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Southwest - Region 5
 
Guy Norman

Regional Director

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Southwest Washington Wildlife Reports Archives
April 2007

April 3, 2007

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

View of the planting area in the Mt. St. Helen's Wildlife Area and part of the volunteer crew at work.
View of the planting area in the Mt. St. Helen's Wildlife Area and part of the volunteer crew at work.

Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area:
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.

DIVERSITY DIVISION

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.

Predator Depredation 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.

Temporary Scientific 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.

April 9, 2007

Falcon nest
A new falcon site in east Lewis County
 
Sandhill crane
DFW and USFWS conducted the annual sandhill crane breeding census.
 
Mazama pocket gopher
Mazama pocket gopher
Mazama pocket gopher mound
WDFW 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.

DIVERSITY DIVISION

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 appropriate habitat.

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.

GAME DIVISION

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.

April 16, 2007

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.

DIVERSITY DIVISION

Osprey nesting platform.
Doug Lambert (Lyle School), Dale Stelter and Jeff Speelman (Klickitat PUD).
Klickatat 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.

GAME DIVISION

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.

April 23, 2007

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Elk bones from  2006 winter mortality.
Examing elk femur.
Elf femur detail.
Region 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.

DIVERSITY DIVISION

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.


April 30, 2007

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Jody Taylor coordinates all feed purchases for the agency, purchasing Eastern Washington alfalfa hay for the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area.
Hay was in the form of 1,350-pound bales that made for efficient loading and distribution.
Jody 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 Area:
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.

GAME DIVISION

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.