Press Release

December 2000

Open House Slated for Trophy Species

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) will host an open house for public comment on proposed season changes for bighorn sheep, moose and mountain goat, on Tuesday, January 9, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Clearwater Regional Office, 1540 Warner Avenue in Lewiston.

Regulations for trophy species are completed every two years. This season setting process will be for 2001-02. Proposals include a statewide increase in moose and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep permits, with a reduction in permits for mountain goat and California Bighorn sheep.

Wildlife personnel will be on hand to discuss and answer questions concerning future permit levels and season dates of these species. All written comments received from the public will be presented to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission during their January meeting.

Individuals with disabilities may request meeting accommodations by contacting Mike Demick at IDFG, 799-5010, prior to January 9.

Shooting Ranges Receive Funds

Some of the shooting ranges around Idaho are upgrading their facilities with funding derived from wildlife violation fines.

The Fish and Game hunter education program receives the first $100,000 in fine money paid by wildlife law violators each year. Of that amount, $60,000 goes to improvements in shooting ranges with hunter education students intended as the primary beneficiaries. Both firearms and archery ranges receive funding.

In the fiscal year 2000, money went to the Pocatello Field Archers ($16,000), Quicksilver 4-H Shooting Sports at Blackfoot ($4,300), and the Idaho Hunter Education Association/Upper Snake Chapter ($11,130). In the current fiscal year, funding is on its way to the Coeur d'Alene Rifle & Pistol Club ($25,382), EE-DA-HOW Longrifles Inc. at Boise ($24,000), Pocatello Field Archers ($18,000) and the Upper Snake Bowmen at Rexburg ($6,400).

The clubs and ranges match funding from Fish and Game with donations of labor, equipment and materials to improve their facilities. Requests for funding in the current year exceeded the money available by more than 100 percent, so many projects are still waiting for financial help.

Examples of projects included bringing electricity to the Pocatello Archers range and building a mobile air gun range at Idaho Falls that can be moved around the region. Ranges are also being improved to meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Commission Supports Clearwater Elk Initiative

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has raised Fish and Game's stake in the effort to restore one of America's premier elk herds. At their December meeting, Commissioners voted to become a formal member of the Clearwater Basin Elk Habitat Initiative, and to endorse a memorandum calling for the restoration of "natural disturbance" patterns which create the mosaic habitat conditions that favor wildlife.

The Clearwater Basin Elk Habitat Initiative involves government agencies, conservation groups, sportsman organizations, outfitters, private companies, and many concerned citizens in the attempt to improve wildlife habitat and increase elk populations in an area of Idaho that once supported a large, healthy herd of elk.

Fish and Game Clearwater regional supervisor Cal Groen pointed out that in the early part of the century, periodic forest fires in the Clearwater River Basin created habitat with differing ages and sizes of vegetation, just the thing to help elk and other wildlife thrive. With aggressive fire control, less forest acreage has been disturbed in recent years so little new plant growth is being encouraged. The major habitat change is loss of early-succession growth. Open areas lush with new plant growth are rapidly disappearing. "A mid-serial monoculture situation is dominating the landscape. This is not natural or healthy." Scientists estimate that about 70,000 acres of habitat disturbance is needed each year to recreate historic disturbance patterns which benefit a wide variety of wildlife. The Clearwater Elk Initiative partners are working with the landowners in the six million-acre Clearwater Basin in planning how controlled fire and other different vegetative treatments can be done to encourage growth of quality habitat.

Spring Chinook Runsize Estimate Shows Upswing

Editors: This is intended as background for potential stories on the coming chinook run. We will be sending news releases as warranted in the new year. This backgrounder was prepared by anadromous fisheries biologist Sharon Kiefer in the Fisheries Bureau at Fish and Game, (208)-334-3791.

Early season estimates of the upriver spring chinook run at the mouth of the Columbia River project a runsize of 364,600 adults. The primary component of the run is expected to be two-ocean hatchery spring chinook, which were produced by adults spawned in 1997.

The component of spring chinook that is estimated to be of Snake River origin is higher than average at 206,700 (57%) adults. Of last year's runsize of 178,600 spring chinook adults at the mouth of the Columbia River, only 29% were projected as Snake River origin. However, a look back to the 1997 spring chinook return shows that year also had a higher than average proportion of Snake River fish in the run. Thus, a strong broodyear is cycling through.

