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Southwest - Region 5
 
Guy Norman

Regional Director

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Southwest Washington Wildlife Reports Archives
January 2006

January 3, 2006

DIVERSITY DIVISION

Injured Bald Eagle– Last week, an adult bald eagle was found unable to fly in Lewis and Clark State Park in Lewis County. WDFW Sargent Holden assisted by Wildlife Biologist Woodin and State Parks Ranger Lipparelli safely captured the eagle. It was then transported it to a veterinarian authorized for Wildlife Rehabilitation where the eagle was evaluated. No apparent injury like broken bones or bullet/pellets were found. The eagle was then placed in a Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility with fight cages large enough for an eagle. It is hoped that this bird will soon recover and regain it's flight capacities so it can be returned to the wild.

GAME DIVISION

Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area Elk Winter Monitoring– Wildlife Area Manager Calkins conducted a third count of elk using the mudflow portion of the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area on December 30. Human disturbance probably affected this count. A hiker was seen walking the road through the area. The person was headed west from the ford crossing about half way up the valley. Because elk were present near the road a short distance beyond (east of) the ford it is assumed that he had turned around at that point. There were no elk present on the mudflow west of the ford. Mixed rain and snow was falling on arrival at the visitor center but stopped during the count. There was no snow on the ground, temperature was 40 degrees with a SE wind of 5-13 mph. Conditions in the valley were 44 degrees with an east wind averaging 7 mph. A note of interest is that an adult bald eagle was seen soaring over the valley.

A total of 108 elk were seen in the survey area that included 19 on the south side of the river. 102 of these were classified including 8 calves, 48 cows, 8 spikes and 38 bulls. Since these were all at the east end of the area it is probable that the number of elk using the site is higher than that number. Calkins estimates that during the first two counts about 2/3 of the animals seen were at this east end so it is possible that the number of elk using the area has dropped but we cannot be sure.

January 9, 2006

GAME DIVISION

Mid Winter Waterfowl Inventory– District Wildlife Biologist Miller completed the Wahkiakum county portion of the statewide mid-winter waterfowl inventory. Conditions preceding the count dramatically influenced duck number and distribution in the WDFW portion of the count. One the week and weekend prior to the survey, heavy rain and wind produced flooding conditions that shifted duck use to waters not in the survey or entirely out of the survey area. Only 46 ducks were observed, the majority were Hooded Mergansers and Greater Scaup. A few flocks of geese were also observed. Data will be forwarded to Olympia for inclusion in the report for the Pacific Flyway.

Wildlife Biologist Woodin's waterfowl survey effort in Lewis County yielded a nice array of species. Plentiful rainfall had created ponded areas in fields throughout the county providing waterfowl many choices for food and rest. The most numerous puddle duck species seen were 3,032 pintails, 2,310 widgeon, 706 green-winged teal, 411 mallards and 230 shovelers. Diving ducks seen were 306 ring-necked ducks, 77 bufflehead, and 35 scaup. Of the 1,313 Canada geese observed, most were western or cackler sub-species. Also, a single snow goose was seen in one flock of Canada geese. And finally, 26 Trumpeter swans were seen in the Lower Newaukum River Valley.

Biologist Holman completed the mid-winter waterfowl survey from the mouth of the Washougal River, up the Columbia to Bonneville dam. The results of the survey tallied: 1,023 ducks (primarily scaup on the Columbia and mallards on Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge), 1,274 Canada geese (mostly cacklers on Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge) and 30 swans (24 of which were identified as tundra swans on Franz Lake National Wildlife Refuge). This year's survey included nearly identical numbers of ducks but roughly double the number of geese, compared to the 2005 survey. Note that this year the swans were found feeding on the main lake directly in front of the observation point at Franz Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Sometimes the swans are found in the small pond at the western end of Beacon Rock State Park. Those interested in viewing the swans should try each location.

Mount St Helens Wildlife Area Elk Survey– District Biologist Miller conducted a survey of elk numbers in compliance with the winter monitoring plan for elk on the Wildlife Area. Winds were fairly brisk and made composition of elk impossible. At total of 62 elk were observed in 3 groups at the east end of the WA. The count may have been influenced by the presence of people on the mud flow which might have spooked the elk and sent them into cover in the area adjoining the WA.

