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
August 2010

August 30, 2010


Klickitat Wildlife Area
Wildfire in the Klickitat River Canyon: A fast-moving fire was driven by wind up into the Klickitat River Canyon Aug. 26th. The fire began in the vicinity of the Old Lyle Highway and the Lyle-Appleton Road, reportedly due to a tree falling on a power line. The fire quickly spread along the west side of the canyon and fire fighting resources from all over central Klickitat County responded. Department of Natural Resources has taken the lead in coordinating the fire control effort. Retardant planes and helicopters equipped with water buckets were mobilized Aug. 26th, and by Aug. 27th, at least 2 large helicopters and 1 or 2 smaller DNR helicopters were working the fire. Homes in the path of the fire were evacuated the evening of Aug. 26th. As of the following morning no structures were known to be lost. Much of the WDFW land known as the Fisher Hill Unit of the Klickitat Wildlife Area has burned over, and at least part of the Dillacort Unit has probably also burned (access to the canyon has been restricted so assessing the extent of the fire is difficult). Damage to important wildlife resources appears to be light, so far. The fire burned only low-growing vegetation on WDFW land, leaving the tree canopy almost unaffected. Impacts of the fire-fighting effort appear to be minimal, although residents near Balch Lake (an important western pond turtle site on the Sondino Unit) report that up to 40 buckets of water were dipped out of the lake by a helicopter on Aug. 26th. Department of Natural Resources redirected the aircraft to other water sources by Aug. 27th. The fire was still burning actively on several fronts, but does not seem to be a particularly intense fire, and the fire control effort appears to be well coordinated.

Citizen Advisory Group: Manager Van Leuven held the annual Citizen Advisory Group meeting for the Klickitat Wildlife Area. Ideas and expertise were shared among the group, last year's progress was discussed, and a new list of performance measures was reviewed and approved.

Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area:
Annual PR Reports: Wildlife Area Manager Calkins finished compiling information and finalized the annual PR report for the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area. The expenses also cover some expenses related to the Shillapoo Wildlife Area including the cost of security on the Vancouver Lake Unit and salary costs not covered under our annual contract with Bonneville Power. Highlights of activities during Fiscal Year 2010 include acquisition of 3816 acres added to the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area, maintenance or enhancement of approximately 160 acres of winter range forage, and completion of a project that included installation of structures on ½ mile of river bank as well as riparian plantings along three miles of river bank intended to help stabilize the Toutle River.

Stabilization Projects: Construction startup is expected to occur in late September on the next phase of work to stabilize the remaining portion of the 1980 mudflow that supports our best remaining elk winter range area. Wildlife Area Manager Calkins assisted WDFW engineer Kuykendall with laying out delivery areas for logs that will be necessary for the project prior to an on-site pre-bid meeting. A contractor will be hired to procure and deliver logs that will be needed to build the various structures along the river. WDFW construction crews will do the actual construction work.

Hunt Coordination: Wildlife Area Manager Calkins coordinated with Program Manager Jonker to draft an informational letter to archery hunters who had drawn Mudflow Elk Area permits. The letter addresses commonly encountered questions from hunters about access and also provides information about construction work that will occur this fall. Similar letters will be sent to other hunt groups.

Corps of Engineers, Grade Building Structures Pilot Project: Work continues on the project at a fast pace. The log jam type island building structures are nearly complete and the “cross valley structure” (CVS) that consists of an interconnected series of wooden cells is in the finish stages. Filling of the geotube, that will be the backbone of the berm that will guide the river into the CVS, is about 50% complete. Work will also soon begin to install the geotube-backed berm that is designed to keep the river out of the Alder Creek area. Assuming that this final structure is successful, it may have the greatest immediate benefit to fish and wildlife by allowing riparian and floodplain vegetation to establish over a sizable area along the creek and improve water quality. Several staff from WDFW Wildlife, Habitat, and Fish programs attended a site visit to see the project while it is still under construction.

Tree Planting Maintenance: Wildlife Area Manager Calkins and Assistant Manager Hauswald removed tree protectors from dead trees and maintained tubes on surviving trees planted over the past few years in the lower portion of the stabilization focus area. Collected tubes will be stored for future reuse. Survival of plants in the area covered has been reasonably good with conifer species continuing to have the highest mortality rates.

