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
March 2008

March 3, 2008


Klickitat Wildlife Area:
Wildlife Area Manager VanLeuven gave a talk to two groups of students at Centerville about Washington State law, differentiating between game birds and protected species. Also discussed domestic birds, which WDFW does not regulate, and the three nonnative pest species (starlings, house sparrows, and pigeons). Students there are interested in wildlife and were an attentive audience. VanLeuven also provided some posters for teachers to put up in classrooms.

Manager VanLeuven worked with Officer Vance to check ATV use on the Wildlife Area and enforce road closures. They checked several roads, including the Old Headquarters area to check road condition. Seven people in 3 vehicles were found near the old hay barn. They had entered the Wildlife Area from adjacent property through a closed gate. They were informed that the area is closed and why the closures were in place. Officer Vance noted their ID information to record receipt of "personal notification" of the closures.

Goldendale Unit: Met with Fish Program, Lands Agent, and Wildlife Program manager to discuss the Goldendale Hatchery Unit and management of the surrounding property for both fish and wildlife.


Western Pond Turtles: Biologist Anderson completed annual reports for BPA funded western pond turtle projects in the Columbia River Gorge. February marked the end of the extended contract period issued by BPA in 2007. It appears that funding has been approved for another year of field activities starting March 1.

In addition to BPA contract obligations, Biologist Anderson and a representative of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust met with a private landowner in Skamania County to discuss possible acquisition of their property for western pond turtle protection. This is the last significant western pond turtle habitat in the Columbia River Gorge that is not in public ownership and has been a priority of state, federal, and private conservation efforts for over 15 years. The Columbia Gorge Land Trust has offered to assist with landowner negotiations for the protection of this property.

Workshop: Wildlife Program Manager Jonker attended a 21st Century Salmon and Steelhead Workshop for the short and long-term management of salmon and steelhead for recovery and sustainability that will include many programs within the agency.

March 10, 2008


Klickitat Wildlife Area;
Wildlife Area Manager VanLeuven reviewed past photos taken during and after controlled burns and wildfires at the Wildlife Area as well as grazing unit photos over several years. VanLeuven discussed the history of the prescribed burn program at the Wildlife Area with DNR crew supervisor in context of present and future management. VanLeuven also contacted the Wildlife Area’s Citizen Advisory Group members to set up their next meeting and worked on several maintenance issues at the Wildlife Area headquarters.


Post-season Elk Survey: Regional Wildlife Program Manager Jonker and Biologist Holman conducted an aerial post-season elk survey in the Lewis River (560), and Siouxon (572) Game Management Units. Each of these Units are located at relatively high elevations in the Cascades and are held primarily in U.S. Forest Service ownership. Large amounts of persistent low-elevation snowpack made the elk difficult to locate. The animals were primarily located in the larger (low elevation) riparian areas or within dense forest stands (where they are essentially impossible to see).

A total of 108 elk were classified on the survey. The survey revealed a bull:cow:calf ratio of 4:100:40. Small sample size and poor representation of bulls in the survey make conclusions regarding the male segment of the population inconclusive. The presence of 40 calves per 100 cows is encouraging given the severity of the 2007-08 winter.


Winter Carnivore Survey: Biologist Anderson has been working with the USFS and volunteers to initiate a pilot carnivore camera detection project near Mt. Adams in the South Cascades. Baited camera stations are being set at elevations above 5500 ft. with an emphasis to detect potential wolverine movements. WDFW and the USFS are interested in determining if recent observations of wolverine indicate frequent use of the South Cascades or rare individuals moving through the area. This winters work is focused primarily on looking at logistics for future winter surveys with the potential of actually documenting any wolverine currently in the area.

March 17, 2008


Cowlitz Wildlife Area
Cavity Nesting Box Survey:
Assistant Manager Richard Vanderlip and Natural Resources Technician Casey Morris finished the annual artificial cavity nest box survey. Once a year the Cowlitz Wildlife Area staff visit the nest boxes to clean and fill them for the coming season’s nesting pairs (mostly Wood ducks). At this time the data are collected for the previous year’s use and damaged boxes are repaired or replaced. The 2007 nesting season’s use and success rates were slightly down (~4%) from the previous year. However, areas that had in the past seen little activity showed a substantial increase this previous year. The downside is that the wildlife area’s big producer (Oxbow Lake) had a very poor year.

Riffe Lake Low Water Levels: The water levels on Riffe Lake are again at very low levels at 695 feet. Full pool is at 778 feet. This low water condition has exposed a lot of bank usually underwater and, with an article written in the local paper, many people are visiting the lake. A reminder - it is unlawful to artifact hunt on the Cowlitz Wildlife Area and, furthermore, a permit is required to remove any resources natural or cultural.

