Press Release

March 2006

Unique Dry Bed Fishery To Start April 1

IDAHO FALLS - The coming of spring means different things to different people. To some, itÔs a time to start their gardens or clean out the garage, but to certain individuals it means that it is time to check out whether a rather unique angling opportunity will exist or not. The start of April marks the time that the IDFG starts getting calls about the Big Feeder being shut down for repairs.

The Dry Bed, which is also called the Big Feeder or Great Feeder Canal, was once a natural side channel of the South Fork of the Snake River. Early settlers to the area built head gates and diversion structures on the waterway, basically converting it into a canal even though it continued to also function as an aquatic habitat capable of supporting fish populations. Fishing is allowed year round, except during that period when maintenance work is required on the head gates, then certain standing exceptions in IDFG Fishing Regulations come into play. These special rules were created because a stretch of the canal is de-watered due to the repairs and fish are stranded in deep pools or large puddles as water levels drop. The use of pumps to accelerate the draining process to make the fish more accessible is a prohibited practice, even though some people have tried to do so over the past few years.

IDFG Regulations for the Dry Bed include the exception that from 4/1- 4/30 it is legal to also take fish using hands, dip nets or snagging. Use of seine nets, chemicals, firearms, explosives, or electric current remain prohibited. The stretch covered by this special exception runs from the Highway 48 near the Lewisville Fresh-Pak Potato Plant upstream to the Union Pacific Railroad bridge located 1.5 miles northeast of Ririe. It is important to note that most access to the canal is across private ground, so it important to get permission ahead of time.

Unique Dry Bed Fishery Begins April 1

IDAHO FALLS - The coming of spring means different things to different people. To some, itÔs a time to start their gardens or clean out the garage, but to certain individuals it means that it is time to check out whether a rather unique angling opportunity will exist or not. The start of April marks the time that the IDFG starts getting calls about the Big Feeder being shut down for repairs.

The Dry Bed, which is also called the Big Feeder or Great Feeder Canal, was once a natural side channel of the South Fork of the Snake River. Early settlers to the area built head gates and diversion structures on the waterway, basically converting it into a canal even though it continued to also function as an aquatic habitat capable of supporting fish populations. Fishing is allowed year round, except during that period when maintenance work is required on the head gates, then certain standing exceptions in IDFG Fishing Regulations come into play. These special rules were created because a stretch of the canal is de-watered due to the repairs and fish are stranded in deep pools or large puddles as water levels drop. The use of pumps to accelerate the draining process to make the fish more accessible is a prohibited practice, even though some people have tried to do so over the past few years.

IDFG Regulations for the Dry Bed include the exception that from 4/1- 4/30 it is legal to also take fish using hands, dip nets or snagging. Use of seine nets, chemicals, firearms, explosives, or electric current remain prohibited. The stretch covered by this special exception runs from the Highway 48 near the Lewisville Fresh-Pak Potato Plant upstream to the Union Pacific Railroad bridge located 1.5 miles northeast of Ririe. It is important to note that most access to the canal is across private ground, so it is important to get permission ahead of time.

Dubois Grouse Days

On Friday, April 7 and Saturday, April 8, residents of Dubois, Idaho, nearby ranchers and a variety of state and federal agencies will host the Fourth Annual Dubois Grouse Days to celebrate Greater Sage and Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse and the wonderful environments that are their home.

Every spring, Greater Sage-grouse and Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse congregate on traditional strutting or dancing grounds called leks. These magnificent birds are in need of effective conservation efforts to reverse downward population trends.

To experience these birds during their mating rituals is a rare treat that leaves memories permanently etched in the mind like fine art. Become one of the fortunate few to experience the magic of grouse during the Fourth Annual Dubois Grouse Days!

You will have an opportunity to watch grouse strut and dance, learn about the cultural and natural history of their high desert environment, tour a model conservation program area for Greater Sage-Grouse, talk with ranchers and professional biologists working to conserve grouse and much more. Special arrangements are offered to photographers.

Come Prepared! Spring weather conditions and changes can be extreme in the high desert! Temperatures are often around freezing in the early morning, later warming into the 50's. It could snow or rain with a cold wind. Bring layered clothing, a camera, binoculars, water, and snacks.

