Press Release

February 2007

Craig Mountain Open Houses Planned

Idaho Fish and Game wants to hear from the public concerning 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.

The open houses run from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. February 26 and 27. Fish and Game personnel will be on hand to answer questions and take public comments at the Fish and Game Lewiston office, 3316 16th Street. The open house format allows visitors to attend anytime during the session.

Information will be provided on:

- Potential management options of the newly acquired 2,862-acre Redbird Canyon property south of Lewiston.

-A forest management plan that includes timber sales, monitoring and wildlife habitat improvements for 27,000 acres of forest.

- A proposed land trade with the Idaho Department of Lands to simplify boundaries and to increase the effectiveness of land management.

- Results of the October 2006 Madden Creek prescribed fire to reduce risk of extreme wildfire and to improve wildlife habitat.

For information on the Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area, visit Fish and Game's Website at: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/wildlife/wma/craig, or call 208-799-5010.

Comments Sought on Big Game Season Changes

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has developed a series of proposed changes for big game hunting seasons across the state.

In addition to soliciting public comments on those changes via the Fish and Game Website, each of the department's seven regions will be conducting public meetings. The times, dates and locations are listed below.

Comments will be kept confidential and relayed directly to the appropriate regional wildlife manager. The department's recommendations will be developed in early March based on public comments received, final review of 2006 harvest estimates, and population surveys.

Department recommendations will then be submitted to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, which meets in Boise March 7 through 9 to set the 2007 hunting seasons for mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, pronghorn, black bear and mountain lion.

Proposed season changes for each of the seven regions are available on Fish and Game's website at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/hunt/misc/bgProp/.

Public meeting schedule:

Clearwater Region:

All meetings from 5 to 7 p.m.

  • Wednesday, February 21, VFW Hall, 330 Michigan Ave., Orofino.
  • Thursday, February 22, Senior Center, Highway 3 County Road, Grangeville.
  • Wednesday, February 28, Fairground Exhibit Bldg., 1021 Harold, Moscow.
  • Thursday, March 1, Fish and Game Regional Office, 3316 16th St., Lewiston.

Contact the Clearwater Region at 208-799-5010.

Magic Valley Region:

All meetings from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Commission to Set Big Game Seasons

Big game hunters may want to head to Boise the second week of March when the Idaho Fish and Game Commission is scheduled to set big game seasons.

The Boise meeting, March 7-9, will be at Fish and Game headquarters, 600 S. Walnut. Commissioners are expected to set seasons for deer, elk, antelope, black bear and mountain lion. They also will get a legislative update and provide budget direction for the 2009 fiscal year.

The three-day meeting kicks off with a public comment period at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 7, in the Trophy Room at Fish and Game headquarters.

Commissioners get down to work Thursday morning, March 8, with a number of housekeeping items. About 10 a.m., they'll tackle the outfitter controlled tag allocation issue, followed by proposed changes to big game seasons and rules.

In the afternoon, commissioners will cover budget issues and hear an update on the new license system.

They will take up again at 8 a.m. Friday, March 9. The first item they'll tackle will be the proposed Yellowstone cutthroat trout management plan, followed by action on the proposed 2007-2012 Fish Management Plan for the state.

Commissioners expect to take up changes to commercial fishing rules just before 9 a.m. After 9, they will consider the department's lands project to protect and improve wildlife and fish habitat.

They will wind up the meeting with an update on wolf management.

(Times on the agenda are approximate and subject to change.)

Five Conservation Officers Join Fish and Game

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game welcomes five new conservation officers:

- James Pagel is from Wisconsin, but he has spent the past 20 years in the Alaskan bush as an Alaskan Game Trooper and pilot. Pagel will become the Cottonwood conservation officer.

- Paul Christensen is a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota's conservation aviation program. Grounded in the principles of wildlife management, this program has an aviation emphasis. Christensen, another pilot, will be moving to Riggins and trading his aviation skills for whitewater navigation.

- Meghan Roos is a native of Challis and fulfilling a life long goal to become an Idaho conservation officer. A recent graduate of Oregon State University's wildlife program, she will be assuming the Buhl conservation officer patrol area.

- Josh Koontz is a graduate of Humboldt State University's wildlife program. Originally from northern California, Koontz enjoys fly fishing and can't wait to assume the Mack's Inn-Ashton patrol area.

