Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

Down log denizens

April 12, 2015
down log near Forks

This large down log near Forks continues to provide valuable habitat. Note the animal pathway under log’s edge and the vegetation growing out of the log. Photo: Ken Bevis/DNR.

Once a tree dies there is still a lot of life left in it. In fact, dead wood can provide some species with more habitat value than living wood.

While standing trees are excellent habitats for many species, standing trees that are dead can provide even more habitat opportunities. And when a tree falls over, becoming a down log. it will likely play an even bigger role in the local ecosystem. Because of our excellent climate for growing trees in the Pacific Northwest and the slow nature of decay, down logs are particularly important to our forests. They help recycle nutrients into the soil, retain moisture in dry seasons, provide structure for plants to live on, and create essential habitat structure in streams.

Down logs also provide important habitats for many wildlife species, from the smallest shrew or wren to the black bear. In Washington state, forest practices rules recognize the ecological importance of down wood and require retention of some down wood after a timber harvest.

Read more about down logs, how they are formed and the species they help support in the latest issue of Forest Stewardship News, a free, quarterly e-newsletter published by DNR and Washington State University Forestry Extension.

Subscribe to Forest Stewardship Notes — it’s free!

Own more than 10 acres forestland or just an acre or two trees? Check out the advice and assistance available from the DNR Forest Stewardship Program and the Small Forest Landowner Office.

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Small forest landowners: Learn how the FFFPP can help you

April 3, 2015

Are you a small forest landowner? Do the roads on your land block or damage fish habitat?

The Family Forest Fish Passage Program (FFFPP) is a DNR program targeted specifically to small forest landowners. The program helps landowners eliminate structures (improperly installed road culverts, for example) that prevent fish from moving freely through the stream or reaching spawning grounds. FFFPP was introduced in 2003, and has since helped more than 200 small forest landowners correct 343 barriers, reconnecting over 760 miles of stream fish habitat.

Any small forest landowner is eligible to enroll in the program and apply to have their land evaluated. Once landowners are accepted into the program, they are relieved of the responsibility to fix the barrier and will remain on the list until the state is able to fund and complete the repairs.

This video shows landowners who have used the program, explains the benefits of participating in FFFPP and how to apply.

For more information, contact Laurie Cox via email ( or phone (360-902-1404).

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The birds and the freeze: National Bird Feeder Month

February 2, 2015

Bird watchingThe term “Seattle Freeze” takes on a new meaning for our feathered friends here in the Pacific Northwest. With colder temperatures resulting in less insects flying around, February can be a challenging time for wild birds to find food. Fortunately for birds and bird enthusiasts alike, February also means a chance to participate in National Bird Feeder Month. National Bird Feeder Month spreads awareness of the struggles faced by wild birds in winter and encourages people to participate in the hobby of bird feeding. Whether you are a seasoned feeder or just starting out, there are countless ways to get involved this February.

Tips to get started:

  • Know your birds – Different birds are native to different regions. Therefore, becoming familiar with the birds that frequent nearby areas can aid in using the right type of feed and feeder to attract them.
  • Types of Food – Black-oil sunflower seed has the widest preference range among feeder bird species, including chickadees, cardinals, finches, jays, and woodpeckers. Other versatile birdfeed include white millet to attract ground-feeding species such as blackbirds and sparrows, and safflower for titmice, nuthatches, and cardinals.
  • Feeders – Creating a bird feeder can be as easy as coating a bare toilet paper roll with peanut butter and rolling it in birdfeed. This craft is simple, cost effective, and a great way to get kids involved in National Bird Feeder month. For those that prefer sturdier feeders, however, there are a variety of models to choose from including models to attract specific birds and models designed to repel squirrels and other outdoor critters.
  • Location – Once you’ve determined the kind of feeder and feed to use, place it in an area that can easily be viewed from a window or bench. A quiet area away from traffic and other loud noises is ideal. The area should be high enough to prevent other animals, such as household pets, from reaching the food. Keep the feeder clean and store the feed in a secure area overnight so it does not start attracting rodents or other unwanted visitors.

