Wildlife news releases - Jan. 12

Friday, January 12, 2018 - 11:15am

Learn How to Ice Fish in Southeastern Utah

DWR to host free ice fishing clinic on Feb. 3

Moab – Would you like to give ice fishing a try, but you’re not sure how to get started? You can learn the basics at a free ice fishing clinic in Moab. If weather and ice conditions permit, the clinic will include a fishing trip to Ken’s Lake where you can give your newly learned skills a try.

The Division of Wildlife Resources is sponsoring the free clinic. It will be held Feb. 3 at the Grand Center, 182 N. 500 W. The clinic runs from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

After the classroom instruction, if the ice at Ken’s Lake is safe, the DWR will host a fishing trip to the lake. (The ice needs to be at least four inches thick.) Fishing will start at 1 p.m.

Those who attend the event will learn about staying warm and comfortable on the ice, how to be safe on the ice, fishing gear and bait that work best for ice fishing, and how and where to drill a hole. After teaching the basics, clinic instructors will share advanced tips and tricks for some of the best ice fishing destinations in southeastern Utah.

The event is free, but if you want to fish at Ken’s Lake, you must have a current fishing license. You can buy one at a DWR regional office, online at wildlife.utah.gov, or at most sporting goods stores.

If you don’t have your own fishing equipment, no problem—the DWR will loan you the gear you need to fish at Ken’s Lake that day.

Walt Maldonado, regional wildlife recreation specialist for the DWR, says the clinic is for everyone, regardless of age or experience.

"If you’ve never been ice fishing,” Maldonado says, “this clinic will give you the confidence you need to get started with a hobby you’ll look forward to every winter."

If you have questions about the clinic and fishing trip, call the DWR’s Southeastern Region office at 435-613-3700 or Walt Maldonado at 435-820-8147.


PHOTOS  -  15 photos to accompany this story are available at   http://udwrnewsphotos.zenfolio.com/p1010009984   . 

Contact: Morgan Jacobsen, DWR Southeastern Region Conservation Outreach Manager, 435-613-3707 or 435-609-9589


Chukar Hunting Can be Great in the Winter

The birds stay in a smaller area, improving your odds of finding them

Snowy, wintery weather is good news for chukar hunters. Once snow starts to fall, chukars—which roam over a large area during the warmer months—concentrate in smaller areas. That means the area you need to search is smaller, which will improve your odds of finding birds.

Chukar partridge also live in some of Utah’s driest country. That’s another reason why they’re a great bird to hunt in the winter. You won’t have to worry as much about getting your vehicle stuck in snow, or hiking through deep snow, like you might while participating in other hunts in the winter. Colder weather also makes hiking less strenuous. And rattlesnakes are hibernating now, so you don’t need to be concerned about them either.

“In my opinion,” says Jason Robinson, upland game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, “winter is the best time of the year to hunt chukars.”

Robinson says another advantage to hunting chukar in the winter—or anytime during the season—is the tasty meal the birds provide. “Chukar are the best-tasting game bird in Utah,” he says.

Be aware, though—to put a tasty meal on your table, you’ll have to earn it.

Good season so far

The chukar hunt runs until Feb. 15. “Hunters have reported good success this season,” Robinson says.

General information about where to find chukars in Utah is available on page 36 of the 2017 – 2018 Utah Upland Game and Turkey Guidebook. You can get the free guidebook at www.wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks.         

Find the right spot

Before hiking up a hill to find chukars, you can save yourself time and energy by getting familiar with the landscape chukars live in. Robinson says chukars need three things: Cliffs for roosting, shrubby cover near the cliffs, and seeds and grasses to eat.

In Utah, this habitat is usually found just below ridgelines at about 4,000 to 6,000 feet in elevation. As you scout these areas, looks for steep slopes because the terrain you’ll find chukars in is steep—very steep.

To make the most of your energy supply, Robinson suggests hiking up to a ridgeline, and then walking along the ridgeline and then down from the ridge.

Chukars run uphill to escape hunters. And they flush downhill when spooked. For these reasons, getting above the birds will give you a big advantage. “There can be a lot of walking involved,” he says, “but it’s a great way to stay in shape through the winter.”

Robinson suggests waiting until midmorning before heading out. Giving the sun time to soften and melt the snow can make it easier to navigate the steep terrain chukars live in. “When the ground is frozen,” he says, “walking in this terrain is like trying to walk on a Slip’N Slide.”

There is an advantage to being out at first light, though. “The birds usually feed early in the morning,” Robinson says. “If you listen closely, they’ll often tip you off to their location.”

