Moonlight Walk in the Marsh - March 26

The Division of Wildlife Resources is teaming up with the Wild Bird Center of Layton for a "Moonlight Walk in the Marsh" March 26 to listen to swans and other waterfowl. The activity will take place at the Farmington Bay WMA. Admission is free. Those interested in attending should meet at 6 p.m. at the Wild Bird Center located at The Layton Market Center,1860 N. 1000 W. in Layton. For more information, call the Wild Bird Center at (801) 525-8400.

Strawberry Valley May Receive Sage-Grouse

Sage-grouse from Diamond and/or Blue Mountain in northeastern Utah may soon be on their way to jump-start a population in the Strawberry Valley. This action, proposed by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR), was recently reviewed and given a "thumbs-up" by several citizen committees, including local sage-grouse working groups, Utah's five Regional Advisory Councils, involved counties, and the Utah Wildlife Board.

Under this proposal, greater sage-grouse will be trapped and moved from large populations in Utah to help increase the number of birds in the Strawberry Valley. These releases will continue until the population reaches 500 breeding birds or if studies indicate that their efforts are not working. Biologists will be taking birds from areas that currently have more than 500 birds- the number required before hunting is allowed.

Brian Maxfield, UDWR biologist, commented, "Preliminary releases into Strawberry Valley from Parker Mountain [in southern Utah] have done extremely well because of the excellent habitat. Released birds have not only joined the resident populations on both their summer and wintering grounds, they have followed them back to the leks or breeding grounds. Studies indicate the Strawberry population is increasing rapidly, and the Parker Mountain population has also increased during the period they have been taking birds for the Strawberry study."

Maxfield added, "It's actually an opportunity for us to increase the populations on some of our northeastern areas. Studies show that many Strawberry sage-grouse winter in the flats below Grey Wolf and Tabby mountains. If the Strawberry population gets large enough, it could help supplement other populations in the surrounding area. Because of these success indicators, the Division would like to step up the recovery process by releasing more birds each year.

In the Northeastern Region, only the Diamond-Blue mountain population has more than 500 birds and as a result, Diamond Mountain has recently been recognized at a possible trapping site. Maxfield noted, "If we can help establish another major population by taking birds from Diamond Mountain, then we may be able to request birds to transplant back into our region. If we tried to transplant birds into nearby sites, the birds may try and return to their original areas and would likely perish on the way. It's better to use birds from farther away."

Biologists want to remind wildlife enthusiasts that the sage-grouse crisis is not over. "We don't want to give the impression that sage-grouse are no longer considered a sensitive species," commented Walt Donaldson, UDWR regional supervisor. "They are definitely a 'Species of Special Concern.' They were petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act for a good reason; sage-grouse populations are declining or are gone in many areas around the Western states. We want to protect what we have and continue efforts to restore populations and habitat for both the greater and Gunnison sage-grouse. Our goal is to keep them off the endangered list."

Maxfield added, "We will be monitoring the capture-site populations almost as closely as we monitor the released birds. At the first indication grouse numbers in a capture area are declining, we will discontinue trapping. We are also progressing with efforts to improve habitat for sage-grouse. First, to maintain and enhance it around the sites where we still have good populations of birds, and second to improve it in the areas where the birds are declining. It's likely future transplants will be used to jumpstart populations in those areas where habitat is considered to be in good or excellent condition.

Biologists hope that the Strawberry Valley efforts are the first of many to restore sage-grouse populations around the state.

Bear Lake Comments requested

The Division of Utah State Parks and Recreation is developing a resource management plan (RMP) for Bear Lake State Park. identifying issues relating to public use, resource management and future development at the park. This plan will help develop recommendations to guide park managers for the next ten years.

It is important for users of the park and other concerned citizens to assist in the development of this plan. To help accomplish this, Utah State Parks invites recreationists to participate in the planning process and to share comments regarding the future management of Bear Lake State Park. State park planners will give a presentation on the state park planning process and will lead those attending in an exercise to identify and prioritize issues relating to the park. Scheduled March 29 at 7 p.m. this meeting is awaits in room 1050 of the Utah Department of Natural Resource Building, 1594 West North Temple in Salt Lake City.

Members of the community, park visitors, and other interested parties are welcome and encouraged to attend. For additional information, contact Bear Lake State Park at (435) 946-3343.
Deer and Dogs Don't Mix

As winter winds down and spring approaches, the Division of Wildlife Resources is encouraging pet owners to keep their dogs on a leash. Walt Donaldson, Northeastern Region supervisor for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, commented, "Deer and dogs don't mix. We are having some serious problems with dogs chasing deer on the winter ranges. Dog owners need to be aware that any dog will chase deer and that the chase does reduce the deer's chance of survival."

He added, "Some dog owners just allow their dogs to run free, and others think it's fun to let their dogs chase deer when they go for walks or participate in other outdoor recreation. These people are putting the deer in jeopardy. Even if the dogs don't catch the deer, chasing seriously decreases the animal's chance for survival."

Boyde Blackwell, regional wildlife manager for the UDWR, reported, "Deer are in a very critical condition during the winter and early spring months. Deer, elk and most other wildlife are in a survival mode during the winter months. Deer survive on their fat and other reserves they built up over the summer because the dry, woody winter vegetation lacks nutrient values.

"Winter weather conditions cause deer to use up their fat reserves," he said. "Cold weather causes the deer to burn reserves faster to generate body heat. Snow covers what little vegetation is available and also hinders deer movements to escape dogs and other predators. Survival hangs in a balance- summer reserves against winter conditions. Utah herds have been devastated during cold, snowy or long winters."

"Dogs, on the other hand, get fed on a regular basis and are provided protection against the worst cold and other winter weather conditions," Donaldson commented. "Survival is not an issue; they chase deer by instinct, not survival. We see dogs of all sizes and shapes chasing after deer. Dogs can chase deer all day without endangering their own lives, but every time a deer has to run or hide, it uses up more of its precious fat reserves and reduces its chances for survival. While domestic dogs instinctively pursue their prey, they have lost their ability or have never learned to kill cleanly. All too often we see dogs eating an exhausted deer they have caught without killing it."

Besides the ecological reasons to keep dogs home, there are also legal reasons. State and federal laws protect both wildlife and domestic animals from dogs. Torrey Christophersen, UDWR regional law enforcement officer, concluded, "If someone sees a dog in the act of pursuing or killing livestock or wildlife, they should immediately call either the UDWR or a county Sheriff's office. Statute 23-20-3 clearly states a person may not take or permit his dog to take protected wildlife or their parts. Legally, "take" includes: pursue, harass, catch, capture or kill."