Wildlife Program report: Sept. 1-15, 2023

This report summarizes recent, noteworthy activities of Wildlife Program field and headquarters staff, arranged by four divisions: Game, Lands, Science, and Wildlife Diversity, and six regions: Eastern, North Central, South Central, North Puget Sound, Southwest, and Coastal, including wildlife areas within those regions.

Lands Division

Managing Wildlife Populations

State-Tribes Recreation Impact Management: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is working with federally recognized tribes and other state agencies to develop a framework for managing recreation impacts on state lands. The Steering Committee met on Sep. 7.


Providing Recreation Opportunities

Trail Inventory Projects: Partnership Coordinator Browning and Recreation Planner Andersen continue to meet with land managers to discuss trail inventory projects for the upcoming year. Browning will draft up request for proposals in the near future. Trail inventory projects will likely be taking place in Scatter Creek, Cowlitz, Wooten, Columbia Basin wildlife areas, and Manastash area. Trail condition assessments will be done for some specific trails in the Methow Wildlife Area and the Manastash area.


Conserving Natural Landscapes

Swakane Forest Restoration Project: Foresters Mize and Pfeifle, along with forestry interns, finalized re-marking and re-flagging the portions of Unit 4 that were impacted by the Red Apple Fire in July. Forester Mize revised all paperwork for harvester and log auction bid packets to address the changes caused by the Red Apple Fire. These packets were reposted on Washington Electronic Business Solution and the Department of Natural Resource (DNR) websites, and bids for these contracts will be due during the second half of September. The goal is to begin work around Oct. 1 to finalize harvest operations in Unit 4 before the winter weather and road conditions set in.

Colockum Restoration Thinning Project Phase 1: Forester Mize continues to conduct layout and leave tree marking activities on the Colockum restoration thinning project phase one, no harvest skip marking, and road layout in Units 1 and 3. Forester Mize has sent out an email to set a date for a field review of this project with collaborators from DNR, WDFW, Department of Ecology, and the Yakama Nation.

A view across North Fork Colockum Creek
Photo by WDFW
Colockum Forest Restoration Project Unit 1 as viewed from across the North Fork Colockum Creek. Photo shows a very dense stand with few gaps above the talus near the stream.
A view into the Colockum Forest Restoration
Photo by WDFW
Colockum Forest Restoration Project Unit 6. Photo demonstrates overstocked conditions prevalent throughout this project area.

L. T. Murray Wildlife Area Grazing Permits Monitoring: Range Ecologist Burnham completed Multiple Indicator Monitoring of riparian habitat on the L. T. Murray Wildlife Area.

Methow Wildlife Area Management Planning: Personnel held a public workshop on Sep. 13 for the purpose of collecting public comments on the proposed mule deer winter closures pilot. About 90 members of the public attended. The meeting focused on a question and answer session with Scott Fitkin. A biologist from the Colville Tribe expressed full support for the closure. The following day we held an advisory committee field trip to Lewis Butte to discuss the closures in more detail. The public survey concludes on Oct. 15. The Methow Wildlife Area Planning team also held a meeting on Sep. 12and the meeting focused on recreation planning and goals and objective development.

Teanaway Community Forest: Burnham conducted the 4th round of 2021 grazing monitoring on the Teanaway (TCF) leases. Burnham also completed a draft report on the degree to which the TCF Grazing Framework had been implemented and how effective it was. This report was requested by the grazing technical team for the forest and will presumably be used to help develop lease renewal language.

Shrubsteppe Proviso: Burnham attended meetings for two of the near-term technical action committees (hay and wildlife-friendly fences) and followed up gathering information to report at subsequent meetings.

Wildfire Suppression: Prescribed burn staff members continued to assist with wildfire suppression as they have over the past couple months as needed. Wildfires in eastern Washington are still a concern, but current suppression efforts are making good progress on control and containment.

Preparation for Controlled Burns on Eastern Washington Wildlife Areas: Staff members have been evaluating conditions for conducting prescribed fires this fall. Prescribed fire, used at certain times of the year when conditions are not so volatile, can greatly reduce wildfire intensity and create favorable resilient forest habitat. Areas to potentially burn this fall include the Methow- Ramsey Unit, Colockum-Stemilt Lilly Unit, L. T. Murray-Hutchins Unit, and Oak Creek-Oak Creek drainage and Cougar units.

Weed Control Field Work: The North Crew treated butterfly bush on the Skagit Wildlife Area Island Unit, blackberry at Fir Island Farm, and knotweed at Southfork and Cottonwood. The crew treated cattail at the New Steamboat, Seattle Pond and Deepwater sites. The crew also led a cooperative treatment effort with Washington Department of Agriculture, Snohomish County Weed Board and Pat Cole (Wildlands Management) for Spartina anglica at North Leque Island.

The South Crew treated weeds at the Chehalis Wildlife Area. Holcomb, Mikkelsen and Nunez supported U. S. Geological Survey and U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service using the airboats to access sites and sample burrowing shrimp over two days in Grays Harbor as part of a research study. The crew surveyed Cedar River along the slough banks, and Morgan surveyed Hawks Point, Clam Beach and Cedar River meadow in Willapa Bay and treated where needed. Nunez and Mikkelsen supported the Benton County Weed Board, with the help of Franklin County Weed Board, on the annual Yakima River flowering rush survey and control project using airboats. The river is running higher than usual and very little flowering rush was located, compared to previous surveys that occurred in July when water levels were lower with plants more exposed and in flower.

