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 Report Archives

Southwest Washington Wildlife Report Archives
April 2011

April 25, 2011

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Klickitat Wildlife Area:
Citizen Advisory Group (CAG) Meeting: Manager Van Leuven met with the Klickitat Wildlife Area CAG to review the progress report on the 2010 Performance Measures and the list of Performance Measures for 2011. The CAG discussed current issues, projects, and future projects and provided valuable insights and suggestions that will be helpful in accomplishing planned work. The CAG will also conduct a tour of the Wildlife Area this summer.

DIVERSITY DIVISION

From Habitat Division Monthly Report: Juniper Canyon I – Golden Eagle Fatality: Klickitat County: On Monday March 21, 2011 a golden eagle was found dead near a wind turbine (# C-4) at the Iberdrola Renewables -Juniper Canyon 1 project in Bickleton, WA – Klickitat County. This project has been operational for 1 week. The US Fish and Wildlife Service responded to the report and the bird is being evaluated at the forensic laboratory to determine cause of death (general health at time of death, trauma, fractures, blood, and tissue), age and origin (resident or floater). Initial reports from the field suggest the bird was a juvenile (floater) and was killed by a blade strike from the turbine. The project was developed in consultation with the WDFW Wind Power Guidelines (2009) following several months of discussions with WDFW. This project was flagged as a risk by staff. We collectively moved forward with a public comment letter indicating our general concerns for biological risk with an interest in working with the proponent on careful siting of the project.

Western Gray Squirrels: Biologist Anderson completed three days of nest searches for western gray squirrels as part of a forest practice project on the Klickitat River. Over 120 nests have been found on this property adjacent to the Klickitat Wildlife Area in Sneider Canyon. WDFW is working with the landowner and operator to protect as much habitat as possible at this site due to its importance to the species. Unfortunately, with increased timber prices operators are only wanting to protect the minimum habitat required by forest practice regulations, which is the nest tree itself. In addition the operator has indicated that he is not willing to work outside the critical nesting period for the western gray squirrel.

Assistance to Habitat Program -Western Grey Squirrel Management: Biologists Anderson, Holman, Van Leuven, Azerrad, and Stephens continued work on multiple Forest Practices Applications with serious implications for State Threatened western grey squirrels. Several tasks including review of proposed activities, on-site searches for and mapping of squirrel nests, negotiations with landowners, selection of retention trees, GIS support, and general coordination are all encompassed in this effort. All sites are in the core of the species' range in Washington (Klickitat River Basin) and are occupied by squirrels. In one site, Biologists identified over 150 nests in less than 100 acres of forest.

April 18, 2011

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area:
Riparian Planting: Volunteers recruited through the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation planted 4,800 trees and shrubs along the edge of the mudflow on April 16th. The volunteers were organized into three groups that worked in different areas. These plantings are intended to further stabilize previously eroding banks in the area where log structures were built over the past few years. The planting effort took a total of approximately five hours of actual planting time which speaks to the dedication and hard work of the volunteers who, on average, planted about 200 trees apiece.

Klickitat Wildlife Area:
Opening of Turkey Season: There was rain the evening before the opener and all day the 15th, which contributed to a low hunter turnout and no turkeys were reported harvested. However, turkeys have been more vocal than normal for this time of year, and birds have been observed at both lower and middle elevations on the Wildlife Area. Turkeys are utilizing open, green fields as well as wooded habitats.

Seasonal Road Closures: All three road gates on the Soda Springs Unit were opened the evening of April 14th. However, recent snow and rain have kept the ground wet and one road remains too soft to support use, resulting in trapped vehicles and associated challenges in pulling them out. On April 15th an emergency temporary closure was placed in effect on the South Breaks Road due to unsafe road conditions. The road will be reopened to vehicle traffic when the ground has firmed up. Nonmotorized access on the South Breaks Road is permitted and the area is open for hunting.

The bone marrow of one of the calf mortalities examined was red/gelatinous/missing indicating this calf was in a state of malnourishment at death.
The bone marrow of one of the calf mortalities examined was red/gelatinous/missing indicating this calf was in a state of malnourishment at death.

