steady harvests. While the knock on them is the general lack of public ground, there is Feel Free To Hunt and other private land that’s available, along with portions of four wind energy facilities.

But if last year is any indication, the mostly public Lick Creek and half-public Mountain View Units will still yield bucks. And the almost entirely private Prescott Unit will produce the most; look to get permission to hunt Conservation Reserve Program lands and the breaks of the Snake.

Ranking all of their units by harvest, hunter density and success, and public access, the biologists rate Mayview, Peola and Couse highest, but Lick Creek the worst.

SOUTHERN BASIN

Mule deer fawn numbers didn’t dip as low in Franklin and Adams Counties as they did higher up in the Columbia Basin, but harvest declined by nearly a quarter here.

Still, last year’s postseason buck survey found a healthy 21 per 100 does, somewhat surprising given the open nature of this country. Some of those were obviously off-limits spikes and forked horns, and it’s possible the count included deer that had migrated in from the east and north, but it’s a good sign coming into this fall.

With greater than 9 out of every 10 acres privately owned, biologist Jason Fidorra points hunters to the patches of WDFW, DNR and BLM land scattered around the district, but the Kahlotus Unit has some pretty big chunks of Feel Free To Hunt and Hunt By Written Permission properties.

Muzzleloaders should be aware that, new for 2018, antlerless mule deer can no longer be taken during the late season in the Kahlotus, part of a changing strategy for managing the herd. That hunt was shifted later in the year, though, wrapping up after Dec. 8, which could mean some nice migratory bucks in the mix.

NO WORD ON WHETHER HE WAS HUNTING ON A FELLOW STATE LEGISLATOR’S MOUNTAIN RANCH, BUT REP. BRIAN BLAKE DID GET IT DONE IN THE SAME COUNTY, OKANOGAN, WITH THIS NICE MULEY. THE ABERDEEN DEMOCRAT IS THE CHAIR OF THE IMPORTANT HOUSE AGRICULTURE & NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE, OF WHICH REP. JOEL KRETZ, REPUBLICAN OF WAUCONDA, IS ALSO A MEMBER. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

OKANOGAN COUNTY

If there’s good news from Washington’s best mule deer country, it might be that a relatively strong 19 bucks per 100 does were counted on the winter range coming out of last year’s hunt.

“And with almost half of those being greater than or equal to three-points, older age-class buck availability looks good,” report district biologists Scott Fitkin and Jeff Henlein in their prospects.

But while 19 per 100 is at the top end of the management objective, it’s well below the gaudy highs of late falls earlier this decade, and probably a sign of reduced recruitment.

“Overall, total general season harvest and success rates are anticipated to be around the 2017 numbers, somewhere above the 10-year low and below the 5-year average,” the biologists forecast.

For the record, general season hunters killed 1,966 deer here last year, including 1,201 by riflemen, numbers that were down 43 and 54 percent, respectively, from 2015, a ridiculously good year when even blundering hook-and-bullet editors could notch a tag.

At this writing, things had been hot and dry for months and months, and that may concentrate deer on north-facing slopes where moisture can stick around a bit longer, the biologists suggest. But if rains have returned since, that may green things up a bit and spread the animals back across this beautiful sprawling landscape until high-country snows drive the bruisers to the winter range, providing good opportunities for those lucky enough to have drawn special permits.

Meanwhile, glass those burns – Tripod, Needles, etc. – for bucks foraging on high-quality browse, then put a sneak on them. But be aware that the Twisp River’s Crescent Fire caused a large-scale closure that may still affect access into the Gardner and Alta Units. See fs.usda.gov/okawen and inciweb.nwcg.gov for more.

IT DOESN’T ALWAYS SNOW DURING WASHINGTON’S EARLY WILDERNESS RIFLE DEER SEASON, BUT WHEN IT DOES AND WHEN A HUNTER BAGS A BUCK, IT MAKES FOR A GREAT PHOTO. SUCH IS THE CASE WITH JON JACKMAN, WHO WEATHERED A DAYS-LONG STORM, TO HUNT SOME HIGH MEADOWS ON HIS LAST FULL DAY AT A DROP CAMP. WHEN HE TOOK A LAST GLANCE BACK TO WHERE SOME DOES HAD GONE, HE SPOTTED HIS BUCK. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

CHELAN COUNTY

The story is similar to the south of the Okanogan but also more positive in part. Buck numbers declined to 18:100 does coming out of last season in vaunted Chelan County due to 2015 and winters, but across the river in Douglas County, the herd is more stable.

“Hunters should consider the Chelan population to be in a rebuilding phase for the next few years. Survey numbers in Douglas County are encouraging, with overall buck-to-doe ratios above the objective of 15 bucks per 100 does,” report biologists David Volsen and Devon Comstock.

They say that their district’s eastern herd should be bigger and provide more opportunities this season, at least to those with permission to hunt the high, open Mansfield Plateau and its nooks and crannies for generally smaller bucks on private land. The bios report that there is some 150 square miles of farms and ranches open through the Feel Free To Hunt and Hunt By Written Permission programs.

