Press Release

January 2012

F&G Wants to Make it Easy for All to be Involved and Heard

While Idaho's fish and wildlife remain biologically unchanged, the manner in which we as humans enjoy them is constantly changing, and the methods used to communicate with the sporting public are constantly evolving as well.

Idaho Fish and Game is trying a new approach by consolidating its big game and fisheries public meetings and making more information available on the Internet for those who can't attend the meetings in Idaho Falls on February 28 and Rexburg on March 1.

"We realize that people's time is extremely valuable, so we're combining our big game and fishing regulation proposal meetings together, as well as making more information available on YouTube for those who cannot attend a meeting," Upper Snake Regional Supervisor Steve Schmidt said.

Last year, wildlife managers in the Upper Snake Region experimented with short informational videos on YouTube and found they reached more people than had been attending the traditional public meetings.

"This time we will have seven different short videos that sportsman can click on to learn about the status of the animals they are interested in," said Daryl Meints, Upper Snake Region wildlife manager. There will be separate videos for all of the region's big game species: black bear, mountain lion, wolf, mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and pronghorn.

"At this stage we are looking for issues that sportsman would like us to address during the regulation setting process," Meints said. "For example, would they like to see more or less opportunity for whatever species in a given unit or season."

Online visitors will have the same opportunity to provide comments as those who attend the public meetings.

Canada Lynx Sighted on Salmon-Challis National Forest

Idaho Fish and Game biologists confirmed a recent sighting of a Canada lynx on the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

The sighting is the first direct evidence of lynx presence on the forest since 1991. Idaho Fish and Game collected hair and scat samples from the animal to determine its origin.

"This would be an extremely rare event, and we're waiting to get genetic test results before we confirm it's a native, wild lynx," Fish and Game wildlife manager Tom Keegan said.

A local recreationist reported the animal to Fish and Game after seeing it in a legally set foot-hold trap targeting bobcat. Fish and Game officials arrived at the scene within the hour and assessed the lynx for injuries and potential treatment. With no injuries indicated, officials released the lynx from the trap.

"We watched it wander off in good shape," conservation office Dane Cook said. "It had all the classic lynx features: long legs, huge furry paws, ear tufts, and the short black-tipped tail."

Preferred lynx habitat is young, regenerating forests that support its primary prey, snowshoe hares.

"This lynx keyed into an area with a healthy population of snowshoe hares," Fish and Game wildlife biologist Beth Waterbury said.

Canada lynx are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, and they are designated an Idaho "species of greatest conservation need." Fewer than 40 lynx records are known for the Salmon-Challis region, dating from 1896 trapping logs to an observation of lynx tracks reported in 2010. The last verified record of a lynx in east-central Idaho was an incidentally trapped animal from the Pahsimeroi Valley in 1991.

Deer and Elk Outlook for 2012 Hunting Seasons

Deer and elk numbers are meeting management objectives in most parts of the state, but some hunter numbers are down slightly, Fish and Game officials told the Idaho Fish and Game Commission Thursday, January 26.

Female elk numbers meet or exceed objectives in 21 of 29 elk management zones; they are below objectives in eight zones. Bull elk meet or exceed objectives in 20 zones and are below objectives in nine.

Fish and Game plans to conducting aerial surveys in the Panhandle, Elk City, Brownlee, Weiser and Pioneer zones this winter to update elk herd information.

Mule deer exceed management objectives for buck to doe ratio. All population management units exceed 15 bucks per 100 does. From mid-December to mid-January, Fish and Game biologists captured and radio-collared 277 mule deer, including 195 fawns, in 20 game management units. They are now monitoring 796 radio-marked mule deer in 39 units in 12 population management units as part of annual mule deer survival monitoring effort.

Dry conditions and the unusually open winter statewide so far this year, have led Fish and Game to change its aerial survey plans because deer are spread widely rather than confined to typical winter range.

Aerial surveys are planned or underway to estimate populations in Smoky-Bennett, western part of Central Mountains, and Island Park Population Management Unit. Mountain Valley has been postponed until next year.

Harsh winter conditions last year resulted in the lowest over-winter fawn survival, at 32 percent, and since Fish and Game began monitoring in 1998-99.

Adult doe mortality was as high as 26-36 percent in four eastern Idaho population management units.

In response to mule deer monitoring results last year, antlerless hunt tags and some buck hunt tags were reduced. Because of low survival of fawns, a lower buck harvest was predicted for 2011 - few yearling two-points were available.

Idaho Wolf Hunting and Trapping Seasons Continue

Idaho's second wolf harvest season opened statewide on August 30.

