Southwest - Region 5
 
Guy Norman

Regional Director

2108 Grand Boulevard
Vancouver, WA 98661

Office Hours: Monday - Friday
8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
excluding legal holidays

Telephone (360) 696-6211
Fax (360) 906-6776
TeamVancouver@dfw.wa.gov

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Southwest Washington
Wildlife Report Archives

Southwest Washington Wildlife Report Archives
December 2011

December 26

GOAL 1: Conserve and protect native fish and wildlife

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Estuary MOA coordination:  Wildlife Area Manager Calkins attended the monthly interagency coordination meeting.  Most of the time was spent in discussion regarding the Chinook Wildlife Area project in Region 6.  It appears that monitoring information that the MOA team has collected or compiled in cooperation with a consultant has shed a great deal of light on the constraints and opportunities on this site.  WDFW engineers are nearing completion of a plan for the Abernathy project.  Wildlife program staff have not yet seen the plan but we have few concerns regarding this site.  Most of the Shillapoo discussion related to an upcoming meeting with the action agencies where the Corps will present their proposed approach the Feasibility Study.  A draft literature review relating to floodplain lakes was also distributed.

Klickitat Wildlife Area:
Soda Springs Unit BLM Parcel:  A BLM parcel is a topic of discussion as WDFW works on its HCP and BLM develops its Resource Management Plan concurrently.  BLM wants to issue any grazing permits that affect their ownership, yet there are practical considerations that will shape implementation.  This parcel is part of a coordinated resource management plan that was developed for a sustainable grazing program in the Simcoe Mountains.  Most of the BLM parcel is much too steep for cattle to navigate, but there are areas with gentle enough terrain to warrant an inspection for grazing impacts.  The vegetation on the site is a mosaic of old growth ponderosa pine/Douglas fir forest, oak woodlands, and open grassland.  The conifer forest has a fairly open canopy, allowing for an extensive appears to be rocky and shallow, and large expanses of the grassland seems to be mostly cheat grass and other less desirable species.  There was indication of fencing.  The forest seems to be in much better shape, with mostly native plants present.   Manager Van Leuven found a western gray squirrel nest, heard a Douglas squirrel, and observed a varied thrush, as well as observed golden eagles nearby.  The character of the conifer forest seemed appropriate for spotted owls but Van Leuven did not get a response when calling. 

GOAL 2: Provide sustainable fishing, hunting and other wildlife-related recreational experiences.

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT

Post Season Deer Surveys:  Biologist Holman and Wildlife Area Manager Van Leuven conducted a post-season deer survey flight over portions of GMU 388 (Grayback).  Biologist Anderson provided flight-following for the survey.  Mild winter weather and lack of snow cover made survey conditions less than ideal.  In spite of the mediocre conditions, approximately 472 wintering deer were observed on the flight.  Buck to doe and fawn to doe ratios will be calculated and summarized in future reports.

Biologists Holman and Stephens conducted a ground-based post-season deer survey in portions of GMU 382 (East Klickitat).  Similar to the conditions mentioned above, the East Klickitat GMU is almost entirely snow free and deer populations are scattered.  Approximately 75 deer were observed during the effort.  Buck to doe and fawn to doe ratios will be calculated and summarized in future reports.

Biologist Anderson also met with a volunteer in White Salmon to provide them maps and instructions for assisting WDFW with deer surveys in 578 until the end of the month.

GOAL 3: Use sound business practices, deliver high-quality customer service.

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area:
Budget:   Program Manager Jonker and Wildlife Area Manager Calkins met with Section Manager Dahmer by video conference to review a detailed proposal to enhance the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area Budget.  The reasoning behind the proposal and meeting was to provide a reasonable financial investment to support technician time and work on Wildlife Area Projects.  Providing goods and services funding will allow us to begin to make meaningful progress on weed control, forage maintenance/enhancement, addressing infrastructure related resource issues, and public access management. 

Cowlitz Wildlife Area:
Kosmos North Field Access Maintenance:  The vehicle access to the North Field at Kosmos had become muddy and rutted. This is a field access intended for summer entry but has been seeing more activity later in the year from the public. Hunters will park at this gate from the release of the first pheasant to the closing days of the late deer and elk season. CWA staff placed 3” inch rock to harden the access road and prevent further degradation of the site.

