Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

Cougars on state trust lands

October 29, 2015
cougar kittens

If you see this in the woods: don’t touch and don’t hang around! Although alone at the time, these four cougar kittens were not orphans, and quite likely mom was very close by. Photo: DNR.

Felines live all around us in Washington state’s wild areas, including state trust lands managed by DNR. We’re talking about bobcats, lynx and cougars–the largest North American feline.

Also known as mountain lions or pumas, the exceptionally powerful legs of Puma concolor enable it to leap 30 feet from a standstill, or jump 15 feet straight up a cliff wall. The cougar’s strength and powerful jaws allow it to take down and drag prey larger than it is, according to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Living with Wildlife webpage on cougars. While it is estimated that there are fewer than 3,000 cougars in Washington state, these large predators can be found in pretty much any rural or semi rural area where cover and large prey — including deer — are in abundance.

Adult males average approximately 140 pounds but can be as large as weigh 180 pounds, measure 7 to 8 feet long from nose to tip of tail and stand about 30 inches tall at the shoulder. Adult female cougars average about 25 percent smaller than males.

Sometimes, people hiking through thickly wooded or brushy areas come across cougar kittens, such as those seen in the photo with this article, and assume that they are orphans because the mother is not around. Don’t be fooled. Cougar kittens stay with their mothers for 12 to 19 months after their birth. While she hunts, the mother will leave the kittens in a ‘daybed’ which can be a cave but in less-mountainous areas can be a thickly forested area, a thicket or under large roots or fallen trees. And if you are hanging around when she returns…. well, re-read the paragraph about their strong jaws and leaping abilities. The fact is that while stronger than humans, cougar-human encounters almost never turn out well for the cougar. If you spot a cougar and have concerns, contact your local state wildlife office or, if it’s an immediate emergency, call 911 or any local law enforcement office. And never, ever touch one of those cute cougar kittens.

Cougars are among the many species of animals that live on the more than 2 million acres of DNR-managed forested trust land which, in western Washington, is managed under a comprehensive habitat conservation plan.

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Rare visitor feasts on Aquatic Reserve bounty

September 9, 2015
A juvenile fin whale swims south of the Smith & Minor Island Aquatic Reserve Sept. 3. Photo by Naturalist Photographer Janine Harles, Puget Sound Express Whale Watching.

A juvenile fin whale swims south of the Smith & Minor Island Aquatic Reserve Sept. 3. Photo by Naturalist Photographer Janine Harles, Puget Sound Express Whale Watching.

The second largest animal in the world made a surprise and swung by DNR’s Smith & Minor Islands Aquatic Reserve late last week for a snack.

It’s the first time in decades a live fin whale has been spotted swimming in Puget Sound.

According to an article in the San Juan Islander, the whale was spotted while feeding about three miles south of Minor Island – just west of Whidbey Island. DNR designated the state-owned aquatic lands around Smith & Minor Islands an aquatic reserve in part to protect the habitat that provides nursery and feeding grounds for the forage fish large marine predators like fin whales find so tasty. In fact, the Smith & Minor Islands reserve includes the largest kelp forest in Washington state.

The fin whale isn’t the only whale visitor to the reserve. The waters around Smith and Minor Islands are used by southern resident orcas, a DNR priority marine species also listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Minke whales and gray whales are commonly sighted in the area, particularly in the spring and summer. Other regular marine mammal inhabitants in the area include Dall’s porpoise and less commonly harbor porpoise.

Find out more about the reserve, what makes it so special and why DNR is working to study and protect it, in this video:


Managing 2.6 million acres of aquatic lands is a serious job, which is why DNR created the Aquatic Reserves program. This program allows people of the scientific, business, and local communities to locate potential reserve sites that are in need of preservation, restoration, and enhancement.

This partnership helps DNR focus on long-term management options for the specified reserves, and creates opportunities to for us to work with local communities and stakeholders.

Some of the benefits of designating areas as aquatic reserves include:

  • Ensuring environmental protection through site-based preservation, restoration, and enhancement.
  • Encouraging public use and access.
  • Providing for greater public input into conservation management.
  • Working with stakeholders, including citizens and state, local and federal governments, to develop and implement site-specific management plans.
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Even trail crews take extra steps during times of high wildfire risk

September 3, 2015
Hand Tools, IFPL

During fire-prone conditions, Industrial Fire Precaution Levels can restrict forest activities to hand tools only. Photo/ DNR.

All industrial forest work activities are guided by the Industrial Fire Precaution Levels (IFPL), which have varying degrees of restrictions intended to reduce the risk of starting a wildfire. Even trail work on DNR-managed lands has had to to go old school and take extra precautions around activities that wouldn’t typically cause wildfires.

Levels change daily and trail crews must be flexible to continue their valuable work for trails statewide.

How restrictions work on the ground
For example, throughout the summer trail crews in Tiger Mountain and in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Natural Resources Conservation Area carried 5-gallon bags of water, a fire extinguisher, measured relative humidity, and finished early if conditions became too dry.

