Southwest Blog

Treasure Valley Ground Squirrel Tests Positive for Plague

Ground squirrel deaths near Gowen Field prompt testing for plague bacteria

A ground squirrel (whistle pig) found south of Boise has tested positive for plague. Idaho public health officials and Idaho Fish and Game are asking people to take precautions as outdoor summer activities shift into high gear over the long Memorial Day weekend.

Plague is a bacterial disease of rodents that can cause serious illness to people and pets if not treated quickly. Plague is generally transmitted to humans and animals through the bites of infected fleas. It also can be transmitted by direct contact with infected animals, including rodents, rabbits and pets. Common rodents that can become infected include ground squirrels, rats and mice. Tree squirrels in Idaho are not known to carry plague.

“We have investigated reported mortalities of ground squirrels in the area southeast of Boise (see map below) during May,” State Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Mark Drew said. “Dogs and cats can be infected with plague through hunting rodents, playing with or consuming their carcasses, or by exposure to their fleas.”

Plague activity can increase in the spring and summer months when rodents are more active. People can be exposed to plague when pets have contact with rodents or fleas outdoors, or bring infected rodents or fleas back into the home. People also can become infected by caring for a sick pet without proper precautions.

People can greatly reduce their risk of becoming infected with plague by taking simple precautions, including avoiding contact with wild rodents, their fleas and rodent carcasses. They should not feed rodents in picnic or campground areas and never handle sick or dead rodents. Health officials recommend:

  • Keep your pets from roaming and hunting ground squirrels or other rodents in the desert south of Boise.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about using an appropriate flea control product on pets as not all products are safe for cats, dogs or children.
  • Clean up areas near your home where rodents can live, such as woodpiles.
  • Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian, especially if they may have had contact with sick or dead rodents in the desert south of Boise
  • See your doctor about any unexplained illness involving a sudden and severe fever.
  • Put hay, wood, and compost piles as far as possible from your home.
  • Don’t leave pet food and water where rodents or other wild animals can access them.

Symptoms of plague in humans include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, and weakness. In most cases there is a painful swelling of the lymph node in the groin, armpit or neck areas. Plague symptoms in cats and dogs are fever, lethargy and loss of appetite. There may be a swelling in the lymph node under the jaw. With prompt diagnosis and appropriate antibiotic treatment, the fatality rate in people and pets can be greatly reduced. Physicians who suspect plague should promptly report it to their local public health district.

In Idaho, USDA Wildlife Services tested various species of carnivores between 2005 and 2010 for the presence of antibodies to plague and just 18 animals tested positive, primarily badgers and coyotes. If people find dead ground squirrels they should not touch them, but report the location through the Idaho Department of Fish and Game website.

Since 1940, only five human cases of plague have been reported in Idaho. The last two cases reported in Idaho occurred in 1991 and 1992, with both patients fully recovering.

For more information:

This poster will be posted at the main access points to the affected area.

Map of suspected area where plague may be present in wildlife. Please take precautions when visiting this area.

affected area map

 

Editors: For public health questions, please contact Christine Myron or Tom Shanahan. For questions about the affected area or animal infections, please contact Mike Keckler. State and district health offices are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday – Friday, and will be closed for Memorial Day weekend.

 

Central District Health Department
Christine Myron
Public Information Officer
327-8639

 

Department of Health and Welfare
Tom Shanahan
Public Information Officer
(208) 334-0668

healthandwelfare.idaho.gov

 

Idaho Fish and Game
Mike Keckler
Bureau Chief for Communications
(208) 287-2870

New fishing access agreement on Little Salmon River - Lower Section

The Little Salmon River along US Highway 95 near Riggins is a popular fishery for Idaho anglers looking to catch Chinook salmon and steelhead. Much of the property along the Little Salmon is privately owned, and until now, a stretch that is productive for salmon and steelhead has been inaccessible to the public. Access for this popular fishery has been made possible thanks to an agreement with the Little Salmon River Ranch and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

The new Little Salmon River Access area is a cooperative effort with the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation. 

