Press Release

January 2002

Winter Wildlife Conditions

In order to help keep the citizens of Idaho informed regarding the physical condition of their wildlife the Upper Snake Regional Office will be issuing reports throughout the winter.

Reports reflect information gathered from IDFG field staff and contacts in local communities. Reports will be issued as conditions change, especially if a major winter weather situation develops. Requests for further info should be directed to Gregg Losinski at 390-0635.

Animal condition. The milder temperatures are still helping animal body conditions while compacting snowpacks and new moist snows are making movement more difficult. Especially in flatter areas. High winds are still keeping some areas open, exposing forage.

Winter conditions. Most areas received heavy moist snow with heavy drifting.

Depredations: With the new heavy moist snow, depredations normally increase as animals are forced to move.

Relocations: 31 moose have been trapped and removed from urban and agricultural conflicts so far this year.

Sand Creek, Hamer

New heavy moist snows on top of a crusted and compacted snowpack will make animal movement even more difficult. Deer have yarded up and moving as little as possible. Any disturbance will cause a great deal of stress at this time.

Swan Valley

6 to 10 inches of new moist snow with some drifting. Light snow crust. Animals still moving freely.

Teton Basin, Conant Creek

8 to 10 inches of new moist snow on top of moderate to heavy crust with compacted snow below. Total snow pack close to three feet. Animals are starting to have a difficult time moving around.

Big Desert/INEEL

6 to 10 inches of new moist snow with heavy drifting. Light to moderate crusting. Animals will find movement a little more difficult.

Big and Little Lost Rivers

Weiser Elk Trapping Efforts Completed

More than 170 elk formerly residing in the Weiser Cove area have been relocated to Hells Canyon, some 65 air miles from their former home. In total, more than 230 animals have been removed from the area where depredation problems had reached critical levels and elk tolerance by local landowners had reached its limit.

The trapping/relocation effort was initiated after other, more traditional methods designed to significantly reduce the elk population in Weiser Cove failed. "We've tried depredation hunts, issued kill permits, used traditional hazing techniques, even instituted a five-month hunting season," Fish and Game wildlife manager Jon Rachael said. "As in the past, this year's harvest was inadequate; we still had 400 to 450 elk in the area."

With the conventional toolbox empty, it was time to try something a bit out of the ordinary. "Herding animals with a helicopter to a drive trap can be an effective method for relocating elk, but it is a technique not without risk, both to the animals and the people involved," Fish and Game conservation educator Evin Oneale explained. "We knew going into this effort that we were probably going to lose some animals in the process." Rachael concurred. "Any time you handle wild animals, some mortality is expected," he said. "It's an unavoidable factor in the process."

Big Game Public Meetings Planned

For more information contact Jim Hayden, 769-1414

The Department of Fish and Game will be holding a series of public meetings January 31 - February 4 to review current big game data and solicit input on proposals for the 2002 hunting seasons. "Conservative seasons are working to build elk populations" notes Jim Hayden, Regional Wildlife Manager in Coeur d'Alene. "We're also seeing deer numbers growing and some nice bucks were taken last fall."

A three-year study of bears in the Panhandle confirmed that bear densities decreased after the huckleberry failure of 1999, and have since stabilized. Having peaked in 1997, the mountain lion harvest has since dropped, reflecting decreasing lion numbers.

The Department's proposal is for a continuation of the current seasons for elk, deer, bear, and lion seasons in 2002. Department biologists will be on hand at four public meetings held in the Panhandle to review data, answer questions, and gather public input. All input will be given to the Fish and Game Commission, which will set the 2002 seasons during their March meeting.

The public is invited to attend the meeting of their choice, each held at 7 PM.

Sandpoint

January 31

Wildlife Building

Bonner County Fairgrounds

Coeur d'Alene

February 4

Lake City High School Auditorium

Kellogg

January 31

Avista Building

120 North Hill Street

St. Maries

February 4

Avista Building

528 College

Mountain Lion Hunts Reopened In Units 64, 65, 66, 67, & 69; But Other Specific Rules Still Apply

IDAHO FALLS - Meeting via conference call on 1/22/02, the Idaho Fish & Game Commission voted unanimously to reopen the lion hunting season in the management area that encompasses units 64, 65, 66, 67, & 69. The recommendation to reopen the season was supported by regional staff and presented by the IDFG Wildlife Bureau after Commissioner Moulton indicated that he had received many requests from sportsmen to reopen the season. The new season is for both male and female cats and will remain open until a quota of 17 females has been harvested.