Research Coordination: Wildlife Area Manager Calkins met with University of Alberta graduate student Geary who is conducting research on range conditions for elk in the Mt. St. Helens area. Geary will be collecting vegetation samples on the Wildlife Area to assess production levels. Calkins helped him map areas where treatments intended to enhance production have been applied to avoid unexplained variation in his results. Geary’s sampling effort this year will be limited to untreated sites and may potentially expand next year into treated areas.

Vehicle accident damaged habitat.
Habitat damage caused by a vehicle accident on LaFrambois Rd. within the Vancouver Lake Unit.

Shillapoo Wildlife Area:
Vancouver Lake Vehicle Accident: Wildlife Area Manager Calkins accompanied Sergeant Webb to evaluate habitat damage caused by a vehicle accident on LaFrambois Rd. within the Vancouver Lake Unit. The vehicle apparently left the roadway at a high rate of speed coming to rest in a stand of cottonwood trees snapping several off (VL accident 8-19-10 B.JPG). The driver interviewed by the Sergeant the night of the wreck had no apparent injuries despite extensive damage to the vehicle. Habitat damage related to the accident was of no real monetary value and should heal itself in a short amount of time.

Maintenance Activities: Wildlife Area Assistant Manager Hauswald treated approximately 40 acres to control Canada thistle and other broadleaf weeds in a portion of the South Unit to improve pasture conditions for wintering waterfowl. Purple loosestrife control work continues on a weekly basis. The number of plants located in the area being monitored in a portion of the Shillapoo Lakebed is tracking about the same as last year.

Wildlife Observations: Wildlife Area Manager Calkins spotted a flock of about 30 white pelicans circling over Vancouver Lake recently. Current waterfowl numbers should bode well for both the September goose hunt, youth waterfowl hunt, and possibly the general waterfowl opener if conditions don’t change significantly. Large flocks of mallards have been seen on the South Unit recently. Unusual spring conditions have left more water in some of the wetlands than usual and the birds are using them.

Cowlitz Wildlife Area:
Hunter Education: Cowlitz Wildlife Area staff presented a Hunter Education class at the Cowlitz Wildlife Area’s office. The new online registration system streamlined the process and 15 students (a full house) were registered for the first night. Two individuals dropped out and were no shows and their seats were given to walk-ins. The class was split fairly even between juveniles and adults making for a very balanced attentive class. Testing was conducted on Saturday with students who passed participating in a live fire and skills evaluation in a realistic outdoor setting. Typically three classes are held out of the Cowlitz Wildlife Area office in any given year. The first class is held prior to the special permit deadline with two more classes held prior to the fall’s hunting seasons beginning.

Spears Unit: Two gates were installed by Wildlife Area staff at each end of the road surrounding the millpond on the Spears Unit. Over the years, this site has been subjected to dumping of used cars, old tires, and household garbage; a problem Wildlife Area staff and Enforcement hope to curb with these installations.


Mt. St. Helens Elk Study Project Update: Statewide Deer and Elk Specialist McCorquodale, Program Manager Jonker, Wildlife Area Manager Calkins along with Biologists Anderson, Miller, and Holman met to discuss the St. Helens Elk Project. Many facets of the effort were discussed. In the short term, work will focus on collection of organs from hunter-killed female elk (hearts, pericardium, and kidneys). Detailed evaluations of these organs allow for calculation of body fat. This attempt will focus on modern firearm hunters with special permits for antlerless elk in most areas east of Interstate 5. This will be the second year of such wide-spread collection in Region 5.


Conservation Opportunity: Wildlife Area Manager Calkins and PHS/GMA Biologist Labbe met with representatives of the Columbia Land Trust and a company that recently acquired significant acreage of forest land in the vicinity of Merrill Lake. The property includes significant portions of the Lake’s shoreline, an old lava bed, old growth forest components and numerous springs, wetlands, and waterfalls near the headwaters of the Kalama River. The company plans to do some logging. Beyond this, subdivision and development of portions of the property would be a lucrative option but the new owner is very interested in exploring the option of sale to a public agency or NGO along with other conservation measures in recognition of the lands unique resource values.

Vehicle Break In: WDFW Blazer was broken into recently at the regional office. Wildlife Area Assistant Manager Hauswald cleaned up broken glass, took inventory of the contents, filed a police report, and had one side window replaced. The only item noted as missing was a very old set of binoculars.

