Press Release

December 2004

Bighorn Sheep Released on Independence Peak

Thirty-five California bighorn sheep, 15 from Oregon and 20 from Nevada, are now calling Independence Peak home.

This is the second release of bighorn sheep to the area. Thirteen sheep were released in 2003; those sheep were captured in the Jarbidge and Bruneau canyons.

"This has been a lot of work to get to this point," said Randy Smith, Idaho Fish and Game Magic Valley Region Big Game Manager. "Without the dedicated employees from the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, volunteers with the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, and willing landowners this project would have never taken place."

"We are pretty excited to see this come to fruition," he said. "These bighorn sheep combined with the sheep we transplanted on Jim Sage in 2000 and 2001, are giving us a good start on reestablishing a huntable population in the area."

Currently, there are nearly 80 California bighorn sheep ranging across the Jim Sage Mountains. Idaho Fish and Game biologists will keep a close eye on the population over the next few years and are hoping to have enough legal rams in the unit to offer a hunting season for the animals in 2006.

For more information on the California bighorn sheep in the Magic Valley Region, call 324-4359.

200 Antelope Transplanted to Three Regions in Idaho

One of the West's biggest antelope capture and relocation operations has brought 200 Utah pronghorns to Idaho.

Idaho Fish and Game biologists and conservation officers joined wildlife professionals from Utah, Nevada and Arizona took part in the massive relocation effort. During the two-day capture operation more than 500 antelope were captured, tranquilized, ear tagged and loaded into transport trucks and trailers for relocation. Two hundred of the captured antelope were transported overnight to Idaho for releases Boise, Pocatello and Idaho Falls areas earlier this month.

At a remote location west of Pocatello in the Big Desert, 50 antelope were released. Veterinarian Mark Drew treated one fawn antelope for shock and neck injuries. It was euthanized after it did not respond to treatment. The rest of the antelope trotted off into the desert.

"We hope this gives our local antelope population a boost," Corey Class, biologist for the Southeast Region, said. "Capture and transportation went exceedingly well. When we opened the transport gates to release the antelope they were bedded down in the hay we spread on the floor. We had to herd some of them out of the trailer."

At the Birch Creek release site north of Idaho Falls, 93 animals were released unharmed. One died in transit.

"It was awesome," regional wildlife manager Daryl Meints said. "Only one lost, I am thrilled. It is a big success. We have 10 radio collared so we can follow them through the winter."

According to Southwest Region wildlife manager Jon Rachael, the release went far better than anticipated. The region received 51 with only one loss.

Landowners Can Bid for Access Yes!

Idaho landowners who want to take part in Fish and Game's Access Yes! program have until February 28 to bid for 2005.

Funding is still quite limited for this new access program with allocations going nearly equally to the seven regions. Landowners deal with regional Fish and Game offices in this program. Local sportsman committees decide which lands will be enrolled.

Access Yes! began operations in 2003 using funding from other Fish and Game programs.

Access Yes! is intended to increase hunting and fishing access to private lands and to public lands that would otherwise not be accessible through private lands. It compensates willing landowners who provide access to private land or through their property to public land. In 2004, Access Yes! accounted for access to 222,000 acres of private land and access through private land to more than 250,000 acres of public land.

Fish and Game spent $275,000 on the program in 2004 with $300,000 budgeted for the program in 2005.

Expanding Access Yes! to provide more hunting and fishing access on private and public land will require additional funding. About $1.2 million is needed to provide Idaho hunters and anglers access comparable to access programs in other western states.

The Idaho legislature in its coming session may consider a Fish and Game license fee increase including funds dedicated to expanding the access program. In 2004, a lottery system with premium big game tags as the prizes helped fund the program.

Ask Fish and Game

Q. While walking our dog along the shores of Coeur d'Alene Lake recently, we saw hundreds of dead fish washed up on the shore. What is happening to our fish?

A. Not to worry! What you observed is part of the annual spawning of kokanee salmon along the shoreline of Coeur d'Alene Lake. Kokanee are a landlocked sockeye salmon and like all Pacific salmon, they die after spawning. The vast majority of kokanee spawn between mid November and the first of January along the two miles of shoreline from Higgins Point east into Wolf Lodge Bay and around the corner into Beauty Bay. Kokanee are not native to Coeur d'Alene Lake, but were first introduced in 1937 and have provided an important sport fishery with an annual harvest of up to 600,000 fish annually. They are also an important forage fish for the chinook salmon in the lake and their dead bodies attract migrating bald eagles from all over the Pacific Northwest. It is not unusual to see as 50 or more bald eagles on the north end of the lake this time of year.

Drinking the water will not hurt your dog a bit, but you might not want to let him roll in a dead fish, or you will be reminded of the experience until he gets a bath.

Four Trumpeter Swans Shot

Fish and Game is seeking information on the shooting of four trumpeter swans in eastern Idaho.

The trumpeter swans were shot sometime during the week of December 20 in two separate incidents. Three were shot in the neck with a rifle near Oneida Narrows below Oneida Dam. Use of a rifle rules out accidental shooting by waterfowl hunters. One was shot with a shotgun along the Upper Portneuf River near Mike's Place.

