Press Release

March 2010

F&G Completes Elk Surveys, Wilderness Landings

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has completed aerial elk surveys in the Middle Fork Elk Management Zone; incidental to the surveys biologists radio-collared four wolves.

Biologists counted elk in game management units 26 and unit 27 to establish herd composition. Preliminary results show a low elk calf-to-cow ratio in unit 26.

During the elk survey flights, Fish and Game biologists encountered, darted and radio-collared four wolves from three different packs. Wolves were collared in Coxey, Marble and White creek drainages. The wolf collaring required 12 helicopter landings within the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

These operations were completed under a U.S. Forest Service special use permit that allowed limited helicopter landings within the wilderness area.

For questions or comments go to: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/inc/contact.cfm.

Fish and Game Plans Public Meetings on Fishing Rules

Idaho Fish and Game has set public meetings across the Upper Snake Region over the next few weeks to discuss potential fishing rule changes.

It's all part of the process for setting the 2011-2012 fishing seasons and rules. After a first round of meetings to hear what the public has to say, Fish and Game will develop a set of proposals to present for comment.

Meetings are planned for Idaho Falls, Mackay, Driggs and Island Park.

"During the scoping phase is when we want to hear ideas on potential rule changes from anglers, as well as share our ideas about what changes we are looking at considering. The main point of these meetings is to solicit ideas from the public on how we can do things better. We want comments to focus on outcomes, as opposed to specific regulations," said Dan Garren, regional fisheries manager.

Among 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.

"The biggest change will be moving from a rivers and streams default season of May to November to a new season of open all year and managed through exceptions to close waters when necessary," Garren said.

All meetings start at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, March 24 - Fish and Game regional office, Idaho Falls.

Thursday, March 25 - Mackay High School, Mackay.

Tuesday, March 30 - Teton County Courthouse, Driggs.

Wednesday, April 1 - Ponds Lodge, Island Park.

The public is encouraged to attend a meeting and comments on potential proposals or other fishing related topics. Individuals with disabilities may request meeting accommodations by contacting Garren at Idaho Fish & Game at 525-7290 or through the Idaho Relay Service at 1-800-377-3529 (TDD).

Comments also may be sent via email to dan.garren@idfg.idaho.gov. Deadline for comments is 5 p.m. on April 15.

Grand Opening Scheduled for Kuna Community Pond

Dedication ceremonies for Sego Prairie Pond, the Treasure Valley's newest community fishing pond, will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 13. The city of Kuna will host a grand opening celebration and fishing activities at the new pond.

To reach Sego Prairie Pond, travel south on State Highway 69 also knownas the Kuna-Meridian Road, then west on Deer Flat Road to 10 Mile Road. Turn south on 10 Mile Road and travel less than a half mile, turning west onto West Sego Prairie Street. Sego Prairie Pond is at the end of this road, about a half mile from the turnoff.

Anglers of all ages are invited to try their luck and no fishing license will be required during the special event. Fish and Game staff will have the "Take Me Fishing" trailer on site with loaner rods available for use.

The community pond project was initiated last year by the city of Kuna.

"For years now, local kids have had no place to bobber fish in the Kuna community," Fish and Game fishery manager Jeff Dillon said. "We're excited to see the city of Kuna taking up the cause and developing Sego Prairie Pond as a fun, safe place for young anglers."

Fish and Game will stock Sego Prairie Pond with trout in advance of the grand opening, and trout stocking will continue every few weeks this spring and fall.

For more information regarding the grand opening of Sego Prairie Pond, contact the Department of Fish and Game Nampa office at 465-8465.

Op-Ed: Lolo Zone in Perspective

By Cal Groen, Director, Idaho Department of Fish and Game

The Lolo elk herd is in trouble. The latest counts put the herd at 2,178 with poor survival of the cows and calves needed to replenish the herd.

Idaho Fish and Game is committed to saving the Lolo herd and keeping Idaho's other elk herds healthy.

The elk situation in the Lolo elk management zone didn't happen overnight. The Lolo elk herd had glory days after major fires in the early 1900s created phenomenal elk habitat in the Clearwater Region. Elk numbers peaked at 16,000 in the 1980s. But re-growth of brush and forest turned great elk habitat into poor habitat. Predation by bears and mountain lions took its toll.

Following the severe winter of 1996-1997, Lolo elk numbers dropped by nearly half. When the population didn't rebound, Idaho Fish and Game took aggressive steps. We drastically reduced hunter numbers, and ended all cow harvest. We increased bear and lion hunting opportunities to reduce predation. We worked with other partners to improve habitat. Elk numbers started increasing.

Then wolves took over and became the leading cause of Lolo elk deaths. It wasn't until May of last year that the state could finally manage wolves. By then, the balance of elk and wolves in the Lolo Zone was completely out of whack. Extreme predation on adult females and calves means not enough calves survive to replace the adults that die each year.

