Help Solve North Dakota Elk Poaching Case

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/help-solve-north-dakota-elk-poaching-case/

Below is a Facebook post from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

Game and Fish officials are looking for information in connection to an elk poaching case near Keene. Two bull elk were shot and left in a field near the intersection of 40th St. NW and 109th Ave. NW, north of Keene. The bulls were most likely shot in the afternoon or evening of February 17, 2021. One of the bulls had only its head removed, and one was left intact. No meat was taken off of either animal.

If anyone has any information about the illegal taking of these animals, please contact the Report All Poachers hotline at 701-328-9921. Individuals can remain anonymous if they chose and are eligible for a reward if a conviction is made based on information they provide

(Photo source: North Dakota Game and Fish Department)

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Application Period Open for 2021 North Dakota Elk Hunt

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/application-period-open-for-2021-north-dakota-elk-hunt/

Below is a news release from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

Elk, moose and bighorn sheep applications are available online at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov. The deadline for applying is March 24, 2021.

A total of 523 elk and 474 moose licenses are available to hunters this fall, the same as last year.

Moose units M4 and M1C will remain closed due to a continued downward population trend in the northeastern part of the state.

As stated in the chronic wasting disease proclamation, hunters harvesting an elk in unit E2, or a moose in units M10 and M11, cannot transport the whole carcass, including the head and spinal column, outside of the unit. More information on CWD is available by visiting the Game and Fish website.

A bighorn sheep hunting season is tentatively scheduled for 2021, depending on the sheep population. The status of the bighorn sheep season will be determined Sept. 1, after summer population surveys are completed. The season was closed in 2015 due to a bacterial pneumonia outbreak.

Bighorn sheep applicants must apply for a license at the same time as moose and elk, but not for a specific unit. Once total licenses are determined for each unit in late summer, the bighorn lottery will be held and successful applicants contacted to select a hunting unit.

Because the bighorn sheep application fee is not refundable as per state law, if a bighorn season is not held, applicants would not receive a refund.

Elk, moose and bighorn sheep lottery licenses are issued as once-in-a-lifetime licenses in North Dakota. Hunters who have received a license through the lottery in the past are not eligible to apply for that species again.

(Photo source: North Dakota Game and Fish Department)

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Harvest Exceeded in 2021 Wisconsin Wolf Hunt

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/harvest-exceeded-in-2021-wisconsin-wolf-hunt/

As of 7 a.m. on February 25, Wisconsin hunters and trappers killed 213 wolves after just two and a half days of the 2021 wolf hunt season. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) closed the season one day earlier.

The total is above the quota of 200 set for the 2021 winter season split between the state and Ojibwe tribes. However, Fred Prehn, chair of the Natural Resources Board originally wanted a quota of 350 since an estimate of the state’s wolf population is 1,000 or more than 200 percent above the DNR’s state management plan.

“Clearly, the quota wasn’t taking the 350 in mind. I mean, we’ve seen in the last two to three days tops, there’s a lot of wolves on the landscape — a lot,” Prehn told Wisconsin Public Radio. “I hope the scientists can figure out exactly how many wolves they feel are roaming Wisconsin because I think it’s a lot more than one thinks.”

The DNR plans to wrap up wolf population counts in April and plans to hold another wolf hunt, in line with state law, in November.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation submitted public comment in favor of a February 2020 wolf season and views predator management as an important part of overall successful wildlife management.

(Photo credit:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife)

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BUILT FOR THE LONG RANGE

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/built-for-the-long-range/

When it comes to long-range shooting and hunting, a new cartridge contender has made its debut. Winchester Ammunition offers bullet options in the new the 6.8 Western™, featuring long-range accuracy, more energy and less recoil.

Looking for an ideal long-range cartridge? A new contender has made its debut. The 6.8 Western™ offers impressive long-range accuracy, low recoil and staggering knockdown power when you need it for both long-range hunting.

With the all-new 6.8 Western, Winchester continues its legacy of innovative cartridge development. The features of this new cartridge include:

  • Long, heavy bullets ideal for big-game hunting and long-range precision shooting
  • Heavier bullet weights than 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC and 270 WSM
  • More energy than 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC and 7mm Remington Magnum
  • Less recoil than 300 WSM, 300 Winchester Magnum and 300 PRC
  • Short action for fast cycling, high accuracy and a reduced rifle weight that makes for a comfortable carry

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Hunting Is Conservation – Hunting Generates Funding for Elk Research

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/hunting-is-conservation-hunting-generates-funding-for-elk-research/

Biologists need reliable scientific information to make sound wildlife management decisions, thus ensuring the future of thriving populations.

Rigorous, peer-reviewed research checks that box.

And hunters provide funding to make wildlife research possible.

Take the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation as an example, which supports and works alongside respected scientists and biologists from state agencies, universities and other organizations.

About 98 percent of RMEF’s membership consists of hunters whose membership dues and volunteer efforts raise funding for RMEF’s mission.

In 2020, RMEF allocated more than $846,000 that leveraged an additional $4.7 million in partner funding to support 30 different research projects all around elk country…

…specifically in these states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming and one project of national benefit in the Northern Rocky Mountains.

