Updates from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Tuesday, September 5, 2017 - 12:00pm
Dawn Scothern / newsletters

Building beaver dams in Miller Creek

At first glance, it appears the wrong species has been building dams in Miller Creek. DWR habitat crews have taken on the beaver’s usual role, dropping in support poles, weaving in tree branches and packing mud on the structures they’re building. The goal of this unusual project is to re-flood the floodplain and create pools for the river’s sensitive and endangered fish. Having more water in the area will also benefit the mammals and birds that use the stream corridor. Biologists hope that beavers will eventually move into the structures and continue the effort. Reporters and photographers are invited to visit the newly built dams and talk to biologists about this innovative project. See a time-lapse video of this work: http://bit.ly/beaver_dam

With help from volunteers, we installed artificial beaver dams (beaver dam analogs) last week (August 24) along Miller Creek in southeastern Utah. Projects like these help raise the water table and restore natural floodplains, improving habitat for birds, fish and other wildlife. A special thanks to ConocoPhillips and Trout Unlimited, who have been great partners on this and many other projects!

Electrofishing survey in the Green River

In early September, hundreds of fish — temporarily stunned — will float to the surface of the Green River after a strong electric jolt. Then, a group of DWR employees will work quickly to net the fish, weigh and measure them, record data, check them for tracking tags and pump their stomachs to see what they’re eating. As soon as the work is done, the crew will return the unharmed fish to the river. This annual survey allows biologists to collect valuable data and identify changes in the river’s fish populations. Sept. 5 and 6 from around 8 p.m. until midnight. There are two sites on the Green River. On Sept. 5, the crew will work at the spillway launch area (just below Flaming Gorge dam), and on Sept. 6, they’ll be in the Little Hole area.

Improving winter range for mule deer

Bullhogs are heavy machines that the DWR uses to improve habitat. The bullhogs tear out and shred pinion/juniper trees, leaving room for widespread sagebrush growth. In a few years, long after the loud, messy machinery is gone, these areas will offer prime winter range for mule deer and many other species that live in the Book Cliffs. Over the next month or two, the DWR will use a bullhog to mulch pinion/juniper trees: http://j.mp/1TDQY81   Utah Division of Wildlife Resources on February 18, 2016.  This project is ongoing from now until the project is complete in the southern Book Cliffs. Many thanks to Safari Club International (SCI) -- Official Group, Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife, Mule Deer Foundation and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for helping fund the project.

Statewide project of Surveying American Pika populations

The American Pika is a low-profile mammal that lives at high altitudes. Related to rabbits and hares, these small, big-eyed creatures spend much of the summer preparing for a harsh winter high above the timberline. In late August and September, DWR biologists will be hiking to check on many of the state’s pika populations. You can view a photo of a pika at http://instagram.com/p/r7_haQtoZC/?modal=true.  Late August, and part of September, this will take place in various sites in central, northeastern and southeastern Utah.

 You can see bright red kokanee -- including what the fish look like underwater -- at the first two links below.


Photos of tiger muskie are also available!




Kokanee salmon  -  free viewing event at Strawberry




Kokanee salmon  -  free viewing event at Sheep Creek






Tiger muskie  -  changes at Scofield Reservoir




Cougars  -  hunting rules approved




photos for ALL of the news releases



See Kokanee Salmon at Strawberry Reservoir

Sept. 16 is Kokanee Salmon Viewing Day

Heber City – You can see hundreds of bright red salmon—and possibly other wildlife, too—at the annual Kokanee Salmon Viewing Day.

The event will be held Sept. 16 at the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) visitor center at Strawberry Reservoir  The visitor center is along U.S. Highway 40, about 20 miles southeast of Heber City.

The event is free. It runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Division of Wildlife Resources, the USFS and Friends of Strawberry Valley host the viewing event every September amid the valley’s beauty and its changing fall colors.

Seeing the salmon

When you attend the event on Sept. 16, you’ll see some salmon in the Strawberry River next to the visitor center. But, if you walk to the fish trap and egg-taking facility behind the visitor center, you’ll see hundreds of the bright red fish.

