Please return catch record cards via mail or hold onto them until it is safe to drop them off.
Aquatic invasive species check stations are still active, and WDFW staff are inspecting watercraft for invasive species.
Fishing, boating, or hiking on public lands normally wouldn’t violate social distancing guidance. However, we have recently seen unusually large crowds driving to, and congregating at, state public areas. Clearly, people were seeking an outdoor reprieve from their anxiety, which unintentionally caused higher transmission risk at these sites and in nearby rural communities.
We know many Washingtonians find great solace in spending time on the water or in the wilderness, and we are taking these painful steps only because of the urgent need to protect the health and well-being of our neighbors and our communities.
WDFW will re-evaluate on April 6 whether the closure may need to be extended.
Due to COVID-19 concerns, there are changes to two hunting seasons in April. The youth turkey hunt previously scheduled for April 4-5 has been cancelled and six game management units (GMUs) that were scheduled to open April 1 for spring bear hunting are closed pending further evaluation. Those GMUs include 101, 105, 108, 111, 117, and 121. They could reopen if conditions allow.
While we know this is disappointing, and some say hunting is the perfect way to practice social distancing, many people have to travel from urban to rural areas to enjoy it. Nearly 90 percent of spring bear permit holders in northeast Washington would be traveling from outside the area.
“Every stop for gas, food, or a restroom break can introduce the virus to areas it hasn’t yet reached,” said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind. “It was a tough decision, but we want to ensure that people are properly encouraged to stay home at this time.”
Youth who were planning to hunt on April 4 or 5 can still use their tags in the regular spring or fall turkey seasons, pending further impacts. The spring turkey season is scheduled to run April 15 through May 31.
On April 6, WDFW will reassess its ability to open the impacted hunting areas, as well as several other upcoming hunting seasons. The most notable upcoming seasons include spring turkey and additional spring bear hunts currently scheduled to open April 15.
Take Hunter Education Online
In the meantime, it’s a good time to take Hunter Education classes to get ready for when hunting gets back to normal. In an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, WDFW has cancelled all in-person Hunter Ed classes through April 24, 2020, at which time WDFW will reassess the possibility of returning to in-person classes.
Until then, you have a couple options. You may take the online hunter education course and a Virtual Field Day to replace the in-person Field Skills Evaluation. This course takes approximately 10 hours to complete, but students can do it in multiple sittings. You can register for and complete the online hunter education course at https://www.huntered.com/washington/. Next, register for and complete the online Virtual Field Day course at https://www.huntercourse.com/virtualfieldday/.
Another option is to enroll in a later course: You may choose to postpone completion of hunter education and enroll in class after the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Both the traditional classroom course and the online class plus in-person field skills evaluation course will be available.
We know how beneficial the outdoors can be when it comes to reducing stress, depression, anxiety and boosting our happiness. While we too are dreaming of future fishing, hunting, and wildlife watching adventures, it’s important to enjoy the outdoors close to home right now to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
On March 23, 2020, Gov. Inslee issued a stay home, stay healthy order for Washingtonians to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Under the order, people should stay at home unless they're engaging in essential activities such as medical care, grocery shopping, or working in an essential business. You can still get outside for some fresh air, but it's important to stay local and follow these guidelines:
Do outdoor activities only with people in your immediate household – not extended families.
Enjoy the outdoors close to home instead of traveling. General rule of thumb: if you have to drive, it’s too far.
If you encounter others, maintain a minimum of 6 feet of physical distance.
Gatherings of any size are not allowed outdoors, just as they are not allowed indoors.
Backyard wildlife photo contest
As we all spend more time at home, it's a great opportunity to learn more about the wildlife just outside the window. Join us in celebrating backyard wildlife this month -- send us your best photos of animals, habitats, or landscapes from your property or neighborhood. Each Friday, we will post submitted photos to our Facebook page for Washingtonians to vote for their favorite. Visit our share your adventure webpage to submit your photo.
Watch wildlife virtually
With all the wildlife in Washington, you may be able to see some animals from the comfort of your own home or neighborhood, such as deer, rabbits, squirrels, or any number of bird species. But if you’re looking for something a little more exotic as Washington’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” period continues, you could always visit one of the many streaming wildlife cameras available online. Having a wildlife cam on in the background can be a therapeutic experience, and some Washington organizations continue to host their live feeds even while closed to the public.
If you’re looking for even more wildlife, from Africa to the Channel Islands and Alaska, visit explore.org for a wide variety of other wildlife cams.
Backyard wildlife activities
From hummingbirds zipping by your window to garter snakes slithering in the garden, Washington state offers a lot of opportunity to observe wildlife just outside your own back door.
Learn how to landscape for wildlife
Vegetation is key to attracting a variety of wildlife. Native plants provide the food, shelter, and nesting habitat for songbirds, hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and other wildlife. You can use this extra time at home to map out how you’d like your property to look and figure out which plants would thrive where you live. Visit the Washington Native Plant Society’s website for resources.
Add a water source to your yard
Put in a birdbath, garden pond, or other source of water outside your home. A safe place to bathe and drink will act as a magnet to many animals. You can make a simple birdbath with things you probably already have. Visit the Audubon’s website for an easy do-it-yourself bird bath using an old cake pan or flower-pot tray.
Make a bird house or nest box
Add bird houses to your property, or better yet, try to leave snags (dead trees) if they don’t pose any risk. Cavity-nesting birds have been especially impacted by urban development. A bird house of the proper dimensions can substitute for snags where these birds used to nest. There are lots of easy instructions online to build your own bird house or nest box. Visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Backyard Birding webpage for resources.
Keep your cat and wild birds safe
Domestic cats can make great pets, but when they are allowed to roam outdoors, there can be serious consequences to local wildlife. Cats kill about 2.4 billion birds every year in the U.S. alone. Visit the American Bird Conservancy website for information on their Cats Indoors Program and learn how to keep pet cats and wild birds safe. You may even consider an outdoor enclosure for your cat, also known as a ‘catio’.
Make a window cling to protect birds
Up to a billion birds die each year from flying into glass. You can help prevent that from happening at your house by making your own window clings using recycled plastic and puffy fabric paint. Check out this tutorial video from the Audubon Society.
Keep a lookout for invasive Asian giant hornets
There is a new pest in Washington – the Asian giant hornet. Recently discovered near Bellingham, it's not yet known how widely the hornet has spread. Asian giant hornets are the world’s largest hornet and attack most insects but prefer honeybees and can kill entire hives. They also pose a human threat as their venom is more toxic than any native bee or wasp. Report any sightings of the Asian giant hornet to the Washington State Department of Agriculture at agr.wa.gov/hornets. Do NOT approach these insects as they can sting through normal clothing.
Report your bat observations
Have you seen a bat flying during the day or in freezing weather? These could be signs of a serious disease called white-nose syndrome. Please report your observations online or call 360-902-2515. White-nose syndrome does not pose a threat to humans, pets, or other wildlife.
Larry Phillips has served as the South Puget Sound and Coast (Region 6) Director since 2016. Larry was first employed by the Department in 1996 as a Fisheries Technician collecting creel survey data on the Snake River. In 1998 he was hired as a permanent employee by the Fish Program in Spokane and later transferred to Olympia to serve as the Area Fish Biologist for South Puget Sound. In 2007 Larry was promoted to District Fish Biologist. He remained in this position until 2015 when he was promoted to Inland Fish Program Manager with state-wide responsibilities. In 2016 Larry promoted to his current position.
Larry holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from Lewis Clark State College in Lewiston (Idaho) and a master’s degree in Fisheries Science from Eastern Washington University. Larry enjoys fishing, hunting, hiking and camping.