DWR to Recommend Buck Deer Permit Reduction

For the first time since 1994, a reduction in general buck deer hunting permits will be recommended by the Division of Wildlife Resources. At a series of public meetings in March, big game hunters are encouraged to attend their local Regional Advisory Council Meeting, learn more about the proposals and share their input and suggestions.

Scheduled at 6:30 p.m. on March 22, local hunters are encouraged to attend the Central Region meeting at Springville Junior High School, located at 165 S. 700 E. in Springville. The DWR will recommend increasing limited entry bull elk and buck pronghorn permits available for Utah's hunts this fall. An increase in once-in-a-lifetime Rocky Mountain goat permits also will be suggested.

Citizens representing Utah's five Regional Advisory Councils will take received public input to the Utah Wildlife Board when it meets in Salt Lake City on March 31 to approve permit numbers for this fall's hunts.

The DWR is currently recommending a reduced number of general buck deer permits in both the Central and Northeastern regions by 1,000 permits each. Central Region permits would be reduced from 13,000 to 12,000 and Northeastern Region permits would be reduced from 14,000 to 13,000. Under this plan, permit numbers for the Northern, Southeastern and Southern regions would remain unchanged. In 1994, a cap of 97,000 statewide permits was established and this is the first time that a reduction like this has been proposed.

Jim Karpowitz, big game coordinator for the DWR, explained, "The rifle deer hunt went really well this past fall, and hunters killed a lot of older bucks. The snow that fell at the start of the hunt pushed the deer down to lower elevations, and hunters found a lot of success. The success hunters found this past fall isn't the only factor in the lower buck to doe ratios," he noted. "The last couple of years have been better, but we've been hunting bucks that were born during several years of low fawn production brought on the drought [and there just aren't as many bucks out there]."

After the hunts were over, DWR biologists conducted their annual post-hunting season deer population surveys. They found that the number of bucks in both the Central and Northeastern regions had fallen to 14 bucks per 100 does, which is just slightly under the goal of at least 15 bucks per 100 does called for in Utah's Deer Management Plan.

Karpowitz added, "It's important, for the deer and for hunters, that these goals are met. Keeping at least 15 bucks per 100 does in the population helps ensure that older, mature bucks are maintained in the herds and are available for hunters."

Biologists found slightly better news in the Southeastern and Southern regions, where buck to doe ratios were 15 bucks per 100 does. The best news was in the Northern Region, where biologists found 17 bucks per 100 does on the region's public land units.

Karpowitz indicates that several options are being considered to increase buck to doe ratios in the Central and Northeastern regions as Utah's 2006 seasons are being set this fall. "He reported, "For example, we may recommend raising the number of permits back to the former level, but decreasing the rifle season to five days, like it currently is in the Southeastern and Southern regions."

The reduction in general buck deer permits is one of the few permit reductions the DWR will recommend for this fall. In most cases, the division will recommend permit increases. Karpowitz remarked, "We're recommending a slight increase in the number of limited entry buck deer permits. Some limited entry herds are meeting the buck to doe objectives and can handle a little more hunting pressure."

He continued, "The state's elk herds are also doing great, and we're recommending an increase in limited entry bull elk permits." Each of the state's units are managed so the bulls on the units fall into one of three age classes. The bulls on all of the state's units are at or above the age class objectives for their units. General bull elk permits were approved by the Utah Wildlife Board last fall. Any bull elk permit numbers will remain unchanged from 2004, but the cap on general spike bull elk permits was reduced from 19,000 to 11,000.

Increased permits will be recommended for pronghorn antelope on the Plateau unit in southwestern Utah. "Rocky Mountain goats may be one of the most exciting stories of all," he declared. "We count them every three years, and we found increased numbers of Rocky Mountain goats on several units during our latest counts. The goat populations on the Uinta Mountains and Willard Peak are doing especially well."

