Southwest - Region 5
Guy Norman

Regional Director

2108 Grand Boulevard
Vancouver, WA 98661

Office Hours: Monday - Friday
8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
excluding legal holidays

Telephone (360) 696-6211
Fax (360) 906-6776

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Southwest Washington Wildlife Reports Archives
December 2006

December 4, 2006

Biologists Receive Service Awards: Recently District Biologists Anderson and Miller received awards for their service with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Anderson was recognized for 20 years of service. During his career he has been instumental in recovery work with bald eagles, peregrine falcons and western pond turtles in the Columbia River Gorge. He is also responsible for managing game species including one of the states most popular deer herds in Klickitat County.

Miller received his 30 year service award highlighting his work with elk and Canada geese in the region. He has been the agency lead in studies and management of elk in the Mt. St. Helens area since the eruption in 1980. He also spent several years studying Canada Geese in the Lower Columbia River that led to one of the states first early September hunts to manage the population. Miller has also been instumental in work related to the recovery of dusky Canada geese and Columbian white-tailed deer.


Shillapoo Lake Value Engineering Study: WDFW has been working for several years with the US Army Corps of Engineers on a project that would reestablish wetland habitat in about 450 acres of the drained Shillapoo Lakebed. The project includes construction of levees and water control structures to manage water levels and vegetation. The drainage system within the diking district would be modified and the pump system would be upgraded to protect private lands from flooding and allow for the best water management capability in the wetlands. Wildlife Area Manager Calkins and Assistant Manager Hauswald recently met with the Corps to review the project and look for ways to improve it's functionality and also opportunities to reduce the cost of the project before construction begins. The two agencies hope to begin construction work on the project this summer.


Columbian White tailed Deer: Surveys are underway in Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties to evaluate flood damage impacts to CWTD and fall composition ratios. USFWS personnel ground surveyed 100 acres on the Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge and found no deer carcasses. The survey was done to help explain the low numbers of deer seen on the refuge ( 8) since the high water earlier in November. The hope is that the deer moved to nearby high ground and will return to the refuge soon.

Ground counts were conducted by District Wildlife Biologist Miller and volunteer Dan Howell in the Willow Grove and Barlow Point areas near Longview. Only 11 deer were observed, but fawns were detected which was a very positive note. One mature buck was observed in a herd of 5 does and fawns, hopefully we will continue to see recruitment in the small sub population.

December 11, 2006

New Wildlife Program Manager: Sandra Jonker joined the Region 5 Wildlife Program on November 30, 2006 and has enjoyed her first week with WDFW. Most recently Sandra served as the assistant leader for the Bear Management Program with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. She has lived and worked in the United States, Africa, Asia, and Europe on a variety of wildlife, habitat, and human-wildlife issues that include work on game as well as endangered species. Sandra received her International and French Baccalaureate in biology and philosophy in St. Germain en Laye, France, and earned her B.S. and M.S. in wildlife and fisheries biology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She concluded 2 years of academic training with the Human Dimensions of Wildlife Research Unit at Colorado State University and then completed her Ph.D. in wildlife and fisheries conservation at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She subsequently served as a postdoctoral research associate with the Human Dimensions Research Unit in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University.


Shillapoo Wildlife Area :
Watchable Wildlife:
Waterfowl hunting is not the only reason to visit the Shillapoo Wildlife Area this time of year. A wide number of other species that use the area are popular with both hunter and non-hunters for viewing purposes. On a recent monitoring visit to the site Wildlife Area, Manager Calkins observed several raptor species including Northern Harriers, Ruffed Legged Hawks, and Kestrels. Sandhill Cranes and Great Egrets were observed using field and shoreline areas. Bald Eagles and Swans as well as a wide variety of other birds are also commonly seen during the winter months and many visitors come to the area simply to watch them in the area.

Two New Blinds Added at Shillapoo: Habitat technician Boylan and Tony Castella, a local volunteer working with materials provided for through a state migratory bird stamp grant, have built and installed two new blinds on the South and Vancouver Lake Units of the wildlife area. Most of our existing blinds are located on the North Unit of the wildlife area and have been quite popular with waterfowl hunters. We have felt that having the blinds located in one area may concentrate hunters, some of whom have voiced concerns about crowding. It is hoped that providing blinds in other areas may help to distribute the hunting effort more evenly. Although the major use of these blinds will probably be by hunters, they are also available for those who may want to use them for observing waterfowl and other wildlife in the area.