Thank you in advance to our responsible anglers who follow these rules to keep access on this property:

  • Remain in allowed areas (see maps below)
  • No wading across the river
  • No use from 10:30 pm to 5:00 am
  • No camping
  • No campfires
  • Pack-in/pack-out your garbage
  • No shooting
  • Dogs must remain under control
  • No launching of watercraft
  • No commercial use
  • Gates will be locked Oct 1 through December 31, however foot access is allowed year round

 

 

Little Salmon River Access Map And Rules Brochure
PDF Poster of these rules and this map [1,076 KB]

 

Detailed map for new access agreement at Mile Marker 193 on US 95.


PDF Poster of new access area [2,460 KB]

 

 

You may also be interested in an angler etiquette video Idaho Fish and Game recently put together. Learn more about how to interact with other anglers and keep it possible for Idaho Fish and Game to provide additional access by watching this video.

Idaho Fish and Game Releases Tigers!

Tiger trout, that is.

The Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game recently released Tiger Trout in several waters around the state. The fish were 8 - 12" long at stocking and should be easy to catch.

Tiger Trout are a sterile cross-breed between brook trout and brown trout and can be an aggressive predator on other fish species. In the wild, these species occasionally interbreed and we've documented "tigers" in both the Panhandle and Magic Valley regions. "Tigers" are being used as a fish management tool to control nongame and nonnative fish populations.

If you happen to catch one, please send us a picture.

Bigger Fish and Better Angler Success

As Fish and Game stocks rainbow trout this spring, they are doing something different that will lead to better success for Idaho anglers. A good share of the hatchery rainbow trout stocked in Idaho’s largest still-water fisheries this spring will be twelve inches instead of the standard of ten inches. Watch this video to learn why this is happening.

Fish and Game’s rainbow trout hatchery program exists for one sole purpose: putting fish in Idaho waters for anglers to catch. But during the last ten years, the cost of raising fish has skyrocketed. While the cost of fish food has increased by more than 150 percent, funding for the hatchery program has remained stagnant. In 2011, managers reduced fish production of put-and-take rainbow trout by 18 percent to keep the program within budget. At the same time they started tracking fish that anglers caught as part of a program called “Tag-You’re-It”.

Fisheries researchers tagged thousands of fish over a four year period, and tracked the tags with the help from anglers.

“We tagged a bunch of fish and put those fish out there, and essentially let the anglers do the work in returning that information to us through our hotline and our website,” said Senior Fisheries Research Biologist John Cassinelli. “So that has given us this large database.”

That database showed that twelve inch rainbow trout are more likely to be caught than ten inch trout. This knowledge has allowed researchers to reorganize the hatchery rainbow trout program in a way that puts larger trout in the creels of Idaho anglers without increasing the cost of the hatchery program.

The science and math show that for every limit of six rainbow trout anglers catch, Fish and Game must stock roughly 18 ten inch trout.  When 12 inch trout are stocked in the same waters, only 11 fish are needed for each six fish limit, on average.

Regardless of how many trout managers stock, the true measure of success for the hatchery program is how many trout anglers catch. As the program expands over the next 16 months, managers will be putting more twelve inch rainbows into most of Idaho’s large still-water fisheries. 

Check out the fish stocking page for monthly updates on fish stocking region by region.

 

 

Catfishing in April on the Snake River

James R. writes: Fishing in the Snake River and look over and see my pole going crazy. I jerked-up and the catfish gave me a heck of a battle.

Dp - April and May is prime-time for catfish fishing in the Snake River in the Weiser/Brownlee area. Use worms or cut bait and fish on the river bottom. Who knows how big the fish may be on the end of the line.

Ice Fishing Report - Cascade Reservoir Feb 12, 2015

If you're a bird watcher this week's report might just make you happy. With all the open water on Cascade there has been a plethora of waterfowl visiting the area, lots of ducks, geese, and swans. If you're an ice fisherman the outlook isn't so optimistic. With all the warm and wet weather we've been experiencing this past week the ice on cascade has gone for the wayside. The south end of the lake I would deem not safe. Besides the large open water gap between the bank and the ice itself there lies many more problems throughout the southern end of the lake. These problems would include but are not limited to large areas of open water, large cracks with open water gaps between them, and some rotten ice.  With that being said I cannot say that anyone should attempt to fish on cascade south of Sugarloaf Island.  This includes all the way from sugarloaf to the town of cascade.   I have attached a few photos that I took today of Ice conditions on the southern end of the lake. 