And unlike other recent large state acquisitions, the entire 21,140 acres of the Big Bend Wildlife Area – the former Grand Coulee Ranch – is open to general season hunting. Expect it to be crowded on the first rifle weekend, but a boat and a good map opens up possibilities on the upper south shore of Rufus Woods Lake. Note that this wildlife area is also the first to specifically prohibit e-bikes.

Volsen and Comstock estimated that in 2017 12,680 deer occurred in Douglas County, but the herd in Chelan County south of the big fjord declined from the 15,000 to 18,000 range to 11,000 as of two years ago. The good news is the bleeding has stopped in the latter county.

“Winter conditions in 2017-18 were more normal. Decreased overwinter mortality should allow the population to start recovering from declines,” they wrote.

In the short term they expect a “flatter” harvest of big bucks and that hunters will have to “work a little harder” to find legal animals this fall. But with a stable population, good to improving habitat and the ability of deer to repopulate fairly rapidly, the long-term outlook is good.

The district’s best unit, Entiat, was only singed by the Cougar Creek Fire, but the Chiwawa Unit had big closure areas at press time due to it. Watch the above websites for updates.

AFTER KYLIE RICE AND HER DAD RYNE SPOTTED THIS EASTERN WASHINGTON BUCK DURING THE LATE MUZZLELOADER HUNT, THEY STALKED TO WITHIN 92 YARDS, THEN RYNE TOOK THE SHOT. BUT THAT WASN’T THE END OF THE 9-YEAR-OLD’S EDUCATION – KYLIE FOLLOWED A 60-YARD BLOOD TRAIL TO THE DEER. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

WESTERN COLUMBIA BASIN

Not unlike Douglas County to the north, Grant and Adams Counties’ best units, Beezley and Ritzville, are mostly private, but last fall’s posthunt survey found buck:doe ratios above what you might expect out of this sort of country: 16- and 21:100. Both were up over the previous autumn, and fawn ratios were also “favorable” last year, with 71- and 73:100, respectively – well up from 2015’s “all-time lows.”

“Given the modest escapement of bucks in 2017 and likely good recruitment of fawns, hunters should expect an average year for mule deer hunting throughout the district,” report biologists Sean Dougherty and Ella Rowan.

Between three private-lands access programs, there are 200,000-plus acres hunters can get onto through reservations, written permission or just walking on. And despite no hunting unit having more than 15 percent public lands, outside of the permit-only Desert GMU, there’s a wide variety of federally or state-owned ground to look into.

WASHINGTON’S TEANAWAY’S STILL GOT IT FOR BIG BUCKS, IF BART OLSON’S BRUISER IS ANY INDICATION. HE BAGGED THIS MULEY DURING A RAINY DAY NEAR THE END OF THE OCTOBER HUNT. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

YAKIMA, KITTITAS COUNTIES

If you’re looking for a place to hunt with good road access, plenty of public land and loooooooow pressure, these two South-central Washington counties just might be for you. That’s also assuming you have little interest in notching a tag.

Indeed, there may be no grimmer district hunting forecast than the one issued by biologist Jeff Bernatowicz: “Wolves ate ’em all.”

Just kidding. He actually writes that last year’s harvest was the worst on record, the success rate was just 5 percent – two mountainous units produced just seven deer between them for 800 riflemen – and the age-class of bucks that should be on the landscape now is “missing.”

“No rebound is expected for 2018,” Bernie reports.

It’s actually pretty sad because this herd has been really struggling since the early 2000s. Recently things appeared to be slowly improving, thanks to three years of good fawn recruitment that helped spike the harvest to 1,019 deer in 2015, but that production fell off a cliff due to the aforementioned drought and winterkill, and last year only saw 499 taken.

NEW RESEARCH BY STATE WILDLIFE MANAGERS IS PROVIDING CLUES ABOUT WHERE TO LOOK FOR WESTSIDE BLACKTAIL BUCKS, LIKE THIS COWEEMAN UNIT THREE-POINT TAKEN BY BRANDON WILLIAMS DURING LAST YEAR’S LATE RIFLE HUNT. “IF A HUNTER SEES SIGNS OF DEER IN AN AREA, BUT NO DEER, THEY NEED TO BE PATIENT OR CHANGE THEIR APPROACH,” THEY COUNSEL. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

KLICKITAT

The harsh, lingering winter of 2016-17 and an adenovirus outbreak added up to “very low” success rates last fall on Washington’s side of the eastern Columbia Gorge, with lowest-in-a-decade-at-least harvests in the West and East Klickitat and Grayback Units.

But biologist Stephanie Bergh believes that things will begin to turn around this fall, and, even better, fawn survival coming out of last winter was back to historic levels for these units.

As a reminder, the Simcoe Wildlife Area is permit only. And new this year, Stevenson Land Company has closed two areas, Snowden and Gilmer, to the general public.

But another 65,000 acres of Western Pacific Timber lands west of Highway 97 is open for walk-in hunting, as are Hancock lands, for the time being.

