Press Release

May 2008

Become an Idaho Master Naturalist

Do you enjoy nature and are interested in learning more? Do you enjoy outdoor recreation, bird watching, identifying plants and animals, and supporting conservation? Do you enjoy volunteering your time? If so, this program is for you.

Anyone who enjoys and appreciates Idaho's outdoors can be an Idaho Master Naturalist. Idaho Master Naturalists can volunteer at nature centers, provide programs for children, help biologists collect data, monitor wildlife, assist at parks and natural areas, or contribute to many other conservation efforts.

An Idaho Master Naturalist completes 40 hours of hands-on, experiential training about Idaho's ecology, plants, animals and natural systems. Idaho Master Naturalists will be trained in two tracks:

The Conservation Education Track prepares you to help nature center staff, teachers, agencies and nonprofit organizations teach children and adults about nature and why conservation is important. Activities could include giving nature walks or talks, staffing an agency booth, or organizing programs.

The Citizen Science Track prepares you to help biologists and researchers collect data and monitor plants and animals. Activities could include collecting water samples, monitoring bird nests, banding birds, inventorying plants, or restoration projects.

The Henry's Fork Chapter of the Idaho Master Naturalist Program is organizing classes in the Island Park area for the summer of 2008. Students would complete 40 hrs of combined classroom and field training. To be certified as a Master Naturalist, students would be required to complete an additional 40 hours of volunteer work for local conservation agencies.

Through the Idaho Master Naturalist Program you will participate and guide conservation efforts; join a statewide network of dedicated, trained volunteers who work toward conservation; further your education and interest in nature and have an opportunity to give back to your community.

Idaho's Chinook Salmon Forecast Scaled Back

Idaho fish managers have scaled back their estimates of the numbers of Chinook salmon expected to return this spring and summer, but they still expect enough fish to provide excellent fishing opportunities.

"We're still going to have a robust season," Idaho Fish and Game fisheries head Ed Schriever told Fish and Game Commissioners during their meeting May 22. "There's no reason to cut back seasons at this time."

Spring Chinook fisheries in Oregon and Washington were closed recently when fish did not show up in the numbers expected and anglers exceeded the take of wild salmon allowed under the Endangered Species Act.

Salmon returning to Idaho, though not as many as expected earlier this year, still are expected in numbers four to five times as many as last year, Schriever said.

Fishery managers expect more than 50,000 hatchery fish to pass Lower Granite Dam on their way back to Idaho waters. The preseason forecast had been for more than 83,000.

The commission approved Chinook seasons on the Upper Salmon and the South Fork Salmon rivers, in addition to seasons already open on parts of the Snake, Clearwater and Salmon rivers, and opening May 24 on the Lochsa River.

The Upper Salmon will be open from June 19 until August 2 or until further notice. The South Fork Salmon River will be open from June 25 until further notice.

The forecast number of fish available for nontribal sport fishing for the Snake River from Dug Bar to Hell's Canyon Dam was revised to 400-500 fish, down from about 1,000. The numbers for the Clearwater Drainage were revised to 4,000-5,000, down from about 8,200. And the lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers were revised to 4,200-4,600, from about 9,400.

About 2,300 Chinook are expected in the South Fork, and 400 to 500 are expected in the Upper Salmon River, to be available for nontribal recreational fishing.

Nesting Swans Delay Access to Some Sand Creek Ponds

The continued nesting success of trumpeter swans at the Sand Creek Wildlife Management Area in the Upper Snake Region will once again delay access to portions of the area until July 1.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has restricted fishing and public access to Ponds 4 and 2 in the main pond complex.

"Access is being restricted because the nesting swans are generally intolerant of disturbance by humans, especially with younger pairs or nests established in areas of low human activity," area manager Josh Rydalch said.

This is the 15th year that Fish and Game has closed these spots that are otherwise popular on the opening weekend of fishing season.

"Without the closures, the chances are good that human disturbance would cause the swans to abandon their nests, resulting in a loss of production for the year," Rydalch said.

Concern for successful nesting of trumpeter swans is great because the birds are a priority species under the "Species of Greatest Conservation Need" designation in Idaho. This listing means that they get as much protection as necessary to promote successful reproduction. Past closures have proven successful and have helped trumpeter swan population numbers rebound from their lowest point in a half century.

In 1996, Sand Creek Wildlife Management Area had three of the 12 active nests in the Upper Snake Region - the entire state of Idaho had only 21 - and produced eight of 31 cygnets hatched in the Upper Snake - only 51 hatched in the entire state that year.

For unknown reasons, however, only one of the eight cygnets survived to flight stage, which illustrates how delicate the process of trumpeter swan production is.

Ask Fish and Game: Controlled Hunt Refunds

Q. I checked online and see that I didn't draw my moose hunt. When will I get my refund?

A. All applicants in the moose, mountain goat and bighorn sheep controlled hunt drawings will get either a permit and tag or a refund check by mail no later than June 10. Those who used credit cards to apply will get credit to their cards by July 1. If you do not receive one of these by July 1, please call Idaho Fish and Game at 208-334-2592, or write to P.O. Box 25, Boise, ID 83707. To check whether your name was drawn, go to the Fish and Game Website at: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/apps/ch/msg.cfm.

