Press Release

January 2015

OP-ED: Idaho's Wildlife Professionals to Advocacy Groups: Stop Crying Wolf

By Virgil Moore, Director, Idaho Fish and Game

It's important for state agencies to understand and respect differing points of view. But when a few advocacy groups try to grab headlines by skewing Idaho Fish and Game scientific wolf monitoring data in ways that simply aren't true, it's also important to set the record straight.

Here are the facts:

  • Idaho has more than 100 documented wolf packs and over 600 wolves. Idaho's wolf population far exceeds federal recovery levels of 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves.
  • After meeting federal recovery levels in 2002, Idaho's wolf population grew largely unchecked for the remainder of the decade, resulting in increased conflicts with other big game populations and livestock.
  • After 4 harvest seasons since the 2011 delisting, livestock depredations have declined. Wolf predation continues to have unacceptable impacts to some elk populations, but there are signs elk populations are responding positively to wolf management.
  • Wolves in Idaho continue to be prolific and resilient. Idaho will keep managing wolves to have a sustainable, delisted population and to reduce conflicts with people, livestock, and other big game populations.

Despite these facts, a few advocacy groups chose to take the breeding pair metric out of context to make claims that Idaho wolves are "teetering on the brink of endangered status once again." That's hogwash. And it's the kind of polarizing misinformation that undermines responsible wildlife conservation and management in Idaho.

Trophy Mule Deer Poached on Outskirts of Twin Falls

Idaho Fish and Game Officers in the Magic Valley are actively investigating a recent case involving a trophy class mule deer killed during the closed season. The deer was likely killed on the night of Monday, January 26th or on Tuesday, January 27th.

Based on witness information, it is believed this is a large trophy mule deer buck that was taken within city limits of Twin Falls. Portions of the meat were taken along with the head and antlers. Officers collected physical evidence at the scene but need the public's help in identifying a suspect.

"Someone in the area has a mule deer buck that was killed this week in their possession. We're hoping someone has seen it and will call with information. The buck's antlers are very unique and easily identifiable. We need some help on this one." Said Senior Conservation Officer Jim Stirling.

Anyone with information is urged to call either the Magic Valley regional office at (208) 324-4359, or the Citizen's Against Poaching Hotline at 1-800-632-5999. Callers can remain anonymous and could be eligible for a cash reward for information that leads to a conviction.

Road to Hells Canyon Dam to Re-open Friday

The road has been closed since last Wednesday due to a large rock slide. Crews are still removing boulders and other debris. Motorists should expect delays and use extreme caution in the canyon.

OXBOW, Oregon, Jan. 27, 2015 - Idaho Power plans to re-open Hells Canyon Road at 9 a.m. Friday, following partial removal of a rock slide that blocked the road north of Hells Canyon Park last week. A single lane will be open, with flaggers on hand to guide vehicles through the slide area. Motorists should expect delays, and are urged to use extreme caution in the canyon, especially in the slide area.

No one was injured in the slide, which occurred on Jan. 20 about three miles north of Hells Canyon Park on the Idaho side of the Snake River.

The slide was about 60 yards long and included numerous large boulders. Crews worked through the weekend to clear the road. Some of the boulders on the road were so large, they had to be blasted to make them small enough to remove.

Idaho Power will provide updates on its Facebook and Twitter accounts. Follow us at facebook.com/idahopower and on Twitter @idahopower.

IDFG to Present Update on Lake Pend Oreille Fishery

For Idaho Panhandle anglers and biologists alike, one of the greatest highlights of 2014 was watching scores of anglers enjoy great Kokanee fishing on Lake Pend Oreille. In response to the growth in the kokanee population, the kokanee bag limit was increased last spring from 6 fish to 15 fish. Anglers took notice and came out in droves. Preliminary estimates indicate that anglers harvested nearly 150,000 kokanee in 2014.

While that's a lot of fish, it was still only a fraction of the total adult population. IDFG surveys indicated a population of 1.4 million adult kokanee, which is one of the highest estimates since the 1970s.

Lake trout predation has been the primary factor limiting kokanee recovery for well over a decade. Aggressive efforts to remove lake trout involving both the Angler Incentive Program ($15 reward to anglers) and commercial netting equipment have dramatically reduced the size of the lake trout population and allowed a rapid expansion of the kokanee population.