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.

Mt. St. Helen's Wildlife Area streambank estoration
Area on Mt. St. Helen's WLA that was planted with willow and cottonwood cuttings.

Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area
Stabilization Planting:
On Saturday March 8th, Wildlife Area Manager Calkins, Technician Leif Fox, and ten volunteers began planting the area where three wood structures were built in December to establish woody vegetation as a long-term erosion control measure along the Toutle River. The area behind two of the three structures has filled with sediments and was very easy to plant. During the day, an estimated 4-5000 willow and cottonwood cuttings and 100 rooted sitka alder were planted in a stretch of about 1/4 mile including areas just up and downstream of the three structures. The photo at right is representative of the area behind one of the structures that was planted with willow and cottonwood cuttings. During the following week, Wildlife Area employees planted an additional 550 rooted trees and shrubs including pacific ninebark, redosier dogwood, black cottonwood, sitka spruce, noble fir, Douglas fir, and grand fir. The cottonwood, spruce ,and fir are all being placed in four foot high plastic tree shelters and 12 inch diameter wire tubes anchored with rebar stakes to protect them from elk browsing and dehydration until they are well established.

Closure Still In Effect: The public is reminded that the closure of the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area to public use remains in effect until May 1st. Last year WDFW noted that a number of violations occurred, particularly during the months of March and April. Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement officers were able to catch up with some of the violators but not all. The timing of last year’s violations of the closure coincided with the timing of antler drop of the bulls in the herd. Because the temptation of collecting antlers was enough for some to violate the closure and in some instances run the entire herd off the winter range, WDFW is taking a new approach in hopes of discouraging some of these violations. Employees will be picking up shed antlers incidental to other work, including winter-feeding that is still under way, but no special effort is being made to search for them. Antlers from winterkill bulls, which are not legal to posses at any time, are also being removed. At the end of the season the antlers will be transferred to personnel in WDFW's Region 3 to be included in a sale being organized there. By implementing this measure, we hope to discourage unlawful use that could lead to additional winter mortality in the herd by further stressing the animals during the most critical time of the winter for them.

WDFW does conduct habitat work on the area during the closure period, including forage management and other activities such as the tree planting discussed above, but WDFW takes measures to minimize disturbance to the animals during the operations. We also limit our activities to those that must be done at this time of year in order to be successful.


Mt. St. Helens Elk Herd: Using a combination of aerial and ground counts, Regional Wildlife Program Manager Jonker, Wildlife Area Assistant Manager Hauswald, and Wildlife Biologist Holman conducted a survey of elk on the North Fork Toutle River. See the table below detailing greater than 800 on the valley floor of the North Fork Toutle River from its initiation point on the North Side of Mt. St. Helens to the confluence with the Green River. Most animals were concentrated on the St. Helens Wildlife Area in the vicinity of this winter's feeding operation. It is likely that the North Fork Toutle River valley currently supports nearly 10% of the entire Mt. St. Helens elk herd.

Elk Post-Season Survey 2007-08
North Fork Toutle River
Method Date Observers Number ELK
Spirit Lake to
WLA East Boundary
Aerial 3/06/2008 Jonker / Holman 17
St. Helens Wildlife Area Ground 3/07/2008 Hauswald 700
WLA West Boundary
to Green River
Aerial 3/06/2008 Jonker / Holman 100

Valley Summary

  March 2008   817

March 24, 2008


Region 5 Deer Management: The annual Spring survey of deer on and near the Klickitat Wildlife Area was conducted on the 17th and 18th of March. Wildlife Biologist Holman, Klickitat Wildlife Area Manager VanLeuven, Fisheries Biologist Cady, retired Klickitat Wildlife Area Manager Morrison, Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Officer Vance, and Volunteer Renan conducted the surveys. A total of 305 deer were observed during the effort with 238 classified. The number of classified deer was significantly fewer than the 17-year average of 528 deer.

spring Deer Survey chart
Fawn to adult ratio recorded on the annual Spring Survey during the past 29 years
and the number of deer classified during the past 17 years.

[ Click chart to enlarge ]

Significant in addition to the total number of deer observed, is the annual ratio of fawns to adults. Young deer are more likely to succumb to harsh winter conditions and food shortages; therefore the ratio provides a barometer for winter severity. During severe winters, fawns suffer mortality at a greater rate than adults. thereby reducing the ratio of fawns to adults.

