Recent Blogs

How do sportsmen's dollars fund conservation?

Sportsmen's dollars are a primary driver to much of wildlife conservation efforts.

Learn more about how funding is acquired and distributed in the Spokesman-Review's outdoor article "Wildlife dividend: Guns, ammo have direct connection to conservation."

 

Idaho Fish and Game also recently posted an article about sportsman funding conservation in a previously posted story during our 75th Celebration of the 1938 initiative: Sportsmen Willingly Assume the Burden of Conservation

Senator Key Pittman of Nevada, co-principal sponsor of Pittman-Robertson Act

Wildlife detection systems showing signs for safety

Wildlife-vehicle collisions are a common occurrence in Idaho. The folks in Boundary County have taken some initiative to help reduce the danger from them.

Elk along highway

 

 

Across the state, you can report road-killed animals to Idaho Fish and Game. We use the data to analyze problem areas for vehicle-wildlife collisions and work with groups such as in Boundary County. You can report wildlife collisions, or even salvage some species by starting here.

 

1944 - April Fool: The Joke's on Us

The sea monster that would eventually be named “Sharlie” was sighted several times again in the years following 1944. It was described as dark or black with shiny skin. Reports of its size ranged from twelve to 60 feet long, but most accounts settled for 35 to 40 feet in length.

In 1947, two Oregon sportsmen fishing on Payette Lake steered their boat towards a large wake sporting three humps that they spotted in the water. The anglers said the creature appeared to be about 40 feet long. One of the fishermen, F.M. Christiansen, said, “I have been coming here for 20 years and have always figured the sea serpent talk was just a lot of hooey. I sure changed my mind.”

Instead of fearing the creature, the people of McCall developed an affection for it and in 1954 the local newspaper launched a contest to name “Slimy Slim”. The grand prize was $40 and the contest judges included, among others, the governor of the state, Len Jordan, and a couple of legislators. “Sharlie” was chosen and the name stuck.

No photos of Sharlie exist, and no one has taken video or film of the mysterious monster. But sightings continued through the 1960’s and 1970’s. In 1980, a Pennsylvania biology student published a research paper on Sharlie concluding that the small size of Payette Lake would make it difficult to support a large breeding population, which may also contribute to inbreeding and the eventual decline towards extinction.

The last documented sighting that we can find is in 1996 by Kate Wolf of Boise who saw it from a pontoon boat. It had humps “with peaks like the back of a dinosaur”.

So what are we to think about Sharlie, this mysterious species on this April Fool week?

In a 1985 article in McCall’s The Star News, Fish and Game Fisheries Biologist Don Anderson said that tests on Payette Lake showed no evidence of a large sea serpent. “Maybe he’s just smarter than us,” said Anderson. “I want him to be there, and if he is, we’ll protect him.”

After all, that is the mandate of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission…to preserve, protect, perpetuate and manage all of Idaho’s wildlife…sea monsters included!

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Clearwater Anglers Can Keep the Big Ones.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to lift the restrictions on harvest of “B-run” steelhead on the Clearwater River for the remainder of the 2014 season effective immediately. The decision was made during the commission meeting on Thursday, March 20, 2014. 

“B-run” steelhead are those that spend two years in the ocean as opposed to “A-run” steelhead which typically return to Idaho after only one year in the ocean. Prior to this change, anglers on the Clearwater River were only allowed to keep steelhead between 20 and 28 inches in length. The change will allow those anglers to keep steelhead longer than 28 inches as long as they have evidence of a clipped adipose fin. The daily bag limit of 1 and the possession limit of 2 remain the same on the Clearwater River for the remainder of the 2014 spring season.

 

Weekend Creel Survey for Clearwater 3/23/14

The busiest area this past weekend in the region was on the South Fork of the Clearwater (river sect 07). Hours per fish caught was only 4 hours, which resulted in really good fishing. Many anglers chose to release a lot of the hatchery fish they caught, which resulted in higher hours per fish kept.  Effort has continued to drop on the main stem of the Clearwater. The Little Salmon also had a lot of anglers on it this past weekend and had some pretty could catch rates. Click here for more details. Over all the weather was nice and the water was clearer than the previous weekend.  - Jaime Robertson. Fisheries Technician