Idaho began taking steps to reduce wolf numbers with its first regulated wolf hunt starting September 1, 2009. But hunters in the steep, brushy Lolo country have had limited success, taking just 11 wolves of the Lolo zone harvest limit of 27 to date.

Sage-grouse Listing 'Precluded'

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Friday, March 5, announced its decision to list the greater sage-grouse a step short of threatened or endangered.

Fish and Wildlife says listing is "warranted but precluded." Simply put, that means a sage-grouse listing is deferred while Fish and Wildlife works on species with more immediate needs.

The decision makes sage-grouse one of nearly 279 candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act. And states would continue to manage the bird.

"The sage grouse's decline reflects the extent to which open land in the West has been developed in the last century," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. "This development has provided important benefits, but we must find common-sense ways of protecting, restoring, and reconnecting the Western lands that are most important to the species' survival while responsibly developing much-needed energy resources."

Meanwhile, Idaho Fish and Game will continue to manage sage-grouse and monitor sage-grouse populations and habitats.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will decide at its August 2010 meeting whether hunting is appropriate in 2010. Hunting would still be legally possible. Other candidate species, such as the lesser prairie chickens in Kansas, are hunted.

Sage-grouse hunting seasons in Idaho already are conservative and closely monitored. The Idaho Sage-grouse Conservation Plan, completed in 2006, provides guidelines for setting seasons. The guidelines are based on trends in spring lek counts as well as other biological data for individual populations, including chick survival, effects of West Nile virus and wildfires.

Wolverines and Winter Recreation

By Diane Evans Mack, Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Wolverines are considered secretive and elusive, mostly because we don't know much about them.

They occur in low densities across the landscape and tend to spend their time in remote regions, roaming the jagged peaks and high cirque basins that characterize their habitat. After unexpectedly encountering my first wolverine tracks in 2004 during a snow track survey in the west-central Idaho mountains around McCall, I began to study these enigmatic critters more closely. More surveys led to more tracks, which is when my crew and I started erecting remote cameras for photo documentation and to collect hair for DNA confirmation.

During three years, we documented five individual wolverines.

With the knowledge of resident wolverines also came the concern, echoed elsewhere in the West, that the remote areas wolverines occupy are no longer truly remote in winter because of increasing recreational activity. This changing human presence potentially could affect wolverines. To address this question, the Payette National Forest launched a collaborative study this winter hoping to reveal how wolverines react to different types of human activity in their winter habitats, especially when females are denning or raising kits. The project, led by researchers Kim Heinemeyer of Round River Conservation Studies and Jeff Copeland of the Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, will compare wolverine movements with those of snowmobile riders and backcountry skiers to determine the extent of overlap in both time and space.

From the Field: Bald Eagle Nesting Underway

By Jim Lukens, Idaho Department of Fish and Game

The chill of February can be a harsh time for birds, but that is precisely the time local bald eagles begin nesting.

As early as January, mated pairs can be seen repairing nests or whirling through the air in courtship flight. Bald eagles reach sexual maturity at around four or five years of age. They mate for life, but when one dies, the survivor readily accepts a new mate.

One to three eggs are laid in early March and are incubated for about 35 days.

Once the eggs hatch, the female's attention focuses on the young eaglets, while the male provides the majority of food needed by the rapidly growing chicks.

From helpless, bobble-headed, down-covered hatchlings, eaglets can eventually add one pound to their body weight every four or five days. At about five weeks, dark brown juvenile feathers begin poking through the nestling's downy coat. At eight weeks, with the parents hunting almost continuously to feed them, the eaglets are stretching and exercising their wings, occasionally getting airborne in an afternoon gust. At 10 to 13 weeks after hatching, the eaglets are adult size, fully feathered, and capable of flight.

Getting the fledglings on the wing can take some persuasion by the parents, who will entice the young off the nest with tasty morsels, such as a half-eaten muskrat, cottontail or fish.

Young eagles will remain near the nest for another four to five weeks, honing their hunting and flying skills, which are developed by trial and error rather than learning from adults. After this phase, young eagles embark on a prolonged period of great exploration lasting up to four years, after which they may or may not return to their natal territory to breed.

With high year-to-year survival, a lifespan reaching up to 28 years in the wild, and now 18 nesting pairs in Salmon Region, the future looks promising for our national bird - the bald eagle.

Ask Fish and Game: Controlled Hunt Waiting Period

Q. Can a person who drew an antlered deer hunt in the second application period in 2009 apply for an antlered deer hunt in the first application period in 2010.

A. Yes. The waiting period requirement is for those who drew an antlered hunt in the first drawing. Those who draw an antlered hunt in the second application period for a leftover or unclaimed tag or who purchase an antlered hunt in the leftover first-come, first-served sale period do not need to wait one year to submit an application for an antlered hunt for the same species.

Mule Deer Doe Poached in Caribou County

Idaho Fish and Game is seeking information about the unlawful killing of a mule deer doe.