A local high school class is being recruited to help with these surveys . They are presently monitoring radio telemetry signals for 3 elk in the valley bottom and will add conducting a total count on the mud flow to that effort. If they observed mortalities, they will contact WDFW and we will examine the carcass with the students to determine cause of death.

Region 5 Post-Season Deer Surveys– Biologists Holman, Woodin and Anderson along with Klickitat Wildlife Area Manager Ellenburg conducted ground-based surveys of the post-hunting season deer herd in GMUs 382 (East Klickitat) and 588 (Grayback). In GMU 382, the survey resulted in a total of 165 deer classified. The fawn to doe ratio was 57:100 and the buck to doe ratio was 15 to 100. In GMU 588, a total of 364 deer were classified. The fawn to doe ratio was 59 to 100 and the buck to doe ratio was 2 to 100.

A post-hunting season goal of 15 bucks per 100 does has been established as a state-wide benchmark per the Game Management Plan. Note that 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 and a nine-day general rifle season. GMU is also predominantly private property. The survey reveals that this management strategy and ownership pattern is resulting in adequate hunting-season escapement in GMU 382.

In contrast, GMU 588 is managed under a two-point antler restriction and has roughly double the number of general hunting season days. Additionally, GMU 588 has lots of accessible public (Klickitat Wildlife Area) and timber company owned lands. The results of this survey indicate that our current management of this deer population is failing to meet the buck escapement goal. This is the second consecutive year that the post-season survey has revealed buck to doe ratios of less than the goal and the average has been just 8 bucks per 100 over the past three years.

WDFW is proposing alternatives that would modify hunting seasons in an effort to address this management concern and improve hunting opportunity. Those interested in learning more about the proposed changes to deer management in GMU 588, other Regional hunting-related alternatives and a variety of statewide issues are encouraged to attend the upcoming public meeting. The meeting will be January 17th, at 7pm in the Water Resources Center at 4600 SE Columbia Way.

Marked Cackling Canada Goose– On January 4, a hunter came to the Woodland goose hunting check station with a cackling Canada goose that had a metal clip in the webbing of its right foot. No other marking on the goose was apparent, i.e. no neck collar or leg band. The tag was 02 on the underside and 047 on the upper side. Biologist VanLeuven recognized the markings and passed the information along. Craig Ely of the U.S. Geological Service identified the markings and offered the following reply to WDFW, "Thanks for sending along the information on the web-tagged cackling Canada goose. The bird was tagged on 20 June 2002 at our study site along the Kashunuk River, outer Yukon-Kuskokwim River Delta, Alaska. For a number of years we placed metal webtags on hatched, or nearly-hatched goslings (as is the case for 02-047) to monitor movements of goslings from nest sites to brood rearing areas, and to determine gosling growth rates (a portion of the web-tagged birds are captured again just before fledging; the growth rate from time of hatch until recapture some 40 days later gives us a measure of forage conditions). Thanks again for the information. Craig". This is a good example of interagency coordination on waterfowl management and good recognition by Biologist VanLeuven.

DIVERSITY DIVISION

Columbian White-tailed Deer Relocation Project– Planning continues for a late March relocation of Columbian White-tailed Deer to Fisher Island and other local areas. As a result of the past mortality problem with this project, several changes have been implemented. New hobbles, blindfolds and transport bags are being secured. Crews experienced in handling animals will be used to prevent stress build up on the deer after they are captured in drive nets. This is a cooperative project with USFWS, ODFW and WDFW.

January 13, 2006

GAME DIVISION

Three-year Package Public Mtg: Goldendale– Biologist Anderson joined a meeting with the Klickitat Cattleman's Assoc. to get input on deer management in Klickitat County. They thought about 15 would show up and it ended up with 30. These folks are all landowners and a good portion are hunters. David used prepared material to provide background information on the Gorge units. He provided handouts of a PPT presentation on Grayback deer and also used slides on genetics provided by Science Division Biologist Ken Warheit.

There was little discussion or concern about season structure, antler point restrictions etc. They did not have concerns with or question the biology we presented. These folks are more concerned about hunter trespass and damage. Most everybody feels that the doe population is too large as these animals are camping out in small herds on their alfalfa fields. The general consensus is that we need to have in place a way for landowners to deal with damage.

