REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS
of the planting area in the Mt. St. Helen's Wildlife Area and part of
the volunteer crew at work.
Mt. St. Helens Wildlife
Stabilization Work: Twenty-two volunteers representing The Rocky
Mountain Elk Foundation, Cowlitz Game and Anglers, Mt. St. Helens Preservation
Society, and United Parcel Service Employees helped with a tree planting effort
to help reestablish vegetation for erosion control along the Toutle River on
March 24th. This yea’s project represented a replanting of work accomplished
during the previous five years that had been damaged by floods last November.
During the course of the day, 2000 Red Alder, 200 Sitka Alder, and 100 Pacific
Ninebark were planted along a two mile area. A total of one hundred fifty Western
Red Cedar and Grand Fir were planted that day and during the previous week as
well. The exposed bank area had previously been seeded with an erosion control
mixture. Accomplishing this work in one day was something that we could not
have done without the support of these volunteers. Heavy rains later in the
weekend raised the river level and did damage to some of the new planting, but
much of the work is still intact. It will take several years to reestablish
the vegetation that was lost in November and we are pursuing funding to install
structures to further help improve riparian habitat and protect valuable elk
winter range. The image at right gives a view of the planting area and part
of the volunteer crew at work.
Peregrine Falcons: Biologist Anderson met with a volunteer that will be monitoring two
peregrine falcon sites for WDFW this season in the Columbia River Gorge. One
site is monitored annually due to the closure of a technical rock climbing area.
The other survey area is a suspected nest site found in 2005.
Western Pond Turtles: Two volunteers are assisting Biologist Slavens with western pond turtle
work at Sondino ponds in Klickitat County. This past week they assisted with
hauling and setting traps in several wetlands on site. They have at least 56
traps distributed throughout 10 ponds. Turtles will be captured during the next
month in order to determine over-winter survival and to place transmitters on
females as part of the on-going "head start" program.
Bald Eagle Plan: District Wildlife Biologist Miller completed an eagle plan for a proposed harvest
near the Swofford Pond eagle nest. After examining multiple maps and e-mails
to exactly identify where the harvest and nest locations were, a no conflict
plan was sent to the applicant.
Identification and Non-Lethal Conflict Reduction Workshop: The Wildlife
Program Manager attended the Predator Depredation Identification and Non-Lethal
Conflict Reduction Workshop sponsored by Defenders of Wildlife, in cooperation
with WDFW, U.S.D.A. Wildlife Services, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Updates on the Washington State Wolf Plan and Response Guidelines were provided.
In addition, the background on Defender’s Wolf and Bear Compensation Trusts
and Proactive Program was given and presentations and discussions were held
on non-lethal approaches to deter livestock losses, determining the cause of
death of livestock, and identifying predators in the filed.
Technician Selected: Lauren Ridenour was selected to temporarily fill
the vacant position left by the resignation of Robin Woodin. Lauren will begin
in mid April to help with critical surveys during the upcoming season. Permanent
replacement of the Wildlife Biologist position will take place this summer.
new falcon site in east Lewis County
and USFWS conducted the annual sandhill crane breeding census.
biologist Mike Walker with a Mazama pocket gopher (Thomomys
mazama) and gopher mound.
REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS
Mt. St. Helens Wildlife
Area: Mt. St Helens Elk Count: District Wildlife Biologist Miller counted
the number of elk from the Weyerhaeuser visitor’s center on April 2, 2007.
Conditions for the count were poor; it was snowing heavily which precluded gathering
composition data. A total of 332 elk were observed on the mudflow and the elk
were well distributed from east to west. The count was conducted prior to the
feeding truck visiting the area for that day. Elk were observed along the Spirit
Lake Highway in several locations prior to the 3100 road. No elk were observed
near the Coldwater Ridge visitor center or on the hills along SR 504 up to the
visitor center. No mortalities were observed from the viewpoint, although the
feeding crew has spotted 1 dead elk near Bear creek.
Peregrine Falcons: District Wildlife Biologist Miler and Scientific Technician Ridenour visited
a new falcon site in east Lewis County (Cougar Rocks From Below.jpg). Tom Kogut,
USFS District Biologist for the Cowlitz Valley Ranger Station, found the site.
Both birds were observed during our visit. USFS will adopt habitat protection
measures to reduce impacts of forest management on this pair of falcons.
Western Pond Turtles: Field work has been initiated to capture western pond turtles in the Columbia
River Gorge. Biologist Slavens and her volunteer crew have captured 22 turtles:
11 males, 2 females, and 9 of unknown sex. Of those, 19 were head-started turtles.