August 23


Elk Surveys – Mt. Rainier National Park (MRNP): Both north and south Rainier elk surveys were conducted this week. WDFW Region 5 and the National Park Service staff conducted simultaneous survey flights on the south side of the MRNP and Region 6 and NPS conducted simultaneous flights of the northern portion of MRNP. These surveys are part of an effort to develop a sightability model for better population estimates of elk residing in the Park. Surveys blocks have been developed and a GIS/GPS flight data recording system has been developed to record information on location and habitat variables where the elk are observed. This is the third year of this collaborative effort coordinated by USGS with participation by NPS, WDFW, Muckleshoot and Puyallup Indian tribes.

Mt. Goat Surveys: Region 5 staff surveyed Mt. Goat habitat in the Goat Rocks and Smith Creek goat units. Mt. Goat habitat has been stratified into survey blocks by earlier research efforts and goats and their habitat were classified during the surveys. The helicopter had a minor mechanical problem in the Goat Rocks effort and the pilot quickly returned to the airport to evaluate the situation (engine chip light). Fortunately the vendor had another ship nearby and staff were able to complete the survey as scheduled.


Project Review: Biologist Anderson and Biologist Labbe form the Habitat Division conducted field reviews of two projects in Klickitat County. The USFS is currently doing a preliminary analysis of a cattle grazing allotment on the Mt. Adams Ranger District. The primary issues for WDFW are forage availability on the allotment and the potential impacts to deer and elk habitat. A site visit was conducted to areas of the allotment to look at historic grazing impacts and the effects of the 2008 Cold Springs Fire on range recovery.

The other project evaluation was conducted to review a proposal for a large golf course development near Dallesport in Klickitat County. The primary issues associated with this project are waterfowl habitat changes, wetland mitigation, and the protection of unique Columbia River sand dune habitat associated with this east side habitat.

August 9, 2010


Klickitat Wildlife Area
Sondino Ponds: Manager Van Leuven met with volunteer Novak, who has been working on the pond turtle recovery project this year, to document many patches of noxious weeds near the Sondino Ponds as well as a couple of old garbage dumps. Manager Van Leuven documented the locations using GPS and began planning for weed control. The weed problem there is much worse than originally thought; not only observed canary grass and blackberries, but also knapweed, bachelor button, everlasting peas, and probably milfoil.


Western Pond Turtle Management – Habitat Enhancement: Biologists Hallock and Holman made preparations for habitat enhancement work to occur next week at the Bergen Road site. The enhancement work will be conducted by crews from the Skamania Forest Youth Success Program. Activities will include installation of fencing to exclude turtles from debris piles that will later be burned, covering of piles to be burned, and additional non-native plant removal.

Western Pond Turtle Management – Head Start Program: Biologist Holman tallied the annual release of pond turtles into the Columbia River Gorge population. Eighty-one turtles were released this year with most going to Beacon Rock State Park. A total of 1244 western pond turtles have now been released into 4 different populations in the Gorge over the 20-year history of the effort.

Sandhill Cranes: Biologist Anderson met with DNR personnel to discuss habitat improvement project at Deer Creek wetlands. Plans being discussed are for reconstruction of a water control structure that maintains wetland habitat for a pair of nesting sandhill cranes. In addition, trees that are encroaching wet meadow habitat will be removed to improve nesting conditions for cranes.

August 2, 2010


Klickitat Wildlife Area Manager Van Leuven led a tour for the Simcoe-Grayback Coordinated Resource Management Group to present three of the range quality monitoring methods employed by WDFW on the Klickitat Wildlife Area.
Klickitat Wildlife Area Manager Van Leuven led a tour for the Simcoe-Grayback Coordinated Resource Management Group to present three of the range quality monitoring methods employed by WDFW on the Klickitat Wildlife Area.

