Press Release

March 2010

Fish and Game Officer Arrested

Joint Release

Montpelier Police Department

Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Contact: Chief Greg Butler

534 Washington Street

Montpelier, ID 83254

Wk: 208-847-4237

Fx: 208-847-1346

Contact: Jon Heggen - Enforcement Chief, Idaho Fish and Game 208-287-2763

Mike Keckler - Communications Chief, Idaho Fish and Game 208-287-2870

An Idaho Fish and Game conservation officer was arrested in Franklin County Monday evening.

Joel Gunnell, 36, of Montpelier, was arrested by Franklin County and Idaho Fish and Game officers on a felony warrant charging him with rape. He is in custody of the Montpelier Police Department, which is conducting an investigation.

Gunnell has been placed on administrative leave. He has worked for Fish and Game since 1998 and has been a conservation officer since 2002.

"We take this matter very seriously," Idaho Fish and Game Director Cal Groen said. "We hold our officers and all employees to the highest standards, and we will cooperate fully with local authorities."

Montpelier Police Chief Greg Butler confirmed that his agency is investigating Gunnell and has filed one count of rape and one count of sexual battery of a 17 year old against Gunnell. Chief Butler said Gunnell has been booked in the Caribou County jail and will likely be arraigned on the charges today.

No further details are available at this time.

Idaho's First Wolf Hunt Wraps Up

At the end of the day Wednesday, March 31, Idaho's first regulated wolf season closes statewide.

The season already has closed in seven of 12 wolf zones, and as of March 29, hunters have taken 185 wolves. The harvest limit is 220.

"The season has succeeded in halting the growth of Idaho's wolf population," Fish and Game Director Cal Groen said. "It showed that Fish and Game is capable of monitoring and managing a well-regulated wolf hunt."

The hunt also showed that fears of wholesale slaughter of wolves were unfounded, Groen said. Hunters exhibited good compliance with the rules and with check-in and call-in requirements.

Idaho Fish and Game set wolf harvest limits for each of 12 management zones. The season closes in each zone when the limit for that zone is reached, or when the statewide limit of 220 wolves is reached.

Idaho Fish and Game sold 26,428 wolf tags in 2009 - 25,744 resident and 684 nonresident tags.

Harvested wolves ranged in size from 54 to 127 pounds - males averaged 100 pounds, and females averaged 79 pounds. Of the wolves taken, 58 percent were male, and 15 percent were juveniles less than one year old.

About 86 percent of the wolves harvested were taken by resident hunters. Twelve of the wolves checked in were wearing radio collars.

Most wolves were shot in October and the fewest in January. Two wolves were taken in the Southern Idaho zone, and 49 were taken in the Sawtooth zone.

At the end of 2009, Idaho had a minimum of 843 wolves in 94 packs, and 49 packs are considered breeding pairs. The average pack size was 7.8 wolves. A total of 142 wolves are radio-collared.

In addition to hunter harvest, 138 wolves were killed in livestock depredation control actions and from other causes.

Fish and Game Sets Big Game Measuring Day

Friday, April 9, is Big Game Scoring Day at the southeast regional office of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Measuring for Boone & Crockett, for rifle and pistol hunters; Pope & Young for archery hunters; and Longhunter's Society for muzzleloader hunters will be conducted for entry into the big game record books at the office at 1345 Barton Road in Pocatello.

Interested hunters must bring antlers, horns and skulls to the regional office by 5 p.m. Thursday, April 8. Items being brought for measuring must be free of flesh and skin, and must have been air-dried for 60 days. Please note that air-drying is not the same as freezer storage.

"It is so exciting to see such great Idaho trophies come through the office doors for scoring. Each year brings its own surprises," said Jennifer Jackson, regional conservation educator for Fish and Game. "The service is free, so even if you are not sure your item is a record-worthy trophy, bring it by anyway. We will be happy to rough score it."

Information required at the time of drop-off includes:

  • Hunter name.
  • Date of harvest.
  • Location of harvest, including big game unit, county, and state.
  • Owner name, address, and telephone number.
  • Guide's name and address, if applicable.

All items must be picked up sometime between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday, April 12. For more information, please contact the Pocatello Fish and Game office at 208-232-4703.

Tax Check-off for Wildlife

As you sweat and swear your way through this year's tax forms, it might lift spirits a little to check the box for donating to Idaho's wildlife.

Taxpayers may check the square on their Idaho tax forms to donate any amount of their refund to nongame wildlife programs administered by Idaho Fish and Game.

Other Fish and Game programs aimed at game animals and fish are funded through the sale of licenses and tags to hunters and anglers. No general taxes go to either game or nongame programs.

Nongame programs include education, conservation and recreation. Examples of nongame wildlife projects include producing popular educational publications and doing research on nongame wildlife species. Better information about those species aids wildlife management efforts and could help keep some from becoming rare or endangered.