GAME DIVISION

NGO Meetings /Mt. St. Helens Elk Management: Biologist Holman gave a presentation to approximately 40 members of the Yacolt Burn Sportsman’s Club featuring recent information on the Mt. St. Helens Elk Herd. Topics of the presentation included harvest trends over the past several years, details of the St. Helens Herd Research Project, and a review of changes to hunting seasons. The Yacolt Burn Sportsman’s Club is a small but proactive Clark County Club. Their work includes assuring hunting access to private forestlands, conducting hunter education, promoting hunting by both youth and disabled hunters, as well as charitable activities in north Clark County. Thanks to the Club for their ongoing efforts in these capacities.

Mortality Survey-staff training: District Wildlife Biologist Miller trained new biologists Koberstein and Stephens on the winter elk mortality survey protocol, which included examining elk carcasses, completing the data forms, and locate positions with GPS. The bone marrow of one of the calf mortalities examined was red/gelatinous/missing indicating this calf was in a state of malnourishment at death. These biologists will be part of a survey in early May to document elk mortality on the MSHWA and will assist in leading sections of the joint Agency/volunteer project.

DIVERSITY DIVISION

Assistance to Habitat Program – Western Grey Squirrel Forest Practices: Biologists Anderson, Azerrad, Van Leuven, and Holman assisted Habitat Program with the squirrel nest survey portion of addressing the impacts to western grey squirrel habitat on multiple Forest Practices Applications. Several locations in the core of the species’ range in Washington (Klickitat River drainage) are currently proposed for timber harvest by private landowners. Locating, marking, and documenting the nests provides a minimum of protection to this State Threatened species. The lack of a permanent Forest Practice Rule that would require more adequate protective measures for the species severely limits WDFW’s ability to moderate the impacts of timber harvest on the squirrels.

April 11, 2011

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Cowlitz Wildlife Area:
Timber Harvest Roads: Wildlife Area Manager Grabski met with Tacoma Power on the Kosmos Unit to discuss permitting of two harvest roads for Green Diamond Resources. The roads are needed by Green Diamond to access their property for timber harvest. Each road is to be placed off of the 300-line system and would come on to approximately 250 feet through Wildlife Area managed lands.

GAME DIVISION

Mt St Helens Elk Study: WDFW biologists have completed aerial surveys of the Mount St. Helens elk herd. The surveys covered game management units Winston (520), Margaret (524), Coweman (550), Toutle (556), and the Mudflow (Elk Area 5099). A total of 3,618 elk were counted during the first week of surveys and 4,287 elk counted during the 2nd week, the highest count to date. All radio collars were accounted for. Results will contribute to population estimates in future reports.

Monthly Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area Elk Count: Biologists completed the monthly survey of elk on the MSHWA for April. Two hundred six (206) elk were observed on the valley floor, enjoying a rare spring day. All of the elk were observed in one area east of the ford. No composition was attempted as bulls have begun to shed antlers, thus making herd composition very difficult. Green up is taking place on the Wildlife Area and the entire valley floor is looking very nice. Biologists searched for mortalities from the viewpoint but we unable to detect any from the 2,000 foot elevation of the WEYCO visitors center. Mortality surveys will take place in early May to quantify any elk losses this winter.

Western Washington and Oregon Elk Habitat Model Seminar: Biologists Miller and Holman attended the final seminar presenting the elk habitat model generated by the Pacific Northwest Research Station and NCASI (National Council for Air and Stream Improvements). WDFW Biologists from Region 6, Olympia, and Statewide Deer and Elk Specialist McCroquodale attended as well. The new model uses GIS to blend the primary needs of elk (food and security) into quantifiable metrics that can be used to evaluate the value of landscapes and proposed changes to landscapes for elk. The gathering featured speakers highlighting the importance of elk nutrition, model development, and real-world examples of the model when applied to elk habitats on BLM and Forest Service lands in Western Oregon. Thanks to those who developed this powerful tool and the presenters.