Now that we’re done being pessimistic, the north end of the lake continues to be fishable, with one exception.  That exception is finding a spot to access the ice.  With the influx of water from the thaw the level of the reservoir has increased causing the ice to pull away from the shore.  Along with this the ice closest to shore is still fairly weak and soft.  But if you can find your way onto the ice things are looking good.  The ice depth around poison creek were still 6-7” of solid ice.  There was a few places that you can actually access the ice around poison creek and the surrounding area.  The area around boulder creek I wasn’t able to find a place that I could access the ice without going over the top of my boots and getting wet.  If you’re a diehard ice fisherman and need to get that last little bit of fishing in the north end is where it can happen.  With that being said extreme caution should be used especially right now with warm temperatures and thawing ice. 

I guess I could mention that fishing still has continued to be fairly slow with those that have made it out on the ice.  There seems to be a greater ratio of big to small fish but the overall number of fish being caught is fairly low. 

DP - We lost two anglers on Winchester Lake this past week when they fell through the ice.  Please be careful and if there's a doubt - save yourself to fish another day.

 

 

Boise River Temporarily Goes Dry!

Earlier this week, the Boise River had some water issues. Or no water at all, in places. This was due to an equipment failure at Barber dam.

We've had several concerns about effects to fish in the Boise River due to this.

Our biologists are investigating the issue and have written a description of what they look for to make sure the fish stay happy in the beautiful Boise River.

Section of Boise River Goes Dry

Aerial photo of Barber Dam. Courtesy of Thunderhammer3000 at Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/72237776@N00/2840997805

by Joe Kozfkay, Regional Fisheries Manager

On Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, February 3rd and 4th 2015, a series of unfortunate occurrences at east Boise’s Barber Dam (owned by Ada County and operated by Enel Green Power) caused Boise River flows to drop to zero for a period of seven hours.

Maintenance activities are being performed on the dam’s spillway, and to ensure construction crew safety, Barber Pool is being held at less than full pool levels, with all river flows being routed through one turbine. Unfortunately, the gate that allowed water to reach this turbine closed Tuesday night and alarm systems failed. Upstream flows were then caught in Barber Pool, until the point where the pool was refilled and additional water began cresting the dam’s spillway.

During the seven-hour period of zero cubic feet per second river flow over or through Barber Dam, several miles of the Boise River were de-watered or did not receive the “normal” wintertime minimum flow of 240 cubic feet of water per second. Very few people saw the river in this condition as it occurred in the middle of the night. From a fish habitat standpoint, riffles and run habitats were likely severely de-watered, whereas pool habitat likely retained water. Farther downstream areas were less impacted as infiltration of groundwater re-wetted the river channel.

Winter is a critical period for many aquatic species. Dramatic river flow reductions can have negative impacts on aquatic organisms such as fish and invertebrates. Fish survive the winter by reducing activity levels and seeking habitat where they can avoid expending energy while at the same time avoiding predators. This is especially true for young trout. The Boise River possesses wild, spring-spawning rainbow trout and wild, fall-spawning brown trout. Young rainbow trout reside on the river’ edges, usually near downed wood or other cover. A rapid drop in river level may force young rainbow trout to seek alternative cover and become susceptible to predators. It may also cause stranding and death.

For the most part, brown trout spawn throughout the month of November. Boise River water temperatures result in an approximate 60-day brown trout egg incubation period. In early February, young brown trout are just beginning to hatch or have just recently done so. At this critical life stage, water level drops are known to cause brown trout mortality. Other fish species also reside in riffles and near shore areas and may have been affected by the dramatic drop in river flow, including sculpin, dace, and whitefish.

Idaho Fish and Game crews conducted visual surveys of this river segment on Wednesday afternoon, February 4th. No dead adult fish were observed, which was a positive sign. Measurement of potential impacts to young trout and other species are only beginning and will be much more difficult to determine. Crews are at the river today, sampling riffle and river margin areas in the de-watered area and in downstream reaches to make a relative comparison. This should provide some information on possible impacts of the de-watering event.

Other types of suspected impacts may not be readily measured, especially for young trout, non-game fish, or invertebrate numbers and species. Based on the results of these and subsequent surveys, Fish and Game staff will determine whether appropriate mitigation should be pursued from responsible parties.