OTHER

Vehicle Accident:  Technician Boylan was involved in a two car non injury accident shortly after leaving the office on 12/22.  Boylan was coming to a stop at the intersection and the WDGW truck was struck by another vehicle making a right hand turn.  Boylan was not at fault and the other driver stated that sun glare affected his vision causing him to cross too far across the street.  The only damage we can find is a broken hubcap on the vehicle Boylan was driving.  Wildlife Area Manager Calkins reviewed reports and submitted them to the safety and risk management office.

 

WINTER CONDITIONS

D-10 & MSHWA Winter Conditions

Past Weather:  November temperatures were below normal and precipitation was slightly above average.  Snow accumulated in mid and low elevations early in the month but was later melted off by a major warm rainstorm. The month of December has been unusually dry but temperatures have been below normal.

Short-Term Forecast: Temperatures are expected to be warmer over the next week with moderate precipitation; a more normal pattern.  Little snow is expected below 3,000 feet.  The 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks both suggest temperatures in the normal range and precipitation amounts above normal.

Long-Term Forecast: The longer term outlook maps suggest below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation throughout the winter, but it appears now that spring may be more moderate than previously forecasted.

Habitat:  Lower elevation areas currently have little snow cover making for reasonable forage availability.  Use of grasses and forbs on the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area has been light to date and only minimal use of shrubs has been noted. 

Snow Depths:  Areas below 3,000 feet remain mostly snow free.  Snowpack is below average.  See attached spreadsheet for detailed information. (MSH_Sno-Depth.pdf).

Animal Concentrations: No unusual concentrations noted to date.  On December 5, 2011 a total of 116 elk were present in the mudflow unit monitoring area, which is below levels that would raise concerns.

Animal Condition: No reports to date of animals in poor condition that can be attributed to winter conditions.  Animals observed to date appear to be in good condition.

Mortality: None to report.

Public Contacts: None to report related to winter conditions.

The public is reminded that the Mudflow Unit of the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area lying East of a line defined by Hoffstadt Creek, The North Fork Toutle and Deer Creek is closed to public access through April 30 to minimize disturbance and associated energy demands on elk wintering there. 

District 9: Winter Conditions

Past Weather:  Precipitation in the South Cascades continues on a pace to be one of the driest Decembers on record.  Snowpack is 60% of normal.  Average temperatures have fallen this week but it appears that we will go into 2012 with no severe winters conditions to report.

Winter Severity:  The Klickitat Wildlife Area is mostly snow-free and forage habitat available.  There is no concern for the current severity of the winter conditions on big game populations in Skamania County and the western portion of Klickitat County.  The eastern portions of Klickitat County have had no snow accumulation and deer are in good condition.

Habitat:  Habitat is open and forage habitat continues to be available throughout District 9.

Animal Concentrations:  Biologists conducted deer surveys in Klickitat County this week and deer were not seen in concentrations suggesting any winter stress. 

Animal Condition:  Deer and elk appear to be in good condition and no winter stress/mortality has been reported except for typical road kills.

Mortality:  None documented this week.

Public Contacts:  No concerns raised by the public this week.

 

December 19

GOAL 1: Conserve and protect native fish and wildlife

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT

Western Pond Turtles:  Biologist Holman continued work on the annual report to Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), summarizing completed work related to western pond turtle management in the Columbia River Gorge area.  This year various tasks were undertaken, including continuation of the head-start program which resulted in collection of 74 juvenile turtles.  Other activities included significant habitat improvements at all four pond turtle sites, mark/re-capture population investigations, environmental education, turtle releases, increased predator control efforts, etc.  Thanks to BPA for their 2011 funding of the Western pond turtle work. 

Western Pond Turtles:  Biologist Holman compiled and summarized data that will help generate a population estimation method for western pond turtles.  The model in development relies on the capture history of individual animals as well as their length and weight at the time of capture.  The summary included 5 years of mark-recapture data at the Pierce National Wildlife Refuge western pond turtle site.

Biologist Anderson met with US Forest Service staff to discuss preliminary habitat improvement projects on their lands in the spring and fall of 2012.  Included in this work will be continued weed control, mowing, and creation of down woody material for increasing basking sites for western pond turtles.  In addition, Biologist Anderson discussed 2012 funding with the Woodland Park Zoo for western pond turtle work in the Columbia River Gorge.  Their funding would primarily assist with head starting efforts and control of non native bullfrog populations.