This year's survey resulted in a ratio of 48 fawns per 100 adult deer. This ratio represents a value that is effectively equal to the mean ratio observed in the 29-year history of the survey. The 2008 survey indicates that, in spite of unusually high amounts of snowfall in the Cascades, the deer present on or near the Klickitat Wildlife Area suffered little in the way of winter losses during 2007/08. Thanks to all those that participated in the annual spring survey.

Upcoming Survey Preparations: Mailings were completed this week to volunteers signed up for elk and goose surveys in April to comply with safety policy requirements. New guidelines require detailed briefings on agency policies prior to volunteers participating in field activities. Equipment repairs were undertaken and supplies were obtained for the upcoming game and diversity surveys in April and May.

Late Season Goose: Wildlife Biologist Holman (District 9) and Fish and Wildlife Technician Ridenour (District 10) collaborated on many task during the goose season, which just recently ended. One of the last tasks following the closure of the 2008 late season goose hunts, was to transport the last Goose check station trailer to storage. The late season goose hunts with Advanced Hunters provide hazing for local farmers with goose damage complaints.


Bald Eagle Management: District staff are very busy with salvage logging proposals on timberlands near eagle nests that were impacted by the December 2007 storm. High winds caused scattered tree blow down and some eagle nests may have been impacted. A local land manager, Hancock Forest Resources, has volunteered to cost share a flight in the lower Colombia River to assess eagle nest territory impacts. Region V is pleased that Gretchen Blatz from our Olympia staff will be able to participate in the flights Blatz manages the eagle nest data on a statewide basis. District Biologist Miller has written 3 formal eagle plans and several no -conditions plans in the past week.

District Wildlife Biologist Miller and Fish and Wildlife Technician Ridenour verified a new bald eagle nest. The nest was reported to District Biologist Miller from a local DNR employee. The nest status is unknown at this time since bald eagles were neither observed in the area nor occupying the nest at the time of District 10's site visit. District 10 will continue to monitor use of the nest site. The local diking district employees will also note bald eagle presence and any possible use of the nest; they have observed eagles in the area recently. The nest site was reported to the WDFW bald eagle database manager.

March 31, 2008


Cowlitz Wildlife Area:
Final Report:
Wildlife area staff finalized the 2007 annual report for the operation and maintenance of the Cowlitz Wildlife Area. This report is reviewed by Tacoma Public Utilities and then submitted by Tacoma to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The report summarizes management activities for 2007, proposed activities for 2008, and wildlife area expenditures. The filing of this report to FERC by Tacoma/WDFW is a requirement of the Cowlitz Hydroelectric Project license.

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:
Citizen Advisory Group:
Wildlife Area Manager VanLeuven met with the Klickitat Wildlife Area Citizen Advisory Group (CAG) to review KWA management plans. The meeting went well, with several good exchanges of ideas, plus additional information that can be used for planning upcoming work. The CAG input has been incorporated into the KWA Plan Update.


Elk with Hoof Rot: Reports from concerned citizens and hunters are being received regularly about limping elk. Approximately 3 years ago we first received calls about possible hoof rot on an elk near Stella. Reports of multiple animals in herds now are coming in from Doty, Winlock, Castle Rock, Kalama, and other locations in the lower Cowltiz and Chehalis basins. Region V biologist have submitted some samples that have tentatively identified the cause, but a pathologist at WSU is interested in examining more elk as there is concern that a mineral or nutritional deficiency might be at play. Biologists have contacted Dr. Mansfield about assisting with a study involving collecting specimens.


North Fork Lewis River Hydropower Mitigation: Biologist Holman and Habitat Program Major Projects Division Biologists Geroux and Applegate teamed up to review the annual wildlife mitigation activities performed by Pacifiicorps. The Utility operates three dams on the North Fork of the Lewis River, spanning portions of Clark, Cowlitz, and Skamania Counties. In partial mitigation for the impacts associated with inundation of the river, Pacificorps manages several thousand acres of wildlife habitat for a variety of game and non-game species. Highlights of the 2007 land-management activities conducted by the Utility include installation of 20 gates, barriers, and signs that foster free, non-motorized public access to these lands and the treatment of in excess of 500 acres for various infestations of weeds.

Department of Natural Resources - Natural Areas Preserves and Natural Resource Conservation Areas: Biologist Holman commented on generalized management concerns and site-specific issues related to DNR's NAPs and NRCAs in Region 5. NAPs and NRCAs generally contain unique habitat types that often support Endangered, Threatened, or Priority species. This Regional planning effort is part of a larger, statewide effort to develop a Memorandum of Understanding between WDFW and DNR regarding the management of these lands.