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Ask the Conservation Officer (CO)

by Gary Hompland, Regional Conservation Officer

Question: "I see in the regulations hunters and trappers are required to have their game checked by a Fish and Game officer or at a regional office. What species does this regulation apply to and why must they be checked?"

Answer: Being "checked" by a Fish and Game officer or at a regional office involves different things for different species.

All trophy species (big horn sheep, mountain goats, and moose) as well as mountain lions, and black bears harvested during a hunting season are required to be presented to a conservation officer or a regional office to be "checked" within 10 days of the harvest. After a Department employee completes a harvest report, the hunter will be presented with a copy of the report to show they have complied with the reporting requirements.

When the animals are checked, biologists use hunter-harvested animals to gather biological information about wildlife populations. In addition to general knowledge about how many animals are harvested, they ask lots questions about the hunter's experience, how many animals were observed, the area the animal was harvested from, and they often take antler or horn measurements. They also gather information about sex, age, and individual animal condition. Over the course of the season or several seasons, biologists use this information to determine if harvest strategies are meeting population management goals.

A tooth may also be removed from the jaw to be used in determining the age of the animal. Additionally, all mountain lion and black bear pelts must have a metal pelt tag attached. The horns of big horn sheep must be "pinned" by drilling and inserting a small metal pin with a number on it as a permanent marker of a lawfully harvested sheep.

All bobcats and river otters must also be checked and are considered listed species in the Convention on the International Trade on Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES). As discussed in an earlier column, CITES tags must be attached to each pelt in order to export them to fur markets outside the United States. Bobcats must be checked within 10 days of the end of the bobcat harvest season. River otters harvested during the trapping season must be reported and tagged within 72 hours of being caught. This shorter time period for reporting river otter harvest is due to a quota of otters allowed in the harvest. Once the otter quota is reached for the region, the season is terminated, so prompt reporting is important in order to prevent over-harvesting the otter resource.

Mandatory check requirements are just one method Department biologists use to gather information about wildlife populations from lawfully harvested animals.

If you have any further questions you may call the Magic Valley Regional Office of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at (208)324-4350 or e-mail us at the Fish and Game web site at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov.