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
January 2012

January 17

GOAL 1: Conserve and protect native fish and wildlife

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT

Western Pond Turtles: Biologist Holman completed work on the annual report to Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), summarizing work done related to western pond turtle management in the Columbia River Gorge area. Activities included significant habitat improvements at all four pond turtle sites, collection of young for the head-start program, mark/re-capture population investigations, environmental education, turtle releases, increased predator control efforts, etc. A couple of highlights of this year's work include the collection of 46 hatchling western pond turtles from the wild and the release of 40 head-started pond turtles back into the four populations within the Columbia River Gorge. This release brings the total count of head-started individuals released into the Gorge to 1284 since 1991. Thanks to BPA for their 2011 funding of the Western pond turtle work.

Sandhill Cranes: Biologist Anderson met with Joe Engler (USFWS) and Gary Ivey (Crane Foundation) to discuss development of a report/paper summarizing breeding sandhill crane population changes in Washington over the past 20 years. This effort would provide an analysis of data collected over the years primarily at Conboy National Wildlife Refuge. The sandhill crane was listed as endangered in Washington in 1981 primarily to protect and manage the small breeding population found in Klickitat and Yakima counties.

Mid Winter Waterfowl Survey/ Canada Goose Neck Collar Survey: Biologists Miller and Bergh completed the mid winter waterfowl surveys and dark goose collar surveys in District 10 this week (MWI-Survey.JPG). Duck distribution was impacted by recent weather patterns in SW Washington. Some survey locations that normally produce 1000’s of ducks had none this year during the survey time period. Low/no water levels in upland areas were mostly the cause with much of west Lewis County having little to no sheet water in fields that normally produce lots of ducks for the count. The January dark goose neck collar survey was also conducted, biologists observed 300+ cacklers and 3 neck collars in 2 flocks. Few/no duskys were observed in our survey area and on the JBH National Wildlife Refuge where we normally see quite a few. Anecdotal reports of few birds in area by hunter also support the idea that birds have moved out of the area after the storm in December.

St Helens Elk Study: District Wildlife Biologist Miller contacted National Volcanic Monument USFS personnel to secure entry permits into the NVM during this year’s elk captures if needed. District 10 biologists also contacted hunters that harvested elk with radio collars during the January permit hunts, both of the radio collars were GPS equipped and recovering them is a high priority to secure the habitat use information stored on board.

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Shillapoo Wildlife Area:
Estuary MOA Feasibility Study Update: Program Manager Jonker and Wildlife Area Manager Calkins attended a meeting at the Corps of Engineers Portland District office for an update on the Corps proposed approach to studying the feasibility of reconnecting the Shillapoo Lakebed to the Columbia River. The Corps proposes a phased approach with an evaluation of real estate issues and potential relocation of a petroleum pipeline to be completed prior to other work. Further evaluation of benefits to juvenile salmon was also added to the first phase as a result of the meeting. Acquisition of private lands and security of the pipeline are two major hurdles that need to be resolved before being able to proceed with an intertidal restoration project here. Thus, BPA and the Corps want to make certain that there is a likelihood that these can be overcome before investing in the rest of the study components.

Wood Duck Nest Boxes: Wildlife Area Assistant Manager Hauswald and Technician Boylan spent a day installing new wood duck nest boxes in the North and Vancouver Lake Units of the Shillapoo Wildlife Area. Installation of the boxes was made easier this year due to the unusually low water levels in the wetland basins. In most of the areas where the nest boxes were installed, the water level was less than a foot deep where it is typically 2-3 feet deep this time of year.

GOAL 4: Maintain a highly skilled and motivated workforce.

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

New District 10 Biologist Reports for Duty: This week, Stefanie Bergh reported for work in Region 5 Wildlife Program. She hails from the Midwest but has many work and education experiences from across the US and abroad. Staff completed the new hire paperwork and began the task of orienting her to the Region and the job. She participated in the monthly elk survey at MSHWA, the MWI in Lewis County, secured some field gear and a vehicle (which broke down upon its first use in 5 months), spent a day with Fish and Wildlife Officer Martin in the 550 and 520 units during a patrol of January permit hunting for antlerless elk, spent a day on boat orientation and travel on the Columbia River, and began planning for tasks in January and February. Our biologists hit the ground running in Region 5!