Radio transmitters from 2006 were still working and two adult females were captured
in shallow waters with the use of telemetry. Habitat conditions look good for
this year as all ponds are at full water capacity.
Sandhill Cranes: Biologist Anderson assisted the USFWS with our annual sandhill crane breeding
census. This weeks survey was the first of the season to document arrival of
sandhill cranes to Conboy NWR. Most pairs were located on their breeding territories
and at least three pairs have built nests and are incubating eggs. Water levels
at the refuge appear to be below normal for this time of year, so there is some
concern that sandhill crane breeding habitat may be impacted.
Pocket Gophers: Museum skins collected primarily in the 1940's documented a Clark County species
known as the Brush prairie pocket gopher (Thomomys talpoides douglasii).
Recent genetic work out of the University of Washington has reclassified this
species as the Mazama pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama). The most recent
documented identifications of the species in Clark County date back to the mid-1990s.
It is likely that the species remains in remnant populations within areas of
Pocket gophers are fossorial
(ground dwelling) rodents that live essentially their entire lives within elaborate
systems of burrows. The gophers feed on the roots of seasonal forbs from below.
Occasionally during the night, they exit their burrow to feed on green vegetation
above ground but remain very close to the opening of their tunnel. The species
requires relatively dry, well-drained soil in which to prosper. The gophers
push dirt from their underground excavations up to the surface in a manner similar
to moles. The mounds or hills generated by the two species differ somewhat and
fresh diggings can often be differentiated to have come from either gophers
or moles. The majority of hills or mounds found in western Washington are generated
by moles; not gophers.
Due to widespread loss of
prairie habitat in western Washington, in 2006 the Mazama pocket gopher was
raised to the status of State Threatened. In Thurston and Pierce Counties, efforts
to learn more about this secretive species and provide protection for the gophers
and their habitat are underway.
Ungulate Research: RWPM Jonker and Olympia Game and Research staff Ware, Nelson, Pierce,
and Pearson met with Supervisory Research Wildlife Biologist from USDA Wildlife
Services, National Wildlife Research Center to discuss the potential of a cooperative
and collaborative effort to conduct research on ungulates as they relate to
forest resources in Western Washington.
REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS
Klickitat Wildlife Area
WCC Crew: Acting Wildlife Area manager VanLeuven has coordinated with the
Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) for assistance with several projects on
the Klickitat Wildlife Area this summer. Initial work began with a WCC crewmember
in the Sondino Unit picking up all remaining old fencing, placing a "Dead
End" road sign on Bigger's Road, and restoring a ditch. Four loads of fence
wire and posts were hauled to the transfer station. In addition, the WCC crewmember
assisted with thinning trees and pruning lower limbs along the driveway into
KWA headquarters and piled the material for disposal. This is the beginning
of a fire hazard reduction project that will probably be completed in the summer.
The WCC crew and acting manager VanLeuven also removed approximately 100 feet
of fallen down fence along a roadbank adjacent to Old Lyle Hwy (on WDFW land)
to prevent more deer entanglements in the fence. Two deer trails cross the fence
line and deer have been getting legs caught in the fence fairly regularly according
to WDFW technician Kate Slavens, who lives and works nearby.
County PUD offered assistance to WDFW and the Lyle School installing an
osprey nesting platform. Pictured are Doug Lambert (Lyle School), Dale Stelter
and Jeff Speelman (Klickitat PUD).
Osprey Nest Platform: Biologist Anderson coordinated construction and placement of an osprey platform
at the Lyle School in the Columbia River Gorge. Ospreys have nested on a light
pole at the ball field over the past few years, creating a hazard when the lights
are turned on at night. WDFW purchased materials and Lyle School employees constructed
the osprey nesting platform. The Klickitat County PUD sent a truck and crew
to the site last week and installed the platform. We appreciate their efforts.
Hunter Access: Region
3 Biologists Keller and Hand assisted Region 5 Biologist Holman in conducting
the habitat related portion of contractual duties to maintain hunter access
to Hancock's lands in Klickitat County. Keller and Hand used ATVs to plant grass
seed along approximately 7 miles of roadbeds over the course of two days. The
grass seed mix is purchased by Hancock and planted by WDFW. The resulting grasses
provide forage for elk and stabilize areas of exposed soil.
