Greenfire News: Fall, 2002

Though the peregrine falcons seem to have moved on for the year, most of the summer wildlife at Greenfire remains. I still see Northern harriers and kestrels every day. I still watch coyotes combing the fields for their breakfast of voles.

As fall proceeds, wildlife sightings increase. Deer are returning. First there were two, then six. Recently I saw 10 on the east side of the East Fork.

A family of mergansers regularly fish in the river, just below the main house. At first, it's puzzling to see a rooster tail of water shoot across the river. My initial thought is that the salmon are finally back. But I realize it's a submerged, fish­chasing merganser when five fish leap out of the water all at once in a last-ditch effort to escape these effective predators.

Back in late August, while three of us sat on the deck watching the last light of the evening, we sighted a black bear on the east side of the river. The bruin ambled casually down the steep bank, looked around a bit, then climbed the bank again to walk upriver along the edge of the field.

Ursus americanus remained visible long enough for me to set up and focus the spotting scope for an close view enjoyed by all. I was thrilled with the sighting, especially since it was a first, but figured the bear was just passing through.

A week later, while looking for salmon in the river, a friend and I found a large, fresh, gooey pile of bear scat nearby. Again the following week, I returned to the river and found a fresh pile of scat close by. Both piles consisted almost entirely of processed rose hips.

Then, I noticed that my yellow labrador, Willow, was sniffing and chewing on something nearby. I investigated and discovered why I can't seem to find any spawning salmon in the usual locations this year.

The spot occupied by Willow was cleared of vegetation. There lay two fairly large pieces of dried fish skin and a pectoral fin that almost certainly came from a large salmon. The bear apparently used this spot to pick apart and consume at least one chinook.

I thought about what the river that runs through Greenfire and all the wildlife connected to it might look like if salmon were to return in historic numbers.

The summer's irrigation effort produced plentiful grasses that will support elk, deer, horses and meadow voles through the winter.

Many frustrating, fruitless hours were spent trying to contract custom farm labor to implement our "Partners in Wildlife" upland restoration project. We simply couldn't find anyone who had enough time to do the work.

We even tried to find rental equipment to do the work ourselves. Though we located a tractor that would handle the job, we couldn't find the accessories to go with it. At the eleventh hour, a local individual turned up and started field work in early October. This got us in under the wire for planting next spring.

A contract between Western Watersheds Project and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore 35 acres of uplands with native vegetation has been signed. A companion agreement with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to plant trees and shrubs for a travel/migration corridor also has been finalized. Plants are reserved for spring planting, and there is a collective feeling of relief as the project is finally moving forward.

The Idaho Intermountain West Joint Venture Committee rated our upland restoration proposal the No. 1 project for Idaho. Then, all No. 1 state proposals were reviewed by a regional committee to determine the worthiest projects of the lot.

Last month I received notification that WWP has been awarded $35,569 to restore 60 acres of hay field with native upland vegetation. Yes!