Press Release

February 2007

Ask the Conservation Officer (CO)

by Gary Hompland, Regional Conservation Officer

Question: "I picked up a copy of the "Game Warden Magazine" at Sportsmen's Warehouse the other day and wanted to compliment the Department on the high quality writing and photos."

Answer: Thanks for the compliment, but this is not a publication of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. This magazine is produced and provided to sportsmen by the Idaho Conservation Officer's Association (ICOA).

The ICOA is an independent employee association representing conservation officers that work for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Formed as a non-profit organization corporation in 1976, the ICOA was established as an organization dedicated to protecting and perpetuating the wildlife resources of our state.

The mission and objectives of the ICOA are:

A. To promote a more efficient and able body of conservation enforcement personnel and to meet our responsibilities and problems collectively;

B. To create a truer sense of loyalty to the Department of Fish and Game and to our fellow officers; and

C. To aid in any manner possible any other brother officer in distress.

Produced by conservation officers with a knack for telling stories about catching poachers and offering outdoor tips, the magazine has become a conduit for the ICOA to highlight the good work of Idaho conservation officers and raise money for charitable causes.

The ICOA sponsors two $500 scholarships annually to a full-time Idaho resident student attending the University of Idaho in a natural resources field with the intent to become a conservation officer.

As part of the North American Wildlife Officers Enforcement Officers Association (NAWEOA) the ICOA also supports a fund to provide financial assistance to law enforcement officers and their families injured or killed in the line of duty.

Volunteers Needed for Sage Grouse Working Group

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is seeking partners to participate in the North Magic Valley Sage-Grouse Local Working Group.

The goal of the group will be to develop a locally appropriate conservation plan for sage grouse populations and their habitats in the North Magic Valley area. The proposed geographic focus of the group will include portions of Camas, Elmore, Lincoln, Blaine, Minidoka, Gooding, Power, Butte, Jerome and Cassia counties.

All are invited to the first meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. March 8, at Fish and Game's Magic Valley regional offices, at 319 South 417 East, about 2.5 mile north of the Flying J on Highway 93.

Representatives from a variety of state and federal agencies will introduce the role and specific tasks of a sage-grouse local working group.

"Local working groups are the heart of Idaho's conservation efforts," said Mark Fleming, Fish and Game regional habitat manager. "Local working groups are composed of a diverse group of local interests including sportsmen, conservationists, recreational users, ranchers, farmers, representatives of industry and interested citizens.

"In addition, state and federal biologists and range specialists provide technical support to each of the local working groups," he said. "Local working groups are tasked with the collaborative development of locally appropriate conservation plans that benefit sage grouse and their habitats in each of Idaho's sage grouse planning areas."

In response to a number of petitions to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, Idaho and its neighboring states are working to develop and adopt conservation plans for sage grouse and their habitats.

Fish and Game developed the first statewide sage grouse conservation plan in 1997. This plan called for the development of sage-grouse local working groups in 13 distinct geographic sage grouse planning areas.

McKay's Bend Campground Closed for Improvements

McKay's Bend Campground at Myrtle, at milepost 18.5 on U.S. Highway 12 along the Clearwater River, will be closed for improvements from March 1 to April 15, 2007.

The campground may be closed past April 15, depending on weather and work progress.

Improvements will be made to the water, sewer and electric systems, as well as development of several RV sites. Funding for the improvements came from an Idaho Parks and Recreation grant.

Please contact the U.S. Bureau of Land Management at 208-962-3245, or the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at 208-799-5010 for information.

Fish and Game Breakfast Meeting Reset to March 5

Wildlife enthusiasts are invited to an Idaho Department of Fish and Game Sportsmen's Breakfast at 6:30 a.m. on Monday, March 5.

The meeting will be at Fish and Game's Clearwater Regional Office, 3316 16th Avenue in Lewiston. It had been planned for March 6.

Fish and Game personnel will present information on habitat improvements completed at Red River Wildlife Management Area near Elk City, as well as several Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area issues, including management of Redbird Canyon, forest management plan, proposed land trade, and results of the 2006 Madden Creek prescribed fire. Reports will also be given on local wildlife enforcement cases and volunteer opportunities.

Coffee and donuts will be provided by Fish and Game.

The meeting is open to anyone and designed to stimulate informal discussions about wildlife issues in the Clearwater Region. Sportsmen's group representatives are also welcome to give reports of their group's activities.

New Trophy Rules Available

The new trophy species rule books are here.

The new rule books for moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat for the 2007 and 2008 seasons are now available at Idaho Department of Fish and Game offices as well as license venders around the state.

New this year is a format that features maps with clear boundaries for each controlled hunt for each species. And significant rule changes are outlined in yellow.