In addition to the habitat
related activities mentioned above, Hancock Forest Management has allowed walk-in
access to their Klickitat County forest lands for the past ten years. Foot,
horse, and bicycle access beyond the gates into approximately 85,000 acres is
facilitated by this relationship. Additionally, Hancock has been an active participant
in the re-introduction of bighorn sheep into the Klickitat River basin and various
turkey management efforts.
Thanks to lead Forester
Jim Schleusner for his efforts to continue access for hunting on Hancock lands.
Finally, thanks to Hand and Keller for their willingness to travel out of Region
3 to help keep this important hunter access program in place.
REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS
5 WDFW biologists were joined by 20 citizen volunteers to conduct the elk
mortality survey on the Mt. St. Helen's Wildlife Area. All the remains were
examined for bone marrow condition in the femur, which is an indication
of elk body condition.
Mt St Helens Wildlife
Area Elk Mortality Survey: Region 5 WDFW biologists were joined by 20 citizen
volunteers to conduct the elk mortality survey on the Wildlife Area this week.
The Wildlife Area is divided into 8 survey sections that are sampled each year
as an index for winter severity and elk condition. This year’s results
are confounded by several variables as a result of late hunting seasons in December,
feeding alfalfa hay to the elk on the Wildlife Area from early January through
early April, and the high mortality last spring. Therefore, this year’s
stand alone index will be difficult to compare to other years.
The crews found 18 elk carcasses
that were clearly from this winter. The breakdown of sex and age is as follows:
10 adult cows, 1 adult bull, 1 adult unknown sex, 1 yearling male, 1 yearling
unknown sex, and 4 calves. All the remains were examined for bone marrow condition
in the femur, which is an indication of elk body condition. Bones were sawn
in half as a marker to prevent recounting in future years.
Western Pond Turtles: Biologist Slavens captured a total of 31 western pond turtles (11 males,
4 females, and 16 unknown sex) at Sondino Ponds this last week. One of the unknown
sexes was a 3 year-old new recruit. We now have a total of 84 turtles (35 males,
7 females, and 42 unknowns) that have been captured this season. Sixty-eight
of those were head-started turtles. There are currently seven females with working
transmitters on. Bullfrog capture/control efforts are just getting underway,
but it is a still early for egg laying.
REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS
Taylor (above) coordinates all feed purchases for the agency, purchasing
Eastern Washington alfalfa hay for the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area. Hay
is bundled in 1,350-pound bales that made for efficient loading and distribution.
Mt. St. Helens Wildlife
Emergency Winter Feeding Wrap Up: Wildlife Area Manager Calkins, Assistant
Manager Hauswald, and Technicians Boylan and Babcock have been wrapping up the
Mt. St. Helens Emergency Winter feeding operation since feeding ended on April
15th. This has entailed cleanup and/or return of borrowed equipment and space
at other state facilities. The tractor was returned to the Scatter Creek Wildlife
Area, hay tarps were delivered to the Oak Creek Wildlife Area, two trucks were
returned to the Lewis County Game Farm, and pallets, loose hay, and other materials
were removed from Hatchery and Department of Transportation Facilities. We appreciate
all the help and support we have received during the operation from throughout
the agency. The final measure of reseeding the road on the Wildlife Area, where
the feeding occurred, is in process. The road, which in the past received only
minimal vehicle traffic and had been seeded to produce forage, became quite
muddy and torn up during the feeding operation. Reseeding the road will help
maintain natural forage production and reduce sediment movement off the road.
The feeding operation began
on January 10th and continued for 96 days until April 15th. Feeding did not
occur on one day during this period (March 26th) due to a landslide covering
State Route 504, which leads to the Wildlife Area. Following the slide, staff
used logging roads to detour around the slide for about two weeks until the
road was reopened. Two technicians were hired to conduct most of the feeding
and other agency staff filled in on days off.
Feeding generally occurred
in the morning around 9:00am or 10:00am, but sometimes occurred later due to
weather, road conditions, or other factors. Each day the number of elk seen
on the wildlife area was estimated by driving the length of the 3-mile road
that was used as the feeding site. These estimates ranged from a low of 42 and
a high of 540. Not all elk could be seen from the road during feeding, but based
on daily estimates and formal counts from the Weyerhaeuser Visitor’s Center,
it is estimated that at times over 600 elk were being fed on the Wildlife Area.
Temperature and any snow
accumulations were also recorded each day. Snow was present on the wildlife
area a total of 17 days during the feeding operation. The maximum snow depth
was 5 inches on February 28th. The temperature ranged from 23 degrees Fahrenheit
on January 13th to 68 degrees on March 6th. There was a total of seven days
when temperatures below freezing were recorded during the feeding operations,
although these do not necessarily represent the low temperatures for each day.