DWR biologists will be available at the facility to show you the salmon and talk with you about the peculiar life cycle of the fish.

“Kokanee are easily visible in the river at the visitor center,” says Scott Root, regional conservation outreach manager for the DWR. “Once you arrive at the fish trap, you can ask questions about the salmon. If you want, you can even touch one.”

Root says the fall colors should make your drive to the reservoir really enjoyable. “In addition to the salmon,” he says, “there’s a good chance you’ll see other wildlife too. Kokanee Salmon Viewing Day is a great family event.”

If you can’t attend the Sept. 16 event, Root says salmon should be visible in the Strawberry River, and other tributaries to Strawberry, from now until the first part of October.

For more information about the event, call the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest at 435-654-0470 or Root at 801-491-5656.


PHOTOS  -  19 photos to accompany this story are available at   http://udwrnewsphotos.zenfolio.com/p1007667542   .



See Bright Red Kokanee Salmon at Sheep Creek

Kokanee Salmon Day happens Sept. 16

Manila -- Whether you’re a visitor to the area, or a local who has attended for years, if you visit Sheep Creek to see kokanee salmon on Sept. 16, pack a lunch so you can spend the day enjoying everything the area has to offer.

The Division of Wildlife Resource’s annual Kokanee Salmon Day will be held at Sheep Creek on Sept. 16, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“Last year, more than 400 people attended,” says Tonya Kieffer, regional conservation outreach manager for the DWR. “We’re hoping even more people will attend this year to watch nature paint Sheep Creek red.”

The event is free, and the viewing site is easy to get to. Sheep Creek is about six miles south of Manila. Kieffer is still determining the specific viewing site, but it will either be at the Scenic Byway turnout where Sheep Creek crosses under state Route 44, or near the campgrounds located along Sheep Creek. “Just watch for signs that we’ll post along SR 44,” she says. “You’ll be able to see the signs, no matter which direction on SR 44 you’re traveling.

“We’re hoping to see really good numbers of kokanee in their bright red spawning colors,” she says. “Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, wild turkeys, sandhill cranes, red-tailed hawks, song birds, squirrels and a variety of other wildlife have greeted those who have attended the event in the past. If you have a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope, make sure to bring it with you.”

Kieffer looks forward to the kokanee salmon spawning run every year. “The run is a great symbol of the changing seasons and an indication that autumn is here,” she says.

Kieffer says the colorful, landlocked salmon spawn in several Utah streams in September and October after spending about four years maturing in reservoirs downstream from where they spawn. “One of the most scenic kokanee runs takes place in Sheep Creek,” she says, “which is a tributary to Flaming Gorge Reservoir.”

DWR outreach staff and biologists will be at the site between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Display materials will be on hand that will help you see the kokanee and interpret their behavior. The biologists will also have a spotting scope available in case bighorn sheep visit the area, which they usually do during Kokanee Salmon Day.

“This is also a great time to take a scenic drive along the Sheep Creek Geological Loop,” Kieffer says, “in search of changing fall colors and other wildlife.”

Salmon in Utah

Utah's salmon populations are a completely freshwater species known as kokanee salmon. They follow a lifecycle that’s similar to other salmon with one exception: instead of migrating from the Pacific Ocean to freshwater streams, kokanee reach freshwater streams by migrating to the streams from freshwater lakes and reservoirs.

While kokanee spawning runs are an excellent opportunity to discover Utah’s wildlife, please watch the salmon from the bank of Sheep Creek. As you approach the bank, move quietly to avoid disturbing the fish. Studies have documented that the kokanee are sensitive to disturbances on the bank.

Also, don’t wade in the stream. Wading in the stream can disrupt the spawning run, destroy the redds (egg nests) and cover the eggs with silt.

To further protect kokanee during their spawning season, anglers are reminded that they may not possess kokanee salmon in Utah from Sept. 10 through Nov. 30.


