Press Release

November 2006

Rainbow Trout Stocking Report

Personnel from Fish and Game's Nampa Hatchery will be releasing more than 8,000 catchable-sized rainbow trout at the following locations during December.

Boise River (Boise) - 1,000

Boise River (Eagle to Middleton) - 1,000

Eagle Island State Park Pond - 500

Marsing Pond - 500

McDevitt Pond (Meridian) - 250

Merrill's Pond (Eagle) - 250

Mill Pond (Horseshoe Bend) - 500

Parkcenter Pond (Boise) - 500

Riverside Pond (Boise) - 500

Rotary Pond (Caldwell) - 500

Sawyer's Ponds (Emmett) - 500

Veterans' Pond (Boise) - 500

Wilson Spring (Nampa) - 800

Wilson Spring Ponds (Nampa) - 1,500

The number of trout actually released may be altered by weather, water conditions, equipment problems or schedule changes. If delays occur, trout will be stocked when conditions become favorable.

Hunters: Give Us Your Jaws

If you're a big game hunter, Fish and Game would like your jaw; the jaw of your cow elk or doe mule deer that is. The jaws are needed as part of an effort to better estimate the age structure of certain elk and deer populations across Idaho.

"If we can collect enough lower jaws from female elk and deer, we can estimate the age structure of the female segment of several elk and deer populations," Fish and Game wildlife research biologist Craig White said. "That information is critical to better determine the status of these big game populations."

Hunters harvesting cow elk or doe mule deer from hunt units 23, 28, 32, 32A, 33, 34, 35, 36, 36A, 36B, 39, 43, 44, 45 (deer only), 48 (elk only) and 50 are asked to leave the lower jaw from their harvested animal at one of three locations: a Fish and Game check station, Fish and Game regional office or a jaw barrel. Barrels will be placed at strategic points for jaw collection, and information cards will be available at all collection points to record simple information such as the unit where the animal was harvested.

Please contact the Fish and Game Nampa office (465-8465), McCall office (634-8137), Jerome office (324-4359), or Salmon office (756-2271) with questions regarding the big game age structure study.

Future Fish Management

By Jeff Dillon, Southwest Regional Fishery Manager, Southwest Region

Who's the boss? When it comes to fish and wildlife management in Idaho, you are! You buy the licenses and tags which pay the biologist and game warden, purchases the hatchery fish feed, rents the planes to count critters, and puts the gas in our trucks so we can collect information in the field and enforce the rules. You pay the bills, and you get to decide what's important. It's our responsibility to understand what the public wants and, whenever possible, to make it happen on the ground (and in the water).

Fish and Game's statewide fishery management plan is a good example of transferring public opinion into actions and policies. Our current six-year plan is set to expire this year, and we've been working on the new 2007-2012 plan since last spring. The plan includes several key pieces. We list broad statewide objectives for wild trout management, trophy bass, hatchery trout, salmon and steelhead, and all the other fisheries programs. We also list specific management objectives for most rivers, streams, lakes, and reservoirs across the state. These might include catch rate goals for a particular species, increasing average size, or working with other agencies to improve habitat.

So how do we set all these goals and objectives? Since you are the boss, we rely heavily on public input to be sure we're spending our time and your money wisely. We held public meetings statewide last spring, and also gathered comments through the Fish and Game website (http://fishandgame.idaho.gov). And we conducted a huge random survey of resident and non-resident anglers. About 10,000 surveys were mailed out and more than 4,300 were returned. This included more than 500 from each of Fish and Game's seven regions. This is our best way to look at statewide and regional preferences, and to see how well we're meeting your expectations.

Fish and Game Wants Help with Poaching Case

Idaho Fish and Game conservation officers received a report Friday, November 24, of poached mule deer on Indian Springs Road in the South Hills south of Twin Falls.

Officers discovered a large buck that had been shot, field dressed and left.

Witnesses reported four individuals were seen leaving the area in a white Ford Expedition or Excursion with off-road tires.

Fish and Game officers are asking anyone who may have seen the white Ford SUV in the South Hills or who may recognize a similar vehicle, to call the Fish and Game Regional Office at 324-4350 or the Citizens Against Poaching hotline at 1-800-632-5999.

Callers may remain anonymous.

Aspen Working Group to Meet in Pocatello

The Eastern Idaho Aspen Working Group will meet Thursday, November 30, in Pocatello, for a panel discussion on aspen management in eastern Idaho.

The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at the South Eastern Idaho Regional Offices of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at 1345 Barton Road.

"This is an important meeting. The primary decision makers of the AWG have been seeking the involvement of Ônon-agency' folks about what can be done to bring back more and healthier stands," said Keene Hueftle, chairman of the Southeast Idaho Environmental Network and member of the working group who has been working on creating awareness about aspen decline for a number of years.

