April 30, 2009 in Outdoors

Fees may not be taxes, but they’ll still cost you

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Idaho’s Legislature is down on new taxes, but this year the lawmakers are fond of new or higher fees.

Boaters, including rafters and paddlers, have new licensing requirements, and nonresidents will pay higher license fees for hunting and fishing.

Out-of-staters who plan to hunt or fish in Idaho this year can beat the 2009 fee increases by purchasing their licenses TODAY.

The new fees go into effect Friday.

The fee increases do not apply to Idaho residents, but the lawmakers chose to raise a nonresident season fishing license from $82 to $98.25 and a season hunting license from $141.50 to $154.75.

Resident licenses and tags were not increased, but the cost of a nonresident elk tag is increasing from $372.50 to $416.75.

You get the drift. All fees are going up, including the application fee for controlled hunts.

Speaking of the drift, a new law already in effect requires operators of registered boats and non-motorized vessels – canoes, kayaks, rafts, drift boats, etc. – to purchase an invasive species sticker before launching.

Inflatable, non-motorized vessels must be less than 10 feet in length to be exempt from this requirement.

Keep that maximum length in mind if you’re looking at a new inflatable personal pontoon boat for float-fishing the area’s rivers.

The stickers, available through the Idaho Parks and Recreation Web site, cost $10 for motorized vessels registered in Idaho, $20 for other motorized vessels and $5 for non-motorized vessels longer than 10 feet.

State officials say the fees will be used to fund vessel inspections, washing stations and education to help prevent introduction of aquatic invasive species such as quagga mussels.

Info: (800) 247-6332.

Spotlight on predators: Wildlife researchers devoted several sessions Wednesday to the impact of predators on big game during the Western States and Provinces Deer and Elk Workshop in Spokane.

A Washington researcher presented documentation of a dramatic increase in elk calf survival in the Green and White river drainages after cougar numbers were reduced.

Of particular interest to the gathering was an update on Idaho’s research into the impact of wolves on elk, presented by Fish and Game Department biologist Pete Zager.

“I’d like to tell you we have this ungulate-wolf thing figured out,” he said as the audience of scientists eased into educated smiles. “But that’s not the case.”

While scientists are trying to gather data and study the options for finding a balance between wolf recovery and prey sustainability, wildlife managers are under public pressure to make decisions.

Zager said researchers don’t have all the information they need, but they realize “we’ve got to get rolling and make decisions based on the information we have.”

Here’s what researchers know for sure about elk and wolves in Idaho, he said:

•Elk herds are declining.

•Wolf packs are growing – well above original objectives.

•The number of elk harvested by hunters has been declining, from around 25,000 in the mid-’90s, when wolves were reintroduced to the Northern Rocky Mountains, to roughly 15,000 last year.

•Elk hunting seasons and quotas have been reduced for 2009, but the impacts of wolves are likely to go unchecked.

•Wolf management through hunting is scheduled to begin this fall, but likely will be challenged in court by animal protection groups.

•Wolves have become the most important factor in predation on elk. However, they’re not the only factor.

“Wolves have given cougars a huge favor by taking the spotlight. Cougars are still a significant factor (in elk mortality).

•Forest fire suppression also is a factor in elk declines.

•The impacts of wolves on elk vary dramatically in various game management units.

Bottom line: “We still need to be monitoring wolves and elk like crazy,” Zager said.

What was not said but quite obvious was this:

The public needs to get on the bandwagon for wolf management before elk numbers plummet much further.

In a family way: Researchers spotted the alpha male and female of the Methow Valley wolf pack this week, and the female is clearly ready to have pups.

Smaller fry: My English setter, Dickens, went on point Monday during our morning exercising about 100 yards behind our home off the South Hill. Quail? No.

It was a two- or three-week old coyote pup wobbling at the front of a den.

I was thankful for a well-trained pointer when I walked up and grabbed Dickens by the collar. As we retreated, a very agitated mamma coyote was snarling from under some concrete rubble contractors illegally dumped there years ago.

Coyotes are extremely territorial in this denning period. I had two coyotes come within 20 feet of taking down my other setter, Scout, during a training run near Cheney two weeks ago.

At a field trial near Crab Creek last weekend, a coyote sprang out at full speed and boldly rolled a Brittany coursing the sage-country with a gallery of judges and handlers nearby on horseback.

Contact Rich Landers by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5508, or e-mail to richl@spokesman.com.


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