Anyone with information on the swan killings is encouraged to call the nearest Fish and Game office, your local officer or the Citizens Against Poaching hotline at 1-800-632-5999. Anyone providing information that leads to the issuance of a citation could be eligible for a cash reward. Callers can remain anonymous.

All of the trumpeter swans were recently relocated from Harriman State Park to southeast Idaho to help establish a new wintering population of swans. All of the swans killed had one wing painted pink to identify them as relocated swans.

Trumpeter swans are federally-protected migratory birds, with no hunting season in Idaho. The Rocky Mountain population has increased from only about 200 in the 1930 to more than 3,000 currently. Managers and biologists are still concerned about this population because of their vulnerability, particularly during winter.

Trumpeter swans are the largest waterfowl species in North America.

Most trumpeter swans in the Rocky Mountain population winter in the Island Park/Harriman Park area of Idaho. Harsh conditions and limited food during bad winters have resulted in winter die-offs in the past. To help reduce the threat of these die-offs and to help maintain stream condition in the Henrys Fork where trumpeters can overuse the habitat, Fish and Game just completed a three year project to relocate swans. The project's goal is to try to expand the winter range of this species by relocating young birds to the Bear River in southeast Idaho.

Fish and Game Donates Game

Salmon region Fish and Game employees are often asked about what the Department does with game meat seized as part of an enforcement investigation. Or what happens to the steelhead and chinook salmon spawned at regional hatcheries. And those asking are frequently surprised to hear that a great deal of both game meat and fish are distributed to the needy by charitable organizations around the region.

During 2004, a total of 5,322 hatchery steelhead and 2,143 hatchery chinook salmon were given away to a variety of charitable organizations across the Salmon region. In addition, approximately 3,200 pounds of game meat were donated to these same organizations. These groups included area food banks and social service offices in six different communities. Once these organizations receive the cut-and-wrapped meat, they then distribute it to those in need. This distribution not only benefits area residents but also insures that game meat illegally harvested is not wasted. Some violations also carry as part of the penalty, a processing fee which requires a poacher to pay the meat processing fees. As a result, the charitable organizations distributing the game meat are spared the cost of meat processing.

Donations of this nature are by no means limited to the Salmon region. Every Fish and Game region across the state participates in making donations. This year, approximately 45,000 pounds of game meat were donated to charitable organizations statewide by Fish and Game. This represents 300 deer, 112 elk, and 77 moose. Approximately 53 different organizations around the state received and distributed this meat. These organizations ranged from food banks to the Salvation Army to church groups. While Fish and Game staff wishes all animals would be harvested legally, they are glad that the meat from an illegal harvest will not be wasted but instead given to those in need.

Time to get those hunting and fishing licenses for 2005

JEROME - With 2004 ending, anyone wanting to hunt or fish this January first need to remember to purchase their license before heading out.

"It is pretty common for people to forget to buy their license before going out hunting or fishing in the new year," said Gary Hompland, Idaho Fish and Game Regional Conservation Officer for the Magic Valley Region. "Every year our officers contact sportsmen that had a valid license the previous year, but forgot to pick up a new one before heading out for a New Year's Day hunt."

Hunters pursuing waterfowl need to keep their 2004 duck stamp and have it with them while hunting in January. The duck stamp, unlike the license is good for the remainder of the season. This year's season for ducks and geese runs until January 21, 2005 in the Magic Valley Region.

Sportsmen wanting to pick up a new license can purchase them at any of the local venders. Sportsmen need to remember to bring a current drivers license as proof of residency. Anyone with a Idaho Fish and Game gift certificates must redeem them at any Idaho Fish and Game Regional Office. In the Magic Valley Region, our office is located in Jerome at 868 East Main Street.

Due to the holiday season, the Idaho Fish and Game office will be closed on both December 24 and 30.

For more information, call 324-4359.

Fish and Game to begin big game aerial surveys

JEROME - Beginning this week, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game will conduct aerial surveys for deer and elk in several management units in the Magic Valley Regions.

The survey results will provide information from which Idaho Fish and Game wildlife management decisions will be based for determining future hunting seasons.

The flights are scheduled to cover the same units at the same time every year to make the information gathered comparable from year-to-year. The goal is to compare deer and elk population trends, age structure, and sex ratios for each species.

A helicopter flying low and slow over some of the most remote areas of the state is the most efficient tool for gathering big game herd information.

Aerial surveys are conducted mostly during winter months when the animals are gathered on lower elevation winter ranges. The winter months also bring two requirements needed to conduct accurate surveys, clear weather for good visibility, and snow covering that aid in locating and identification the animals.

Data gathered in the aerial surveys will be presented to sportsmen at the upcoming big game open houses in Twin Falls, Burley, and Hailey in February.

Bighorn sheep released on Independence Peak

JEROME - Thirty-five California bighorn sheep, 15 from Oregon and 20 from Nevada, are now calling Independence Peak home.

This is the second release of bighorn sheep to the area. Thirteen sheep were released in 2003; those sheep were captured in the Jarbidge and Bruneau canyons.