Idaho spring chinook hatcheries were full in 1997, producing about 7.29 million smolts and a substantial number of younger fish for release. In contrast, the expected number of spring chinook smolts produced from the 1998 hatchery spawners, which were released in 2000, was only 5.35 million smolts and the 1999 hatchery production was even lower. There are multiple ways to estimate how many of the fish at the mouth of the Columbia River will actually return to Idaho and the rest of the Snake Basin upstream of Lower Granite Dam (located just downstream from Lewiston).

It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's a biologist!

By Gregg Losinski

IDAHO FALLS - Wildlife managers use many tools to help them perform their jobs. Among the more romantic, yet dangerous of these are helicopters and fixed-winged aircraft. Right now, all across the state, biologists are flying in helicopters to not only count wildlife, but in some cases herd animals into waiting nets for research purposes. The Idaho Department of Fish & Game itself does not own any aircraft; instead it hires pilots and aircraft. Fixed-wing aircraft are contracted on an individual bid basis; helicopters are arranged through the Office of Aeronautical Safety, a division of the U.S. Department of Interior. The task of using aircraft to manage wildlife might sound like fun, but it's a deadly serious business. Earlier this fall, an Idaho Power biologist and pilot flying in a fixed-wing aircraft disappeared in Hells Canyon while on a mule deer study flight. Last year there were a total of five natural resource work-related helicopter crashes in the state. One pilot was killed.

Aircraft are used for research purposes because they provide biologists with the mobility needed to track wildlife across wide expanses of territory. When animals move onto winter range, biologists are not only able to count animals, but they collect other important information about wildlife activities and habitat. All of this data is then plugged into computer programs designed to model population numbers based on all the information collected.

Law Enforcement Tales

After shooting a bull elk on a Sunday evening recently, a Coeur d'Alene man left it in the woods without even looking for the animal. The shooter, however, did stop by the regional Fish and Game office around noon the next day to ask if anyone had reported him for shooting from the road. He was told that he needed to go back after the elk. Giving him a three hour start, Fish and Game staff drove to the area, found the shooter's truck and watched him pack out only the antlers and cape. Officers seized the antlers, cape, gun, shells, and a bullet from the elk (in the shooter's pocket), and visited the kill site where there had been an effort to conceal the carcass under limbs. The gentleman was cited for waste.

Ask Fish and Game

Q. When does spring steelhead season open?

A. It opens January 1, but probably won't get real good until sometime later in January, and in February for the Clearwater, and in March for the Salmon River. Be sure to buy your 2001 license and steelhead permit. The fishing rules brochure tells which streams or segments have no seasons or different seasons.

Houndsmen Help IDFG Radiocollar Mountain Lions

With winter snows blanketing most of the area, several local houndsmen are working with Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) to capture and radiocollar mountain lions in north central Idaho. As part of the ongoing Elk Recruitment Project, IDFG hopes to radiocollar approximately 20 mountain lions in Game Management Units 10, 12 and 15. These are the same areas in which biologists are investigating elk calf survival.

The tagged animals will provide important information as the Department develops a technique to estimate mountain lion population size. Fieldwork is currently underway and will likely extend into March.

If you have any questions about this project, please contact Pete Zager, IDFG Principle Research Biologist at 799-5010.

Lake Lowell Goose Closure Remains In Effect

Hunters pursuing Canada geese around Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge are reminded that Lake Lowell and some lands adjacent to the lake are closed to goose hunting. "We've cited a number of folks for violating the closure this season," Fish and Game conservation officer Clay Cummins said. "I'm hopeful that a simple reminder will help with compliance through the remainder of the season." Goose season ends in Southwest Idaho on January 21, 2001.

The Lake Lowell goose closure was instituted years ago according to Fish and Game wildlife biologist Neil Johnson. "It was developed to help bolster the local goose population, and it has more than served that purpose," Johnson noted. "Today, we have a healthy goose population estimated at about 15,000 birds in the Treasure Valley." Between 9,000 and 14,000 geese (including both residents and migrants) utilize Lake Lowell during the winter months.

A lengthy description of the closure can be found on page 10 of the current Fish and Game waterfowl hunting regulations, while a user-friendly map of Lake Lowell - with the closure clearly delineated - can be found in the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge brochure. Copies of the brochure are available at refuge headquarters at Lake Lowell, at access points around the lake, and at the Fish and Game office in Nampa.