Cowlitz Wildlife Area
Pheasant Release at Kosmos: The Kosmos release site is still open for pheasant hunting until December 15th; however, there are no future scheduled releases. The release site is clearly identified with pheasant release signs from the Glenoma road. Remember, when hunting the CWA for pheasant, steel shot is required.

Riffe Lake Water Levels: Riffe Lake’s water levels are once again falling and more areas of the lakeshore are being exposed. This exposure increases the likelihood of vehicular intrusion into sensitive areas easily damaged by motor vehicle access. The CWA staff have placed signs prohibiting motor vehicle use around the perimeter of these sensitive areas. Please respect these signs.

Peterman Hill Unit - Road Maintenance: CWA staff member Morris has maintained approximately nine miles of roadside on the Peterman Hill Unit with the hydraulic arm brush cutter. The Peterman Unit has 37 miles of gravel roads of which a large portion is gated. Much of the road system is maintained for forest management, hunting opportunity, and fire prevention.

Davis Lake Unit - Hydraulic Permit: CWA staff met with Habitat Biologist Bell regarding a plugged culvert on one of the access roads into the Davis Lake Unit. A permit has been issued for culvert maintenance and, for now, a temporary fix will be put into place until drier weather arrives.

Klickitat Wildlife Area
Deer Range Check: Wildlife Area Manager Van Leuven noted range conditions for deer in the Soda Springs Unit of the Klickitat Wildlife Area on December 8. The south-facing slopes in the breaks of the Klickitat River Canyon are snow-free in many areas. All other aspects in these lower elevations have 1 to 3 inches of snow. On the plateau above the river, snow averages 3 inches deep, with a moderate crust due to daily freeze-thaw cycles. Small areas are clear of snow in open, exposed fields. Roads on the Soda Springs Unit are covered with compact snow and ice, but are currently drivable

Hunters are reporting seeing deer, and evidence of kills was observed during the range check. Three deer hides were found in the Canyon Creek Campground, and bloody snow near the lower end of the Sheep Canyon Rd. may indicate another kill. All hunters interviewed this week have seen deer. One hunter, who was working the east breaks of Canyon Creek, observed a herd of at least 40 animals, including 2 very large bucks.


Western Pond Turtle: Biologists Anderson and Van Leuven are currently conducting an evaluation of habitat project needs for the recently acquired acreage at Sondino Ranch, Klickitat Wildlife Area. This 32-acre parcel was acquired to provide additional protection to WDFW's ownership of western pond turtle habitat in the Columbia River Gorge. Proposed projects include wetland enhancement, weed control, fence building, and meadow restoration. WDFW hopes to complete these projects with remaining funds from an IAC grant that was used to acquire the property.

Tundra swans and other migrating waterfowl.
Over 100 tundra swans and other waterfowl foraging and resting in the flood plain of Salmon Creek in Clark County.

Wildlife Viewing: Early winter cold weather has brought numerous waterfowl into SW Washington. Species that are relatively rare in the region have been sighted recently including long-tailed ducks and snow geese. Tundra swans have also arrived in substantial numbers. The birds are easily seen from the County trail system along Salmon Creek.


SW Washington Canada Goose Season Area 2A: Those participating in SW Washington's Area 2A goose hunting enjoyed average success during the initial hunt period. Four check stations, where hunters are required to bring their geese for species identification, are operated on each hunt day. The stations report a total of 285 hunters having harvested a total of 554 geese during the hunt period spanning November 11 through November 26.

Goose hunting reopened on December 6th and continues each Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday through January 28th 2007. Those interested in participating in the Area 2A goose hunt are encouraged to review the special requirements that are detailed in the Waterfowl Hunting Pamphlet. The special seasons in 2A are designed to protect populations of the dusky Canada goose.

Elk Body Condition Monitoring: District 10 biologists are in the process of collecting teeth and organs (heart and kidneys) of antlerless elk harvested this season. The organs are visually assessed for fat levels and combined with the age and reproductive condition of the animal to achieve an index of body condition. Successful hunters of elk in both the Mount Saint Helen’s and Willapa elk herds are submitting samples. While ongoing this December, 10 samples have already been submitted from November hunters.

December 19, 2006


Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area
Elk count: District Wildlife biologist Miller recently conducted a monthly survey of elk on the Mt. St. Helens mud flow. Three hundred and twelve elk were observed, with most of the animals at the east end of the mud flow area. Several groups of 15-20 bulls were observed as well as a good numbers of calves. Documenting exact herd composition was not possible due to the high winds vibrating the scope! Elk appeared to be in good condition and no new mortalities were observed. The local high school class also reported no mortalities on the 2 radio collared elk that they are following.

