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Fish biolgist hopes anglers clean up their act

Aug. 26, 2014 6:08 a.m.

FISHING — In case you missed this disturbing but  important heads up published on  Sunday….

Fishermen may be trashing their privilege to use a fishing access to West Medical Lake.

A rocky point at the north end of the lake is regularly fouled with litter such as bait containers, food wrappers and lure packages despite repeated cleanup efforts.

“It’s one of those cases of a few people ruining it for the majority,” said Randy Osborne, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife district fisheries biologist.

While the agency owns the public fishing access at the south end of the lake, the informal access at the north end is state land managed by Washington State Veterans Cemetery.

The road into the spot serves the pump that irrigates the cemetery.

“There’s a tremendous garbage problem the cemetery workers have tolerated for a long time,” he said. “They’ve cleaned it up and our people have picked up, but there’s a percentage of people who use that site that won’t pack out what they pack in and it’s taking a toll.

“People like to fish off the rocks and the garbage they leave is not easy to collect. Cemetery workers are at the end of their rope on this. Access to that site is a privilege that anglers are going to lose if they don’t clean up their act.”

West Medical’s fishing season closes Sept. 30.

 

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Correction: Huckleberry Pack can’t be sorted by color

Aug. 25, 2014 7:04 p.m. - Updated: 9:04 p.m.

ENDANGERED SPECIES — I have confirmed an error in my Sunday evening report  regarding the helicopter gunning operation to kill some wolves in the Huckleberry Pack that have killed at least 22 sheep and injured at least three more in six separate incidents on a flock of 1,800 sheep in southern Stevens County since Aug. 14.

Correction: My original report quoted the unofficial source as saying the adults are black and the  juveniles are light-colored and that helicopter gunners would try to use those colors to help them target the younger wolves. The source said that by avoiding shots at the adults the agency would try to protect the breeding pair and the pack's integrity.

Washington Fish and Wildlife officials called and said that is not true and at least one source who has photos of the Huckleberry Pack confirms that the animals are mixed colors… in other words, it's not a black and light situation.

  • The collared alpha male is gray, for instance (see photo).
  • The pups are different colors as seen in this video posted on the WDFW website (below).

Today, state Fish and Wildlife officials confirmed that efforts were continuing to find and remove up to four wolves from the pack. A federal wildlife agent contracted by WDFW killed one wolf on Saturday, as I reported Sunday night on information from the  unofficial source.

No information has been released on whether more wolves were killed today, Aug. 25. Wolves are protected by state endangered species laws in Eastern Washington except in cases when they pose a danger to people or domestic animals.

Fish and Wildlife officials in Spokane said they were not aware that Director Phil Anderson had received information that agency staff in the field were in some sort of danger, as reported to me by the unofficial source. So I cannot confirm or correct that statement.

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Lentil Festival runs out of gas

Aug. 25, 2014 1:28 p.m.

BICYCLING — I'm getting this second hand, but some Spokane bicyclists who traveled to Pullman for the organized bike tour associated with the annual Lentil Festival came home, shall we say, deflated.

They said they were all geared up for a lentil burger to restore their energy after the ride, but there wasn't a lentil burger available from any of the vendors… just lentil ice cream.

Can that be true?

Does a cyclist have to pedal away from the lentil fields all the way to Boulder, Colo., Eugene, Oreg. — or Costco — to get a good lentil burger fix?

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Hanford Reach chinook not biting, yet

Aug. 25, 2014 10:08 a.m. - Updated: 10:08 a.m.

FISHING — Patience.

A record run of fall chinook is headed to the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River below Priest Rapids Dam.

But they ain't there yet, according to this creek report from Paul Hoffarth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist in the Tri-Cities.

An estimated 212 boats fished for salmon in the Hanford Reach (Hwy 395 and Priest Rapids Dam) this past week.  WDFW staff interviewed 14 boats (25 anglers:100 pole hours) fishing for salmon with no catch. Staff also interviewed 8 bank anglers at Ringold with no catch.

Above are the latest graphs showing fish moving over Bonneville Dam, the first dam the fish encounter up the Columbia from the ocean, as well as McNary Dam, the last dam the salmon negotiate before heading either toward the Snake or up the Columbia into the Hanford Reach.

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Annual Spokane River Clean-up canceled

Aug. 25, 2014 8:18 a.m.

CONSERVATION — The Spokane River Clean-up, an annual volunteer event started in 2003, is canceled for this year.

Tim Sanger of Friends of the Falls said in a media release the group did not have the resources to run the cleanup this year.

The group will focus on organizing a broader program next year, he said.

In recent years, as many as 800 volunteers enjoyed friendly competition that resulted in tons of garbage removed from the river corridor.

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Snake River salmon fishing to open seven days a week

Aug. 25, 2014 8:03 a.m.

FISHING — Starting Saturday, Aug. 30, anglers will be able to catch and keep hatchery fall chinook salmon seven days a week on the Snake River.