Mt. St. Helens Elk Herd Study:  Regional Wildlife Biologists removed collection points from several locations in Region 5 and stored the materials associated with this effort.  The locations had facilitated the gathering of cow elk organs for body condition evaluation.  Approximately 2000 antlerless elk tag holders within the Mt. St. Helens Herd area were asked to submit the heart, pericardium, kidneys, teeth, and reproductive tracts from any yearling or older female elk that they harvested.  The effort spanned early muzzleloader hunts in October, continued through the November modern firearm elk seasons, and concluded with various late hunts to mid-December.  The samples will be evaluated for body condition, reproductive status, and age during the coming winter.  This long-term project is one facet of the Mt. St. Helens Elk Herd Study and was done in cooperation with the University of Alberta and NCASI (National Council for Air and Stream Improvement).  Thanks to all the elk hunters who submitted samples for evaluation.

Wide Sky Creek.
Wide Sky Creek.

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Shillapoo Wildlife Area:
Pasture Mowing:  Wildlife Area Assistant Manager Hauswald completed mowing all pastures for the year at Shillapoo Wildlife Area this week.  A total of approximately 600 acres is mowed every year, starting in early July, to provide forage for wintering waterfowl and for weed control in many of the pastures.  The pastures are mowed to a height of about six inches to provide suitable conditions for wintering Canada geese and Sandhill cranes.

Klickitat Wildlife Area:
Grazing Monitoring:  Wildlife Area Manager Van Leuven conducted site visits to the Fisher Hill grazing permit area with biologists Fornes, Anderson, and Weinheimer.  Biologists hiked to key areas of the grazing permit area to evaluate stream habitat, riparian habitat, fish habitat, and grazeable woodland and steppe habitats.  Deer and immature bald eagles roosting in a snag were observed on the property during the site visits.  Pools in the creek were checked for fish habitat quality.  The streambed is mostly comprised of large rocks, with a highly variable flow volume.  Many indicators of environmental integrity were scored well, but some items were difficult to evaluate due to the season.  It was agreed that the site should be revisited during the growing season and when stream flows are stronger to better understand the current condition of the resources.

GOAL 2: Provide sustainable fishing, hunting and other wildlife-related recreational experiences.

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT

Trout Lake Elk Area: Biologist Anderson provided hunting and access information to late season elk permit hunters with tags for Elk Area 5062.  Few elk have been seen to date in this area due to mild winter conditions.  The hunt periods begin on Dec 15th and extend until the end of January.  This hunt is specific to private lands with an emphasis on controlling damage to agricultural lands.

SW Washington Goose season:  This week Management Area 2A saw a couple of busy days with a total of 51 hunters checking in 131 geese at a rate of 2.57 geese per hunter.  The Cathlamet station checked in 34 geese harvested from 11 hunters this week while Woodland saw the most traffic at 30 hunters checking in 78 geese.  One dusky was harvested out of zone 1 this week, however all zones continue to remain open to goose hunting.  A reminder that there will not be any goose hunting in Management Area 2A on Sunday December 25th and Sunday January 1st. I n addition, the check stations will be closing at 4:00pm on December 24th.  Hunters should adjust their schedules accordingly to accommodate this early closure on Christmas Eve.

Last week a total of 61 hunters brought in 126 geese to be checked at the three check stations in Management Area 2A.  The Vancouver check station saw the most hunters that week with a total of 26 hunters and 45 geese or 1.5 geese per hunter.  Cathlamet saw the fewest numbers at 17 hunters checking in 39 geese or 2.35 geese per hunter.  One Dusky was harvested out of zone 4 this week, bringing the total number of duskies harvested to 7.

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Shillapoo Wildlife Area:
Watchable Wildlife:  Habitat Technician Boylon had a rare sighting this week of a Snowy owl on the Shillapoo Wildlife Area.  Usually only seen wintering as far south as Northwest Washington, it appears that the owls are wintering further south this year with many reports of the birds being seen in the southern half of Washington in search prey.  Due to a low population of lemmings this year on the tundra on their summer range, the owls are dispersing further south in search of food.  This situation happens about every ten years as the lemming population goes through its natural population cycle.  Other birds recently seen at Shillapoo include a Merlin, Egrets, Blue herons, Pintails, Mallards, Bald eagles, and Short-eared owls.

 

GOAL 3: Use sound business practices, deliver high-quality customer service.

