Press Release

February 2005

Fish & Game Officers Put Down Injured Wolf

Conservation officers in southeast Idaho found a young female wolf injured so badly they were forced to put it down.

The officers were responding to reports by mountain lion hunters about signs of wolf activity in the Big Bend Ridge area northwest of Ashton. On Thursday, February 24 senior conservation officers Bruce Penske, Charlie Anderson and Shane Liss set out on snowmobiles to search the Sand Creek Wildlife Management Area for wolf tracks. Once they found a lone set of tracks, they continued on snowshoes tracking the wolf for about two miles. They eventually saw the un-collared wolf dragging its hind quarters.

The officers eventually caught up with the animal in a steep canyon where they got close enough to determine that it was severely injured. Using cell phones, officers conferred with Idaho Fish and Game and United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USWFS) officials to receive the proper authorization to put the animal down.

The officers were able to get close enough to the animal to use their department sidearms to dispatch it. Upon closer investigation, the animal not only appeared to have a broken spine, but was missing an eye and had injured paws from dragging itself. There is no evidence to suggest humans injured the wolf. Investigators believe the injuries may have been caused by a moose, but the exact cause is still under investigation, pending a necropsy.

Modify Sturgeon Tackle to Save Fish ... Ask the Officer

By Gary Hompland, Magic Valley Fish and Game Regional Conservation Officer

Question: "At the sporting goods store I overheard a heated discussion about sturgeon fishing gear. Some use light line and stainless steel hooks while others use heavier line and cold steel hooks. What are rules and the pros and cons?"

Answer: These issues have been debated between sturgeon anglers for some time. As general rule, anglers choose the lightest pound test line possible for the best feel of the hook or terminal tackle.

When sturgeon anglers, especially bank anglers, use light line (less than 50 pound test) and light leaders many larger fish break off. This results in sturgeon that are well hooked dragging several hundred yards of fishing line around in the river. Then this line entangles in river debris the fish becomes a slave to its tether, often starving to death. Fish sometimes become wrapped up in line and suffer deep cuts and deformities. Many dyed-in-the-wool sturgeon anglers support heavier lines to reduce break-offs.

Stainless steel versus cold steel hooks has also been a hotly debated topic. The fishing rules allow both types of hooks to be used as long as they are de-barbed. If a fish breaks off with a stainless steel hook in its mouth or gut, it will take a long time to rust out. Cold steel hooks rust out quickly and free these entangled fish more rapidly. Regulations to prohibit hook size and type quickly become useless when the rules become confounded by fishing for species other than sturgeon.

Ask Fish and Game

Q: I applied for controlled hunts for spring bear and spring turkey. When will I find out if my name was drawn?

A: The drawing is now complete. You can find out if your name was drawn online at: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/hunt/ch/results.cfm

Controlled hunt winners for spring bear and turkey will also be notified individually by March 10. Only hunters whose names have been drawn will be notified. Notification is done by U.S. mail.

It's Time For Teachers To Get Wild!

IDAHO FALLS - When most people think about the Idaho Department of Fish & Game (IDFG), hunting and fishing are usually the first things that come to mind, but to Idaho teachers IDFG is also responsible for conducting a series of quality workshops that have reached over 10,000 teachers in Idaho. These workshops train teachers to use wildlife and the outdoors as a vehicle to reach students about every conceivable academic discipline possible. The only Project WILD basic workshop to be held in the Upper Snake Region this year will be taking place in Idaho Falls on April 8 & 9.

IDFG staff and Idaho teachers were involved at the ground level when Project WILD was created as a joint project of the Council for Environmental Education (CEE) and the Western Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) over a decade ago. Many of the activities that have reached over 600,000 teachers nationwide have a strong connection to Idaho wildlife. These teachers have in turn reached nearly 39 million youth in mainly America, but also a growing number of other countries. Idaho is also the only state in the nation to develop weeklong extensions to the basic Project WILD workshop. This year the only 3-credit summer course in the state will be held at Harriman State Park in Island Park, Idaho. To date, they have reached over 1,000 Idaho educators. Locally, the course entitled WILD In the Yellowstone Ecosystem is in its fifth year.