WINTER CONDITIONS

D-10 & MSHWA Winter Conditions:

  • Past Weather: November temperatures were below normal and precipitation was slightly above average. Snow accumulated in mid and low elevations early in the month but was later melted off by a major warm rainstorm. Most of the month of December was unusually dry with below normal temperatures except the last week, which was warm and wet. The first half of January was mild with relatively warm and dry conditions.
  • Short-Term Forecast: Low elevation snow is expected early in the week. Snow depths could be significant in the valleys and then snow levels are expected to transition to around 3,000 feet. The 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks suggest near normal temperatures and above average precipitation.
  • Long-Term Forecast: No Change. The longer term outlook maps suggest below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation throughout the winter but it appears now that spring may be more moderate than previously forecast.
  • Habitat: Lower elevation areas currently have little snow cover making for reasonable forage availability. Green herbaceous forage in the most desirable sites on the Wildlife Area is about at 50-60% utilization based on visual estimates, with lighter use in other sites that are not intensively managed. Use of shrubs (willow) has been heavy in some areas but light in others. Least desirable plants show little use (certain sedges, scotch broom, etc.).
  • Snow Depths: Areas below 3000 feet remain mostly snow free. Snowpack is well below average. See attached spreadsheet for detailed information.
  • Animal Concentrations: No unusual concentrations noted to date. 176 elk were present in the mudflow monitoring area during a survey January 3, 2012. This and the previous December 5, 2011 total of 116 elk are below levels that would raise concerns.
  • Animal Condition: No reports of animals in poor condition that can be attributed to winter conditions. Animals observed to date appear to be in reasonably good condition. Some animals on the Wildlife Area are showing rough pelage, but none look to be in severe decline.
  • Mortality: None to report.
  • Public Contacts: None to report related to winter conditions.
  • The public is reminded that the Mudflow Unit 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: Winter Conditions

  • Past Weather: Dry conditions continue and snowpack is well below normal for this time of year. Average temperatures have decreased.
  • Winter Severity: The Klickitat Wildlife Area is snow-free and forage habitat available. There is no 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 are snow-free and deer are reported to be in good condition.
  • Habitat: Habitat is open and forage habitat continues to be available throughout District 9.
  • Animal Concentrations: None noticed or reported.
  • Animal Condition: Deer and elk appear to be in good condition and no winter stress/mortality has been reported except for a few road kills.
  • Mortality: None documented this week.
  • Public Contacts: No concerns raised by the public this week.

January 9

GOAL 1: Conserve and protect native fish and wildlife

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT

Mount St. Helens Wildlife Area Elk Survey: Biologists Miller and Bergh conducted the monthly winter survey for elk on the Mount St. Helens Wildlife Area on January 3, 2012. Elk were mainly using the eastern 2/3 of the valley floor with elk observed as far east as the Coldwater Creek ridge. This is indicative of average winter distribution with no unusually large groupings observed. There were 176 elk on the valley floor with a calf to cow ratio of 42:100. All elk observed were in reasonably good condition with normal pelage. Weather during the survey was mostly cloudy, but clearing with good visibility to the valley floor. Snow level was approximately 3,500 ft.

Mid-Winter Waterfowl Surveys: Biologist Anderson conducted waterfowl surveys from Bonneville Dam to John Day Dam along the Columbia River. Conditions were unseasonably warm with open water throughout the survey area. Preliminary results indicate overall waterfowl numbers are down although large rafts of scaup were seen in traditional areas of the Bonneville Pool, typical of this time of year. Of special note were several small rafts of redheads seen in Skamania County. These birds tend to be seen more on the east side of the Cascades in the winter and considered rare for Skamania County.

Biologists Holman and George conducted the midwinter waterfowl survey from the mouth of the Washougal River upstream along the Columbia to Bonneville dam. Winter conditions are extremely mild and lower than average numbers of waterfowl were found occupying these habitats. Specifically, just 3 tundra swans, roughly 1000 geese (mostly cackling and western Canadas) along with about 750 ducks were documented during the effort. These counts are roughly half of historic averages.

