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
TeamVancouver@dfw.wa.gov

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Southwest Washington Wildlife Reports Archives
January 2010

January 19, 2010

Evaluating elk organs.
Region 5 staff as well as deer and elk specialist McCorquodale and a University of Alberta grad student successfully scored 153 sets of elk organs this week as part of the on-going Mt. St. Helens elk population monitoring study.
Elk heart.
The evaluation is done by rating the amount of fat present on the heart and kidneys of the elk (above) and entering the data into an equation that provides a body condition score.

GAME DIVISION

Elk Condition Assessment: Region 5 staff (Jonker, Miller, Anderson, Holman, Prince, Hauswald, Calkins, Vanderlip, Morris, and Gonzalez) as well as deer and elk specialist McCorquodale and a University of Alberta grad student (Geary) successfully scored 153 sets of elk organs this week as part of the on-going Mt. St. Helens elk population monitoring study. This effort is identified in the St Helens Elk Herd Plan to better understand animal condition. The elk parts (heart, kidneys, teeth, and liver) were collected by hunters that drew modern firearm cow tags for GMUs 520, 522, 524, 520, 550, 556, 560, and 572. The purpose of the collection was to evaluate cow elk body condition in the fall within the Mt. St. Helens herd area. The evaluation is done by rating the amount of fat present on the heart and kidneys of the elk and entering the data into an equation that provides a body condition score. The results will be available at a later date. This project would not have been possible without the willing participation of the hunters; a big thank you to all hunters that submitted samples and to the staff that participated in the scoring effort.

Deer Survey: Biologist Anderson conducted a post season deer survey in unit 578. Low cloud cover and rainy conditions made for less than ideal conditions, although slopes below 2000 ft were open with good forage opportunity. This information will be used, with previous helicopter surveys, for evaluating buck ratios in this unit.

WINTER CONDITIONS

D-10 & MSHWA Winter Conditions

  • Past Weather: Fall and early winter conditions were highly variable. One of the coldest Decembers on record was the most notable highlight. However, November was relatively warm and the cold temperatures in December were combined with relatively dry conditions so there were no major snow accumulations. Mid to low elevation snow occurred on several occasions in November and December but was not very deep or persistent on the ground for extended periods. Weather during the first half of January was warmer than normal with minor rainfall amounts melting off much of the mid elevation snow that was present.
  • Short-Term Forecast: Again mild and wet for the next week. Temperatures should range from the upper 30’s to high 40’s. Snow levels still high with the lowest forecast around 2,500 feet. The 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks both suggest normal or above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation.
  • Long-Term Forecast: NOAA’s long range outlook map products suggest warmer and drier than normal conditions for the month of January with the same conditions continuing through the remainder of the winter.
  • Habitat: With a relatively normal snowpack, typical winter range areas are currently available. We were able to observe forage condition on the western portion of the mudflow during other work on the site this week. The heaviest grazing pressure has been on the areas that received fertilizer treatments this spring. Other sites have not been grazed to the same degree and forage remains available throughout the site. It appears that the warmer temperatures have put some growth on some grasses recently as well. Shrub use (willow) has been a bit heavier than may be expected in a mild winter—this may have occurred during the December snowfall.
  • Snow Depths: Mount Saint Helen's Elk Herd-2009/2010 Winter Conditions- Sno-Park Snow Depth
  • Animal Concentrations: No unusual concentrations of animals have been noted due to winter conditions. A total of 266 elk were present in the mudflow survey area during the pre winter count on December 9 and 175 during the survey on January 5th.
  • Animal Condition: No animals showing outward signs of severe physical decline due to winter conditions have been observed or reported on the Wildlife Area or in the vicinity.
  • Mortality: None reported to date due to winter conditions.
  • Public Contacts: Interview with Longview daily news reporter this week primarily about the recent acquisition of the DOT lands but also touched on winter conditions and elk numbers observed. The public is reminded that the portion of the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area lying East of a line defined by Hoffstadt Creek, The North Fork Toutle and Deer Creek is closed to public access through April 30 to minimize disturbance and associated energy demands on elk wintering there.

District 9:

  • Past Weather: Weather in the South Cascades is above normal with no new snow below 400 ft. Temperatures are above normal and snow pack continues to be below normal.
  • Winter Severity: Most areas of the Klickitat Wildlife Area are open and forage habitat is available. There is little concern for the current severity of the winter conditions on big game populations in Skamania County and the western portion of Klickitat County. The eastern portions of Klickitat County have had lower snow fall accumulation this winter and deer are in good condition.
  • Habitat: Habitat is open above 2500 ft and forage habitat has increased for big game this past week.
  • Animal Concentrations: No unusual concentrations seen due to inclement conditions. .
  • Animal Condition: Animals appear to be in good condition.
  • Mortality: Two yearling black-tailed deer were reported dead from Skamania County. Both animals appeared to be in good condition with no visible signs of winter stress. The stomach contents of one deer were reported to be full of green grass. No other mortalities were reported due to winter conditions.
  • Public Contacts: One landowner that lives below 500 ft elevation in the Columbia River Gorge reported the two yearling mortalities this week.

January 11, 2010

GAME DIVISION

Elk Count: The second monthly count of elk wintering on the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area was completed this week. The total number of elk was 175 and they were well distributed across the Wildlife Area. No snow is currently on the Wildlife Area and there appears to be some forage remaining. The low number of elk present and the mild winter conditions so far this year are encouraging.