Recommendations include no change in Premium Limited Entry Deer Permits, currently listed at 174 tags, while Limited Entry Deer Permits are to be increased from 739 to 766. Limited entry bull elk tags are suggested to increase from 1,269 to 1,552 tags. Pronghorn
antelope is also expected to increase from 402 to 462.

Biologists recommend that 117 Moose tags be available- an increase of two, while Rocky Mountain goat permits be increased from 39 to 64. Desert bighorn sheep are to remain unchanged at 34 hunts available and Bison will be reduced from 43 to 28. Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep tags, if approved, will increase from nine to eleven tags.

A breakdown showing the total permits for each unit will be available at the DWR's Web site ( http://www.wildlife.utah.gov ) before the RAC meeting dates.
Changes await at Palisade State Park

Palisade State Park is gearing up for the summer season with new recreation opportunities. Use of electric trolling motors is now allowed on the reservoir after a visitor survey found that a majority of visitors wanted the change.

After recent renovations, the campground now offers eight sites with electrical and water hook-ups, which may be reserved through the Utah State Parks Reservation Office at (800) 322-3770. The 18-hole golf course is also open for the season. For more information, call (435) 835-7275.
Mirror Lake Highway closes for construction

The Mirror Lake Highway is now closed for construction as the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) replaces the bridge at milepost 11, before the North Fork parking area. As a result, the North Fork and Soapstone trailheads will be closed, and parking at this popular winter recreation spot is now unavailable. While the Mirror Lake / Mill Hollow trail complex will still be groomed, access is limited to Nobletts and Hanna trailheads and Bear River Service.

Snowmobile operators, skiers, and snowshoers are encouraged to travel to other recreation areas including Strawberry Reservoir area, Bear River Service, and Monte Cristo. For more information, contact UDOT at (801) 965-4104 or the Kamas Ranger District at (435) 783-4338.
Visitors encouraged to stay on Trails at Antelope Island

Antelope Island State Park staff reminds visitors to stay on the trails when traveling the park's backcountry trails. The park offers 36-miles of hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trails. Traveling off-trail in the backcountry is a violation of park regulations. For more information contact Antelope Island State Park's headquarters (801) 652-2043.

View Tundra Swans March 12

Pure white tundra swans are making their annual spring migration through Utah right now and birding enthusiasts may celebrate their return at Tundra Swan Day March 12 hosted by the Division of Wildlife Resources.

Utah's Fifth Annual Tundra Swan Day in northern Utah's marshes are highlighted with activities scheduled at the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area (WMA), west of Farmington and the Salt Creek WMA west of Corinne. Swans also may be viewed at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge west of Brigham City and the Ogden Bay WMA west of Hooper.

Division of Wildlife Resources biologists and volunteer naturalists will be at the Farmington Bay and Salt Creek WMAs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with spotting scopes and parabolic dishes visitors may use to both see and listen to swans. Admission is free. Wasatch Audubon Chapter volunteers will be among those who will assist visitors at the Salt Creek WMA.

Justin Dolling, Northern Region wildlife manager for the DWR, says the water impoundments at the Farmington Bay WMA were drained a month ago for carp control. Those impoundments are now filling with water, and about 2,000 swans are currently found in Unit Two. Unit One is also filling, and he anticipates swans will move to that unit soon. He also noted that duck hunting clubs adjacent to the refuge are holding many swans. For more information, call the DWR's Northern Region office at (801) 476-2740.

For those who can't attend, other great opportunities to watch and listen to swans are available. One of the best viewing opportunities is at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, where visitors can view swans while driving their vehicles along the refuge's 12-mile auto tour loop.

Phil Douglass, DWR Northern Region conservation outreach manager, says there are thousands of swans arriving on a daily basis in northern Utah, with good viewing and listening opportunities at the Farmington Bay and Salt Creek WMA's.

Douglas added, "The Rail Trail in western Weber County is another great place to get underneath swans as they move between feeding and resting areas." Douglass said the best viewing area for swans on the rail trail is about one mile west of the parking area at the Rainbow Unit of the Harold Crane WMA, located at the dead end of 6700 W. in Weber County.

