Press Release

September 2004

Wolves in the Panhandle.

Love em or hate em&&we got em! Since we don't have a lot of free-ranging livestock up here in northern Idaho most of the concern is from sportsmen and the impact wolves are having on our big game herds. We need to all keep in mind that just like the other large predators (bears and mountain lions, both of which greatly out-number wolves in the Panhandle) wolves kill deer and elk. The real question is to what degree are they impacting the status of our herds.

Probably the easiest thing to look at is hunter success. If you look at the number of elk harvested in the Panhandle compared with the number of hunters it will give us a good idea how our elk are faring. If we look at the number of elk checked through the Panhandle Mandatory Elk Check clear back through 1982 compared with the hunter numbers the average hunter success rate over all those years is a little over 13%. Using the same method the hunter success rate in 2003 was just over 17%. That doesn't sound very high and there are lots of places to hunt elk that typically produce higher hunter success rates. But that's the reality of hunting elk in the Panhandle where we have some of the thickest cover of any place that has an elk season.

Don't forget to report your hunting results.

Since 1982, successful elk hunters in Idaho's northern five counties comprising the Panhandle Region have been required to have their elk checked. Check stations have included Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) offices and many local businesses that collected data for Fish and Game.

After over two decades the Panhandle Mandatory Elk Check program no longer exists.

The program produced one of the most extensive data sets for harvested elk any where in the nation. Nearly 42,000 elk were recorded with information on the elk's age, general area of harvest, how many days it took the hunter to bag an elk, and lots of other information.

This data provided sufficient detail to enable IDFG to provide Panhandle Region hunters some of the most liberal elk hunting seasons in the U.S.

A few years ago, IDFG started a program commonly referred to as "the report card" system. Hunters are issued a slip of paper officially called the "Mandatory Harvest Report" for each deer and elk tag they purchase.

Within 10 days or harvest or the end of the season, the hunter must complete and submit the report. It can be mailed in the envelope provided, or reported on-line by going to the Fish & Game websites at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/

The new reporting system does not provide quite as much detail as the old system, but IDFG biologists will still gather sufficient data to provide excellent hunting opportunities in the Panhandle.

Hunters do not need to bring in the jaw any longer or have their elk physically checked, but they must remember to send in the Mandatory Harvest Report within 10 days of harvest or at the end of the season even if no game was taken on the tag.

How's it lookin ?

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game gets lots of phone calls, especially this time of year. When the summer heat breaks and the first nip of fall is in the air hunters start thinking of the upcoming hunt.

Some folks have been in the woods all summer scouting their favorite spots. Others are just now getting geared up. The question from the other end of the phone usually comes down to "How's it looking out there". For the most part the simple answer is "It's looking good"!

Elk Outlook

The elk season was very good in the Idaho Panhandle last year. In 2003, elk hunters experienced one of the higher success rates since clear back before 1980.

Fewer hunters are buying Panhandle elk tags when compared to the mid-1990s. But the elk numbers in most locations have rebounded to or near the levels prior to the bad winter in 1997.

Twenty-three percent of the antlered elk that were harvested in the Panhandle last year were 6 point bulls. That's good by anyone's standards! Helicopter surveys done in February and March last winter also showed an increase in adult bulls and showed good calf numbers.

The way last winter started out with some significant snow storms in December it looked like we might be in for a "normal" winter for a change. However, last winter turned out pretty mild also. Most of the snow that we saw pilling up in December went away by mid-January. When helicopter counts were done in February and March the winter-range areas had little snow and elk numbers and body condition looked good. For the most part, winters have been pretty mild since the bad one in 1997.

So, you take the fact that we had one of our best elk seasons on record last year. Add in a fairly mild winter with good survival and calf recruitment. Factor in the buzz at the coffee shops and sporting goods stores and you come up with a promising outlook for this years elk season.

Middle Fork Boise River Road to be Closed for Construction

Construction work on the Middle Fork Boise River Road will result in intermittent closures of the roadway beginning Monday, October 4. Unit 39 deer hunters using this route to access their favorite hunting areas should pay particular attention to the closure hours.