Robinson says chukars live in coveys that typically number between five to 30 birds. “When the covey is feeding,” he says, “it always posts a sentry. The sentry sits on a rock that provides it with a good view of the surrounding area. If the bird sees you, it will call out to alert the other birds. There’s a flip side to that, though: the sentry’s calling will alert you that a covey of chukars is in the area.”

Focus on food

During the early part of the season, chukar spend a lot of time hiding from birds of prey that are migrating through Utah. Now that these predators have moved through the state, the birds are free to spend more time finding seeds and grasses to eat.

Unlike many upland game birds, chukars are not restricted to pockets of habitat that have stands of trees in them, so their habitat is expansive. In the winter, though, snow reduces the amount of area in which the birds can find food. Robinson says in the winter, you should look for chukar on south-facing slopes. The snow on slopes that face south melts faster. As the snow melts, grasses green up for the chukars to eat.

“That’s one of the big advantages to hunting chukars in the winter,” Robinson says. “Because the north-facing slopes have snow on them, the snow essentially cuts in half the areas where you’ll find birds.”

Use the right gear

To hunt chukars, you have to hike up steep slopes. Make sure the boots you’re wearing provide good traction and ankle support. Robinson also suggests wearing your clothes in layers. Wearing layers allows you to remove a layer if you get hot while hiking. Then, if your hike brings you to a cold and windy ridgeline, you can put that layer on again.

During the latter part of the season, shots at chukars often come at fairly long ranges. Robinson suggests using a 12- to 20-gauge shotgun, with a modified choke, shooting shot shells loaded with 5 or 6 shot.

Bringing a trained hunting dog with you can also be a great idea. Trained dogs will help you locate the chukars. And they can retrieve the birds you shoot. “That will save you from having to hike down steep slopes to find birds on your own,” Robinson says.


PHOTOS  -  23 photos to accompany this story are available at   http://udwrnewsphotos.zenfolio.com/p825097684   . 

Contact: Mark Hadley, DWR Relations with the Public Specialist, 801-538-4737

More Black Bear Hunting Permits

Utah Wildlife Board approves permits for 2018 hunts

Salt Lake City -- Black bears are doing extremely well in Utah: in less than 20 years, the number of bears has almost tripled. During the state’s 2018 season, more hunters will have a chance to hunt them.

This past season, the number of permits issued resulted in hunters taking 365 bears in Utah. At their meeting on Jan. 11, members of the Utah Wildlife Board—a panel of seven citizens appointed by the governor—approved a permit increase that will likely result in about 400 bears being taken.

All of the black bear rules approved by the board will be available in the 2018 Utah Black Bear Guidebook. The free guidebook should be available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks by Feb. 1.

Bear population

Efforts to protect and manage black bears in Utah are working. Since the first Utah Black Bear Management Plan was drafted in 1998, the number of bears in Utah has increased from an estimated minimum of 1,300 adult bears in 2000 to a minimum of just under 3,500 adult bears in 2016.

The numbers given do not include cubs or bears under two years of age, so the overall bear population in Utah is actually much higher.

“The state’s bear population has been growing steadily since 1998,” says Darren DeBloois, game mammals coordinator for the DWR, “especially in the southeastern part of the state.”

In addition to helping the state meet objectives outlined in the Utah Black Bear Management Plan, hunters who take bears provide biologists with vital information.

After taking a bear, a hunter must bring the animal to a DWR biologist or a conservation officer. In addition to assessing the bear’s overall condition, the biologist or officer determines whether the animal is a male or a female. A tooth is also removed and analyzed to determine the bear’s age.

“These two simple procedures give us lots of information about how the population is doing,” DeBloois says.

Since female bears produce cubs, it’s important that a bear population has enough females to sustain itself. Also, since hunters typically target older males, the number of male bears that are five years of age or older provides valuable insight into how the population is doing.

“If the number of older males hunters take holds steady or even increases—despite older males being the part of the population hunters target most—we know the overall population is doing well,” DeBloois says.

Utah’s Black Bear Management Plan provides guidelines that help ensure the state has a healthy and stable bear population. The plan says that statewide, not more than 40 percent of the bears taken by hunters over the past three years can be females. And at least 25 percent of the bears taken over the past three years must be males that are five years of age or older.

From 2015 to 2017, only 31 percent of the bears taken were females. And 36 percent of the male bears taken were five years of age or older.

“The state’s bear population is doing really well,” DeBloois says. “We’re excited about that.”



