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Southwest - Region 5
 
Guy Norman

Regional Director

2108 Grand Boulevard
Vancouver, WA 98661

Office Hours: Monday - Friday
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Southwest Washington Wildlife Reports Archives
January 2007

January 2, 2007

GAME DIVISION

Region 5 Post-Season Deer Surveys: Biologist Holman and Acting Klickitat Wildlife Area Manager VanLeuven conducted an aerial survey of the post-hunting season deer herd in GMU 388 (Grayback). District Wildlife Biologist Anderson provided the ground support and radio contact for the flight. The survey conditions were excellent with clear skies, little wind, and a largely snow-covered backdrop for the effort. Initial results appear promising and a summary of this-year's post-season deer surveys in Grayback will be the topic of a future weekly report.

Mt. St. Helens Mudflow Hunt Update: The special permit cow elk hunts on the Mount Saint Helen's mudflow have been very successful. The third, and final, group of special permit holders began their hunt on December 26th. In total, 25 permit holders have taken part in the special hunts and we currently believe that most of them have been successful in harvesting an elk. The hunt for disabled hunters, which is open only to special permit holders drawn from the existing pool of applicants, was initiated to harvest additional animals as a measure to reduce pressure on the winter range and possibly winter mortality on the site. Many of these hunters submitted organ samples for assessing body condition of the elk. Results will not be conclusive until the final evaluation has been completed.

Snow and Canada Geese.
Snow and Canada Geese

Winter Waterfowl: 2007 starts off with the Mid-winter Waterfowl Survey for WDFW biologists. This week-long survey is held every year and provides an estimate of waterfowl abundance and species diversity. At this time of year, waterfowl are easily seen on all the flooded pasture and farmed land. Of note has been a group of 18 snow geese mingling with 800 Canada geese and 1,200 wigeon seen by the Chehalis River in Centralia.

January 8, 2007

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area:
Mt. St. Helens Elk count:
District Wildlife biologist Miller conducted the monthly monitoring count of elk on the wildlife area this week. A total of 98 elk were observed on the wildlife area with another 10-17 in the Coldwater Ridge areas. The lower count may be due to somewhat milder conditions during the past week and the fact that the recent special permit hunts probably caused elk to disperse. Several large bull groups were present on the mudflow and calf numbers were high. Calf ratios may be biased due to the removal of cow elk during the recent special permit hunts. Elk were well distributed over the entire wildlife area. There were no heavy concentrations of elk noted. Elk were also observed near the Coldwater Ridge visitor’s center in areas of open south facing slopes.

Cowlitz Wildlife Area:
2007 Winter Waterfowl Survey:
Staff of the CWA spent three days visiting area lakes, ponds, and flooded areas to identify and count waterfowl species. The staff visited all the priority 1 and priority 2 sites (nine sites). This information is part of the annual migratory waterfowl survey.

Riffe Lake / Kosmos Flats: Water levels on Riffe Lake are lower during the winter months, which exposes large expanses of muddy lake bottom, especially on the east end of the lake. Visitors to the wildlife area, especially the Kosmos Flats, are reminded it is unlawful to remove petrified wood, minerals, fossils, or artifacts.

Recreation Information - Riffe Lake Water Levels: Riffe Lake’s water levels are once again falling and more areas of the lakeshore are being exposed. This exposure increases the likelihood of vehicular intrusion into sensitive areas easily damaged by motor vehicle access. The CWA staff has placed signs prohibiting motor vehicle use around the perimeter of these sensitive areas. Please respect these signs.

Watchable Wildlife: Early morning hours should be fruitful in spotting the local elk herd on the Davis Lake unit of the wildlife area. The bald eagles have returned to the Tilton River forested corridor across the highway from the Cowlitz Wildlife Area office.

Doe and fawn
Winter buck
Winter buck
Winter buck
Wintering deer found in GMU 388

GAME DIVISION

Region 5 Post-Season Deer Surveys: Biologist Holman and Acting Klickitat Wildlife Area Manager VanLeuven conducted an aerial survey of the post-hunting season deer herd in GMU 388 (Grayback). District Wildlife Biologist Anderson provided the ground support and radio contact for the flight. The survey conditions were excellent with clear skies, little wind, and a largely snow-covered backdrop for the effort. Additional ground-based surveys covered the more accessible portions of the GMU to provide a comprehensive sample of the post-season deer population. During the surveys, a total of 678 deer were observed with 589 classified. The fawn to doe ratio was 63 to 100 and the buck to doe ratio was 16 to 100.

