wyoming game and fish

USDA photo by Scott Bauer

A great deal of research is happening right now on why mule deer populations are declining so fast in the state… and now the University of Wyoming and Wyoming Game and Fish are offering a week-long Tweet Event to let the public participate in the capture and collaring of mule deer. 

Joe Skorupski

In an effort to build-up kokanee salmon populations in the state, Wyoming Game and Fish has begun collecting eggs in Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

Kokanee were first introduced into the gorge in the 1980s. Fisheries biologist Joe Skorupski says they were intended as food for trophy lake trout, but they're also good as food for people.

“Kokanee are a pretty desirable species for anglers,” he says. “They’re fun to catch and they taste really good.”

At this time of year, the land-locked, fresh water salmon are in the late stages of their run and at their most fertile. 

This week a federal judge placed Wyoming’s wolves back on the endangered species list after ruling that the state’s management plan did not offer adequate protection for the wolves. The plan that the state and federal government negotiated would keep the number of wolves that are outside of National Parks to over 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs. But the Judge ruled that Wyoming’s plan was not binding.

Penny Preston

Cody – Grizzly bears, moose, bison, and many other Yellowstone area animals are hit and killed by speeding motorists every year. But now, a baby moose that made newspaper and magazine headlines when it survived a raging river, has been photographed all alone. Locals fear it is orphaned and unlikely to survive, because a motorist killed its mother. It’s led to a renewed discussion over speed limits and signs in forested areas of northwest Wyoming.

A heavy snowpack swelled the Shoshone River this spring.

Hunting season has increased the likelihood of interaction between humans and bears, especially in the mountain ranges outside of Yellowstone National Park. Two grizzly bear attacks this month left one man dead and another injured.

Wyoming Game and Fish Large Carnivore Conflict Coordinator Brian DeBolt says bears have been moving south and east into the Wyoming Range and Big Horn Basin as their numbers have grown. Hunters are at greater risk during the season as they often go against bear safety precautions.

Earlier this month, a panel of biologists, hunters, ranchers and government agencies convened in Daniel to discuss the reasons for the continued drop in mule deer numbers. There were once over 500,000 mule deer in Wyoming but the population has plummeted to around 375,000. Wyoming Game and Fish wildlife coordinator Daryl Lutz was at the summit and he says it will take landscape-wide thinking to stop the decline.

Last week, the state filed a motion to intervene in support of the Wyoming Game and Fish in a lawsuit over five elk feeding grounds in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Attorney Andrea Santarsiere with Western Watersheds Project, the plaintiff in the case, says concentrated numbers of elk at feeding grounds cause severe damage to land and water quality.  

But feeding grounds have long been used to keep elk and cattle from mingling, thereby stopping the spread of diseases that the two species are capable of exchanging. But Santarsiere says there’s an easier way—fences.

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Wyoming's top 131 most vulnerable species are identified in a new study put together by the Nature Conservancy, Wyoming Game and Fish and the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database. Senior Zoologist Doug Keinath with the Diversity Database says the goal of the study was not to place blame, but instead to give the state a heads up before certain species require emergency rescue measures, the way the greater sage grouse has. 

He says the state should keep an especially close eye on amphibians.

Fishthefly.com

Thanks to a bill passed in the last budget session, it may soon be legal to use artificial light and out-of-state live bait when fishing in Wyoming.  Dave Zafft with Wyoming Game and Fish says its long been against the rules to use lights to draw fish to the lure.  Now it could be allowed for nearly all kinds of fishing.

More elk than usual died this year on two wildlife feed grounds in western Wyoming.

Mark Gocke with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department says about 160 animals died on the Camp Creek and Soda Lake feed grounds. Most were calves.

The reason was a combination of disease and wolf predation. Gocke says they had a very wet spring this year, which made it easy for bacteria to spread.

“It’s probably just a combination of elk being weakened by the disease, and then a predator doing what predators do: they see a weak animal, and they will go in and take it,” Gocke said.

The Game and Fish Department says its Youth Fishing Challenge program is growing quickly and gaining popularity statewide.

The program sets up goals for kids to expand their fishing skills.  Challenges center on catching native species of fish and learning about types of habitat. 

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has received $50,000 from the Mule Deer Foundation to help with mule deer habitat improvements in the Platte Valley.

Mule deer numbers in the Platte Valley have been declining for decades, and Tom Ryder with Game and Fish says one of the reasons is that their habitat has deteriorated. That’s due to human development, fire management practices, and other factors.

Ryder says they’re considering a wide range of habitat improvement projects.

Wyoming’s Game & Fish Commission approved millions in budget cuts.

How could this affect our state?

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Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Media

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission approved a number of budget cuts that will help the agency deal with a seven million dollar shortfall.  A number of citizens expressed concern about the budget reductions fearing that they will negatively affect both wildlife and recreation. 

Game and Fish Director Scott Talbott says they dropped education programs, eliminated or froze 21 positions, and addressed two key areas.

Pinedale singer-songwriter Jared Rogerson has been influenced as a musician from 17 years of bronc’ riding in rodeos. He’s also explored thousands of miles in the remote Wyoming backcountry as a brucellosis biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. His new album, Dirt, was released April 17.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is proposing sweeping cuts to make up for an $8- to $10 million budget shortfall.

Game and Fish plans to reduce fish stocking by 20 percent, cancel its annual hunting and fishing expo, and cut educational programming for kids. Spokesman Eric Keszler says they’ll also reduce funding for research by about 50 percent, which he says would be a blow to wildlife managers.

“Research is a very important part of managing wildlife,” Keszler said. “Understanding how wildlife uses the habitat and things like that are very important.”

The Wyoming House has passed a bill that will allow hunters to use silencers and suppressors for various types of hunting in the state. Before passing the bill, the House removed an amendment that would not have allowed silencers when hunting for big game.  But Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau argued that there are plenty of protections if someone violates the law and if they misuse a silencer or a suppressor the hunter can be punished.

The Game and Fish Department could see a 10-million-dollar budget shortfall by 2014, largely because it has been selling fewer hunting and fishing licenses. Licenses account for 46-percent of the agency’s income.  

Game and Fish will hold a meeting Thursday/tomorrow night in Cheyenne to discuss its fiscal future. Spokesperson Mark Konishi says the public will have a chance to weigh in on possible alternative funding sources for the future.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department says that it’s wolf management plan would reduce wolves from around 350 down to about 200 in the first year. 

Some of this would be done by hunting. 

State Game Warden Brian Nesbit says the state needs to maintain ten breeding pairs and 100 wolves outside of Yellowstone National Park and he says the state will take a conservative approach in reducing the population to avoid risking wolves getting put back on the endangered species list. 

Nesbit says wolf hunting will be strictly monitored to maintain the necessary population.