HUNTING THE SAME NORTH CASCADES HILLS AS HIS FATHER GREW UP HUNTING WITH HIS GRANDFATHER, DIEGO DEL NAGRO MADE THE FAMILY PROUD WITH THIS OPENING-MORNING BLACKTAIL, SHOT AT 150 YARDS WITH THE 10-YEAR-OLD’S NEW .243. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

WESTSIDE

Last year’s harvest dropoff wasn’t just limited to Eastern Washington units – it was statewide, with all districts declining. Pacific and Grays Harbor County biologists Anthony Novack and Scott Harris report nearly 600 fewer deer were harvested in 2017 than 2016, which they termed “surprising and without an obvious biological cause.”

Part of that could be due to the aforementioned low hunter turnout, but a table the bios produced doesn’t show that much of a decline in South Coast numbers between the years. (More troubling is the long-term drop here, from 7,000 in 2008 to 4,500 in 2017, probably indicative of hunters aging out and the rise of access-fee policies).

For those who venture out for blacktail here or elsewhere on the Westside, they offer this advice based on deer collared in the Capitol State Forest:

“None of the deer monitored in WDFW’s study used an area larger than 0.38 square miles (243 acres). The average home range size was 0.14 square miles (86 acres). Some deer used an area no bigger than 45 acres in size during an entire year. If a hunter sees signs of deer in an area, but no deer, they need to be patient or change their approach.”

For more on WDFW’s deer studies, see the October issue’s South Sound column.

In Wahkiakum, Cowlitz and Lewis Counties, biologists Eric Holman and Nicholle Stephens expect hunting to be “good” this season, thanks to a mild winter.

Target regenerating clearcuts near taller second- and third-growth on state and private timberlands. Don’t have a trespass pass? WDFW’s Hunting page (wdfw.wa.gov/hunting) now has two different maps to help you find public land here and across the state.

But know that some huntable parcels may not be so readily visible, requiring extra work to sniff them out. For instance, some community forests on various Puget Sound islands are open under varying rules. Westside biologists’ online hunting prospects provide some details. 

WDFW Prepares To Take Out 1-2 O.P.T. Pack Wolves; Togo Wolf To Be Trapped

As three dozen people wave signs outside WDFW headquarters, a state wolf manager inside the building said that with a judge this morning again rejecting advocates’ request for a temporary restraining order, agency marksmen will carry out an order targeting a pack that’s attacked six calves this month.

A PAIR OF WOLVES USE A LOGGING ROAD IN NORTHERN FERRY COUNTY. (CONSERVATION NORTHWEST)

Donny Martorello says that local staffers in Northeast Washington have air, ground and trapping options at their disposal as they attempt to lethally remove one or two members of the Old Profanity Territory Pack.

It runs in rugged mountain country of northern Ferry County, where WDFW has previously had to kill eight wolves to try and head off livestock depredations in 2016 and 2017.

The OPT wolves — three to four adults and two juveniles — are confirmed to have injured five calves and killed another between Sept. 4 and 11.

Parts of the carcasses of three more calves were found in the immediate area, but their cause of death couldn’t be determined

WDFW reports the producer — identifed as the Diamond M Ranch in a news story — has been moving the cattle herd to the west but that 20 head remained in the area.

Producer Len McIrvin told the Capital Press that he had already lost an estimated 30 to 40 animals.

The state believes that without lethal action the losses will continue and hopes to change the pack’s behavior by incrementally removing members.

Not far to the north, the options are tougher with the Togo Pack, which has now attacked cattle seven times since last November, with the most recent incident coming after a sharpshooter killed the adult male.

Rather than kill the adult female and worry that the two pups might starve, WDFW is going to try a “spank and release” strategy, capturing one of the pups, outfitting it with a collar, and letting it go.

Martorello says that sort of negative stimulation might help prevent further conflict, but also that telemetry data will be given to the local producer and a RAG box set up in their pasture to try and help prevent more attacks.

Back in Olympia, for a second time in two weeks Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy denied a Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands request for a temporary restraining order, again because they hadn’t met the criteria for injunctive relief through the state’s Administrative Procedures Act, according to WDFW.

The agency also said that the groups had actually asked for the TRO after the eight-hour challenge window following the kill order announcement had passed, so perhaps it was all just for theatrical purposes, what with today’s prowolf rally and “die-in.”

Indeed, as Northwest Sportsman spoke to Martorello, he moved to a window in the Natural Resources Building and said he could see 30 to 40 protesters outside holding signs.

Meanwhile, other wolf advocates are choosing to focus their work in the hills.

Martorello added that Judge Murphy expedited a hearing on the merits of the CBD et al’s lawsuit against WDFW over the Togo and now OPT kill orders and is encouraging all parties to schedule it before the end of the year.

WDFW Director OKs Incremental Removal Of Wolves In Old Profanity Pack Territory

Updated 5:42 p.m., Sept. 12, 2018

WDFW plans to go after wolves in a Ferry County pack that has killed or injured at least six calves in rugged country this month.