Weed Coordinator Heimer visited the three project sites and took post-treatment pictures looking at treatment efficacy. All treatment plots (a diquat application, followed by imazapyr) show efficacy compared to the controls. Heimer also treated samples of marshpepper with Procellacor to determine efficacy and did a separate site visit to record post-treatment efficacy at Flett Ponds. Heimer also revisited Minter Creek and treated a handful of knotweed regrowth for Capital Asset Management Program in preparation for 2022 construction.


Providing Education and Outreach

Ambassador Program: The Ambassador program will wrap up on Sep. 16 with its final day of programming. Browning and Sisolak will debrief the program with Washington Trollers Association and land managers and decide if the program will run again in 2024.

Signage: Browning continues to work on multiple kiosk projects: one for Region 3, one for Region 2, and starting the second wave of bulk kiosks for Region 3 and Region 5.

Lands Advisory Group Strategic Planning: To diversify participation and increase support from local communities, the strategic plan will provide statewide improvements and identify opportunities to enhance the roles of advisory committee members. These recommended changes will benefit staff members and community experiences while increasing public involvement in land management practices. Staff members will engage internal and external stakeholders in this planning process which is expected to continue through 2025.

States Organization for Boating Access Symposium: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife co-sponsored and attended the States Organization for Boating Access symposium held in Tacoma during the last week of August. Lands Division was represented by Belson. Other WDFW attendees and presenters included Region 6 field operations, Real Estate Services, and Capital and Asset Management Program (CAMP). The director gave a welcome speech to attendees on the opening day.


Conducting Business Operations and Policy

Wildfire Risk and Public Access to WDFW Lands: Section Manager Dahmer coordinated cross-program discussion reviewing wildfire risk and developing recommendations to revise public access restrictions on eastern Washington wildlife areas and water access areas. WDFW’s day-use-only restriction was lifted on Sep. 16 consistent with DNR opening their eastern Washington lands to public access. WDFW’s restrictions on campfires, target shooting, chainsaw use, and smoking continued until the end of September. Dahmer also presented draft protective measures for land stewardship activities on wildlife areas and water access areas to regional wildlife program managers for input with the intent to continue work on these measures and process to be ready for next burn season.

Bonneville Power Administration Fund Distribution: Vegetation Ecologist Merg previously coordinated work to distribute new Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) mitigation dollars to eight wildlife areas. BPA had some concerns regarding the proposal with a portion of funds going to BPA enhanced lands rather than all funding going to BPA fee title lands. Staff members are coordinating with BPA regarding their concerns while ensuring funding availability to provide land stewardship.

Region 1 (Eastern)

Managing Wildlife Populations

Cougar Capture: Wildlife Biologist Prince and Officer Kirsch assisted Wolf Biologist Roussin with locating and releasing a subadult cougar caught in a wolf trap. Cougars can be tricky to find after being caught in a foothold trap, due to their tendency to be extremely still and quiet once tangled in vegetation. The cougar was released unharmed. 

Bighorn Sheep: District Biologist Wik learned of approximately 150-200 domestic weed goats along the Snake River about 15 miles south of Asotin, approximately three miles from Black Butte bighorns. District Biologist Wik visited the site and was not able to communicate with the herder on site or contact a landowner. The goats were observed moving onto county property, which led District Biologist Wik to contact the county planner. In the end, the goats left the site as the job was complete. District Biologist Wik talked with one of the owners of the goats who seem to have mixed information regarding disease risk to bighorns. 

Chronic Wasting Disease Sample: Natural Resource Technician Harris collected a Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) sample from a buck harvested in Game Management Unit 111. 

Grouse: Biologists Lowe and Brinkman deployed grouse barrels prior to the start of the grouse hunting season. These barrels are placed at three different locations in District 2 and will be available for hunters to voluntarily submit a wing and tail from each harvested grouse during the open season. These samples will be used to identify species, sex, and age of each grouse and provide Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife with valuable information about the population structure of grouse on the landscape.

The barrel at Inland Empire Paper Company’s Thompson Creek gate will likely be removed mid-season as the road is not maintained in winter. Grouse season opened on Sep. 15 for the third consecutive year, as this delayed start has been shown to decrease disproportionate harvest of brood hens that occurs with earlier season openers in other regions.

A grouse barrel next to a sign
Photo by WDFW
Grouse barrel placed at the entrance gate to Inland Empire Paper Company’s Thompson Creek area.

Chronic Wasting Disease Testing: Natural Resource Technician Heitstuman checked local pits for CWD samples. Two unreported road killed deer were recovered and disposed of due to advanced decomposition and tissue damage to the glands needed for CWD testing. 

Deer Surveys: Wildlife Area Assistant Manager Rimmelspacher and Wildlife Area Manager Finch conducted their first deer survey for the month of September. During the month of August, they conducted two deer surveys over the same 70-mile route. They reported a high percent of legal bucks and many fawns which included one set of triplets and few sets of twins. 


Providing Recreation Opportunities

Trail Maintenance: Sherman Creek Wildlife Area Natural Resource Technician Zueger and Wildlife Area Assistant Manager Palmer finished cleaning off the popular trail that runs from Sherman Creek Wildlife Area headquarters south to Haag Cove along the Columbia River. They cleared off piles of pinecones and needles they had made earlier and removed encroaching brush as well. 

A trail before being cleared
Photo by WDFW
Before trail clearing
A trail after being cleared
Photo by WDFW
After trail clearing

Mentored Pheasant Youth Hunt: Acting Private Lands Biologist Nizer coordinated with Pheasants Forever to put on a mentored pheasant youth hunt on four hunt by reservation properties in Whitman County. Nizer planted 20 birds for the youth hunt. In total there were eight kids that showed up to the hunt with their parents. Nizer talked about the access program to the group of hunters and explained how they can gain hunting access for the future.

