Southwest - Region 5
Guy Norman

Regional Director

2108 Grand Boulevard
Vancouver, WA 98661

Office Hours: Monday - Friday
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Southwest Washington Wildlife Reports Archives
May 2008

May 5, 2008

Vaux swifts use the old Icehouse building at the Mineral Springs Campground for nesting.
Vaux swifts use the old Icehouse building at the Mineral Springs Campground for nesting.


Vaux Swifts: Klickitat Wildlife Area Manager VanLeuven continued to monitor Vaux's swift use of the old Icehouse building at the Mineral Springs Campground. While there, Manager VanLeuven talked to 6 people camped onsite who agreed to call with their observations of birds using the chimney (VauxSwift.JPG).


Deer and Elk Survey Protocol Review: Biologist Holman provided edits and reviews of the statewide summary of deer and elk survey protocols provided by Game Division Staff. At least 10 different types of deer and elk surveys are conducted during different portions of the year in Region 5. Most surveys are centered around the collection of sex and age ratio data for inclusion into population models or evaluation of long-term trends. The Regional review is part of a statewide effort to consolidate, standardize, and document what is collectively done in the State to quantify populations of deer and elk.

Goose Nest Surveys: This year’s goose nest surveys identified 357 active nests on nine islands in the Lower Columbia River. This number is a slight increase over last year’s survey numbers, but is consistent with the thought that these islands are supporting a fairly stable nesting population. Miller Sands Island had twelve less nests than last year while Eureka Island supported seventeen more nests in 2008 as compared to 2007. The concern still remains that 74% of all nests occur on Miller Sands Island; if a major stochastic event occurred on this island a possible dramatic effect could be seen on the whole nesting population. During the survey, fifty-five “dark” goose nests were recorded. This number is ten more than in 2007, but “dark” nests are identified by site of the flushed adult birds and therefore a certain amount of error is contained in this estimate and technique. Coordinates were collected on the identified dark nests and they will be revisited in the future. This is all part of an effort to band all of these “dark” geese and goslings.

Goose Nest Survey - 1987-2008
Goose Nest Survey - 1987-2008


Bald Eagle Carcass Recovery: Biologist Holman recovered the carcass of an adult bald eagle per the guidelines prepared by Dr. Mansfield and Jim Watson. The eagle carcass was sent to Washington State University for disease and toxin testing. Thanks to Clark County residents John and Mandy Maul for their attention to the bald eagles that share their property.

Sandhill Cranes: Biologist Anderson coordinated a two day survey for nesting sandhill cranes on the Conboy National Wildlife Refuge in Klickitat County. A total of 11 pairs of cranes were verified to be on nests with another 4 pairs located near or in their territories. Four other nesting pairs were not accounted for during this survey but follow-up checks will be made in mid May to verify their status.

May 13, 2008


2009-11, 3-year Season Setting Process: Biologist Holman prepared several Regional considerations for changes in hunting seasons for the 2009-11, 3-year period. This year a template has been developed by Game Division Staff to help standardize and formalize the process for this effort. Some of the preliminary issues that Region 5 will seek public input on regard improving difficult boundaries in several GMUs and continuing the effort to improve the quality of deer hunting in the Klickitat County GMUs.

Mt. St. Helens Elk Mortality Survey: Region 5 staff and 24 volunteers participated in the annual elk winter mortality survey on the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area. Data are being compiled and verified with a final tally to be completed this week. We appreciate all the effort and time of all who participated.


Western Pond Turtles: Biologist Anderson reports that the western pond turtle field crew has captured over 180 western pond turtles in Klickitat this spring and has attached transmitters to 22 females. Transmitters are placed on females in order for biologists to monitor turtle nesting sites. The majority of transmitters have been placed on turtles that came from the head start program. In addition, plans are being made to capture turtles in Skamania County to evaluate our ability to estimate population changes. We are currently working with research division staff to develop methodology for a mark recapture program.

May 17, 2008


Klickitat Wildlife Area:
The warmer weather has brought more people out for recreational activities on the Wildlife Area as well as the surrounding area and Wildlife Area Manager VanLeuven responded to many recreational inquiries. Manager VanLeuven prepared 4 project plans for the WCC crew, conducted orientation regarding WDFW's land management objectives, held training on fencing construction standards, and showed the WCC crew the worksites in the project plans. The WCC crew commenced their projects this week. Manager VanLeuven also completed this year’s grazing unit vegetation monitoring photo series and cleaned 10 guzzlers. In addition, Manager VanLeuven is working collaboratively with a Wildlife Area neighbor to construct a new fence on a common property line to control cattle. A construction plan was drafted including guidelines for standard specifications for construction to meet WDFW standard of quality.