According to Andy Dux, Principal Research Biologist, IDFG's annual surveys indicate kokanee are poised to do well over the next few years. Juvenile kokanee were abundant, with fry and age-1 fish looking particularly strong. Age-2 kokanee were less abundant than the previous two years, but still appear to be a reasonably strong age group when compared to historical estimates. These results provide an early sign that kokanee fishing should remain good in 2015 and beyond.

The trophy rainbow trout fishery showed continued signs of improvement in 2014 and provided enjoyment for many anglers. As kokanee density has increased in recent years, so have rainbow trout growth rates. Anglers caught more trophy rainbow trout in 2014 than they have in a long time, including many fish over 20 pounds.

Ask Fish and Game: Price Lock

Q: If the legislature approves the new "Price Lock" plan, how soon can I lock in my fees?

A: Right away! If you purchase and maintain an annual license starting in 2015, your price will be "locked in" meaning you will be exempt from the proposed fee increase.

Anglers Enjoy Strong Steelhead Return to Clearwater

Anglers fishing the Clearwater River are enjoying a healthy increase in the number of steelhead returning. After a lackluster season in 2013-2014, the number of "B-run" steelhead is up in 2015, and anglers are taking advantage.

Creel surveys and angler reports for the week ending on January 25 indicate good success among anglers fishing the Clearwater. 265 anglers reported catching 277 steelhead. Numerous anglers have reported catching their daily limit of three hatchery steelhead this month; in some cases harvesting their limit within a few hours. Overall, anglers averaged one fish every five hours during the seven day period, with much of the action taking place on the weekend.

Anglers fishing the North Fork Clearwater averaged ten hours per fish during the week of ending January 25. Anglers are not only catching fish in large numbers, they are also catching some large steelhead; as long as 37 inches.

Fishery managers expect angler success to remain high throughout the Clearwater drainage over the next three months. Anglers are also finding steelhead in the Salmon and Snake Rivers, and catch rates are likely to improve as water temperatures rise during the approach of spring. For more information on steelhead fishing in Idaho, go to http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/fish/?getPage=38

Challis Conservation Officer Receives Shikar-Safari Award

Each year, Shikar-Safari Club honors a "Wildlife Officer of the Year" in Idaho, and this year's honoree is Senior Conservation Officer Malcolm Clemenhagen. In nominating Clemenhagen for the award, his superior officer praised him for work effort, conservation law enforcement, productivity, calls for service, covering vacant patrol areas, hunter education and public outreach/communication.

The nomination attributed Clemenhagen's success to his own passion for fishing and hunting.

"Malcolm's passion and experience for hunting, fishing and trapping have served him well as a Conservation Officer and Hunter Education/Trapper Education Instructor for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game," said District Conservation Officer Cole Wilkie. "Although he has only been an officer for just over 5 years, his experience and talent level seems to be that of a 15 year seasoned officer."

The nomination also noted Clemenhegen's commitment to the "Enforcement Creed". A portion of that creed says: "To assist the public in their compliance with the regulations, to have no compromise for crime and to resolutely seek the violator, but with judgment charitable toward the minor offender, never scold or reprimand but rather to respect and inform".

In addition to the regular duties of a Fish and Game Conservation Officer, Clemenhagen was praised for his contributions to the children of Challis during the Free Fishing Day at Blue Mountain Pond.

Shikar-Safari Club strives to recognize officers who have done an outstanding job in enforcement of wildlife laws, the protection of wildlife and the implementation of conservation programs.

Idaho Wolf Population Remains Well Above Federal Recovery Levels; Livestock Depredations Down

During their scheduled meeting in Boise on January 21, the Fish and Game Commission was updated on the status of Idaho's wolf population. Staff Biologist Jim Hayden's report offered three key messages: Idaho's wolf population is well above all standards for a recovered population; wolf monitoring was intensified and expanded in 2014; needs and expectations for predation management vary widely across the state.

To better monitor wolf populations, Fish and Game hired additional trappers and technicians in the summer of 2014, intensified winter collaring efforts for 2015 and hired an expert wolf tracking pilot from Alaska to help locate uncollared packs. GPS collars are now being used in place of radio collars. This will provide more detailed real-time data. Personnel deployed 40 remote cameras to locate and document pack size, and field personnel collected more than 1200 DNA samples to compare with that from harvested wolves.

