HOOK AND FUR
By Bob Brown
For many of us, April is the most invigorating month of the year, because it marks the start of a new year of hunting, fishing and a whole range of other outdoor activities. Of course, the big event this month is the opening of lowland lakes trout fishing season, which gets under way April 27.
Although it may seem anglers are getting the lion’s share of seasonal activity, hunters haven’t been left out in the cold, and neither have birders. A two-day spring turkey hunt for hunters 15 years old and younger is scheduled April 6-7. The general spring turkey hunt opens for all hunters April 15 and runs through May 31.
If clams are your fancy, a six-day morning razor clam dig is tentatively scheduled April 9-14 on various ocean beaches, and later on in the month, a second razor clam dig is scheduled on the same beaches. For details, see the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) razor clam web page.
For birders, many communities are hosting festivals to mark the beginning of major bird migrations. Each spring, hundreds of shorebirds rest and feed in the Grays Harbor estuary on their migration northward. It has been estimated this is the largest concentration of migrating birds in the Northwest. Some Artic-bound shorebirds from Argentina fly over 15,000 miles on their round trip. The Grays Harbor Shorebirds Festival, April 26-28 in Hoquiam, celebrates the arrival of the birds that include sandhill cranes, a variety of waterfowl species, shorebirds and Peregrine Falcons, dive bombers of the bird world and fastest of all feathered fliers. The Falcons inundate the area looking for an easy meal and usually manage to do just that. For information regarding the festival, call (360) 289-5048.
Bacteria wipes out bighorn sheep
A deadly respiratory diseases caused by Mycoplasma bacteria has been devastating bighorn sheep in the Tieton herd located near Naches. The disease has reduced the size of the herd from 200 animals a few years ago to a current estimate of 35 50. Earlier this year, wildlife managers received reports of sick and dead sheep along the Tieton River. The resulting aerial and ground survey found about 25 dead sheep. Washington State University veterinarian personnel examined the carcasses and found the animals had died of pneumonia caused by the bacteria.
There is no treatment for bighorns with pneumonia, and no preventative vaccine for the disease. Because the disease is so deadly, WDFW officials are planning to euthanize all of the bighorn sheep in the Tieton herd in an effort to curb the spread of the pneumonia outbreak.
Richard Harris, wildlife manger for the department, said, “A majority of the live bighorn sheep spotted during recent surveys looked to be in poor condition, with about a third of those animals coughing or showing other signs of the disease. We hate to take this action, but we believe it is necessary to stop the spread of a disease that could devastate adjacent herds of wild bighorn.”
The disease is not transmissible to humans or domestic livestock, said Harris, who noted the department is exploring options for how the meat may be used.
The Yakima area is home to about a third of the state’s 2,000 wild bighorn sheep, with herds totally nearly 700 animals.
Past outbreaks among bighorn sheep in Washington and other parts of the western United States have been linked to contact between wild sheep and domestic sheep or goats that carry Mycoplasma but are unaffected by the bacteria. There is no evidence suggesting there has been contact between domestic and wild sheep in the Naches area.
In 2010, state and federal wildlife managers took similar action and successfully stopped the spread of the disease in the Yakima River Canyon. Since then, lamb survival has increased and the population is recovering.