In March of 2004, Hueftle produced a symposium on the ecology of quaking aspen in Pocatello, which led eventually to the formation of the Aspen Working Group.

On April 28, 2006, officials from the Bureau of Land Management, U.S.D.A. Forest Service, and Idaho departments of Fish and Game, Lands and Agriculture crafted an agreement to work toward recovery and enhancement of quaking aspen communities in Eastern Idaho. The Aspen Working Group launched in May was part of that agreement.

Since then the working group has sought additional members, including the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Idaho Conservation League and Western Watersheds Project. Representatives from each of these groups will be on the panel discussion.

For questions about the working group or if you require special assistance to attend, contact Wendy Lowe at 208-523-6668, or by email at: wendy@p2-solution.com, or through the Idaho Relay Service at 1-800-377-3529 (TDD).

Wolf Report: Update

Federal officials are investigating the killings of two wolves in the Clearwater region of north-central Idaho, and in November wolves have killed one cow and one calf, both east of Cascade.

The radio collar from the alpha male of the O'Hara Point pack was found and turned in by a deer hunter in mid-November. The pack roams the South Fork of the Clearwater, and the wolf was last located alive on October 4, 2004. The collar has been turned over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement, and the death is under investigation.

An untagged adult female gray wolf was found killed south of Grangeville on November 19. Her death also is under investigation. The total documented wolf mortality including all causes is 60 so far this year in Idaho.

On November 9, federal officials confirmed that wolves killed a calf on state land east of Cascade. Idaho Department of Fish and Game authorized the removal of two wolves.

A week later, on November 17, officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services confirmed wolves killed a cow on private land southeast of Cascade, an area where wolves of the Orphan Pack have killed livestock in the past. Traps were set.

Wolf control actions, authorized by Fish and Game and carried out by the federal Wildlife Services, are in no danger of jeopardizing wolf recovery in Idaho.

The Fish and Wildlife Service considers the wolf recovered in the northern Rocky Mountains. Federal officials are working on a proposal to remove wolves from the endangered species list in Idaho and Montana separately from Wyoming, which would be a break from policy of considering the wolf population in all three states together.

The Fish and Wildlife Service's wolf reports can be viewed at http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/.

Ask Fish and Game

Q. I want to give my grandkids hunting and fishing licenses for Christmas but I want it to be a surprise, and I don't have the documentation it takes to buy a license. How do I do this?

A. It is simple and easy to make this kind of gift, and it works for lifetime licenses as well as annual licenses. Every Idaho Fish and Game office will sell you a gift certificate, which can be redeemed by the giftee, at Fish and Game offices only, anytime within one year. Fish and Game cannot accept credit cards. Licenses and tags for 2007 go on sale Friday, December 1, but the new licenses are not valid until January 1, 2007.

Ask the Conservation Officer (CO)

by Gary Hompland, Regional Conservation Officer

Question: "I used to fish for walleye at Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir. How are they doing lately?"

Answer: The walleye population in Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir is doing well. You may have missed it in the news, but earlier this year Mark Abel of Sun Valley caught a new Idaho walleye record (17.6 pounds) at Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir.

Biologists and walleye club volunteers spent a considerable amount of time this summer sampling various locations of the reservoir with nets to examine the walleye population. Biologists were striving to sample across all age classes of fish to examine overall population health.

In a second sampling effort young-of-the-year walleye were collected using electro-fishing equipment. These young-of-the-year walleye are marked in the hatchery using oxytetracycline (OTC). The OTC discolors small bones called otoliths located behind the gill covers in the head of a hatchery produced walleye.

The otoliths are removed from young of the year walleye captured using electro-fishing gear. When "read" by experts, the otoliths of the hatchery fish treated with OTC fluoresce under a black light.

Biologists use OTC to identify fish of hatchery origin. OTC is used because it is an efficient method of marking large numbers of walleye fry, it is undetectable by anglers, causes the fish no harm, and is long lasting.

Comparing OTC marked hatchery walleye to walleye without OTC marks biologists can evaluate the Department's walleye hatchery stocking program.

If the percentage of hatchery young of the year fish to wild young of the year walleye is high, then biologists know the stocking program is important in supporting the walleye fishery.

Cell Phone Call Leads To Poaching Conviction

A call to 911 from a cell phone reporting a possible mule deer poaching incident near White Bird led to the recent conviction of a Parma man.

James E. Osborn, 57, pleaded guilty October 31, to killing big game during a closed season and wasteful destruction. He was fined $1,500 and sentenced to one year unsupervised probation and 60 days in jail suspended, and his hunting, trapping and fishing privileges were revoked for one year.

The 911 caller reported the poacher, driving an older GMC Suburban, shot a mature mule deer buck from the road and then quickly left the scene, making no attempt to retrieve the animal. A partial license plate number, a physical description of the poacher and the general area of the incident were the only clues officers had.