The agency will begin incremental removals — meaning one or two animals — to change the pack’s behavior starting tomorrow afternoon if an eight-hour business-day window passes without challenge from wolf advocates. One appears likely.

A similar kill authorization last month for a depredating pack just to the north led to a temporary restraining order after out-of-state groups sued WDFW.

That one involved the Togo Pack and was lifted in late August by a Thurston County judge.

The latest incidents involve the Old Profanity Territory, or OPT, Pack which runs to the south, in the same country that the Profanity Peak and Sherman Packs occupied before members were lethally removed the past two summers.

“This is a very difficult situation, especially given the history of wolf-livestock conflict in this area,” WDFW Director Kelly Susewind said in a statement. “We are committed to working with a diversity of stakeholders in a collaborative process to seek other creative and adaptive solutions to prevent future losses of wolves and livestock.”

The criteria for considering lethal removal is three confirmed attacks in a 30-day span or four over 10 months, and the former was met in the space of half a week.

But unlike other recent removals, some members of the agency’s Wolf Advisory Group have balked this go-around.

“… In our eyes the state killing wolves in one general area three years in a row for the same livestock producers does not fit within the intent and letter of the (lethal removal) protocol,” said Chase Gunnell of Conservation Northwest this morning.

Another staffer said that the mix of preventative and lethal tactics is not working in the area but the organization said it was willing to “roll up our sleeves” on short-term nonlethal measures instead.

Shawn Cantrell, the state representative for Defenders of Wildlife, called the kill order inappropriate and suggested the right nonlethal measures nor grazing practices had been implemented.

But some WAG members are sticking by WDFW’s side.

“I am very proud of Director Kelly Susewind for standing tall and doing the right thing in authorizing lethal action on the OPT Pack,” said Dave Duncan of Ellensburg. “I was greatly disappointed with the conservation groups taking a stand against lethal action and blaming overstressed cattlemen, who have been pushed into and required to perform in a costly experiential and sometimes unreliable concept of animal husbandry. They are the real heroes in wolf management today and without a doubt need more tools, support and relief.”

According to WDFW, the rancher — identified by the Capital Press as Len McIrvin of the Diamond M — grazing his cattle on a Forest Service allotment has been using “several” of the preventative measures called for by the protocol, including turning out calves nearly a month and a half later than otherwise allowed under the grazing agreement, using range riders, and removing sick and injured animals and taking care of carcasses.

The OPT Pack includes three or four adults and two juveniles, according to WDFW. An adult male has been wearing a GPS collar since early June.

Data from it showed that when the cattle were turned out July 10, the pack was denning “north and adjacent to the allotment where the depredations occurred” and that the initial rendezvous site was 2.5 miles northwest of the den site.

However, by mid-August, telemetry showed that wolves were now heavily using an area 5.5 miles to the southeast, in the grazing area, leading to increased range riding and coordination with the rancher to head off conflicts.

That appears to have not worked.

Last night the state reported that the bones and bits of three calves had also been found in the area in late August, but there was too little remaining to determine their causes of death.

Still, it led to increased range-riding patrols and efforts to move the cattle away from the area, according to WDFW.

Then on Sept. 4 two injured calves were found, followed by a dead one Sept. 5 and two more injured ones Sept. 6 and 7.

All were confirmed to have been attacked by wolves, as was a sixth in recent hours.

Nonlethal measures put into place after the initial attacks haven’t worked, says WDFW, which believes the depredations will continue.

“It’s not a sustainable situation. It’s a wreck,” McIrvin told Capital Press reporter Don Jenkins.

McIrvin estimated 30 to 40 calves had already been lost and when the grazing season is done, the loss will be double that, and he is expecting decreased pregnancy rates and lighter cattle brought to market.

WDFW says about 20 cows are still in the area being used heavily by the OPT Pack.

According to The Seattle Times, the Center for Biological Diversity is planning to file another request for a TRO.

That, however, was not specifically mentioned in a press release in which CBD stated it and a number of other wolf advocacy organizations will rally this Friday at noon outside WDFW headquarters and plan to stage a “die-in.”

The agency says its lethal removals won’t hurt efforts to recover wolves across Washington.

“In fact, the wolf population in the eastern recovery region has increased to more than three times the regional recovery objective,” the agency states.

WDFW Provides New Details on Wolf Depredations In Profanity Peak Area, Prevention Measures; Key Group Balks At Going Lethal

Updated: 10:15 a.m., Sept. 12, 2018

Washington wolf managers Tuesday night issued a lengthy statement on five recent confirmed depredations by a pack of wolves running in a rough, mountainous part of Ferry County that has seen other livestock attacks and lethal removals the past two summers as well.

A WOLF CAPTURED ON A FERRY COUNTY TRAIL CAMERA IN 2017. (CONSERVATION NORTHWEST)

Among the new details released is that three other calves also died in the area of unknown causes; only their bones and scraps were left by the time a county wildlife specialist and contracted range riders found them in late August.

