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http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2004148971_fishers28m.html

Monday, January 28, 2008 - Page updated at 12:00 AM
Weasel-like fisher back in state after many decades
By Lynda V. Mapes
Seattle Times staff reporter

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — In a flash of brown fur, three fishers bolted from their wooden carrying cases and streaked into the wilderness — just as everyone hoped.

It was a homecoming of sorts for animals believed to be extinct in Washington for more than 80 years, and reintroduced without a hitch to Olympic National Park on Sunday by state and federal wildlife biologists.

A total of 11 fishers were released in three locations at the park, the first of 100 animals expected to be trapped in British Columbia and released in the park over three years, to re-establish a population of the predators at Olympic.

Fishers, native to Washington, have not been known to exist anywhere in the state for generations, because of overtrapping in the 1800s and early 1900s and the loss of old-growth forests. Fishers den in cavities of logs, and rest and lounge in the broad limbs of big old trees.

Olympic National Park, with just the forest habitat fishers require, and plenty of small mammals to eat, emerged through years of study by biologists as the best place to bring the animals back to Washington.

Sharp-toothed predators related to martens, polecats and minks, fishers are a weasel-like animal about the size of a house cat. They hunt squirrels, snowshoe hares, mice and other small mammals but will even take birds, and elongate themselves to root prey out of burrows.

But fish? The fishers' name, according to Wikipedia, is believed to come not from their diet, but from early French fur trappers, who used the word "fichet," which means the pelt of the European polecat.

Some of the fishers released Sunday were backpacked into the wilderness, while others were released from boxes brought in by pickup. All of the animals were captured by trappers paid $500 for each fisher turned in for relocation.

The fishers had been in Williams Lake, B.C., living for the past month at a dog-training and boarding facility — but not with the dogs — and feasting on beaver and deer meat. They had a double portion of venison before their release Sunday, and looked sleek, healthy and ready for the big day, said biologist Jeffrey Lewis, who headed up the reintroduction effort for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Six females and five males were released, fitted with radio collars or implanted with chips so biologists can track the animals over the next several years to see where they go and how they fare.

About 35 other fisher transfers have been done across the country. Biologists are optimistic this relocation effort will succeed, as have those in other states, including Oregon and Montana.

"My guess is they are already several hundred yards away," said biologist Kurt Jenkins, of the U.S. Geological Survey, as he listened for the steady beep ... beep ... beep of the fishers' tracking devices on his radio.

With the arrival of the fishers, Olympic National Park is within one species of once again being home to the full range of vertebrate species that once lived there; only the gray wolf, long extinct in Washington, is missing.

Patti Happe, chief of the wildlife branch at Olympic, said there is something special about taking one more step toward making the park whole as an ecosystem. "The park-service mission is to restore as best we can a naturally functioning ecosystem for future generations."

That's how an adult would say it. But perhaps the kids from Stevens Middle School in Port Angeles, along to help out with the release, said it best when the fishers zoomed out of their boxes.

"Cool!" and "Wow!" was how they put it as, with a scritch and scramble of their claws, the fishers bolted for freedom.

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Aww, what a cute little critter. ;)

Forrest Emmett, 14, a student at Stevens Middle School in Port Angeles, helps with the fisher reintroduction Sunday.

Fisher facts

They belong to the same animal family as badgers, mink and otters.

They are found only in North America.

They spend most of their time on the ground but can climb trees, and hop from one tree to another.

They live about 10 years.

They are one of the few animals that kill and eat porcupine.

They have beautiful brown coats, black legs and tail. Pelts were second only to the sea otter's in value until trapping was banned in 1934.

When upset, they will hiss and growl.

Females are pregnant most of the time.
 

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http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2004285453_cougar16m.html

Sunday, March 16, 2008 - Page updated at 12:51 AM
Is cougar hunting breeding chaos?
By Sandi Doughton
Seattle Times science reporter

Now, the predator powerful enough to take down a bull elk is lying helpless under a tent of fir trees while Maletzke replaces the batteries in her radio collar, checks her teeth and measures her girth.

Jane is part of a healthy cougar population that lives in relative harmony with its human neighbors in the rapidly growing communities just east of Snoqualmie Pass.

In the past six years, Jane has killed deer less than 50 paces from homes — yet residents don't even realize she's there. She has never harmed pets or livestock, nor have any of her offspring.

The story is different in northeastern Washington, where the state has stepped up hunting in response to soaring numbers of complaints about cougars, including two attacks on toddlers. A bill signed by Gov. Christine Gregoire last week could expand the cougar killing.

But startling results from studies such as Maletzke's question this traditional approach to cougar management.

Instead of reducing conflicts between cougars and humans, heavy hunting seems to make the problems worse, says Robert Wielgus, Maletzke's graduate adviser and director of Washington State University's Large Carnivore Conservation Laboratory.

"It goes against the grain of what we've been doing for decades," Wielgus says.