Several youth hunters in a field
Photo by WDFW
Mentored pheasant youth hunt on private lands enrolled in the access program
Two people handling a pheasant
Photo by WDFW
Pheasants being wobbled and released for mentored youth hunt.
Two Pheasants Forever members scouting a location
Photo by WDFW
Pheasants Forever members scout out locations for releasing birds.

Asotin Creek Wildlife Area Parking Improvement: Atlas Sand and Rock delivered and roughly spread ten truckloads of gravel at the South Fork shed lot. Technician Nielsen spent the better part of the day using the access area tractor and land plane leveling and smoothing the new gravel surface. The lot is often used by horseback riders using the trail up the South Fork of Asotin Creek. Hunters and other wildlife area users also frequently park vehicles there.

South Fork parking area
Photo by WDFW
New gravel surface at the South Fork parking area

Waitts Lake Maintenance: Dziekan and Brant spent Wednesday at the Waitts Lake Access Area, catching up on deferred maintenance. Lawn grass had grown as far as one foot over the sidewalk, so Dziekan purchased an edging hand tool and Brant used it to cut back the turf. The pair cleared the fence line of brush growing through the wire. They also pruned several trees to open sight lines and keep low-hanging vegetation from hitting them when they’re on the mower. The pair filled their dump trailer with green waste, just from that site. Dziekan sprayed herbicides for broadleaf and grass control, as part of his work on removing unwanted vegetation from the gravel parking area and around the boulder, so that it looks nicer and saves staff members from having to string-trim. 

Brant removing overgrowth turf
Photo by WDFW
Brant removing overgrown turf at Waitts Lake Access Area.

Blue Green Algae Blooms: Rainbow Lake has cleared up and appears to be past the risk of blue green algae returning. The Columbia County Health Department finally got back to Wildlife Area Manager Dingman with the results of the water samples and all the lakes were below detectable levels.  


Providing Conflict Prevention and Education

Wolf Activity: Wildlife Conflict Specialist Wade was contacted by a landowner who has property that borders the Umatilla National Forest. The landowner had captured trail camera pictures of the WA139 group on his property. The picture appears to be taken after Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife lethally removed two adult wolves from the pack. The producer emailed the pictures to Wildlife Conflict Specialist Wade after the conversation.

A wolf pack during the night
Photo by producer

Moose Hazing: Acting Private Lands Biologist Nizer and Natural Resource Technician Rumiser hazed three moose in two different locations. One bull moose was from the St. John area. The cow and calf were in the Garfield area, but a total of six moose were counted throughout the day. Both groups were hazed by firing paintball guns at them to move them off the landowner properties so they would no longer cause a danger to the homeowners.

A bull moose behind a fence
Photo by WDFW
Bull moose being hazed off a landowner's property outside of St. John.

Beaver Damage: Wildlife Conflict Specialist Kolb received a report of commercial crop damage from beavers in Walla Walla County. The producer agreed to explore relocation efforts and Wildlife Conflict Specialist Kolb contacted a licensed relocator. A site visit is tentatively set for the end of next week for further evaluation. 

Three images of beaver damage
Photo by WDFW
Beaver damage on a commercial seed corn crop. Damage to trees on the edge of fields which cause the trees to fall on commercial crops and in fields.

Producer/Sherriff Check-ins: Wildlife Conflict Specialist Wade followed up with the affected producer, range rider, and County Sheriff regarding the depredation investigation that was conducted last week. 

Radio Activated Guard Box: Natural Resource Technician Harris set up and tested a new radio activated guard box in preparation for deployment in northern Stevens County following multiple confirmed wolf depredation events. 

Night Pen Construction: Natural Resource Technician Harris and Wildlife Conflict Specialist Samsill built a night pen for a landowner's sheep. The night pen was funded in conjunction with Defenders of Wildlife following multiple sheep depredations involving several different cougars. Staff members will return later to finish enclosing the night pen and install electric fence in the sheep pasture. 

A pen for sheep
Photo by WDFW
Sheep night pen to prevent cougar depredations

Conserving Natural Landscapes

Habitat Funding: Natural Resource Technician Harris submitted a draft contract to utilize turkey tag money for a turkey habitat restoration project to be conducted in spring 2024. 

Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area fall food plots: Wildlife Area Assistant Manager Rimmelspacher spent time planting a fall food plot with separate strips of winter triticale and winter canola. 

A tractor driving over a field
Photo by WDFW
Seeding fall food plots on Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area

Cummings Creek Fire: A lightning storm on Sep. 7 caused a fire on the W. T. Wooten Wildlife Area to pop up on Sep. 8. The local Department of Natural Resource crews were quick to get on the fire and ordered an abundance of aircraft to help get the fire under control. The fire only burned 84 acres on Hatchery Ridge above the Tucannon Fish Hatchery. The Wildlife Area Manager responded to the wildlife area the afternoon of Sep. 8 to function as a natural resources advisor for the fire and to close the road to Rainbow Lake to allow the helicopters to dip out of the lake for fire suppression. She submitted all the necessary documentation when she came back to the office on Sep. 11.

A plane dropping fire retardant in the distance
Photo by WDFW

 

An arial shot of a fire
Photo by WDFW
A plane dropping water in the distance
Photo by WDFW

 

A distant shot of a fire
Photo by WDFW

Providing Education and Outreach

Hunter Education: Wildlife Conflict Specialist Kolb put up posters around the area communities about hunter education opportunities in Walla Walla and Touchet Valley.

Dayton Fair: Acting Private Lands Biologist Nizer worked the chronic wasting disease trailer at the Dayton Fair to inform the public about the disease. 