 PHOTOS  -  17 photos to accompany this story are available at   http://udwrnewsphotos.zenfolio.com/p628334217   .

Contact: Valarie Fiorelli, DWR Northeastern Region Wildlife Recreation Specialist, 435-828-0008 or 435-781-9453

Three New Fish Species to be Stocked into Scofield Reservoir

DWR adopts new management plan for Scofield

Scofield -- After an extensive public input process, the Division of Wildlife Resources has adopted a new management plan for the fishery at Scofield Reservoir.

The plan, which was presented to the Central and Southeastern regional advisory councils in July, includes introducing three new fish species to the reservoir—wiper, tiger muskie and sterile walleye.

Placing the three species in the reservoir will give anglers new fishing opportunities and hopefully help fishing remain good for years to come.

Scofield’s history

For decades, Scofield Reservoir was known as a great place to take your family fishing for rainbow trout. For a time, the reservoir was even listed among Utah’s Blue Ribbon fishing waters, some of the best fishing waters in the state. The presence of Utah chub has caused angler satisfaction to decline in recent years, though. Utah chub reproduce prolifically and outcompete rainbow trout for food and space. The chub were likely introduced to the reservoir illegally.

The chub problem is not a new problem at Scofield. For decades, aquatics managers have used rotenone, a chemical that kills fish, to remove Utah chub from the reservoir. The first rotenone treatment at Scofield happened in 1958. When the chub returned 20 years later, it was treated again. And, 14 years after that, another treatment occurred.

Most recently, aquatic managers have used predatory species, such as cutthroat and tiger trout, to curb the chub population. Gill net surveys have shown that the cutthroat and tiger trout have effectively reduced the number of young chub in the reservoir. But chub can live up to 30 years, and the adults in the reservoir—which are too large for the trout to eat—haven’t died off yet. They’re still in Scofield and are still producing young chubs.

Public input

In fall 2016, the DWR conducted an online survey. The survey asked anglers what species they would like to pursue at Scofield and whether they would support another rotenone treatment. Responses from some 2,500 anglers across Utah revealed strong public support for introducing new species to the reservoir. Doing another rotenone treatment received mixed support.

Following the survey, aquatic managers organized a management committee. The committee included biologists, Scofield residents and volunteers who took the survey. Several sportsmen organizations were also represented, including the state’s Blue Ribbon Fisheries Council, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, the DWR’s Southeastern Regional Advisory Council, and the Utah Wildlife Board. The purpose of the committee was to develop a sport fish management plan that would provide the DWR with recommendations and direction to create a sustainable, high-quality fishery at Scofield.

Six management priorities emerged from the group:

·        Re-establish the family fishery, and make sure there are fish in the reservoir that people can catch and keep.

·        Maintain and enhance trophy fishing opportunities.

·        Enhance the diversity of fishing opportunities by adding new fish species.

·        Reduce Utah chub numbers with a sustainable management model.

·        Increase fishing and recreational use at the reservoir.

·        Manage the reservoir in a way that’s compatible with the management of native fish species that live downstream.

A new approach      

The new management plan addresses each of these goals, and the DWR has started implementing it. The goals in the plan include stocking Scofield Reservoir with three new species: wiper (a hybrid cross between a white bass and a striped bass), tiger muskie and triploid walleye.

Each of these species is sterile, which allows managers to control and adjust their numbers as needed. Adding the three species accomplishes several things: It enhances the diversity of fishing opportunities at Scofield, provides trophy fishing opportunities and introduces larger predators capable of controlling adult Utah chub.

“We need to reduce the chubs,” says Justin Hart, the DWR’s aquatics manager in southeastern Utah. “We don’t want to eliminate them completely, of course. We plan to use them to grow some big fish. But we do need to reduce their numbers.”

Hart says the new species will likely reach a catchable size by 2018, or sooner.

Rainbow trout still play an essential role in Scofield’s future. Next year, the DWR will stock rainbow trout that are several inches longer than those stocked in other waters. (Catchable rainbows stocked in other waters are usually 8 to 10 inches long.)