Washington Conservation Corps crew members that built motorcycle trails in Reiter Foothills Forest also adhered to the precaution levels. Some levels required them to swap motorized wheelbarrows and mini excavators for shovels and Pulaskis when conditions became too hazardous.

In Yacolt Burn State Forest, DNR staff who trimmed ferns on the Tarbell trail also adhered to levels by starting work in the wee hours of the morning, called “Hoot Owl” hours, and finishing by early afternoon, when temperatures heat up and humidity decreases. (more…)

Rec alert: Wildfire closes Island Camp and Bird Creek campgrounds

August 11, 2015

Island Camp and Bird Creek campgrounds are closed until further notice due to wildfire. To preserve your safety, please stay clear of the campgrounds, located near Glenwood in southeastern Washington.

When updates about the fire become available, you’ll find them listed here.

Bird Creek Campground

Bird Creek Campground is closed until further notice due to wildfire. Photo/ DNR.

Where to go instead
Visit our statewide interactive recreation map to get ideas of where to go on DNR-managed lands.

Wildfire prevention
Remember to recreate safely and do your part to prevent wildfires. Take 90 seconds to watch DNR’s YouTube video and learn more about how to reduce your chances of accidentally started wildfire while recreating.

To get updates on Washington wildfires, follow our DNR Fire Twitter.

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Spring brings plants, amphibians and… fungus to Washington forests

May 2, 2015
Calypso orchid. Photo: K. Bevis.

Calypso orchid. Photo: K. Bevis.

As the days grow longer and the earth warms, new growth appears first on the forest floor and in the bushes and grasses, then on the tall trees above. Flowering plants like the calypso orchid are specialists on the forest floor, living on moist decaying wood in older forests and are a wonderful surprise to see. Calypso, or fairy slipper, orchids are fragile and seldom survive picking or transplanting due to their fragile root systems and their association with particular soil fungi.


Rough-skinned newt.

Rough-skinned newt.

Frogs, toads and salamanders become active in the spring as well, breeding as ponds and wetlands lose their ice cover and the edges warm. Depending on where you are, the woods can be alive with their breeding migrations and choruses from late-February to June. Spend an evening listening to their singing or an afternoon watching rough-skinned newts wandering the woods.


Lobster mushroom.

Lobster mushroom.

Moist soils and rotting wood produce amazing springtime explosions of mushrooms all over Washington. Mushrooms are the fruiting body of fungi, with the mycelium or “root mass” buried below ground. The mycelium unobtrusively break down organic material on the forest floor, helping to ensure the health of the forest and its residents. When conditions are right, the mushrooms themselves appear, often literally overnight, in crazy and varied shapes, sizes and colors. Mushrooms are also abundant in the fall. If you plan on picking mushrooms, be careful and take along an experienced mushroomer or a good field guide. Although some mushrooms are a tasty treat for humans and wildlife alike, others can make you sick or even kill you.

This blog first appeared in a longer version in Small Forest Landowner News, a free e-newsletter published quarterly by the DNR Small Forest Landowner Office. Click here to get Small Forest Landowner News delivered to your email in-box each quarter

Spring is for the birds

April 30, 2015

After a long winter, life seems to suddenly return to the forests, as well as the backyards, parks, shorelines and, even, along streets and highways of the Pacific Northwest.

Townsends warbler

Townsends warbler

Between March and May, migratory songbirds arrive to take advantage of the explosion of insect life in our temperate forests and countryside. Many of these birds return yearly from Central and South America to breed and remain with us through the summer months. Others merely pass through on their way to breeding grounds farther north, using our forests and shores to refuel and rest. Listen carefully at dawn to the chorus of song, as birds declare breeding territories and try to attract mates.

Research suggests that some of our migratory birds (western tanagers, Townsend’s warblers, flycatchers) may key in on our deciduous trees either because of the insect populations, or because the trees are similar to the broad-leafed forests where they spend the winter. Interestingly, many of the neo-tropical migrants arrive as trees are leafing out. Conifers have more consistent habitat features, with needles present all year long, and provide habitats utilized more by year around residents such as chickadees and nuthatches.

Western pee wee. Photo: G. Thompson.

Western pee wee. Photo: G. Thompson.

Rich shrub layers and overlapping canopy trees can provide critical habitats for these nesting birds. Many like snags along the forest edge, particularly if there are meadows or water nearby. Watch for flycatchers “hawking” (catching on the wing) insects by darting up into the air and flying back to their favorite perches. There are at least eight species of birds known as flycatchers that will grace your forest this spring and summer including the western wood pee wee and both the Hammond’s and dusky flycatchers. These birds nest in forked branches high up in trees, and actively feed throughout the day. Try telling them apart by their behavior and calls. Appreciate the journey they just made from central Mexico or Arizona back to our area.

This blog first appeared in a longer version in Small Forest Landowner News, a free e-newsletter published quarterly by the DNR Small Forest Landowner Office. Click here to get Small Forest Landowner News delivered to your email in-box each quarter.

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


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