Idaho Fish and Game's Year in Reviewby Fish and Game
Idaho State Journal, January 3, 2011
2010 Brought Tragedy, Successes for Fish and Game
For Idaho Fish and Game, 2010 was the worst of times, the best of times. The agency suffered two helicopter accidents, one with injuries only and the other with three fatalities; completed its first regulated wolf hunt only to have wolves returned to the endangered species list; and experienced one of the best salmon and steelhead returns in decades.
January Helicopter Crash
The year got off to a rocky start when a helicopter carrying two Idaho Fish and Game biologists crashed just past noon on January 8, in the Kelly Creek area on the North Fork of the Clearwater River.
None of the three people on board suffered life-threatening injuries. The two research biologists were trapping and radio-collaring elk, moose and wolves in the Clearwater Region.
First Wolf Hunt Ends
`Idaho's first regulated wolf season closed March 31, and hunters took 188 wolves of a harvest limit of 220. Fish and Game sold a total of 31,400 wolf tags -- 30,619 resident and 781 nonresident tags -- for the seven-month season that ran from September 1, 2009, in some zones to March 31, 2010.
Harvested wolves ranged in size from 54 to 127 pounds -- males averaged 100 pounds, and females averaged 79 pounds. Of the wolves taken, 58 percent were male, and 15 percent were juveniles less than one year old.
U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula on August 5 issued an order returning the gray wolf in Idaho and the Northern Rocky Mountains to the protection of the Endangered Species Act.
Idaho Fish and Game returned to its non-hunting season wolf management. Plans for a wolf hunting season in the fall of 2010 were suspended, and some holders of 2010 wolf tags were eligible for refunds.
Wolves south of Interstate 90 in Idaho reverted to management under a section of the Endangered Species Act known as the 10(j) rule. Wolves north of Interstate 90 in Idaho returned to the full protection of the Endangered Species Act.
The ruling set aside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2009 decision to remove gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains from the endangered species list.
Then in October, Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter returned responsibility for managing wolves in Idaho to the federal government, ending Idaho Fish and Game's role in managing wolves.
Second Helicopter Crash
A helicopter carrying two Idaho Fish and Game fisheries biologists and a pilot crashed in Kamiah on the morning of August 31, leaving three dead.
"I am heartbroken to report that this morning we had a helicopter accident near Kamiah," Fish and Game Director Cal Groen said. "Two employees and the pilot were on board. All three were killed. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families and to all employees as we go through this difficult time."
Two were pronounced dead at the scene; the third was taken to a hospital but was later pronounced dead. Dead are Larry Barrett, 47 of Lewiston, who worked for Fish and Game since 1985, and Dani Schiff, 34 of Lewiston, who worked for Fish and Game since 1997, and pilot Perry Krinitt, 43, of Belgrade, Montana.
The biologists were on their way to count salmon redds -- spawning nests -- on the nearby Selway River. Fish and Game biologists have counted redds annually since the 1950s using fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.
The counts are the primary index of the status of naturally spawning salmon. Aerial counts are the only to way to count many of Idaho's remote and wilderness streams.
Idaho anglers saw an outstanding year for salmon and steelhead, and record numbers of sockeye salmon returned to the high mountain lakes of central Idaho. For the first time in decades, most of the places anglers can fish for Chinook salmon were open on the Fourth of July weekend in 2010. Recreational anglers caught 18,453 adult and 1,748 jack spring and summer Chinook salmon from the Clearwater, Snake and Salmon rivers, and an estimated 62,389 steelhead during the 2010 spring steelhead season.
Anglers in the Snake River from Lewiston to Hells Canyon Dam harvested 701 adult and 284 jack fall Chinook salmon in 2010. Sockeye salmon swam up the last part of Redfish Lake Creek for the first time in 20 years. Record numbers of Idaho's captive broodstock program-produced sockeye salmon returned to the Sawtooth Valley to spawn.
This year was good for sockeye in more than just Idaho. More adult sockeye returned from the ocean and crossed Bonneville Dam on the lower Columbia River than have been counted since the dam was completed in 1938. In 2010, 386,525 sockeye were counted at Bonneville; in 1938 75,020 were counted.
The fewest returned to the Columbia in 1995, when 8,774 were counted at Bonneville. None returned to the Sawtooth Valley that year.
In Idaho, 1,355 sockeye adults returned -- that's more than any year since 1956 when 1,381 returned.
Some Hunting Seasons Still Open
Most big game hunting seasons have ended, but there's still plenty of hunting open through the end of the month and through the winter. Seasons are open for geese, ducks, coots and common snipe through January 14 in the northern and eastern parts of the state and through January 21 in the southwest.
In the uplands, the seasons remain open on forest grouse through January 31 in Area 1 in northern Idaho. Bobwhite and California quail season remains open through January 31 in the western and northern parts of the state. The seasons on chukar and gray partridge remain open through January 31.
As for rabbits, the season on cottontails is open through February 28 and on snowshoe hares through March 31. Jackrabbits are considered predators under Idaho law, and may be hunted year round with a hunting license. Mountain lion seasons are open through the winter in much of the state. Mountain lion seasons are open through March 31 in all but units 1-9; 20A, 26, 27, 41 and 42.
A valid 2011 hunting license is required. Waterfowl hunters will need a 2011 migratory bird permit validation, but federal duck stamps from 2010 are good through the end of June 2011. Licenses are available at vendors. Check Fish and Game rules for exact seasons in your favorite hunting unit. Rules, seasons and limits also are available on the agency's Website at: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov.
FEEDBACK: Snake River Sockeye Recovery Plan by Scott Levy, Columbia Basin Bulletin, 11/19/10
Count the Fish by Government Accounting Office, GAO-02-612, Salmon and Steelhead Recovery Efforts
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