A series of two-week moose hunts in units 1 and 2 and a two-week hunt in units 3, 4, 6, 7 and 9 have replaced experimental one-week moose hunts in the Panhandle Region.

The any-ram bighorn sheep rule has replaced the three-quarter curl rule and mandatory sheep hunter training has been dropped.

Volunteers, Reservists Key Resources for Fish and Game

By Jennifer Bruns-Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Whether it's birds at feeders, fish in the streams or deer in the thick forests of Idaho, we value and appreciate wildlife in our state.

But to preserve and protect this resource, we must each give something of ourselves. More importantly, we must work together to improve Idaho's wildlife and ensure that future generations will have the same opportunities to enjoy wildlife that we do.

Preserving, protecting and helping to perpetuate Idaho's wildlife is not an easy task, but is made increasingly possible with the hours that volunteers contribute to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game every year.

From Moscow to Grangeville, more than 120 Idahoans donated nearly 9,600 hours last year. These hours were spent rehabilitating wildlife, assisting with population surveys, improving habitat, helping teach fishing and hunting clinics, even building fence and improving sportsmen's access sites. Not only were many projects accomplished, but effective partnerships were developed between Fish and Game and the citizens of Idaho.

Across the state in 2006, more than 3,000 volunteers donated more than 55,000 hours worth more than $1 million; 143 reservists put in almost 16,000 hours worth more than $300,000; and donated equipment, materials and supplies totaled about $154,000.

"Volunteers and wildlife reservists comprise a bona fide workforce that helps Idaho Fish and Game accomplish its goals and has saved the department $1.5 million in 2006 as well," said Mary Dudley, volunteer coordinator in the Southwest Region.

Volunteers Needed to Plant for Wildlife

Large wildfires have taken their toll on southwest Idaho big game winter range during the past two years, and now mule deer and elk herds need a helping hand.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is looking for volunteers to help rehabilitate hundreds of acres of winter range and speed up native plant recovery.

The planting effort begins on Saturday, March 3, and continues for three subsequent Saturdays, ending March 24. Planting sites include part of Squaw Butte north of Emmett that burned last summer, and parts of the Boise River Wildlife Management Area that burned during the 2005 Homestead Fire.

Volunteers have planted hundreds of thousands of seedlings during the past 16 years to restore native bitterbrush and sagebrush habitats in Southwest Idaho. In the process, they've saved the agency hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"Volunteers make habitat restoration possible by providing the workforce to plant," Fish and Game volunteer coordinator Mary Dudley said. "Lucky Peak Nursery propagates bitterbrush and sagebrush seedlings from seed that volunteers help us collect each year as well."

Bitterbrush and sagebrush-both are native shrubs-comprise an important component of big game winter ranges in Idaho and throughout the west. Besides being essential food sources for deer, elk and other wildlife, bitterbrush and sagebrush provide nesting habitat and cover from the elements and predators.

Even large animals, such as deer and elk, find shelter among mature stands of bitterbrush and sagebrush during winter storms. The animals hunker down under the shrubs, out of the wind and snow, to conserve precious body fat that they need to survive the lean winter months.

Because of their deep-rooted structure native shrubs stabilize soil, reducing erosion.

For information about the planting project, or about other volunteer opportunities with Fish and Game, call 208-327-7095 or 208-327-7099.

Annual Trip Auction

Anyone searching for some breathtaking nature experiences, awe-inspiring vistas and views, and heart-pounding excitement will want to bid on the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation's 2007 Online Trip Auction.

This year, the foundation's trip auction features 22 outdoor experiences, from jet boating and river rafting to bird watching, wolf watching, sturgeon fishing and Snow-Peak Mountain backpacking.

Bidding starts at 8 a.m., March 11, and ends at 7 p.m. March 23. Full trip descriptions and step-by-step instructions are available at the link at the bottom of the page at www.ifwf.org.

The 17th annual trip auction is the foundation's largest fundraiser with the money raised going to benefit Idaho's wildlife heritage. Proceeds from last year's auction helped hunter education programs and shooting ranges.

This event, co-sponsored by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, attracts hunters and anglers as well as hikers and wildlife watchers.

Here's just a taste of what is up for bid this year:

A backcountry trip takes you to see wild horses and wildlife of the Challis BLM Wild Horse Herd Management Area. The winner will spend the day viewing wild horses, elk, antelope, golden eagles, and other wildlife in their natural settings, surrounded by the incredibly beautiful backdrop views and photo opportunities of the Boulder-White Cloud, Lost River and Salmon River Mountain Ranges.