A chronic wasting disease trailer
Photo by WDFW
Chronic wasting disease trailer setup at the Dayton Fair

Wildlife Area Advisory Committee meeting: On Thursday, Wildlife Area Manager Finch and Wildlife Area Assistant Manager Rimmelspacher held their 2023 Wildlife Area Advisory Committee meeting at the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area office. There were approximately 20 people in person and four that attended via Teams. There were many topics that were covered between the Swanson Lakes, Revere, and Reardan Audubon wildlife areas. Region 1 Wildlife Program Manager Robinette spoke on the topic of separating the wildlife areas with new managers and how and why that decision was made. Access Manager Dziekan gave a power point presentation on Waikiki Springs and the new Chapman Lake parcel. Access Manager Dziekan’s presentation was very detailed with a lot of information that described the history of both parcels. The Bureau of Land Management Spokane District Wildlife Biologist Lowe gave a presentation on the test results of the invasive grass herbicide test that was conducted at Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area this past season. Ducks Unlimited Biologist Blewett spoke on the wetland projects at the Revere Wildlife Area which included the Phase 1 portion that began in 2020 and the Phase 2 portion will be coming soon to increase the open water for migrating birds. 

Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area Wildlife Advisory Committee meeting
Photo by WDFW
Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area Wildlife Area Advisory Committee (WAAC) meeting

Conducting Business Operations and Policy

Columbia Plateau Wildlife Management Association Meeting: Acting Private Lands Biologist Nizer, District Wildlife Biologist Lowe, Assistant Wildlife Biologist Brinkman, and Officer Copenhaver met with Columbia Plateau Wildlife Management Association board members to discuss and draw tags for the Landowner Hunting Permits (LHP) for the upcoming hunting season and to introduce new folks to the board members.

Several people in a meeting
Photo by WDFW
District Wildlife Biologist Lowe draws upcoming season Landowner Hunting Permits

Region 3 (South Central)

Managing Wildlife Populations

Waterfowl Banding Wrap Up: District 4 Wildlife Biologist Fidorra, with the help of volunteers, Natural Resource Technician Maderbach, and Scientific Technician Klienhenz completed waterfowl captures for the season. Swim in traps were used to capture dabbling ducks, with around 700 mallard bands placed out by the team. Many other species were also banded and encountered, which all contribute to the Pacific Flyway models.

A duck
Photo by WDFW
Redhead is an uncommon species encountered opportunistically in the traps.

Wildlife Conservation Discussions: District 4 Wildlife Biologist Fidorra participated in the Washington Shrubsteppe Restoration and Resiliency Initiative round table on wildlife species management for upcoming needs in the Columbia Basin as well as submitted regional proposals for Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife’s next best things exercise on near term conservation actions we might pursue for burrowing owls.


Providing Recreation Opportunities

L. T. Murray Pheasant Hunting: Natural Resource Technician Blore and Assistant Manager Winegeart released pheasants at the L. T. Murray’s Green Gate release site. Over the years, Winegeart has noticed a diverse mix of upland bird hunters by age and gender at this site. The site’s distance from town, access, and topography makes it a valuable release site for new and young hunters to get their feet wet hunting upland birds in some semi-arid desert.

A rooster pheasant being released
Photo by WDFW
Rooster pheasant being released on Quilomene Unit’s Green Gate Subunit.

Pheasant Releases: District 4 Wildlife Biologist Fidorra and Conflict Specialist Hand released pheasants at sites in Franklin County in advance of the youth and senior season opener. Pheasants were placed at Big Flat and Lost Island United States Army Corps of Engineers Habitat Management Units, and the Hope Valley Unit of the Sunnyside Wildlife Area. Toothaker in Benton County will not be used for releases this year while the site recovers from a fire.

A pheasant standing on crates
Photo by WDFW
Pheasant on release crates and trailer

Sunnyside Johnson Wetland: Sunnyside Wildlife Area Assistant Manager Ferguson has been busy mowing the north half of the Johnson Wetland area in preparation for the upcoming waterfowl season. The wetland is nearly complete now between the lessees harvesting a large portion of reed canary grass for cattle feed and wildlife area personnel mowing.

A field after mowing
Photo by WDFW
Northeast area of Johnson Wetland after mowing
A field after mowing
Photo by WDFW
Northwest area of Johnson after mowing. This area adds approximately 15 acres of additional huntable wetland, that until last year, had not been maintained for a very long time.

Providing Conflict Prevention and Education

Rattlesnake Hills Elk: District 4 Wildlife Conflict Specialist Hand monitored elk activity and pressured elk away from crops near irrigated tree fruit and vineyard areas. The trail camera was checked and maintained along a heavily traveled route elk use to access wheat fields. Several higher elevation wheat fields have now been seeded and many are showing good germination.

West Richland Deer: District 4 Wildlife Conflict Specialist Hand continued to coordinate with an owner of several small corn fields that have been damaged by deer near the Yakima River. One master hunter harvested a deer and multiple archery hunters are hunting the area.

Hanford Injured Bull Elk: District 4 Wildlife Conflict Specialist Hand and Enforcement staff members responded to an injured bull elk that was involved in a vehicle collision along Highway 240 on Hanford. Prior to arrival on scene, Department of Transportation picked up the carcass and dumped it in their pit.

Mesa Area Deer: District 4 Wildlife Conflict Specialist Hand responded to a call of a deer that was stuck in a pond at the sewage treatment facility in Mesa. The shallow pond is lined with slick plastic making it difficult for the deer to gain traction. A ramp made of wood and wire fencing and covered with outdoor carpet was deployed in hopes of the deer using it to escape, but unfortunately the deer died.