"This has been a lot of work to get to this point," said Randy Smith, Idaho Fish and Game Magic Valley Region Big Game Manager. "Without the dedicated employees from the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, volunteers with the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, and willing landowners this project would have never taken place."

"We are pretty excited to see this come to fruition," he said. "These bighorn sheep combined with the sheep we transplanted on Jim Sage in 2000 and 2001, are giving us a good start on reestablishing a huntable population in the area."

Currently, there are nearly 80 California bighorn sheep ranging across the Jim Sage Mountains. Idaho Fish and Game biologists will keep a close eye on the population over the next few years and are hoping to have enough legal rams in the unit to offer a hunting season for the animals in 2006.

For more information on the California bighorn sheep in the Magic Valley Region, call 324-4359.

Fish and Game Notified of CWD Kill From Wyoming

A national surveillance program that encourages states to exchange information on Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) cases has proved its worth in an incident involving an Idaho deer hunter.

The Idaho resident hunted in Wyoming, killing a mule deer which he brought back to eastern Idaho. The hunter submitted tissue from the deer in a voluntary surveillance program operated by Wyoming Game and Fish.

When indicators of CWD was found in the deer, Wyoming authorities notified the hunter and Idaho Fish and Game.

Idaho big game manager Brad Compton said the department had made contact with the hunter and found out where he had disposed of the deer carcass. A Fish and Game biologist was assigned December 20 to retrieve the carcass for disposal. Compton noted that Fish and Game will continue to make every reasonable effort to "minimize the risk to our deer and elk populations." While Idahoans have been bringing home deer and elk killed in Wyoming for years, the surveillance program enables Idaho to increase its vigilance in preventing the disease.

CWD affects the brains and nervous systems of deer and elk. It is believed to be caused by an errant protein called a prion.

Wyoming has known about CWD in certain deer herds for more than 30 years. Idaho has so far never detected the disease in any deer or elk but has increased its surveillance dramatically in recent years. Idaho Fish and Game employees sample deer in check stations for CWD and look for it in animals killed outside hunting seasons, such as roadkills. Scrutiny is most intense along the Idaho -Wyoming border.

Though CWD has drawn much attention from hunters and wildlife authorities in recent years, the World Health Organization has said that no connection to human disease has been made.

Cold Winter Water Doesn't Slow Dworshak Bull Trout

By Danielle Schiff - Idaho Department of Fish and Game

As winter arrives, most wildlife species settle in for the long cold spell by trying to conserve as much energy as possible.

Saving energy is also the norm for most of Idaho's native trout species as they find a deep run or pool to make their new winter home. Surprisingly, conserving energy during the winter months is not what bull trout in the North Fork of the Clearwater River and Dworshak Reservoir do.

For the last four years, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has been studying bull trout in the Clearwater Region, particularly in Dworshak Reservoir and the North Fork Clearwater River basin. The overall goal of the project is to acquire life history and population information to substantiate a delisting of bull trout in the North Fork Clearwater River. Bull trout, frequently called Dolly Varden, have declined both in abundance and across their historic range. As a result, they have made national headlines after being listed as a threatened species by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act.

The study is designed to determine the extent bull trout use the reservoir and what areas are used in the basin at different times of the year. Bull trout are captured and have a small radio transmitter implanted in their abdomen. The transmitters allow us to locate the fish throughout the basin as they migrate during the year.

Over the last four years biologists have captured and radio-tagged well over 500 bull trout and discovered some amazing things. The fish have been found to migrate upwards of 100 miles within a summer to spawning areas in headwater tributaries, some as far as the Idaho-Montana border. It is quite the feat for a 14-inch fish to swim upstream 100 miles in a couple months to spawn and then, within two weeks, make the long journey back to Dworshak Reservoir.

Safe Hunting on the Water

By Charlie Justus, District Conservation Officer

Idaho Department of Fish and Game - Southwest Region

Late season waterfowl hunting can be rewarding if you find open water and get away from crowds.

One popular method used to find that great hunting spot involves taking a boat out on one of Idaho's rivers. Rivers hold large numbers of waterfowl when cold weather leaves ponds ice covered.

Fish and Game and sheriff's officers in each county will be enforcing boating safety rules this winter. No one is trying to take away from your adventure, but simply assure that you are alive to enjoy your sport another day.

One rule that will be strictly enforced is the use or availability of personal flotation devices (PFDs)-life jackets. Every year, hunters are lost in boating accidents. Investigations usually determine that if victims had worn life jackets, they would still be with us today. There must be a wearable PFD for every person in the boat. If your boat is more than 16 feet in length, there must also be a throwable flotation device on board. All children 14 years and younger must wear their PFD. It is always a good idea for everyone -regardless of age -to wear life jackets while the boat is under power.

Here's why: cold water saps your energy, causing your body to quickly become hypothermic. Brain function slows; hypothermic persons do not make good choices, even as their muscles fail to work as they should. Trying to put on a lifejacket while struggling to stay above water and float down river with the current is difficult. "Wear your life jacket" is the best advice I can give anyone operating a boat at any time of year.