Press Release

February 2008

Fish and Game Commission to Consider Wolf Plan

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will consider a proposed Idaho Wolf Population Management Plan during its March meeting.

The Boise meeting, March 5, 6 and 7, will be at Fish and Game headquarters, 600 S. Walnut St. A public comment period is planned at 7 p.m. March 5 at the DoubleTree Riverside on Chinden Boulevard in Boise.

The wolf management plan covers how Fish and Game will monitor and manage wolves when they are removed from the endangered species list.

Fish and Game would use regulated harvest to help manage population pressures, provide harvest and viewing opportunity, and help reduce some conflicts with domestic livestock and big game herds.

Under the proposed plan, hunting would vary with the level of conflict and tolerance. In areas of high conflicts with livestock and big game the hunting level would be high; in areas of low or no conflict there would little or no hunting.

The goal of the plan is to manage for a self-sustaining, viable wolf population that provides for a diversity of values and uses. Any hunting seasons and limits would be set by the Fish and Game Commission after wolves have been delisting.

The plan is available on the Fish and Game Website at: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/wildlife/wolves/state/draft_plan/WolfPo....

Commissioners also are expected to set seasons for deer, elk, pronghorn, bear and mountain lion. They also will get a legislative update and provide budget direction for the 2010 fiscal year.

New Upland Rules Book to Include Turkeys

Turkey hunters looking for the new rules won't find them in a separate turkey rules book anymore; the turkey rules have been combined with upland game and furbearers.

Idaho Fish and Game officials decided that since turkeys are classified as upland game birds, combining the rules into one book would save time, effort and cost. The change also would promote turkey hunting opportunity to all upland game hunters. Hunters who only picked up the upland rules in the past may become interested in turkey hunting after reading about the turkey seasons in the new, all inclusive upland game rule book.

The new books will be available at license vendors and Fish and Game offices later this month.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission set 2008 and 2009 turkey rules and other upland game rules at its January 16-17 meeting. But because the turkey controlled hunt application period usually starts January 15 and runs through February 15, the application period was extended to February 25.

The commissioners approved changes to turkey, upland game and furbearer rules, including:

Emergency Winter Feeding

Idaho Fish and Game is preparing for emergency winter feeding of deer in the Boise County area.

Winter conditions have become extreme in the South Fork of the Payette River drainage from Banks to Lowman, and portions of the Boise River drainage.

In concurrence from the Regional Winter Feeding Advisory Committee, Southwest Region Supervisor Scott Reinecker has declared a winter feeding emergency for deer in the Boise County area. Fish and Game will commence with winter feeding activities.

A review of historic weather data shows that snow depths in Lowman, which typically average 21 inches, are 48 inches or more this winter. In Garden Valley, an area that averages 14 inches of snow for this time of year, levels exceed 36 inches.

Decisions for emergency winter feeding in this area are primarily driven by snow depth. The "need to feed deer" criteria in the Garden Valley area are 18 inches of snow on south facing slopes for five or more consecutive days. Some measuring sites in the Garden Valley and Lowman areas on south facing slopes have had 18 inches of snow or more since January 7.

Lower than normal temperatures and recurring snow storms have prevented snow depths from diminishing as they typically would.

The winter weather severity index also is considered during deliberations on winter feeding. This year compares to the index levels of past years when deer have been fed in the Garden Valley area. But the level was reached a month later than the average for the previous years when deer were fed.

Fish and Game in the Southeast Region also has authorized emergency winter feeding of mule deer in the Preston area, including Oxford Mountain and Cub River, and in the Bear Lake and Georgetown Canyon areas.

Idaho Needs Your Help Again

Last fall when Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter asked Idahoans to help restore sagebrush habitats that went up in smoke during the summer's wildfires, nearly a thousand people volunteered.

They collected 3,500 pounds of sagebrush seed for the Murphy Complex and Warm Springs Fires.

"The volunteer sagebrush seed collection effort was incredible," Otter said. "It makes me proud that Idahoans contributed hundreds of hours collecting more than a ton and a half of seed."

Now the governor is asking Idahoans to meet another challenge this spring.

"We need a thousand volunteers to help plant tens of thousands of bitterbrush and sagebrush seedlings to help restore burned native shrub habitats in southern Idaho," he said. "We simply cannot accomplish the work without volunteers who truly make a difference."

Why plant bitterbrush and sagebrush? The native shrubs comprise an important component of big game winter ranges in Idaho and throughout the West. They provide essential food sources for deer, elk, sage-grouse and other wildlife, and they provide cover from the elements and predators and nesting habitat.

