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Whales don’t know COVID

Oregon State Parks photo COVID has put a damper on volunteers along the Oregon Coast, but whales are still visible in late December and early January as they migrate to Baja California.

Winter whale watching week on the Oregon Coast is canceled because of COVID, but somebody forgot to tell the whales, because they’re still passing by the state on their way from Alaska to Baja California.

Oregon State Parks celebrates the migration of gray whales twice per year during whale watch weeks in late December and late March. The Whale Watching Spoken Here program places volunteers at 24 whale-watching sites, ready to help visitors see and learn about migrating and resident whales.

Because of the pandemic, volunteers won’t be out there talking to visitors, and the Depoe Bay Whale Watching Center is temporarily closed. But people who head to the coast can still see whales.

Late December and early January is prime time to look for the migrating mammals as they head south to the warm lagoons of Baja, state parks officials say. And although the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay is closed, the viewing deck on the exterior of the building is open.

"The peak of the winter-whale watching season lasts from late December through mid-January,“ said Beverly Beach Park Ranger Luke Parsons. “Watch the weather forecast for calm weather and clear skies near your favorite coastal destination, then come on over.”

Parsons added that the whales can be several miles from shore during the winter migration, so bring binoculars to help scan for whale spouts. Mornings, when the sun is at your back, is a better time than afternoons to look for whales, he says.

Wolf reward climbs above $47,000

Nonprofit groups have combined to pledge nearly $50,000 in rewards for information that leads to an arrest or citation related to the poisoning of Oregon’s Catherine wolf pack and other wolves earlier this year, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Members of the public have also contributed over $1,000 to the fund, and the Oregon Hunters Association pledged the standard amount of $500, bringing the current total to $47,736.

Pledges started pouring in two weeks ago when OSP Fish and Wildlife announced finding all five members of the Catherine wolf pack dead of poisoning in February 2021.

Troopers collected the animals from the scene, located southeast of Mount Harris in Union County, and delivered them to the forensics lab in Corvallis for analysis. Lab results confirmed that the two female and three male wolves all died from poison.

Between February and March 2021, troopers located an additional three wolves, two magpie and a skunk, and delivered them to forensics labs for testing. In each case, the labs confirmed poison as cause of death.

"Poisoning is a horrific way to die and shows a blatant disregard and respect that we should have for our wolves and all wildlife," said Marc Cooke, president of Wolves of the Rockies. Wolves of the Rockies, Trap Free Montana, and The 06 Legacy Project contributed $10,000 to the reward fund.

“When rewards get to this level — a level that can make significant changes in a person’s life — they might stop to consider something they heard or saw,” said Yvonne Shaw, ODFW Stop Poaching Campaign coordinator. “This could be the down payment on a house, or an investment in a college education. It’s a new truck. Or a new start.”

For more information about the Stop Poaching Campaign, email Yvonne.L.Shaw@odfw.oregon.gov.

First Day Hikes

Guided 2022 First Day Hikes are set for several state parks Jan. 1, 2022, and the normal $5 day-use parking fee will be waived for the 25 parks that normally require a parking permit.

“Whatever your choice — a guided hike, exploring a park trail on your own, or enjoying everything a state park offers — starting out the year in the outdoors can begin a new tradition or keep a longstanding family tradition alive,” said Lisa Sumption, director of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, in a press release. “Jan. 1 also marks the beginning of the yearlong Oregon State Parks centennial commemoration.”

A list of guided hikes, including times and meeting locations, is online at the Oregon State Parks event calendar at https://stateparks.oregon.gov/index.cfm?do=things-to-do.events. Visitors should check the calendar in the days leading up to Jan. 1 for additional guided hikes. Some parks not hosting guided hikes may display posters that include recommended hikes and ranger favorites, the release added.