Press Release

December 2007

Ask the Conservation Officer (CO)

by Gary Hompland, Regional Conservation Officer

Question: "I heard about a couple of situations where the Fish and Game Department issued citations to folks for having snakes. As a youngster growing up in Idaho, I always had snakes and reptiles as pets. Have the laws changed?

Answer: Yes, like everything else the laws have changed to reflect current conditions.

Idaho's human population is expanding into desert habits throughout southern Idaho. New subdivisions and shopping areas are eliminating or altering many of the areas that used to support thriving populations of native reptiles and amphibians. As an important environmental component in the circle of life, the loss of these species may sometimes be reflected in population explosions of some insects or rodents.

Many farmers rely on reptiles and other predators to help control rodent and insect populations that reduce forage and crop yields. Unfortunately many of the reptile wintering areas called "hibernaculas", or snake dens, where snakes congregate during the fall to survive the winter are being methodically destroyed by short-sighted humans.

Some scientists suggest amphibian populations are like the "canary in the mines" used to monitor poisons in our environment. When the amphibian populations decline, some scientists say we should begin to carefully examine our environment for our own health. When was the last time you saw a leopard frog in a marsh?

Native and exotic reptiles and amphibians are in high demand in the pet trade. Venomous reptiles are also highly sought after in the illegal drug trade and used as "watch dogs" to protect drug caches. Commercial collecting of reptiles is on the increase in Idaho.

Many cities and counties have adopted dangerous animal ordinances requiring permitting and inspection of facilities to protect its citizens from dangerous native and exotic animals.

Salmon Region Provides Ice Fishing Opportunities

By Tom Curet, Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Hey, folks - it's time to bundle up and get out on the ice for a day of fun; with the recent cold weather, conditions for ice fishing are improving daily.

Recent angler accounts from Jimmy Smith and Williams Lakes indicate fishing is very good. Fish in Jimmy Smith are averaging 11 to 12 inches with catch rates generally exceeding one fish per hour. That's considered pretty decent fishing.

Ice conditions at Jimmy Smith appear to be good, averaging more than 10 inches on the southeast side of the lake. Be aware, however, that ice conditions on other parts of the lake may not be as safe.

Anglers are encouraged to keep fish in Jimmy Smith as there is an over-abundance of rainbow trout, and harvesting these fish will help improve the overall condition of the fish population.

Jimmy Smith Lake, located within the East Fork of Salmon River drainage, is accessible by foot and ATV. Getting to the outlet of the lake is about a half-mile walk or ride from the trailhead on Big Lake Creek. Anglers should have success fishing with worms, corn, eggs, mealworms or PowerBait.

Reports indicate that ice fishing at Williams Lake is also good; but ice conditions are not yet entirely safe. Anglers are encouraged to keep their activities near shore and to have safety equipment on hand. Ice thickness is reported at only 4 to 5 inches in the near shore areas.

Gillnetting surveys conducted this fall in Williams Lake suggest that fishing should be good all winter. Catch rates in gill nets this past September were almost four times the average since 1992. Trout are suspended in the water column and favor PowerBait, worms or eggs.

As winter progresses, fish closer to the surface because oxygen levels in the lake tend to become depleted as spring approaches, thus confining fish to the upper portions of the lake. Move around if you are not finding fish and change bait often.

Fish and Game Commission to Meet in Boise

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission is expected to take up a proposed change to muzzleloader rules at its annual meeting January 16 - 18 in Boise.

The proposed change would allow the use of some inline weapons during muzzleloader-only seasons.

The annual meeting kicks off with a public comment period at 7 p.m. Wednesday, January 16 in the Trophy Room at Fish and Game headquarters, 600 S. Walnut St., Boise.

Commissioners are expected to consider nonbiological rules for all big game animals, September seasons for goose and sandhill crane; rules for wild turkey; rules for doves, upland game and animals, falconry and furbearers.

Individuals with disabilities may request meeting accommodations by contacting the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at 208-334-5159 or through the Idaho Relay Service at 1-800-377-2529 (TDD).

State Wildlife Grants Program Applications Due

Applications for State Wildlife Grant program funds for spring 2008 projects will be accepted until February 15, 2008.

The purpose of the State Wildlife Grant program is to meet the needs of "at risk" wildlife species by focusing conservation efforts on these species and their habitats before the need develops to list them as threatened or endangered.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game's Nongame Wildlife Program provides State Wildlife Grant funds to all interested conservation organizations, colleges and universities, public and private individuals to support cooperative cost-share projects for the conservation of native fish and wildlife species designated as "Species of Greatest Conservation Need."

Fish and Game's goal with the competitive grants program is to fund well-designed projects that provide conservation benefits to Species of Greatest Conservation Need and priority habitats, and address conservation issues and implement recommended conservation actions outlined in the Idaho Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy.

For information on this program and how to apply, see the Fish and Game Website at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/wildlife/grants/.