- Tony Imthurn was raised in Lewiston and is eager to assume his new role as the St. Anthony conservation officer. Imthurn is no stranger to Fish and Game and has spent a couple of seasons working on the Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area.

Deer Poacher Busted

In early November 2005, Idaho residents lost a special part of their hunting heritage.

A trophy seven-by-seven mule deer buck had been poached. Only the head and antlers were taken with the body left to waste. Idaho Department of Fish and Game officers heard about it from a concerned individual.

On November 5, 2005, the reporting individual found a headless deer in the Morgan Creek drainage near Challis. Local conservation officer Mark Armbruster investigated the scene. He identified the deer as a large mule deer buck, and he determined the carcass was only a day or two old.

With the season ending on October 31, that meant the deer probably had been killed after the season had ended. At the time of the investigation, however, Armbruster was not able to develop any leads.

About a month later on December 1, Armbruster observed a video clip on a business Website operated by Aly Bruner and Rainbows End Bed and Breakfast. He recognized the geography and kill site he had investigated a month earlier.

Armbruster returned to the crime scene to match photos he had taken and photos from Bruner's Website. Now he had his first lead.

At this time Armbruster was working with other Fish and Game investigators who retrieved DNA evidence from a deer that Bruner claimed he had killed during the 2005 fall hunting season. This DNA evidence and DNA evidence Armbruster collected at the crime scene were sent for analysis to Karen Rudolph at the Idaho Fish and Game Wildlife Health Lab.

Her analysis showed the two DNA samples were from the same animal. The headless deer carcass and the deer head at Aly Bruner's matched.

On December 10, 2005, Fish and Game officers and Custer County deputies served a search warrant at Bruner's residence. They seized the deer head, video and photographic evidence that eventually led to a conviction.

Fish and Game Launches Aerial Surveys

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game's Magic Valley Region has started surveys to estimate the number of elk on the west side of the Wood River Valley and in the Smoky Mountains.

The surveys likely will continue through the end of February. Residents may see a helicopter flying low for short periods of time near groups of elk.

These flights help biologists get an accurate count of the number of animals in each group as well as to differentiate males, females and calves.

The data from these surveys will be used to gauge the status and trend of the area's elk herd, and to help assess potential changes to hunting permits and seasons.

For more information, call 208-324-4359.

Sign up Now for Magic Valley Access Yes! Pilot Program

Landowners in the Magic Valley Region who are interested in letting hunters or anglers on their private land can get more than money this year.

New for 2007, landowners interested in sharing access can get help with repairing a section of fence, a special habitat project or get big game controlled hunt tags, or they can get paid.

"The new Access Yes! pilot program is going to be a lot more user friendly," said Steve Elam, Idaho Fish and Game staff biologist. "In the past we have always been limited by the amount of money available; now we have several options so we can customize a program for nearly any landowner and hopefully be able to acquire more access to private lands."

The new program allows various forms of compensation to private landowners in exchange for hunter, angler and trapper access to and through their private lands. Landowners can choose from direct monetary payments, habitat improvement projects, access development projects, limited nontransferable controlled hunt tags within the Magic Valley Region, or Fish and Game personnel patrolling the landowner's property.

"The Access Yes! Program has been a great success in the Magic Valley Region," Elam said. "Last year we had 38 landowners enroll 184,000 private acres. We continue to receive very positive comments from landowners, hunters and anglers about the program."

In many ways the program remains the same. Landowners can set access restrictions and name their price for the type of access they will allow on their deeded lands through a bidding process.

A local five-member committee reviews the bids and advises the department which ones should be accepted for funding. Idaho Fish and Game coordinators then determine which of the properties will best serve the hunters and anglers.

Selected properties are required to have Access Yes! signage, and will be listed on the Internet with maps and access restrictions.

Upper Snake Fishing Report Available

The Upper Snake Region has released its second fisheries report summarizing the past year.

The report includes stories about fishing and fishery management in Henrys Lake and the South Fork of the Snake River and other parts of the Upper Snake Regions.

It includes updates on mountain whitefish in the Big Lost River drainage, and on the stocking program in mountain lakes in that drainage. There's a piece about radio-tagging 30 fish to help biologists understand seasonal movements and habitat use in Henrys Lake.

The report also includes a good news-bad news story on an increase in cutthroat as well as rainbow trout in the South Fork of the Snake River.

