Skeleton found near Wallula Junction

By Davis Wahlman,

WALLULA, Wash. — KEPR investigating into reports of human remains being found just north of Wallula Junction.

A 14 year old and his father were hunting near the river when the came across a skeleton with a hole in the skull.

“I was about 100 yards in front of him, I just walked right up on it,” said 14 year old Mitchell Jackson.

He didn’t snag any geese on his hunting trip this weekend, but he did make a chilling discovery.

“I just see this white thing on the ground and I go walking closer to it. It looked like skull to me and I waited until my dad caught up to me and I said, ‘Dad, I think I found a human skull,” he said.

And he was right.

A skull, jaw bone, vertebrae, and rib cage just sticking out of the ground near their hunting spot along the river near Wallula. Mitchell’s father called the Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office who initially thought they could be looking at a homicide. But once the coroner and an archaeologist could took a closer look, they squashed that theory.

The land where they found the remains just north of Wallula Junction is all owned by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. So when they got the call, they knew they had a full plate.

We asked an archaeologist how old he might think the bones are.

“You know, they’re older than ten years old. I can’t tell you if they’re older than 100, 200, years old. They’ve definitely been there for quite a long time.”

Fish and Wildlife archaeologist Dale Earl is tasked with identifying and dating the remains which are now under lock and key at the McNary office in Burbank. He says the body could have been placed where the skeleton was found, or been carried by the river.

They are currently in talks with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation to see if it could be one of their ancestors.
While that could be the story, could we possibly be looking ground breaking find?

Reporter: “What are the odds of this being the next Kennewick Man?” Earl: “Very very remote.”

Fish and Wildlife will team up with an anthropologist to date the bones. Archaeologists say the dating process will take several weeks if not longer.

Budget Cuts Threaten Fish and Wildlife, Co-management

Being Frank

By Lorraine Loomis, Chair, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission 

Years of declining funding combined with a current $2 billion state budget deficit leaves the treaty Indian tribes in western Washington wondering if the Department of Fish and Wildlife will be able to meet its natural resources management responsibilities.

The shortfall led Gov. Jay Inslee to instruct state agencies to submit budget reduction options equal to 15 percent of the money they receive from the state’s general fund. While there is hope that the governor might spare some or all of the nearly $11 million in budget cut options proposed by WDFW, the results would be devastating if they become a reality.

Hatchery closures and production cuts would mean the loss of more than 30 million salmon and steelhead annually. Fewer enforcement officers would be employed, leaving some areas with little or no coverage. Resource protection would be further decreased by reductions to the department’s Hydraulic Project Approval program that regulates construction in state waters.

In just the past six years, the department has cut more than $50 million from its budget, much of it from hatchery production. During that time tribes have picked up the tab to keep salmon coming home for everyone who lives here. Tribes are doing everything from taking over the operation of some state hatcheries to buying fish food and making donations of cash and labor to keep up production at other state facilities. That is in addition to the 40 million salmon and steelhead produced annually at tribal hatcheries.

Meanwhile, wild salmon populations continue to decline because of the ongoing loss of habitat that state government is unable to stop. The loss of wild salmon and their habitat has already severely restricted the tribes’ abilities to exercise our treaty-reserved fishing rights. Additional state budget cuts would only worsen the situation.

Budget problems do not excuse the state from its obligations to follow federal law and uphold commitments made by the United States in treaties with Indian tribes. Our treaties and the court decisions that upheld them are considered the “supreme law of the land” under the U.S. Constitution. As salmon co-manager with the tribes, the state of Washington does not have the option of turning its back and walking away.

Hatchery programs are especially important to fulfilling the treaty right that salmon must be available for tribes to harvest. Without hatcheries and the fish they provide, there would be no fishing at all by anyone in western Washington. We must have hatcheries for as long as natural salmon production continues to be limited by poor habitat.

Further cuts to WDFW’s budget would be another step backward in our efforts to save the salmon. Gov. Inslee should look someplace else for the funding that the state needs. He should not try to balance the state budget on the backs of the fish and wildlife resources and the people who depend on them.


Upper Skagit Tribe looks at steelhead survival


Mar 16th, 2014 Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

The Upper Skagit Indian Tribe is tagging juvenile steelhead to estimate freshwater productivity and learn more about smolt-to-adult survival in the Skagit River.

Steelhead have a complex life history, making it hard for salmon managers to forecast returns. Juvenile steelhead can leave freshwater habitat between their first and fourth year of life, and return from the salt water after one to five years. In addition, steelhead are repeat spawners, unlike other species of salmon, so they can return to salt water before coming back to fresh water to spawn again.

Compared to other river systems in Puget Sound, the Skagit River still has an abundance of wild steelhead.

“We estimate how many adult steelhead come back to the Skagit River based on spawning ground surveys,” said Jon-Paul Shannahan, biologist for the Upper Skagit Tribe. “Right now, we don’t know how many juvenile steelhead leave the watershed.”

A fish weir guides juvenile steelhead into a trap in Hansen Creek. The steelhead are tagged and then released to help fisheries managers learn more about smolt-to-adult survival.
A fish weir guides juvenile steelhead into a trap in Hansen Creek. The steelhead are tagged and then released to help fisheries managers learn more about smolt-to-adult survival.

The tribe has partnered with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to collect steelhead smolts using screw traps in Hansen and Illabot creeks. The smolts are tagged with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags that will provide data when the steelhead leave and return to the two tributaries. These PIT-tagged steelhead can also be monitored for encounters in other research or harvest sampling.

This spring, the Upper Skagit Natural Resources Department plans to install one PIT tag antenna array in Hansen Creek that will record information when tagged fish swim over the antennas. If funding is secured, another antenna array will be installed in Illabot Creek next year.

Previous data has shown that steelhead out-migrate from the upper Skagit watershed at an older age compared to fish in the lower watershed. Illabot Creek is near Rockport in the upper watershed, and Hansen Creek is in the lower watershed near the tribe’s Sedro-Woolley reservation.

“These two creeks represent a tiny sliver of the available habitat,” Shannahan said. “We picked these two productive tributaries as initial sites to represent the age diversity of the smolts and the habitat conditions from the entire basin. We have decent adult return data, some decent habitat and flow data, and plan to expand this data to get a picture of the entire basin productivity. ”

Ultimately, the tribe wants to incorporate this research into long-term monitoring in the Skagit basin, but has not identified a long-term funding source.

“We believe this is a unique project on the Skagit,” said Scott Schuyler, natural resources director for the Upper Skagit Tribe. “Given how complex the life history is for steelhead, this is an great opportunity to truly learn more about the species.”

For more information, contact: Jon-Paul Shannahan, Upper Skagit Tribe, 360-854-7089 or; Kari Neumeyer, NWIFC, 360-424-8226 or