Volunteers Break Fish and Game's Seed Collection Record

Volunteer sagebrush seed collectors for Idaho Fish and Game this year shattered a record set 15 years ago.

Nearly 1,000 volunteers collected more than 3,500 pounds of raw sagebrush seed during 18 outings in southwest Idaho and the Magic Valley, donating nearly 4,800 hours.

The previous record was set in 1992, the first year of the program, when 505 volunteers collected 2,300 pounds or raw sagebrush seed in response to the 257,000 acre Foothills Fire east of Boise that burned that summer.

In the Southwest Region, Fish and Game collected 3,320 pounds of raw sagebrush seed with the help from 759 volunteers on 11 outings up to December 15. This included volunteers from area high schools, an elementary school, Boy Scout troops, home-schoolers, sportsmen's groups, families, Fish and Game regional personnel, and even personnel from Mountain Home Air Force Base.

In the Magic Valley Region, Fish and Game collected more than 181 pounds of raw sagebrush seed with help from 225 volunteers on seven outings. Volunteers included three area high schools, Modern Woodsmen, Wood River Land Trust, and individuals and families.

Here is a breakdown of the final results:

November 13: Magic Valley Volunteers Hours Pounds of Seed

Wood River Land Trust 14 28 15

November 17: Southwest

MHAFB Outdoor Recreation- 9

Boy Scouts, three troops- 29

Haven Home School- 6

Individuals and families- 30

Subtotal: 74 510 327

November 19: Southwest

Mary McPherson Elementary- 30 95 5

November 26: Magic Valley

Twin Falls High Students- 65 97 35

November 28: Southwest

Capital High School- 37

Mountain Cove High School- 6

Borah High School- 25

Individuals- 2

Subtotal: 70 420 164

November 30: Magic Valley

Filer High Students- 32 80 35

Ask Fish and Game: Roadkill

Q. If I hit a deer while driving, what's the proper thing to do? Can I keep it?

A. No, you can't keep it. It is not considered a legal method of take. But if you hit one and it is still alive, call the local Fish and Game office or sheriff. If it is dead, pulling it off the roadway is helpful but only if it is safe to do so. In most cases, the carcass of a deer killed by a vehicle is not suitable for human consumption. The number of roadkills is, sadly, so high in Idaho that no agency is able to deal with the aftermath of every incident.

Craig Mountain Gates Will Open

With snow accumulating, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) will begin opening access gates on the Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area south of Lewiston.

The gates will remain open until March 15, 2008 or until snow depths recede below 16 inches.

The area opens annually to snowmobiles November 26. This date was selected in cooperation with local snowmobile groups and hunters to allow snowmobile use of the area after hunting seasons have closed and big game animals have moved to lower elevations. The gates are designed to enhance wildlife security not to restrict snowmobile use.

Snowmobilers are urged to use caution. Because of the Chimney Complex wildfire, many trees are expected to fall the next few years and several new fences were constructed under powerlines and several other areas to restrict illegal off-road use. Salvage logging will also take place during the winter months so users are urged to be cautious of the increased traffic.

The Lewis and Clark Snowdrifters annually groom and remove obstacles on almost 200 miles of trails on Craig Mountain and surrounding area to enhance access and improve safety.

IDFG TO HOLD BREAKFAST MEETINGS IN ST MARIES AND ENAVILLE

Topics to include hunting season results and muzzleloader hunting equipment

The Idaho Fish and Game Department will hold breakfasts in St. Maries and Enaville in early January to share preliminary results of 2007 hunting seasons and begin discussions on 2008 hunting seasons.

The first of the no-host (buffet style) breakfasts is scheduled at the Enaville Resort on Saturday, January 5th at 7am. A second will be held the following Saturday in St. Maries at the Elks Lodge at 8am.

Additional topics to be discussed include potential changes to muzzle loader seasons, and recent changes to fishing regulations. Attendees are encouraged to ask questions and create discussion on any other fish and wildlife related topics.

Individuals with disabilities may request meeting accommodations by contacting Phil Cooper at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game directly at 208 769-1414; or, through the Idaho Relay Service at 1 800 377 2529 (TDD).

Fishing the Boise River in Winter

By Lance Hebdon - Idaho Fish and Game

After the snow and icy roads last week, there is no doubt that winter is here.

Yet despite colder weather and the appearance of Christmas lights, Treasure Valley residents have plenty of options for keeping cabin fever at bay with a close-to-home fishing trip to the Boise River. The year-round fishing season and proximity to Idaho's largest population center combine to make the Boise River a heavyweight among Idaho fisheries.

Recent surveys show that the humble Boise River in Ada County is in the top 20 fishing waters in the state with more than 50,000 angler trips each year. With the price of gas more than $3 per gallon, a fishing trip on the Boise River is a bargain compared to traveling to more distant waters.

Many of the folks fishing the river have learned that the Boise offers a diverse array of fishing without the long drive. With many easily accessible locations, there are plenty of places to throw out a line, relax in your chair, and watch the river roll by. But for those who like walking and wading, your efforts will be rewarded as the Boise River slowly reveals its secrets.