Bid on the

If fishing, river floating, backpacking and bird watching are on your "to do" list this year, you will want to tune into the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation's 15th Annual Radio Auction on March 8.

This event, co-sponsored by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG), is the foundation's largest fundraiser, attracting hunters and anglers as well as hikers and wildlife watchers. Radio listeners phone in bids to compete for the trips which are offered in every corner of the state. This year's adventures include:

- a Salmon River scow and float trip

- a Snow Peak backpacking adventure

- a fishing and research trip in Hells Canyon

- a seven-day stay in Cabo, Mexico

- getaway trips to the Teton Mountains of eastern Idaho

- a bird watching trip to Lemhi Valley

The auction is hosted by Ray Amaya and Chris Kelly of KIDO and by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game's Steve Huffaker, Steve Barton and Sue Nass. It will be broadcast Tuesday, March 8 from 6:00-9:00 PM Mountain Time on the Clear Channel Communications Network:

- Boise (KIDO-AM 580)

- Idaho Falls (KID-AM 590)

- Pocatello (KWIK-AM 1240)

- Twin Falls (KLIX-AM 1310)

If you are in a location that is not covered by these stations, you can still bid. Simply find the item you want on the website and call during the hour that item is up for bids.

The number to call to enter a bid in the Treasure Valley is 580-5436. Outside the Boise area, call 1-888-580-5436. A list of all auction trips is available at www.ifwf.org, or call the Foundation office at (208) 334-2648.

A Winning Bidder

Cheryl Palmer of Meridian is a long time auction supporter and the 2004 winning bidder on a fishing and research trip to Hells Canyon. She and her husband spent the day with Idaho Department of Fish and Game Clearwater Region Fisheries Technician Larry Barrett.

Drought May Cause Fish Shuffle

If you are already planning your spring and summer fishing trips make sure you consider how lack of water may affect your favorite spot.

As Idaho enters a sixth year of drought, Fish and Game hatchery managers are looking at ways to provide the most opportunity to anglers without wasting any hatchery- raised fish. That means they will probably have to put fewer fish than normal in some places, and increase the number of fish they plant in others.

Unless March and April are wetter than normal, chances are many reservoirs will become low or even dry by late summer or autumn. The hardest hit will likely be small reservoirs that store irrigation water, like Magic, Mountain Home, Little Camas, Mormon and Winder.

In 2001, hatchery managers changed their stocking plans in southern Idaho because of drought. For example, 40,000 fingerling trout that were supposed to go to Fish Creek Reservoir were taken to C.J. Strike Reservoir instead. Meanwhile, 400,000 fingerlings that were supposed to go to American Falls Reservoir went to C.J. Strike, Hayden Lake and other locations. In all, managers moved 1.3 million fingerlings from fisheries that were drying up to places with enough water for the fish to survive. That represents 10 percent of the total number of fingerlings Fish and Game produced in 2001.

That same year the department put 78,000 catchable-sized fish in places they were not originally supposed to go. Most of those transfers involved fewer than 10,000 fish. Popular fisheries like Magic, Little Camas, Fish Creek Reservoirs and others lost catchables. Instead, hatchery trucks took those fish to Horsethief, Salmon Falls Creek, and Cascade Reservoirs. Fish & Game also took 20,000 catchables to C.J. Strike instead of Oxbow in Hells Canyon. The good news is the 78,000 catchables represent only 3.7 percent of the total number produced that year.

IDFG Conservation Officers Dispatch Injured Wolf

ASHTON - Responding to reports by mountain lion hunters about signs of wolf activity in the Big Bend Ridge area northwest of Ashton, IDFG Conservation Officers tracked and dispatched an injured uncollared young adult female wolf.

Using snow machines on Thursday, February 24, Senior Conservation Officers Bruce Penske, Charlie Anderson, and Shane Liss began searching on Sand Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA) for wolf tracks. After finding a lone set of wolf tracks, officers proceeded on snowshoes to track the wolf for about two miles, observing that the animal was dragging its hind quarters.