Biologist believe that the swan migration will peak within the next three weeks. In addition to the Swan Day locations, Walters suggests that the Ogden Bay WMA parking areas at 5500 W. in Hooper (on the dead end just north of 4000 S.), and 7500 W., about one mile south of SR-39 (12th Street) in West Warren are two great places to listen to the "swan song" this spring.
Charges Filed in Deer Poaching Case

Third degree felony charges have been filed against 48-year-old Wilson Duwayne McCormick of East Carbon for allegedly poaching a trophy buck deer on Dec. 27, 2004 near the East Carbon golf course in southeastern Utah.

The defendant could face substantial fines and restitution as high as $8,000 for the offense -- a crime that was elevated to felony status several years ago by the Utah Legislature.

The poaching incident was witnessed and later reported by a private citizen. The Division of Wildlife Resources urges anyone with information about the illegal harvest of any wildlife species to call its Help Stop Poaching Hotline at 1-800-662-DEER (3337). The informant
may remain anonymous or will be held in confidentiality.
Whirling Disease Booklet Available- Tips Offered

Education is playing a key role in limiting the spread of whirling disease throughout Utah, according to officials from the Division of Wildlife Resources. To help make necessary information available, the Division of Wildlife Resources encourages sportsmen to pick up their free copy of Whirling Disease and Utah Trout: What Anglers Need to Know, before heading out to their popular fishing waters in the upcoming spring fishing season.

Although fish, infected with the disease, are safe to eat, the presence and expansion will affect Utah's fishing quality forever, unless efforts can establish a means of eliminating it after it has been established.

Whirling disease is caused by a parasite that attacks cartilage tissue in trout and salmon. Young fish often die or develop severe deformities (including twisted spines or deformed heads), may develop a black tail, or develop a characteristic whirling behavior (swimming in circles).

Currently no known efforts have been effective in eliminating the problem, once it has established in a body of water. The Division has taken significant measures along the Fremont River, after it was first discovered in that drainage.

Anglers should be aware that the disease is spreading in Utah, but angler efforts can significantly limit the spread. Tom Pettengill, Division Sport Fisheries Coordinator, is optimistic for Utah and commented, "The rate of whirling disease spread in Utah has been far less than other western states. I was amazed at how many places in Montana have it now, and it's virtually all over Colorado."

In addition to efforts from the Division of Wildlife Resources in limiting this disease, thanks must be given to cautious anglers who thoroughly clean their fishing equipment (including waders, boots, boats, boat trailers, anchors, etc.) before moving onto other waters to fish. Pettengill reminds anglers that their efforts can play a significant role in keeping many Utah waters disease free. Measures include the following:

Avoid catching fish in one part of a stream or lake and cleaning them in another part. Pettengill reports that disease spores can easily spread to new areas through these actions. Often adult fish that had been infected (after reaching lengths of five to six inches) will not show signs of whirling disease, and will unlikely demonstrate head or body deformities, common with the disease. (Anglers are also reminded to leave enough skin, or the head attached, for species identification, when cleaning fish in the field)

Don't transport live fish--it's illegal. Live fish should never be moved from one water to another. Also, they should not be moved upstream in the same drainage. A disease may be confined to the lower reach of a stream, below a diversion or dam. By moving fish above the obstruction, you could move the disease into new areas.

If you observe fish stocking in public waters from a truck, not marked as a Division of Wildlife Resources vehicle, call the poaching hotline at 1-800-662-3337 as soon as possible. If you observe fish with possible symptoms, including deformities or erratic swimming behavior, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office.

Whirling Disease and Utah Trout: What Anglers Need to Know, answers many commonly asked questions about the disease, including how it is transmitted, what the disease is, and describes the Division's efforts in containing it. It also clears up common misconceptions and provides tips that everyone can use in preventing it from spreading. Pettengill concluded, "I'd encourage every angler in Utah to pick up a copy."