Director’s Bulletin | March/April 2023
News and updates from WDFW Director Kelly Susewind
This spring, whether you are driving into the woods at oh-dark-thirty to call turkeys, dusting off your paddleboarding gear, digging delicious razor clams, or photographing spring birds on public lands, you might encounter a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) law enforcement officer in your outdoor pursuits.
Through our Enforcement Program, WDFW currently has more than 140 dedicated law enforcement officers located across the state. Our officers specialize in enforcing Title 77 — the Washington state fish and wildlife statutes — but they also enforce boating safety regulations, Department of Health Shellfish regulations, forest products regulations, and all other criminal laws on state and federal lands and waters.
Our officers respond to a wide array of calls for service and we’re always looking for good talent to join this dedicated team. Visit our jobs webpage to learn more.
Now, more than ever, we need good people interested in pursuing this selfless and rewarding career to step up. To become a Fish and Wildlife officer, applicants go through an extensive application and review process, background screening, attendance at Washington’s Basic Law Enforcement Academy (4.5 months) then WDFW’s In-House Academy (2 Months), followed by completion of the Field Training Program (3.5 months).
This level of training takes dedication and hard work, but it is worth it — our officers have the best job. As they share in this video, you can find them aboard an ocean vessel during a midnight crab opener, responding to and coordinating a backcountry mountain rescue, patrolling the Columbia River for sturgeon and salmon compliance, relocating a mother moose and calf that wandered into a neighborhood, diving the Puget Sound to locate geoduck traffickers, patrolling wildlife areas and water access sites, rushing an injured snowmobiler or hiker through hazardous conditions to reach medical aid, even checking restaurants and fish markets to make sure the local fish and shellfish are safe for the public to enjoy.
If you get the chance to meet an officer while you are recreating in one of the many wonderful locations around the state, know they are there to help by providing local knowledge and the regulations for that area. They may ask to see your license or permits and inspect your gear and any fish or wildlife you may have harvested. They may also check for safety gear such as Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs). Officers have a lot of ground (and water) to cover across the state; they rely heavily on citizens who report crimes when they see a fish and wildlife violation happening. Poaching steals fish and wildlife resources and opportunities from the rest of us that correctly follow the regulations and tips help to bring poachers to justice.
The outdoors is open to everyone. WDFW officers help level the playing field by deterring poaching while supporting public safety and providing service for all Washingtonians. If you see an officer patrolling give them a wave or stop and say hi. Afterall, you can’t have an enjoyable experience outdoors if it isn’t a safe place to enjoy.
Kelly Susewind, Director
Fish and Wildlife Commission seeks public input on draft Conservation Policy
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission opened a public comment period on its draft Conservation Policy through June 30, 2023. The full draft policy is available on WDFW’s website and in our April news release.
El enlace para la política completa está disponible en el sitio web de WDFW.
Salmon fishing seasons tentatively set, new video highlights co-management
Washington’s salmon seasons were tentatively set in early April at a Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in California, part of the annual North of Falcon process. Anglers can expect similar seasons to last year, with some additional opportunities or reductions depending on area; see a roundup of general season information at our season summaries webpage, and look for the full regulations when the latest fishing pamphlet is available beginning in June.
You can also learn more about North of Falcon in this blog post, and about how WDFW works to set conservation-minded salmon seasons every year in our new video “Sound Management: Conserving Pacific Northwest salmon through Cooperation” on YouTube.
Keep bears wild by cleaning up backyard attractants
If you live in Washington, chances are you live in bear country. Black bears may be present nearly anywhere in our state, including suburban areas and greenbelts near towns and neighborhoods. Washingtonians have a responsibility to take simple precautions to help avoid conflicts that can put both people and wildlife at risk. In a recent blog post we discuss how Washingtonians can protect themselves, protect their property, and protect wildlife by preventing bears from becoming habituated to non-natural food sources. More information is also available at wdfw.wa.gov/blackbears.