Officers eventually caught up with the animal in a steep canyon and were able to observe the animal and determined that it was severely injured. Using cell phones, officers conferred with IDFG and United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USWFS) officials to receive the proper authorization to put the animal down.

The officers were able to get close enough to the animal to use their Department side-arms to dispatch it. Upon closer investigation, the animal not only appeared to have a broken spine, but was missing an eye and had injured paws from dragging itself. The exact origin of the injuries is still under investigation, pending a necropsy.

Big Game Season Open Houses Slated

Though months away, the 2005 hunting season is up for discussion at a series of open houses hosted by Fish and Game. Plan now to attend and provide input that will help shape this fall's hunting seasons in Idaho's Southwest region. To learn more about the meetings, contact Fish and Game's Nampa office at 465-8465 or the McCall office at 634-8137.

Hunters can expect seasons to be nearly identical to those in 2004. "Last year was a pretty good year for hunters and their quarry," Fish and Game wildlife manager Jon Rachael noted. "So after extensive discussions among Fish and Game staff, we've decided to do something different by proposing no changes in big game seasons for 2005."

Open houses are scheduled for the following dates and locations. Plan to attend an open house anytime between 4pm and 7pm:

Mountain Home, Thursday, March 10

Mountain Home Bingo Parlor

3285 Airbase Road

McCall, Thursday, March 10

Fish and Game Office

555 Deinhard Lane

Nampa, Friday, March 11

Fish and Game Office

3101 S. Powerline Road

Adoption of the white-tailed deer management plan earlier this year will result in some changes in white-tailed deer hunting options in hunt units 23 and 24 "We're proposing a new white-tailed deer season to run from November 1 through November 20 in these two units," Fish and Game wildlife manager Jeff Rohlman said. "We're also proposing a youth hunt for any whitetail deer during the same period in units 23 and 24." Otherwise, hunters can expect seasons in the southwest region to look the same as they did last year for deer, elk, antelope, black bear, and mountain lion.

Wildlife Reservists Play Key Role for Idaho Fish & Game

February in Idaho can be frigid, but unlike many retirement-aged adults who relocate to balmy Arizona, Don Kunze of Lewiston, age 68, is spending the sunny winter morning outdoors. Kunze is not playing golf, shuffleboard or bingo, he is volunteering for Idaho Fish and Game to feed wintering birds at the Lewiston Wildlife Habitat Area.

"Sometimes you want to do things you don't get paid for," Kunze said. "I'm learning a lot about our local birds, staying active and having a lot of fun."

Kunze is one of 150 wildlife reservists throughout Idaho who volunteer for Fish and Game on projects, sharing their knowledge, skills and labor, which ultimately saves money for Idaho hunters and anglers.

Consisting of men and women from a wide variety of occupations, the wildlife reservist program includes engineers, carpenters, college students, educators, business owners and retirees like Kunze. They live in communities from Bonner's Ferry to Montpelier and make up one of the most productive volunteer programs in the State.

After retiring from the Air Force in 1975, Don and his wife Eleanor moved to Idaho, making their home in the St. Joe area near St. Maries. After working for Potlatch Corporation for 15 years, he retired once more. But after fishing every stream within reasonable driving distance from his home, he found himself with lots of free time. That is when Kunze became involved with a life-long dream - working with wildlife.

Always loving both the outdoors and wildlife, he began volunteering for the department for "something interesting to do."

His first wildlife-related volunteer project involved planting trees and shrubs in the seven-acre Lewiston Wildlife Habitat Area located next to the Fish and Game office. The area was initially started in 1985, but now includes a waterfall, stream and small pond, a paved trail, and various trees, shrubs, and native grasses.

Salmon Season Likely This Spring

Idaho Fish and Game biologists are expecting enough chinook salmon to return to Idaho this spring and summer to justify salmon seasons on some Idaho rivers.