Predicting another strong return of upriver bright chinook salmon this year, state fishery managers have expanded the daily catch limit to include six adult hatchery chinook, plus six hatchery jack chinook under 24 inches in length.

Anglers may also catch and keep up to three hatchery steelhead on the Snake River, but must stop fishing for the day – for both hatchery chinook and steelhead – once they have taken their three-fish steelhead limit.

Barbless hooks are required, and any salmon or steelhead not marked as a hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin must be released, along with any chinook salmon under 12 inches.

“This is a great opportunity for anglers to catch hatchery chinook salmon during the traditionally productive Snake River steelhead fishery,” said John Whalen, regional fish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

New fishing rules set to take effect Sept. 1 on the Tucannon River will reduce the daily catch limit for hatchery steelhead to two fish to provide additional protection for wild steelhead. The new rules for steelhead and other gamefish also:

  • Require anglers to use barbless hooks and keep any hatchery steelhead they catch.
  • Close the fishery upstream from Marengo at Turner Road Bridge.
  • Establish new fishing boundaries at the mouth of the Tucannon.

Details of the Tucannon River fishery are posted on WDFW’s website at fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/.

Whalen said the upcoming fall chinook fishery on the Snake River is expected to extend through Oct. 31, while the season for hatchery steelhead and other gamefish will run through Feb. 28.

Of the 919,000 upper river brights projected to enter the Columbia River this year, 61, 000 are wild fall chinook bound for the Snake River. Retention of hatchery chinook won’t increase impacts to fish protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, so long as anglers release wild chinook as required, Whalen said. 

“We urge anglers to identify their catch before they remove it from the water,” he said. “State law prohibits removing chinook salmon or steelhead from the water unless they are retained as part of the daily catch limit.”

The fishery will extend from waters of the Columbia River from the railroad bridge between Burbank and Kennewick upstream approximately 2.1 miles to the first power line crossing upstream of the navigation light on the point of Sacajawea State Park and on the Snake River from the Columbia River confluence to the Oregon State line (approximately 7 miles upstream of the mouth of the Grande Ronde River).

Watch for updates on the WDFW website.

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Volunteers sign up for annual cleanup of ocean beaches

Aug. 25, 2014 7:02 a.m.

CONSERVATION —Washington CoastSavers has opened registration for participating in the International Coastal Cleanup, Sept. 20, 2014.

Volunteers can select from dozens of beaches to clean in Washington, from the Long Beach Peninsula to the Olympic Peninsula.

“The annual coastal cleanup is one of the most inspiring events we participate in each year,” said said Don Hoch, Washington State Parks director. “It's heartening to see hundreds of caring volunteers get out and make a real difference by cleaning up our ocean beaches for the benefit of wildlife, habitats and the citizens who enjoy visiting our beautiful Pacific coast.”

Washington CoastSavers is an alliance of partners and volunteers dedicated to keeping the state's beaches clean of marine debris. 

Visit www.coastsavers.org for information on registering for this year's coastal cleanup, including what beaches will be cleaned, where to camp and special offers through local business specifically for cleanup volunteers. 

Donations for the effort are gladly accepted.

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Helicopter gunners kill at least 1 Huckleberry Pack wolf

Aug. 24, 2014 8:50 p.m. - Updated: Aug. 25, 6:18 p.m.

UPDATED WITH CORRECTION  6:17 p.m. on Aug. 25

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The first wolf was killed in a helicopter gunning operation to stave off attacks on a flock of 1,800 sheep in northeastern Washington Saturday evening. The kill apparently came shortly after Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials announced they had decided to kill at least four members of the Huckleberry Pack.

An unofficial source says WDFW Director Phil Anderson told staff to avoid talking about the operation through the weekend because he had been contacted by people who said the staffers in the field were in danger.

  • Managing wolves that are naturally repopulating their niches in Washington exposes the wide spread of opinion the species prompts, as can be see in the comments posted to the story linked above.

The decision to kill some of the pack, which numbers up to 12 wolves, came after at least 22 sheep pastured by Dave Dashiell of Hunters on private timber company land had been documented as killed by the wolves since mid-August. The attacks came despite the 24-hour protection of crews and four guard dogs. 

  • The dogs are crosses of the standard sheepdog breeds: Marema, Akbash and Pyrenees. The Dashiells report that one of the dogs has two large canine bites in one of his rear legs that may be from fighting off the wolves in the early attacks around Aug. 14.

Unofficial sources say the agency is trying to target the younger wolves to reduce the pressure on the pack to feed so many mouths, hoping they will turn back to feeding on wild game.

But wildlife officials said the situation will be re-evaluated on a daily basis as to whether more or less than four wolves will be killed.

No word has been released on how many wolves, if any, were killed today, Aug. 24.

Unofficial sources report that Anderson said the goal is to maintain the pack integrity.