That area appears to have become a second rendezvous site for the pack this summer, according to telemetry off of a male member captured in early June.

The unnamed pack known by the acronym OPT for Old Profanity Territory, consists of three to four adults and no more than two pups, it is believed. Its existence was first reported in late May.

WDFW’s statement outlines preventative measures taken by the livestock producer running his cattle on the Forest Service allotment, including turning out calves nearly a month and a half later than otherwise allowed under the grazing agreement, as well as preseason scouting for wolf activity by contracted range riders, and data sharing of wolf locations.

Following discovery of the calf carcasses on the landscape, range riding activities were increased — at least 150 days of effort occurred from April through July but August and September data isn’t available — and the cattle herd also began to be moved west.

But in early September injured and dead calves began turning up, with WDFW late last week ultimately confirming wolves had attacked five.

State Rep. Joel Kretz, who lives nearby, has reported some details on WDFW’s initial then reclassified depredation determinations on his Facebook page.

Nowhere in the agency’s Tuesday night statement are the words “lethal removal” mentioned.

“The depredations in this area happened in quick succession, and department staff have spent several days gathering information, assisting the producer, providing reports, and considering next steps,” WDFW summarizes.

One instate-based wolf advocacy organization, which in the past has supported the state taking out problem wolves under agreed-to lethal removal protocols, is balking this go-round.

“We appreciate the report, and the level of effort, but there’s nothing new there from our perspective,” said Chase Gunnell of Conservation Northwest, which had put out a statement Monday night that it couldn’t support taking out wolves in response to the depredations.

The organization says the recurring conflicts here don’t meet removal protocols it and other members of the state Wolf Advisory Group agreed to, and that the rugged terrain should be taken into account to adjust tactics to increase the odds that cattle and wolves don’t tangle.

In 2016, seven members of the Profanity Peak Pack were removed for a string of depredations and last year the Sherman Pack male was killed by state sharpshooters.

“It’s a tough situation, but our positions haven’t changed. We continue to support the protocol, and the need for coexistence and collaborative management,” says Gunnell. “Still, in our eyes the state killing wolves in one general area three years in a row for the same livestock producers does not fit within the intent and letter of the protocol.”

Before the agency issued more information, another member of the WAG, Shawn Cantrell of Defenders of Wildlife, said WDFW shouldn’t authorize lethal removals.

An out-of-state group is poised to try to again take legal action against WDFW, KING 5 reported Tuesday night.

Editor’s note: I’ll continue to fold in comments through the day as I receive them or are reported elsewhere.

 

Judge Denies Out-of-state Groups’ Initial Bid To Derail WA Wolf Protocols

Editor’s note: This is a developing story and will be updated as additional material arrives.

A Thurston County judge this morning turned down out-of-state environmental groups’ bid to stop the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife from lethally removing the breeding male of a depredating wolf pack in northern Ferry County.

“As a result, a temporary restraining order issued by the court on Aug. 20, which has prohibited WDFW’s lethal removal action, will expire at 5 p.m. today,” spokesman Bruce Botka said.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS WHERE THE TOGO PACK IS BELIEVED TO BE CENTERED IN NORTHERN FERRY COUNTY. (WDFW)

In video tweeted out of the courtroom by KING 5 reporter Alison Morrow, Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy denies the organizations’ request for injunctive relief because it didn’t meet a legal benchmark to allow it to move forward.

“That applies both to the extension of the temporary order, or a preliminary injunction, or I use the word ‘stay,’ essentially staying the action until the resolution of this matter,” said Judge Murphy. “It also applies to the request to halt any future orders under the 2017 plan.”

That plan is the state’s lethal removal protocols, a hard-won compromise between ranchers, hunters and instate wolf advocates and WDFW that Arizona’s Center for Biological Diversity and Oregon’s Cascadia Wildlands are trying to derail through the court.

Two Monday mornings ago, when WDFW announced it would target the Togo Pack for six depredations since last November, including three in a 30-day space this summer, the two organizations filed a lawsuit and another Thurston County judge issued an order that temporarily blocked any lethal removals and set a hearing date for today.

The groups claimed the protocol was “faulty” and should have undergone a state environmental review.

Judge Murphy acknowledged how controversial the issue is but said that WDFW was following its 2011 wolf management plan and the protocol.

“It is clear to me from the record that there was some process that was followed,” she said in the Morrow video.

KUOW reporter Tom Banse tweeted, “Agency director (Kelly Susewind) watched from back of courtroom, said he is ‘glad’ WDFW’s authority to manage wolves to facilitate ‘social acceptance’ upheld.”

There were real concerns about what might happen in Eastern Washington if the TRO had been extended by the court.

Susewind, at his post less than a month, made a second trip to the state’s northeast corner last weekend to listen and talk with Rep. Joel Kretz and livestock producers about the situation.

“It would have absolutely exploded here” if Judge Murphy had ruled the other way, said Kretz this afternoon.