Cummins attributes some of this year's violations to turnover in the goose hunting community. "We've got a new generation of goose hunters out here and many of them are simply unaware of the closure," Cummins said. "Others are aware but choose to ignore it."

For more information regarding the goose closure, contact the Fish and Game Nampa office at 465-8465 or Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge at 467-9278.

Successful Egin-Hamer Area Closure Goes Back Into Effect Again on January 1st

IDAHO FALLS - What started out as an idea by local county commissioners to reopen a popular farm to market road three years ago has continued to be a success not just for humans, but also for wintering wildlife. The lack of human disturbance created by the closure has allowed herds of deer, elk, and moose to spend more time down on the desert between St. Anthony and Dubious during crucial portions of the late winter and early spring.

For the third year, the Egin-Hamer Area Closure places nearly 500 square miles of land off-limits to human entry for the protection of wintering deer, elk, and moose herds. The closure begins on January first and lasts through the end of March on lands south of the Egin-Hamer Road and until April 30, north of the road.

This arrangement was agreed upon when county commissioners approached the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) with the idea of the area closure in return for the re-opening of the Egin-Hamer Road for winter travel. State agencies such as the Department of Fish & Game and the Department of Lands also have land involved in the closure and play an active role in management. Individual landowners accessing their own private lands are exempt from the closure. The active St. Anthony Sand Dunes are also exempt from the closure.

Sorry! No Ice, No Fishing At Ririe Reservoir!

IDAHO FALLS - It's hard to have an ice fishing season without any ice, but that is exactly what's happening at Ririe Reservoir right now. December 1, marked the start of a special fishing season at Ririe Reservoir outside of Idaho Falls, the only catch is that it's an "ice fishing only" season and the lack of ice means no fishing is legally allowed yet!

The special season has been in effect for five years. Most local anglers are aware of the regulations dealing with this fishery. For those just learning about this opportunity for the first time, "It is important that people understand that it's an ice fishing only situation!" said Senior Conservation Officer Dan Duggan. He is the officer responsible for patrolling the reservoir and has run into anglers in the past that thought the reservoir was open to all types of fishing. "The law says that they must be fishing through the ice, not from shore or a boat." emphasized Duggan.

Even though the current air temperatures are heading sub-zero, overall conditions at Ririe Reservoir have yet to allow for the formation of any ice, especially ice that could safely support anglers. As colder conditions prevail and anglers begin to ice fish, it is important to always check ice conditions. What was safe one day, may no longer be safe the next!

The area open to ice fishing extends from the dam upstream for approximately one mile to a marked boundary upstream of the Juniper boat ramp. The boundary will be signed and buoys will also be placed in the ice once it forms.

To insure angler safety and protect critical winter habitat for deer and elk, no snow machines are allowed on the ice or within a 1/4-mile buffer zone around the entire reservoir. The gravel road that leads from highway 26 to the parking area is plowed to allow vehicle access. Anglers need to employ foot travel or skis to access their fishing spots.

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! No, It's a Biologist!

IDAHO FALLS - Wildlife managers use many tools to help them perform their jobs. Among the more romantic, yet dangerous of these are helicopters and fixed-winged aircraft. Right now, all across the state, biologists are flying in helicopters to not only count wildlife, but in some cases herd animals into waiting nets for research purposes.

The Idaho Department of Fish & Game itself does not own any aircraft; instead it hires pilots and aircraft. Fixed-wing aircraft are contracted on an individual bid basis; helicopters are arranged through the Office of Aeronautical Safety, a division of the U.S. Department of Interior. The task of using aircraft to manage wildlife might sound like fun, but it's a deadly serious business. Earlier this fall, an Idaho Power biologist and pilot flying in a fixed-wing aircraft disappeared in Hell's Canyon while on a mule deer study flight. Last year there were a total of five natural resource work related helicopter crashes in the state, resulting in the death of one pilot.

Aircraft are used for research purposes because they provide biologists with the mobility needed to track wildlife across wide expanses of territory. When animals move onto winter range, biologists are not only able to count animals, but they collect other important information about wildlife activities and habitat. All of this data is then plugged into computer programs designed to model population numbers based on all the information collected.