PHOTOS  -  11 photos to accompany this story are available at   http://udwrnewsphotos.zenfolio.com/p702831053   .

Contact: Mark Hadley, DWR Relations with the Public Specialist, 801-538-4737

Quagga Requirements Lifted at Deer Creek Reservoir

You’re no longer required to clean and drain your boat before leaving the reservoir

Heber City – It’ll take less time to get your boat on or off Deer Creek Reservoir this year. After three years, the reservoir is no longer suspected of having quagga mussels in it.

Nathan Owens, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says quagga mussels have not been found in the reservoir since five juvenile mussels were discovered in a water sample in October 2014.

Because the reservoir has gone three years without further detection, effective Jan. 11, Deer Creek is no longer classified as a quagga-suspected water. And that means you’re no longer required to drain the water from your boat, and have staff at the park inspect it, before leaving the reservoir southwest of Heber City.

Hard work pays off

With the exception of Lake Powell, which has been infested with mussels since 2013, quagga mussels have not been found in any water body in Utah since the discovery at Deer Creek in 2014.

“Our prevention and containment methods worked,” Owens says. “Decontaminating boats that arrived at Deer Creek from Lake Powell and infested waters outside the state prevented mussels from getting into the reservoir and adding to the problem. And requiring boaters to clean and drain their boats—before leaving Deer Creek—prevented any mussels that might have been in Deer Creek from being spread to other waters in the state.”

Owens says preventing quagga mussels from establishing in Deer Creek was a team effort. “This is a shining example of what can happen when boaters and government work together on a common goal,” he says.

The effort included funding from the Utah Legislature and boaters, anglers and personnel from the DWR, Utah State Parks, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Provo River Watershed Council and the Central Utah Water Conservancy District teaming together to keep additional mussels out of the reservoir.

“We want to thank boaters across Utah for completing the required certification forms before launching their boats and then cleaning and draining their boats before leaving the reservoir,” Owens says.

Owens says park rangers and staff at Deer Creek State Park are especially deserving of praise. “Over the past three years,” he says, “they’ve dedicated themselves to inspecting and decontaminating boats and educating boaters about the threat.”

During the past three years, staff at the park inspected more than 30,000 boats. They professionally decontaminated about 2,000 of them.

“The park also started a program that helped those who boat regularly on Deer Creek understand how important it is to keep quagga mussels out of the reservoir,” Owens says. “The program helped the boaters comply with the required clean, drain and dry requirements while reducing congestion and wait times at the boat ramp. The staff at Deer Creek State Park did an unbelievable job.”

Clean, drain and dry

With the exception of Lake Powell, waters in Utah are free of quagga mussels and their cousins, zebra mussels. But Owens encourages all boaters not to let their guard down. “The threat quagga and zebra mussels pose to Utah’s waters is still very real,” he says.

“Even though the requirement to clean, drain and dry your boat pertains only to Lake Powell,” he says, “I strongly encourage you to put your boat through that process, no matter where you’ve been boating. You never know where mussels, or any other unwanted creature, will turn up next. Cleaning, draining and drying your boat—after every boating trip—will help ensure you’re not transporting mussels from one water body to another.”

The simple process, and annual education and certification forms, are available at www.stdofthesea.utah.gov.

Deer Creek State Park Manager Steve Bullock says boats traveling from Lake Powell are the biggest threat to Utah’s waters. “We inspect many boats that arrive at Deer Creek from Lake Powell,” Bullock says. “Boats that have been at Lake Powell for only a few days sometimes pull out with mussels attached to them. Without continued help from boaters, we could easily see quagga mussels spread across Utah.”

Bullock reminds boaters to complete and display the required certification forms before launching their boat at any water in Utah. “And boats that were last used on Lake Powell must still be inspected and, if needed, decontaminated before they can be launched,” he says.

Why the concern?

There are many reasons why Utahns don’t want quagga or zebra mussels in Utah:

-  Mussels can plug water lines, even lines that are large in diameter.

If mussels get into water pipes in Utah, it will cost millions of dollars to try to remove them. If you live in Utah, you’ll likely pay higher utility bill costs to try to get the mussels removed.

-  Mussels remove plankton from the water, the same plankton that supports fish in Utah. The mussels could devastate fisheries in Utah.

-  Mussels can get into your boat’s engine cooling system. Once they do, they’ll foul the system and damage the engine.

-  When mussels die in large numbers, they stink. And their sharp shells can cut your feet as you walk along the beaches where the mussels died.

Fishing reports  -  available at http://wildlife.utah.gov/hotspots .