Wolves were removed from the endangered species list in Idaho and Montana on May 5, 2011, when President Barack Obama signed legislation that reinstated the 2009 federal rule, which turned over wolf management responsibility to Idaho and Montana.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission adopted wolf hunting and trapping seasons and regulations on July 28.

Harvest limits were established for five of the 13 wolf management zones.

Seasons closed December 31, 2011, in the Island Park and Beaverhead wolf management zones, and are scheduled to close in nine zones on March 31, unless harvest limits are met first. Seasons in the Lolo and Selway zones will close June 30, 2012.

Idaho's first wolf trapping season opened November 15. All individuals interested in trapping wolves are required to complete a wolf trapper education class held by Fish and Game before trapping for wolves. Capitalizing on experienced wolf trappers and biologists, Fish and Game developed a course similar to what has been provided to trappers in Alaska. The course focuses on trapping rules and regulations, ethics, wolf management and effective wolf trapping.

From September 30 through January 20, Fish and Game conducted 27 classes around the state and certified 577 individuals to trap wolves. Interest has been high, and 10 additional classes have been scheduled for the end of January through mid-February.

Fish and Game sold 32,273 wolf hunting tags for the 2011 hunting season, and 7,057 tags for the 2012 hunting season, as of January 30.

Fish and Game has sold 416 wolf trapping tags for the 2011-2012 trapping season.

As of January 30, 264 wolves had been legally harvested - 204 by hunters and 60 by trappers.

For information about wolf hunting and trapping seasons and rules go to: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/.

Apply for Spring Turkey Hunts Starting Wednesday

The application period for spring turkey controlled hunts opens February 1 and runs to March 1.

The application period for spring black bear ends February 15.

Spring turkey and spring black bear seasons start April 15 - some controlled hunts open later. Leftover tags for spring turkey and bear controlled hunts go on sale April 1.

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 online at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov. The application fee is $6.25 per person for residents and $14.75 for nonresidents. An additional fee is charged for telephone and Internet applications.

Spring 2012 bear controlled hunt information is in the 2011 Big Game Seasons and Rules book. Spring turkey controlled hunt information will be available following the Idaho Fish and Game Commission meeting in late January.

Hunters must have a 2012 Idaho hunting license to apply. Turkey hunters must also purchase a controlled hunt permit for $7.75 if they are drawn.

Director's Report to the Commission Online

Fish and Game's 2011 Director's Report to the Commission is now available online.

The annual report details the sources of the agency's funding, and what it did with the money. The report leads with a statement from Director Virgil Moore.

It includes overviews of each bureau, highlights of its operations and the number of staff members in each. Also included are balance sheets of expenditures, the numbers of licenses and tags sold and expenditures by bureau.

The report is in PDF format at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/about/.

Ask Fish and Game: Ice Fishing

Q. How can I tell when the ice is safe for ice fishing?

A. Anglers must use their own discretion when deciding whether or not the ice is thick enough for ice fishing. Check the ice thickness and condition before venturing over deep water. Drill a hole and measure thickness. Four inches of solid ice - not mushy or porous - is generally considered safe for anglers; but it takes 8 to 10 inches to support a snow machine or an ATV. Fish with a partner, take extra dry clothes and take a throw rope along just in case. Some experienced ice fishers suggest carrying a knife or other sharp instrument on a lanyard around the neck. It would give a person who has fallen through something to grip the ice to help pull themselves out, or at least something to hang onto as they await help. Anglers also should pay attention to weather trends. If the weather warms up, ice may become less safe for fishing. And remember, some reservoirs are filling through the winter, so be careful around the shoreline, as the ice is often thin on the edges.

Forecast Looks Good for Chinook Salmon Season

If the Chinook salmon returns for 2012 holds up to the early forecast, this year could be the third best in more than 30 years.

The forecast suggests a return that's a little more robust than last year, Idaho Fish and Game fisheries bureau chief Ed Schriever told the Idaho Fish and Game Commission Thursday, January 26.

The fish are still out in the Pacific Ocean, but the forecast for numbers of returning fish are similar to 2002 and 2010, he said. If the run materializes as forecast, the numbers heading for Idaho look even better - exceeded only by 2001 and 2010.

Northwest fish managers estimate that more than 314,000 Chinook bound for waters upstream of Bonneville Dam will enter the Columbia River this year - last year the number was about 221,000.

Of those, 129,000 hatchery fish and 39,000 wild fish are predicted to head up the Snake River to Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Last year's actual return was 96,300 hatchery fish and 31,600 wild fish.

Idaho fish managers estimate that 83,600 of the hatchery fish that cross Lower Granite Dam are bound for Idaho waters.

Last year, more than 33,000 returned to Salmon River hatcheries and about 13,000 returned to Clearwater hatcheries.