A post-hunting season goal of 15 bucks per 100 does has been established as a state-wide benchmark per the Game Management Plan. Note that although located in Region 5, and containing mule and black-tailed deer as well as hybrid animals, GMU 388 is now managed as a mule-deer area. A three-point or larger antler restriction for all user-groups was implemented in 2006 and the general rifle season was shortened to 14 days. During the period spanning 2003 through 2005, Grayback was hunted under a more liberal two-point restriction and offered a longer, general rifle season. Post-season buck to doe ratios under the prior management strategy averaged just 8 bucks per 100 does annually. The survey indicates that this change in management strategy has resulted in improved post-hunting-season escapement of bucks in GMU 388. WDFW will continue to monitor the post-season deer population in GMU 388 in future years.

Winter Waterfowl: Biologist Anderson completed a mid-winter waterfowl survey on the Columbia River from Bonneville Dam to John Day Dam. Final results have not yet been compiled, but overall numbers appear to be down from previous years. Canada goose numbers were especially low in traditional areas below John Day Dam. Weather was seasonally warm and open water was observed throughout the survey region. Of special note was a congregation of 60 bald eagles at the mouth of the Klickitat River. These birds were concentrated on a large mud flat that provided numerous fish carcasses following flood conditions the previous day.


January 17, 2007

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Elk winter feeding.
Elk winter feeding.
WDFW employee throwing "flake" for wintering elk at the Mt. St. Helen's Wildlife Area.

Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area:
Emergency Winter Feeding:
Severe early winter conditions and public concern for the well being of the elk were factors taken into consideration in the decision to initiate steps to winter-feed elk at the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area. Emergency winter-feeding commenced on Wednesday January 10th. We began by delivering 2,700 pounds of alfalfa hay per day. This interim rate was to allow the elk time to find and adjust to the hay. Use of the hay gradually increased to about 80% and we have now increased to feeding about 4000 pounds (two tons) per day. This interim rate will continue through the weekend while elk acclimate to the feed. We currently estimate that we have at least 400 elk on the wildlife area where the feeding is occurring. Next week we will begin to adjust feed rates to the estimated elk numbers, observed usage rates, and weather conditions. Depending on weather and usage rates, we plan to deliver 7 to 10 pounds per elk per day.

The hay we are currently using was grown in the Pasco area and is tested for quality before purchase. The bales are 3X4X8 feet and each weighs 1350 pounds. The rectangular bales are loaded onto a flatbed truck, hauled to the wildlife area and one employee separates the bales into flakes and pushes them off the truck as another slowly drives the length of the area. Two temporary employees have been hired to do most of the feeding. Almost all of the equipment involved in the operation is on loan from other agency programs and installations. Getting this short-term program under way has been a model of cooperation within the agency.

GAME DIVISION

Mid-winter waterfowl surveys: Biologist Holman and Officer Meyers completed the mid-winter waterfowl survey from the mouth of the Washougal River, up the Columbia to Bonneville dam. The results of the survey tallied: 1,324 ducks (primarily scaup on the Columbia and mallards on Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge), 670 Canada geese (mostly cacklers and westerns on Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge) and 62 swans (on Franz Lake National Wildlife Refuge). This year's survey included nearly identical numbers of ducks but roughly half the number of geese, compared to the 2006 survey. Note that again this year, many of the swans were found feeding on the main lake directly in front of the observation point at Franz Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Sometimes the swans are found in the small pond at the western end of Beacon Rock State Park. Those interested in viewing the swans should try each location.

DIVERSITY DIVISION

Gateway development project: Biologist Anderson is currently negotiating with the Port of Vancouver on the Gateway development project. Included in this project is the development of a bald eagle management plan to protect a nest site and riparian habitat within the project boundary. The USFWS has also been involved in the development of this plan, keeping in consideration that there is a good chance the bald eagle will be de-listed sometime soon. Once the bald eagle is federally de-listed, the USFWS will no longer consult through the section 7 process on projects that may affect threatened and endangered species.

