Nonresident hunter numbers will be trimmed, California bighorn sheep permits cut dramatically, and moose hunting expanded in proposals by Fish and Game that are on the table now for public comment.
The Fish and Game Commission will meet January 18-19 in Boise to set trophy species seasons for 2001 and 2002. Open house meetings have been held, or are going on now in Fish and Game^s seven regions. Comment will be taken up to the time of the Commission meeting and during the Open House scheduled for 7:30 p.m. January 17 at Fish and Game Headquarters.
The Commission wants public comment on a proposal to change the way nonresident permits are distributed in trophy hunts. The current system allows nonresident hunters 10 percent of the tags available in individual hunts, or one permit per hunt if fewer than 10 permits are available. Because less than 10 permits are offered for many trophy species hunts, nonresident hunters have been able to obtain more than 10 percent of the total number of tags available for bighorn sheep or mountain goat hunts. The new proposal would cap the number of nonresident hunters to permits at no more than 10 percent of the total tags available for a single species in any year.
After widespread die-offs that reduced Rocky Mountain bighorns from about 3,850 to about 1,710 in the 1990s, the Rocky Mountain species of wild sheep is recovering slightly in Idaho. The new proposals for hunting recognize that trend by adding one permit, from 62 to 63.
California bighorn permits, however, will be reduced by 65 percent. Population declines and low lamb survival rates, trends that seem to stem from drought during the 1990s, convinced biologists to recommend cutting hunting pressure. The number of hunts will go from nine to three in Owyhee County partly because bighorns are traveling further than previously observed, and partly to simplify hunt boundaries. Permits in the Owyhee River area will decline from 24 to 10, while those in Big and Little Jacks Creeks will decline from 13 to five. Hunts in the Bruneau River and Jarbidge River drainages will be closed temporarily to allow herds to rebuild.
Moose numbers continue to expand in many areas of Idaho. The number of bull moose permits will be increased by 14 percent overall, from 888 to 1,003. Antlerless moose permits will go up 16 percent, from 123 to 147. A bull season with two permits has been added in the Wood River Valley, and a new hunt for antlerless moose will be added in the Panhandle Region. Elsewhere, some hunt areas have been combined to simplify boundaries. The biggest increase in permits will come in the Panhandle, where permits will go from 123 to 220, up 80 percent.
Mountain goat populations will continue to be managed conservatively as Idaho^s numbers continue to decline slightly. New information indicates that goats do not respond to harvest as deer and elk do and herds tend to grow slowly. Permits and harvest have declined steadily since 1990 when 93 permits were offered. Last year, only 56 goat permits were available and 51 will be offered in 2001. Fish and Game guidelines call for a maximum mountain goat harvest of only five percent in any population.