It's too soon to tell just how many fish will actually show up, and what any fishing seasons might look like. Idaho fisheries managers expect to present proposed Chinook fishing seasons in the Clearwater, Snake, lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers to the Fish and Game Commission in March.

In years past, Chinook seasons have opened in late April.

Fish and Game Commission Expands Wolf Trapping

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission on Thursday, January 26, expanded the wolf trapping season to include Unit 10A in the Dworshak-Elk City wolf management zone.

The season in Unit 10A opens February 1 and runs through March 31. Commissioner Fred Trevey, of the Clearwater Region, said the expanded trapping would reduce wolf numbers and help local rural residents, such as in the Elk City area, who have penned livestock or other domestic livestock.

The rest of the Dworshak-Elk City zone (units 14, 15, 16) already is open for wolf trapping through the end of March.

Rural residents, however, don't need a license or wolf tag to shoot at wolves attacking their livestock. But they must report any wolves they kill to Idaho Fish and Game within 72 hours, and the wolf would remain the property of the state.

Trappers must have a valid trapping license and complete a mandatory wolf trapping course. For additional details on wolf trapping seasons visit http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/hunt/?getPage=266.

Fish and Game Applies for State Grant to Continue OHV Outreach

The Idaho Fish and Game has applied for a grant from Idaho Parks and Recreation's Off-Road Motor Vehicle fund to continue its part in the Idaho OHV Public Outreach Project.

Besides Fish and Game, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and Idaho Parks and Recreation are all partners in the OHV Public Outreach Project, which is under the umbrella of the Idaho Recreation Tourism Initiative.

Launched in 2005, the Outreach Project employs various forms of media including outdoor billboards, radio, television advertising, a website and social media to promote safe responsible use of OHVs on public land.

Please direct any questions or comments to Fish and Game Communications Mike Keckler at mike.keckler@idfg.idaho.gov.

Ice Fishing Event Planned by Idaho Fish and Game

The public response to Idaho Fish and Game's "Take me Fishing" trailers has been so good that Fish and Game has scheduled a "Take Me ICE Fishing" event from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday, January 28, at Hauser Lake.

There will be free hot dogs and hot chocolate for all attending!

Stocked with fishing tackle, Idaho Fish and Game's "Take Me Fishing" trailers travel to local waters across the state to promote fishing opportunities.

Wrapped with vibrant fish illustrations, they're easy to recognize.

Twenty-eight events were held in the Idaho Panhandle during the months of May and June to get the spring fishing season off to a jump start. The response was so good, Fish and Game decided to host the ice-fishing event in January.

Fishing equipment and bait can be checked out for free during the event. IDFG employees, Cabela's employees, and volunteers will use a handy-dandy gas powered ice auger to drill holes for everyone participating . Kootenai County Parks and Waterways will have the parking lot plowed and the newly installed restrooms available.

Reservations are not needed and equipment is checked out on a first-come, first-served basis.

Participants will not need a license to fish during the hours of the event, but all other rules, such as size and species limits, do apply. Idaho children 13 years old and under can always fish for free. These events give their parents, older siblings and friends the opportunity to try fishing without purchasing a license. Getting youths excited about fishing will help build a new generation of anglers.

The only thing kids and their parents need to do is show up!

Hunter and Bowhunter Education Instructors Needed

Idaho Department of Fish and Game is looking for additional instructors to help meet the growing demand for hunter and bowhunter education courses in all area communities.

Those interested can learn more about the program and how to become an instructor at one of several upcoming meetings hosted by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

  • MOSCOW: February 21, Idaho Dept. of Commerce and Labor, 1350 Troy Road.
  • OROFINO: February 23, Fish and Game Clearwater Fish Hatchery, 118 Hatchery Roe Drive.
  • GRANGEVILLE: February 28, Senior Center, County Road.
  • LEWISTON: March 1, Fish and Game office, 3316 16th Street.

All meeting will begin at 5:30pm.

The meetings will outline the instructor certification process, as well as how to organize classes, select meeting sites, how to order supplies and register students. Participants will also learn how to use lesson plans, how to teach using various methods, and how to employ effective teaching techniques in the classroom and at the rifle range. All materials will be provided. Experienced instructors will also be on hand to visit with those interested.

In North Central Idaho, about 35 volunteer hunter education instructors conduct more than 80 courses annually and graduate more than 900 new hunters each year.

"These special people make the program a success," Fish and Game Volunteer Coordinator Jen Bruns noted. "Our goal of recruiting new instructors is to help lighten the load on our current volunteers and to provide additional classes to satisfy the demand for courses throughout the year."

For more information, contact Bruns at 208-799-5010 or jennifer.bruns@idfg.idaho.gov.