Deer in a treatment pond
Photo by WDFW
Mesa deer in treatment pond

Kittitas County Conflict: Conflict Specialist Wetzel worked with several hay growers who were having problems with elk in crops. One has requested cost share fencing. Wetzel also worked with several landowners who were having problems with deer in crops and yards.

Easton Bear Conflict: Conflict Specialist Wetzel worked with several landowners who were having problems with bears. A trap was set near Easton but so much attractant was available in the neighborhood that the bear did not enter the trap.

A bear trap set up near Easton
Photo by WDFW
Bear trap set near Easton.
A trashcan knocked over with trash on the road
Photo by WDFW
Bear attractant near Easton

Yakima County Conflict: Conflict Specialist Wetzel worked with several hay and orchard growers who were having problems with elk in crops. One has requested cost share fencing. Wetzel also worked with several hay and orchard growers who were having problems with deer in crops. Specialist Wetzel worked on contract range rider invoices for range riding costs. Several injured deer and deer tangled in netting and fencing were reported. Several deer with arrows were reported, as well as injured fawns or fawns with no doe observed.


Conserving Natural Landscapes

Benton County Water Stargrass Harvester: Sunnyside/Snake River Wildlife Arear Manager Kaelber, Assistant Manager Jahns, and Technician Manderbach, along with other Department of Fish and Wildlife staff members, attended a water stargrass harvester informational demonstration hosted by the Benton County Conservation District. Wildlife area staff members were able to watch the water stargrass harvester in action, as well as ask questions about function and future collaborative uses of the machine in the Yakima River.

A stargrass harvester
Photo by WDFW
Benton County Conservation District staff operating the water stargrass harvester.

Colockum Wildlife Area Reseeding After Timber Thinning Project: Colockum Wildlife Area staff members spent time reseeding non “green dot” roads opened up for the Colockum Forest Restoration Project. About ten miles of pre-existing, grown over logging roads were re-opened during this project and these roads will now be reseeded, water barred, and blocked for vehicle use. This light abandonment prevents further motor vehicle use, improves habitat and allows the roads to be used some time in the future for additional forest management.

A map of Colockum forest roads
Photo by WDFW
Colockum forest roads in red to be seeded and abandoned. Roads open to the public are in blue.
Lopez seeding native grass mixture on an ATV
Photo by WDFW
Natural Resource Worker Lopez seeding native grass mixture on non-green dot roads to be abandoned.

Colockum Wildlife Area Parking Lot Improvements: Colockum personnel continued improvements to the headquarters’ parking lot. Work completed included installing a steel panel round corral for horses, as well as a new stock tank to supply water for horses, dogs, the occasional elk, mule deer, and bighorn sheep that frequent the area.

Lopez installing a new aluminum water tank
Photo by WDFW
Colockum Natural Resource Worker Lopez plumbing a new aluminum water tank.
A full water tank
Photo by WDFW
New tank full of water and working well.

Providing Education and Outreach

Naches Sportsman’s Day: L. T. Murray Wildlife Area Manager Morrison and Assistant Manager Winegeart worked Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s booth at this year’s Naches Sportsman’s Days. Morrison primarily fielded questions from the public while Winegeart focused on providing an opportunity for people that haven’t hunted to learn how to properly handle a firearm at the range and a safety refresher for experienced hunters.

A mother and daughter practicing safe firearm handling
Photo by WDFW
Mother and daughter engaged in friendly competition while practicing safe firearm handling and range etiquette.

Oak Creek Wildlife Area Naches Sportsman’s Days: Oak Creek Wildlife Area staff members, various Department of Fish and Wildlife (Department) staff members, and the Friends of Oak Creek Volunteers participated in the Naches Sportsman’s Days event and parade. Volunteers and Department staff helped answer questions at the informational booth while other staff members and volunteers operated a pellet gun range to teach people and youth about hunter safety.

A truck with a person in front
Photo by WDFW
Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife tour truck in the annual Sportsman’s Days parade with the Friends of Oak Creek volunteers

Other

Shop Safety on the L. T. Murray Wildlife Area: L. T. Murray staff members learned a valuable lesson regarding using linseed oil to preserve wood handles on tools. After depositing some shop paper towels stained with the oil in a garbage can, the more saturated towel which was on the bottom of the pile began to smoke heavily and would have ignited had employees not been present to remove the rags. This was a near miss accident and a good reminder to read and understand the label on all chemicals used.

Linseed oil on a towel
Photo by WDFW
Rag stained with linseed oil almost ignited in garbage can.

Oak Creek Wildlife Area Truck Turn Around Resurfacing: Oak Creek Wildlife Area Natural Resource Technician Boggs started work on the Cowiche truck turn around. Leveling this area will improve conditions for unloading hay and turning trucks around.

A tractor leveling an area
Photo by WDFW
Natural Resource Technician Boggs starts releveling truck turn around area.

Sunnyside/Snake River Access Sites: Sunnyside Snake River Wildlife Area Assistant Manager Ferguson removed hornet nests and restocked all hunter registration boxes as well and mowed weeds in the Sunnyside Unit parking lots. Assistant Manager Jahns also continued to mow access sites and roads, including all roadways within the Thornton Unit in preparation for the upcoming hunting seasons.

A tractor mowing a roadway
Photo by WDFW
Assistant Manager Jahns mowing Thornton roadways.

Region 5 (Southwest)

Managing Wildlife Populations

Hoof Disease Incentive Program Collection Sites: Biologists Holman, Stephens, Wickhem, and Bergh as well as Cowlitz Wildlife Area Manager Vanderlip and Conflict Specialist Aubrey all contributed to setting up the Hoof Disease Incentive Program collection stations for this year. This is year three of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s program designed to incentivize hunters to remove elk showing visual signs of hoof disease. For information on the program see page 65 of the 2023 Big Game Hunting Regulations and/or visit the WDFW website.