With a horse ranch on Bodie Mountain, on the Okanogan-Ferry County line, Kretz has been in the middle of the issue literally and metaphorically for seven years and. He said he’s been trying to keep people in his district from “going over the edge” and that the ruling was “a relief.”

From his vantage point he’s seen the “tremendous amount of work” that has gone into development of 2011’s wolf plan, the protocols and more, all of which he said were upended for 10 days as the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands essentially ran wolf policy in the state.

Speaking to the collaborative approach being taken with Washington’s wolf issues, where everybody is getting some but not all of what they want, as well as local forestry management that was challenged by another out-of-state group, Kretz said he hoped that the era of running to court to block things was coming to an end.

But in the aftermath of today’s court skirmish, defiant CBD spokeswoman Amaraq Weiss told the Capital Press, “We’re not done.”

She told KING 5 that there would be a future court date over WDFW’s alleged violation of two state acts in creating the lethal removal policy.

Following last week’s lawsuit, instate wolf advocates, hunters and the editorial board of the ag-oriented Press all issued statements of support of the protocol.

After Superior Court Judge Chris Lanese issued the TRO last week, the Togo’s breeding male was apparently hit by the bullet of a livestock producer checking on his cattle and who felt threatened as it approached and barked at him. The wolf survived but with a broken leg.

In a statement posted after the judge’s ruling, WDFW says that the kill order will be implemented after 5 today because wolf managers believe:

  • There is no evidence to indicate the pack’s behavior – the killing of livestock – will change.

  • While the male wolf is injured, the adult female may have trouble feeding both the adult male and her two pups unless she continues to prey on livestock.

  • It is more difficult for wolves to successfully capture wild game animals, such as deer and elk, than cows and calves.

Togo Pack Update: Injured Male Wolf Found Following Reported Self-Defense Shooting

THE FOLLOWING IS A STATEMENT FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

On Aug. 27, four days after a Ferry County livestock producer reported shooting at a collared adult wolf in self-defense, a WDFW wolf biologist and a county wildlife specialist located the animal – injured but mobile – in the Togo pack territory in northeast Washington. Radio signals and recent GPS locations from the collared wolf led biologists to the vicinity where they saw and identified the wounded animal as the adult black male from the Togo pack.

TOGO WOLF. (WDFW)

The wolf biologist got within approximately 20 yards of the injured wolf and saw that its left rear leg appeared to be broken below the knee. Within seconds, the wolf ran into a wooded area. A remote camera in the area showed that the adult female from the Togo pack had been nearby the night before.

Based on their experience with other animals, WDFW wolf managers believe the injured wolf has a good chance of surviving, and the department will continue to monitor its movements. If the wolf does not remain active, the department will consider whether it should be euthanized.

The department is also continuing its investigation into the shooting incident. Additional information appears in four earlier wolf updates on the Togo pack, all of which appear below.

WDFW Commission Decides On 15 Percent Fee Hike After All, But With Caps

Washington fishing and hunting overseers are now recommending a 15 percent across-the-board fee hike — three times as much as they’d decided on just two weeks ago — but they also softened the hit to WDFW’s most ardent license buyers.

The move during a conference call this morning follows on the request of more than a dozen leading sportsmen and others that the Fish and Wildlife Commission reconsider its Aug. 10 decision to ask state lawmakers for just a 5 percent hike.

A letter signed by 15 of the 20 members of the agency’s Budget and Policy Advisory Group said that that wouldn’t have covered inflation since the last increase in 2011 and they also feared that it would be “frowned upon by legislators and force the department into cuts that will harm our interests and our state’s natural resources.”

Fifteen percent was the top end of the initial range of license increases that were first proposed in June.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the new proposal on a voice vote of 6-1, with Don McIsaac against and Jay Holzmiller leaving the call during discussion. Earlier they also approved asking lawmakers for inflationary adjustments.

Overall for its 2019-21 budget, WDFW is requesting $60 million more to deal with a looming structural shortfall as well as enhance fishing, hunting and conservation work, with as much as two-thirds of that dependent on money coming from the General Fund, a sharp departure since the Great Recession put the onus on user fees supporting the agency.

It all still needs to be presented and passed during next year’s legislative session in Olympia and signed by the governor, but the commission set $7 and $15 caps on fishing and hunting license bundles.

For instance, the new Fish Washington package — combo license plus two-pole, Puget Sound crab and Columbia River salmon and steelhead endorsements — would rise 9.66 percent from $79.62 to $87.31 instead of $91.56 under the across-the-board 15 percent hike.

But someone who only fishes for trout in lakes would see a 13.98 percent increase and pay $4.13 more for the freshwater license that now runs $29.50,

Though no such bundle is available, a “hunting enthusiast” currently shelling out $149.80 for the deer, elk, bear, cougar + small game combo, two special permit applications and a turkey tag would pay $16.50 more, an 11.01 percent increase, according to WDFW.

