May/June 2019 Director’s Bulletin
This year, the Department celebrates its 25th Anniversary — twenty-five years since the legislature combined the Wildlife and Fisheries departments to bring a unified approach to habitat, fish, and wildlife management. Much has changed in those 25 years, but one thing remains constant. Washington’s residents are benefiting from the work of the people and organizations that lead, stand beside us, and act for fish, wildlife and habitat in Washington.
I recently attended the Noel Cole Project in Chehalis, the Mule Deer Foundation in Ellensburg, the Stemilt Partnership outside of Wenatchee, and the Merrill Lake Project with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation near Cougar, Washington. All of these efforts highlight the impressive work we’re able to get done when we work together. From providing barrier-free fishing for those with special needs, to supporting habitat and species management through donations and volunteering, to landscape-scale forest health restoration, I am humbled by the dedication of the Department’s staff and partners.
To celebrate this anniversary, the Governor has designated July 1 as Appreciation Day for Washington Fish and Wildlife, and we hope you will join us in recognizing the unique fish and wildlife that make our state special.
You’ll notice us taking this opportunity to share how our citizens and partners and staff are making a difference. We’ve put in the hard work — see some recent examples below — and I am looking forward to many future successes in the years to come.
Kelly Susewind, WDFW Director
Topics in this message include:
Conservation wins: Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly
WDFW Police: Top Employer for Veterans
RMEF and WDFW protect habitat with Merrill Lake Project
Oil spill preparedness: Thanks Department of Ecology!
Puddles, invasive species detecting dog
Marine vessel rescues
Saving Pinto Abalone
Forest restoration in Chelan County
Conservation wins: Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly
The abundance of Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies in the South Puget lowlands reached remarkable levels for a second straight year. Two consecutive years of strong numbers across three sites has this federal and state endangered species dispersing in significant numbers across the larger landscape and moving towards recovery.
On Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), butterflies have been sighted on nearly every prairie, at distances two or more miles from the nearest source site. Reports of adult checkerspots at Scatter Creek Wildlife Area’s north unit indicate similar movement distances there. Partners that share in this success include the US Fish and Wildlife Service, JBLM, the Center for Natural Lands Management, DNR, The Oregon Zoo, The Evergreen State College’s Sustainability in Prisons Project, The Department of Corrections, Wolf Haven, among others.
WDFW Police ranked as top employer for veterans
WDFW Police ranked in the top 18 best government and nonprofit organizations for veterans to work by Military Times. Nearly 200 employers across the country competed for a spot in this year’s rankings, providing in-depth data on their culture, recruiting, policies and resources related to veterans, service members and military families. WDFW Police is honored to hire those that have served in the armed forces and to receive this special recognition!
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and WDFW protect habitat with Merrill Lake Project
On Friday, June 21, Department staff joined partners to celebrate the Merrill Lake project, which permanently protects 1,453 acres of prime wildlife and riparian habitat in southwest Washington. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) recently conveyed the final parcels of land to WDFW to be part of the Mount Saint Helens Wildlife Area. This project exemplifies the missions of both RMEF and WDFW to protect habitat for elk and other wildlife, while also securing public access for hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreationists. With the property’s combination of listed species, unusual geology, spectacular waterfalls, artesian springs, and other features, this is a unique opportunity to provide landscape-scale connectivity of forested lands in conservation. The project was nearly nine years in the making and was a tremendous cooperative effort between RMEF and WDFW, while a significant grant from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office and generous RMEF donors made the final transaction possible.
Oil spill preparedness: Thanks Department of Ecology
WDFW’s Oil Spill Team joined with Sealife Response, Rehabilitation and Research (SR3) and was awarded a $100,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology to purchase equipment to respond to oiled sea otters.
The funds were used to acquire equipment that cannot be obtained commercially at the time of a spill and/or would be needed almost immediately to implement the response. We purchased eight 8-foot diameter and 4-foot deep saltwater pools with filtration systems, nets and sky kennels for sea otter recovery teams, and cages.
Meet Puddles, invasive species detecting dog!
The Department is welcoming its newest member of the Aquatic Invasive Species Unit, “Puddles.” Puddles was a rescue dog acquired and trained by Debi Deshon of “Mussel Dogs.”
The acquisition was made possible through a grant received from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Sergeant Pam Taylor spent two weeks in California, Arizona and Utah training with Puddles and Mussel Dogs, and Puddles is assisting the team with inspection of watercraft entering Washington in attempts to stop the introduction of quagga and zebra mussels. She can detect mussels that humans cannot see. Welcome aboard Puddles!
Marine vessel rescues
WDFW officers responded to a distress call from a Canadian whale-watching vessel west of Whidbey Island in early May. Multiple Department officers in conjunction with the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection took passengers to safety as their whale-watching vessel took on water. The boat, out of Victoria, British Columbia, had beached at Smith Island, west of Whidbey and south of Lopez islands.
Also in May, officers patrolling Marine Area 7 responded to a call for assistance from a sailing vessel, reporting an unconscious person onboard requiring medical assistance and transport. Officers boarded within seven minutes of the initial distress call and transported the patient to medical personnel in less than 30 minutes.
WDFW works with partners to save valuable and splendid sea snail
WDFW is working with federal and state partners to protect and conserve a species of large sea snail with a shell, a taste, and lifestyle that led to its wide-scale destruction.
The pinto abalone — the only abalone species native to Washington — has experienced a drastic reduction in population in recent decades. From 1992–2017, the population fell by an estimated 97 percent, putting the species at risk of local extinction. Historically prized as food and for its contrasting red and green shell with an iridescent interior, pinto abalone is a species that has been too popular for its own good. Now, thanks to funding commitments from the legislature and work with partners like the Puget Sound Restoration Fund, we are expanding the pinto abalone recovery effort at conservation hatchery facilities and through field research.
Rattlesnake population monitoring continues
Department and U.S. Forest Service biologists, working collaboratively, visited three Northern Pacific rattlesnake dens in the upper Methow Valley. They observed around 100 snakes between the three sites, including individuals from all age classes, suggesting these sites are supporting healthy, self-sustaining populations. This is part of a long-term effort to document the distribution, status, and ecology of this often misunderstood species near the edge of its range.
Forest restoration and recreation planning work continues in the Stemilt Basin of Chelan County
In collaboration with Chelan County Natural Resources, Department personnel from Wildlife and Habitat Programs and Regional Director, Jim Brown continued work to finalize a recreation planning document for future recreation management and to identify needed improvements, all while enhancing wildlife habitat conditions on the newly acquired lands in the Stemilt basin area of southern Chelan County. The goals: providing recreation improvements while improving habitat through controlled burning, retiring old primitive roads, rerouting roads away from sensitive areas, and building shaded firebreaks for better control line placement and safety in the event of a wildfire.
Crab season kick off
Puget Sound summer crab fishing season gets underway July 4 with openings in a number of marine areas. Marine areas 4 (Neah Bay — East of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 (Sekiu), 6 (East Juan de Fuca Strait), 8–1 (Deception Pass), 8–2 (Port Susan/Everett), 9 (Port Gamble and Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), and the portion of 12 (Hood Canal) north of a line projected true east from Ayock Point will open for sport crabbing on Thursday, July 4. The two subareas that comprise Marine Area 7 will open later in the summer to protect molting crab. Summer seasons for the upcoming fishery are posted on WDFW’s crab-fishing website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfishing-regulations/crab.
Fishing of all sorts — including crab — is made possible by license holders, whose purchase of licenses help us fund fish management and conservation work for the benefit of fishing and anglers.