The number of Idaho residents participating in wildlife related activities, such as bird and wildlife watching, wildlife photography, bird feeding and conservation education, continues to rise. While this constituency continues to grow, the problem of how to fund the nongame program and meet ever-increasing demands continues.

More than 80 percent of Idaho's wild creatures-523 species including songbirds, water birds, raptors, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and threatened and endangered wildlife-are classified as "nongame wildlife."

Nongame wildlife is not normally hunted, fished or trapped, but is found in every corner of Idaho.

Besides the check-off, the major source of funding for nongame programs is through the sale of the distinctive bluebird, cutthroat trout and elk license plates.

Fish and Game Offers Bounty on Rainbow Trout

Since 1982 Idaho Fish and Game fisheries biologists have been monitoring the numbers of the different types of trout in the South Fork Snake River outside of Idaho Falls.

This monitoring has tracked the effects non-native rainbow trout are having on native Yellowstone cutthroat trout populations. Rainbow trout can interbreed with cutthroats and produce fertile offspring. The resulting generations of hybrids become more and more like rainbows, and less like cutthroats.

While a variety of efforts have yielded some success, 2009 counts showed a dramatic increase in the number of rainbows that were spawned in 2008, prompting the need for some serious action. Fish and Game hopes its South Fork Snake River Angler Incentive Program will increase the harvest of rainbow trout, reduce their numbers, and help to protect native Yellowstone cutthroat trout.

The goal of these management efforts is not to eradicate the non-native rainbow trout, but to reduce their numbers to what was seen on the South Fork in the 1980s and early 1990s. Monitoring in 2009 showed that, for the first time since 1982, rainbow trout outnumbered Yellowstone cutthroat in the South Fork Snake River.

The major focus area is the stretch of river below Palisades Dam down to Heise. This portion is important, because it includes the four main spawning tributaries used by Yellowstone cutthroat trout. More information will be forthcoming on the important work being done to protect these vital creeks.

Ongoing efforts to reduce negative impacts by removing size and bag limits for rainbow trout have been proven to work during normal years, but 2008 was not your typical year. The timing of the spring flows was such that it did not scour away rainbow spawning beds created in the main river channel.

Annual Report for 2009

The Idaho Fish and Game Director's Annual Report to the Commission is now available on the Idaho Fish and Game Website.

The report presents an overview of the agency's bureaus and a review of the agency, what it does, where the money came from and where it went in 2009.

It is intended as an accounting to the Commission and to the people of Idaho of current Fish and Game operations and finances. The report explains department functions, identifies contemporary issues, and lays out the associated staffing and finances.

This report is a summation of 2009; it doesn't include every agency activity. More detail on individual programs and initiatives is available through program leaders.

The report is at

Ask Fish and Game: Elk Controlled Hunt Application Period

Q. How soon can I apply for a controlled elk hunt?

A. The application period for elk controlled hunts, as well as controlled hunts for deer, pronghorn and fall black bear runs from May 1 through June 5. Hunters may apply for controlled hunts at any hunting and fishing license vendor, Fish and Game office; with a credit card by calling 1-800-55HUNT5 or 1-800-824-3729; or online at The application fee is $6.25 per person, $14.75 for nonresidents. An additional fee is charged for telephone and Internet applications. Hunters must have a 2010 Idaho hunting license to apply. Be sure to use the 2010 Big Game Seasons and Rules brochure when you apply. It will be available in mid-April.

Eastern Idaho Dry Bed Salvage Season Starts April 1

The start of April marks the beginning of a unique angling experience in eastern Idaho.

It marks the start of the special Dry Bed salvage season and the chance to head out towards Ririe and bag up some fish for dinner and the freezer. No fancy angling here, just plain old harvesting. Because of the specialized and terminal nature of the fishery, a unique subculture of fishermen has evolved --anglers who maximize the opportunities that this special salvage season has to offer.

The Dry Bed, which is also called the Big Feeder or Great Feeder Canal, is a side channel of the South Fork of the Snake River. Early settlers to the area built headgates and diversion structures on the waterway, but biologically it has continued to function as an aquatic habitat capable of supporting fish populations.

Fishing is allowed year round, but each year when routine maintenance work is required on the headgates, certain standing exceptions in Idaho Fish and Game fishing rules come into play. These special rules were created because a stretch of the canal is de-watered to allow repairs, and fish are stranded in deep pools or large puddles as water levels drop.

Fish and Game rules for the Dry Bed include the exception that from April 1 - 30 it is legal to also take fish using hands, dip nets or snagging. Use of seine nets, chemicals, firearms, explosives, or electric current remains prohibited. The stretch of the Dry Bed covered by these special exceptions runs from Highway 48 - between Lewisville and Menan, near the Idaho Fresh-Pak Inc. plant - upstream to the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge located 1.5 miles northeast of Ririe. Most access to the canal is across private land, and anglers should get permission ahead of time.

