Outdoors briefs: Backyard bird count starts today

The Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society is encouraging the public today through Monday to participate in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, a yearly nationwide study organized by Cornell Ornithology Labs.

Members of the Audubon Society will lead families and a junior Audubon group on bird walks in different parts of the Tri-Cities today to help with the count.

Meet at 10 a.m. at the Family Fishing Pond in Kennewick's Columbia Park.

But individuals can participate on their own by following the guidelines at http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc.

Or check the Web site for the Audubon Society in the Tri-Cities, www.lowercolumbiabasinaudubon.org and follow the links to the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Chinook season set on Columbia

Nearly 300,000 upriver spring chinook are expected to enter the Columbia River this year, which would make this year's return the third highest since 1977, Washington fish managers said this week.

In March and April, Columbia River anglers will be able to fish for spring chinook salmon at the following locations and times:

-- West power lines on Hayden Island to Bonneville Dam: Seven days per week from March 1-22. Beginning March 23 through April 22, fishing will be limited to four days per week, Wednesday through Saturday.

-- Tower Island power lines above Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam: Seven days per week from March 16 through April 30. The Washington and Oregon bank fishery will also be open from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Tower Island power lines.

Until March 1, spring chinook fishing is open under regulations described in the 2008-09 Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet. Anglers fishing for spring chinook salmon may also retain shad and hatchery steelhead, as outlined in the rule pamphlet.

Elk DNA helps indict 2 in Oregon

Two Oregon men were indicted by a grand jury in Wallowa County after Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division investigators allegedly tied them to the illegal killing of two elk through DNA analysis.

The Wallowa County District Attorney obtained indictments for theft in the first degree, criminal mischief in the first degree, waste of wildlife, taking elk without a valid tag and operating a vehicle in a cooperative road closure against Aleksanda Y. Katko, 52, of Gresham, and Vadim Tioukh, 44, from Boring, authorities said.

The wildlife DNA analysis was made possible through a two-year pilot project funded by the Oregon Hunters Association and the Oregon Federation for North American Wild Sheep, according to Oregon State Police.

Troopers collected numerous spent 9mm shell casings and a DNA sample from the dead elk.

Two suspects were identified and search warrants were served, leading to the seizure of two 9mm pistols and a knife, rope, and hatchet with blood on them, authorities said.