Region 5 2010 Elk Harvest: Regional Wildlife Program Manager Jonker and Biologists Koberstein and Holman compiled, discussed, and summarized the draft 2010 Regional elk harvest data. Just over 3,000 elk were taken by hunters in the 2010 Region 5 hunting season. This figure is similar to the harvest of the past several years.

Oregon spotted frog survey
Biologists Anderson and Hallock conducted Oregon spotted frog egg mass surveys this week at Trout Lake.
Common garter snakes
Common garter snakes are starting to emerge from hibernation as we are experiencing periodic warm days in April.

DIVERSITY DIVISION

Oregon Spotted Frog Surveys: Biologists Anderson and Hallock conducted Oregon spotted frog egg mass surveys this week at Trout Lake. Habitat conditions this spring have been very favorable with above normal water levels in traditional breeding locations. Annual egg mass counts provide information on population health and habitat condition. This year’s surveys are not yet complete, but preliminary results indicate a good season for egg mass production.

Common Garter Snake: Common garter snakes are starting to emerge from hibernation as we are experiencing periodic warm days in April. This week Biologists Anderson and Hallock discovered a not often seen “mating ball” of common garter snakes at the Trout Lake. Males snakes tend to emerge out of their dens first, and as soon as the females begin coming out, surround them. Female garter snakes produce a sex-specific pheromone that attracts male snakes in droves, sometimes leading to intense male-male competition and the formation of “mating balls” of up to 20-30 males per female. Garter snakes are ovoviviparous, meaning they give birth to live young.

Columbian White-tailed Deer Status Review. Biologist Koberstein met with Biologist Miller and Program Manager Jonker to review a draft of the status review for the Columbian white-tailed deer (CWTD). A final WDFW draft will be sent out in the near future to all members of the CWTD review team, representing ODFW, USFWS, Columbia Land Trust, and the Cowlitz Tribe of Indians, for review, input, and recommendations for future actions.

WINTER CONDITIONS

D-10 & MSHWA Winter Conditions:

  • Past Weather: November/December conditions were exceptionally wet but with a couple of exceptions, temperatures were within the range of normal. Early and substantial accumulations of snow in the higher areas may have moved animals somewhat sooner than normal. Temperatures during the first half of January were often below normal, resulting in some low elevation snowfall but the coldest weather was combined with dry conditions. Conditions during the latter part of January were warmer than normal with a mix of wet and dry conditions. Most of February was almost spring-like with warm temperatures and relatively dry conditions. The last week of the month, however; saw record cold temperatures and substantial low elevation snow. Prolonged record setting cold and wet weather continued through March and early April.
  • Short-Term Forecast: Conditions are expected to remain cool and wet through the next week with valley high temperatures only in the 40’s and snow as low as 1,000 feet. The 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks both suggest below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation, which could continue to increase snow depths at mid elevations.
  • Long-Term Forecast: The longer term outlook maps now suggest below normal temperatures, as well as above normal precipitation, continuing through April.
  • Habitat: Slopes are snow free below 2000 feet; minor amounts are present at 2500ft and transitions to deep snow (over two feet) at 3000 feet. Animals have been concentrated in the lowest elevation areas for an extended period due to weather conditions. This, combined with a slow and delayed green up, has led to limited forage remaining in areas with the highest animal concentrations including the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area.
  • Snow Depths: In general, areas below 2000 feet are snow free but there is quite a bit of variability depending on location. Snow is deeper above this elevation and is probably limiting forage availability in some areas. Snowpack in the South Cascades is now tracking above normal. See attached spreadsheet for detailed information. (MSH_Sno-Depth-11April2011.pdf).
  • Animal Concentrations: No unusual concentrations noted to date, although animals have been forced to remain in some low areas for longer periods than normal. On at least two recent occasions elk have been completely absent from the public access closure area presumably due to human harassment by individuals violating the closure. 206 elk were present on the mudflow survey area during the most recent survey on April 8th. Previous surveys included 370 elk (December 6th), 248 elk (December 17th), 367 elk (January 3rd), 87 elk (February 1st), and 153 elk (March 4th).
  • Animal Condition: During survey flights and other work over the past two weeks an increasing number of animals have been observed in declining and weak condition. This can be attributed to the recent weather patterns, low elevation snowfall, and resulting concentration of animals in the lowest lying areas that have depleted or reduced the availability of forage resources.
  • Mortality: A number of winter mortalities were observed during recent herd survey flights and other work. These are distributed throughout the study area stretching from Lewis County to Southern Cowlitz County.
  • Public Contacts: A landowner called concerning a winter kill on their recreational property near Swift reservoir. Wildlife Area staff encountered two individuals in the Wildlife Area closure area and asked them to leave. Another group was seen outside the boundary hiking away from the wildlife area carrying elk antlers.

