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Sports >  Outdoors

Idaho hunters see big reduction in moose, sheep, goat tags for 2021-22 seasons

UPDATED: Wed., Feb. 3, 2021

A cow moose with tracking collar and calf.  (Courtesy of Eric Van Beek/Idaho Fish and Game)
A cow moose with tracking collar and calf. (Courtesy of Eric Van Beek/Idaho Fish and Game)

For the second consecutive season-setting cycle, Idaho wildlife managers have reduced the number of available moose tags statewide in response to the species continued decline throughout its southern range.

On Jan. 28, the Fish and Game Commission set moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat seasons for 2021-22 during its meeting in Nampa, Idaho. The changes included reductions in tags available for all three species, including substantial decreases in moose tags, particularly antlerless tags, and minor adjustments to tags for bighorn sheep and mountain goats.

Those reductions will not impact the Panhandle Region.

“The Panhandle region didn’t have any changes for the 2021-2022 moose season,” said Kara Campbell, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s regional spokeswoman in an email. “Bull permits were drastically reduced and cow hunts eliminated in 2019 for the Panhandle. Biologists were seeing an increase in the number of days spent to harvest a moose and some units also showed a decline in harvest success.”

Moose tags are a once-in-a-lifetime draw for hunters in Idaho. In the past, drawing a tag more or less insured a successful hunt with an 80 or 90% success rate in most Panhandle units. Those numbers have dropped to anywhere from 50 to 70% in recent years, which is what prompted the 2019 reduction in the Panhandle region.

Early in 2020, IDFG partnered with researchers from the University of Idaho to attach radio tracking collars to 112 adult cow moose to study survival rates and causes of death. So far, adult survival has been better than expected, although populations are still declining. Researchers and managers hope the multiyear study will provide clues on how to help Idaho’s largest big game animal rebound, or at least discover what’s causing their decline in Idaho and beyond.

“It’s pretty exciting research info that we haven’t had,” Campbell said.

“Biologist are hopeful that information gained from research efforts will provide insight about our moose populations in the Panhandle region and statewide.”

Climate change, reduced forage and predation are blamed for the ungulates’ decline, although to what extent each factor is impacting moose is unclear.

The new seasons will be posted on Fish and Game’s website in early to mid-March and available in printed rules booklets at Fish and Game offices and license vendors in mid- to late March.

The controlled hunt application period for moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats is April 1-30.

Here’s a summary of changes for 2021-22, courtesy of an Idaho Fish and Game news release.

Moose

  • Overall reduction of 18 bull tags from 560 to 542 tags and reduction of 71 antlerless moose tags from 74 to three total tags. Reduction in moose tags is in the southeast and Upper Snake regions in response to information indicating declining populations, low calf survival, low recruitment and declining harvest metrics.

Moose season details include the following:

  • Decreased antlerless tags in the southeast and Upper Snake regions.
  • Added new antlered hunt in the southeast region.
  • Added new antlerless hunt in the Magic Valley.
  • Expanded Hunt Area 44 in the Magic Valley.

Bighorn sheep

  • Statewide changes include a decrease in Rocky Mountain bighorn ram tags from 80 to 78 and a decrease in California bighorn ram tags from 17 to 16.

Details include the following:

  • Decreased Rocky Mountain ram tags in the Salmon Region.
  • Reduction of California ram tags in the Magic Valley.
  • Changes in Hunt Area boundaries in Hunt Areas 21 and 28-2.

Mountain goat

  • Statewide changes include adding and decreasing tags with an overall decrease of three mountain goat tags from 44 to 41.

Details include the following:

  • Reduction of tags in the Clearwater, southwest and Upper Snake regions.
  • Increase of tags in the Magic Valley.
  • Changes of Hunt Area boundaries in Hunt Areas 7 and 36-1.
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