Weird wildlife tales abound in E. Washington

"The winter is so bad in Spokane, moose are falling into basements."

That's the way my colleague Jim Kershner is describing the past few weeks of record snow accumulation to friends calling from out of town.

He's not exaggerating, not in an Eastern Washington dumping ground that's endured 5 feet above the average snowfall in the past month.

The calf moose fell through a window into a basement bedroom of a Spokane home last Thursday.

But that's just one of countless weird winter wildlife stories filtering out of the region.

In Republic, the mule deer are getting so comfortable panhandling for food, they've taken to hitchhiking.

Pam Taylor, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department enforcement officer, snapped photographic proof of a bold deer in the back of a pickup parked along a paved road on Monday. Traces of hay from feeding livestock lured the doe aboard.

At Liberty Lake, three deer that had been crossing the ice-capped lake regularly found themselves stranded at the public boat launch area last weekend when the warm weather quickly melted the ice along the shoreline.

The locked gate and high fence that helps bar vandals from entering the launch site during the off-season prevented the deer from getting out.

"The rocky shore drops to deep water, so the deer couldn't go in the lake and get around the fence, and they couldn't jump out onto the ice because it was too thin around the edges," said Jim Lashbrook, who lives next to the launch site. "Once they realized they were trapped, they got real antsy."

Lashbrook had a plan.

After calling the Fish and Wildlife Department for permission to unlock the gate, he walked through the deep snow into the access area and then retreated, leaving a trail of apples as he went right on out through the open gate.

"It took them a day or so to get their confidence," Lashbrook said. "But soon enough they just ate themselves out of trouble and left. Then I closed the gate."

Wildlife isn't coming out of all these winter-related predicaments unscathed:

-- A cougar that had been spotted making a pretty good living for a couple of weeks in the foothills of Mount Spokane feeding on deer concentrated by the deep snow was killed in a collision with a vehicle off Forker Road on Sunday night. By the time wildlife officers were called to investigate on Monday morning, somebody had picked up the cougar carcass. Incidentally, that's illegal.

-- Several deer apparently confined by snow to a road near the Spokane-Pend Oreille county line were likely shot by a motorist using a shotgun at close range last Thursday night.

-- At least three deer have been killed in collisions with vehicles within Spokane off Northwest Boulevard. Somebody dumping food for the deer in an open area off the road apparently filled their tummies but lured them to their bitter end, wildlife officials said.

Meantime, bald eagles, some of which may have been feeding on kokanee at Lake Coeur d'Alene last month, have turned to bigger game. They are common sights along area highways as they feed on the bounty of bumper-tenderized deer carcasses littering the area's roadsides.