Hoof disease collection station
Photo by WDFW
Hoof disease collection station

Forest Grouse Wing and Tail Collection Sites: Regional wildlife biologists set up the collection stations for hunter submissions of forest grouse wings and tails. Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists statewide use the forest grouse wing and tail collections to evaluate grouse populations by determining the species, sex, and age of hunter harvested grouse.

A truck near a grouse collection station
Photo by WDFW
Grouse collection station along State Route 4 in Cathlamet

Northwestern Pond Turtles and Drought: Biologist Bergh followed up on a report by one of the bullfrog removal contractors who saw several pond turtle carcasses on the shores of ponds that have been drying up with this year’s severe drought. A total of seven pond turtle carcasses were found and most of the carcasses appeared to be somewhat fresh. Two of the ponds searched for carcasses were completely dry and one only had a small amount of water covering about a third of the pond’s area. After several successive years of drought, many ground and rainwater fed waterbodies have reached historically low levels.

A turtle carcass
Photo by WDFW
Northwestern pond turtle carcass

Hunter Harvest Wildlife Checks: Regional wildlife biologists, wildlife conflict specialists, and customer service specialists have made the initial hunter harvested wildlife checks of the fall season. Many species of wildlife including cougars, bobcats, bears, big-horned sheep, and mountain goats have various checking requirements to facilitate biological sample collection and assure the legality of harvests. Hunters are reminded to check the Big Game Seasons Pamphlet in order to be clear on checking requirements for various species. So far, cougars and bobcats have been inspected.

A harvest cougar
Photo by WDFW
Cougar harvested in GMU 550 Coweeman
A harvested bobcat
Photo by WDFW
Bobcat harvested in GMU 578 West Klickitat

Animal ID: A homeowner contacted Wildlife Conflict Specialist Jacobsen about a feline in the yard that they believed was a lynx. The landowner took a great photo of the animal! Jacobsen confirmed the animal as a bobcat. It is not uncommon for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife staff members to receive reports of lynx in southwest Washington, though all end up being bobcats or domestic house cats. Less than 50 lynx are known to persist in Washington, with all of those residing in the North Cascades. Lynx were historically present to some degree in the South Cascades, though unfortunately not much evidence exists of their presence here past the late 1890s.

A bobcat in a yard
Photo by WDFW
Bobcat in yard

Wildlife Conflict Specialist Jacobsen was contacted by a concerned homeowner after the homeowner noticed an unusual animal in his yard. The homeowner described the animal as “four times larger than a cat, pure white, with a tail that curls up like a dog, hair like a pig, that jumps like a cat, and likes his compost pile.” The homeowner believed that there were wildlife species hybridizing in the woods around him. Jacobsen advised the homeowner to try to get a picture of the animal and to set up a trail camera. A couple of weeks later, Jacobsen received a photo of the animal from the homeowner. Though the picture was taken at a substantial distance and the animal in question was blurry, Jacobsen believes that the animal was likely a raccoon with a skin/hair condition that caused it to lose much of its fur (though it also resembled a house cat in some respects). The homeowner wasn’t convinced.

An unidentified animal
Photo by WDFW
Mystery animal

Providing Recreation Opportunities

Klickitat County Pheasant Release: Biologist Wickhem and Volunteer Morrison released farm-raised pheasants at three locations outside Goldendale ahead of the two-day youth hunting season. In total, 80 roosters were released at the Goldendale Trout Hatchery, the Gun Club, and Finn Ridge “Feel Free to Hunt” properties. All birds were good fliers and were excited to explore the wilds outside of their crates. Please remember that nontoxic shot is required at all pheasant release sites.

A pheasant being released
Photo by WDFW
Finn Ridge release site with Mt Adams in the background

Property Enrollments: Wildlife Conflict Specialist/Private Lands Supervisor Jacobsen enrolled 15 properties in various Private Lands Hunting Access programs for a total of 62,130 acres across Region 5. Jacobsen also posted several of the properties with Private Lands Program signage.

Hunt by Reservation sign near Skamania County
Photo by WDFW
Little White Salmon Hunt by Reservation site in Skamania County
Hunting by Reservation sign by Trout Lake
Photo by WDFW
Hunt by Reservation signage on Little Mountain in Trout Lake

Providing Conflict Prevention and Education

Tangled Owl: Wildlife Conflict Specialist Jacobsen fielded a report about an owl tangled in a soccer net at a Clark County Park. Jacobsen contacted county officials in the area and provided advice on untangling the owl.

A great horned owl tangled in a soccer net
Photo by WDFW
Great horned owl tangled in a soccer net

Cougar Concerns: A resident in Klickitat County contacted Wildlife Conflict Specialist Jacobsen after his neighbor captured a cougar on a security camera near their respective homes. Jacobsen provided advice on living in cougar country.

A cougar caught on security camera
Photo by WDFW
Cougar on security camera near a residence

A Clark County resident contacted Wildlife Conflict Specialist Jacobsen regarding a dead deer that he had found in a field near his house. A substantial blood trail led through the backyard of a residence to where the deer lay in the field. The reporting party was concerned that a cougar had killed the deer and wanted to alert all the neighbors regarding the cougar’s presence. Jacobsen happened to be in the area the following day and stopped by to investigate the carcass. One of the neighbors had removed the carcass earlier in the morning but Jacobsen determined that the most likely explanation for the scenario was that the small buck had been hit by a car and had a broken leg. At some point, the buck was discovered by coyotes, who pursued the deer and killed it on the edge of the field.