If fishing is more your style, how about a full-day's wilderness fly fishing adventure on Moose Creek in the Selway Wilderness Area? This incredible trip for two includes an airplane flight into Coeur d'Alene, a day of fly fishing, lunch, and two nights lodging in Coeur d'Alene.

Hearings on Wolf Delisting Set

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has scheduled a series of public meetings and hearings on its proposal to remove the gray wolf in Idaho and the Northern Rocky Mountains from the Endangered Species List.

A public information meeting will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 6, at the Boise Convention Center on the Grove in Boise. Presentations on the proposed rule will be given at 3 and 4 p.m., followed by discussion and questions.

The information meeting will be followed by a public hearing from 6 to 8 p.m. to take formal oral testimony.

Similar public informational meetings and hearings also will be at these locations:

¥ February 27, at the Holiday Inn Cheyenne, Cheyenne, Wyo.

¥ February 28, at the Plaza Hotel, Salt Lake City.

¥ March 1, at the Jorgenson's Inn & Suites, Helena, Mont.

¥ March 7, at the Pendleton Red Lion Inn, Pendleton, Ore.

¥ March 8, at the Oxford Inns and Suites, Spokane Valley, Wash.

The publication of the proposal in the Federal Register also opened a 60-day public comment period, which ends at close of business April 9. Written comments and materials may be submitted at the hearing, sent by e-mail to WesternGrayWolf@fws.gov; or hand-delivered or mailed to U.S.FWS, Wolf Delisting, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, MT 59601.

Ask Fish and Game: Archery Rules

Q. With all the talk about muzzleloader rules, what about changes in archery regulations? Do any of the new rules apply to crossbows?

A. Yes, one new rule does apply to crossbows. Earlier this year the Idaho Fish and Game Commission changed the rules for muzzleloader weapons and archery. The new regulations allow up to 85 percent let-off for compound bows, arrow and bolt weights down to 300 grains and increase minimum arrow length to 24 inches from 12 inches. The new let-off and arrow-length rules don't apply to crossbows.

Egin-Hamer Area Still Closed to Protect Wintering Wildlife

Increased human activity in an area closed to protect wintering big game herds has led land and wildlife managers to step up education and enforcement efforts near Rexburg and St. Anthony.

At a recent meeting between Bureau of Land Management, Idaho Department of Lands and law enforcement officers, Idaho Department of Fish and Game staff members reported a lot of people moving into the public lands north and east of the St. Anthony Sand Dunes, an area normally closed to people until May 1.

Some of the activity is attributed to Brigham Young University-Idaho students looking for the Civil Defense Caves or other popular hangouts, but who may not be familiar with the closure, now in its ninth year. Other incursions into the area come from local folks who ignore it, either through ignorance or apathy.

"The wildlife are headed into the most critical time of the season in the next two months," said Josh Rydalch, habitat biologist in charge of Sand Creek Wildlife Management Area. "Between now and the first of spring, deer, elk and moose have all but used up their fat reserves, and they are especially susceptible to disturbances."

These disturbances include ATVs, snowmobiles or other traffic on primitive roads and trails, and hikers or horseback riders off the main roads. Disturbing the big game this late in the winter season can lead to widespread disease and starvation.

Fremont County Sheriff's deputies attending the meeting have also noticed a sharp increase this year in traffic off of the Egin-Hamer Road and the Red Road into the closed areas. When they catch offenders, the fines in Fremont County Court can easily be $200 per violation.

Ask the Conservation Officer (CO)

by Gary Hompland, Regional Conservation Officer

Question: "I see in the regulations hunters and trappers are required to have their game checked by a Fish and Game officer or at a regional office. What species does this regulation apply to and why must they be checked?"

Answer: Being "checked" by a Fish and Game officer or at a regional office involves different things for different species.

All trophy species (big horn sheep, mountain goats, and moose) as well as mountain lions, and black bears harvested during a hunting season are required to be presented to a conservation officer or a regional office to be "checked" within 10 days of the harvest. After a Department employee completes a harvest report, the hunter will be presented with a copy of the report to show they have complied with the reporting requirements.

When the animals are checked, biologists use hunter-harvested animals to gather biological information about wildlife populations. In addition to general knowledge about how many animals are harvested, they ask lots questions about the hunter's experience, how many animals were observed, the area the animal was harvested from, and they often take antler or horn measurements. They also gather information about sex, age, and individual animal condition. Over the course of the season or several seasons, biologists use this information to determine if harvest strategies are meeting population management goals.

A tooth may also be removed from the jaw to be used in determining the age of the animal. Additionally, all mountain lion and black bear pelts must have a metal pelt tag attached. The horns of big horn sheep must be "pinned" by drilling and inserting a small metal pin with a number on it as a permanent marker of a lawfully harvested sheep.