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Guy Norman

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Southwest Washington
Wildlife Report Archives

Southwest Washington Wildlife Report Archives
March 2011

March 21, 2011

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Cowlitz Wildlife Area:
Annual Report: The Wildlife Area annual report has been completed and submitted to Tacoma Power for review. The report is a required document for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) summarizing the Wildlife Area’s annual accomplishments, operating budget, acquisitions, and next year’s expectations.

GAME DIVISION

Mount St Helens Elk Survey. WDFW staff conducted aerial surveys of the Mount St. Helens elk herd this week. The survey area was broken down into 17 blocks in the Winston, Coweeman, Margaret, Loowit, and Toutle GMUs. Staff used a mark-recapture model to estimate population numbers based on collars re-sighted and total elk observed. This is the third year the project has also collected data on sightability of the elk, which helps staff determine how representative their survey results are. Elk overall appeared in good condition and a small number of mortalities were observed throughout the area. The survey effort will be replicated at the end of March.

DIVERSITY DIVISION

Western Pond Turtle Management: Biologists Holman and Stephens represented Region 5 at an annual meeting to discuss issues related to western pond turtles. Staff from Region 6 and Olympia, as well as the Portland and Seattle Zoos, were in attendance as well. The meeting featured a review of 2010 activities, discussion of plans for the 2011 season, numbering systems, data management, habitat management, environmental education, and turtle health.

Western Gray Squirrel: Biologist Anderson provided assistance to the Habitat Division in reviewing a 250 acre forest practice in western gray squirrel habitat along the Klickitat River. This project is surrounded on three sides by state land and has significant WGS habitat on the property. A survey will need to be done on the property to evaluate the number of WGS nests potentially impacted.

Bald Eagle: Biologist Miller was contacted by a DNR FPA forester and advised of a new eagle nest found during logging near the Kalama River. Harvest has taken place up to the nest and the core nest area was impacted on one side. 12 acres of harvested timber is on the ground and will need to be removed before the timber rots. Miller will meet with landowner to salvage some habitat for the eagle and allow harvest to accomplish landowner goals.

March 14, 2011

GAME DIVISION

Area 2A Late Canada Goose Season:  The Late Canada Goose Season, which takes place on farms impacted by wintering geese and is open to Master Hunters, concluded on March 9th.  A total of 150 geese were harvested during the ten hunt days, the breakdown of harvest by county is as follows: Clark- 118, Cowlitz- 26, Wahkiakum- 6.  A total of five landowners requested hunt parties on their land during the season.  All 77 of the Master Hunters who applied for the late season were offered hunts and all but six hunters were able to schedule at least one hunt day.

Canada Goose Roost Surveys:  Regional Wildlife Program Staff participated in a broad-scale roost survey for Canada geese.  In cooperation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and WDFW, the surveys were simultaneously conducted throughout southwest Washington and northwest Oregon.  This project aims to assess wintering goose numbers with a synchronized effort as Pacific fly-way managers seek methods of better understanding actual aggregations.  Protocol for the survey required pre-sunrise arrival at known goose roosts, followed by tallies of exit flights and an attempt at classifying the geese into subspecies.  Data generated from this effort has been submitted to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for analysis.

DIVERSITY DIVISION

US Forest Service Coordination Meeting:  Biologist Anderson met with USFS Scenic Area biologist to plan raptor surveys in the Columbia River Gorge for 2011.  The USFS will assist with golden eagle and peregrine falcon sites.

Oregon Spotted Frogs:  Biologist Anderson conducted the first early season check to determine if water conditions are right for the laying of egg masses by Oregon Spotted Frogs at the Trout Lake Natural Area.  Results indicated that water levels were adequate but temperatures were too cold for egg masses.  Follow-up surveys will be conducted weekly through the month of March to monitor this population.

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 February however, saw record cold temperatures and substantial low elevation snow that continued into early March.  Over the past week these conditions have moderated but snow levels have continued in the range of 2000 feet.
  • Short-Term Forecast:  Generally wet for the next week with snow levels ranging from 2,500 to 4,000 feet.  The 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks both suggest a continuation of below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation, which could continue to increase snow depths at mid or even low elevations. 
  • Long-Term Forecast:  No Change.  The longer term outlook maps suggest below normal temperatures continuing into spring and above normal precipitation through March.
  • Habitat:  Snow has melted off south facing slopes below 2000 feet and is diminishing on lower north facing slopes as well.  The current condition combined with the forecast will probably keep most animals concentrated in the lowest winter range areas.  We noted this week that forage is available on the newer westernmost portions of the Wildlife Area (Hoffstadt Unit).  The Mudflow Unit to the east has not been visited recently due to snow depths on the access roads. 
  • Snow Depths:  Although snow is present below 2500 feet, depths are probably not limiting forage availability.  Snow is deeper above this elevation and will probably increase in the near term.  Snowpack in the South Cascades is now tracking above normal.  See attached spreadsheet for detailed information. (MSH_Sno-Depth-14March2011.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:  With the exception of one animal that appeared to have hoof rot, elk on the Wildlife Area and in the vicinity continue to appear to be in good condition.  No obvious outward signs of winter stress have been reported in animals observed to date.
  • Mortality:  None reported that are likely attributable to winter conditions.
  • Public Contacts:  Responded to a letter received by the Director’s office and the Wildlife Area Manager regarding a recommendation to close additional portions of the Wildlife Area to public access to protect elk.