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Shillapoo Wildlife Area:
Phase 1, Historic Properties Management Plan completed:  Wildlife Area Manager Calkins received final copies of the Phase 1 document from the contractor.  This phase of the project inventoried cultural resources on the Wildlife Area, which will help inform future planning efforts.  Phase 2 of the plan will get under way after the conclusion of the intertidal habitat evaluation that WDFW staff have been involved in for about 2 years.

OTHER

Regional Office Storage Coordination:  Regional Program Managers with the help of program staff held cross program discussions regarding use of space in the office shop and other secured areas.  Unfortunately, the overcrowded situation had become emotional and tense at times.  An allocation of space between users has been reached that is as reasonable as possible, given the limited storage available does not meet all program needs.  The programs will present the revised plan to Regional Director Norman for final approval.

 

WINTER CONDITIONS

D-10 & MSHWA Winter Conditions

Past Weather:  November temperatures were below normal and precipitation was slightly above average.  Snow accumulated in mid and low elevations early in the month, but was later melted off by a major warm rainstorm.  The first half of December was dry, but temperatures were below normal. 

Short-Term Forecast:  Temperatures are expected to be slightly warmer over the next week with low to moderate precipitation.  Snow levels remain above 3,000 feet.  The 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks both suggest temperatures in the normal range and precipitation amounts below normal.

Long-Term Forecast:  The longer term outlook maps suggest below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation throughout the winter, but it appears now that spring may be more moderate than previously forecasted.

Habitat:  Lower elevation areas currently have little snow cover providing for reasonable forage availability.  Use of grasses and forbs on the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area has been light to date and only minimal use of shrubs has been noted. 

Snow Depths:  Areas below 3000 feet remain mostly snow free.  Snowpack is below average.  See attached spreadsheet for detailed information.

Animal Concentrations:  No unusual concentrations noted to date.  On December 5, 2011 a total of 116 elk were present on the Mudflow Unit monitoring area, which is below levels that would raise concerns.

Animal Condition:  No reports to date of animals in poor condition that can be attributed to winter conditions.  Animals observed to date appear to be in good condition.

Mortality:  None to report.

Public Contacts:  None to report related to winter conditions.

The public is reminded that the Mudflow Unit of the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area lying East of a line defined by Hoffstadt Creek, The North Fork Toutle, and Deer Creek is closed to public access through April 30 to minimize disturbance and associated energy demands on elk wintering there.

District 9: Winter Conditions

  • Past Weather:  Weather in the South Cascades has warmed this week and rainfall/snowpack is below normal.  The area continues to be in a low precipitation period with temperatures above normal during the day.  Approximately one inch of snow fell this week in the lower areas of the South Cascades, leaving most areas open to big game use.

  • Winter Severity:  The Klickitat Wildlife Area is snow-free and forage habitat continues to be available.  There is little concern for the current severity of the winter conditions on big game populations in Skamania County and the western portion of Klickitat County.  The eastern portions of Klickitat County have had no snow accumulation and deer are in good condition.

  • Habitat:  Habitat is open and forage habitat continues to increase with warming mid day weather.

  • Animal Concentrations:  No unusual concentrations seen due to inclement conditions.

  • Animal Condition:  Animals appear to be in good condition and no winter stress has been reported.

  • Mortality:  None documented this week.

  • Public Contacts:  No concerns raised by the public this week.

December 12

GOAL 1: Conserve and protect native fish and wildlife

Western pond turtle release.
BPA’s Ms. Branum (center) and her associates at the Beacon Rock State Park pond turtle release during the summer of 2011.

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT

ALEA/Volunteers: Biologist Anderson met with a private citizen in White Salmon that is interested in applying for an ALEA grant to build wood duck nesting boxes in Skamania and Klickitat counties. Over the past year he has been volunteering at the at Conboy National Wildlife Refuge building and placing wood duck and bluebird nest boxes on refuge lands. His current proposal would expand the program to other sites in the Columbia River Gorge.

Western Pond Turtles: Biologist Holman initiated work on the annual report to Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), summarizing work done related to western pond turtle management in the Columbia River Gorge area. This year various tasks were undertaken, including continuation of the head-start program which resulted in collection of 74 juvenile turtles. Other activities included significant habitat improvements at all four pond turtle sites, mark/re-capture population investigations, environmental education, turtle releases, increased predator control efforts, etc. Thanks to BPA for their 2011 funding of the Western pond turtle work. Please see the photo at right of BPA’s Ms. Branum (center) and her associates at the Beacon Rock State Park pond turtle release during the summer of 2011.