Not into bird feeding but still want to get involved? No problem! Head into the great outdoors. There are ample opportunities for bird watching and other recreational activities on DNR-managed state trust lands. State parks are also great for viewing many different bird species that can’t be seen in your back yard. Find the DNR-managed trust lands closest to your area.

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National Cat Day — We’ve got cats but don’t even think of petting one

October 29, 2014
male Canada lynx

Blends right in, doesn’t he? This male Canada lynx is one of about 50 that remain in Washington state. Photo: DNR

It’s National Cat Day! We’ve got lots of cats but don’t even think about petting one. DNR has an all-outdoor population of felines living on the millions of acres of state trust lands we manage… and none of them are ‘fixed!’ Many of these felines in our care are cougars and bobcats, but one cat in particular—the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis)–is worthy of special attention because it is the rarest of the three cat species native to Washington state. Perhaps fewer than 50 Canada lynx remain in Washington.

With their large feet and long legs, lynx are well designed for hunting in their native ranges: the mountains of north-central and northeastern Washington. Unfortunately, the continuity of this forest landscape has become fragmented over the decades, which has contributed to declines in the numbers of snowshoe hares–a primary food source for the lynx. Since 1996, we’ve been following our Lynx Habitat Management Plan—one of the most comprehensive conservation plans for lynx in the United States. We use this plan to guide forest activities in an effort to create and preserve high-quality lynx habitat.

To better understand of how lynx use certain habitats throughout the year, and how past and future land management has affected them, DNR works with other agencies, including the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, each winter to track and capture the lynx, put radio collars on them (for GPS tracking) and examine and chart their health.

Read more about Washington native wildcats and get some important safety tips about the dos and don’ts of living in cougar country

Celebrate Seattle Seahawks’ opening game day and National Wildlife Day with DNR

September 4, 2014

Ever wonder about the majestic bird behind your 12th Man pride in the Seattle Seahawks?

In recognition of National Wildlife Day and the Seattle Seahawks’ opening game today, we’re highlighting a DNR recreation opportunity that is home to the osprey, the only raptor willing to dive into the sea for fish.


An osprey dives into the water. The osprey is the only raptor that plunges into the water to catch fish. Photo: Rodney Cammauf / National Park Service.

Whether you’re an avid Seattle Seahawks fan, curious about hawks, or just looking for a place to explore in Washington’s great outdoors, read on for where to find nature’s sea hawk, the osprey, on DNR-managed recreation lands.

Home to the sea hawk:
West Tiger Mountain NRCA

This Natural Resource Conservation Area (NRCA) is 35 miles east of Seattle and protects a vast variety of rare ecosystems and many species of native wildlife.

This 4,430-acre expanse is home to deer, cougars, bobcats, black bears, coyote, elk, red-tailed hawks, owls, woodpeckers and… our native sea hawk, the osprey.

The area is an excellent outdoor classroom with an education shelter, interpretive displays, and accessible trails.

Discover Pass logoDiscover Pass

Before you celebrate this special day by visiting DNR-managed lands, don’t forget a Discover Pass, your ticket to state recreation lands in Washington.

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Look up! It’s the forest canopy (Part 2)

June 20, 2014
Forest canopy at Deception Pass

Forest canopy at Deception Pass. Photo: Ken Bevis/DNR.

The canopy layer in the forest—the interacting tree crowns that create a remarkable maze of three-dimensional spaces between and on the branches—is a habitat niche with specialized functions for many species of wildlife. The surfaces of these branches and leaves provide shelter and food for a wide variety of arboreal (forest canopy inhabiting) mammals, birds and insects.

Arboreal mammals

Truly arboreal mammals are not as numerous as bird species, but are important members of the forest wildlife ecosystem. Our native conifer squirrels are the Douglas and red squirrels (members of the genus Tamiasciurus), locally known as chickarees. These two species are actually very similar, but occupy different habitat regions. Douglas squirrels are associated with wetter, westside type forests dominated by Douglas fir and hemlock. Red squirrels live on the drier and colder east side, as well as in Rocky Mountain forest types we have in Northeast Washington. Both are common and important mammal species directly tied to the forest canopy as conifer specialists, actively harvesting and caching cones each year. Who among us woods walkers hasn’t been scolded by one of these little dervishes?