January 22, 2007

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area:
Emergency Winter Feeding:
Emergency winter-feeding of elk continued this week. 462 elk were observed from the Weyerhaeuser site on January 18th. Since a portion of the wildlife area cannot be seen from this location, numbers are probably at or above 500 elk. Counts from the road, where feeding is occurring, have ranged from 300 to 360 animals over the past week. The increase in animal numbers is typical for this site during severe weather periods, like those we have experienced over the last two weeks. Estimated use rate of hay delivered now on the wildlife area is at or above 80%. With an estimated 500 animals on the site, this is a rate of about 8 pounds of hay per head, per day. With the expected milder conditions, this is an appropriate rate. We will continue to adjust feed rates to estimated elk numbers, observed usage rates, and weather conditions.

GAME DIVISION

Dusky Goose Survey: Biologist Holman participated in round two of the federally coordinated dusky goose survey. The survey area included the Shillapoo State Wildlife Area, private agricultural lands, and Port of Vancouver property in the Vancouver lowlands, along with agricultural areas in the vicinity of Woodland. Approximately 3000 geese were located during the survey, including 55 duskies. Two of the duskies were collared individuals; both of the collar numbers were "read". Cackling Canada geese and Taverners Canada geese dominate the wintering goose population in these areas. Dusky goose surveys are conducted simultaneously, twice annually, throughout Southwest Washington and Northwest Oregon by staff from WDFW, ODFW, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Please see the attached photos of dusky Canada geese resting on WDFW's Shillapoo Wildlife Area in the Vancouver lowlands.

Biologist Woodin completed the second of the two-part survey of Canada geese (with a focus on Dusky sub-species) in Lewis, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties. This survey did not include federal lands. Likely due to the week-long cold and snow, geese were few and far between in both Lewis and Cowlitz Counties. Most geese were found along the Lower Columbia River where fields had little or no snow and did not impede goose foraging. No dusky sub-species were located in this survey. The largest concentrations of geese were seen on Little Island in the Columbia River near Cathlamet. Approximately 2,700 geese were seen in groups ranging from 8 to 1,700 birds.

Janaury 29, 2007

Ridgefield NWR Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP): Biologists from Region 5 are participating in the CCP process for the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. When completed, the CCP will guide management of the refuge for a period of 15 years. Wildlife Area Manager Calkins attended the first meeting of the "extended team", which is a group representing different agencies, whose role is to provide advice to the USFWS on various issues and management strategies. A wide range of topics were discussed, including whether to intensively manage small areas or attempt to manage large areas less intensively for geese; which is the species for which the refuge was established. Public use issues ranged from hunting and bird watching to management of the Cathlapootle Plankhouse, which is a new feature on the refuge that the staff have to operate. Management of non-native invasive species, such as reed canary grass and ricefield bulrush, was a topic that recurred in discussion of almost every other major topic.

GAME DIVISION

Elk Population Modeling and Season Setting: All Regional Wildlife Biologists along with Program Manager Jonker participated in various efforts related to the establishment of elk hunting seasons for 2007. Per the recently completed Mt. St. Helens Elk Herd Plan, seasons designed to result in population reduction are in development. The new seasons will offer additional opportunities to harvest antlerless elk, thereby reducing the elk population. Draft proposals have been submitted to Game Division Staff for their consideration.

DIVERSITY DIVISION

Gateway Development (Port of Vancouver): Biologist Anderson attended a meeting with Port of Vancouver, consultants, and Paul King of CRANE to discuss mitigation for the Gateway marine development near Vancouver. At issue is the final mitigation plan being proposed by the CRANE conservation organization in collaboration with the Port. WDFW is taking an active role in oversight of the process and providing comments to specific issues of riparian habitat management, as well as wetland and meadow enhancement. In addition, Biologist Anderson is working on a bald eagle management plan on Port of Vancouver property that is adjacent to the proposed development.

Western Pond Turtle: Biologist Anderson participated in a meeting with Olympia staff to discuss integration of the regional western pond turtle database with the corporate (Olympia) data system. Issues being discussed are data entry, user access, integration into agency software, and report development. The goal of the program is to develop a database that is functional at the field and regional level as well as integrating data into the larger WDFW system.