Message from the Board

November 2020

Mark DeHaan

“Yes, it is that time of year again,” I thought as I watched a chipmunk filling his/her cheek pockets with milkweed down. As it scurried back to her nest with the prize, I reflected on what a strange and difficult year this has been. Because of Covid-19, most of our yearly public activities at the Camas National Wildlife Refuge had to be canceled or curtailed. But even so, attendance at Camas was extremely high as people sought outdoor recreation during the social distancing. This just highlights an often overlooked important purpose of  National Wildlife Refuges such as Camas. How nice it is that one can easily drive to a place with plenty of space to slow down and experience nature.

In the coming year, Friends of Camas have plans to: erect a raised observation platform to better view the marshes, study ways to maximize water distribution through the Refuge,  continue the Pronghorn migration studies described in last month's article, as well as further enhancing our existing features.  

Camas NWR was one of the refuges featured in the latest (Fall 2020) issue of Audubon magazine in the story “Sanctuaries Under Strain”. The article highlights how severe, long-term underfunding has resulted in the decay of  NWR's management and maintenance. We are always looking for new revenue streams, and thankfully Nature has an amazing capacity for renewal. 

We will get through this year and the sun will rise over the tules again.

Just a bit further down the trail, I watched a Gophersnake prowling. I wished him well, but also hoped the chipmunk safety and a nice, warm winter hibernation. Life is a precarious balance with so many opposing forces. And a year like 2020 shows that the nation's Refuges are critical not only for fish and wildlife wellbeing but for our health too. Be safe, be well.

Refuge Manager's Notes

Brian Wehausen, 

Camas National Wildlife Refuge December 9, 2020

Currently, the Refuge has no snow on the ground for the most part.  If you are thinking of heading to the Refuge for a visit the auto tour route is in good condition, and hiking is great if you are willing to put up with the colder temperatures.  For the past week, our overnight temperatures have been at or near zero.   The crab creek snotel which is in the upper part of the Camas Creek watershed, as of today, is showing 9 inches of snow depth and 2.2 inches of water equivalent.  Not much for this time of the year and really hoping we start to pick up some moisture both in the mountain and here on the plain as well.

Definitely starting to see our typical winter birds here at Camas as the horned larks and snow bunting are here and the Rough-legged hawks have shown up in the last month as well.   We have not yet started counting bald eagles in the roost tree.  We have seen a couple of eagles roosting at night, but has not yet been consistent.  Plan on starting the counts soon though, as I would expect the numbers to increase soon with the cold weather.  The Refuge no longer has open water and the waterfowl have for the most part moved on. 

Small groups of white-tailed deer have been active around the Refuge but rut is now complete and their daytime movements will be less.  Multiple moose are still being spotted from time to time on the Refuge as well.

Pronghorn movement study update:

There have been two mortalities:  one was pronghorn was killed by a coyote and another cause of mortality is as yet unknown.  The figures show capture location in July (stars) and subsequent locations November 21-24 (solid circles). 

Animals have moved towards the winter range.  Most of those radio-collared in Shotgun Valley (west of Island Park) and west to Kilgore, have moved westward and are against the I-15 fence south of Dubois; not too far where the mortalities on the railroad tracks happened last winter (Figure 1).  The two animals radio-collared west of Dubois and I-15 have remained in that same general area (Figure 1). 

The two animals radio-collared near Spencer have moved into Montana (Figure 2).

IDF&G plans another capture operation this winter to replace lost collars (mortalities) add a few more to the study.

What's New 

Honoring Mary Dolven

  It is with heavy heart, Friends of Camas honors Mary Dolven.  Mary was an active member of the Friends of Camas organization and served on its board for many years. Mary's dedication and work on behalf of the Camas National Wildlife Refuge helped to bring about many improvements.  Donations in Mary's name can be made to Friends of Camas through the PayPal link above.  On the line "add special instructions" you can enter Mary Dolven's name and Friends of Camas will notify the family of your donation.  

MOTUS Tower is Transmitting!

Hi everyone,

Thanks to a team effort with Brian Wehausen, Camas NWR refuge manager, and David La Puma from CTT, we were finally able to connect Camas Motus station and upload data to the server!  It turns out Camas NWR Motus station detected two Swainson’s Thrush from British Columbia, Canada:

  • Thrush #35 was tagged by the Heath Lab in BC on Aug. 31. It was detected again close to the border near Othello BC, on September 15 and detected five days later on September 20 at Camas NWR (see map below)
  • Thrush #18 was detected at Camas on October 1st but I don’t have any more info at the moment. I will let you know of any updates.

Many birds appear to migrate in a southeast trajectory from our tagging sites in the West. Due to lack of current Motus stations to the southeast of MPG Ranch, many of our Intermountain West Collaborative Motus Project tagged birds still go undetected once they leave the Bitterroot Valley, MT. We plan to expand our Motus network next year to the northeast of Camas NWR along I-15 across Monida Pass and up into Montana. 

 I'm hoping we will learn a lot more this year on how intermountain birds tagged at MPG Ranch cross the Northern Rockies prior to migrating to the southern latitudes. 

Thanks,  William




Friends of Camas NWR Inc. 
2150 E 2350 N
Hamer, ID 83425