Stocking bigger rainbows will allow anglers to harvest and enjoy the rainbows immediately after they’re stocked. The agency will continue stocking cutthroat and tiger trout too.

Even though the wiper, tiger muskie and walleye that are being stocked can’t reproduce, managers are still taking precautions to prevent them from escaping from Scofield. A screen will be installed that will stop these species from moving downstream.

“That’s a big part of this plan too,” Hart says.

The rotenone option

While the plan to introduce new species to Scofield moves forward, a future rotenone treatment remains a possibility if the new species can’t adequately control the number of chubs. Aquatic managers have contracted with a private consulting firm to conduct a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis of the reservoir, its tributaries and tail water should a rotenone treatment become necessary.

“We’re doing that right now,” Hart says. “We’ll have that analysis in our pocket, in case we need it.”.

The new management plan for Scofield Reservoir has a lifespan of five years. If the Utah chub population is not sufficiently reduced in that time, or if the new species fail to thrive, the reservoir will be treated with rotenone, Hart says.


PHOTOS  -  12 photos to accompany this story are available at  http://udwrnewsphotos.zenfolio.com/p875838672   .

Slight Increase in Cougar Hunting Permits

Salt Lake City -- Plenty of cougars mean additional chances to hunt the big cats in Utah.

During an Aug. 31 meeting in Salt Lake City, members of the Utah Wildlife Board—a panel of seven citizens appointed by the governor—approved a slight increase in the number of cougars hunters can take during the state’s upcoming season.

During the 2016 – 2017 season, hunters were allowed to take 531 cougars. During the upcoming season, hunters can take 581.

The number of cougars that are taken will actually be lower than 581, though. For example, 400 cougars were taken this past season, even though hunters were allowed to take 531.

“Cougars are tough to hunt,” says Darren DeBloois, game mammals coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. “Not every hunter who gets a permit will take one.”

You can apply for a cougar hunting permit starting Sept. 19. The cougar hunting rules the board approved will be available in the 2017 – 2018 Utah Cougar Guidebook. The free guidebook should be available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks by Sept. 15.

Cougar population

DeBloois says Utah’s cougar population is doing well, with lots of the big cats found across the state. He appreciates the role cougar hunters play, both in helping protect deer, bighorn sheep and livestock from cougars and providing wildlife biologists with valuable information that helps them manage the population.

DeBloois says those who take a cougar must bring the animal to a DWR biologist or a conservation officer. “The first thing we do is examine the animal to see if it’s a male or a female,” he says. “Next, we determine the animal’s age by removing and analyzing one of its teeth.”

DeBloois says the number of females and the number of adults in a cougar population are the key factors in keeping the population healthy and strong.

“A male cougar will breed with several females,” he says, “so keeping plenty of females in the population is important. The number of adults is also important. A healthy population will have plenty of adults. If the number of adults starts to decline, we know the overall number of cougars in the population is declining too.”

Utah’s Cougar Management Plan provides guidelines that help ensure the state has a healthy and stable cougar population. The two major guidelines are the number of female cougars hunters take—compared to the number of males—and the number of cougars taken that are five years of age or older.

The plan says not more than 40 percent of the cougars hunters take can be females. And at least 15 percent of the cougars taken must be five years of age or older.

During the 2016 – 2017 season, only 28 percent of the cougars taken were females. And 23 percent of the cougars taken were five years of age or older.

“Utah’s cougar population has plenty of females in it,” DeBloois says, “and plenty of adults too. We’re pleased the population is doing so well. These finely tuned predators are an important part of the state’s ecosystem. It’s exciting to know that Utah has a healthy population.”

If you have questions about hunting cougars in Utah, call the nearest DWR office or the DWR’s Salt Lake City office at 801-538-4700.

PHOTOS  -  seven photos to accompany this story are available at   http://udwrnewsphotos.zenfolio.com/p747188160   .

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