At least one lion hunter in Idaho Falls was so excited by the Commission's decision that he made it to a license vendor to purchase a tag even before the POS'M machines had been reprogrammed for the reopened season. While lion hunters may be excited about the extended season, it is important that they follow other State and Federal regulations that remain in effect.

Probably the most important Federal regulations that still must be heeded are those pertaining to areas closed to motorized travel under the winter travel plan that is currently in effect on the Caribou -Targhee National Forest. Hunters should especially take note that the road along the South Fork of the Snake River remains closed.

Because wintering herds of deer and elk attract cougars, it is important that hound hunters try to keep hunting dogs under control. Traditionally, the Rainey Creek drainage has been closed by mutual agreement of the USFS and IDFG to protect wintering wildlife. According to Regional Conservation Officer John Hansen, "Hound hunters are encouraged to not release hounds near to Rainey Creek in order to help prevent the complications that could arise if hounds chased a lion into the closed area."

Elk Die in Weiser Trap

As many as 60 elk died during a trapping operation at Weiser Cove shortly after noon Tuesday.

Fish and Game crews began the trapping operation Saturday. Southwest Region Fish and Game officials were forced to turn to trapping as a final resort to removing elk causing damage complaints in the Weiser River valley. The herds were not trimmed sufficiently by hunters, even with a five-month hunting season last year, because access to private lands in the area is often difficult.

About 200 head of elk flooded into the trap around noon Tuesday. Crews immediately realized too many elk had gone into the trap and successfully released 32 but some 60 animals, mostly yearlings and calves, were killed in the panic.

Workers removed 132 animals from the trap during the operation and shipped them away to remote areas of Hells Canyon. Thirty-five animals were salvaged, but 25 were not salvageable. About a dozen bulls were turned out of the trap.

The dead elk were immediately field dressed while mobile butcher units were called. The carcasses will be donated to needy families.

Contact:Evin Oneale 208-465-8465

Predator Survey Updated

Both humans and four-footed predators like to eat elk, but they don't go for the same elk.

Wolves and cougars show a strong preference for elk calves while human hunters generally select elk in the three- to nine-year old range.

That was one of the observations researchers have made in a three-year study of predation by cougars and wolves in Unit 28 in the Salmon Region. The study with preliminary information was presented to the Fish and Game Commission at its January meeting in Boise. The final work may be completed this spring.

This study, the "Lemhi Winter Predator Study", was submitted by Gary Power, Lemhi County Project Coordinator, and Jason Husseman of the University of Idaho's Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Cooperators in the study include the Nez Perce Tribe, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hornocker Wildlife Institute, World Conservation Society, Salmon-Challis National Forest, BLM, Global Carnivore Fund, University of Idaho, and Lemhi County. The study will be 1 as Husseman's master's thesis.

In three winters, Power and Husseman recorded 214 big game animals killed by cougars and wolves. That included 160 elk, 52 deer, 1 bighorn sheep and one mountain goat. Cougars killed 71 elk, 24 deer, one bighorn and one mountain goat. Wolves killed 89 elk and 28 deer. Both wolves and cougars preferred elk calves, 52 percent of kills by cougars and 58 percent calves by wolves.

Ask Fish and Game

Q. Isn't there one place in Idaho where all fishing for sturgeon is off limits?

A. That's right, there is no fishing at all for the sturgeon in the Kootenai River drainage because the unique population there appears not to be reproducing and is considered endangered.

February Fish And Game Breakfast Meeting Cancelled

LEWISTON - The Idaho Department of Fish and Game reminds hunters and anglers that the February 5 breakfast meeting has been cancelled. The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 5, beginning at 6:30 a.m. at the Helm restaurant in Lewiston.

"We'll buy the coffee, and we hope local hunters and anglers bring their questions and comments," said Cal Groen, Clearwater Region Supervisor.

Waterfowl and big game aerial survey results, turkey transplant efforts, steelhead season update, results of managed goose hunt and an legislative update are some of the topics on the breakfast forum agenda. Other fish and wildlife-related topics of interest will be discussed as well. Sportsmen's club representatives are also invited to give reports of their club's activities.

