Since the end of summer, Fish and Game has received many inquiries regarding the impacts of the Clear Creek Fire on wildlife, particularly big game animals. The public is not alone in their concerns. Because Unit 28 contains some critical winter range for elk, Fish and Game biologists have been touring the area to record the initial impacts of the fire as well as range recovery. Much of the critical big game winter range in Unit 28 that was burned is located in the lower Panther Creek Drainage. Biologists estimate that between 30-40 percent of this area was burned by low to moderate intensity fires, leaving a mosaic of burned and unburned areas across the range. This pattern is most obvious in the lower tributaries of Panther Creek especially Clear, Beaver, and Trail Creeks. At the present time, the unburned areas provide a good standing crop of grasses, forbs, and shrubs that will be available to big game this winter. With the exception of scattered sites of Idaho fescue on steep northern slopes as well as mountain mahogany in some areas, important perennial wildlife food plants appear to have survived. Highly nutritious species such as bluebunch wheatgrass, Idaho fescue, and Sandberg bluegrass have all benefited recently from above average rainfall and mild conditions and are showing growth of 2-6 inches. Most shrub species with the exception of Mountain mahogany and sagebrush, will re-sprout in the spring. Overall, the burned areas of critical big game winter range in Unit 28 appear to be recovering quickly. This vegetative re-growth will provide high quality fall and winter forage for the animals dependent upon this range during the coming winter months.
Get the big gear ready; steelhead will be released into the Boise River November 3. Anglers have been waiting all this fall in the hope there would be enough hatchery steelhead returning to Idaho to allow releasing some into the Boise River. Fish and Game has to wait until it is evident that hatchery needs will be met before excess steelhead can be trucked from the Idaho Power hatchery at Hells Canyon to the Boise River. About 200 of the big anadromous trout will be released in the usual places from Glenwood Bridge to Barber Park. Anglers must have a fishing license and steelhead tag. The limits are two steelhead per day, four in possession and 10 for the season. Barbed hooks are allowed for fishing the Boise River because no wild steelhead live in the river. Last year, the Oxbow hatchery provided 202 steelhead to the Boise, 217 into Hells Canyon Reservoir and 266 to the Little Salmon.
Legislators indicated satisfaction with current Fish and Game's pheasant stocking program when this year's results were presented to them in a meeting October 24. The bulk of the $200,000 spent on the program goes to stocking more than 14,000 roosters on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) across southern Idaho during the hunting season. The number of rooster pheasants planted this fall more than doubles last year's WMA program and releases will occur twice a week in most places. In another portion of the legislature-mandated program, game farm and wild pheasants have been planted in Madison County, Minidoka County and at C.J. Strike WMA in Owyhee County during the spring prior to nesting. Results this year were mixed. Survival of game farm hens over 90 days to six months of monitoring ranged from zero to 11 percent at all three sites. Consequently, only a few broods were produced by the surviving hens. Wild hen survival ranged from 56 percent in Minidoka County to 60 percent in Madison County. At C.J. Strike where about 200 predators were removed prior to the game farm pheasant release, about 20 fall roosters were produced at a cost of about $300 per bird. Next year, the WMA put-and-take rooster program will be continued at about the same level as this fall. About 2,000 game farm pheasants and 200 wild pheasants will be planted at C.J. Strike WMA, in Minidoka County and at Mud Lake WMA and predators will be controlled there to see if survival can be improved.
Don Wright is on the job as Supervisor of the Southwest Region, the largest and by far most populous of Fish and Game's seven regions. Wright has been with the department for almost 30 years, previously serving eight years as Supervisor of the Upper Snake Region. Before that, Wright worked mostly in enforcement in the Upper Snake, Southwest and Magic Valley. He began his career in the Boise area. Bob Martin was named acting Supervisor for the Upper Snake. Al Van Vooren supervised the Southwest before he was named Deputy Director recently. Wright said he is "very happy to be back in the Boise Valley" and that he is eager to take on the challenges he faces now in leading the biggest region.