Post Season Deer Surveys: Biologist Holman and Fisheries Biologist Cady conducted a ground-based post-season deer survey in portions of GMU 382 (East Klickitat). Winter conditions to date are extremely mild, the East Klickitat GMU is almost entirely snow free and deer populations are scattered. Approximately 142 deer were observed during the effort. Buck to doe and fawn to doe ratios will be calculated and summarized in future reports. In addition, Technician White and Biologist Stephens conducted deer surveys on gated Hancock Forest Management lands in GMU 578 in the Glenwood area on January 3 and 4. A total of 32 deer were counted including 2 bucks, 18 does, 8 fawns and 3 unknown.

GOAL 2: Provide sustainable fishing, hunting and other wildlife-related recreational experiences.

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT

SW Washington Goose season: Harvest rates increased slightly this week to 1.86 geese per hunter. The first goose hunting week in the New Year had check stations checking in a total of 112 geese from 60 hunters. In addition, no duskies were harvested this week. As a result, all of the zones, with the exception of zone 1, will remain open to goose hunting in the coming week. So far this season hunters have checked in 1,298 geese harvested from Management Area 2 with an overall harvest rate at 2.02 geese per hunter. That is an overall increase from 1.90 geese per hunter this time last year.

PRIVATE LANDS / ACCESS

St. Helens Land Access Program: Biologist Stephens supervised volunteers working on the St. Helens Lands Access Program on Weyerhaeuser property this week to facilitate weekday motorized access for hunters in the Coweeman and Winston GMUs.

GOAL 4: Maintain a highly skilled and motivated workforce.

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Pesticide License Recertification: Wildlife Area Manager Calkins and Assistant Manager Hauswald attended a two day pesticide license recertification course at Washington State University in Vancouver this week. The course was coordinated by the University and Washington State Department of Agriculture, and allows license holders to earn recertification credits and keep up to date with regulations regarding pesticide use. Other topics such as biological control and other innovative options are also included in the curriculum.

WINTER CONDITIONS

D-10 & MSHWA Winter Conditions:

  • Past Weather: November temperatures were below normal and precipitation was slightly above average. Snow accumulated in mid and low elevations early in the month but was later melted off by a major warm rainstorm. Most of the month of December was unusually dry with below normal temperatures except the last week, which was warm and wet. Early January has been mild with warm and dry conditions.
  • Short-Term Forecast: Mild conditions are expected to continue over the next week. We may see some lower elevation snow, but generally snow levels will be above 3000 feet. The 6-10 day outlook is for normal temperatures and precipitation. The 8-14 day outlook suggests below normal temperatures and precipitation in the normal range.
  • Long-Term Forecast: No Change. The longer term outlook maps suggest below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation throughout the winter but it appears now that spring may be more moderate than previously forecast.
  • Habitat: Lower elevation areas currently have little snow cover making for reasonable forage availability.
  • Snow Depths: Areas below 3000 feet remain mostly snow free. Snowpack is well below average. See attached spreadsheet for detailed information.
  • Animal Concentrations: No unusual concentrations noted to date. 176 elk were present in the mudflow monitoring area during a survey January 3, 2012. This and the previous December 5, 2011 total of 116 elk are below levels that would raise concerns.
  • Animal Condition: No reports of animals in poor condition that can be attributed to winter conditions. Animals observed to date appear to be in good condition.
  • Mortality: None to report.
  • Public Contacts: None to report related to winter conditions.
  • The public is reminded that the Mudflow Unit 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: Winter Conditions

  • Past Weather: Very mild and warm conditions were seen this week. Snowpack is well below normal for this time of year and very little snow is found below 4000 ft.
  • Winter Severity: The Klickitat Wildlife Area is snow-free and forage habitat available. There is no 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 are snow-free and deer are reported to be in good condition.
  • Habitat: Habitat is open and forage habitat continues to be available throughout District 9.
  • Animal Concentrations: None to note
  • Animal Condition: Deer and elk appear to be in good condition and no winter stress/mortality has been reported except for a few road kills.
  • Mortality: None documented this week.
  • Public Contacts: No concerns raised by the public this week.