Western Pond Turtles: Biologists Van Leuven and Holman poured over data in the Regional archives to collect information needed by Science Division that will help generate a population estimation method for western pond turtles. The model in development relies on the capture history of individual animals as well as their length and weight at the time of capture. The utility of a centralized pond turtle database for the State was again apparent during this effort.

Mount St. Helens Wildlife Area Elk Survey: The first monthly winter elk survey was conducted by Biologist Miller on December 5th to assess herd composition and wintering elk concentration on the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area. A total of 116 elk were observed. The herd composition of a group of 67 elk was 31:100 calf:cow ratio (not all elk were classified). There was a group of 14 bulls (raghorns and spikes) on one of the river islands. Two radio collared elk were observed. Elk appeared in good condition and no mortalities were observed from the viewpoint.

Invasive English ivy.
Invasive English ivy.
Storm damage to bank erosion structures.
Storm damage to bank erosion structures.
Storm damage to bank erosion structures.
Progress on forage enhancement site.
Progress on forage enhancement site.
Progress on forage enhancement site.
Oak grove on grazing permit area.
Oak grove on grazing permit area.
New duck blind at Shillapoo.
New duck blind at Shillapoo.

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Cowlitz Wildlife Area:
Peterman Hill Unit: Cowlitz Wildlife Area assistant manager Vanderlip submitted a SEPA checklist containing plans to abandon 23 miles of logging roads and spurs on the Peterman Hill unit. The checklist was given a “Determination of Non-Significance (DNS)” after a public comment period and an agency review. These abandonments are not for Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plans (RMAP), but instead for shared roads under agreement from a timber reservation held with Green Diamond Resources.

Wildlife Area manager Grabski and assistant manager Vanderlip met on the Peterman Hill Unit with Green Diamond Resources (GDR) to discuss which roads to start abandoning this winter with their road contractors. Those roads identified for abandonment in sections 19 and 24 will be completed this winter while contractors are maintaining others roads in the area. The Department of Natural Resources will be called in at a later date to approve the work.

Shillapoo Wildlife Area:
English Ivy Control at Shillapoo Wildlife Area: Wildlife Area Assistant Manager Hauswald controlled English ivy at three sites in the South and Vancouver Lake Units of the Shillapoo Wildlife Area. He used a new method of spraying the foliage with a glyphosate and pelargonic acid mixture, which was recommended to Wildlife Area staff by Clark County Weed Management. In order to use this mixture under our BPA funding, Hauswald had previously coordinated a consultation with NOAA fisheries. Two of the three sites were found within the last week, and a survey of other possible infested areas will be made this winter to keep this invasive plant from getting a foothold on the wildlife area.

Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area:
Storm Damage: Wildlife Area Manager Calkins revisited photo points along the North Fork Toutle that are used to document changes in vegetation, erosion, river movements, and the performance of structures installed over the past several years to discourage erosion of elk winter range habitat. Calkins found that the river had gone around the back of the uppermost large “lateral wall” type structure where it met the bank line and a small amount of erosion had occurred. Previously everything looked fine from a distance and the damage was not evident without getting out to the site. There now is a gap of about 40-50 feet between the structure and the bank, which increases the chance of erosion. It was apparent that the structure had stood up to the forces of the river for some time before the breach occurred as there were 3-4 feet of sediment and debris collected on the upstream side. Some of the other logjam structures are also known to be impacted while others performed quite well. Staff will continue to monitor the situation and will be consulting with WDFW engineers on whether to attempt some sort of repair to the upper structure.

Monitoring: Wildlife Area Manager Calkins retook photo points at two forage enhancement sites that had not been monitored since 2009. The photos illustrate progress in the form of increased growth of grasses and forbs intended to increase forage availability for elk wintering here. The photos at right illustrate the 2008 pre-enhancement and current conditions respectively.

Klickitat Wildlife Area:
Grazing Monitoring: Klickitat Wildlife Area Manager Van Leuven revisited the grazing permit area in the lower Klickitat River Canyon to inspect the property. Most of the site is covered with oak woodlands, with a few groves of conifers and some open grassland. The area most used by the cattle seems to be a shady oak grove adjacent to more open pastures nearby. Van Leuven verified details about the site that were provided by the permittee, and prepared for the initial resource assessment with input from the District Team. Habitat Biologisst Fornes provided a list of priority species and habitats thought to occur on the property.