Cowlitz Wildlife Area:
Wetland Projects:
Wildlife area staff made field visits with local habitat biologist Bell and environmental engineer Klavis to go over this year’s wetland projects. Discussions included required permitting and engineered designs for dike breaching and removal on the Spears and Kiona Units of the Wildlife Area. 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. Helens Elk Mortality Survey: The Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area was recently surveyed for elk losses due to winter conditions. This is an annual survey that is conducted to evaluate the winter impacts to elk in the North Toutle valley. The area is divided into 8 survey segments and approximately 24 volunteers and 10 agency staff participated in the survey.

All of the data from this year’s elk mortality surveys has been reviewed and checked for accuracy. The final number of winter elk mortalities on Mt. St. Helen’s Wildlife Area is 158. The breakdown of age structure for the mortalities is as follows: 33% calves (52), 17% yearlings (27), 46% adults (72), and 4% (7) unknown. A little under half (48% or 76) of the mortalities were females, 16% (25) males, and 36% (57) were of unknown sex. Most of the unknowns were also classified as calves.

The winter of 2008 was a particularly harsh one with 213-250% of normal snow pack reported. Throughout SW Washington reports of elk mortalities were common, especially so in the Cascades. The high number of mortalities found on the wildlife area is probably a good indicator that mortality rates throughout the region were drastically higher this year than in previous years.

A big thank-you to all of the volunteers and WDFW employees that helped out with this survey and a special thanks to Representatives Orcutt and Blake for lending a helping hand.


Western Pond Turtles: Biologist Holman initiated a western pond turtle capture effort at the Pierce Ranch Unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Forty-one traps have been set in 4 different water-bodies in an attempt to capture as large a portion of the Refuge's pond turtle population as possible. Following the first three days of trapping, a total of 56 western pond turtle captures have been recorded encompassing 39 different individual turtles. Fifty incidental captures of painted turtles have been recorded as well. Thanks to Fisheries Biologist Groesbeck, Priority Habitat and Species Biologist Azerrad, Technician Ridenour and Customer Service Specialist Gonzalez for their much needed help during the first few days of this project.

Sandhill Cranes: Breeding surveys for sandhill cranes continued this week. Three territories have verified young and several other pairs continue to incubate eggs. Water levels have started to rise in wetlands as snowmelt increases with warming weather at the end of the week. This year’s runoff should prove to be beneficial for nesting sandhill cranes.

May 27, 2008


Klickitat Wildlife Area:
Range Sampling:
Wildlife Area manager VanLeuven worked with Range Biologist Asher to sample range plants at the Klickitat Wildlife Area exclosures. The spring sampling effort focuses on the smaller plants such as grasses, wildflowers, and shrubs. Each plant present on the plot is identified and assigned a number that represents its abundance on the plot area. Ten species of grass, 34 species of forbs, and 7 species of shrubs were found within the plots. The plots are sampled every 3 to 5 years, to document any changes that occur in the range plant community on the grazing permit area.


Western Pond Turtle Management: Biologist Holman continued the western pond turtle capture effort at the Pierce Ranch Unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Forty-one traps have been set in 4 different water-bodies in an attempt to capture as large a portion of the Refuge's pond turtle population as possible. Extremely high Columbia River water and cool, rainy weather have reduced the rate of turtle captures. Following the first 10 days of trapping, a total of 96 western pond turtle captures have been recorded, encompassing 50 different individual turtles. Sixty incidental captures of painted turtles have been recorded as well. Thanks to Wildlife Biologist Prince, Fisheries Biologist Groesbeck, Customer Service Specialist Gonzalez, and Volunteer Renan for their help during this stage of the project.

Sandhill Cranes: Biologist Anderson coordinated a two-day breeding survey for sandhill cranes in Klickitat County. Ground surveys were followed up by a helicopter survey of Conboy National Wildlife Refuge, Yakima Indian Reservation, State, and private lands to determine this year’s sandhill crane breeding status. A total of 22 pairs of cranes were located with 8 colts (crane young). Several pairs were still incubating eggs. Water conditions this year are favorable to sandhill crane breeding success as snowpack continues to melt and maintain seasonal wetland habitat.

Oak Habitat Management: Upland Game Section Manager Cope, National Wild Turkey Federation representatives Thiebes and Mathis, Wildlife Program Manager Jonker, District Biologist Anderson, and Klickitat WA manager VanLeuven met on site to continue discussions and planning for oak habitat improvement in Klickitat County. The Klickitat Wildlife Area and surrounding ownerships were chosen as initial project areas for the oak improvement project and the group met with Hancock Timber representatives as well to discuss potential cooperative projects on their lands. The 2-day field visit was very productive and set the stage for moving forward with regard to identifying and developing overall goals, habitat conditions that need improvement, general prescriptions, and specific project areas. 2008 will be used primarily for planning and mapping potential project areas with the goal of on the ground oak/conifer habitat improvement starting in 2009.