Additional information, directions and registration forms can be found online at www.duboisidaho.com (click calendar bar) and in the News folder at www.IdahoBirds.net.

Gunners, Muggers and Trackers

Adrenaline Junkies of Big Game Research, By George Pauley

Gunners, muggers, and trackers - common phrases used by wildlife biologists to describe their adrenaline-junky coworkers who enjoy the high-risk adventure of big game research.

Flying around in a helicopter without doors, a gunner fires an expanding net onto an elk. The net entangles the animal, and then the mugger jumps out of the helicopter to restrain it. The mugger and a biologist then blindfold and hobble the 400-pound animal, secure a radio collar around its neck, collect blood and fecal samples, examine its teeth to estimate the animal's age, and finally, untangle it from the net - all in about twenty minutes if everything goes according to plan.

While gunners and muggers are often kicked, gouged and bruised, the duties of trackers who often follow the movements of radio-collared animals for extended lengths, are more of study and observation.

Radio collars allow researchers to study wild animals without actually having to get close enough to see them thus eliminating or reducing the risk of the animal changing its behavior. Since they were first used, radio telemetry devices have become one of the most important tools in wildlife research.

Most collars are equipped with a narrow band radio that transmits a unique frequency allowing specific, individual animals to be monitored or located. One of the more common objectives of radio telemetry is to obtain animal locations. Location data is used to evaluate habitat use, migration patterns, movements and home range areas.

The usual method of locating a transmitter is to use a directional antenna, either from the ground or from airplanes. The directional antenna, which is similar to a TV antenna, yields the strongest signal when pointed directly at the transmitter. The animal is located by merely following the strongest signal.

Idaho Wild Turkey Flocks Grow

By Phil Cooper, Panhandle Regional Conseravtion Educator

Idaho's wild turkey hunting is increasing in popularity with each passing year, and wild turkey hunting is the fastest growing form of hunting in the United States. During the 2005 Idaho turkey seasons, hunters took home 5796 turkeys for a success rate of over 30%.

Wild turkeys are not native to Idaho. They were first introduced in the state in 1961 near Riggins. Hundreds of transplants have been conducted since then, involving birds from other states and birds trapped from thriving populations in Idaho.

Three wild turkey subspecies have been introduced in Idaho. The Riggins release and most subsequent releases have been Merriam's turkeys which are native to mountainous woodland habitats from the southwest U.S. to central Colorado.

The Rio Grande wild turkey subspecies was released in Idaho in 1982. "Rios" are native to riparian and scrub woodlands from the southern Great Plains southward into northeastern Mexico. They have become established in Idaho along the Payette, Snake and Weiser Rivers. Additional habitat remains for continued introduction of Rio Grande turkeys to Idaho although Merriam's have proven to be adaptable to similar areas along the Bear River in southeastern Idaho.

The Eastern wild turkey is considered to be the most wary and difficult to harvest. Easterns have been introduced to a few sites near Dworshak Reservoir. They are native to deciduous forests common in the eastern U.S. and generally grow slightly larger than the Merriam's or Rio Grande subspecies.

Bringing Back Elusive Mountain Quail

LEWISTON - Populations of Idaho's rarest quail, the mountain quail, just got a jump start with a recent reintroduction of approximately 100 birds to the Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area south of Lewiston.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG), Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, University of Idaho and Bureau of Land Management reintroduced 200 quail from a healthy population in western Oregon to Idaho's Craig Mountain and Washington's Asotin Creek Wildlife Management Area near Asotin.

These birds will supplement a handful of resident mountain quail and the remaining birds from a release in 2005. About 50 of the newly translocated birds were fitted with radio transmitters, and University of Idaho graduate student John Stephenson will monitor their movements, nesting ecology, habitat use, survival and cause-specific mortality.

Due to their secretive nature and small population sizes, only a few studies exist on mountain quail ecology. This reintroduction study will provide more insights to better manage and conserve the species before further population declines lead to possible listing under the Endangered Species Act.

Like many areas in the West, mountain quail have nearly vanished from Idaho during the past 40 years. Twenty-five years ago, the birds were commonly observed in the Craig Mountain area and along Asotin Creek, but today sightings are very rare.