Southern Portion of Egin-Hamer Closure Set to Open on April 1

Though it has been a mild winter, natural resource managers at the Bureau of Land Management and Idaho Fish and Game are working to ensure that wintering big games herds remain protected as long as possible and urge outdoor recreationalists to honor existing closure dates as they relate to the Egin-Hamer closure and St. Anthony Sand Dunes.

The portion of the Egin-Hamer Closure Area south of the Egin-Hamer Road will open on schedule at sunrise April 1. The area north of the road surrounding the dunes remains closed until sunrise May 1. Maps of the closure are available at the regional Fish and Game and BLM offices in Idaho Falls. The closure is patrolled not only by law enforcement officers from BLM and Fish and Game, but also the Fremont County Sheriff's Department.

Fish and Game employees are allowed as part of their administrative duties to enter the closure to carry out enforcement activities and retrieve radio collars from deceased study animals. Survey crews under the direction of the BLM may also be observed entering the closure.

Both agencies are gearing up to have personnel on the ground for the April and May openings. The goal of the agencies will be to educate the public about the closure, but enforcement officers will be available to write citations for flagrant violators who harass animals or destroy habitat.

Fishing Rules Open House Meetings Set

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game plans meetings across the Magic Valley Region to discuss potential fishing rule changes.

It's all part of the process for setting the 2011-2012 fishing seasons and rules.

The meetings go from 5:30 to 8 p.m.:

  • April 20, Old Court House, 3rd floor, 206 1st Avenue South, Hailey.
  • April 21, Burley City Hall, 1401 Overland Avenue, Burley.
  • April 22, Magic Valley Regional Office, 319 South 417 East, Highway Business Park, 2.5 miles north of the Flying J, Jerome.

"One of the ideas that will be presented to the public is a draft version of a new, easier to use regulations format, with the goal of simplification in mind," said Doug Megargle, Fish and Game regional fisheries manager. "The biggest change, aside from the format itself, will be moving from the traditional rivers and streams general season of May to November to a new season of open all year using exceptions to protect sensitive fisheries."

After a first round of meetings to hear what the public has to say - generally referred to as scoping, Fish and Game will develop a set of proposals to present to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission. The commission will review the proposals and direct Fish and Game to seek comments on specific potential rule changes for final consideration in the fall.

"The scoping phase is a when we want to hear from anglers about angling issues and desired management changes, as well as share Fish and Game proposed changes," Megargle said. "The scoping process happens year-round, but we try to make it easy for folks to come talk to us at a public meeting during a rule change year."

Youth Turkey Season Opens April 8

Youth turkey season opens Thursday, April 8, a week before the regular season.

The youth turkey season runs from Thursday, April 8, through Wednesday, April 14, in game management units open to general season turkey hunting and open in controlled hunt areas to holders of a youth-only controlled hunt permit.

The general season opens Thursday, April 15.

A hunter must be 15 or younger on April 8 to participate in the youth hunt.

Youths aged 10 and 11 can buy a youth small game license and a turkey tag.

Please see the 2010 Spring Turkey Seasons and Rules brochure, available at Fish and Game offices and license vendors. Hunters must have a valid 2010 hunting license and a turkey tag.

F&G Commission Adopts Big Game Seasons

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has adopted big game seasons for 2010 with few changes.

New this year were caps on some elk tags, allowing youth hunters to hunt in both A and B tag elk hunts and easing black bear and mountain lion hunts in some units to include electronic calls and increased bag limits.

Commissioners adopted the new seasons as proposed, except they opted to drop senior hunts in units 31, 40 and 41. They agreed to review senior hunts.

A new Lolo zone A tag cap at 404 will result in a 6.5 percent reduction, and a B tag cap at 1,088 will result in a 14 percent reduction from the average annual sales.

In the second year of the phased-in Sawtooth zone caps, A tags went from 1342 in 2009 to 953 for 2010 and B tags were reduced from 2382 in 2009 to 1954 for 2010.

The Smoky Mountain zone A tag cap of 726 will result in a 10 percent reduction.

The Salmon zone B tag cap at 2,507 will mean a 19.8 percent reduction.

Elk population surveys show nine elk zones are above management objectives, 13 are meeting objectives and seven are below objectives.

Good mule deer survival this year will translate into more permits in some hunts. Nearly all adult females survived, and biologists expect fawn survival to be at least 70 percent. These are the best survival rates since close monitoring of survival began in 1998.

Commissioners approved a proposal to allow electronic calls to hunt black bears and mountain lions in the Lolo and Selway elk management zones. They also extended the mountain lion season to June 30 in the Lolo and Selway zones, and increased the bag limit to two lions in the Lolo zone.

Commissioners also approved changes to three pronghorn controlled hunts in the Magic Valley. Hunts in units 40, 41 and 42, in 45 and 52, and in 46 and 47 will be split into controlled hunts from August 15 through 30 and new unlimited controlled hunts added from September 10 through 24.