Outdoors blog

Elk decline in Idaho's Unit 11; fewer permits likely

HUNTING -- The number of bull permits offered in Idaho’s Unit 11 is expected to drop following recent elk surveys that show a decline in both bulls and calves there, according to Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune.

The unit south of Lewiston is sometimes called Waha for the small community there, or simply Craig Mountain, after the Craig Mountain Wildlife Management area. It is a trophy bull-hunting destination and its abundant elk population has supported a popular cow hunt. People must win a permit in the state’s controlled hunt lottery to hunt there.

Winning a bull permit may be harder to do this year. Bull numbers have taken a sharp dive since the last survey in 2009.

“Bull numbers fell to 222 from 367, which is a substantial decline,” said Jay Crenshaw, regional wildlife manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston. “But to put that in perspective, in 2002 when we flew, we had 220 bulls, so we kind of fell back to 2002 levels.”

 Read on for more of Barker's report.

The calf population is on a downward trend and the number of cows increased slightly, according to the latest survey.

The number of bull permits offered in the lottery was increased following the 2009 survey and Crenshaw said it is likely to be reduced this year.

“We are going to be looking at adjustments in permit levels and perhaps rearranging seasons to reduce bull mortality.”

He said hunting harvest alone does not account for the decline in the number of bull elk in the unit.

“We expected bull numbers to go down but the rate of drop was greater than anticipated and that was because we were not recruiting as many bulls, or cows for that matter, because of low calf survival rates.”

The calf population dropped from 228 to 176 between 2009 and this year.

Cows increased from 969 to 1,012, but Crenshaw said it is not a significant change.

The number of calves per 100 cows sits at 17, which is down from 23 in

2009 and 51 in 2002. Crenshaw said it is possible the number of cow permits offered this year could be increased in an effort to reduce overall elk density in the unit.

There are an estimated 1,410 elk on Craig Mountain. That is down from

1,564 in 2009, but still the second-highest population on record. In fact, the elk population there has seen tremendous growth in the past 20 years. In 1992, the total elk population was estimated at 593. It increased to 617 in 1994, and 626 four years later, and sprang to 1,295 in 2002 and 1,564 in 2009.

 Other proposals for hunting rule changes in the Clearwater Region include:

  • Allowing wolf trapping on private land only in units 13 and 18 from Nov. 15 to March 15.
  • Expanding the either-sex controlled hunt for whitetail deer in Unit 8A so that it opens Oct. 10 instead of Dec. 2. The season would run through Dec. 14.
  • Creating an extra antlerless controlled hunt for youth on private, non-corporate timber land throughout the region.
  • Adding four days to the B-tag cow hunt in the Palouse Zone and reducing the number of 8X controlled hunt permits in the zone from 100 to 55.

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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