Killing large numbers of cougars creates social chaos, Wielgus and his students found. Trophy hunters often target adult males, which act as a stabilizing force in cougar populations. The adults police large territories and kill or drive out young males. With the grown-ups gone, the "young hooligans" run wild, Wielgus says.

"Every time you kill a dominant male, about three of these young guys come for the funeral."

Evidence suggests cougars under two years of age, just learning to live on their own, account for the majority of run-ins with people and domestic animals. "You don't get to be an old cougar by doing stupid stuff like hanging out in backyards and eating cats," Wielgus says.

In the Selkirk Mountains at the confluence of Washington, British Columbia and Idaho, Wielgus and his students discovered the cougar population was actually crashing at a time when everyone assumed it was booming — because complaints were off the charts.

Hunters had killed all the older males. Then they targeted adult females, whose numbers were plummeting. "About all that was left were these teenagers, and that could well be the reason there were so many complaints — even though there weren't many cougars," Wielgus says.

Another project focused on a smaller area in the Colville National Forest, also in northeastern Washington, where the state opened emergency hunts to reduce cougar numbers in response to complaints. But the cougar population didn't drop at all. Instead, young males from a hundred miles around moved into the territories vacated when adults were killed.

"The only change is that the problematic component — the younger males — increased," Wielgus said.

By contrast, the cougars Maletzke studies along the Interstate 90 corridor have been subject to light levels of hunting. Yet conflicts are rare.

"When you've got a population of smart, resident cats, that's a stable situation," he says.

"Respect for that cat"

Sometimes Maletzke wishes the cougars weren't quite so clever. Jane has learned how to lead the dogs in circles — and leave them barking up the wrong tree.

"We've got a lot of respect for that cat," Maletzke says as he sets out on his fourth attempt this winter to nab her.

He pulls his truck to the side of the road and holds up a small antenna, trying to pick up a signal from the cougar's collar.

Sporadic beeps lead him to a hillside above the Yakima River.

Maletzke and his assistants strap on snowshoes while dog handler Dallas Likens unloads his three fastest hounds. The dogs' frenzied barks explode like gunshots in the cold air. They strain at their leashes, dragging Likens behind them.

Most hunters used to rely on dogs to track and tree cougars, which are so elusive they are otherwise hard to find and shoot. But in 1996, Washington voters overwhelmingly passed a citizen initiative that banned the practice, which some consider cruel.

If voters thought they were putting an end to cougar hunting, though, they were wrong.

The number of cats killed by hunters in Washington has climbed in recent years, exceeding levels in the 1950s when the state paid a $75 bounty to encourage eradication.

Before 1996, hunters killed an average of 156 cougars a year. Since the initiative, the harvest rate increased more than 40 percent, to an average of 225 animals a year.

That's because state wildlife managers, worried cougars would proliferate when hound-hunting ended, liberalized the rules for so-called "boot" hunters: Those who walk or drive the woods primarily in search of deer or elk.

The state raised the bag limit to two cougars, doubled the length of the season, and cut the cost of a cougar tag to $10. Before the initiative, the state issued about 600 cougar permits annually. Now, more than 60,000 hunters have license to kill cougars every year.

State lawmakers also enacted several bills to allow hound hunting in counties where complaints about cougars killing livestock or menacing people were high — leading to the heavy kill rate in northeastern Washington.

One unintended consequence of the new rules is a growing toll on female cougars. Whereas hound hunters selectively targeted large males, or toms, "boot" hunters tend to shoot any cougar they run across.

"Killing big adult males is not a good thing," Wielgus says. "But once you start killing off females, there's nowhere to go but down."

The state is revising its game-management plan and considering quotas to reduce the number of female cougars killed, says Donny Martorello, carnivore-section manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The agency also is weighing the research that suggests heavy hunting may aggravate cougar problems but is waiting for more solid evidence, Martorello says.

Jane is up a tree

The dogs have picked up Jane's scent, and their baying reverberates up the canyon.

Maletzke's radio crackles. Jane is treed, Likens reports.

But she's perched nearly 60 feet up a Douglas fir, too high to shoot with the tranquilizer gun.

Maletzke breaks out tree-climbing spurs and begins a slow shimmy up an adjacent fir.

As he approaches Jane's level, he shouts and flings branches, hoping to scare her out of the tree. The plan is for Likens to loose his hounds an instant after Jane hits the ground, forcing her to bolt up another tree — which he hopes won't be as tall.

It works.

Jane scrambles up a 15-foot pine and soon has a dart in her rump.

She leaps down but doesn't get far before she's wobbling like a drunk.

Maletzke has collared a dozen cougars in these wooded hills and estimates a dozen more may roam the area.

In the six years of the study, cougars have twice snatched sheep from ranchland and killed a cat in a yard where residents were feeding deer and elk.