January 2

GOAL 1: Conserve and protect native fish and wildlife

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT

Western Pond Turtles: Biologist Holman continued work on the annual report to Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), summarizing work done related to western pond turtle management in the Columbia River Gorge area. This year various tasks were undertaken, including continuation of the head-start program which resulted in collection of 74 juvenile turtles. Other activities included significant habitat improvements at all four pond turtle sites, mark/re-capture population investigations, environmental education, turtle releases, increased predator control efforts, etc. Thanks to BPA for their 2011 funding of the Western pond turtle work.

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Shillapoo Wildlife Area:
Water Control Structure Repair: Staff installed a headwall on one of the South Unit water control structures to address a leak which had progressively been getting worse over the course of several years. Part of the project, which involved digging a trench for the steel wall, was monitored by an archaeologist from BPA. All of the work was done by hand in this case as there was very little digging involved and we wanted to make certain that the material was well compacted beneath and around the pipe as it was replaced. This work was planned for earlier in the year but was deferred because of other workload. The unusually dry conditions in early December allowed us to complete the repair at a time when the pond is ordinarily holding water. With the recent weather change and rise in the Columbia River, we should be able to begin delivering water to this and other ponds on the South Unit within the next week.

Floodplain Lakes Literature Review: Wildlife Area Manager Calkins reviewed a draft literature review document addressing floodplain lakes that had been prepared by Estuary MOA staff in the region. One interesting point seems to be how little is known about juvenile salmon use of lakes, but there is a significant amount of knowledge relating to sloughs and other intertidal channels. Calkins spent time reviewing literature available on line and will be recommending some additional documents to be included in the document. One document of particular interest was work by the USFWS studying predation on juvenile Chinook in Lake Washington by both native and non native predatory fish. This research found lower levels of predation in the lake than may have been expected but higher levels in its’ outlet canal.

GOAL 2: Provide sustainable fishing, hunting and other wildlife-related recreational experiences.

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT

Post Season Deer Surveys: Biologist Anderson conducted a post-season deer survey in the western region of GMU 578 (West Klickitat). This area is a mix of agricultural and forest land dominated by mix conifer and oak. This area is generally considered to be an important wintering area for black-tailed deer especially in the Rattlesnake Creek drainage. December weather has been especially mild and few deer concentrations have been noted so far in preliminary survey efforts. Additional surveys will continue into first week of January. In addition, Technician White contacted Hancock Forest Management to obtain permission to conduct post-season deer surveys on their property.

SW Washington Goose season: Harvest rates were slightly lower for hunters over the past couple of weeks based on the three check stations checking in an average of 1.7 geese per hunter. In spite of this and the holiday season, attendance was still steady at all three stations. Two duskies were harvested out of management area 2A since the 21st of December. One was harvested out of zone 3 and the other from Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. The goose harvested from Ridgefield was the final dusky remaining in their quota. As a result, zone 1 has closed to goose hunting for the remainder of the 2011-2012 season. Zones 2-5 will continue to remain open to goose hunting with many opportunities still available to go hunting.

Canada goose population surveys: In cooperation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Region 5 Wildlife Biologists conducted surveys for Canada geese in selected areas of southwest Washington. The survey is focused on dusky Canada geese and involves locating flocks of duskies and examining the birds for neck collars. Population information generated via wintering observations in southwest Washington and northwest Oregon are compiled with data generated from aerial surveys of the geese on their breeding grounds in the Copper River delta of Alaska to develop a robust population estimate. Biologist Holman conducted the survey in the Woodland Bottoms and Kalama River areas of Cowlitz County. Few geese were observed, and no duskies were located.

PRIVATE LANDS / ACCESS

Special Permit Hunts: Biologist Stephens fielded many calls from permit hunters regarding access to the Coweeman and Winston antlerless elk hunts that take place Jan. 1-16. Technician White provided master hunters with a permit for Special Elk Hunt 2719 in the Trout Lake Valley with landowner contact information for planning this hunt.

GOAL 3: Use sound business practices, deliver high-quality customer service.