Jody Taylor, who coordinates
all feed purchases for the agency, purchased Eastern Washington alfalfa hay
for the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area. A total of 162 tons of hay was used to
feed elk during the operation. Daily rates ranged from 1,350 pounds per day
near the end of the operation to 5,400 pounds per day during the most significant
snowfall (from February 27th to March 2nd). Hay was in the form of 1,350-pound
bales that made for efficient loading and distribution.
WDFW does not consider winter-feeding
a long-term population management tool in this area. The decision to feed elk
this winter was based on severe early winter weather conditions, animal concentrations
early in the winter, and public concern for the well being of the elk. We will
continue in our efforts to protect and improve winter range forage conditions
on the Wildlife Area. The New Elk Herd Plan also calls for a reduction in herd
numbers that will begin this year with expanded hunting opportunities on this
site and in other parts of the herd’s range.
The Wildlife Area remains
closed to public access until May 1st. This measure was adopted as part of the
Wildlife Area Plan completed last fall and will continue each year regardless
of whether winter-feeding continues. This closure is seen as necessary to reduce
inadvertent harassment of elk and to improve winter survival of the animals.
However, during the winter Wildlife Area staff noted individuals violating the
closure and the information has been turned over to WDFW's Law Enforcement program.
Cowlitz Wildlife Area:
High School Presentation: Wildlife Area Manager Grabski gave a presentation
to the Centralia High Schools Natural Resources Class. The class, made up mostly
of juniors and seniors, learned about the history of the Cowlitz Hydro-electric
project and the responsibilities of the Cowlitz Wildlife Area. There was also
a short presentation on basic local wildlife biology.
Mossyrock Unit: CWA staff Vanderlip and Morris completed spring forage
maintenance activities on the Mossyrock unit of the wildlife area. A three-acre
herbicide application was completed for a spring wildlife pasture seeding. Additionally,
15 acres of big-game pasture fields were harrowed to maintain plant vigor for
the upcoming growing season.
Recreation Information: Riffe Lake Water Levels - Tacoma Power updates
lake levels and other recreation information on its toll-free Fishing and Recreation
Line every weekday at 1-888-502-8690.
Klickitat Wildlife Area:
Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plan: Acting Wildlife Area Manager VanLeuven
met with RMAP specialist Tony Gilmer (DNR), Lisa Renan (Department of Ecology),
and Bill Weiler (WDFW Habitat Biologist) to evaluate stream crossings and other
potential water quality issues targeted for repair under Klickitat Wildlife
Area's Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plan.
Deer and Elk Survey Methodology
and Population Management Unit Meeting: Deer and Elk Section Manager Nelson
and Deer and Elk Specialist McCorquodale met with Region 5 Wildlife Management
Staff to discuss many aspects of deer and elk management in the Region. The
two-day session featured discussions of survey methodology, population management
units, survey protocols and procedures, current data sets, research needs, other
goals for ongoing improvement in this effort, etc. As part of a statewide effort
to improve deer and elk management in Washington, meetings of a similar nature
were held in the Eastern Washington Regions during 2006, with the remaining
Westside Regional meetings scheduled soon. Many details regarding Regional deer
and elk management efforts are found within the annual Game Status and Trend
Reports found on the WDFW website under the hunting category www.wdfw.wa.gov.
Canada Geese: Biologist
Anderson, Holma, and Grosbeck conducted a goose nest survey on the islands in
the Columbia River Gorge. This survey is done every 5 years as an index of Canada
goose nesting along the Columbia River. Nest numbers were generally down from
previous years. One exception was an island near Vancouver that had a higher
density of nests (32) than reported in any previous year. Many of the up-river
islands had large expanses of blackberry that seems to have increased in recent
years, reducing suitable nesting habitat for Canada Geese. This habitat change
may be a factor in the decline in number of nests. We would like to thank Officer
Meyers and Hughes for their assistance with boat transportation for this survey.
The annual survey of Canada
goose nests on the Lower Columbia River was conducted on several islands. District
Wildlife Biologist Miller coordinated WDFW staff from Region 5, 3, and Olympia,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff, as well as many volunteers to survey the
islands. Nests were found at artificial sites and nests were found that were
abandoned or depredated by avian species. There has been a steady decline in
Canada goose nesting success due to long-term increases in depredation. However,
on Miller Sands Island many viable nests were documented and goslings were observed
on several occasions. Many thanks to all those who participated as well as to
Law Enforcement who also assisted with boat transportation.