Mountain quail were legally hunted in Idaho until 1984 when diminishing populations prompted the close of the season. However, populations continued to decline. This led IDFG to list mountain quail as a "sensitive" species. Experts point to combination of overgrazing by livestock, water impoundments, agricultural development, and fire suppression as potential causes for mountain quail decline in eastern Oregon, eastern Washington and Idaho.

Watching for the Specklebelly

By Clair Kofoed, Wildlife Biologist, Southwest Region

Most people are familiar with Canada geese; they seem to be everywhere nowadays. These large birds with the distinctive white "chin strap" and familiar "ah-onk" call are common residents from north to south in Idaho and throughout most of America. Everybody knows the "honker." In recent years however, goose watchers have noted the presence of a different bird here in the lower Treasure Valley. Instead of wearing a coat of gray like the Canada goose, this bird has brown feathers and a whitish belly, often covered with black patches. For this reason, hunters call him "specklebelly." Officially, it's the Pacific greater white-fronted goose. Only upon close examination can the narrow white band of feathers around the base of the pink bill be seen, the feature that gives the bird its name.

The white-fronted goose is quite a different bird from the Canada. He is about half the size and weight, and comes from a different branch of the waterfowl family. Canada geese are part of the dark or "brent" goose group. These include the brant, cackling goose, barnacle goose, and Nene goose from Hawaii. White-fronts are actually "true geese," and include the snow goose, pink-footed goose, bean goose, and grey-lag goose in Europe. The familiar barn-yard goose is also closely related. White-fronts have a different call too. It's very high-pitched, in two descending notes; "Will-witt!!"

Southern Part Of Egin-Hamer Closure To Open On April 1, But Northern Part Closed Until May 1

IDAHO FALLS - For the ninth year in a row, the southern portion of the Egin-Hamer Closure will open on schedule for April 1st, but unlike some years. Lingering winter conditions have made early opening out of the question for this year. The closure concept was originally created when Fremont and Jefferson County Commissioners approached the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Idaho Department of Fish & Game (IDFG) about revisiting the original Egin-Hamer Road winter road closure issue. An agreement was arranged that allowed for opening the road to winter travel in return for closing off important winter range adjacent to the road. Depending on winter conditions and animal locations the opening dates on some years has been moved forward, but this won't be one of those years.

Because habitat needs change for wildlife as the winter progresses, the closure was divided in two segments, each with a different opening day. The first opening date for the southern portion is nearly upon us. Most of the deer and elk have moved to the northern segment and conflicts with humans should be minimal. Even in the area scheduled to open soon, people are cautioned to give wildlife plenty of room and not cause undo disturbance.

The Egin-Hamer Road divides the closures area into two uneven segments. The smaller southern segment will open to human traffic on April 1, 2006. The larger northern segment will remain closed to human traffic until May 1, 2006. The agreement also included access allowances for private landowners with business concerns requiring entry into the closure area. The segment that opens on April 1 is bordered on by the Egin-Hamer Road on the north and Highway 33 on the south. The western boundary is Interstate 15 and the eastern boundary runs from where the Henrys Fork crosses Highway 33 and heads north through Plano and then toward Egin. Exact descriptions are available at the Idaho Falls BLM & IDFG Offices.

Ice Fishing Season Drawing To A Close Just In Time At Ririe Reservoir

RIRIE - Despite a spotty start, anglers were able to have an enjoyable time this winter during the special ice fishing only season at Ririe Reservoir, but as unstable spring conditions cause the ice to disappear, the special season ending date of March 31st seems to be coming at just the right time.

The special season has been in effect for eleven years now, so most local anglers are aware of the regulations pertaining to this fishery. The area that has been open to ice fishing extends from the dam upstream for approximately one mile upstream to the Juniper boat ramp. Current ice conditions at the reservoir are very unstable, with water seeping between the shoreline and the ice.

Ice fishing is a unique and fun sport, but takes place in an environment that doesn't allow much of a margin for error. Anglers trying to take advantage of the waning days of the season should exercise extreme caution and remember that the season is only open to fishing through a hole in the ice. No boat or shore fishing is allowed during the winter season. Because of the danger of thin ice, the ice fishing season ends March 31, and would not continue into April even if stable ice remained. The entire reservoir will reopen to fishing on May 1, 2006.