Most people like the idea of permit hunting for all of GMU 588 as they feel there are too many hunters and trespass is a big problem, especially on their lands adjacent to the Klickitat Wildlife Area. Some would like to see us have permit only hunting for the wildlife area as an option. Using antlerless permit holders to deal with damage on private lands was discussed. To David's surprise the majority of people liked the idea of permit hunters contacting (willing) landowners for access. We assumed that landowners would prefer that WDFW provide landowners with a list of willing hunters to contact. Their argument was that if a hunter is serious about coming to their property, they will call. The landowner can then determine when they participate. Of course most landowners liked the landowner damage permit options that WDFW is proposing.

Wildlife Manager Fred Dobler (right) at public meeting with Vancouver area archers.
Wildlife Manager Fred Dobler (right) at public meeting with Vancouver area archers.

Three-year Package Public Mtg: Vancouver Archers– Wildlife Manager Dobler was contacted by a local archer who took issue with the WDFW proposal to change archery opportunity in the Grayback unit (GMU 588). Dobler agreed to meet with all who would come to discuss this and other local issues, and a meeting was set for Jan. 10, 2006. When it became clear that only a few archers were likely to make this meeting the invitation was extended to the Vancouver Wildlife League, Cowlitz Game and Anglers, and Yacolt Burn Sportsmen's group through their respective chairmen.

The meeting was lightly attended but those present were very attentive and felt strongly about the issues. Background information was provided with a series of PowerPoint presentations highlighting each of the local issues. The only issue that fueled much discussion was the reduction of opportunity for archers in GMU 588. Most present said that they had seen plenty of bucks during the late archery season, and did not believe that our surveys could be right. (Our recent post-season surveys indicated very low buck:doe ratios in GMU 588.) I expect that we will hear more of this opinion during the upcoming meeting on the 17th of January.

Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area Elk Monitoring– A survey of the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area by Biologist Miller provided little new information about numbers. He observed two people walking the center road and this disturbance no doubt had influence on the elk present. Only 63 elk were counted. In conjunction with their radio-tracking work, the Toutle High School FFA volunteered to scan the area visible from the Weyerhaeuser Visitor Center viewpoint to help locate winter mortalities. They observed one mortality last week. The one mortality does not cause us concern at this time nor trigger any action. The carcass will be evaluated the next time WDFW staff is on the wildlife area.

DIVERSITY DIVISION

Great Egret spotted in Woodland, Washington.
Great Egret spotted in Woodland, Washington.

Watchable Wildlife: Great Egret in Woodland– Jan Webster, one of the Region 5 front desk staff, reported the following observation:

"I had the fortunate experience of watching a Great Egret from my yard in Woodland Washington. I live across the street from a schoolyard and he dropped in for a couple of hours of feeding. I witnessed through binoculars him/her feeding on night crawlers. He would forage for a bit and then hop to another “good spot” for another time of feasting. He spent a couple of hours making his way around the whole schoolyard. My husband did not work the next day and had the opportunity to view him once again foraging in the schoolyard. This took place on Sunday January 8 and 9, 2006."

January 23, 2005

GAME DIVISION

Area 2a Canada Goose Season– Only one week remains in the general Canada Goose season for area 2a. To date hunters have taken 1,547 geese and only 25 geese have been counted towards the dusky quota. One zone, Ridgefield Refuge, has closed after filling their zone quota. All others remain open. The final day of the season is Sunday January 29th.

Flooding in west Lewis and north Cowlitz counties during December curtailed some of the survey areas.
Flooding in west Lewis and north Cowlitz counties during December curtailed some of the survey areas.
Flooding in west Lewis and north Cowlitz counties during December curtailed some of the survey areas.
Neck-collared dusky.
Neck-collared dusky.

Dusky Canada Goose Survey– The second of two surveys for the Dusky subspecies of Canada goose was completed last week. The first survey took place in mid-December. Biologists all over Southwest Washington and Northwest Oregon conduct this survey to aid in monitoring this subspecies of Canada geese.

West Lewis County and a small part of north Cowlitz County was covered by Wildlife Biologist Woodin. A total of 443 Canada geese were seen in December with observations of Tavener's, western, cackler, and lesser subspecies. In January, the total jumped up to 1,902 geese with the same subspecies represented. Of note was the flooding which curtailed some of the survey areas.