Local snow conditions: for the past two Fridays the USFS has reported 20+ inches of snow at 2000 feet on the south side of Mt St Helens and 36 inches at 3000 feet elevation.


Dusky Canada geese.
Dusky Canada geese
Successful hunter with elk.
Art Palmer, Noel and Linda Lawffer with Art's elk

Dusky Goose Survey: Biologist Holman participated in the federally coordinated dusky goose survey. The survey area included the Shillapoo State Wildlife Area, private agricultural lands, Port of Vancouver property in the Vancouver lowlands, as well as agricultural areas in the vicinity of Woodland. Approximately 5000 geese were located during survey, including 147 duskies. Thirteen of the duskies were collared individuals, 4 of the 13 collar numbers were "read". Cackling Canada geese and Taverners Canada geese dominate the wintering goose population in these areas. Dusky goose surveys are annually conducted simultaneously throughout Southwest Washington and Northwest Oregon by staff from WDFW, ODFW, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Photo of dusky Canada geese resting on WDFW's Shillapoo Wildlife Area in the Vancouver lowlands can be seen to the right.

Mt. St. Helens Mudflow "C" Hunt: Consistent with the objectives and methods outlined in the recently released Mt. St. Helens Elk Herd Plan, additional elk hunting has been allowed on WDFW's St. Helens Wildlife Area. Five additional hunters were selected from the pool of unsuccessful applicants for the Mudflow "A" and "B" elk hunts for those with disabilities. Clark County elk hunter Art Palmer was selected for the hunt and Mr. Palmer made the most of the quality hunting opportunity.

December 27, 2006


Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area
News Coverage: Wildlife Area Manager Calkins was interviewed by KATU news (Portland) on the Mt. St. Helens State Wildlife Area last week. The interview included questions concerning habitat on the wildlife area in light of recent flooding, winter conditions for elk so far this winter, and the new elk herd and wildlife area plans. Winter conditions this year have been colder and wetter than average, which does raise a concern for elk in the valley. Calkins noted that, due to the current conditions, discussions about winter feeding are occurring. WDFW is monitoring the elk and has implemented special hunts to harvest some of the animals to help reduce the pressure on the winter range. The wildlife area will also be closed to public access to reduce stress and energy expended by elk, which they need to survive the winter. It is not known at this time when the story will air.


Region 5 Post-Season Deer Surveys: Biologist Holman conducted a ground-based survey of the post-hunting season deer herd in GMU 382 (East Klickitat). The survey resulted in a total of 428 deer classified. The fawn to doe ratio was 62:100 and the buck to doe ratio was 10 to 100. The total number of deer observed during the effort was significantly higher than those of recent years; the fawn ratio was very similar, while the buck ratio has declined.

Although located in Region 5, GMU 382 is managed as a mule-deer area, with a three-point or larger antler restriction for all user-groups. A post-hunting season goal of 15 bucks per 100 does has been established as a statewide benchmark per the Game Management Plan. Post-season survey efforts in each of the past three years had resulted in buck to doe ratios consistent with this goal. However, the GMU was previously hunted under a nine-day general rifle season. For the 2006-08 3-year hunting season package, a 14-day general rifle season has been implemented. This survey raises the possibility that the new season structure may be resulting in inadequate hunting-season escapement in GMU 382. Post-season surveys of the deer population in GMU 382 will continue in future years.

Mt. St. Helens Mudflow Hunt Update: The second group of permit holders began their hunt on the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area on December 19th. To date, 15 permit holders have taken part in the special hunts and we currently believe that most of them have been successful in harvesting an elk. The hunt for disabled hunters, which is open only to special permit holders drawn from the existing pool of applicants, was initiated to harvest additional animals as a measure to reduce pressure on the winter range and possibly winter mortality on the site. A third, and final, group of hunters is scheduled to begin hunting on December 26th. Many of these hunters have submitted organ samples for assessing body condition of the elk. A preliminary assessment appears to show that the cow elk were in good condition. However, results will not be conclusive until the final evaluation has been conducted after all the hunts have been completed.


Columbia Gorge Conservation: Biologist Anderson attended a workshop sponsored by the Columbia Land Trust (CLT), a nonprofit land conservation organization working in the lower Columbia River region. The focus of the meeting was to prioritize future conservation work in the Columbia River Gorge by the CLT, including land purchases and conservation easements. Following the meeting, it was agreed upon that the Klickitat River drainage ranked high on the list of critical areas to target conservation efforts due to its importance as fish and wildlife habitat.