On the same day the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced there may not be an ocean salmon season this year, they also announced that the Washington wolf population continues to grow at a rate of 32 percent. I don’t know which to be more discouraged about — the diminishing return of salmon runs or the sad future of our big-game decline.
Donny Martorello, wolf policy lead, said “the number of breeding pairs in Washington increased from 5 to 8 — the first increase since 2011. Despite the growing numbers, wolves were involved in fewer conflicts with livestock than in 2014.” He also said, “the department determined wolves from four packs were responsible for a killing a total of seven cattle and injuring one guard dog.”
This may be good news for cattle ranchers but what about the deer and elk populations that wolves primarily feed upon?
When the state reaches the target of 15 breeding pairs, it will host about 168 wolves in Washington. Defenders of Wildlife figures show wolves eat about 20 pounds of meat per day, when sufficient food is available. Even if they eat only twice a week, 168 wolves would consume 6,720 pounds a week or about 350,000 pounds per year. Based on the limited territory they use for habitat, that’s a pretty big chunk out of the deer and elk population. Not an encouraging picture for big game in the state.
Angler catch rates picked up some last week on the Lower Columbia, when anglers made some 14,517 trips and caught 1,482 adult Chinook spring salmon (1,288 caught and 194 released) and 123 steelhead (77 kept and 46 released), based on variable sampling interval analysis.
From Feb. 1 through March 27, an estimated 40,946 angler trips have produced 2,211 adult Chinook and 374 retained steelhead.
Northwest Fishletter reported April 4 that Pacific Fishery Management Council Executive Director Donald McIsaac blogged “In the north, the return of fall Chinook to the Columbia River is forecast to be exceptionally high again, but expectations for wild coho runs to the Washington coast and Puget Sound areas can only be described as disastrous,” he added. “In the south, the Sacramento River fall Chinook are healthy, but Klamath River fall Chinook are so poor that the Council’s policy calls for a low ‘de minimis’ catch in ocean fisheries.”
During an April 9-14 meeting in Vancouver, Wash., the PFMC will select among three alternatives for 2016 ocean fisheries.
This bill passed last year and went into effect this year. It allows road kill to be claimed by residents and non-residents alike, simply by informing the state within 24 hours and applying for a free permit within 72 hours. This permit is good for upland birds, big game and fur-bearing animals. You do not have to be a resident to apply for the permit and you do need a hunting license or tag.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission will discuss the issue during its April 8 meeting in Olympia.
The commission agenda says, “Department staff will request approval from the Commission on proposed amendments to legally salvage road killed deer and elk, restrict importation and retention of dead nonresident wildlife from Michigan due to chronic wasting disease, and allow the legal transport of elk hooves to facilitate Treponema-associated hoof disease research.”
Ron Malast can be reached at 665-3573 or email@example.com.