Hands-off sturgeon and bear cubs

9:44 am October 14th, 2013

Hook and Fur
By Bob Brown
The fall fishing season for white sturgeon has been cancelled on the lower Columbia River above Wauna. The fishery was originally scheduled to open three days a week from the Wauna power lines upriver to Bonneville Dam beginning Oct. 19. However, both Washington and Oregon agreed to cancel the fishery based on catch data showing anglers caught 1,942 legal-size sturgeons which was about 96 percent of the annual harvest guideline for that area.
Brad James, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fish biologist, said 5he catch guideline “just won’t support a fall fishery. Catch rates during the early fishery were much higher than expected throughout the lower Columbia, eliminating the possibility of a fall fishery above the Wauna power lines for the second straight year.”
Despite the high catch rates this year, sturgeon retention below Bonneville Dam is scheduled to remain closed in 2014 due to declines in sturgeon populations in recent years. The closure also applies to the Washington coast, Puget Sound and tributaries of those waters.
Meanwhile, the Columbia Basin Bulletin reported that on Sept. 12, a resident in Idaho’s Island Park shot and killed a female grizzly bear with two young cubs. Because the incident is under investigation by the enforcement branch of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which has jurisdiction over the handling of grizzly bears, those are the only details that have been released at this time.
There have been public concerns because it was thought the orphaned bears were cubs born last winter. However, when measurement of the young bears front paw prints were taken at the scene where the sow was shot, and compared to hundreds of previous measurements from other cubs of the year, it was clear the cubs were yearlings.
Idaho Fish and Game large carnivore biologist Bryan Aber, who is part of the interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team said” Seven centimeters is the standard for cubs of the year in the Yellowstone Ecosystem. Measurements
made of the cub’s front pad prints were 8.5 and 9 centimeters. This measurement clearly makes these bears yearlings. The distinction between cubs of the year and yearlings is of major importance. Orphaned cubs of the year generally stand little chance of survival if left on their own heading into winter, but it is a different story for yearlings. If they are in good condition, they stand a better chance of surviving in the wild. It is not the policy of state and federal agencies managing grizzlies to capture orphaned yearlings in good condition because of their positive chances of survival in the wild.”
There have been calls from some members of the public to capture the cubs and place them in a rehab facility where they could be held in captivity, fed and later released somewhere. However, Chris Servheen, grizzly bear recovery coordinator with the Fish and Wildlife Service said “Rehab of grizzlies is not an option. Grizzlies cannot be captured and held in captivity and released later. If those bears were captured they would have to be put in permanent captivity in a zoo or euthanized. Those cubs appear to be in good shape and are at least 100 pounds and have been observed feeding in the forest on elk gut piles. So as long as they stay away from humans, they should be able to go into hibernation successfully.”
If these bears get into conflicts they may be captured and relocated, but this would be done only as a last resort. Their best chance is to be left within the habitats where they grew up, and for residents to make sure all attractants such as bird feeders, garbage, pet food, and livestock feed are secured and unavailable to bears. The killing of a grizzly is rarely the end of the story. Often there are management and legal outcomes that require difficult decisions. Working to prevent human caused grizzly deaths is the best way to keep things simple.”
Speaking of keeping things simple, here is a simple reminder. With modern firearm hunting season set to open Oct. 12 in most areas of the state, it might be a good idea for all hikers, mushroom pickers and others to wear bright colored clothing such as hunter orange to maximize their visibility. Non-hunters can help ensure their safety by making themselves visible while in the field.

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