The breakfast meetings are open to anyone with fish and wildlife related questions, and are designed to stimulate informal discussion about wildlife issues in the area. The breakfasts run from 6:30 a.m. until 8:30 a.m., and are held the first Tuesday of each month at the Helm restaurant.

Idaho's Conservation Officers - Battling The Odds

LEWISTON - Conservation officers for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game face a formidable task in enforcing the state's hunting and fishing laws. Based on the number of licenses sold in 2001, each of the state's 100 officers is responsible for 6,500 hunters and anglers, and they patrol an average of 1000 square miles.

"Our officers do a great job, but they're spread pretty thin," said Dave Cadwallader, enforcement supervisor of the Clearwater Region. "Thanks to concerned citizens who report violations, we are better able to enforce the law."

During 2001, the 15 Clearwater Region officers contacted 11,296 hunters and anglers and detected 742 violations. Approximately 50 percent of their time was spent enforcing wildlife laws, with public education, training, assisting other department divisions and other enforcement agencies making up the rest.

Other statistics concerning Idaho's wildlife law enforcement include:

  • Twenty percent of persons issued a fish and game citation had previous criminal histories.
  • Conservation officers use 13 percent of the department's expenditures and are 17 percent of the department's personnel.
  • The sale of licenses and tags is the sole source of funding for Fish and Game enforcement.
  • Common violations include fishing without a license, fishing with prohibited tackle, fishing in a close season area, failure to carry a license, hunting during a closed season, possession of unlawfully taken wildlife, trespassing, and failure to validate big game tags.

While these statistics are interesting, Cadwallader says it's important to note that the public ultimately decides how effective the enforcement officers are.

"Our officers play a very important role in the overall mission of the Department," he said. "But only when people finally decide to follow the laws will the purpose of fish and game laws be served."

Commission to Meet January 29-30

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will meet Tuesday, January 29 at Fish and Game headquarters, 600 South Walnut in Boise. The meeting will convene at 1:30 p.m. and is expected to continue at 8:00 a.m. January 30.

The commission is meeting to review a new draft of the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Delisting Plan. The plan, which must be in place if grizzly bears in the Yellowstone Ecosystem are to be removed from the endangered species list, requires legislative approval. The commission considered an earlier draft at its December meeting, but sent it back to the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Delisting Advisory Committee for changes.

The commission will also hear a recommendation by representatives of the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Advisory Committee to include goats in the definition of livestock in Idaho Code so that depredation claims could be filed for goats killed by bears or mountain lions.

Biologist Wins National Award

The Foundation for North American Wild Sheep has recognized Idaho Fish and Game biologist Karen Rudolph for her work on bighorn sheep disease.

At its annual convention in Reno January 25, the Foundation presented Rudolph an award for her research on sheep disease following the 1995-96 die-off in Hells Canyon. Rudolph's work involving blood protein analysis is considered groundbreaking in investigating bighorn disease.

Rudolph works at the department's wildlife lab in Caldwell where she also does forensic investigations for the enforcement bureau.

Sportsman's Expo at North Idaho Fairgrounds Feb 2-3

The Idaho Wildlife Council has scheduled the seventh annual "North Idaho Sportsman's Expo and Big Game Show" for February 2-3 at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds. Show hours are Saturday, February 2 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Sunday, February 3 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This is the seventh such expo, and it has developed into a great event. In addition to the North Idaho Wildlife Center, the two large fairgrounds exhibit buildings will be needed to house all the events and displays.

Aside from lion hunting and a little ice fishing, there isn't much going on to satisfy the outdoor cravings of local sportsmen. With this event comes the opportunity to meet with others of similar interests to re-live the last hunting seasons, while we consider hunting and fishing outings to come.

This Expo will feature a display of mounted, impressive trophy big game specimens by an Oregon outfit called Northwest Big Game. The company has produced a big game trophy book of specimens taken in Oregon, and they are now embarking on a book about Idaho big game. The book will include photos, stories, and records listings of big game animals taken in the Gem State. I have looked at the Oregon book, and it is very well done.

Anyone interested in being a part of this new book is encouraged to bring photos and stories to be given to the editor for consideration for the Idaho book. By bringing in your mounted trophy, you can have it measured by trophy measurers, certified by Boone and Crockett, Pope and Young, and the Longhunter Society.

Exhibits and commercial booths will include taxidermy, wildlife art, hunting and fishing equipment. There are a couple commercial spaces remaining, call Michelle Sande (772-5468) to reserve a space.