A commission presentation says that the 1B option would raise $13.7 million over the next two years and that:

• All customers contribute but none in excess
• Lessens pocketbook impact to most dedicated customers
• Simple messaging about the maximum increase

Commissioners looked at several other options drummed up on short notice. Those included a phased-in, 8 to 15 percent approach; an $8 resident endorsement; and a $5 endorsement plus a 5 percent increase.

Earlier this month members also approved asking lawmakers to make the Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement permanent. It otherwise expires at the end of next June and supports a range of fisheries.

That the Fish and Wildlife Commission backtracked from 5 percent to 15 percent on the fee increase proposal is a sign that it must have taken the letter to heart, that a wide range of stakeholders had their back, to paraphrase one BPAG member.

Among hunter and angler representatives urging the citizen oversight panel to reconsider were Ron Garner of Puget Sound Anglers, David Cloe of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, Rachel Voss of the Mule Deer Foundation, Butch Smith of the Ilwaco Charter Association, and Mark Pidgeon of the Hunters Heritage Council,

Some of them were against WDFW’s previous fee hike proposal, the Wild Futures Initiative, just last year. After that failed, lawmakers provided a one-time $10 million bump that came with requirements that the agency review its management practices, perform a zero-based budget analysis and come up with a long-term funding plan. Out of that also came BPAG.

“It’s a tough call but we need to keep the department funded but want to see more money pumped into hatchery production. We do need legislature to approve general fund money and also federal funds on hatchery increases for both the orcas and us,” said PSA’s Garner.

Others members who signed include Mitch Friedman of Conservation Northwest, Jason Callahan of the timber industry’s Washington Forest Protection Association, and Greg Mueller of the Washington Trollers Association.

But there’s been far less support for an increase among rank and file deerstalkers, salmon anglers and other sportsmen for a fee hike.

Preliminary results from a survey after WDFW rolled out 12 to 15 percent increases or a one-time annual $10 surcharge said nearly half of all respondents were “very unlikely” to support one.

New WDFW Director Up For The Challenge Of Managing State’s Fish, Game, Future Path

If you were nervous to hear that some guy from the state Department of Ecology was taking the reins at WDFW – guilty as charged – you can breathe a bit easier.

Over the course of a 30-minute interview yesterday, I came away with the impression that Kelly Susewind has done a little fishing and hunting in Washington in his time and will likely give us and our causes a fair shake.

WDFW’S NEW DIRECTOR KELLY SUSEWIND HAS BEEN ON THE JOB FOR JUST OVER THREE WEEKS BUT IS A LIFELONG HUNTER. (WDFW)

“Basically, my life was hunting and fishing, and I tried to fit in everything else around them,” recalls the Aberdeen native about his younger days.

He took his share of upland and migratory birds then, but says his favorite game to hunt now is the big kind.

“Elk – I just love chasing elk,” he says.

A stint in Alaska put Dall sheep on his bucket list, while five or six years ago, a premo late-season Alta Game Management Unit mule deer permit taught him he didn’t always have to shoot the first big buck he saw.

“I saw four-points every day. I had never seen one without shooting it,” Susewind says.

And I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I now know a collector who might be willing to make a deal for your Remington Model 31 …

On the fishing front, Grays Harbor, the Olympic Peninsula and Washington Coast provided plenty of opportunity.

“I’ve really enjoyed Westport, but also the rivers, the fall runs of salmon,” Susewind says.

And while last Saturday he told The Outdoor Line on Seattle’s 710 ESPN that he’s “drifted away” from fishing over the years, he says he wants to get back into it.

AFTER GRADUATING FROM HIS LOCAL COMMUNITY COLLEGE with an associate’s degree, Susewind (pronounced SOOS-uh-wind) went to Washington State University where he earned a bachelor’s in geological engineering.

He landed at the Department of Ecology in 1990, working his way through a variety of roles, most recently as the director of administrative services and environmental policy.

At 57, he decided it was time for a career change, one that might be a better fit with his interest in natural resource management – a “passion” fueled by all that time spent afield.

But also one that would put him on one of the hottest of hot seats in the state: The director’s chair at the Department of Fish and Wildlife and Everybody’s Pissed At You All The Damn Time For Something Or Other.

Which begs the question, Why in the hell would you even want the job, Kelly?!?!

“I’m still working on that answer. No, not really,” Susewind jokes. “I did pause, ‘Why would you jump into that blender?’”

There’s been a little bit of everything in WDFW’s KitchenAid of late, from hearty cupfuls of wolf management and court battles over furry fangers, to the everyday salt and pepper of salmon, steelhead and big game issues, to dashes of recent agency missteps and sex scandals.

Then there are looming budget battles in the legislature and questions about how the agency steadies its financial footing for the future.

“I see these challenges as something I want to be involved with,” says Susewind, who will be paid $165,000 a year to deal with them.

