HOOK AND FUR: How do wolves affect behavior of deer and elk?
Monday, March 6, 2017 12:27 PM
By Bob Brown
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is joining the University of Washington in a collaborative study to determine what affect wolves are having on other wildlife species in the state.
The study is scheduled to last at least five years and will assess the health of deer and elk herds in northeast Washington. Both species provide recreational hunting opportunities and are prey animals for wolves and other predators.
Last January, department (WDFW) research scientists and field biologists began capturing, deer, elk and cougars and fitting them with radio-collars to monitor their movements. The goal is to keep 65 white-tailed deer, 50 elk and 10 cougars collared in one study area that includes areas of Ferry, Stevens and Pend Orville countries. The researchers also plan to collar 100 mule deer and 10 cougars in Okanogan Country. They have already radio-collared some wolves there.
Researchers will also be taking a look at the affects cougars and other predators are having on wolf populations.
Dovetailing with that research is another ongoing research project involving northeast Washington moose.
As of June 2016, WDFW confirmed the presence of 19 wolf packs and at least 90 wolves in Washington – up from a single, five-member wolf pack in 2008. Most of the increase in the wolf population has occurred in northeastern Washington.
Eric Gardner, head of the WDFW wildlife program, said, “The experience of other western states shows that wolves and other predators may affect the size and behavior of deer and elk herds, and we want to take a close look at the situation here in Washington as our wolf population continues to grow.”
The department is asking hunters who take radio-collared deer and elk to contact the department so those collars can be retrieved.
Funding for the five-year study includes $400,000 from a 2015 state legislative appropriation, $450,000 in federal Pittman-Robertson funds, and $150,000 of WDFW funds. The University of Washington secured nearly $900,000 in National Science Foundation grant funds for the project.
Catch-and-release on Lewis River
Lewis River anglers must release all spring chinook effective March 1. Reason for the action: The pre-season 2017 forecast was 700 adult spring chinook, compared to a hatchery escapement of approximately 1,350 fish.
The closure was necessary to provide the hatchery with as many returning fish as possible to minimize the shortfall, officials said.
The river remains open to fishing for hatchery steelhead. However, Johnson Creek upstream to Merwin Dam will be closed to all fishing May 1-31. Fishing will reopen for hatchery steelhead beginning June 1 or earlier if in-season information shows the hatchery meets its spring chinook escapement goal.
Bob Brown lives in Roy and is a freelance outdoors writer. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org