Wild rainbow and brown trout spend their entire lives in the Boise River, constituting the backbone of the Boise's fishery. In 2004, fishery managers estimated more than 1,000 wild trout, four inches or larger, per mile live in the Boise River. Occasional trophy fish show up in photos and in rumors being traded up and down the river.

Idaho Fish and Game hatchery personnel stock roughly 50,000 catchable rainbow trout annually to support harvest and increase catch rates at easily accessible locations. In fact, the Boise River is stocked with trout every month of the year except in the spring during high water events.

Hunting, Fishing Seasons Open During Holidays

There's still time to bag that Christmas goose, or maybe a nice holiday season steelhead.

For hunters and anglers itching to get out in the field or to wet a line during the holiday season, several opportunities are available.

The pheasant season in Areas 1 and 3 is open through December 31. The forest grouse season also is open statewide through December 31. Seasons for bobwhite and California quail in Area 2 are open through January 31, 2008. And chukar and grey partridge seasons are open statewide through January 31 as well.

For upland game hunters, the cottontail season is open through February 28, and snowshoe hares through March 31, 2008.

Waterfowl seasons are also open through the holidays - to January 18, in Area 1, northern and eastern Idaho; and to January 25 in Area 2, southwestern Idaho and Magic Valley.

Hunters 16 or older must buy a federal Migratory Waterfowl Stamp, available at Idaho Department of Fish and Game offices, local post offices and some vendors. The federal stamp is valid through the end of the seasons. Please consult the rules brochure for details and bag limits.

For anglers with time off during the holidays, the fall steelhead season remains open through December 31. The spring steelhead season starts January 1, but anglers will need a new steelhead permit and a 2008 fishing license.

Most rivers and streams are closed to other fishing, though some are open under winter fishing rules for certain species, such as whitefish and brook trout. Most lakes and reservoirs as well as ditches and canals are open year round. Some lakes and reservoirs already have enough ice for icefishing.

Consult rules brochures for exceptions and details.

And remember, anyone planning to go hunting or fishing on or after New Year's Day must have a 2008 license.

Egin-Hamer Area to Close January 1

For the 10th year, the Egin-Hamer Area closure places nearly 500 square miles of land off-limits to human entry to protect wintering deer, elk, and moose herds.

The closure begins January 1 and lasts through March on lands south of the Egin-Hamer Road and until April 30, north of it. The signs marking the northern portion are fluorescent orange, and the signs for the earlier opening southern portion are lime green colored.

Last year, the opening time was moved to sunrise on the first of April for the southern portion and sunrise on the first of May for the northern portion.

What started out as an idea by local county commissioners to reopen a popular farm to market road a decade ago continues to be a success not just for humans, but also for wintering wildlife. The lack of human disturbance has allowed herds of deer, elk, and moose to spend more time on the desert between St. Anthony and Dubois during crucial portions of the late winter and early spring.

The increased numbers of animals observed down on the desert later into the spring are a sign of the success of the project.

Of the dozens of closure violation contacts last winter, federal Bureau of Land Management law enforcement officials issued six citations. Penalties can range into the hundreds of dollars.

Individual landowner access to private lands is exempt from the closure. The St. Anthony Sand Dunes, from the Red Road to Thunder Mountain and adjacent to Egin Lakes access, also are exempt from the closure.

In the past few years, powered parachutes have been seen flying over the closure. The air space is not restricted, but pilots are cautioned to not harass the wintering, deer, elk and moose. Machines flying low enough to cause the wildlife to move away are flying too low. Student from BYU-I also are reminded that the Civil Defense lava caves are within the closure area boundaries.

Ask the Conservation Officer (CO)

by Gary Hompland,

Regional Conservation Officer

Question: "I have read several articles in a couple of newspapers about the Department's meetings to discuss wolf management. I was unable to attend. What's the gist of the meetings?"

Answer: Sometimes our public open house meetings become a forum for special interest groups to grandstand their views. However, the intent of these meetings was to discuss strategies and methods for wolf management not to debate whether we should or shouldn't have wolves or whether we should or shouldn't allow harvest.

Those issues were settled long ago when the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service approved the Idaho Wolf Management Plan that was developed and adopted by the Idaho legislature. Idaho has a management plan. That plan says wolves are here to stay and wolves will be managed. The tools include hunting.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service intends to begin delisting wolves from the Endanger Species Act on February 29, 2008. After the record of decision is recorded in the Federal Register the process requires a 30 day public comment period. The Department has been informed several special interest groups intend to file a law suit to prevent delisting.

We are hopeful if this occurs the courts will allow the Idaho management plan to be implemented while the parties to the law suit argue their case in federal court.

The Department's open house meetings were designed to inform the public of our management approach to this point as well as gather ideas from Idaho citizens about how they want us to manage wolf populations and what strategies they favor.