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
May 2006

May 1, 2006


Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area Forage Maintenance: Wildlife Area Assistant Manager Hauswald has been fertilizing elk forage on the mudflow over the past three weeks. Approximately 68 acres have been fertilized to date and lime has been applied to about 40 acres as well. Weed control work is also expected to get underway this week with the help of WDFW's Western Washington Weed Crew to hand spray scotchbroom on the area.

A volunteer work party is scheduled on May 6th to plant seed over an eroded area near the eastern part of the wildlife area. Hauswald and Volunteer Mike Braaten will lead this effort. A second work party is scheduled for May 13th to begin pulling and cutting scotch broom in an area where we hope to rehabilitate a forage stand where the productivity has dropped. Work on this site will continue into the summer.


Peregrine Falcon Monitoring: Occupancy surveys continue for this year's statewide peregrine falcon monitoring. These surveys are part of ongoing monitoring of Peregrine Falcons by both Washington State and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Birds have been reported at most historic sites and current efforts are focused on determining if sites support a breeding pair. Biologist Holman reports that the Table Mountain peregrine site is occupied by the falcons and that he has located their nesting ledge and observed incubation.

Western Pond Turtle: A total of 133 turtles have been captured so far this year at Sondino Ranch and Bergen Road. Transmitters have been placed on 14 female turtles. Of the 14 females, 6 are all wild and 8 are head-start turtles. Habitat conditions at all sites in the Columbia River Gorge are excellent this year as winter rains have benefited critical wetlands.


Mt St. Helens Winter Mortality Survey: The final Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Winter Mortality Survey was conducted on April 25th with the help of volunteers from RMEF, the Mt. St. Helens Preservation Society and 14 students from Toutle High School. During the survey, participants spread out covering sections of the remaining mudflow area where most of the elk use occurs. When a dead elk is found the location is documented by GPS coordinates and the age and sex are recorded. Bone marrow from the femurs is also evaluated to determine body fat condition.

During the survey a total of 38 new elk mortalities were observed that had not been located in previous surveys this winter. This brings this years total for the survey area to 63 which is the second highest total since 1999 when the surveys began. In that year a total of 79 winter mortalities were recorded.

The Region 5 Wildlife Program Staff extend their thanks to all of the volunteers who participated.

The Lower Columbia River Canada Goose Nest Survey took place last week resulting in some unusual finds. Canada goose on nest.
Canada goose nest with unusual "eggs." Unusual goose egg found on ground.

Lower Columbia River Canada Goose nest survey: The annual survey of Canada goose nests took place last week. These nest counts are conducted on the same series of islands in the Lower Columbia to maintain continuity of the data.

The survey is carried out on foot. Every nest that is found is documented for habitat type, number of eggs and evidence of incubation. See image to the right for a goose on the nest incubating eggs.

Once counted, the nest is covered up by the surrounding down to keep the eggs warm until the adult returns and also to keep the eggs out of sight of predators like ravens. Unusual eggs do occur (see image to the right), where this odd-shaped egg was found lying on the ground.

Another unusual observation was made by Doug Kitchen of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife of the goose nest he found.

Big Game Hunting Seasons and Rules: Regional Wildlife Program and Customer Service Staff reviewed and provided edits to the draft version of the 2006 Big Game pamphlet. Due to the fact that 2006 is the first season in the new 3-year hunting season package, considerable changes have been made to season structure, timing, etc. The pamphlet should be available in its final version for the public in mid May. Hunters are reminded to check the pamphlet closely for any changes to hunts that they are considering.

Conboy NWR Elk Surveys: Biologist Anderson and Ellenburg assisted the USFWS with an elk survey in the Glenwood Valley. A total of 333 elk were observed. The 2005 April survey was the peak survey last year with 359 elk tallied; so numbers were slightly less this year but comparable. This survey is being conducted to monitor year around use of Conboy National Wildlife Refuge and the Glenwood Valley.