Predicting exactly how many chinook might make it to the Gem State is like trying to predict who will be the World Series MVP before spring training begins. You can make some educated guesses, but with all the variables involved, betting the mortgage on the final outcome would be a bad idea. However, biologists have come up with some very preliminary forecasts based on the number of jack salmon that returned last year.

Jacks are salmon that return after one year in the ocean rather than two years, which is most common among Idaho's returning chinook. The number of jacks returning one year can offer some clues about how many "two ocean" salmon will return the following year, but they are only clues.

"The preliminary forecast is 75,000 adipose- clipped chinook over Lower Granite Dam," anadromous fisheries coordinator Bill Horton said.

The key word there is preliminary. However, based on that preliminary forecast, fisheries managers are working on plans for a chinook salmon season. According to Horton, Fish and Game is hoping for seasons on most of the rivers that were open for chinook salmon last year, including the Little Salmon River, the Salmon River near Riggins, the Clearwater River, and the South Fork of the Salmon River. Again, this is all preliminary.

"We can't make too many decisions until fish start showing up in the river system," Horton said. "Once we have enough information we must still go to the Fish and Game Commission to propose seasons."

If the Fin is Intact, You Must Throw it Back

"It's a keeper!"

The meaning of that expression has changed over the years among Idaho anglers, especially those who fish for salmon and steelhead.

In the old days "a keeper" may have described a lunker, a fish worth taking home because of its size. These days, an angler referring to "a keeper" is probably looking at a fish that is missing a fin. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game marks hatchery salmon and steelhead by removing the adipose fin, a small fleshy fin found on the back just forward of the tail. If a steelhead is missing its adipose fin, you know it isn't wild, and you can keep it.

Before Fish and Game started fin clipping hatchery fish, anglers were required to measure a steelhead's dorsal fin. If it was greater than 2 _ inches high, the fish was considered wild, and had to be released. That is why many experienced Idaho anglers know that a steelhead with a worn-down dorsal fin is probably a hatchery fish. While that is usually true, you can no longer use the dorsal fin, or lack thereof, when deciding whether to keep a steelhead.

In fact, for the past several years the adipose fin has been left intact on some hatchery fish. Why, you ask? This program was developed through coordination with other fish management agencies and is designed to help answer the question of how effective returning adults are in reproducing naturally. This program allows more hatchery steelhead to reproduce on their own in certain river drainages, especially the Little Salmon River and the South Fork of the Clearwater River where most of these fish have been stocked. The hope is this program will help build naturally spawning fish populations where natural reproduction has been greatly limited.

"Our ultimate goal is to get steelhead off the endangered species list, while continuing to provide fishing opportunity for our anglers," fisheries biologist Bill Horton said.

Fish and Game Works for More Mule Deer

Idaho Fish and Game managers like to speak in acronyms, and the one coming out of their mouths frequently these days is MDI.

So what does MDI stand for, and what is it all about?

MDI stands for Mule Deer Initiative. It is a multi-faceted long term project to provide better populations of mule deer across Idaho.

Today Idaho's mule deer population stands at about 300,000. Fish and Game biologists believe that is about half the population that lived here in the 1960s. The decline is similar to that of other western states. Mule deer populations are affected by various factors including loss of habitat, predators, competition with other big game animals including elk, and weather.

"There is no single reason for the decline of mule deer west-wide", state big game manager Brad Compton said, "and there is no simple, single method for ending the mule deer's troubles, but we can make things a lot better for them. This is an animal so important to hunters-and everyone else who enjoys what Idaho is-we owe mule deer the best chance we can give them."

The Mule Deer Initiative will focus on all of the problems mule deer face, many of which revolve around habitat. Mule deer habitat has been degraded, fragmented and lost because of fire management practices, invasive weeds, and development. The Department of Fish and Game will work with private landowners, providing funds that will help them restore habitat on their land. Fish and Game will also work with sportsmen's groups and volunteers to improve winter range for mule deer. The department will ask other state and federal land management agencies to help restore critical stands of aspen, sagebrush and bitterbrush.