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. See below for a map depicting the closed area.

Closed area for wintering elk.

District 9: Winter Conditions

  • Past Weather: Cooler and wetter than normal weather brought additional snow to the South Cascades over the past two weeks. Snow levels have been primarily above 300 ft where there is an above normal snowpack. Although weather has been unseasonably cold, all habitat below 2500 ft has been open and available to big game.
  • Winter Severity: The Klickitat Wildlife Area has open slopes and good forage ability. Green up has been ongoing for the past month and deer are using all areas of the KWA. Late season deer surveys in Klickitat County indicate lower than normal fawn survival for the winter period. This is generally an indication of stressful winter conditions that cause increased deer mortality. This situation usually is an indicator of moderate to poor hunting conditions the following fall.
  • Habitat: All habitat below 2500 ft is open and forage is generally available.
  • Animal Concentrations: Normal patterns observed for early April with herds of elk being more visible in the Trout Lake and Glenwood valleys.
  • Animal Condition: Animals that have made it through the winter period seem to be in good condition.
  • Mortality: None reported this past two weeks.
  • Public Contacts: No concerns raised by the public this week.

April 4, 2011

GAME DIVISION

Region 5 Deer Management: The annual Spring survey of deer on and near the Klickitat Wildlife Area was conducted on the 22nd and 23rd of March. Wildlife Biologists Anderson and Holman, Klickitat Wildlife Area Manager VanLeuven, Fisheries Biologist Cady, Enforcement Officer Imbrie, and retired Wildlife Area Manager Morrison completed the survey. A total of 395 deer were observed during the effort with 363 classified. The number of classified deer was slightly fewer than the 20-year average of 503 deer.

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.

Grayback GMU Spring Deer Survey Summary 1980-2011

Grayback GMU Spring Deer Survey Summary 1980-2011
Click chart to enlarge

This year's survey resulted in a ratio of 45 fawns per 100 adult deer. This ratio represents a value that is slightly below the mean ratio observed in the 32-year history of the survey, but within the 90% confidence interval. The 2011 survey indicates that the deer present on or near the Klickitat Wildlife Area suffered a typical amount of winter losses during 2010/11. Please see the attached figure (KWASpringSurvey-32YearSummary.pdf) illustrating the fawn to adult ratio recorded on the annual Spring Survey during the past 32 years and the number of deer classified during the past 20 years. In addition to the deer, a group of 37 elk, two flocks of turkeys, several western grey squirrels, and bald eagles were observed as well. Thanks to all those that participated in the annual spring survey.

DIVERSITY DIVISION

As part of a story on the status of elk at St Helens, a crew from Oregon Field Guide, which is a PBS production from Portland, OR, filmed the capture and processing of elk on the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area.
Biologist Miller and Koberstein checked on the Columbian White tailed deer relocated to Cottonwood Island by the Cowlitz Tribe.

Bowman Creek: A 338-acre property was acquired with funds from a variety of sources including the Neal Cameron estate, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation through The Nature Conservancy, Columbia Land Trust’s Klickitat Conservation Fund, and American Bird Conservancy. The property is adjacent to the Klickitat Wildlife Area and to two DNR parcels along Bowman Creek and is located with the Columbia Land Trust’s Klickitat River Conservation Area, an approximately 3,000-acre corridor of protected lands between the mouth of the Klickitat River and Dead Canyon. The property contains some of the best western gray squirrel habitat in the state of Washington, with 260 nests on the 100-acres surveyed to date. A survey of the remaining acreage is underway in March, 2011. The property is primarily comprised of oak and pine woodland, but also includes a seasonal stream, a spring-fed perennial stream, and a portion of Bowman Creek frontage. Bowman Creek is used by Mid-Columbia River ESU Steelhead for spawning, as is the Little Klickitat River, which is just downstream. Future management of the property will include stream enhancement, garbage removal, noxious weed control, understory restoration, oak release, pine woodland enhancement, and public access management