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 provide soil stabilization and reduce erosion.

Planting schedule and contact information:

Southwest Region:

Dates: March 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 and April 5 and 12.

Call: 208-327-7095

Magic Valley Region:

Dates: Saturdays: March 29, and April 5, 12, 19 and 26.

Call: 208-324-4359

Dates may change with weather and access. Anyone interested call the Magic Valley office at 208-324-4359.

Super Hunt Tickets on Sale Now

It's time to apply for a chance at the hunt of a lifetime.

Entries in the first Super Hunt and Super Hunt Combo drawing must be received at the Fish and Game headquarters by May 31 with the drawing set for June 16.

So what's a Super Hunt?

It is a fund-raising drawing for 40 big game tags. The tags are handed out to winners in two drawings. Tickets are drawn for elk, deer, pronghorn and moose tags. Winners can participate in any open hunt in the state for deer, elk, pronghorn or moose. That includes general hunts and controlled hunts.

The first drawing on June 16 will be for eight elk, eight deer, and eight antelope hunts as well as one moose hunt; one "Super Hunt Combo" ticket also will be drawn that will entitle the winner to hunt for one each elk, deer, antelope, and moose.

A second drawing will be August 15 when another "Super Hunt Combo" and tickets for two elk, two deer, and two antelope hunts along with one moose hunt will be drawn. The entry period for the second drawing is June 2 through August 11.

Hunters can take an animal or animals on their Super Hunt or Super Hunt Combo tags in addition to any general season or controlled hunt tags they also hold.

All other rules of individual hunts apply.

The special drawings began in 2004 as a way to raise money for the Access Yes! program, which helps assure hunter and angler access to and across private lands by compensating willing landowners.

A single ticket is $6.25. Tickets are available at license vendors, all Fish and Game offices, or they can be ordered on the Internet at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/hunt/superhunt/, and on the phone at 800-824-3729 or 800-554-8685.

Fill out the tickets and mail them to: IDFG License Section, P.O. Box 25, Boise, ID 83707.

Bighorn Sheep Tag Auction Brings Record Bid

The winning bid in an annual auction for an Idaho Special Bighorn Sheep permit set a record this year.

Frank Miles of Cecil Lake, British Columbia, bid $65,000 for the tag in the auction Friday, February 8, at the annual convention of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep in Salt Lake City.

That's the most paid for an Idaho bighorn sheep permit that did not allow hunting in Hells Canyon.

The highly-valued Hells Canyon hunt is rotated each year between the auction tag sold at the national convention and the lottery tag sold by the sheep foundation's Idaho chapter.

The record for an auction tag is $180,000 in 2005 when a Hells Canyon permit was up for bid.

Idaho's auction tag is sold along with others from western states and Canadian provinces at the annual Foundation for North American Wild Sheep convention.

Two Idaho tags are approved each year by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission to raise money for bighorn programs.

The auction and lottery permits raise money for sheep research and management. Since their inception, these permits have raised nearly $2 million for bighorn sheep management.

The bids are "a clear example of hunters supporting bighorn sheep conservation and management," bighorn program manager Dale Toweill said. "This benefits all Idahoans, whether they hunt or not. These funds, raised by sportsmen, help ensure that Idaho's bighorn sheep prosper now and in the future."

Ask Fish and Game: Deer Patrols

Q. What is Fish and Game doing to help prevent the slaughter of deer on Highway 21?

A. Idaho Fish and Game conservation officers have teamed up with Ada County deputies and the Idaho State Troopers in an educational effort designed to reduce deer-auto collisions. Over the next couple of weeks, officers will be patrolling east Warm Spring Avenue from Barber Drive to U.S. Highway 21, and on Highway 21 from Warm Springs to Hill Top, stopping drivers in an effort to make them aware of the problem and get them to slow down. On these stretches of road, vehicle collisions kill an average of 200 to 300 deer annually, and many people are also injured as well. The effort will stress safety for humans as well as wildlife and will involve patrols over the next several weeks.

Ask the Conservation Officer (CO)

by Gary Hompland, Regional Conservation Officer

Question: "In last week's column you described several hunting and fishing opportunities available this time of year. You left out numerous shooting clubs and the shooting preserves. Does the Department maintain a list of those opportunities?"

Answer: I apologize to the dozen or so licensed shooting preserves and ranges in the Magic Valley for not including them in last week's column.