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:  New snow has fallen in the last two week increasing snow pack to more normal March levels.  Snow accumulations are at approximately 6” at 2000 ft. elevation in the South Cascades.  Recent snow at the Klickitat Wildlife Area has melted and most south facing slopes are open.
  • Short-Term Forecast:  For the next week we expect normal March wet and cool weather.
  • Habitat:  Recent rains have saturated open ground and we are seeing the early stages of spring green-up at elevations below 1200 ft.
  • Snow Depths:  Snowpack in the South Cascades has improved in the past two weeks as previous levels were below average.
  • Animal Concentrations:  Small groups of elk have been seen around Conboy National Wildlife Refuge indicating some movement to open areas at lower elevation.  Deer are starting to concentrate on south facing slopes at the Klickitat Wildlife Area, typical of their behavior this time of the year.
  • Animal Condition:  No obvious outward signs of winter stress have been noted in animals observed to date.
  • Mortality:  None reported.
  • Public Contacts:  None to report regarding winter conditions.

March 7, 2011

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Shillapoo Wildlife Area:
Estuary Habitat Feasibility Study Update: A number of meetings have occurred recently to discuss various aspects of this study. Most notably was a meeting to review the project status with Habitat and Wildlife Program staff from Olympia. This discussion included a presentation on current management, potential options to reestablish intertidal conditions in Shillapoo Lake, and how to best evaluate what the outcome would be in terms of habitat quality for avian and terrestrial species as well as fish. The primary emphasis currently is directed toward evaluating how commitments related to past funding sources and other real estate interests on the land might influence this management change. In addition, Wildlife Area Manager Calkins interacted frequently this week with Habitat Staff involved in the MOA study to identify potential enhancement sites for juvenile fish. He also attended a related meeting with the Corps and BPA and provided background on many of the sites covered, both on WDFW and other ownerships he has been involved with over the years.

Field Activities: Assistant Manager Hauswald and Technician Fox completed tree planting for this season. This year a total of about 2800 rooted trees and shrubs and 700 wildlings were planted in six riparian, oak, and forested wetland enhancement sites. The process of installing mats and tubes around the rooted stock is now well under way and was completed in the south portion of the Lake River riparian planting. Recent cold wet weather has made access into some of the sites very difficult, which may delay continuation of the work. The two also made adjustments to water control structures due to increased flows and placed sandbags as a temporary repair where one of the earthen berms had been damaged.

Watchable Wildlife: A variety of ducks and geese using the Wildlife Area, often numbering in the thousands, were observed during waterfowl surveys that are conducted twice per week in selected areas. Staff ask visitors at this time of year to remain in parking areas and roadside pull-offs and stay out of the fields to allow the birds undisturbed feeding and resting areas to build fat reserves for their spring migration and breeding season. Minimal disturbance on public lands also helps to keep geese, in particular, off of private agricultural lands where they can sometimes cause significant damage. One other notable sighting this week was an unusual white-crowned sparrow with an almost white body.

GAME DIVISION

Post-Season Elk Surveys: Biologist Holman summarized last week's post-season elk survey flights over Game Management Units 554 (Yale), 572 (Siouxon), and 560 (Lewis River). Survey conditions were very good for the effort with clear, cold skies and a large amount of low-elevation snow as a backdrop. Accordingly, elk were concentrated at the lower elevation portions of their range, and more visible than usual. A total of 393 elk were observed in the 3 GMUs with 383 classified. The Lewis River Unit was most productive with 269 animals classified. The pooled age and sex ratios for the 3 Units are as follows: 36 Calves: 100 Cows: 13 Bulls. These data will be compiled with other Regional elk survey efforts and included in the annual PR report for elk.

St. Helens Elk Study / Elk Body Condition Evaluations: Regional Wildlife Program Staff prepared and mailed Thank You letters to elk hunters who submitted elk organ samples for evaluation. The heart, pericardium, incisors, and kidneys were requested of those who took cow elk in the St. Helens Herd GMUs during 2010. One-hundred and thirty elk hunters submitted organs for evaluation of body condition and age. Thanks again to those who submitted samples and therefore contributed towards a better understanding of St. Helens elk ecology.

Mount St Helens Elk Survey. Biologists Miller and Koberstein visited the Mount St Helens area for the monthly elk count. Nineteen radio frequencies were heard with no mortality signals, but due to poor visibility and a high amount of snowfall on the valley floor, an accurate count could not be conducted. Staff returned to the Wildlife Area later in the week when conditions were more favorable to conduct the count. A total of 153 elk were observed, and 22 radio frequencies were heard. Snow had melted over large portions of the valley floor where the elk were observed, although the majority of the survey area still had snow cover. Several groups of elk were also observed along Hwy 504, and all looked reasonably healthy based on behavior and appearance. No mortalities or signs of animal stress were detected during the survey.

Dusky Canada Goose Surveys: Biologist Holman conducted a survey of Canada geese in the Woodland Bottoms and Kalama area. These surveys are part of a USFWS coordinated effort to estimate the population of dusky Canada geese. Surveys take place throughout the winter months in Southwest Washington and Northwest Oregon. Several-hundred geese were located during the survey comprised primarily of cackling, Taverner's, and western Canada geese. Four duskies were identified in the Kalama area.

Area 2A Late Canada Goose Season: The Late Canada Goose Season continues until Wednesday, March 9th. A total of 114 birds have been harvested from the farms of five participating landowners in Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties. Most of the 77 master hunters that signed up for the late season have had at least one hunting opportunity. In order to participate, hunters must be Master Hunter Program graduates and also have a SW Washington Canada Goose Authorization.

DIVERSITY DIVISION

BLM Critical Areas Review: Biologist Anderson is reviewing lands in the Klickitat and Rock Creek drainages as part of a BLM Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) review. The goal of the project is to provide WDFW comment on the value/significance of BLM lands in select drainages related to priority wildlife habitats and species protection. In Klickitat County the BLM has several scattered properties in both drainages that have connectivity to adjacent state lands with priority habitats and species. This project will allow WDFW to identify the importance of these sites to the BLM.