A dead buck
Photo by WDFW
Dead buck, killed and consumed by coyote

A concerned member of the public contacted local police after she observed what she believed was a cougar near a local business. Police staff contacted Wildlife Conflict Specialist Jacobsen, who confirmed the animal in question as a bobcat.

A bobcat
Photo by WDFW
Bobcat mistaken for a cougar

A homeowner in Skamania County reported observing a cougar near her house a few days prior. Wildlife Conflict Specialist Jacobsen examined the photo of the animal and confirmed that it was a cougar. Advice was provided to the homeowner regarding outdoor domestic cats and living in cougar country.

A cougar laying in a yard
Photo by reporting party
Cougar laying in the yard at a residence.

Depredation on Gazelle: Wildlife Conflict Specialist Jacobsen and Officer Way responded to a report of a cougar depredation on a Rhim gazelle (also known as a slender-horned gazelle) at an exotic farm in Klickitat County. Rhim gazelle are native to a handful of countries in northern Africa and are considered endangered in the wild. A Klickitat County Deputy and houndsman were already on-scene searching for a cougar when Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife staff members arrived. After investigating the kill site and conducting a full necropsy on the carcass (which included shaving and skinning the carcass), Jacobsen confirmed the depredation as a coyote depredation and provided advice to the farm manager on fencing to prevent future coyote issues.

A gazelle carcass
Photo by WDFW
Gazelle killed by coyotes

Orphaned Bobcat Kitten: Wildlife Conflict Specialist Jacobsen fielded a report about a bobcat kitten that a landowner had trapped in his shed and later let go. The bobcat’s behavior in the report sounded unusual, so Jacobsen contacted the landowner and determined the bobcat was likely orphaned. The kitten had been hanging out near the landowner’s house for the past four days without any sign of an adult present. Jacobsen asked the landowner if he would be willing to set a live trap for the bobcat. The landowner went out and purchased a live trap and within 15 minutes of setting the trap, he had caught the bobcat kitten again. The landowner met Jacobsen and handed the bobcat off. Jacobsen, Furbearer Specialist Welfelt, and Rehabilitation Coordinator Mannas worked together to transport the kitten several hundred miles to PAWS rehabilitation center in Snohomish County, where it will reside with five other bobcat kittens currently in rehab.

A bobcat kitten
Photo by WDFW
Bobcat kitten hanging out near residences
A bobcat kitten
Photo by WDFW
Bobcat kitten on its way to the rehabilitation center

Goat Depredations: Two different landowners in western Clark County contacted Wildlife Conflict Specialist Jacobsen regarding depredations on their domestic goats. In both instances, the landowners believed cougars were responsible, but they had already disposed of the carcasses by the time they contacted Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Based on the photographs submitted of the depredations and the locations of the farms, Jacobsen was confident that coyotes were responsible; however, one landowner was convinced that a cougar had killed his goats since his fence was extremely “secure” and didn’t believe a coyote could enter the pasture. The landowner lost 10 goats in the past couple of weeks. Jacobsen met with both landowners and provided advice on various non-lethal deterrent measures with an emphasis on fencing modifications to prevent coyotes from entering the various goat pastures.

Goat in a pasture
Photo by WDFW
Remaining goats in a pasture where coyote depredations have been frequent
A dilapidated gate to a goat pasture
Photo by WDFW
“Secure” goat pasture. This was just one of numerous access points where coyotes could access the pasture

Injured Deer: Wildlife Conflict Specialist Jacobsen was on the phone with a Clark County deputy regarding an injured deer that had been reported when the deputy received another report of a second deer that had been hit by a car and was injured. Jacobsen responded to the scene and euthanized the juvenile buck while Camas/Washougal Animal Control provided traffic control assistance.

Orphaned Black Bear Cubs: Wildlife Conflict Specialist Jacobsen responded to a report of two orphaned black bear cubs on Department of Natural Resources land in Clark County. Jacobsen set a trail camera up in the area but did not capture any videos of the cubs using the area.

Scat Identification: A concerned homeowner emailed pictures of some scat that she found in her yard to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, believing the scat was bear scat. Wildlife Conflict Specialist Jacobsen identified the scat as raccoon scat and provided advice to the homeowner.

Wolf Concerns: Wildlife Conflict Specialist Jacobsen received a report of two large canines, possibly wolves, that were observed in a pasture with cattle. Jacobsen responded to the area and checked a trail camera there. No photos of wolves were detected, but Jacobsen did capture this nice photo of a bear. Two large guard dogs frequent the pasture from a neighboring property, and it is likely that these were the canines that were observed by the reporting party.

A black bear
Photo by WDFW
Black bear captured on trail camera

Trapped Opossum: Wildlife Conflict Specialist Jacobsen was contacted by a property manager regarding an opossum caught in a live trap that had been set for feral cats. The property manager wanted to know what to do with the opossum. Jacobsen advised the manager to simply let the opossum go.

Ungulate Damage: Wildlife Conflict Specialist Aubrey continued to respond to reports of elk and deer damage to agricultural crops. Aubrey worked with landowners on signing a Damage Prevention Cooperative Agreement and implementation of mitigation measures to lessen the damage.

Injured Deer: Wildlife Conflict Specialist Aubrey responded to a deer that had been hit by a vehicle. The deer was no longer mobile and was euthanized.

Nuisance Porcupine: Wildlife Conflict Specialist Aubrey responded to a report of a porcupine “stuck” in the fence in a backyard. The porcupine was not stuck but was hiding in the only spot of cover in the yard. The homeowner had dogs that needed to be let out so Aubrey captured the porcupine and relocated it to a nearby wooded area.