New Big Game hunting regs now available; upcoming changes to hunter education
WDFW has released the 2023 Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulations pamphlet, learn more in our news release. Beginning April 24, hunters may submit Special Hunt Permit applications for 2023 deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and fall turkey seasons, including online at fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov. The submission period is open through May 24.
Starting June 1, WDFW will no longer offer fully remote hunter education courses. We will continue to offer in-person hunter education courses as well as hybrid courses that combine online and in-person learning. Learn more in our news release. Students who started but have not completed a fully online hunter education course by June 1 will be able to finish their course and become certified. To learn about hunter education requirements and find an upcoming course near you, please visit the WDFW hunter education webpage.
Applications open for Watchable Wildlife Grant Program
In 2021, WDFW created the Washington Watchable Wildlife Grant Program to support wildlife viewing opportunities and foster appreciation and stewardship of wildlife. This includes exploring habitat in person or online to better understand wildlife. Funds to support the Washington Watchable Wildlife Grant come from the Wild on Washington: Eagle license plate — one of WDFW’s specialized license plates.
The 2023 grant application period is now open; submit your application online! Watchable wildlife or wildlife viewing is a recreational activity of observing animals or signs of animals in their habitats (e.g. tracks, nests, scat). Learn more about wildlife watching opportunities around Washington on this WDFW webpage.
Habitat at Home and supporting local wildlife; one native plant at a time
Habitat at Home, formerly known as the Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary Program, is WDFW’s effort to encourage Washingtonians to connect with nature where they live, work, and play. We recently launched a new webpage to highlight this program and how residents and property owners to get involved, including Small Space Habitats, Wildlife Habitat Yards, and Community Habitats.
By learning ways to increase biodiversity through planting native plants, coexisting with wildlife, and making decisions that positively impact the health of our communities, we can all make a difference. For Native Plant Month (April), our Habitat at Home coordinator also authored a blog post focused on how native plant gardens can be enhanced with additional habitat elements to better support Washington’s wildlife in urban, suburban, and rural areas.
Steelhead fishery opens on Skagit River under updated 10-year plan
In March, fisheries managers with WDFW and three co-managing tribes began fisheries for steelhead on the Skagit and Sauk rivers under an updated 10-year plan approved by federal agencies. Learn more in our news release. Biologists have forecasted that 5,211 wild steelhead will return to the Skagit River in 2023, enough to sustain a recreational catch and release fishery managed by the state and modest steelhead fisheries operated by the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe, and the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe.
The new Skagit River Steelhead Fishery Resource Management Plan (RMP) allows state and tribal co-managers to operate steelhead fisheries with stringent guidelines, monitoring and catch sampling, and enforcement. The plan was approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service and was reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during Endangered Species Act consultation. The RMP and documents from the federal review are available on this NOAA Fisheries webpage.
Annual wolf population report shows growth in packs and breeding pairs
The Washington Gray Wolf Conservation and Management 2022 Annual Report was released in April and shows a 5% increase in wolf population growth in our state from the previous count in 2021. As of Dec. 31, 2022, WDFW and Tribes counted 216 wolves in 37 packs in Washington. Twenty-six of these packs were successful breeding pairs. Eight new packs formed in 2022 including the Big Muddy pack in Klickitat County, the Napeequa and Maverick packs in Chelan County, the Chopaka and Chewuch packs in Okanogan County, the Wilmont pack on the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (CTCR) in Ferry County, the Five Sisters pack in Stevens County, and the Mount Spokane pack in Spokane County.
WDFW is working on a periodic status review (PSR) of gray wolves in Washington to determine whether the species’ status of state endangered is still appropriate or should be reclassified. The draft PSR will be available for a 90-day public comment period in May of 2023. Learn more about wolves in Washington on our webpage.