A late-night search of the area, Idaho Department of Fish and Game conservation officers Roy Kinner and Craig Mickelson, with help from U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer Jill Forth, turned up the large four-point mule deer. The buck had been shot through both shoulders and probably did not run after being shot.

Within an hour of providing Idaho County police dispatch with the partial license plate number, a possible match on the vehicle was made. A search of Fish and Game's license database revealed the GMC Suburban owners had purchased regular deer tags. But a controlled hunt permit and tag are required to hunt mule deer Big Game Management Unit 14, south of Grangeville where the buck was shot.

Mickelson contacted Parma-area conservation officers Brian Marek and Julie Bryant, who later interviewed Osborn. He admitted shooting the deer illegally and leaving it to rot.

"The teamwork between the agencies led to a successful prosecution, but the citizen who reported it was the real hero," Mickelson said. "Without that call, this case would not have been made, let alone detected."

The Numbers Don't Lie - Or Do They?

By Tom Keegan, Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Changes to the buck mule deer season in 2005 generated much interest among hunters in the Salmon Region.

Buck harvest in 2005 was higher than it had been during the past few years. At first glance, it appears that the season change led to the higher harvest rate. But as is common when dealing with natural systems, things are rarely as simple as they appear.

When you look at deer harvest over the past 20 years, it becomes apparent that small changes in the hunting season timing and length don't cause significant changes in the harvest rate. In 2005, hunters simply experienced an uncommonly good set of conditions that allowed for above normal harvest.

Before 1991, most general buck mule deer seasons started the third Wednesday in October and ended the second Sunday in November, such as October 18 through November 12.

Since then, the season has been in October. From 1991 through 1997, the season in Salmon Region was October 5-29. From 2000 through 2004, the general rifle deer season was shortened to October 5-22. With few exceptions, this was the shortest deer season in Idaho.

Factors considered in setting the 2005 hunting seasons include:

- Complaints about hunter crowding, which can be reduced with consistent dates across areas.

- Surplus bucks were available for harvest.

- Hunter numbers, weather, and forage conditions have more influence on buck harvest than small changes in season dates.

In 2005, based on biological data and public comments, a statewide season of October 10-31 was selected. This season provided 22 days of hunting - four more days than the previous season.

Did the season changes in 2005 change the harvest rate? About 67 percent more bucks were taken in 2005 than in 2004, which is a substantial increase. But was the increase caused solely by hunting four more days and later in the year?

Winter is for the Birds

By Dennis Newman - Idaho Department of Fish and Game

As the vibrant colors of fall continue to fade, we are reminded that the cold grasp of winter is just around the corner.

For sportsmen, landowners, and conservationists, the imminent onset of winter may conjure up thoughts of the constant struggle of survival wildlife face.

The fight for survival and perpetuation of the species is never more difficult then in the harsh winter months.

Pheasants and other upland game birds may be among the most vulnerable species to the wrath of winter. Upland game bird populations experience a vast array of fluctuation from year to year in part because of the two major factors of winter and spring.

Long, cold, wet springs may lead to high mortality rates in the newly hatched chicks. During the period from hatching to the point the chicks develop their first set of feathers they are very susceptible to the weather. A cold and wet chick usually means a dead chick.

Little can be done to change Mother Nature, but planting high quality nesting cover can help birds produce more chicks to overcome the losses to weather.

For game birds, winter is a time of struggle to find food, escape the weather and evade predators. Planting thermal cover can help birds survive harsh weather, and good escape cover helps them evade predators.

Providing cereal grains, berries, and seeds will help reduce losses from starvation. All of these lead to better hen condition in the spring, which translates to higher nesting success. So in a way, things that help birds survive the winter, also help improve their chances of success in the spring.

Fish and Game Director Announces Retirement

Steven Huffaker announced Thursday, November 9, that he will retire as director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game effective January 1.

"It has been a great opportunity to serve as the director for the past five years and to have a wonderful career in Fish and Game for the past 37 years. I move on feeling very good that I have accomplished the goals in the department I set when I became the director. Morale in the department is good and we have great relationships with the Commission, Legislature, governor's office and the sportsmen," Huffaker said. "There is also a great leadership team in place and outstanding employees throughout the department."

Huffaker was appointed director on February 13, 2002. During his tenure he oversaw the development of the Access Yes program, the Mule Deer Initiative and the Pheasant Initiative. He is the past chairman of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, past president of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and is active on numerous committees for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

When asked what he thought was his most important accomplishment as director, Huffaker said it was the "building of a great staff and hiring quality people with the right skills and abilities to make cooperative conservation work."

He joined the Idaho Fish and Game Department in 1984 and served as the chief of the Fisheries Bureau from 1989 until 1997. Huffaker then served as the wildlife chief and assistant director from 1997 to 2002. He also worked for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources for 14 years and before that for the Iowa Conservation Commission.

Commission Chairman Cameron Wheeler said that replacing Huffaker is a big task.