May 8, 2006


Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area Stabilization Work: Wildlife Area Assistant Manager Hauswald and ten volunteers from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and United Parcel Service teamed up to do some erosion control planting near the eastern end of the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area last Saturday. During the day seed was broadcast over an area of about three acres and willow cuttings were also placed in the ground as erosion control measures. The seed mix and willows also provide additional forage for elk that winter on the site.

BSA attend wildlife seminar.
BSA members attended a seminar presented by WDFW biologist Miller explaining wildlife management concepts and species identification.


2006 Boy Scouts of America Camporee: District Wildlife Biologist Miller presented a Wildlife ID seminar for 275 Boy Scouts and their Leaders. Mounted specimens and skins allowed Miller to explain important wildlife concepts as well as help local kids learn wildlife identification. This interface with the public is important because it allows WDFW to inform the public that most wildlife are not endangered and that plentiful populations do exist. Most kids and leaders were very interested in the display and often had experiences with animals that they wanted to share. Biologist Miller has conducted this outreach for over 10 years and has probably contacted 3, 000 to 4,000 scouts and leaders over that time.

Western Pond Turtle Project: Biologist Anderson reports that we have had a total of 183 captures and have 15 female western pond turtles with transmitters at Sondino Ponds. Trapping will continue another two weeks prior to monitoring turtles for nesting.

Bergen Road Western Pond Turtle habitat. Vegetation management aournd Bergen Road Western Pond Turtle ponds.
Aerial image show the encroachment of vegetation surrounding the Bergen Road turtle ponds. Work crews remove blackberries and scotch broom from Western Pond Turtle nesting grounds.

At Bergen Road A 10-man inmate work crew from the Department of Natural Resources' Larch Mountain Correctional Facility assisted Regional Wildlife Staff with a day of vegetation management at the Bergen Road site. Specifically, grass was cut short and blackberries and Scotch Broom were removed from the hill above Dead Tree Pond along with other important areas at the Site. The south facing hill, predominantly vegetated with grass, is favored by the nesting female western pond turtles. This type of vegetation management is needed in the absence of fire or grazing and given the abundance of non-native plants. Nesting should begin at the site in mid June. The attached photo shows the encroachment of vegetation surrounding the Bergen Road turtle ponds. Additional photos show the inmates at work. WDFW thanks DNR for their help with this effort.

Biologist Holman also conducted a training session for a group of volunteers associated with the Oregon Zoo. This year, Zoo volunteers will participate in a portion of the population monitoring effort at the Bergen Road western pond turtle site. Population monitoring involves trapping of the turtles, collection of various biological data, identification of individual animals and release. In past years, the Oregon Zoo has participated in other aspects of WDFW's turtle management efforts, including nest location and "Head Starting" of juvenile turtles. WDFW thanks the Oregon Zoo for their on-going assistance and involvement in the management of western pond turtles.

May 15, 2006


WDFW Wildlife Information Booth
Assistant Manager Vanderlip and Manager Grabski manned the Department of Fish & Wildlife information booth at the Tacoma Power Open House at Mossyrock Park.

Cowlitz Wildlife Area - Tacoma Power Open House: Assistant Manager Vanderlip and Manager Grabski manned the Department of Fish & Wildlife information booth at the Tacoma Power Open House at Mossyrock Park. It was estimated that 895 guests visited the daylong event. Visitors to the booth were very interactive asking questions and generally engaged by the various display items. The open house is held in conjunction with the Mossyrock Tulip Fest so the attendees were in large part families out for a good time.

Cowlitz Wildlife Area - Vegetation Control: Assistant Manager Vanderlip has made several herbicide applications. Species targeted included Japanese knotweed and Canada thistle. The knotweed is located on the Kosmos unit and only a few stems were observed this year. The clumps were hit hard last year by first cutting the knotweed back to just above the first node then, glyphosate (at label rates) was sprayed directly into the hollow cavity of the cut canes and onto the remaining leaves. Approximately 18 acres (four fields) on the Kosmos and Davis Lake Units was sprayed with 2,4-D to control Canada thistle and other broadleafs. Additionally, invading blackberry along the edges of the Davis Lake Unit fields was sprayed with glyphosate.

