While professional biologists often watched helplessly from the sidelines, voters in 11 states decided complicated wildlife management issues by simply saying yea or nay in the recent elections.
The debates ranged from the size of clearcuts in Maine to the values of hunting cougars with hounds in Washington.
Leg-hold and certain other traps were banned from public use in Colorado and Massachusetts.
Hunters in Alaska must wait one day after flying before shooting wolves, foxes, lynx or wolverines.
Hound hunting for bears was eliminated in Massachusetts. Use of hounds and bait for bear and cougar hunting was struck down in Washington, while Oregon voters reaffirmed a similar ban passed in 1994.
“These issues are technical and evolving,” said Bob Byrne of the Wildlife Management Institute in Washington, D.C. “Unfortunately, the public generally sees the measures debated on a highly emotional level without fully understanding the ramifications of their votes.”
The ban on hound hunting for cougars in Washington, for example, could doom efforts to reintroduce endangered woodland caribou.
Idaho biologists already are considering an increase in hound hunting for cougars in the Selkirk Mountains to help compensate for Washington’s ban.
In some states, sportsmen took the initiative in the recent elections. They led campaigns that will maintain sound wildlife management options.
Idaho and Michigan voters turned down proposals to ban baiting and hounding for bears. Michigan went a step further with a measure reaffirming the Natural Resources Department’s authority to manage wildlife populations.
Measures passed in West Virginia and Iowa guarantee that revenue from hunting and fishing license sales will be earmarked for fish and wildlife programs.
Arkansas passed a provision designating one-eighth of one percent of the state sales tax to help fund wildlife programs.
Washington voters turned down a similar proposal in the late 1980s, leaving hunters and anglers to continue footing the majority of the cost of managing the state’s wildlife.
Idaho’s elk crisis: The statistics couldn’t be clearer. Idaho’s elk hunting could go down the tubes as it has in other states if the state doesn’t modify traditional hunting practices in response to increased pressure and access to elk country.
Idaho hunters appear to recognize the transition is underway.
About 800 hunters attended an Idaho Fish and Game Department meeting to explain the possible changes that need to be made in order to maintain good elk hunting.
“This is the most people we’ve had at any kind of meeting,” said Jim Hayden, department regional wildlife manager. “We’re looking at major changes throughout the state.”
Hunters were asked to comment on a range of proposals, such as tag quotas, shorter seasons and restrictions on weapons.
“So far, it seems as though there’s favor for putting a cap on the number of Panhandle elk tags,” Hayden said.
The department plans to sort through comments before coming up with more formal proposals to present to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission this winter.
Duck-hunters taxi: The return of great duck hunting in the Pacific Flyway was met with the return of the “duck-hunter’s taxi” on Potholes Reservoir.
Brothers Mike and Dave Meseberg at Mar-Don Resort are jet-boating hunters to blind sites before daylight so they can be set up and ready for the dawn of hunting each day.
If you’ve ever tried to negotiate the Potholes’ confusing maze of sand-dune islands, you’ll probably agree the $100 fee is worth it. Info: (509) 765-5061.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rich Landers The Spokesman-Review