Correction: My original report quoted the unofficial source as saying the adults are black and the  juveniles are light-colored. Wildlife officials called and said that is not true and at least one source who has photos of the Huckleberry Pack confirms that is not true. The collared alpha male is gray, for instance.

But apparently wildlife are trying to avoid harming the breeding pair, as originally reported.

Unofficial sources also say the rancher, who has been looking for alternative pasture since the attacks began, may have found an option south of Spokane, well out of the territory of the pack, which ranges mostly on the Spokane Indian Reservation in southern Stevens County.

Background

The Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association has criticized the state for not giving Dashiell radio collar information this spring that would have indicated the operator was planning to pasture sheep near the Huckleberry Pack’s denning area.

Donny Martorello, WDFW state carnivore manager, said a wolf in the pack had been trapped and collared by the Spokane Indian Tribe under an agreement not to share the location of the wolf. Since the attacks, the tribe is allowing the location of the collared wolf to be shared, he said.

The Huckleberry Pack, one of about a dozen confirmed packs in Washington. The pack has not been associated with livestock kills until this month week.

The events are reminiscent of the 2012 wolf attacks on cattle in northern Stevens County that didn’t end until the state was forced to use helicopter gunners to kill all seven members of the Wedge Pack.

Fish and Wildlife officials reported spending $76,500 to end the pack’s livestock attacks but not before at least 17 calves had been lost, mostly on private land managed by Diamond M Ranch.

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Spokane River Classic attracts colorful flotilla

Aug. 23, 2014 6:18 p.m. - Updated: Aug. 24, 8:24 a.m.

PADDLING — Some very fast paddlers streaked across the Spokane River today in the debut of the Spokane River Classic, and they were followed by some not-so fast canoeists, kayakers, stand-up paddleboarders and one rowboat.

But it appeared as though everyone had a blast, as  you can see in my photo gallery from today's event.

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State gunners ordered to kill 4 wolves in Huckleberry pack

Aug. 23, 2014 4:14 p.m. - Updated: 5:21 p.m.

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A death sentence has been issued for a portion of a wolf pack that’s killed at least 22 sheep this month in southern Stevens County

Efforts to haze and deter the Huckleberry Pack from attacking a flock of 1,800 sheep grazing on private timber land have failed and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say they have no other choice but to target the pack.

In an effort to break the predation cycle, agency Director Phil Anderson said he authorized the killing of four wolves from the pack, which is estimated at up to 12 members.

Officials will later evaluate whether that is enough lethal force to end the sheep attacks.

Gunners began flying the area near Hunters in a helicopter today. A wolf was spotted, but at 4 p.m. officials said no wolves had yet been killed.

“As of Friday, we had confirmed that 17 sheep had been killed by wolves in five separate incidents, and we continue to find more dead and wounded sheep from the flock,” said Bruce Botka, agency spokesman. 

Today crews found five dead and three injured sheep that were attacked last night, Botka said. Investigators confirmed that wolves were responsible for all of the latest attacks, despite night patrols and use of four guard dogs.

Botka said the situation meets the state's conditions for lethal removal of wolves, which are protected in Eastern Washington by state endangered species laws. The pack is one of about a dozen wolf packs confirmed in Eastern Washington.

“There have been repeated, documented wolf kills; non-lethal methods have not stopped the predation; the attacks are likely to continue, and the livestock owner has not done anything to attract the wolves,” he said.

Rancher Dave Dashiell of Hunters has worked with WDFW staff to try to prevent wolf attacks on his flock, Botka said.

This week, four department employees, two federal staff and two contracted range riders have been working with the rancher to prevent additional attacks, he said. 

“Despite those efforts, sheep continue to be killed by wolves,” Botka said.

Washington law allows ranchers to kill up to one wolf if caught in the act of attacking domestic animals. Earlier this week, Anderson gave Dashiell and the agency staffers guarding the flock greater authority to kill up to two wolves if spotted near the sheep even if they weren’t attacking.

On Friday, night conservation groups, including The Lands Council based in Spokane, appealed to Anderson to back off the authorization to kill wolves in the vicinity of the sheep.

“We appreciate the agency’s efforts to work with the rancher and use nonlethal means to protect sheep from further losses,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But the wolf kill order needs to be rescinded right away. Killing wolves is just not an effective means of protecting livestock.”

The groups were angered by today’s notice that the agency was targeting the wolves.

“Nonlethal measures, such as range riders and moving the sheep, were being put in place and should have been allowed to work before the agency moved to kill wolves,” Weiss said.

The events are reminiscent of the 2012 wolf attacks on cattle in northern Stevens County that didn’t end until the state was forced to use helicopter gunners to kill all seven members of the Wedge Pack.

The Huckleberry Pack, named for the nearby Huckleberry Mountains, was documented as a pack in 2012. The pack had not been associated with attacks on livestock until this month, officials said.

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