Fungi (mushrooms), which help trees grow by adding root absorptive surface to trees, is food for squirrels. The squirrels spread spores throughout the forest through their feces. Flying squirrels occupy a similar niche, but work the night shift, often foraging on the ground for mushrooms to cache. For this reason, flying, Douglas and red squirrels can be considered keystone species in forest ecosystems, e.g., species whose presence has far-reaching impacts. These squirrels need canopy to provide hiding places and food, but also need down logs for cache sites, and woody cavities in snags for denning. Habitat for these squirrels also includes low branches for resting and eating cones dropped to the ground.

Caring for the Canopy    (more…)

DNR weekend reading: Are golfers fire hazards? … and other interesting news from recent scientific research

March 22, 2014
elk in the Cowlitz River

An elk drinks from the Cowlitz River in eastern Lewis County near Packwood, Washington. PHOTO: Scott Hilgenberg/DNR.

Here are links to articles about recent research, discoveries and other news about forests, climate, energy and other science topics gathered by DNR for your weekend reading:

University of California, Irvine: Titanium clubs can cause golf course fires, study finds
Titanium alloy golf clubs can cause dangerous wildfires, according to UC Irvine scientists. When a club coated with the lightweight metal alloy is swung and strikes a rock, it creates sparks that can heat to more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit for long enough to ignite dry foliage, according to findings published Fire and Materials (includes video).

Manchester University: Linking storms to climate change a ‘distraction’, say experts
Connecting extreme weather to climate change distracts from the need to protect society from high-impact weather events which will continue to happen irrespective of human-induced climate change, say University of Manchester researchers.

University of Cincinnati: A ‘Back to the Future’ Approach to Taking Action on Climate Change
Through an interdisciplinary research technique for approaching climate change vulnerability called Multi-scale, Interactive Scenario-Building, researchers are examining ways to begin dealing with the disastrous consequences of extreme climate changes before they occur.

Duke University: Lessons Offered by Emerging Carbon Trading Markets
Although markets for trading carbon emission credits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have stalled in United States federal policy-making, carbon markets are emerging at the state level within the U.S. and around the world, teaching us more about what does and doesn’t work.

Science Daily: Animals losing migratory routes? Devastating consequences of scarcity of ‘knowledgeable elders’
Small changes in a population may lead to dramatic consequences, like the disappearance of the migratory route of a species. Scientists have created a model of the behavior of a group of individuals on the move (like a school of fish or a flock of birds) that reproduces the collective behavior patterns observed in the wild.

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National Bird Feeding Month

February 20, 2014

bird bro!Even though February is a winter month, not all birds fly south to find warmer weather. In fact, February is National Bird Feeding Month. Time to dust off those bird houses and crack the ice on the bird bath because our feathered friends are here and they are hungry. Whether you are a seasoned feeder or just wanting some natural music in the back yard, this is the month to do it.

Several different types of birdhouses and feeders cater to a wide variety of birds. Knowing what birds you might be catering to is a great place to start. There are several sites that can help you find what you are looking for. Here is a quick rundown of a few of the basics types of feeders you can use.

Feeder types:

  • Tube Feeder: Good for fending off squirrels and feeding chickadee-like birds
  • Hopper Feeders: Good for multiple birds at once, it will accommodate all types, even larger birds.
  • Suet Feeder: Good for attracting insects to organically feed woodpeckers and the like.
  • Thistle Feeder: Good for small-beaked birds and keeping bigger animals out.
  • Ground Feeder: Good for all types of birds, even those who would not fit on a hung feeder.
  • Nectar Feeder: Good for long-beaked birds like hummingbirds

When setting up a feeding station, keep in mind the location and what you are putting into the feeders. If you are looking to excite the local aviary population, add some variety to the diet. Mix in a few berries or bits of fruit here and there or give them a reason to stick around with some peanut butter. Just having a different seed mix every once in a while can make all the difference.