GOAL 2: Provide sustainable fishing, hunting and other wildlife-related recreational experiences.

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Shillapoo Wildlife Area:
New Duck Blind at Shillapoo: Habitat Technician Boylan and Wildlife Area Assistant Manager Hauswald built a new duck blind to replace an old blind that had rotted and was beyond repair. The blind was placed in the old Shillapoo lakebed in one of the fallow agricultural fields approximately 20 yards from the old blind along a drainage ditch, facing a strip of spring grain that has started to flood. The blind was placed in an area that is one of the most used fields by waterfowl, and waterfowl hunters.

Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area:
Winter Range Closure: Wildlife Area Manager Calkins checked signs posted previously and placed additional ones along portions of the Northern boundary of the closure area. The closure not only protects elk from disturbance but also makes it more likely that they will be in open areas where they can be seen from viewpoints above the Wildlife Area.

PRIVATE LANDS / ACCESS

Hunting Access: Technician White contacted 5 hunters during patrols in GMU 388 and 578. Technician White accompanied Law Enforcement Officer Bolton during a patrol, which included private timberlands enrolled in Feel Free to Hunt.

GOAL 3: Use sound business practices, deliver high-quality customer service.

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT

Mt. St. Helens Elk Herd Study –Body Condition: Regional Wildlife Program and Customer Service Staff spoke with many individuals who have drawn antlerless elk tags and have been requested to participate in collecting samples for the St. Helens Elk Study. Collection volume has increased recently with high-success rate hunts occurring in GMUs 550 Coweeman, 524 Margaret, 556 Toutle, and 554 Yale. Organ collections continue through December 15th.

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Cowlitz Wildlife Area:
Davis Lake Unit: The Allen Barn on the Davis Lake Unit of the Cowlitz Wildlife Area has been burglarized twice within the past year. In response to this event, the Wildlife Area staff have taken measures to prevent and deter future break-ins. Among the measures taken: electricity has been brought into the building to provide security lighting, a steel entry door was installed, and the large sliding doors have had their locking mechanisms improved. The Wildlife Area staff and Enforcement have made it a point of monitoring the building on a regular basis, which is located approximately 4 miles from the office.

WINTER CONDITIONS

D-10 & MSHWA Winter Conditions:

  • Past Weather: November temperatures were below normal and precipitation was slightly above average. Snow accumulated in mid and low elevations early in the month, but was later melted off by a major warm rainstorm. The early part of December was dry, but temperatures were below normal.
  • Short-Term Forecast: Conditions are expected to remain cold with valley temperatures ranging from the low 30’s to low 40’s. Moderate precipitation is expected with snow levels potentially falling below 2500 feet.
  • Long-Term Forecast: The longer term outlook maps suggest below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation throughout the winter and into early spring.
  • Habitat: Growing conditions were good over the spring and summer which should have produced above average forage growth. Use of grasses and forbs on the Wildlife Area has been light to date and only minimal use of shrubs has been noted. Staff discovered that one of the largest bank protection structures was damaged during the November rainstorm, potentially increasing the risk of loss of forage habitat to erosion. Only a very minor loss occurred during the storm as a result of the breach.
  • Snow Depths: Areas below 3000 feet remain mostly snow free. Snowpack is slightly below average. See attached spreadsheet for detailed information (12Dec2011-MSH_Sno-Depth.pdf).
  • Animal Concentrations: No unusual concentrations noted to date. The first monthly winter elk survey of the Mudflow Unit monitoring area was conducted this week. A total of 116 elk were present. One group was classified, which had a composition of 31 calves/100 cows.
  • Animal Condition: No reports to date of animals in poor condition that can be attributed to winter conditions. Animals observed to date appear to be in good condition.
  • Mortality: None to report.
  • Public Contacts: None to report related to winter conditions.

The public is reminded that the Mudflow Unit of the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area lying East of a line defined by Hoffstadt Creek, The North Fork Toutle, and Deer Creek is closed to public access through April 30 to minimize disturbance and associated energy demands on elk wintering there.