Monitoring efforts in 2013 documented 659 wolves in 107 packs, and no dramatic changes are expected for the 2014 report. These numbers and supporting data suggest the wolf population has decreased and the number of wolves in documented packs has decreased. Wolf-related depredations have also decreased resulting in the lowest number recorded since 2008. Data on breeding pairs continue to be collected but so far, 22 breeding pair have been documented in the 30 packs that have been examined. (More comprehensive data will be included in the annual report due March 31).

Mild Winter Keeps Idaho Deer and Elk Herds Strong

After a banner year for Idaho hunters, deer and elk populations continue to benefit from mild winter conditions. Preliminary harvest surveys suggest high harvest and high success rates in 2014.

In the 2014 hunting season, Fish and Game sold more than 157,000 deer tags and more than 93,000 elk tags, exceeding numbers sold in any of the six previous years. Deer hunters went into Idaho's backcountry in high numbers, in part because of some of the highest winter survival rates this century. Biologists documented the highest rate of fawn survival since monitoring began 15 years ago. Adult doe survival was extremely high during the last two winters at 95 percent and 97 percent respectively.

Cow elk populations are meeting cow population objectives in 16 of 21 zones with numerical population survey goals, and bull elk populations are meeting objectives in 14 of 21 zones with numerical population survey goals (estimate for Smoky-Bennett zone pending).

While high country snow is above normal in many parts of Idaho, a lack of snow cover at lower elevations is making this winter another mild one for deer and elk and managers expect good over-winter survival and recruitment among both species in Idaho.

Hunters who have not yet completed harvest reports for 2014 are encouraged to do so as soon as possible. They provide critical information used to set future seasons.

To file online, go to: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/hunt/?getPage=106

Commission Sets Seasons for Trophy Species

The Fish and Game Commission has set seasons for moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats for 2015. The new rules will include the following changes:

Panhandle Region

- Add 20 additional antlered moose tags and additional hunting opportunity for antlerless moose hunts.

Clearwater Region

- Extend season for bighorn sheep late controlled hunt in Unit 17.

- Split mountain goat hunt area creating two hunts and adding 2 tags.

Southwest Region

- Add new hunt for bighorn sheep controlled hunt with 2 tags in Hunt Area 19A.

- Reallocate tags for California bighorn sheep controlled hunts in 2 hunt areas.

Magic Valley Region

- Add a new controlled hunt for 1 antlered moose.

Southeast Region

- Add an archery only controlled hunt with 2 tags for moose, reorganize hunt areas and reduce antlered moose tags by 2.

- Reallocate controlled hunts for antlerless moose, reorganize hunt areas and reduce tags by 5.

Upper Snake

- No Changes

Salmon Region

- Expand hunt area 29 to include Unit 37 for antlered moose controlled hunts.

- Combine bighorn sheep hunt areas 28-2 and 28-3.

Specifics of these changes will be available in the new rules brochure available at license vendors, Fish and Game offices and online by the end of February.

Upper Snake Master Naturalists Seeking Volunteers

The most active chapter of Idaho Master Naturalists (IMN) in the state is announcing registration for its 6th wave of certification classes. In order to become a master naturalist, each participant is required to take part in the initial 40-hour certification and then participate in eight hours of training annually, along with time volunteered on projects. Last year the seven IMN Chapters in the state provide a total of 14, 850 hours of service, the Upper Snake Chapter alone provided 6,611 of those!

The Idaho Master Naturalist Program mission is to develop a corps of well-informed volunteers to work actively toward stewardship of Idaho's natural environment. Volunteer activities include assisting Idaho Fish and Game biologists with raptor monitoring, fisheries management, habitat restoration, migratory bird surveys, opportunities to support educational activities at regional wildlife management areas, and many more. Members also do volunteer work for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), United States Forest Service (USFS), United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USWFS), Nature Conservancy, Teton Regional Land Trust, and other nature orientated organizations.

The Upper Snake Chapter of the Idaho Master Naturalists will be starting the 2015 certification classes March 3, 2015. Classes are held every Tuesday night from 7:00 till 10:00 at the Idaho Falls Fish & Game office and run through the first week of June. Each class is led by a different specialist in a field related to the outdoors. Classes cost $85 for individuals or $100 for couples willing to share class materials.

For more information on their many activities visit the web page at idahonaturalist.org, or see them on Facebook at Upper Snake Chapter, Idaho Master Naturalists; for information on registering for the upcoming class call 524-0383 or email tony.appelhans@gmail.com.