Upper Salmon River Weekend Report 3/23/14

The steelhead fishing improved once again last weekend on the upper Salmon River. The average catch rates in location codes 14 through 19 either improved or remained close to those observed during the previous weekend. Interviewed anglers in location code 14, downstream of the Middle Fork, averaged 6 hours per steelhead caught, and no steelhead were reported kept. In location code 15, anglers had catch rates similar to last weekend and averaged 9 hours per steelhead caught and 16 hours per steelhead kept. In location code 16, interviewed anglers averaged 11 hours per steelhead caught and 27 hours per steelhead kept. In location code 17, anglers did considerably better this weekend compared to the previous one when only one steelhead was reported caught. Interviewed anglers from this weekend reported a total catch of 36 steelhead which resulted in averages of 12 hours per steelhead caught and 26 hours per steelhead kept. The fishing in location code 18 also improved this weekend. Anglers there reported averages of 19 hours per steelhead caught and 54 per steelhead kept. Anglers at the upper end of the river, in location code 19, averaged 15 hours per steelhead caught and 35 hours per steelhead kept, which was similar to the previous weekend. Click here for more details.

River conditions did not change much over the past week with river temperatures remaining in the low 40s.  - Brent Beller, Fisheries Technician

Elusive Wapiti

In 1909, the state of elk populations in Idaho was so alarming a moratorium on elk hunting was declared in parts of the state. What had happened to once plentiful herds of elk in Idaho is the story of western expansion across North America. 

Lewis and Clark described vast herds covering the grasslands as they made their way west in 1805. As settlers began changing the landscape with farms, and ranches and unregulated market hunters decimated populations though hunting. Wildlife like elk disappeared except in secluded parts of the Rocky Mountains.

Alarmed by the rapid disappearance of wildlife, national leaders such as Theodore Roosevelt and Idaho’s own Emile Grandjean took action. Roosevelt’s efforts led to the creation of the Yellowstone National Park; Grandjean’s determination helped establish a 220,000-acre game preserve in the Payette River drainage west of the Sawtooth Mountains. Elk herds protected in Yellowstone National Park would later to transplanted to preserves to restore elk in Idaho and throughout the West. 

Idaho’s elk population today is a direct result of elk transplanted from Yellowstone National Park. Elk were first moved to Idaho in 1915 by railcar and other transplants happened until 1940. Since then, elk have flourished in Idaho and other intrastate transplants have been conducted by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to establish elk in unoccupied range. Today, an estimated 107,000 elk roam the state from the forests of North Idaho to the sagebrush country in the south. 

The people of North America, since before Giovanna da Verrazano first described them during a 1542 expedition, have had a strong connection and reverence for North American Elk. Historians credit the Shawnee Indians for the name Wapiti, which the translation is “white rump.”

Elk is the second largest species in the deer family. All elk are vocal communicators and their language is quite complex. They vocalize to locate other elk, to warn of impending danger, and to establish dominance for breeding. The most unforgettable sound is of a bugling bull in the crisp autumn air.

Once elk were reintroduced into Idaho and provided protection, they began to flourish. Elk need food, cover, water and space. Idaho had all of these in abundance, especially in the backcountry of the Middle Fork, Selway and Lochsa river basins. These places were just recovering from the huge wildfires in 1902 and 1910, which burned hundreds of thousands of acres. Early post-fire habitats of grass and shrubs were perfect food for growing elk populations. These ideal habitats have since evolved into a more mature forest, and is one of the reasons the elk population in these areas have fallen in the past 20 years.

Yet, elk are very adaptable to food sources from pure grasslands to forbs and shrubs. Their large four chambered stomachs allow them to get valuable nutrients from even lower quality habitats like the sagebrush steppe habitats, which dominate southern Idaho. Today, some of the most desired elk trophy hunting is in sagebrush country.

Another reason elk flourished in Idaho, beyond habitat, is the low road density found in much of the state. Fewer roads translate into less disturbance and more shelter and protection for elk. Even though it may seem like Idaho has a lot of roads and people, it still manages to have one of the lowest road densities in the West.

As elk herds grew from the first releases in 1915, elk were relocated to other parts of the state. Today, there is hardly a part of Idaho that isn’t used by some elk. Idaho’s largest estimated population was about 125,000; in 2014, it is closer to 107,000.

Elk are not tied to a landscape and as conditions change, populations fluctuate. Declines identified in parts of the state, such as the Lochsa and Selway river basins, are primarily due to a combination of changes in predation and habitat, including forest growth and encroachment of noxious weeds. 

Elk also move. In the last decade, elk have expanded into areas where they haven’t been seen since the turn of the century, such as the desert and agricultural areas. When elk move into farm country, they can cause producers problems. Since 1990, Idaho has maintained a Winter Depredation Control account, which is funded by a portion of the sale of each deer, elk, or antelope tag. The money in this special account is used to help reduce damage to crops by elk, deer and antelope. This ranges from putting protective panels on haystacks to hazing the animals away to using hunters to harvest a portion of the animals involved. In certain cases, depredating elk are trapped and relocated to other locations.