District 9: Winter Conditions

  • Past Weather: Weather in the South Cascades has been very dry over the past week. There has been no new precipitation/snow recently and December conditions for deer and elk are favorable.
  • Winter Severity: The Klickitat Wildlife Area is snow-free and forage habitat is still available. There is little concern for the current severity of the winter conditions on big game populations in Skamania County and the western portion of Klickitat County. The eastern portions of Klickitat County have had no snow accumulation and deer range is in good condition.
  • Habitat: Habitat is open and available below 3000 ft.
  • Animal Concentrations: No unusual concentrations seen due to inclement conditions.
  • Animal Condition: Animals appear to be in good condition and no winter stress has been reported.
  • Mortality: None documented this week.
  • Public Contacts: No concerns raised by the public this week

December 5

GOAL 1: Conserve and protect native fish and wildlife

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT

Sandhill Cranes: Biologist Anderson met with USFWS biologists at Conboy National Wildlife Refuge to discuss the potential for summarizing over 15 years of breeding crane observational data into a couple of reports. The USFWS currently houses the data base and we are working to look at several factors influencing trends in pair success and survivability as it relates to banding data.

Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area Elk Winter Range Closure Area
Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area Elk Winter Range Closure Area
The highlighted area is closed to public access December 1 to April 30 each year to limit human disturbance of elk wintering in the valley.
Click map for enlargement

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area:
Winter Closure: Wildlife Area Manager Calkins posted signs to advise the public of the annual winter closure on the Mudflow Unit. This portion of the Wildlife Area is closed each year to protect our largest concentration of wintering elk from human disturbance. The attached file illustrates the closure boundary (MSHWA-WinterClosureMap.pdf)

Weed Management: Wildlife Area Manager Calkins coordinated with US Forest Service Biologist Chandler on an application for Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Funding to control Hawkweed. The Forest Service will be the applicant on this proposal, which will train and utilize volunteers to survey for hawkweed and fund control efforts through Cowlitz County Weed Management. Through the project we hope to increase control efforts both on the Wildlife Area and the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. We first noted mouse ear hawkweed two years ago and now recognize it as a major threat to elk winter range conditions as it provides little in the way of forage and crowds out and eliminates desirable plants.

PRIVATE LANDS / ACCESS

Wetland Reserve Program: Biologist Stephens and Habitat Biologist Fornes met with Biologist Maggi from NRCS. WDFW is partnering with NRCS on a Wetland Reserve Program outreach effort in the upper Chehalis watershed and the meeting was a brief overview for WDFW biologists of what the project will involve.

GOAL 2: Provide sustainable fishing, hunting and other wildlife-related recreational experiences.

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT

Area 2A Goose Season: The last week was quiet in Management Area 2A due to the break in the Hunting season, however hunting will resume on December 7th of this week. The first part of the season went well with the Vancouver, Woodland, and Cathlamet check station attendants checking 566 geese for 254 hunters at a harvest rate of 2.23 geese per hunter. A total of six Duskies were harvested out of Management Area 2A, yet quotas were not reached in any zone. Hunters can expect all zones to be open when the hunt resumes on Wednesday, December 7th. Due to the break in hunt, it is recommended that participants revisit the migratory waterfowl season pamphlet for regulations, requirements, and restrictions before hunting on Wednesday. First time participants this season should also be sure to review the contents of the pamphlet. Hunters should be aware that the number of allowable cackling geese has increased to three birds per daily bag limit. Allowable hunting hours remain the same from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm and the Vancouver, Woodland, and Cathlamet check stations will continue to operate from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm on hunt days.

Dusky geese
Dusky geese wintering in the Vancouver Lowlands

Canada Goose Population Surveys: In cooperation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Region 5 Wildlife Biologists conducted surveys for Canada geese in selected areas of southwest Washington. The survey is focused on dusky Canada geese and involves locating flocks of duskies and examining the birds for neck collars. Population information generated via wintering observations in southwest Washington and northwest Oregon are compiled with data generated from aerial surveys of the geese on their breeding grounds in the Copper River delta of Alaska to develop a robust population estimate.

Biologists Holman and George conducted the survey in the Woodland Bottoms and Kalama River areas of Cowlitz County. Approximately 2,500 geese were observed including cackling, Taverner’s, lesser, western, and greater white-fronted geese; however, no duskies were located. Please see photo at right of dusky geese wintering in the Vancouver Lowlands.

Biologist Stephens conducted a Canada goose collar survey in Wahkiakum and northern Cowlitz counties. Nearly 2,300 cackling Canada geese were counted, 1,100 of those were examined for neck collars and 2 collars were observed. No dusky Canada geese were detected during the survey. A collared Tundra swan was observed in Grays Bay. The collar code was reported to USGS and it was determined that the swan was captured and collared as an adult female near King Salmon on the Alaska Peninsula during July of 2007.