For additional information regarding the closure, contact Bryant Kuechle, Public Affairs Specialist for the Idaho Transportation Department at 208-334-8881 or Jeff Morf, Idaho Transportation Department District 3 project engineer at 208-334-8971.

Construction is focused on a stretch of road ten miles west of Atlanta, between Black Warrior and Bald Mountain Creeks. At this location, the Middle Fork Road will be open to a single lane of traffic from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (one hour) and 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. (12 hours) Monday through Thursday. The route will open at noon on Fridays, remaining open throughout the weekend. The route will remain closed at all other times. Weather permitting, work is expected to be complete by mid-December.

"We wanted to get the word out because the Middle Fork Road is a major access road for deer hunters," Fish and Game environmental staff biologist Eric Leitzinger said. "With the road open during portions of each day and the weekend, hunters will need to plan accordingly to get in and out of their hunting area."

Two alternative routes to the Atlanta area are available. Travel on the Middle Fork Road to Forest Service Road 156 (Phifer Creek), then to the junction at Rocky Bar. Turn north on Forest Service Road 126 (James Creek) which rejoins the Middle Fork Road near Atlanta. Hunters can also access this area by traveling to Featherville and continuing on Forest Service Road 156 (Phifer Creek) to Rocky Bar and the James Creek Road.

Trailhead Sanitation Problems Cause Another Yellowstone Grizzly Death

Missoula - Mark Bruscino, Bear Management Specialist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department announced today that a young female grizzly bear had to be destroyed on September 29 due to repeated use of livestock feed and human food at the Eagle Creek trailhead on the Shoshone National Forest. Dr. Chris Servheen, the scientist in charge of grizzly bear recovery for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said this brings the 2004 female mortality count in the Yellowstone Ecosystem to six. Dr. Servheen said, "With this death, we have exceeded the mortality threshold for female bears established in the 1993 Recovery Plan. This mortality limit has not been exceeded since 1997."

While exceeding the limit is something to take note of, according to Servheen, "The female mortality limit is conservative and allows for humans to kill no more than 1.2% of the estimated minimum population. The total number of female mortalities has been high the last five years. Female deaths averaged 3.2/year from 1995-1999, but jumped to an average of 6.2/year since 2000. "

The sanitation problem at the Eagle Creek trailhead that caused the death of this bear is due to people leaving livestock feed and human foods in unsecured horse trailers and in the back of pickups, and to leaving grain and other horse feed on the ground. These human-related foods bring bears into these sites. When bears get food rewards this way, they tend to stay in the vicinity of these trailheads and they loose their natural avoidance of people. When this happens they become potentially dangerous and may have to be removed.

Both Bruscino and Servheen stress, "These deaths are due to human carelessness and are completely preventable. The agencies need cooperation from citizens to help conserve grizzly bears. People must be willing to do their part by securing human foods and garbage from bears at these trailheads and wherever bears are."

Think Twice Before Shooting At Big White Waterfowl!

MUD LAKE - For years, waterfowl hunters in the Upper Snake Region have been accustomed to being careful about not shooting at protected trumpeter swans. In order to help protect these majestic white giants, hunters statewide have also lived with not being able to hunt the closely related tundra swans. Unfortunately, in areas where lots of swans are found, hunters sometimes have mistaken protected juvenile trumpeter swans for legal lighter colored geese. For this reason, the hunting of light geese is prohibited in Fremont and Teton Counties.

While area residents are accustomed to seeing large flights of light geese moving through the area in the spring, they also pass through in the fall on their way south. According to Regional Wildlife Biologist Justin Naderman, "Occasionally we get light geese that decide to stay around a few days on their migration south and we don't want hunters in Fremont or Teton counties mistaking trumpeter swans for light geese."

Much has been made by the media about the need to reduce the number of light geese in the central flyway by offering spring hunts. According to Naderman, "That is a different population than we have here. Our birds utilize completely different habitat, and aren't facing the same problems as the central flyway birds. There is no need for a spring season here."

Hunters preparing for the upcoming waterfowl opener have probably heard about this years changes in bag limits, but given the way the waterfowl regulations were printed the section warning about the prohibition on hunting light geese in Teton and Fremont counties might be overlooked.

When speaking about light geese, regulations are specifically addressing Ross' and Snow geese. Canada and White-fronted geese are considered dark geese.