Providing Education and Outreach

Land Trust Alliance Conference: Biologist Bergh joined staff members from the Friends of the Gorge Land Trust, Pacific Northwest Ecoservices LLC, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program to give a seminar at the national Land Trust Alliance Conference which happened to be in Portland, Oregon this year. The title of their seminar was called “State-endangered Turtles, Invasive Plants and Animals, and Partnerships to Improve Habitat”. The Friends of the Gorge Land Trust purchased a property they call “Turtle Haven” in 2016 and have been successfully restoring the property for the benefit of northwestern pond turtles. The seminar was well attended with many great questions.

WDFW staff members at the Land Trust Alliance Conference
Photo by WDFW
Stefanie Bergh, Sara Woods, Lee Lynn Michel, and Nick George present at the Land Trust Alliance Conference

Webinar on Bullfrog Removal: Biologist Bergh and Washington Department Fish and Wildlife Contractor Michel did a webinar titled “Bullfrog Removal to Benefit the Imperiled Northwestern Pond Turtle” as part of the Conservation and Adaptation Toolbox webinar series. Over one hundred people attended the webinar, many great questions were asked, and technical knowledge was exchanged.

Region 6 (Coastal)

Managing Wildlife Populations

Western Bumble bee Monitoring: Biologist Tirhi spent several hours following up a report of the rare western bumble bee sent in from the public at a nursery in Graham, Pierce County as requested by Headquarter Invertebrate Lead Combs. Although several other species were captured and photographed that day, no western bumble bees were located. The public is encouraged to report any suspected western bumble bees at WDFW wildlife reporting form. Please include good photos or video from several angles.

A bumble bee
Photo by WDFW
Western bumble bee (most notable field mark is the white rump)

Wolf Monitoring: Biologist Tirhi and Volunteer Extraordinaire Terry spent a day deploying the last functional camera for monitoring wolves in District 11 in the White River drainage near Corral Pass.


Providing Recreation Opportunities

Access Maintenance: The access team continues to paint restrooms, ADA parking stalls, and curbs, as well as addressing graffiti, and replacing signage as needed at access sites across Region 6.

Access Cleanup: The access team worked with Enforcement for removal of abandoned vehicles and RV’s in Grays Harbor, Jefferson and Pacific counties.


Providing Conflict Prevention and Education

Landowner Meetings: Wildlife Conflict Specialist Janowski and Assistant Wildlife Program Manager Blankenship met farmers across Pierce, Thurston and Clallam counties to address crop damage.

Elk Conflict: Wildlife Conflict Specialist Janowski worked on permit issuance and hand-delivered both Landowner Kill Permits and Damage Prevention Permits to landowners in Thurston County. Wildlife Conflict Specialist Janowski also dropped off a paintball gun to a producer in Orting who is sustaining significant elk damage on their vegetable crops. The producer will use the paintball gun to haze elk out of their field. The producer farms within a no-shooting ordinance area, and other noise producing non-lethal deterrents are limited.

Wildlife Conflict Specialist Janowski also responded to a call of an elk calf which had become trapped in a landowner’s pasture in Graham. The calf jumped into the fence line and had been trapped and unable to find its way out for over five days. Janowski arrived on scene and walked up to the calf, which then jumped the fence out of the landowner’s property. Reporting party was appreciative of the response and further advice was provided.

Cougar Depredation: Wildlife Conflict Specialist Janowski coordinated with Fish and Wildlife Officer Izatt and Fish and Wildlife Sargent Jewett on a cougar depredation report in Sequim. The cougar killed five goats over the course of two weeks and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife staff members determined a lethal removal action was required. Both a cougar trap and a local hounds man were deployed, the animal was successfully removed, biological samples were taken, and the carcass was donated to a local tribe.

Wildlife Conflict Specialist Janowski also received a call from Fish and Wildlife Officer Schrader regarding a possible cougar depredation on a horse in Mason County. Photos of injuries were shared with Janowski, and Officers Schrader and Janowski determined the animal likely was not attacked by a cougar.


Conserving Natural Landscapes

Rat Island Avian Influenza Management: Wildlife Program staff members continued clean-up efforts at Rat Island which is part of the Marrowstone Unit of the North Olympic Wildlife Area. This work has helped reduce the viral loads on the unit from an outbreak of Avian Influenza in the nesting Caspian terns. More recently, it spread to harbor seals.

Western Pond Turtle Habitat: Assistant District Biologist Butler and Wildlife Area Manager Laushman met with Capital Asset Management Program staff members to start work on a habitat improvement project which will create new nesting mounds for western pond turtles.

Oregon Spotted Frog Habitat Management: Biologists Tirhi and Butler oversaw contracted Washington Conservation Corps teams mowing invasive reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) at three listed spotted frog breeding sites (Mima, Salmon, Allen Creeks, Thurston County). The funding for this annual mowing is paid for by the Chehalis Basin Strategy, Amphibian Species Restoration Plan. Reed canary grass invasion in spotted frog breeding sites is one of the most threatening aspects impacting frog recovery. Mowing canary grass using hired Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) crews is a cost-effective means of control. The grass is mowed heavily in late summer/early fall to maintain the low structure/open water spotted frogs depend on for successful egg laying in late winter. The WCC crews cut previously for one day per site in August and returned for additional mowing this September. Tirhi and Butler were both onsite various days to assist mowing using a Billy goat brush cutter.

An area mowed
Photo by WDFW
Area mowed at Salmon Creek Oregon spotted frog breeding site using the WDFW Billy goat brush cutter