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Harsh Winter Continues: Idaho Braces For Feeding Operations

February 6, 2008.

As Hunt The West subscribers know, winter feeding operations are already underway in Washington and Colorado. Now Idaho is bracing for what appears to be an imminent need to begin feeding operations.

From the Idaho Department of Fish and Game:

When it comes to precipitation, it's often feast or famine.

Winter storms have brought much needed snow to recharge reservoirs and provide hope for next years irrigation needs. But things are starting to look tough for certain herds of deer and elk. As part of its annual monitoring program, the Winter Feeding Advisory Committee met Friday, February 1, via a telephone conference call to review animal and environmental conditions in Idaho Fish and Game's Upper Snake Region.

After much consideration, the committee unanimously recommended that Fish and Game begin preparation of feeding operations to address the needs of wildlife and the safety of humans in the region.

The recommendation by committee chairman Kent Marlor was not for wholesale winter feeding. The committee, along with Idaho Fish and Game biologists reviewed specific locations and the animal, human, and environmental factors associated with each. Fish and Game will set up a priority schedule to undertake a feeding operation, the likes of which have not been seen in this area for fifteen years.

"We are sensitive to all places in the region where animals are struggling with winter conditions, but due to logistics we can't address them all," said Steve Schmidt, Upper Snake regional supervisor. "That is why we have worked with the Winter Feeding Advisory Committee to come up with priorities."

Herd survival, human safety and disease transmission are the driving factors in selecting wildlife populations to be fed.

"While some fawns die every winter, more will certainly die this winter," regional wildlife manager Daryl Meints said. "That is unfortunate, but our number one priority is trying to insure the best survival possible for the mature females. They're the ones that will be able to bring back the herds after we get through the winter."

Part of the program will be to lure big game animals away from areas where they could be a traffic hazard and from sites where landowners are feeding livestock, Schmidt said. In some cases, feed sites will be established where a special alfalfa-mix pellet will be distributed.

Because of the large territory involved, volunteers will be crucial to reaching all the animals affected.

"Once we start feeding, we can't stop until spring green-up," Meints said. "That means people who sign on to be volunteers need to be serious about helping for the long haul."

Winter feeding operations are expensive, and difficult to implement. To learn more about winter feeding, visit the Fish and Game website at: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/hunt/biggame/feed.cfm

For information about volunteering to help with wintering wildlife or to report problem locations, call 208-525-7290.


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