In state Rep. Joel Kretz's district, the stories are worse. Cougars have killed at least 10 colts from his own ranch in Okanogan County. A boy was attacked in his grandparents' backyard, and a little girl grabbed in a campground. Both children survived, but the next victim may not be as lucky, Kretz says.

"I don't want to wait until we lose a child."

He sponsored the bill that would extend hound hunting in five northeastern counties for another three years. Other counties could join the "pilot project" if they have cougar problems.

Cle Elum hunting spikes

If cougar hunting is going to continue, Wielgus and state wildlife managers agree the use of hounds is preferable to more indiscriminate forms of hunting. It's easier to control and set limits on, Martorello says.

But the British Columbia conservation group Big Wildlife, which fought Kretz's bill, argues voters already signaled they want cougars protected, except for targeted "taking" of problem animals.

Maletzke worries about the future of the cougars near Cle Elum, where hunting spiked this year for the first time and ranches are being carved into subdivisions.

Boot hunters shot 14 animals, including several females and kittens. Among the casualties was a mature tom, whose territory included the sprawling new Suncadia Resort, with its golf course, condominiums and elegant lodge.

A young male has moved into the area.

 

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no major news or anything, just a little commentary. i just drove from tacoma to pullman for few days last week, you can probably guess where i was going..., but after seeing the snow capped mountains of the cascades, vast desert/ scrubland of the plateau, and then the rolling fields of the palouse, i came to the conclusion that washington is the most beauitful state in the entire country.
 

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no major news or anything, just a little commentary. i just drove from tacoma to pullman for few days last week, you can probably guess where i was going..., but after seeing the snow capped mountains of the cascades, vast desert/ scrubland of the plateau, and then the rolling fields of the palouse, i came to the conclusion that washington is the most beauitful state in the entire country.
I have always thought the same thing and this makes me cringe just to say it but California is right up there with Washington for #1. If you look at the whole thread I think you will see what I mean.

http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=575562

I'll still take our fine state though :)
 

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smog, crime, traffic worse than ours? no thanks. california is waaaaaay overrated. i would say i hate california, but i honestly dont care enough about it to hate it.
 

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smog, crime, traffic worse than ours? no thanks. california is waaaaaay overrated. i would say i hate california, but i honestly dont care enough about it to hate it.
ok you pretty much just are talking about LA and southern CA. To say that the overall state is overrated is a little too much dont you think? CA has a number of beautiful cities. Dont get me wrong, after living in both Frisco and Seattle, I would choose Seattle, but Tacoma over The Bay Area?? come on now
 

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i never said tacoma was better than frisco, and your right northern california is really beautiful. it deserves to be its own state. i meant souhern cal but i prob should have specified. that being said, i still take washington over any other state.
 

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There are frogs croaking in the wetland next to my apartment complex right now. I never heard them there the past 2 springs. Makes me wonder if the frog population around here is growing.

BTW this is supposed to be a thread about Washington nature and environmental stuff. Let's skip the talk about California.
 

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008 - Page updated at 11:25 PM
House approves Wild Sky wilderness in Washington state
By MATTHEW DALY
Associated Press Writer

Nearly six years after it was first introduced, a bill to create a Wild Sky Wilderness east of Seattle has cleared Congress, another step toward the first new wilderness area in Washington state in nearly a quarter-century.

The House gave final approval Tuesday to a bill that would designate 167 square miles in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest north of Sultan, Wash., as federal wilderness, the government's highest level of protection.

If signed into law, Wild Sky, sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Rick Larsen, both D-Wash., would be the first new federally designated wilderness in Washington since 1984.

The bill also designates a site on Bainbridge Island, Wash., where hundreds of Japanese-Americans were forced from their homes on the way to prison camps during World War II, as a national historic site.

It also would designate a recreation trail in Oregon's Willamette National Forest in honor of former Rep. Jim Weaver, D-Ore.

The measure, which includes 62 proposals concerning to public lands nationwide, was approved 291 to 117.

The Wild Sky bill, first introduced in 2002, covers approximately 106,000 acres of low-elevation, old-growth forest.

A similar bill passed the House last April following a Democratic takeover of the chamber following a dozen years of Republican rule. GOP House leaders had blocked the Wild Sky bill for years, saying wilderness protection should be limited to areas untouched by humans.

Murray, who has championed the measure for nearly nine years, said it was "an example of wilderness done the right way," with support from a range of local groups and elected officials.

The proposed wilderness designation would block development and other economic activity in a sprawling area north of U.S. Highway 2 that includes habitat for bears, bald eagles and other wildlife, as well as streams, hiking trails and other recreation.

Wild Sky, named for the Skykomish River, is 90 minutes from Seattle and offers millions of people access to "rolling hills and rushing rivers and low-elevation forests," Murray said. The area now "will be preserved for generations to come," she said.

On the Net:
The bill is S. 2739. Congress: http://thomas.loc.gov
 

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Two thumbs up for that. Good to hear stuff like that can still be done.

Is there a map of the area by any chance?
 
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