Chelan PUD conducts winter wildlife surveys along Lake Chelan as part of the Lake Chelan Wildlife Management Plan as a requirement of the license for the Lake Chelan Hydroelectric project. The surveys indicate abundance, distribution, and composition of wintering mule deer, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, waterfowl, eagles, and other animals along Lake Chelan from November through March. The surveys have been conducted since 1982.
Numbers of animals counted will vary depending on the severity of the winter and weather conditions. Results of the surveys are shared with agency cooperators and used to make wildlife and habitat management decisions.
Mountain goats are found in steep, rocky, mountainous terrain in Chelan County. Mountain goats have thick white shaggy coats that keep them warm. Tough, rubbery feet help them keep a firm grip on the rocky terrain. During the summer months mountain goats use high elevation habitats for foraging and during winter they move to lower elevations. The shores of Lake Chelan provide ideal wintering habitat for mountain goats.
In the early 1980s, Chelan PUD assisted in interagency efforts to transplant mountain goats to Lake Chelan shorelines. The reintroduction efforts boosted the declining goat population and introduced more genetic variability into the herds. Twenty-nine goats were brought from Olympic National Park and released on both shores in 1983 and an additional 15 goats were released in 1984.
Chelan County hosts one of the largest populations of mule deer in Washington State. The rugged terrain and diversity of habitats provides excellent mule deer summer and winter range. Most mule deer in Chelan County are migratory, summering at high elevations in the Cascade Mountains and wintering at lower elevations near the Columbia River breaks.
Encroachment of human development on mule deer winter range poses another threat to the deer population. As human development progresses, mule deer may be displaced from historic winter ranges, forcing them to winter in areas of higher elevation where the snow is deeper. Management of mule deer winter range is highly important, and Chelan PUD is involved in study, management, and augmentation of these important habitats.
From 1999 - 2000, Chelan PUD assisted in an interagency effort to re-introduce Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep on the North Shore of Lake Chelan. Bighorn sheep were captured from other healthy populations within Washington State. Bighorn sheep in Washington State were eradicated by 1930 due to unrestricted hunting and diseases passed by domestic sheep. Numbers of bighorn sheep have steadily increased since the reintroduction.
Chelan PUD maintains 960 acres of habitat dedicated to mule deer winter range, known as the Home Water Wildlife Preserve. The Preserve is located in the heart of the Sage Hills, a popular area with hiking trails in the foothills west of Wenatchee.