2012-14 Three-Year Big Game Season Setting Effort: Regional Wildlife Program Manager Jonker along with Regional Wildlife Biologists met twice with Game Management Staff from Olympia to discuss season setting efforts for the next 3-year package. The primary topic of discussion focused around cougar management both at the Statewide and Regional level. Other topics included minor changes to permit levels for both deer and elk as well as additional Master Hunter opportunities designed to address situations of agricultural damage.

PRIVATE LANDS / ACCESS

Hunting Access: Biologist Stephens accompanied Officer Chamberlin during a patrol of DNR and Pope Resources land on the south side of the Swift Reservoir. Biologist Stephens is working with private landowners in the area to maintain public access to several thousand acres of DNR land including a trailhead to Mitchell Peak.

GOAL 3: Use sound business practices, deliver high-quality customer service.

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT

Mt. St. Helens Elk Herd Study –Body Condition: Regional Wildlife Program and Customer Service Staff spoke with many individuals who have drawn antlerless elk tags and have been requested to participate in collecting samples for the St. Helens Elk Study. Collection volume has increased recently with high-success rate hunts occurring in GMUs 550 Coweeman, 524 Margaret, 556 Toutle, and 554 Yale. Organ collections continue through December 15th.

REGION 5 WILDLIFE AREAS

Shillapoo Wildlife Area:
Historic Properties Management Plan: Wildlife Area Manager Calkins coordinated review of the draft phase 1 document with BPA archaeological staff and delivered comments to the contractor. The plan is nearing completion and provides a well written and concise inventory of historic sites within the Wildlife Area and their context within the larger Vancouver Lowlands Archaeological District. Phase 2 will follow at a later date and will deal with potential impacts associated with proposed management and how best to mitigate any potential effects.

WINTER CONDITIONS

D-10 & MSHWA Winter Conditions:

  • Past Weather: Late fall conditions can be a significant factor in overall winter severity and its influence on big game. November temperatures were below normal and precipitation was slightly above average. Snow accumulated in mid and low elevations early in the month but was later melted off by a major warm rainstorm.
  • Short-Term Forecast: Predominately dry over the next week with any snowfall above 3000 feet. The 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks suggest below normal temperatures and normal precipitation in the South Cascades.
  • Long-Term Forecast: The longer term outlook maps suggest below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation throughout the winter and into early spring.
  • Habitat: Growing conditions were good over the spring and summer, which should have produced above average forage growth. This is consistent with general observations on the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area and most of the newer forage enhancement sites are showing a marked improvement in production.
  • Snow Depths: Areas below 3000 feet are mostly snow free. Snowpack is slightly above average. See attached spreadsheet for detailed information.
  • Animal Concentrations: No unusual concentrations noted to date. The first winter survey of the monitoring area on the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area is scheduled for next week.
  • Animal Condition: No reports to date of animals in poor condition that can be attributed to winter severity or lack of forage.
  • Mortality: None to report.
  • Public Contacts: None to report related to winter conditions.
  • The public is reminded that the Mudflow Unit of the Mt. St. Helens Wildlife Area lying East of a line defined by Hoffstadt Creek, The North Fork Toutle and Deer Creek is closed to public access through April 30 to minimize disturbance and associated energy demands on elk wintering there.

District 9: Winter Conditions

  • Past Weather: Weather in the South Cascades is typical for this time of year and the snowpack is considered moderate at higher elevations. We are in a low precipitation period with temperatures above normal during the day. The trend calls for mild weather in the next couple weeks and no expected storms are predicted that would stress big game populations at this time.
  • Winter Severity: The Klickitat Wildlife Area is snow-free and forage habitat is available. There is little concern for the current severity of the winter conditions on big game populations in Skamania County and the western portion of Klickitat County. The eastern portions of Klickitat County have had no snow accumulation and deer are in good condition.
  • Habitat: Habitat is open and forage habitat has increased for big game this past week.
  • Animal Concentrations: No unusual concentrations seen due to inclement conditions.
  • Animal Condition: Animals appear to be in good condition and no winter stress has been reported.
  • Mortality: None documented this week.
  • Public Contacts: No concerns raised by the public this week.