The second annual report can be found on the Upper Snake Region's information page from the Fishing page on the Fish and Game Website: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/fish/reports/upper_snake.cfm.

Ask Fish and Game - Fiber Optic Sights

Q. With the new muzzleloader rules, are fiber optic sights legal?

A. In short, yes. Fiber optic sights are legal as long as they are not electronic or battery powered. They are permissible if they use only natural light. They gather and amplify natural light to make otherwise open front and rear sights more visible.

Great Backyard Bird Count Set for February 16-19

Need a cure for the midwinter doldrums that is fun, easy and free and helps bird conservation?

From February 16 through 19, the 10th annual Great Backyard Bird Count will give people of all ages and all levels of experience a chance to discover birds in their neighborhood and "Count for the Record."

The four-day count, sponsored by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, aims to get a real-time "snapshot" of bird distribution and abundance across the U.S. and Canada during winter.

Participants can join the count wherever they are-at home watching a bird feeder, on a walk, while fishing or otherwise enjoying the outdoors. Simply count the highest number of each species seen during an outing or a sitting, and enter the tally on the Great Backyard Bird Count website at www.birdsource.org/gbbc.

The website keeps a real-time record of what birds are recorded by species and location, and includes photo galleries and information on identifying bird species.

In 2006, about 60,000 participants reported 7.5 million individual birds representing a record-breaking 623 species. Results help scientists track changes in bird populations and ecological changes that may otherwise go unnoticed. For instance, last year's count revealed a stunning invasion of snowy owls in the Pacific Northwest, the migratory pathways for sandhill cranes, the devastating effect of West Nile virus on the American crow, and the rapid range expansion of the Eurasian collared dove, an exotic species.

Bird count participants will find that advancing the cause of science can also be a lot of fun.

"The count has great scientific value, but it's also about enjoying the outdoors with family and friends," says Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologist Beth Waterbury. "Bird watching is simply an uplifting, enlightening activity no matter your age or skill level."

Ask the Conservation Officer (CO)

by Gary Hompland, Regional Conservation Officer

Question: "I understand there are several new commission rules that have changed allowable equipment for big game hunting. Can you explain some of the new rules?"

Answer: The commission did change several of the rules allowing some hunters more liberalized opportunity while restricting others.

I'll briefly discuss a few of the changes.

For bowhunters, the commission increased the percent let-off that is legal for compound bows used for big game hunting. Previously hunting bows were restricted to 65 percent or less let-off. The new rule allows up to 85

percent let-off.

Following a presentation by some equipment manufacturers, the commission decided to allow scopes on big game hunting rifles to contain lighted reticles. The previous rule prohibited any electronic device.

The commission clarified the muzzleloading rules. Sportsmen hunting big game in muzzleloader-only hunts can now only use muzzleloaders with external pivoting hammers. This rule would make many in-line muzzleloaders unlawful in muzzleloader only big game hunts. In-line muzzleloaders are still lawful in short-range weapons and any weapons hunting seasons.

For more details on the upcoming commission rule changes consult the 2007 big game hunting rules brochure on-line or in hard copy available in May 2007. You can also contact your nearest regional office or attend upcoming big game season scoping meetings that will be held,

¥ February 20th, Hailey Community Campus, Rooms 201 & 202, 1050 Fox Acres Road.

¥ February 21st, Magic Valley Regional Office, 319 South 417 East, Highway Business Park, 2.5 miles north of the Flying J.

¥ February 22nd, Burley City Hall, 2020 Park Avenue.

All meetings are open to the public and will go from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Wolf Delisting Rule Available

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's proposal to designate and remove northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves from the endangered species list was 1 in the Federal Register Thursday, February 8, and is available at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/wildlife/wolves/.

Publication of the proposed rule started a 60-day comment period on the proposed delisting. A public information meeting will start at 3 p.m. March 6 at the Boise Convention Center on the Grove, 850 W. Front St. Information presentations will be at 3 and 4 p.m., and public testimony will be taken from 6 to 8 p.m.

A similar hearing will be on March 8 at the Oxford Inns & Suites, 15015 East Indiana Avenue, Spokane Valley, Wash.

Written comments on the proposed delisting may be sent electronically to NRMGraywolf@fws.gov; or they can be hand-delivered or mailed to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wolf Delisting, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, Mont. 59601 by April 9.