Klickitat Wildlife Area
Range Quality Monitoring: Klickitat Wildlife Area Manager Van Leuven led a tour for the Simcoe-Grayback Coordinated Resource Management Group to present three of the range quality monitoring methods employed by WDFW on the Klickitat Wildlife Area. The group viewed examples of each type of range monitoring site, and Manager Van Leuven discussed the merits and disadvantages, as well as results of WDFW’s work there. First, the group visited Range Transect 4, which was established in 1952 as part of a statewide range survey. This transect (and 5 others) were re-sampled in 2009. Examination of the data shows that the plant community there is recovering from an extended period of intense disturbance, an encouraging sign. Next, the group visited two Photo Points along the Grayback and Sheep Canyon Roads. These are used for monitoring range quality annually on the KWA grazing permit area. The last site visited was the set of exclosures along the Sheep Canyon Road, where study plots have been established to compare effects of no ungulate grazing; deer and elk grazing only; and deer, elk, and cattle grazing on the plant community. Early results of sampling there show no obvious trends, however the exclosures are only seven years old and changes may take more time to develop. There was considerable interest among the group, and Manager Van Leuven fielded many good questions.

The group then moved on to the second part of the tour, led by Eric Bieker of Western Pacific Timber (WPT). The first site visited was Range Transect 7, which lies on WPT land and is part of the 1952 statewide range survey area. This transect was re-sampled in 2009. The group discussed changes in the plant community there and Bieker was able to explain some of the management activities that contributed to the present state of development. Bieker also discussed RMAP issues, tree plantation establishment, and other items of interest to local cattle producers who hold leases on WPT land. The tour was well attended by 21 people and everyone found the trip to be very informative.

Cowlitz Wildlife Area
Spears Unit: Cowlitz Wildlife Area staff have completed hauling, spreading, and grading rock on the quarter mile stretch of road around the millpond on the Spears Unit. The leak in the dike around the standpipe has been fixed. A SEPA checklist has been submitted for review with the WDFW coordinator for the installation of two gates to curb vehicle and household garbage dumping.

Swofford Pond: In response to the flood damage to the bridge over Sulfur Creek, WDFW engineers have completed the FEMA funded bridgework at Swofford Pond .


Operation Dark Goose: Biologist Miller, with the assistance of some volunteers from the University of Alberta, checked on the dark western geese that were outfitted with radio collars in early July. Seven of the 12 geese were detected alive and no mortality signals were heard. Some of the birds were very close to flying when caught and they and their broods may have moved away from the Lower Columbia River already. These geese are marked to help determine sub species at check stations and during population surveys for other dark goose races in the fall and winter.

Western pond turtle release
Western pond turtle release
Biologist Anderson coordinated the release of 40 western pond turtle head start turtles at Beacon Rock State Park. Representatives from State Parks, Bonneville Power Administration, and the USFS participated in the release.


Western Pond Turtle Releases: Biologist Anderson coordinated the release of 40 western pond turtle head start turtles at Beacon Rock State Park. Representatives from State Parks, Bonneville Power Administration, and the USFS participated in the release. The Beacon Rock wetland is our newest release site and is our fourth western pond turtle population in the Columbia River Gorge.

Biologist Holman, the Oregon Zoo's David Shepardson, and USFWS Refuge Manager Clapp teamed up to conduct the annual release of western pond turtles at Pierce National Wildlife Refuge in Skamania County. The release was a success with approximately 70 kids ranging from age 5-18 along with their associated crew leaders, and Staff from various Agencies in attendance. Biologist Holman provided a presentation featuring the story of western pond turtles in the Gorge, methods of studying the turtles, and equipment used in wildlife work. Shepardson's talk focused on the role that the Oregon Zoo has played in the recovery effort. Finally, Clapp discussed the National Wildlife Refuge system and Pierce NWR specifically. Oregon Zoo media staff collected video of the release and associated activities and conducted interviews. Media materials were released to Portland area news outlets.

The primary highlight of the day was documentation of reproduction by western pond turtles at the Refuge. The turtles were first re-introduced to Pierce 13-years ago and reproduction has been speculated upon in the past two years, but never documented. Members of Skamania County's Forest Youth Success Program located a partially decomposed western pond turtle hatchling during their habitat enhancement work earlier in the week and submitted the specimen to Biologist Holman. This was a terrific find by the Forest Youth Crew and means that at least one clutch of pond turtles was laid in the summer of 2009 at Pierce. More importantly, the find indicates wild reproduction among the introduced population and demonstrates an important step in the long-term progress towards reaching the goals outlined in the State Recovery Plan for western pond turtles. Great job Skamania Forest Youth!