Columbian White tailed deer: Biologist Miller and Koberstein checked on the Columbian White tailed deer relocated to Cottonwood Island by the Cowlitz Tribe. Five of the seven deer were found with 2 of the signals appearing to come from the OR mainland near Rainier. The Cowlitz Tribe grant has expired and it is unknown if the deer are being monitored for movements from the release site. Biologists from USFWS and WDFW will continue to check on the deer occasionally.

HABITAT MANAGEMENT/HYDROPOWER MITIGATION

Pacificorps Annual Plan: Biologist Holman cooperated with Habitat Program Major Projects Division to generate comments on the 2011 Wildlife Habitat Management Plan for the Lewis River Projects. Collectively Pacificorps and Cowlitz PUD own and manage nearly 12,000 acres of wildlife habitat lands in accordance with their Federal operation license for hydropower on the North Fork Lewis River. The Utilities do an excellent job of managing these lands for a variety of habitats. The 2011 plan looks like another good year is in store for the mitigation lands associated with these projects.

WINTER CONDITIONS

D-10 & MSHWA Winter Conditions:

  • Past Weather: November/December conditions were exceptionally wet but with a couple of exceptions, temperatures were within the range of normal. Early and substantial accumulations of snow in the higher areas may have moved animals somewhat sooner than normal. Temperatures during the first half of January were often below normal, resulting in some low elevation snowfall but the coldest weather was combined with dry conditions. Conditions during the latter part of January were warmer than normal with a mix of wet and dry conditions. Most of February was almost spring-like with warm temperatures and relatively dry conditions. The last week of the month, however; saw record cold temperatures and substantial low elevation snow that continued into early March. So far, the remainder of March has been much colder and wetter than normal with continued snowfall down to 2000 feet.
  • Short-Term Forecast: Conditions are expected to remain cool and wet through the end of the month, with snow levels ranging from 2,000 to 6,000 feet. The 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks both suggest near normal temperatures and above normal precipitation, which is a bit more moderate, but could continue to increase snow depths at mid elevations.
  • Long-Term Forecast: The longer term outlook maps now suggest below normal temperatures, as well as above normal precipitation, continuing through April.
  • Habitat: Slopes are snow free below 2000 feet; minor amounts are present at 2500ft and transitions to deep snow (over two feet) at 3000 feet. Local forecasters are suggesting a modest and gradual warming trend, which would gradually improve range availability at mid elevations. Animals have been concentrated at the lowest elevation areas recently due to conditions. This combined with a slow and delayed green up has led to limited forage remaining in areas with the highest animal concentrations including the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area.
  • Snow Depths: In general, areas below 2000 feet are snow free but there is quite a bit of variability depending on location. Snow is deeper above this elevation and is probably limiting forage availability in some areas. Snowpack in the South Cascades is now tracking above normal. See attached spreadsheet for detailed information. (MSH_Sno-Depth-29March2011.pdf).
  • Animal Concentrations: No unusual concentrations noted to date. 153 elk were present on the mudflow survey area during the most recent survey on March 4th. Previous surveys included 370 elk (December 6th), 248 elk (December 17th), 367 elk (January 3rd), and 87 elk (February 1st).
  • Animal Condition: During survey flights some animals have been observed in declining and weak condition, which is understandable given the recent weather patterns, low elevation snowfall, and resulting concentration of animals in the lowest lying areas.
  • Mortality: A number of winter mortalities were observed during recent herd survey flights.
  • Public Contacts: One caller reported finding a winter mortality with hoof rot. Another called to report two individuals in the closed portion of the Wildlife Area chasing elk on foot in an attempt to get them to drop their antlers.

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.