European green crab field season begins as state, tribes request federal support
WDFW, Native American tribes, other state and federal agencies, shellfish growers, and partners continue to deploy emergency measures to control invasive European green crabs (EGC) on the Washington Coast and in portions of the Salish Sea. More than 285,000 EGC were removed from Washington waters in 2022, most from Willapa Bay and Lummi Bay. As the 2023 field season ramps up and our Aquatic Invasive Species staff and partners deploy hundreds of traps at EGC hotspots, more than 40,000 EGC have already been caught this year.
To expand these efforts, in March we sent letters to federal officials requesting enhanced funding and support, including a coordinated West Coast strategy for European green crab control across state lines. These letters were co-signed by state legislators, four state agencies, and seven tribes.
WDFW also published several reports that provide insights into EGC management efforts, including the March/April EGC Public Update, Quarterly Report (Q2) to the State Legislature, and WA EGC Emergency Response Strategic Action Plan. Earlier this month, local reporters and Members of Congress joined field tours to learn more about this harmful invasive species and efforts to control them.
Annual Trout Derby kicks off, lakes open statewide
The opening day of trout fishing got off to a good start on April 22 with anglers catching trout in hundreds of lakes across Washington; check out our recap blog post. This marks the first time many lakes can be fished for the thousands of catchable trout planted every winter and spring. The colder water temperatures, some in the low 40s, may have slowed down success on the opener, but anglers can look forward to catches improving through early summer.
The 2023 WDFW stocking plan webpage has details on lakes planted with trout or see our catchable trout plant reports. The annual WDFW Trout Derby also began on opening day with 79 tags turned in and continues through Oct. 31. The trout derby boasts more than 800 prizes worth more than $40,000, which anglers can claim by catching tagged trout in lakes across Washington. Learn more at WDFWderby.com.
We also teamed up with businesses, organizations and volunteers for youth fishing events, and each provides a day of fishing to kids and their families. Go to our youth fishing event webpage to learn more.
First grade lesson unit has students explore the phenomena of wildlife lifecycles
Themed around the state’s diverse flora and fauna, our Wild Washington lesson plans are designed to equip K-12 students with the knowledge, social, and emotional skills needed to think critically, and problem solve around natural resource issues. Launched just in time for spring and baby wildlife, we’re proud to showcase our new first grade lesson unit focused on common Washington wildlife lifecycles. This integrated unit teaches English language arts through a science lens as students investigate a scenario where a community member found baby wildlife and wants to know what to do. The lesson is an open educational resource and is free for teachers and educators to adapt to their classrooms. Visit our webpage to download and learn more.
WDFW volunteer honored as NWTF Mentor of the Year
Washington has a long heritage of fishing and hunting, and one man has done a lot of work to ensure that tradition continues. Rich Mann is a former WDFW Police officer, a current volunteer with the Department, a long-time (30 years!) member of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), and now the NWTF’s 2022 Mentor of the Year!
Mann’s mentoring has been instrumental in recruiting new hunters, retaining current hunters, and reactivating former hunters in Washington. Each spring and fall turkey season, he takes new hunters out in the field one-on-one. He estimates he’s mentored over 100 people in the approximately 12 years he’s been teaching people to hunt. In addition to the individual hunts, Mann teams up with WDFW, First Hunt Foundation, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, and other groups host mentored bird and deer hunts each season in northeast Washington, where up to 30 new hunters at a time are coached on hunting skills and ethics. Thank you, Rich!
Spring is the optimum time to gather oysters on Puget Sound and Hood Canal beaches
Spring is finally blooming, and this is a time when shellfish gatherers can easily venture out on Puget Sound and Hood Canal tidelands to gather oysters where most populations remain relatively stable. Get tips and learn more in our blog post. For optimal low tides, go to the annual WDFW best harvesting tide chart. The interactive Washington shellfish safety map is a one-stop-shop to find information about which beaches are open for harvest (WDFW regulations) and current state Department of Health (DOH) status.
WDFW’s beach-specific webpages where you can find information such as directions to the beach, harvest details, and available amenities are on our website. You can also find shellfish harvesting information on the DOH webpage.
Director’s Bulletins are also archived on the Director’s webpage