IN A SCREEN GRAB FROM TVW’S BROADCAST OF THE FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION’S AUG. 10 MEETING, SUSEWIND SHAKES HANDS WITH AN AUDIENCE MEMBER.  ASKED ABOUT HIS MANAGEMENT PHILOSOPHY, HE POINTED TO HIS ENGINEERING BACKGROUND AND SAID, “MY PERSONAL APPROACH … IS TO GATHER INFORMATION TO MAKE A RATIONALE, REASONABLE CHOICE.” (TVW)

WHEN FORMER HONCHO JIM UNSWORTH LEFT UNDER pressure earlier this year, the Fish and Wildlife Commission put out a help wanted ad that said WDFW’s next director would lead the agency through a “transformative” period.

Ultimately, the nine-member citizen oversight panel unanimously chose Susewind, a self-described “wildcard” among a slate of candidates who had decades of experience specific to the field.

But perhaps they wanted someone who could see the big picture a little better.

“We’re a small state with 7 million people and a couple million more coming. There’s a budget hole to patch. We also need to look a decade or two down the road,” Susewind says.

He feels – as do a number of senior agency staffers and outside advisers – that hunters and anglers have carried too much of the funding burden since the Great Recession 10 years ago, when WDFW’s General Fund-State ration got cut by almost half.

It has yet to be fully restored, but Susewind et al are hoping to reestablish a better balance between license revenue and general tax dollars beginning with the 2019-21 budget.

“I see our outdoors as defining us as a state,” he says. “We’re at a critical point now – it could go either way.”

Susewind says he wants WDFW to be “more relevant to Washingtonians.”

“Anglers and hunters get it. That’s 1 million people. But there are 6 million more out there. We’ve really got to reach those people. If we could get the state as excited about the resources as they are about the Seahawks, it would be a better place,” he says.

WITH FOREST FIRE SMOKE CHOKING THE SKIES OVER SEATTLE THIS WEEK, SUSEWIND SAID HE WOULD LIKE TO TEACH THE STATE’S NONHUNTERS AND -ANGLERS ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF THE AGENCY’S MISSION TO THE HEALTH OF THE STATE’S FISH, WILDLIFE AND RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

He wants to strengthen existing partnership, and vows to be “pretty engaged” with stakeholders, tribes and others.

Commissioners lauded Susewind for meeting in his first days on the job with livestock producers over a previously proposed wolf collar data sharing plan change that would have switched things up halfway through the grazing season, but was ultimately put on pause by the citizen panel.

WDFW spokesman Bruce Botka says there’s been an “obvious sense of encouragement around headquarters” with the arrival of the new director.

And after talking with him, you can’t help but get a little excited about Susewind and his program … before the enormity of the job sobers you up again.

SUSEWIND ACKNOWLEDGES THAT HE NEEDS TO get up to speed fast on one of if not WDFW’s most important roles – fisheries management.

With Aug. 1 his first day, he will have a longer learning curve than his predecessor, who was thrust into the always contentious North of Falcon salmon season-setting process almost immediately. That year saw outrage over the closure of a key fishery, and talks the following year dragged out more than a month longer than usual and cost us opportunity.

Expect Susewind to work more collaboratively with the tribes than that, if his quote in the Port Townsend Leader is any indication: “It does no good to fight with each other.”

As for that other subject that can make Washington sportsmen a little rabid – wolves – they’re “on the landscape to stay,” Susewind says, echoing WDFW’s company line over the years.

“The only way to make that work is have them compatible with other uses on the land,” he adds quickly.

He says the species has to be managed and that the agency is engaged with the lawsuit from out-of-state groups challenging its hard won lethal removal protocol.

“We really need to have a postdelisting plan put together,” he notes too.

That’s easier said than done, if a recent wall full of Post-it Notes outlining the process is any indication, but it’s also a start and one hunters will want to watch closely.

IN ANOTHER TVW SCREENGRAB, STATE WOLF POLICY LEAD DONNY MARTORELLO TALKS ABOUT A CONCEPTUAL TIMELINE FOR A POSTDELISTING WOLF MANAGEMENT PLAN AT A FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION MEETING. (TVW)

“In the meanwhile, we need to strive to meet recovery goals,” Susewind adds.

We’re there in the state’s northeast and southeast corners, but many more are required throughout the Cascades to hit the current benchmarks.

SUSEWIND IS THE SECOND WDFW DIRECTOR FROM the harbor. Phil Anderson hails from Westport and resigned at the end of 2014 on his own terms after five years in the position and two decades at the agency.

“I’m looking for this job to be my job going into retirement,” Susewind says. “I hope I’ll be here eight, ten years.”

That of course depends on whether the Fish and Wildlife Commission will keep him around that long.

And that depends on what he can accomplish towards improving the state’s fishing and hunting opportunities; safeguarding its fish, wildlife and habitat; strengthening WDFW’s budgetary position; and working with its host of stakeholders.

One thing’s for sure: Susewind has motivation to try hard.

“I’ve got a brand new grandson,” he says. “I want him to fish and hunt like I did.”

Editor’s note: In addition to the above two hyperlinked articles, here are additional stories on new WDFW Director Kelly Susewind from the Spokane Spokesman-Review and the Yakima Herald-Republic.