Biologist Holman also participated the federally coordinated dusky goose survey. The survey area included the Shillapoo State Wildlife Area in the Vancouver lowlands, and agricultural areas in the vicinity of Woodland. Thousands of geese were located during survey, primarily cackling Canada geese on the Port of Vancouver owned lands. Two flocks of dusky geese were located including a flock feeding aquatically in a WDFW owned pond on the Wildlife Area and a flock feeding in harvested corn near Woodland. The survey totaled 57 duskies with 14 neck-collared birds. All collars were successfully read and recorded. 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.

The wintering dusky goose surveys and collar reading efforts are a portion of the methods used to estimate the total number of dusky Canada geese. The dusky goose population is currently estimated at approximately 15,000 individuals. As many as 25,000 dusky geese historically wintered in the area while other species of geese were far less common than they are today.

Three-Year Big Game Season Setting– On Tuesday January 17th, Wildlife Program hosted a public meeting regarding the 3-year hunting season setting process. Regional Manager Norman, Wildlife Program Manager Dobler, Biologists Anderson, Woodin and Holman, Klickitat Wildlife Area Manager Ellenburg, Enforcement Captain Schlenker, Sergeants Webb and Holden and Customer Service Specialist Gonzalez represented Region 5. Game Division Manager Ware, Deer and Elk Section Manager Nelson, Migratory Bird Section Manager Kraege and Special Species Section Manager Martorello represented the Game Division.

The meeting was well-visited with about 100 attendees. State-wide issues generated little interest in the mostly-local crowd. In contrast, proposed changes to local hunting opportunities generated considerable energy. Participants were able to interact freely with Regional and Olympia Staff regarding their particular interest. Informational materials, power-point presentations, educational displays were available as well. The majority of those in attendance agree that the issues which have risen to the forefront during this season-setting effort warrant attention and some management change. However, there is little agreement or consensus regarding solutions to these complex issues.

Additional public input is helpful. Interested parties should take a few minutes to fill out the newest version of the on-line Hunting Season Setting Survey available on the WDFW Website.

January 30, 2006

GAME DIVISION

Region 5 Deer Productivity
Number of
Deer Classified
Fawn to
Doe Ratio
1995 384 0.59
1996 431 0.55
1997 310 0.62
1998 604 0.65
1999 586 0.61
2000 520 0.46
2001 523 0.51
2002 456 0.44
2003 757 0.51
2004 603 0.54
2005 585 0.55
Region 5 Deer Productivity
Survey Results: 1995-2005

[ Click image to enlarge ]

Black-tailed Deer Management– Biologist Holman summarized the Regional deer herd composition data for 2005. This year's pre-season deer survey efforts by both volunteers and WDFW staff resulted in the classification of 585 blacktails. The lack of funding to conduct aerial deer surveys in 2005 made volunteer survey efforts especially important this year. Of particular note are the contributions of The Campbell Group's foresters in GMU 530, SDS Lumber Company's foresters in GMU 578 and the U.S. Forest Service's efforts in the Cascade Mountain GMUs. Thanks to all those that helped.

The data gained from the above-referenced effort is used as one of the inputs into the Region's Sex, Age, Kill method of deer population estimation. Per the requirements of the Game Management Plan and WDFW's mission statement, we are to manage black-tailed deer in the Region in such a way as to not negatively impact the overall population i.e. not reduce the deer population. This presents a significant challenge given many contributing factors that are detrimental to deer at a landscape level. These include; the spread of suburbia into areas of quality deer habitat, conversion of agricultural areas to industrial-residential uses, a variety of forest-practices related changes including the cessation of timber cutting on federal lands, use of herbicides on forest plantations, road construction, etc., the onset of the hairloss syndrome in the mid-1990's, and our statutory requirement to respond to "damage". Quantification of biological data related to the deer population allows us to set appropriate hunting seasons amidst the backdrop of the many factors affecting the population that we are not able to control.

The primary focus of the productivity surveys is to determine the annual recruitment of young animals into the population, or fawn to doe ratio. The 2005 fawn to doe ratio of 55 fawns per 100 does documents the third year in a row of slightly improved ratios following the recruitment low-point of 44 fawns per 100 does recorded in 2002. In spite of this short-term improvement, productivity is still below the levels recorded during the late 1990s. Please see the attached figure for an illustration of the 11-year history of summer productivity surveys for black-tailed deer in Region 5.