Safety-A Goal of Mandatory Hunter Education

By BJ Lillibridge - IDFG

It's no accident that hunting in Idaho is a safe activity. That's because today's hunters are better educated than hunters in the past. They're going into the field knowing how to hunt safely and responsibly.

Idaho's hunter education program-coupled with the voluntary use of hunter orange clothing-has dramatically helped to reduce the number of hunting-related firearms accidents in the field. However, Idaho's hunter education programs are more than just about gun safety. They also stress the importance of responsible, ethical conduct in the field.

Studies from several states have shown that graduates from approved courses are not only more successful and show higher knowledge than non-graduates, but they have a greater awareness of ethics and safety.

Hunters can fulfill Idaho's course requirements several different ways.

Traditional classroom courses are taught by trained, volunteer instructors who follow statewide standards. Courses involve lectures and demonstrations, homework, field experiences, firing exercises and a written exam. The average course length is 16 hours.

Idaho also offers two independent study options for hunter education - the online course or workbook option. Both versions are designed for self-motivated students with good reading and comprehension skills who have some firearms and hunting knowledge or experience. These options are not recommended for students under 14 years of age, with failure rates high in the younger students. Younger hunters may be better served by attending a traditional classroom course where they receive personal instruction from certified instructors.

Before buying a hunting license, anyone born on or after January 1, 1975, must attend and pass a course or show proof they have held a hunting license from another state.

Trip Auction: Live the Wild Life

Contact: Gayle Valentine or Marcella Hepworth

Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation, 208-334-2648

If fishing, floating rivers, backpacking and bird watching are on your "to do" list this year, you can bid on a trip online in the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation's 16th Annual Trip Auction.

The auction begins Saturday, April 1 at 5 a.m. mountain time and ending Sunday, April 9 at 11:59 p.m.

This event, co-sponsored by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is the foundation's largest fundraiser, attracting hunters and anglers as well as hikers and wildlife watchers. The 2006 event goes "high tech" with an all-online auction of 28 trips. Musick & Sons Auctioneers and Appraisers, an Idaho-owned company with an average of 3,500 clients, will manage the online auction. This annual auction has been conducted on the radio in previous years.

Full trip descriptions and step-by-step instructions will be available March 24 by visiting www.ifwf.org. Pre-registration before April 1 is recommended.

Trips are offered in every corner of Idaho. This year's adventures include:

- A backpacking adventure to Snow Peak in northern Idaho.

- A Salmon River drift boat and birding package.

- Sturgeon fishing and research in Hells Canyon.

- A framed 26- by 31-inch original watercolor by Idaho artist Mary Maxam.

- An upland game bird hunt in Idaho's Magic Valley.

- A fun-filled experience in Idaho's whitewater capital.

- A fly-fishing trip in Idaho's Selway Wilderness.

- A Harlequin duck survey.

Land Exchange Could Affect Hunting Access

A proposed U.S. Forest Service land exchange potentially could affect public access to some of the best mule deer hunting in the state.

The Forest Service proposes to exchange all or part of six parcels of national forest land, comprising more than 5,200 acres, around Camas Reservoir and Bennett Mountain for about 1,550 acres of private inholdings within the Danskin Mountains off-highway-vehicle area.

"It is not known if public access would be restricted if the [national forest] lands were exchanged into private ownership," the proposal says.

Not all of the land in the national forest parcels would be exchanged, only enough to equal the appraised value of the private land. But Forest Service officials expect 50 to 75 percent of the identified national forest land would be part of the exchange. That could include lands that provide limited access to game management unit 45, an area known for its prize mule deer bucks.

The Forest Service is conducting an environmental assessment of the proposal. Officials expect to announce the start of a 45-day comment period beginning with the publication of a "Notice of Exchange Proposal."

For information on the proposed exchange contact the Mountain Home Ranger District at 208-587-7961. More information is available in a Proposed Action Report at: www.fs.fed.us/r4/boise/projects/Danskin_Land_Exchange.pdf