Due to the cold in the winter, most of the natural food supply is exhausted during the winter. So have a good time making a birdhouse and then fill it up for all to enjoy.

Here is a quick FAQ with some of the dos and don’ts of winter bird feeding if you would like to get more involved.

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A few scary facts for Halloween 2013

October 31, 2013
common garter snake

In Washington State, the common garter snake (which is nonpoisonous) is found from coastal and mountain forests to sagebrush deserts, usually close to water or wet meadows—or your garden. Photo: Jon McGinnis/WDFW.

If the parade of costumed tricker-treaters coming to your door tonight or the endless reruns of horror movies on TV these past few weeks (or today’s close-up photo of snake) are not enough to give you a fright, here are some scary facts about the state of the environment in Washington State, with an emphasis on biodiversity.

  • Approximately 33 percent of the Puget Sound’s 2,500 miles of shorelines have been armored with bulkheads and other structures to protect homes, ports, marinas, roads and railways, and other property. More than half of the shoreline in the central Puget Sound has been modified by port development, armoring of beaches, and other uses, causing significant loss of habitats important to beach and nearshore species.
  • More than half of the Columbia Plateau Ecoregion (roughly the area known as the Columbia Basin) has undergone conversion from its shrub-steppe landscape to cropland. What remains is a fragmented shrub-steppe, which compromises the habitat of many species that rely on this type of habitat.
  • More than 90 percent of the original Palouse grasslands in Washington have been converted to agriculture, housing or other uses. A number of plant species once common throughout the Palouse now hang on in small, isolated remnants.

What’s so important about biodiversity?

Native species (such as shellfish, salmon and Douglas-fir) and their ecosystems contribute billions of dollars to fisheries, timber harvests, outdoor recreation and other sectors of our state’s economy. Native ecosystems also provide clean water, natural flood control, and habitats for fish, plants, and wildlife.

To help protect these important native habitats that help nurture biodiversity, DNR manages a statewide network of Natural Area Preserves and Natural Resources Conservation Areas. Many of these areas represent the finest natural, undisturbed ecosystems in state ownership; they also protect one-of-a-kind natural features unique to this region, such as the Mima Mounds in Thurston County or Selah Cliffs in Yakima County.

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Our top posts during September: Lighting, wildfire, and ‘angular unconformity’ were popular topics

October 2, 2013
Lightning strike

Lighting has been striking more often this summer in Washington and Oregon — about 238,109 times, which four times higher than normal. Photo: DNR.

Here’s a roundup of the most popular blog posts on Ear to the Ground during September:

Snap, crackle, pop! More lightning than past years. Does it seem like Washington and Oregon have had more lightning this year than past years? That’s because it’s true — four times the normal rate, according to reports.

DNR’s Fire Dispatch Center takes the heat. Ever wonder how DNR mobilizes personnel, trucks, aircraft, and supplies to respond to wildland fires?

Former firefighter seeks — and finds — names of rescuers 32 years later. A former firefighter gets DNR’s help in tracking down crew members who rendered first aid and carried him to safety after he collapsed while working on a wildfire in 1981.

End summer the ‘Reiter-way. DNR announces that two new sections for off-road fun at Reiter Foothills Forest are now open to the public: The ATV Purple Line and the intimidating 4×4 Connector Challenge trails.   

Our Geology Image of the Month: ‘Angular unconformity’. The Washington State Geology News (a free e-newsletter from DNR) shows off a well-exposed angular unconformity in the rocks at Beach 4, located along coastal Highway 101 between Ruby Beach and Kalaloch.

Working forests, working double-time. Most people know about the monetary benefits of harvesting trees from forest lands, but what people may not know are the other services forests provide, such as clean water, flood control and carbon sequestration.

Small earthquake shakes Lake Wenatchee area. A small, 3.0 magnitude, earthquake shook the east end of Lake Wenatchee at 8:15 a.m. on September 24.

Can animals survive wildfires? You’ll be glad to know that most wild animals do survive wildfires. They are much smarter than we give them credit for.

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