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Shillapoo Wildlife Area:
South Unit Pump Water Meter: Electricians from the Lacey Construction Shop installed a new flow meter on the pump station used to fill seasonal wetlands on the South Unit of the Shillapoo Wildlife Area. This meter is needed for compliance with our water rights permit from the Department of Ecology. Wildlife Area staff have been waiting for the installation of the flow meter ever since the old meter broke three winters ago. Unfortunately, the meter installed did not work well for this particular system. The meter seems to be accurate with reading the gallons per minute on the larger of the two pumps, but we believe that the meter is not accurate in monitoring the output of our smaller pump. The installers indicate that this is probably a result of turbulence in the pipe due to the joint configuration that they had not accounted for. We were also informed that the new meter is not waterproof and since it is mounted below the flood level, it will probably need to be replaced every time we have a significant high water event. At this point no suggestions for other alternatives were made other than to repair the original meter. We had been pursuing a new meter because the original one had broken twice.

Fence Repair Due to Metal Theft: Wildlife Area Assistant Manager Hauswald repaired a fence along one side of the North Parking Lot on the South Unit. He discovered that almost all of the metal T posts were missing and the wire was in disarray. After checking with others within the Department that may have been working on repairing the fence, we have surmised that the posts were stolen for their scrap metal value.

Storage Reorganization: Wildlife Area Assistant Manager Hauswald cleaned and reorganized a portion of our storage space at the regional office. In addition to general efficiencies, a main objective was to relocate the parking for his vehicle. This should save him a significant amount of time and inconvenience that has occurred in the past when objects or vehicles left by others were blocking the path that he needed to get into or out of the secured area. During the cleanup, a number of items were located and positioned to be surplused or otherwise disposed of. In addition, Hauswald began the preparations for surplus disposal of two vehicles.

Reader Board Repair: Wildlife Area Assistant Manager Hauswald and Technician Boylan installed a new roof on the Vancouver Lake Unit reader board and replaced the main sign backing board which had holes from several shotgun blasts. This reader board had been partially repaired last year following its’ complete destruction by vandals. Additional painting will be necessary at the next opportunity when we have reasonably warm and dry weather.

WINTER CONDITIONS

D-10 & MSHWA Winter Conditions:

  • Past Weather: November temperatures were below normal and precipitation was slightly above average. Snow accumulated in mid and low elevations early in the month but was later melted off by a major warm rainstorm. Most of the month of December was unusually dry with below normal temperatures except the last week, which was warm and wet.
  • Short-Term Forecast: Temperatures are expected to be mild over the next week with substantial amounts of precipitation. We may see some lower elevation snow, but generally snow levels will be above 3000 feet. The 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks both suggest temperatures and precipitation in the normal range.
  • Long-Term Forecast: No Change. The longer term outlook maps suggest below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation throughout the winter but it appears now that spring may be more moderate than previously forecast.
  • Habitat: Lower elevation areas currently have little snow cover making for reasonable forage availability and the recent rains have melted much of the snow in the higher elevations. We will attempt to assess conditions on the Wildlife Area again next week if schedule permits. The recent rains and resulting runoff create some concern of habitat losses due to erosion.
  • Snow Depths: Areas below 3000 feet remain mostly snow free, but this is likely to change over the next week. Snowpack is well below average. See attached spreadsheet for detailed information.
  • Animal Concentrations: No unusual concentrations noted to date. On December 5, 2011 a total of 116 elk were present in the Mudflow Unit monitoring area, which is below levels that would raise concerns. Another count will occur in the first part of January when weather conditions are suitable.
  • Animal Condition: No reports of animals in poor condition that can be attributed to winter conditions. Animals observed to date appear to be in good condition.
  • Mortality: None to report.
  • Public Contacts: None to report related to winter conditions.
  • The public is reminded that the Mudflow Unit 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: Winter Conditions

  • Past Weather: Heavy rainfall came into the South Cascades this week, but snow levels remain high. Snowpack is well below normal for this time of year. Average temperatures have increased and conditions are more typical of early fall.
  • Winter Severity: The Klickitat Wildlife Area is snow-free and forage habitat available. There is no 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 are snow-free and deer are reported to be in good condition.
  • Habitat: Habitat is open and forage habitat continues to be available throughout District 9.
  • Animal Concentrations: Biologists continued with deer surveys in Klickitat County this week and deer were not seen in concentrations suggesting any winter stress.
  • Animal Condition: Deer and elk appear to be in good condition and no winter stress/mortality has been reported except for a few road kills.
  • Mortality: None documented this week.
 
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