Idaho Fish and Game’s new 2014 Elk Management Plan continues the legacy of the last 75 years of management. Using the criteria of bull to cow, and cow to calf ratios, Idaho manages elk for healthy populations with an emphasis on creating hunting opportunity. In addition to creating hunting opportunity, Idaho also manages for high quality bull hunts in a number of hunting areas. For the sportsman, Idaho differs from the rest of the western states, because it is the only state that provides annual over-the-counter opportunity for both resident and nonresident hunters.

Idaho is a great place to come and experience elk. Idaho has a wide variety of habitats from temperate rain forests to desert and terrain from the height of the Rocky Mountains to the flat rolling landscape of the Great Basin, and largest contiguous wilderness in the West, all providing opportunities to observe, hear, photograph, and hunt elk. Idaho is elk country.

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Upper Salmon River Weekend Summary 3/16/14

This past weekend on the upper Salmon was the best steelhead fishing that has been observed so far this spring with the majority of angler effort located downstream of North Fork in location codes 14 and 15. Interviewed anglers in location code 14, downstream of the Middle Fork, averaged 13 hours per steelhead caught and 280 hours per steelhead kept. In location code 15, 149 interviewed anglers caught a total of 98 steelhead which resulted in averages of 8 hours per steelhead caught and 18 hours per steelhead kept. In location code 16, between North Fork and the mouth of the Lemhi, interviewed anglers averaged 9 hours per steelhead caught and 12 hours per steelhead kept. In location code 17, interviewed anglers had a tough time finding fish and averaged 286 hours per steelhead caught or kept. Upstream of the Pahsimeroi River, in location code 18, the fishing was also slow, with anglers averaging 146 per steelhead caught, and no steelhead were reported kept. The fishing improved upstream of the East Fork, in location code 19. Interviewed anglers there averaged 14 hours per steelhead caught and 21 hours per steelhead kept. Click here for more details.

River conditions over the weekend were relatively good, with cloudy water observed downstream of the Pahsimeroi River and clear water observed upstream. River temperatures were in the low 40s and remained fairly stable. Springtime conditions continue to cause rock falls on the Salmon River road downstream of North Fork , and anglers are advised to use caution while driving and deciding where to park.  - Brent Beller, Fisheries Technician

1980 - Discover the Wild: Idaho's Nature Centers

‘If you build it, they will come’ describes the energy behind Idaho Fish and Game’s nature centers and natural areas. Both wildlife and people have come, and where the two converge, learning happens.

WaterLife Discover Center
In the mid-1990s, Fish and Game met with concerned citizens and community groups to discuss options for the historic Sandpoint Fish hatchery built in 1909. The community wanted a place for people, young and old, to understand the role water plays in shaping our environment. They imagined a place to promote environmentally sound stewardship of our water resources and the idea for an outdoor aquatic education center began to develop.

It is a unique grassroots project that has taken many years of planning and development. Today, a partnership between Idaho Fish and Game, the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the local community has created the WaterLife Discovery Center. Check out the Pend Oreille Master Naturalist’s Facebook page for ongoing activities.

The WaterLife Discovery Center is a habitat education and interpretive area on the shores of the Pend Oreille River near Sandpoint, Idaho. It a self-guided educational center that combines a fish hatchery, nature trails, overlook bridges, wildlife watching areas, interpretive signs, and underwater viewing opportunities along a stream and a pond.

The property consists of 3.5 acres of developed interpretive exhibits and a 6.5 acre forested wetland with trails and interpretive signs. This area is home to white-tailed deer, moose, muskrat, mink, and river otters. Birds are found in abundance. Bald eagles, osprey and waterfowl grace the river while woodpeckers and songbirds prefer the wetland forest.

Lewiston Wildlife Habitat Area
In the 1960’s, Idaho Fish and Game purchased 10 acres in the Lewiston Orchards on the plateau and filled three of the acres with office buildings. The other seven acres was an alfalfa hayfield until 1985, when volunteers and community groups began converting it to a natural area.

Today, the Lewiston Wildlife Habitat Area is a wildlife-friendly oasis registered with the National Wildlife Federation as a “Backyard Wildlife Habitat Area.” This five-acre area provides an excellent way to observe wild birds, mammals and aquatic creatures. A paved path meanders through meadows and a small forest planted with a variety of trees and shrubs. Deer, coyote, raccoon, rabbit, skunks, amphibians, reptiles and over 115 bird species have been observed here.

