Posts tagged: Idaho fish and game
More than 5,000 deer, elk and moose were killed by cars on Idaho’s roads last year, a number so high that Fish and Game officials are worried about impacts on hunting and are ramping up monitoring and wildlife crossing programs. “Right now, we think we’re losing the same number of deer that we harvest in our biggest deer unit every year, so that is significant,” said Gregg Servheen, wildlife program coordinator for Idaho’s Fish and Game Department. “As we try to maintain deer harvest and sportsman interest and opportunity, that becomes key.”
And it’s why a new section of U.S. Highway 95 being built north of Coeur d’Alene features a $1 million wildlife underpass, shown above, designed to allow deer, elk, moose, bears and other critters to cross freely – without endangering either themselves or the motorists whizzing by on the state’s main north-south route. Extensive fencing will route the animals to the safe crossing.
The underpass, just south of Silverwood, will be the state’s fifth when the highway project is completed next fall. Another that was built on Highway 21 east of Boise in 2011 has seen large herds of deer crossing safely as car-deer collisions at the site plummeted; the ITD photo at left shows deer using the Highway 21 underpass. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Idaho's wolf hunting season ended Saturday, but a summer season with wolf hunting allowed on private lands in the northern Panhandle region opened the same day. It's the first phase of the 2012-2013 season; wolf hunting in the rest of the state doesn't open until Aug. 30. Anyone wanting to hunt wolves during the summer season must have a permit and landowner permission in advance; click below for a full report from the AP and the Missoulian.
Idaho Fish & Game is reporting a rare Canada lynx sighting in the Salmon-Challis National Forest, the first direct evidence of lynx presence there since 1991. “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,” said Fish & Game wildlife manager Tom Keegan. 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 have been reported in the Salmon-Challis region since 1896. Click below for the full Fish & Game news release.
Idaho Fish & Game is investigating what it calls “an alarming number” of big game animals shot and left to waste along a single stretch of road east of Kamiah - seven deer and elk since late October. “We’ve investigated poaching activity in this area in the past, but nothing to this extent,” said Roger Westfall, a senior conservation officer based in Kamiah. “There is no excuse for these senseless crimes – it’s outrageous.” F&G reported that the kills, all found along a 1.5-mile stretch of Beaver Slide Road, included two whitetail does, a cow elk, a mature mule deer buck, a small whitetail buck and two more elk. All appeared to have been shot from the road illegally; no meat was taken from any of them.
“Anyone observing suspicious activity in this area or with information about these crimes is encouraged to contact the Citizens Against Poaching hotline at 1-800-632-5999,” Fish & Game said in a news release. “Callers can remain anonymous and will be eligible for a reward.”
The agency also is asking for help in finding the poacher of a trophy-class white-tailed buck that was shot from Deer Creek Road west of Whitebird around Nov. 16; those poachers took the head, including the animal’s huge and distinctive antlers, and left the rest of the carcass to waste.
Idaho Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo have sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar urging him to appeal a federal court decision placing wolves back on the endangered species list, which they call a “most unfortunate decision.” The two ask Salazar to “vigorously” appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, adding, “It is imperative that the Department of the Interior put forth any and all necessary resources in order to successfully appeal and overturn the District Court’s decision.” Click below to read the full letter. Idaho’s top fish and game officials already have called for the state to appeal the ruling; as a named defendant, Idaho can appeal on its own, but the lead defendant in the case is Salazar.
Robin Thorson, regional director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, says the federal service is “standing ready to receive Idaho’s proposal to control wolves” in portions of its population due to impacts on elk. “Once we receive it, we’ll turn it around in no more than 60 days,” Thorson told the Idaho Fish & Game Commission today. “We anticipate approval of the opportunity … but that depends on the rule, so we don’t want to prejudge that,” she said. Idaho, she said, “did everything right” to move toward delisting and recovery of wolves. “Your actions succeeded and wolves were delisted because they were recovered here. … You were rewarded for getting that job done, and now we are having to withhold that reward.” Said Thorson, “This was a federal rule that failed, and it failed Idaho. We regret that. We believed that this path was merited, and the court disagreed.”
Wolves were re-listed as endangered, she said, not because of Idaho’s actions, but because a federal court rejected the FWS strategy of delisting in Idaho and Montana but not in Wyoming. “We’re still near the finish line,” she said. “We hope the momentum of Idaho for the successes that you’ve achieved will continue with Idaho at the helm.” She called the court decision “a profound disappointment.” At this point, she said, a sport hunt would be unlikely to be approved because of the risk of it not standing up in court.
Idaho’s Fish & Game Commission was supposed to meet today to set wolf-hunting seasons, but since a federal judge re-listed wolves on the endangered species list, that’s off the table; instead, the commission’s agenda at its Idaho Falls meeting today includes a proposal to kill 70 to 80 percent of the wolves now in the Lolo zone in the Clearwater drainage, one of 29 wolf management zones in the state, out of concern for elk herds there. The proposal comes under Section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act, which allows states management flexibility to address wolf depredations on livestock and “unacceptable impacts” on wild game herds. The commission meeting is being shown by video link-ups at regional offices around the state. Fish & Game on Friday opened a 14-day public comment period on the Lolo wolf-kill plan, which would affect about 7 percent of the state’s minimum wolf population of 835.
The Idaho Fish & Game Department is planning a “wolf control action” in the Lolo Zone, to be carried out by four licensed outfitters, each of whom will be authorized to kill up to five wolves by June 30; the “agency control action is not open to hunters,” F&G said. Click below to read the full announcement.
