Winter Wildlife Surveys

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

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.

Mule Deer

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.

Bighorn Sheep

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.

Fast Fact:

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.


A mountain goat along Lake Chelan A herd of mule deer wintering along Lake Chelan When snow gets deep, mule deer (such as this fawn) have to look for other food options.  Protecting and enhancing winter range for deer and other wildlife is a priority for Chelan PUD. A mature bald eagle looks for a snack along Rocky Reach Reservoir. Sometimes, biologists get glimpses of hard-to-see wildlife.  This cougar was napping off a meal, and the sound of the boat woke it up. A ram along Lake Chelan Mountain goats observed visiting salt blocks along Lake Chelan. A mule deer buck in a snowstorm along Lake Chelan. Winter deer counts along Lake Chelan are conducted by boat.  Sometimes, this is the only view biologists can get of the wary mule deer bucks. Mountain goats are very curious.  Here, a nanny and her kid (mother and this year's baby) peer down a cliff at biologists conducting a winter count along Lake Chelan. Some of the bighorn sheep are outfitted with tracking collars, and can be seen frequently by biologists during surveys.  Telemetry equipment often accompanies WDFW biologists, and they work together with PUD biologists to monitor the sheep. A mountain goat nibbles on a bitterbrush.  When snow is deep, many herbivores turn to shrubs that stick up above the snow.  While they aren't the preferred food, they do help to provide nutrients to keep goats, sheep, and deer alive during harsh winters. Sometimes, biologists get lucky enough to observe animals that are seen infrequently in the wild.  This bobcat was out for a stroll on a sunny day. A kid (baby mountain goat) peeks out from behind a large Ponderosa pine snag.  It's mother is nearby, hidden by the tree trunk. Cougar in the snow observed during a wildlife survey