Shooting preserves are fee-hunting opportunities on private property to hunt pen-reared game birds. Shooting preserves are licensed by the Department and are required to maintain records of hunters and birds released. The shooting preserve hunting season runs from August 15 through April 15. A regular hunting license or a shooting preserve license is required for all hunters. To locate shooting preserves in your area a list of them can be found on the main hunting page of the Department's website under "Sporting Access."

Shooting is a perishable skill that requires good hand-eye coordination. There are several ranges available to the public to maintain good shooting fundamentals and have a great day afield without having to clean birds. The Department does not keep an all-inclusive list of the shooting ranges in the area, but I've included a few below.

The Jerome Rod & Gun Club, located north of Jerome, offers outdoor shooting opportunities like sporting clays, trap shooting, big bore rifle & pistol, and cowboy action shooting. The Twin Falls and Burley Gun Clubs also offer trap and skeet shooting. As the weather improves the Blaine County Gun Club has big bore rifle, pistol, trap, skeet and sporting clays shooting. For indoor shooting during cold weather, small bore rifle and pistol shooting is available at rifle and pistol clubs in Rupert, Twin Falls and Buhl.

Human Activity Can Harm Wintering Wildlife

Winter can be a tough time for wildlife.

Fortunately, Idaho's native big game animals are adapted to surviving the extreme winter conditions that occasionally occur in the Intermountain West. Some individual animals die even during the mildest winters. Extended harsh conditions mean greater losses.

Weather is one of those things that can't be controlled, but there are other factors humans can control that will have a direct effect on animal welfare and survival, both in the short and long run.

From a big picture perspective, how humans use the land will have the greatest long-term effect on wildlife. Habitat fragmentation by development of all sorts makes it more difficult for animals to get to the places they need to survive. From loss of areas suited for protection of new born animals to blockage of important migration routes, everything humans do has some sort of effect.

Fortunately, more people are becoming aware of these problems, and they are doing more to resolve large scale problems.

Idaho Fish and Game is working to help educate the public about some activities that are having a direct immediate negative effect on wintering big game herds. Reports are streaming in daily to the regional office in Idaho Falls about humans using snow machines to get too close to wintering animals, and about loose dogs chasing big game.

"People need to realize that these animals have only so much fat stored up to get through the winter," said Curtis Hendricks, a regional habitat biologist. "Letting dogs run free to chase the deer and elk can have a serious impact on survival."

Most people who try to get close to wildlife in the winter to view them have no idea of the harm they are inflicting.

"They assume because the animal doesn't run away immediately that their presence is no big deal," said Gregg Losinski, regional conservation educator.

Weather Becoming Critical For Big Game

When it comes to precipitation, it's often feast or famine.

Winter storms have brought much needed snow to recharge reservoirs and provide hope for next years irrigation needs. But things are starting to look tough for certain herds of deer and elk. As part of its annual monitoring program, the Winter Feeding Advisory Committee met Friday, February 1, via a telephone conference call to review animal and environmental conditions in Idaho Fish and Game's Upper Snake Region.

After much consideration, the committee unanimously recommended that Fish and Game begin preparation of feeding operations to address the needs of wildlife and the safety of humans in the region.

The recommendation by committee chairman Kent Marlor was not for wholesale winter feeding. The committee, along with Idaho Fish and Game biologists reviewed specific locations and the animal, human, and environmental factors associated with each. Fish and Game will set up a priority schedule to undertake a feeding operation, the likes of which have not been seen in this area for fifteen years.

"We are sensitive to all places in the region where animals are struggling with winter conditions, but due to logistics we can't address them all," said Steve Schmidt, Upper Snake regional supervisor. "That is why we have worked with the Winter Feeding Advisory Committee to come up with priorities."

Herd survival, human safety and disease transmission are the driving factors in selecting wildlife populations to be fed.

"While some fawns die every winter, more will certainly die this winter," regional wildlife manager Daryl Meints said. "That is unfortunate, but our number one priority is trying to insure the best survival possible for the mature females. They're the ones that will be able to bring back the herds after we get through the winter."

Ask Fish and Game: Using Two-Pole Permit for Ice Fishing

Q. Can I use a two-pole permit for ice fishing in Idaho?

A. It depends. In most of the state, there are no restrictions on the number of holes, but an angler can fish with up to five poles or lines at a time, and up to five hooks per line. A two-pole validation does not allow more than five lines while ice fishing. All lines must be attended by the angler. One exception is on Bear Lake, where a two-pole permit is required year around, for anglers to use two poles - even when ice fishing. Another exception is on Daniels, Springfield, Treasureton and Twenty-Four Mile trophy-trout reservoirs. On these catch-and-release waters only one rod is allowed for ice-fishing. Check fishing rules book for exceptions.