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Wildlife trooper searches creatures great and small

Trying to find the largest and smallest of creatures kept Andrew Vanderwerf busy Thursday afternoon.

The Oregon State Patrol Fish and Wildlife patrol trooper bushwacked in the morning and crawled under a boat trailer in the afternoon, in search first of a bear and then a mussel.

Vanderwerf, who is based in The Dalles, answered one call about a wounded bear near Parkdale, and then another about a zebra mussel, an invasive marine species, in Hood River.

Someone had called 9-1-1 at about 4 p.m. to report that a boater had left their trailer after going onto the Columbia River, leaving behind what looked like a zebra mussel on the trailer, parked in the Hood River marina parking lot.

Vanderwerf responded, located the unoccupied vehicle, and looked over every inch, top and bottom, of the trailer. He got on his back and checked under the frame and inside the wheel wells, but found only a small brown object on the wheel guard.

“It’s a little mushroom, or one of those little lichen like you find on trees,” Vanderwerf said. “It’s not a mussel or a snail or a weed and does not look like any invasive species. But at least someone called in with their concern.”

Vanderwerf said this is “the first call I’ve had to deal with this.

“We don’t get that many calls, but we always check boats when they’re out if we’re doing inspections on them to make sure they don’t have any mussels,” he said.

“Anytime we check someone on a boat that’s going out on the water, or coming out, we check the boats and make sure they don’t have any mussels, and that they haven’t been in any of the lakes (out-of-state, identified as contaminated). It might be when we’re on patrol, or responding on a specific basis, we’ll talk with fisherman coming out or checking into the water.”

Boaters are required to have an invasive species permit to prove they have been inspected and are free and clear of zebra mussels, according to Vanderwerf, who works out of Wasco but has worked throughout the Gorge for the past 10 years.

He said, “I go wherever it takes me. We have five counties to patrol and I go where I’m needed when we’re short of people.”

Thursday morning, that meant Dog River Road, east of Parkdale, where a pair of hunters had shot and wounded a bear that went onto private property. At that point, the property owner called 9-1-1, bringing in Trooper Zach Bohince and then Vanderwerf.

“The county got the call, and I was dispatched it because I was pretty close at the time.

“They call in the game troopers, when it’s more in our realm of hunting, and trespass, we handle that too,” Vanderwerf said, adding that this is bear season so it’s legal to hunt, and the hunters had valid tags.

The hunters had tracked the bear from county land onto private property, starting at about 8 a.m. “They were told to leave the (private) property, which they did, but the bear was found off the property when I got up there and they continued to look for it,” following the blood trail onto county land.

“It’s just part of hunting,” he said. “(Bears) run a long ways; you gotta keep the perseverance on it and keep after it.”

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