On Tuesday, March 2, Idaho Department of Fish and Game Conservation Officer Nathan Stohosky discovered a dead mule deer doe on Sant Road in Caribou County, about one mile north of the intersection of Fish Hatchery Road and Sant Road.

The carcass was partially visible from the road when it was discovered. An investigation revealed a small caliber bullet hole in the neck of the deer, and no parts of the animal were taken.

The doe appeared to have been killed sometime during the week before it was discovered, most likely over that last weekend in February.

"This may have been an incident of people driving around looking for things to shoot, and unfortunately this doe became a target of opportunity," Stohosky said. "Often these drives occur late at night and are usually accompanied by alcohol and poor judgment."

The investigation is continuing. Anyone with information related to this crime or other wildlife crimes is encouraged to call Stohosky at 208-221-4513, the Caribou County Sheriff's Office at 208-547-2561, or Fish and Game's southeast Idaho regional office in Pocatello at 208-232-4703.

Those who would like to provide information anonymously may contact the Citizens Against Poaching hotline at 1-800-632-5999.

Rewards are available through CAP for information that leads to an arrest.

Craig Mountain Gates Closed

With the recent snowmelt and big game animals returning to higher elevations, Idaho Fish and Game has closed the access gates on the Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area south of Lewiston.

Snowmobile enthusiasts can still use the area until the gates close March 15, but they are urged to use increased caution. Hazards, such as stumps and rocks are rapidly appearing, and travel is becoming difficult with snow becoming very soft by afternoon.

The closure date was selected in cooperation with local snowmobile groups and hunters to reduce disturbance of game animals and provide security to wild turkeys during the spring hunting season that begins on April 15.

Several conflicts have occurred in the past with non-authorized motorized vehicles accessing the area. Drivers of motorized vehicles who violate the area closure are subject to a misdemeanor citation including fines up to $1000 and/or jail up to six months.

Six Wolf Hunts Closed, One More Near Limit

With a month left in Idaho's first regulated wolf hunting season, half the wolf zones are closed and another is one wolf shy of the harvest limit.

As of Monday, March 1, hunters have taken 162 wolves, with 58 left to reach the statewide harvest limit. Wolf harvest is nearly at the limit of 16 in the Salmon Zone where hunters have taken 15, leaving one wolf left until the season closes in that zone.

Six other zones already have closed. The wolf season closed February 1 in the Middle Fork zone, January 2 in the Southern Mountains zone, December 18 in the Palouse-Hells Canyon zone, on November 17 in the Dworshak-Elk City zone, on November 9 in the McCall-Weiser zone, and on November 2 in the Upper Snake zone.

Elsewhere in the state wolf seasons remain open.

Wolf hunters are reminded to check the harvest limit in the wolf hunting zones they intend to hunt. Idaho Department of Fish and Game set wolf harvest limits by 12 zones. The season closes in each zone when the limit for that zone is reached, when the statewide limit of 220 wolves is reached, or on March 31, whichever comes first.

Hunters must have a valid 2010 Idaho hunting license and a 2010 wolf tag.

To find out whether a zone is open, call 877-872-3190. The Fish and Game wolf harvest Web page is updated less frequently, but provides a zone map and other useful information: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/hunt/wolf/quota.cfm.

Wolf hunters are required by state law to report within 24 hours of harvesting a wolf and then must present the hide and skull to a Fish and Game conservation officer or regional office within five days.

To report a wolf kill, call 877-872-3190 toll free.

Seeing Winter from the Wildlife Perspective

By Jason Beck - Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Winter is make or break time for wildlife.

This winter is shaping up to be very mild by almost every standard, so that means that wildlife must be faring wellÉ right? The answer is entirely based on the perspective of the particular wildlife you are asking about. Every wild creature has its own adaptations for surviving winter.

Some strategies are elegant - bears just curl up and sleep until it warms up again. Some strategies seem terribly inefficient - many birds fly thousands of miles only to turn around and fly back. Some strategies seem inhumane - in a stable mule deer population, we can expect that at least 50 percent of the fawns will die in an average winter. And some strategies seem creative - many birds and rodents dig snow caves to obtain both food and shelter.

Whether this winter is good or bad depends on the way an animal is prepared to survive the winter.

For the mule deer and elk that are so much a part of the local hunting culture, this mild weather is a good sign for the short-term. Deer are feeding on snow-free hillsides, and many elk herds haven't even moved down from the mountains.

Mule deer research has shown that survival improves with mild winter months followed by wet weather later in the spring. That means the short-term outlook for hoofed wildlife is definitely encouraging, but we still need a wetter than average spring to really boost our herds. After all, a healthy summer range means mule deer have the opportunity to pack on the necessary fat that is essential for surviving the next winter.

Surprisingly, deer and elk are still raiding haystacks in some areas this winter, demonstrating once again that these hay addicts will come for a hand-out even when natural conditions could hardly be any better. If a farmer has hay to share, what's the harm in helping deer or elk?