Thousands of hours of labor over two decades have produced an urban wildlife area for people of all ages to enjoy.  Features include a rock fountain and meandering stream that spills into a small pond and an underwater viewing window that provides a glimpse of crayfish, snails and tiny fish. Benches along the trail are set amid flowering plants that attract butterflies, hummingbirds, bees and other insects. An observation gazebo is outfitted with one-way glass and surrounded by bird feeders, providing up-close wildlife viewing.

The area is handicap accessible and is open anytime to self-guided tours.

MK Nature Center
The Morrison-Knudsen Nature Center is a community jewel. For more than 20 years the center has provided meaningful natural experiences for all audiences, on their terms, for free or very affordable rates.

The MK Nature Center is located near downtown Boise. “If you build it, they will come” rings true here. This habitat was designed and built to attract wildlife and it worked. The MK Nature Center is frequented by mule deer, raccoons, mink, herons, kingfishers, beaver, countless songbird species, reptiles, amphibians and insects.  Descendants of the fish originally placed in the stream still swim here. Chinook and kokanee salmon are introduced annually and the three sturgeon are one of our most popular attractions. Native plants are everywhere and thus butterflies, bees and birds are abundant. Staff continue to maintain, build and enhance the habitat.

The Nature Center also attracts people of all ages by the thousands.  Situated adjacent to the Boise River and the Greenbelt, the Nature Center provides visitors a chance to see wildlife up close and personal. The jewels of the Nature Center’s features are the four underwater viewing windows where native fishes can be viewed.  In the summer and fall, the Nature Center receives shipments of Chinook and Kokanee salmon that spawn and die here. Natural processes and food chains are at work right before your eyes.

The Nature Center staff gets to show off these features in nearly 300 programs annually that serve over 10, 000 students, teachers and parents.  More than 100,000 walk-on customers take advantage of our free admission annually. Seasonal celebrations such as the Native Plant Sale, International Migratory Bird Day and Salmon and Steelhead Days connect even more people to nature.  Walk-on visitation is free, as is the beautiful visitor center, open 7 days a week. 

In the age of electronic stimulation and children spending limited time outdoors, nature centers, and maybe especially the MK Nature Center, offer an easy way to connect children with nature because nature is crucial to our well being.

Edson Fichter Nature Area
In 1994 the Idaho Department of Fish and Game acquired a hidden gem in the greater Portneuf Valley. Twenty-nine acres in south Pocatello was purchased for fishing access and conservation of wildlife habitat. Legacy gifts from local families and foundations, and cooperation from the City of Pocatello has helped the department create the Edson Fichter Nature Area, an investment in the future of Pocatello’s outdoor communities.

The Portneuf River meanders through the site making the riparian section of the Nature Area home to numerous species of wildlife, from songbirds to mule deer.  A substantial 70-foot bridge spans the river, and on summer evenings cliff swallows can be seen darting and swooping after various insects, bringing dinner to their young families nestled inside the cup-shaped mud nests clinging to the bridge beams.

Probably the most popular feature of the Nature Area is the 15-foot deep, 3-acre community fishing pond which opened in October 2011.  The Idaho Department of Fish and Game was able to add this urban fishing amenity with the help of various community partners, including a $60,000 donation from the family of the late Roger Humberger of Pocatello.

An estimated 67,000 visitors access the Nature Area annually. They come to fish or use the walking and biking paths dotted with interpretive signs with the artwork and writings of the Nature Area’s namesake, the late Edson Fichter.  They might also use the Portneuf Greenway Foundation Trail that runs through the Nature Area, visit the small, natural outdoor amphitheater, sit on the fishing pier and observation deck next to the river, or stroll through the beautiful community flower garden maintained by dedicated volunteers.

Much is still planned for the Edson Fichter Nature Area and the community of Pocatello is helping make it happen.

Salmon Outdoor Classroom
In 2003, funds raised by the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s radio auction allowed Idaho Fish and Game to purchase a four-acre site near Kids’ Creek Pond in Salmon.  The property had a varied history of land use, including a federal fish hatchery managed by Oregon and a BLM helipad.

The Salmon Region Fish and Game staff restored natural habitat and converted a straightened water channel back into a meandering stream. Not long after the bulldozers left the construction scene, a muskrat was seen swimming along the new habitat. Walkways were developed and a floating platform was added to the site’s pond.

Now called the Salmon Outdoor Classroom, it is within walking distance of all of Salmon’s schools.  The Salmon Alternative High School, which sits adjacent to the natural area, has access to an outdoor laboratory. The public is also welcome to visit the site to enjoy observing wildlife and the surrounding scenery. 

As with many outdoor areas, the Salmon Outdoor Classroom has the capacity to engage children and adults with the natural world in a quiet and unassuming way.

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