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Commission Puts off Action on Mule Deer Plan

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission on Thursday, January 17, put off action on a proposed mule deer management plan to allow more public comment, and commissioners heard a promising forecast on spring and summer Chinook salmon runs. Commissioners delayed action on the mule deer plan, which would guide mule deer management over the next decade, to add some clarification and to allow additional time for public review and comment on the final version of the plan. They expect to take action on the plan in March in time for setting this year's hunting seasons. The plan will be available for additional comment on the Fish and Game Website at http://fishandgame.gov or at regional Fish and Game offices. The commissioners also heard good news-bad news about spring and summer Chinook salmon forecasts. Northwest salmon managers are forecasting the second largest hatchery fish run to return to Idaho. But a corresponding increase in wild salmon numbers is not expected. The forecast is for 97,700 Chinook salmon to cross the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River in eastern Washington. It is the last of eight federal dams the salmon have to cross on their way back to Idaho. Fish managers are expecting 83,550 hatchery fish and 14,150 wild fish to return. The anticipated hatchery return may mean salmon seasons opening as early as April on sections of the Clearwater, Salmon and Snake rivers. The largest hatchery salmon return was 141,000 fish in 2001. The commissioners also approved recommended changes to turkey, upland game and furbearer rules. Those changes include:
  • Extending the Youth Pheasant Season from first Saturday in October through the following Friday.
  • Revising wildlife management area pheasant program hunter-orange rule to include a minimum size requirement of 36 square inches of visible hunter orange worn above the waist.
  • Extending the Youth Turkey Season from the Saturday before April 15 through April 14. This year, that would be April 12 through 14.
  • Making youth-only controlled hunt turkey permits valid during the Youth Turkey Season prior to April 15.
  • Increasing controlled hunt turkey permits for hunt areas; 938-2, 950, 954, 971, and 936B.
  • Creating a fall controlled turkey hunt for hunt areas 971 and 950.
  • Closing fall hunt in that portion of Payette County in Unit 32.
  • Extending the $5 special turkey tag to be valid for all turkey depredation hunts, and eliminating the controlled turkey depredation tags.
  • Adding 80 sandhill crane permits in four eastern Idaho counties.
  • Increasing beaver trapping opportunities.
  • Simplifying mink and muskrat trapping rules.
With the new turkey rules, the controlled hunt application deadline has been extended to Monday, February 25. Check with local Fish and Game offices or vendors for new controlled hunt numbers, or online http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/hunt/rules/turkey/. Commissioners also heard an update on the proposed Idaho Wolf Population Management Plan, which has been the subject of public discussions across the state in December. The estimated wolf population at the end of 2007 is about 730 wolves in 82 packs with 63 breeding pairs. Federal agents confirmed wolves killed 52 cattle, 170 sheep and six dogs. A total of 76 wolves were confirmed dead - 43 killed by federal predator control actions, seven by ranchers, the rest died of other causes. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to issue a final rule to remove wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains, including Idaho, on February 28. The rule would become final on March 28. Lawsuits are expected to follow.