The population of scotch broom at Swofford Pond was checked and several new plants were observed. The larger plants were hand pulled and the smaller ones were sprayed with glyphosate. Monitoring will continue.

Recreation Information - Riffe Lake Water Levels: Tacoma Power updates lake levels and other recreation information on its toll-free Fishing and Recreation Line every weekday at 1-888-502-8690.

WDFW's Western Washington Weed Crew spent three days recently on the mudflow portion of the Wildlife Area hand spraying scotch broom plants.
WDFW's Western Washington Weed Crew spent three days recently on the mudflow portion of the Wildlife Area hand spraying scotch broom plants.

Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area Scotch Broom Control: WDFW's Western Washington Weed Crew spent three days recently on the mudflow portion of the Wildlife Area hand spraying scotch broom plants. Approximately 250 acres were covered by searching for individual plants on foot or ATV. This is the third year that the crew has been helping us. Each year they have started at the same point at the east boundary of the wildlife area and worked west. On each visit progress is made a little further to the west. Scotch broom is now getting hard to find in the areas that have been treated repeatedly.

Wildlife Area Manager Calkins also met a group of seven volunteers from RMEF and United Parcel Service on Saturday the 15th to pull scotch broom in an area that we plan to reseed. The plants were pulled here to get them completely removed and also to loosen the soil to make way for seeds to be planted later.


New eagle nest at logging site: WDFW biologists were advised this week of a new bald eagle nest in the Glenoma area that was adjacent to an active logging site. The neighboring landowner's wildlife biologist contacted DNR and a stop work order was issued by DNR. District Biologist Miller spent most of 1 day examining maps and talking to the operator and other biologists about the site and the nest. Miller advised DNR that parts of the logging operation may proceed immediately and that further research on the nest location will determine if a bald eagle plan is required. An additional logging area in the future will definitely require a management plan as activities are proposed within the 400-800 foot buffer area.

May 22, 2006


Mt. St. Helens Weed Control: Wildlife Area Assistant Manager Hauswald sprayed scotchbroom along one mile of road within the wildlfe area this week. Plants were scattered at low density along the road. This included approximately 25 feet on either side of the roadway (about 8 ½ acres).

Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area Plan: Wildlife Area Manager held a meeting of the advisory group for the wildlife area to work out some last issues in order to complete the Wildlife Area Management Plan. Wildlife Biologist Miller also attended and helped to answer some of the groups questions. The group reviewed and commented on the revised elk winter monitoring protocol which will be an appendix to the monitoring plan. The group also supported proposals to prohibit dogs on the wildlife area and to close the wildlife area to public access from December 1 through April 30 each year. The advisory group members strongly supported both of these measures intended to reduce harrassment and stress on elk that use the site. The final edits have been sent to the division staff to incorporate into the final draft document scheduled to be realeased to the public on May 26th.


Technician Ridenour collecting western pond turtles from basking traps.
Technician Ridenour collecting western pond turtles from basking traps.

Western Pond Turtle Management: The trapping phase of the western pond turtle program is underway at the Bergen Road site. Trapping involves daily collection of the turtles from two varieties of traps. The animals are collected for the gathering of various biological data, identification of individual animals and release. Through these efforts the population is closely monitored and the success of our Head-Start Program is evaluated. This year volunteers from the Oregon Zoo, Americorps member Estep, WDFW technician Ridenour and Biologist Holman are all participating in the population monitoring effort. WDFW thanks the Oregon Zoo and the Americorps Program for their on-going assistance and involvement in the management of western pond turtles.

The annual turtle trapping program is also under way at Pierce NWR, and is off to a good start. Weather has been favorable for trapping, with good numbers of animals captured each day. The trap layout consists of 26 traps; 13 in Pierce Lake, 3 in South Slough, and 10 in Domestic Spring Pond. Traps were placed in the ponds on May 8 and checked daily through May 13, when they were taken out of service for the remainder of the weekend. Results so far are as follows:

  • May 9: 23 western pond turtles, 17 western painted turtles
  • May 10: 21 pond turtles, 32 painted turtles
  • May 11: 14 pond turtles, 33 painted turtles
  • May 12: 16 pond turtles, 38 painted turtles
  • May 13: 32 pond turtles, 34 painted turtles
The first wild western pond turtle found at the Refuge.
The first wild western pond turtle found at the Refuge.

The most significant find so far is an adult western pond turtle captured on May 11 in Pierce Lake, and on May 13 in South Slough. It is a male, with a carapace length of 181 mm, carapace width of 142 mm, and weighing755 g. This is significant as this is the first wild western pond turtle found at the Refuge.


Mt. St. Helens Elk Herd Plan: Wildllife Biologist Miller has led a regional effort to revise and update an earlier draft version of the Mt. St. Helens elk Herd Plan. All wildlife management staff in the region have contributed to this effort. Biologist McCorquodale, WDFW's Deer and Elk Specialist has also provided valuable input and advice. The regional draft will be reviewed by Program Staff this week and is scheduled to be released for public review on May 26th.

May 29, 2006


Biologists Recognized: Wildlife Biologists Miller and Holman were each recognized for outstanding performance by Regional Director Norman at a recent employee recognition event. The following descriptions attest to their dedication to the wildlife resource and public service.

Pat Miller: Many of the projects that Pat undertakes each year require a high degree of coordination. These include goose nest surveys and captures, elk relocation projects from Mt St. Helens and the Julia Bulter Hansen Refuge. Pat's ability to assure that materials and personel are sufficient for these projects have been key in making them successful. He also strives to include volunteers in these projects as well as others. Many volunteers have been able to experience what we do because he made the the extra effort to include them. An example of this recently was his work with an instructor and students from Toutle High School that helped with monitoring radio collared elk and other surveys in the Toutle Valley this past winter. Finally, Pat maintains a very high standard of professionalism that is respected by the public as well as his coworkers.

Eric Holman: Eric is on of those employees that always seems to go the extra mile in almost everything he does. His attention to detail and focus on the big picture on a number of issues has been extremely helpful. He accepts new assignments often on short notice without complaint and invariably has them done on time. Being the only wildlife biologist in the regional office he also has a bigger load of public calls and questions. His ability to interact with the public is one of his strengths. He is also one that is adaptable and continually seeks new information to improve in his work and to stay abreast of new science in wildlife management. Eric has a focus on protecting habitat which is something that is sometimes overlooked in the business of wildlife management. This aspect of how he goes about his work will undoubtedly make a long term difference in years to come.


Charts Showing Daily Capture
Charts Showing Daily Capture
Charts Showing Daily Capture
of Western Pond Turtles - 2002-2006

Western Pond Turtle Management: The 2006 population monitoring phase of the western pond turtle project has been completed at the Bergen Road site. Biologist Holman, technician Ridenour, Americorps member Estep and several volunteers from the Portland Zoo have conducted the trapping effort this year at Bergen. Following the 22 day trapping period, a total of 585 western pond turtle captures have been recorded. Many individuals are captured on more than one occasion, however, and a total of 80 individual turtles comprise the 585 captures.

Nearly 600 captures in less than one-month period represents a significant increase in turtle trapping success over historical averages and continues the upward trend of turtle captures. Specifically, during 2002 the average catch was just 2.2 turtles per day, 2003 increased to 3.8 per day, 2004 increased again to 6.8 per day, 2005 increased greatly to 16.6 and finally, 2006 increased to an average of 26.6 western pond turtle captures per day. Though trapping success is highly dependent on weather conditions (hotter is better), the upward trend is encouraging evidence that our head-start program is resulting in an increasing population of this State Endangered Species at the Bergen Road site.Table of Bergen Road WPT Capture Summary 2002-06


Game Management Plan Review: Regional Wildlife Program Staff provided comments and updates to the annual summary of activities related to the Game Management Plan. The Plan outlines 178 Objectives that drive Agency activities related to the management of all of the hunted wildlife species in the State of Washington. Many of the activities, strategies and guidelines set forth in the Plan are ongoing in Region 5. The Game Management Plan may be viewed on the WDFW website on either the Hunting or Wildlife Science pages.