Big game hunters can expect to see more bucks, bulls

JEROME - Hunters unable to draw or buy a controlled hunt tag this year will have a great opportunity to bag a buck or bull in one of the several general season hunts.

"We are expecting to have a good season in all our hunts," said Randy Smith, Fish and Game Regional Wildlife Manager in the Magic Valley Region. "Deer and elk went into the winter with good fat supplies and we had good winter survival. Mild spring conditions were also excellent for fawning and calving, so our herd numbers are up over last season."

Magic Valley hunters looking to put meat in the freezer should have good luck. Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologists spring aerial counts show an increase of 43 percent more deer compared to data collected in 2003.

In 2003, biologists counted 8,173 deer on annual trend areas, while this year's count showed 11,680 deer. The increase is attributed to better fawn recruitment, due to better habitat conditions.

"Hunters should expect to see more young bucks," Smith said. "Numbers of mature bucks should be slightly improved from last year in most of our general hunting areas."

In the Southeast Region near Pocatello mule deer are showing an increase in numbers, but buck to doe ratios remain low across most of the region. The Fish and Game Commission made several regulation changes for this fall, including shortened seasons, antler restrictions, motor vehicle restrictions in several areas, and reduced permits for a late muzzleloader hunt. Hunters should be careful to check regulations in that area.

The Upper Snake Region around Idaho Falls continues to improve for mule deer. Overall deer numbers continue to increase; buck-to-doe ratios vary from 16:100 on the west side of the Region near Arco to 33:100 on the east side of the Region near the Wyoming boarder.

Buck-to-doe ratios are directly related to fawn-to-doe ratios. Higher fawn-to-doe ratios result in higher buck-to-doe ratios.

Waterfowl Hunting Seasons Open in Early October

Waterfowl seasons begin in Idaho in three different zones.

Waterfowl hunting activity starts and ends sooner in northern and eastern Idaho where winter comes earlier than in the south central and southwest areas of the state. Area boundaries, seasons and limits for 2004-2005 are:

Area 1 - Includes all parts of the state not included in Areas 2 and 3.

The regular season runs October 2, 2004 through January 14, 2005 with pintail and canvasback season October 2, 2004 through November 30, 2004

Area 2 - Includes the following counties or portions of counties: Ada; Boise; Canyon; Cassia except the Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge; Elmore; Gem; Gooding; Lincoln; Minidoka; Owyhee; Payette; Power west of State Highways 37 and 39 except the Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge; Twin Falls; and Washington Counties.

The regular season is October 9, 2004 through January 21, 2005 with pintail and canvasback season: October 9, 2004 through December 7, 2004. Limits for Areas 1 and 2 for ducks including mergansers are: daily bag limit: five of any kind which shall not include more than the following: one canvasback, one female mallard, one pintail, two redheads, four scaup.

Possession limit after the first day of the season is 10 of any kind but shall not include more than the following: two canvasback, two female mallard, two pintail, four redheads, eight scaup.

Goose season runs concurrently with duck season. The daily bag limit is four with eight in possession after the first day. Only three light geese or two white-fronted geese are included in the daily bag limit; possession limits are double the daily limits.

Area 3 - Includes the following counties or portions of counties: Bannock; Bingham except that portion within Blackfoot Reservoir drainage: Power east of State Highways 37 and 39; and all lands, including private holdings within the Fort Hall Indian Reservation.

Check Stations Check for Chronic Wasting Disease

Hunters will play an important part in the chronic wasting disease (CWD) surveillance program this year at Idaho's Fish and Game check stations.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game personnel will be collecting samples and are encouraging successful hunters to cooperate with their requests. It is part of general surveillance program to monitor Idaho's big game herds for the disease.

"We have a general surveillance program that we do at check stations on hunter kills," Fish and Game Wildlife Veterinarian Phil Mamer said. "And then a targeted surveillance program where we look at deer and elk showing the symptoms of chronic wasting disease and take samples from them." These same symptoms can occur when deer and elk are hit by a car and their heads and jaws are injured, so testing is important.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game began monitoring deer and elk for CWD in 1997. To date, all samples have been negative. However, the neighboring states of Utah and Wyoming do have the disease. Also, there are large elk feed grounds in Wyoming near the Idaho border. Consequently, there's the possibility that chronic wasting disease may move its way from central to western Wyoming and its feed grounds and into eastern Idaho. As a result, Fish and Game has instigated a more intensive sampling program in these high-risk areas.