Q. When do next year's licenses become available? A. December 1, resident and nonresident licenses will be available, as well as nonresident general-season tags.
An illegal act in Hayden caused quite a stir this week. A poacher launched an arrow at a doe whitetail deer. Unfortunately, the arrow hit the deer. Fortunately, the arrow struck the scapula and only slightly penetrated the animal's shoulder. Time will tell, but the animal stands a good chance of recovery on its own. It is also unfortunate the story didn't end there with the arrest of the perpetrator! A less than objective newspaper account of the incident in a Spokane based newspaper could lead readers to believe that Idaho Fish and Game employees don't care about wildlife because we didn't rush to the scene and remove the arrow. On the record, people don't pursue these careers if they don't care about wildlife! But that story must not sell many Spokane newspapers. Now you'll hear, the rest of the story. While we at Fish and Game like to think of ourselves as athletic, none of us can run down a whitetail. The only way to capture the deer is to dart it with an immobilizing drug. The arrow could then be excised, the wound cleansed, antibiotics applied, an antidote injected. If everything goes perfectly, the deer comes around and trots off with its twin fawns waiting patiently nearby... and all is well. There are times when all doesn't go well with immobilization drugs. While we use them on occasion, there are numerous risks to the animal and to people. The trained officer on the scene must accurately judge the weight of the animal, calculate the correct dosage and the proper propellant charge, and load the syringe all while the animal stands by. He/she must then get into a position to get a good shot at the rump of the animal with absolutely no possibility of missing the target. A little left or right and the dart enters the body cavity and is immediately fatal.
Fish and Game will plant about twice as many birds on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) this fall compared to past years. Planting operations will begin this week. Schedules for planting birds are not publicized by the department. The pheasant planting program was increased to more than 14,000 birds on WMAs this fall to accommodate public demand. Pheasants will be planted twice a week, with stocking tapering off as the end of the seasons approaches. The limit is two per day at WMAs where the pheasant permit is required. Prospects for hunting naturally reared ringnecks appear about average in most of southern Idaho this fall, slightly improved in southeast Idaho. Pheasant hunting has declined in most of southern Idaho since the early 1980s because development and changes in agricultural practices have radically reduced the amount of good pheasant habitat. Pheasant season began October 21. The season ends December 31 in the west and north and November 30 in eastern counties. Hunting pheasants on WMAs where they are stocked requires a permit costing $21.50 in addition to a hunting license. The fee helps offset the cost of planting game farm birds. This fee covers six birds but additional permits may be purchased. Pheasants are planted at eight WMAs across southern Idaho. Those are Fort Boise, Payette River, Montour, C.J. Strike, Sterling, Market Lake, Mud Lake and Cartier. WMA guides are available at Fish and Game offices. Information on WMAs is also available on the department's web site at http://www.state.id.us/fishgame.
The Clear Creek Fire in game management unit 28 has left many people wondering what big game animals, especially elk, will be feeding on this winter. Impressions of a completely charred landscape have led to rumors that Fish and Game will feed wintering elk to make up for a lack of natural food. While a significant loss of winter range occurred, much of this area did not burn at all or was actually burned by low intensity fires. As a result, the area should experience rapid recovery. After surveying the winter range, Fish and Game biologists feel that it will probably be sufficient to take the elk through a mild to average winter. However, if the winter proves to be harsh, a decision will need to be made whether to provide wintering elk with supplemental food. Supplemental feeding of big game is dictated by a specific policy adopted by the Fish and Game Commission. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game, by policy, does not sanction any widespread supplemental winter feeding programs. The policy states that the Department is authorized to feed big game only if the following conditions exist: 1) To prevent damage to private property or for public safety when other methods of preventing damage and providing safety measures are determined to be impractical, inappropriate, or ineffective and the amount of damage or cost of protection is expected to exceed the cost of feeding. 2) To prevent the excessive mortality of big game populations in drainages that would affect the recovery of the herd. However, emergency situations may be declared depending upon the following criteria: the condition of animals at the beginning of winter; temperature; snow crusting and depth; and availability of forage. Should monitoring of a herd show that these criteria result in an emergency situation, the Regional Supervisor can authorize department staff to begin a supplemental feeding program for big game herds in affected areas.