Post Season Deer Surveys: Biologist Holman conducted a post season deer survey in GMU 382 (East Klickitat). One-hundred-twenty-nine deer were located during the driving route. Age and sex ratios will be pooled with additional survey efforts from the Klickitat GMUs and compared to the goals outlined in the Game Management Plan.

Mid Winter Waterfowl Surveys: Biologists in Region 5 participated in the annual mid-winter waterfowl surveys this week. Many sites throughout the Region are surveyed for numbers and types of waterfowl present. Some sites seemed to be holding fewer ducks this year, possibly an affect of the very cold weather earlier in the month that left many ponds and pastures frozen.

Biologist Anderson completed mid winter waterfowl surveys for Klickitat and Skamania counties. Lower than normal counts of birds were reported for the eastern section of the survey that includes The Dalles reservoir on the Columbia River. Large numbers of waterfowl were reported in the Bonneville Pool as strong east winds in the Columbia River Gorge pushed birds to protected bays and inlets close to shore. Above normal temperatures and mild winter conditions provided favorable conditions for wintering waterfowl on the Columbia River during the count week.

Biologist Holman completed the midwinter waterfowl survey from the mouth of the Washougal River upstream along the Columbia to Bonneville dam. Conditions were favorable for the survey with good access to all areas that traditionally hold significant numbers of birds. Numbers of diving ducks (mostly scaup), and Canada geese were lower than counts for recent years, while dabbling ducks were slightly higher. Tundra swans were located at their traditional locations in the Columbia River Gorge, i.e. Franz Lake and Beacon Rock State Park.

Dusky Canada Goose Management: Biologist Holman conducted a survey of dusky Canada geese in the Woodland area. Two flocks of duskies totaling 43 geese were observed with no collared birds. Comprehensive surveys throughout the wintering range of the duskies (SW Washington and NW Oregon) are conducted by a combination of State and Federal biologists. Information collected during these surveys is used to generate a population model for the species and monitor their status.

Disease Monitoring - Avian Influenza Sampling: Biologist Holman and Technician Fox submitted 80 samples taken from cackling Canada geese for Avian Influenza testing. The samples are sent to the U.S.G.S wildlife disease center in Wisconsin where samples are collected and tested from throughout the U.S. Cackling Canada geese are selected for this disease sampling because of their interaction with birds from Asia while on their breeding grounds in western Alaska.

TRAINING

Training: Wildlife Area Managers Calkins and Van Leuven attended the Pesticide Recertification Training in Vancouver.

WINTER CONDITIONS

District-10 & MSHWA Winter Conditions

  • Past Weather: Fall and early winter conditions were highly variable. One of the coldest Decembers on record was the most notable highlight. However, November was relatively warm and the cold temperatures in December were combined with relatively dry conditions so there were no major snow accumulations. Mid to low elevation snow occurred on several occasions in November and December but was not very deep or persistent on the ground for extended periods.
  • Short-Term Forecast: Mild and wet for the next week. Temperatures should range from the upper 30’s to high 40’s. Snow levels very high with the lowest forecast around 3,500 feet. The 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks both suggest above normal temperatures and relatively normal precipitation.
  • Long-Term Forecast: NOAA’s long range outlook map products suggest warmer and drier than normal conditions for the month of January with the same conditions continuing through the remainder of the winter.
  • Habitat: With a relatively normal snowpack, typical winter range areas are currently available. Conditions on the Wildlife Area are similar to slightly improved from last year. Any losses of forage area this fall have been very minor to date and several forage enhancement projects are beginning to produce forage on a number of sites.
  • Animal Concentrations: No unusual concentrations of animals have been noted due to winter conditions. A total of 266 elk were present in the mudflow survey area during the pre winter count on December 9 and 175 during the survey this week.
  • Animal Condition: Animals appear to be in good condition.
  • Mortality: None reported to date due to winter conditions.
  • Public Contacts: One public and one legislative information request were received in the fall inquiring about any plans to feed elk on the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area this fall. The public is reminded that the portion of the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area lying East of a lined defined by Hoffstadt Creek, The North Fork Toutle and Deer Creek is closed to public access through April 30 to minimize disturbance and associated energy demands on elk wintering there.

District 9:

  • Past Weather: Weather has been moderate and the winter snow pack is below normal, especially below 3000 ft in the south Cascades.
  • Winter Severity: The south facing slopes at the Klickitat Wildlife Area are open and forage habitat is available. There is little concern for the severity of this year's winter conditions in Skamania County and the western portion of Klickitat County. The eastern portions of Klickitat County have had lower snow fall accumulation this winter and deer are in good condition.
  • Habitat: Habitat is open and forage is available below 2500-3000 ft.
  • Animal Concentrations: No unusual concentrations seen due to inclement conditions. Late December deer surveys around the Klickitat Wildlife Area indicate good numbers of animals using WDFW ownership.
  • Animal Condition: Animals appear to be in good condition.
  • Mortality: None documented or reported at this time.
  • Public Contacts: None received this week.

January 3, 2010

GAME DIVISION

Post Season Deer Surveys: Biologist Holman and Klickitat Wildlife Area Manager Van Leuven conducted a post season deer survey over the western portion of GMU 388 (Grayback) and eastern portion of 578 (West Klickitat). Biologist Anderson provided ground support for the survey. Flying conditions were excellent with cold grey skies and a backdrop of snow covering the entire landscape. Approximately 665 deer were observed with roughly 600 classified during the effort. Exact counts, sex and age ratios, and distribution will be calculated and used as a partial evaluation of deer population health as well as an ongoing means of monitoring the effectiveness of current hunting season structure related to the goals outlined in the Game Management Plan.