"Hopefully we never find it but, if we do, we want to find it just after it gets here and be able to take action before it's spread," Mamer said. "And that includes both wildlife management and veterinary-type actions."

Chronic wasting disease was first recognized in mule deer at a research facility in Colorado in 1967. It was first identified in free ranging deer in 1981. Since then it has been documented in wildlife in Wyoming, Utah, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Illinois, Wisconsin, New Mexico and the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.

CAP Extends Hours

Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) is preparing for another busy autumn.

As the hunting season gears up, so do the number of poaching reports so CAP is extending phone line hours during the 2004 hunting season. CAP operators will now be taking calls on weeknights and weekends to accommodate this increase. The toll free number is 1-800-632-5999 and callers can remain anonymous. If callers reach the number at times when an operator is not available, they should leave a detailed message.

Steve Anderson, a CAP operator, encourages individuals concerned about suspicious activities to call the CAP line with as many details as possible. "If it's questionable, the things they need to look for are obvious, who's doing what, where they are doing it, when they are doing it, and--if they have a vehicle--what kind of vehicle it is."

CAP needs to know where the incident took place, such as the nearest town, so the right officer can be dispatched. Vehicle license numbers are important.

That information is forwarded to a Fish and Game enforcement officer for investigation. If the tip proves to be accurate and the officer writes a citation, the caller can be paid a reward.

The group awards an average of $18,000 every year for tips on crimes involving wildlife. Rewards up to $100 are given for information on small game, bird, fish, furbearers and license violations and $250 rewards are available for tips on deer, elk, antelope, bear or mountain lion violations. Up to $500 rewards are given for bighorn sheep, mountain goat, moose, grizzly bear, caribou and white sturgeon violations.

Citizens Against Poaching is a private organization funded by citizens established to promote the ethical use of wildlife resources.

Guest Editorial, By Steve Huffaker, Director, Idaho Department of Fish and Game

We need about as much as a Mepps fishing lure costs, but not as much as a Rapala to keep giving you some of the best hunting and fishing in the country.

By now, you may have heard Fish and Game wants to adjust fees. Here's why. Just as businesses are paying more than they did five years ago for gasoline, electricity, salaries and insurance, so are we. Unlike most businesses, though, we haven't changed our prices since May 2000. Now we're asking to charge a little more for licenses and tags to cover increased costs and to continue providing the services hunters and anglers want. How much more? $1.50 for a hunting license, $3 for a fishing license - about the cost of a Mepps. Not much considering how much more it costs to do business now than it did in 2000. Remember when we thought gas was expensive at $1.60 a gallon?

Since the last time we adjusted prices, we've built new places to fish. We've started getting better information about fish and wildlife populations, helping us improve hunting and fishing. We've increased the amount of time conservation officers spend patrolling the backcountry.

To continue, we need a modest fee increase. Without it, we'll be back to the cycle of cutting services you've told us are important. In the tight budget years before the last fee increase, we cut what some called "fat." Turns out, it wasn't "fat." Recently, we asked hunters, anglers, legislators, and others to help set priorities and to tell us what we need to do better. More than 3,000 of you told us "Get tough on poachers. Tell us more about fish and wildlife. Get us involved and give us more places to hunt and fish."

Hunter Report Card Online

Big game hunters can now file mandatory harvest reports online.

The form for reporting is found at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov./hunt/harvest_report/ on the Fish and Game web site. Reports can also be filed by mail to Hunter Harvest Reports, PO Box 70007, Boise, ID 83707-0107, by phone at 1-877-268-9365 or by fax at 775-423-0799.

All deer, elk and antelope hunters must complete and submit a report for each tag issued within 10 days of harvest or within 10 days of the close of the season for which their tag was valid. Hunters who do not report will not be able to purchase a license the following year until the report is filed and may be charged a $1.50 transaction fee. Any license already issued will be invalidated in the computerized licensing system. A new license may be purchase only after the report has been filed.