Idaho sportsmen take pride in their knowledge of hunting and fishing techniques and safety practices, but there is one basic rule that is sometimes overlooked. According to Idaho Code, "all sportsmen must stop at Fish & Game check stations." The law does not require only those with fish or game to stop, it says "all sportsmen" who have been hunting or fishing are required to stop. Each year, many sportsmen fail to stop at check stations when they were not successful on that specific trip. They see the signs, but think the instructions don't apply to them and continue on their way. Occasionally, citations are issued for the failure to stop. A close reading of the check station signs say "all sportsmen, with or without game must stop". The Idaho Department of Fish and Game runs two types of check stations. These include wildlife management check stations and enforcement check stations. Both types are important, and sportsmen must heed all signs relating to these stations. Management check stations usually rely on voluntary compliance from sportsmen, but are often neglected by those in a hurry to get home. It is important that hunters stop and give biologists information relating to the trip they are returning from. According to Wildlife Manager Jim Hayden, "The check stations serve as a helpful immediate measure of how the season is going. The information provides us the short term ability to compare hunter success to previous years." Final season success and harvest figures are derived from the mandatory checks on some species and telephone surveys. Sportsmen driving on less traveled roads may also encounter impromptu check stations that stop all vehicles and divert hunters or anglers aside to answer additional questions. These check stations may be set up by conservation officers at any time of the day or night, and are intended to enforce Idaho wildlife laws and orders.
The number of general hunt elk and deer tags allowed for nonresidents will be about the same for next year as in the last several years. Meeting in Salmon in early October, the Fish and Game Commission adopted the recommendations of the department in allowing 12,800 regular deer tags, 1,200 Southeast deer tags, 11,000 elk tags everywhere outside the Panhandle and 1,815 Panhandle elk tags. The number of outfitter setaside tags were reduced in the southeast deer zone from 130 to 85. Hunters who chose to take a "rain check" in the 2000 season because their areas were affected by wildfires will have the chance to buy tags over and above the quotas. Nonresident deer tags outside the southeast zone have not been sold out in recent years. Elk tags have not yet sold out this fall. For the first time, the Commission has allowed resident hunters to buy unsold nonresident tags at nonresident fees this fall.
Q. Does calling the Citizen's Against Poaching (CAP) really help find poachers? Can I remain anonymous and still collect a reward if the information I give them helps catch a poacher? A. Tips given to the Citizen's Against Poaching organization are very helpful in helping to apprehend a variety of miscreants. Information such as vehicle descriptions and license plate numbers have helped in many instances. All information given to CAP is completely confidential and you can remain anonymous unless you are willing to testify in court. To report a poacher, call 1-800-632-5999. If you do not reach an operator, please leave a message and your call will be returned.
Steelhead anglers are reminded that the Nez Perce tribal steelhead license is not valid outside the reservation boundary on the Clearwater River or on the Salmon and Snake rivers. However, an Idaho fishing license with a steelhead permit is valid on all three rivers. Steelhead anglers that posses a valid Nez Perce Tribal steelhead fishing license may fish the Clearwater River only within the reservation, from its western boundary near the mouth of Hatwai Creek to the upstream boundary above Kooskia. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) has entered into a reciprocal agreement with the Nez Perce Tribe to honor either the tribal steelhead fishing license or an Idaho fishing license with steelhead permit on the Clearwater River within reservation boundaries. IDFG Conservation Officers and Nez Perce Tribal Fisheries Enforcement Officers who check steelhead anglers on the Clearwater within the reservation boundaries will accept either the tribal license or Idaho license with steelhead permit.
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