Those commemorative wolf tags that Fish & Game has authorized to be auctioned off to the highest bidders won’t be offered just to Idahoans - one of the six auctions by nonprofit groups, which will be for Tag No. 1, will take place in North Carolina, and three will be on the Internet, including one on eBay. The Mule Deer Foundation will have the first auction Sept. 30, with sealed Internet bids, to sell tags nos. 3 and 8. A day later, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife will hold an auction for tags nos. 4 and 10. Then, on Oct. 3, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will hold a live auction in Mackay for tags nos. 5 and 9.
On Oct. 15, the Congressional Sportsmen Foundation will put tag No. 1 up for bid in a live auction at the “Wine, Wheels and Wildlife” event in Lexington, N.C.; and Nov. 15, the Safari Club International, Treasure Valley Chapter, will have tags nos. 2 and 7 up for bid on eBay. The commemorative tags are being called “Wolf Conservation Tags,” because proceeds go to wolf conservation and management activities. Because a hunter can have only one wolf tag per calendar year, those who’ve already purchased a regular tag will be allowed to turn it in if they secure one of the special tags. Bidders also must hold 2009 Idaho hunting licenses.
Two members of Idaho’s congressional delegation have immediately weighed in with statements praising federal Judge Donald Molloy’s decision to reject a move to halt wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana. Here are the statements from 1st District Congressman Walt Minnick, a Democrat, and Sen. Jim Risch, a Republican:
Minnick: “Today’s ruling by Judge Molloy was a victory for those of us who want land-use and wildlife decisions made at the local level, using sound science, collaboration and consensus. I applaud the decision, and now urge all parties, including the state of Wyoming, to work with scientists to ensure a healthy but balanced population of gray wolves in the Northern Rockies.”
Risch: “I am pleased that the judge has allowed wolf hunting in Idaho to continue, and I hope this brings an end to lawsuits opposing the hunt. Wolf numbers have far exceeded the recovery goals set when they were introduced into the state. It is time to let Idaho’s game managers do their job and manage wolves just as they do bears, cats and other species.”
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy has denied a motion for a preliminary injunction to block wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana; Idaho’s already has begun, and three wolves have been taken by hunters. The two states included hunting in their management plans for gray wolves, which until May were on the endangered species list; since they’ve been delisted, the two states now manage their wolf populations. Here is Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s response to the judge’s decision:
Molloy did the right thing. Idaho has met and exceeded the criteria
agreed upon by all parties for recovery. We have a plan in place for managing
wolves, based on the best science available, and we intend to keep our promises
outlined in that plan. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Idaho Fish and
Game Commission have done a great job of setting hunting numbers to ensure a
sustainable wolf population and genetic connectivity. We are and will continue
to be responsible stewards of the species.”
Robert Millage, a real estate agent from Kamiah, shot the first wolf in Idaho’s wolf hunt today, according to state officials. Millage, who bagged an adult female gray wolf from 25 yards away in the mountains near the Lochsa River, told the Associated Press, “I just wanted to beat my buddies to the punch, but I didn’t know I’d beaten everybody in the state.” Millage, 34, has hunted in Idaho for 22 years. “It was really an adrenaline rush to have those wolves all around me, howling and milling about after I fired the shot,” he said. You can read reporter Todd Dvorak’s full story here at spokesman.com.
While a federal judge ponders whether to issue an injunction stopping wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana, Idaho Fish and Game officials are hurriedly preparing signs to warn away hunters in case an adverse ruling comes down before the start of Tuesday morning’s scheduled hunt. More than 10,000 Idaho hunters already have bought tags for the state’s first-ever wolf hunt, and in two zones, the Lolo and the Sawtooth, the shooting is scheduled to start a half-hour before sunrise tomorrow. Both those zones are remote enough that some hunters already may have headed out into the woods, and may not be able to get final word by phone or radio on the court decision.
Game wardens are standing by if needed to print out the signs and get them posted, saying, in big, bold letters, “Wolf hunt closed by federal court action,” according to Idaho Fish & Game. U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy heard three hours of arguments on both sides this morning, but didn’t issue a ruling from the bench. Instead, he said he’d rule “as quickly as I can.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has been saying for two years that he wanted to be the first to bid on an Idaho wolf hunting tag, but today, when unlimited sales of the tags opened at Fish & Game offices around the state, at vendors and online, Otter didn’t show. The reason: He was at Bruce Sweeney’s funeral in Lewiston, which started at 11 a.m. “He was hoping to do that but he was in Lewiston,” said Otter’s spokesman, Jon Hanian. “So he didn’t get an opportunity today, but as soon as his schedule permits, he will do that and that’s still his plan. He would’ve gotten it today, but he went to the funeral.”
Idaho’s Fish & Game Commission has voted 4-3 against its most aggressive option for the state’s first public wolf hunt, which called for letting hunters kill 49 percent of the state’s wolf population, or 430 wolves statewide. They’re now debating a second option, for 25 percent or 220 wolves. Also on the table is a proposal for a 15 percent “harvest rate,” or 130 wolves. The commission is meeting in Idaho Falls; once the final vote is taken, commissioners will hold a call-in press conference for reporters from around the state.
The mama grizzly bear that attacked an eastern Idaho hunter after his hounds surrounded her and her cubs has been located, and either the hunter’s brother missed when he fired his pistol at the bear, or any wound she suffered was minor. Idaho Fish & Game reports that DNA tests showed the grizzly was a radio-collared female with three cubs who was known to be in the area. Spotted by a Fish & Game monitoring flight, both the collared bear and her three cubs “appeared fine,” reported Daryl Meints, regional wildlife manager for the Upper Snake Region of Idaho Fish & Game. The injured hunter was treated for lacerations to his right arm. He and two others were hunting black bears when they surprised the grizzly; the incident left Fish & Game warning that a wounded grizzly might be on the loose in the area, on Bishop Mountain near Harriman State Park. Now, F&G officials “recommend that anyone heading into the backcountry carry bear spray.”