Access, Wolf Season Highlight Breakfast Meeting

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will highlight improvements made to several popular access areas and provide an update to Idaho's wolf hunting season at the June 3 Sportsmen's Breakfast meeting in Lewiston.

The meeting will begin at 6:30 a.m. at the Idaho Fish and Game Office, 3316 16th Street.

Fish and Game staff will also discuss the spring Chinook season, hunter education program, significant enforcement cases, as well as other related activities.

The meeting is open to anyone interested in wildlife and is designed to stimulate informal discussion about local wildlife issues. Coffee and donuts will be provided.

Free Fishing Day Aims to Hook New Anglers

Saturday, June 7 is Idaho's Free Fishing Day and the Idaho Fish and Game's Lewiston office invites anglers, residents and nonresidents, to celebrate the day by fishing Idaho's waters without a license.

Fish and Game personnel and volunteers will be on hand to help first time anglers discover the joys of fishing at the following free events offered from 9 a.m. to noon in the Clearwater Region.

  • Mann Lake near Lewiston
  • Spring Valley Reservoir east of Troy
  • Fenn Pond, five miles from Lowell on Forest Service Road 223
  • Wilkin's Pond, on the prairie west of Grangeville
  • Karolyn's Pond near Elk City
  • Box Canyon Pond (also known as Long Gulch Pond) near Riggins
  • Deer Creek Reservoir near Headquarters

The Mann Lake and Spring Valley events will have several activity stations for kids that include casting and fishing contests, aquariums with live fish, Gyotaku fish printing, fish identification, and a cleaning and cooking demonstration.

Single-parent families are encouraged to attend and all children must be accompanied by an adult. A limited number of rods and reels will be available for loan, but participants are encouraged to bring their own equipment if possible. Prizes will also be given away while supplies last.

All other fishing regulations pertaining to limits, opening dates and tackle restrictions remain in effect.

Managing the Wolf (Op-Ed)

By Cal Groen, Director, Idaho Fish and Game

Without the support of hunters, anglers and other conservationists, there would be little wildlife in Idaho. Big game animals were mostly eliminated by the time a voter initiative established the Fish and Game Department in 1938.

Today we can hunt 10 species of big game; wolves will make it 11.

Idaho Fish and Game has long embraced the principles of the North American wildlife management model and has a long record of successful game management.

Wolves were all but eradicated from Idaho by the 1930s, and they were added to the endangered species list in 1974. Today, there are more than 700 wolves in Idaho, and they have been delisted to be managed by Fish and Game as a big game animal.

Idaho initially resisted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's effort to reintroduce wolves, even denying an importation permit for the reintroduction.

Public opinion polls of Idahoans showed no clear majority for or against reintroduction of wolves.

But in 2002, recognizing that it would rather have Idaho managing wolves, the Legislature passed a wolf management plan that laid the groundwork for Idaho Fish and Game to assume management of wolves once they were removed from federal protection.

Since then wolf numbers have continued to rise. Fish and Game took on the recovery effort and has applied its expertise in big game management to gray wolves. Biologists developed a wolf population management plan, adopted by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission in March.

The 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves set out in recovery documents are minimum numbers that avoid federal relisting. They are not a management goal.

Long Winter, Cold Spring Hard on Mule Deer Fawns

Most adult female mule deer being monitored by Idaho Fish and Game biologists survived, but less than one third of fawns survived.

Fish and Game biologists have been monitoring nearly 800 radio-collared mule deer through the winter of 2007-08. Of 263 mule deer fawns monitored, only 30 percent - 78 fawns - survived to May 15. Overall survival for the 528 adult females monitored was 90 percent.

That means mule deer numbers are expected to remain the same or drop slightly this fall, but yearling buck number will drop significantly in most of southern Idaho, which in turn means a lower buck harvest.

"That's not surprising, given the weather we've had," big game manager Brad Compton told Fish and Game commissioners during their meeting May 22. But with the good female survival, and expected good forage this summer, biologists expect mule deer numbers to rebound quickly, he said.

At 30 percent, statewide fawn survival tied 2005-06 as the poorest survival rate since Idaho began monitoring fawns in 1998-99. A dry summer, followed by deep snow and delayed spring greenup contributed to higher than normal April and May fawn mortality.

Fawn survival in most of Idaho was in the 20-30 percent range, but varied from a low of 8 percent in the Palisades area to a high of 70 percent in the Boise River population management unit.

Statewide adult female survival was in the low-normal range, except for the Weiser-McCall area where it was 84 percent and the Middle Fork area where it was 80 percent.

F&G Commission Adopts Wolf Hunting Rules

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission Thursday, May 22, adopted the first regulated hunting season on gray wolves in the state's history

The commission, during its May meeting, set a wolf population goal of 518 wolves, and adopted hunting seasons, limits and rules for the 2008 hunting season.

The season would be open from September 15 in the backcountry and from October 1 in all remaining areas and run through December 31. The commission would review results in November to consider extending the season if limits are not being met.

A hunter can kill one wolf with a valid 2008 hunting license and wolf tag.

"I think we made history today," Fish and Game Director Cal Groen said. "We must manage this species; they are well beyond recovered."

The wolf hunt rules are based on the Idaho Wolf Population Management Plan, approved by commissioners in an early March meeting. The gray wolf in the Northern Rocky Mountains was removed from the endangered species list in late March. The plan calls for managing wolves at a population level of between 2005-2007 levels (518-732) wolves for the first five years following delisting.

The estimated population at the end of 2007 was 732 wolves, with an estimated 20 to 30 percent annual growth rate. Adding this years expected pups, that number would be more than 1,000 wolves before hunting season would start.

Commissioners adopted a wolf population goal of the level from 2005, which was about 518 wolves.

Fish and Game rules call for a total statewide mortality limit, including harvest from the Nez Perce Tribe, of about 428 wolves in 2008, which includes all reported wolf kills - from natural causes, accidents, wolf predation control actions and hunter kills. If the limit is reached it would result in an estimated end-of-year population of fewer than 550 wolves.

Salmon Seasons Set on Upper Salmon and South Fork

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission Thursday, May 22, adopted Chinook salmon seasons on the Upper Salmon River and the South Fork Salmon River.

The Upper Salmon will be open from June 19 until August 2 or until further notice. Fishing will be open on the main Salmon River from the Highway 75 bridge - milepost 213.5 - about 10 miles west of Clayton - upstream to the posted boundary 100 yards downstream of the weir at Sawtooth Hatchery.

The South Fork Salmon River will be open from June 25 until further notice. The main South Fork Salmon River will be open from the U.S. Forest Service bridge on Forest Service Road 48 - East Fork South Fork Road/Lick Creek Road - that crosses just upstream from the confluence with the East Fork South Fork Salmon River - upstream about 33 river miles to a posted boundary about 100 yards downstream from the Idaho Fish and Game weir and trap.

Angler limits are two adult spring Chinook per day, six in possession. The statewide limit for adult Chinook is 40 for the season.

Only hatchery Chinook salmon with a clipped adipose fin - evidenced by a healed scar - may be kept. All Salmon with an intact adipose fin must be released immediately. Any salmon caught in a legal manner must be released or killed immediately after landing.

The rules have changed for jack Chinook salmon this year. A jack is any Chinook less than 24 inches long. Anglers may keep two adipose-fin-clipped jacks per day and have six in possession in addition to the adult Chinook daily and possession limits. But they don't have to record the jacks on their permit.

When the adult Chinook possession limit is reached, the angler must stop all fishing for salmon, including catch and-release and for jacks.

Anglers may use only barbless hooks no larger than five-eighths inch from the point to the shank. It is unlawful to take or fish for salmon by snagging.

Register Now for Hunter, Bow Education Courses

First time hunters in the Clearwater Region interested in pursuing game in Idaho this fall still have a few chances of getting into a mandatory course before the seasons begin.

"There are a few seats still available in courses offered this summer," said James Reed, hunter education coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. "Don't wait; our volunteer instructors only teach a limited number of courses."

Courses offered in the area include:

- Lewiston: Hunter course, June 3-7. Bow course, July 26 and 27.

- Moscow: Archery course, June 21 and 22. Contact Ralph Keeney at 883-1575 for information.

- Grangeville: Archery course, May 31 and June 1. Clearwater: Hunter course, May 23-25.

Students can view a list of scheduled courses and register online at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/education/hunter_ed or visit Fish and Game's regional office.

Anyone born after January 1, 1975, is required to complete a hunter education course if they want to hunt in Idaho. Beginning hunters planning to hunt this fall should register for a course prior to June 30. After that date, the number of courses offered is very limited due to volunteer instructor availability.

Salmon ÔFur Sale' Brings Out Bidders

Interested buyers for the annual Idaho Fish and Game auction, known as the "Fur Sale," started showing up at the regional office in Salmon before 8 a.m. on the first Saturday in May.

About 60 people gathered to drink coffee, talk and look over sale items before the bidding that started two hours later.

"Folks were surprised at the high prices that were paid for lions, wolves, and otters," said Dave Silcock, regional conservation officer in charge of the sale.

Fish and Game holds the auction in a different region of the state every spring. Most of the items up for auction are furs and hides that have been found, confiscated or seized by an Idaho court during the previous year.

The first items auctioned were fishing poles, camp stoves, and other small items. Auctioneer Ron Andersen from Pocatello moved through some of the more common offerings, such as antlers and otters, leaving the more sought after items to the end.

A bighorn sheep hide and a full body mountain lion brought in the highest bids at $800 and $750. One large black bear sold for $400.

The auction ended with the first wolves to be auctioned off in Idaho. Both wolves were killed in vehicle collisions, one from the Clearwater Region and the other near Challis. The first wolf was small and the hide was in poor condition; it sold for $80. It took a $400 bid to buy a large, adult gray male wolf in prime condition.

When the bidding stopped at noon, bidders had paid out $14,238. Money from the sale supports Idaho Fish and Game programs.

"The logistics of bringing everything together in one place from the entire state required a lot of time, expense and effort," Silcock said. "And the sale went better than the accumulation of all the parts."