Topics range from elk habitat use, demographics and elk calf survival to predation, disease surveillance and identifying migration corridors, range and other priority areas.

Continually accumulating accurate, scientific data is key to RMEF’s mission and helps ensure the future of elk and other wildlife.

Generating vital funding for research, providing food security, managing wildlife populations, promoting conservation and valuing wildlife species…all highlight how Hunting Is Conservation.

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Thanks to Hunting, Conservation Funding Continues to Soar

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/thanks-to-hunting-conservation-funding-continues-to-soar/

Two new reports highlight how hunters continue to generate significant funding for conservation work.

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, excise taxes on ammunition, long guns and pistols totaled more than $248.6 million dollars from July 1, 2020, through September 30, 2020. That equates to an increase of 58.5 percent over the same period in 2019. Those taxes are specifically designated by state wildlife agencies to pay for conservation.

Since the establishment of the Pittman-Robertson Act in 1937, purchases by hunters and those using ammunition and firearms generated $13.6 billion, thus marking the largest single source of funding for wildlife conservation.

According to a report by the Wildlife Management Institute, the generation of hunting and shooting related excise taxes is up across the board for ammunition, pistols and long guns, and archery equipment. Such funding generated more than $127.1 million from October 2020 through December 31, 2020.

(Photo credit:  Wyoming Game and Fish Department)

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Study: Human Activity Impacts Contact between Wintering Elk

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/study-human-activity-impacts-contact-between-wintering-elk/

A new study indicates human activity has a measurable impact on elk. Researchers placed GPS collars on elk to monitor their amount of contact on the National Wildlife Refuge in western Wyoming compared to other activity there such as supplemental feeding.

“When feeding is occurring, your average pair of elk would spend about one third of the day together,” Will Janousek, U.S. Geological Survey biologist, told Wyoming Public Media. “When feeding wasn’t occurring, they would only spend about one tenth of the day together.”

Janousek also indicated hunting made elk 23 percent less likely to be in groups.

Weather patterns, such as heavy snow, also led to the gathering of elk.

(Photo credit:  Erica Huber)

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RMEF Among Partners Funding Oregon Forest Management Program

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/rmef-among-partners-funding-oregon-forest-management-program/

Below is a news release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Private forestland owners in central Wasco County, Oregon, can reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and improve their forest health with conservation assistance available from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Forest Service. Applications for the current round of funding are due by April 16, 2021.

This forest restoration effort, called the Central Wasco County All-Lands Project, is funded by the Joint Chiefs Landscape Restoration Initiative. The Joint Chiefs initiative is a partnership between two USDA agencies – NRCS and the Forest Service – that reduces wildfire risk on both public and private forests. NRCS is offering assistance to help private landowners treat and improve their woods and forests; the Forest Service will be performing similar restoration on the federal side of the project boundary in the Mt. Hood National Forest.

“Forestland threats such as wildfire and disease know no bounds,” said Garrett Duyck, NRCS acting district conservationist in The Dalles. “Working across public and private land boundaries is key to increase forest resiliency and protect our forestlands.”

“The completed work will restore pine and oak habitat and riparian areas, improve conditions for wildlife, and reduce the risk of fires spreading from public lands to neighboring non-federal lands,” said Kameron Sam, Mt. Hood National Forest District Ranger for the Barlow and Hood River Ranger Districts.  “We look forward to getting work done on the ground that benefits the forest and our neighboring communities.”

Project funding will help forestland owners implement conservation practices, such as forest stand improvement and woody residue treatment. Project goals are to improve landscape resiliency to disease and disturbance and to restore ecological function in Oregon white oak habitats for associated plant and wildlife species.

Forest stand improvement utilizes practices that guide or influence a forest stand to meet a particular objective, such as improving habitat for various wildlife species, reducing the risk of unwanted fire, or influencing the stand structure to meet landowner objectives. It can help to reduce the risk of unwanted wildfire, while also creating greater resiliency to potential stressors.

Planned woody residue treatments will move forest stands towards more historic conditions by reducing stocking levels through thinning, mastication, and prescribed burning. This project incorporates high-hazard, high-risk communities as identified in the Wasco County Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP).

The Central Wasco County All-Lands project started in 2020 and will continue through 2022, targeting restoration on nearly 47,740 acres of state, federal and private forestland in Wasco County.

Collaborating project partners include NRCS, Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wasco County Soil and Water District, and Wasco County Forest Collaborative.

Interested landowners should submit applications by April 16 to The Dalles Service Center field office (2325 River Road, #3, The Dalles, OR 97058) to be considered for the current round of funding.

For more information, contact Garrett Duyck, NRCS Acting District Conservationist at 541-298-8559 x113, or Garrett.Duyck@usda.gov.

(Photo credit:  U.S. Forest Service)

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Idaho Biologists Answer Questions about Elk, Deer Hunting

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/idaho-biologists-answer-questions-about-elk-deer-hunting/

Below is a news release from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Fish and Game wildlife biologists are often asked “how does the deer/elk count look in Unit X?” While this may seem like a simple question, answering it can be difficult and expensive to quantify, but biologists have a variety of tools for monitoring herds and tracking population changes.

Many people assume biologists conduct deer and elk counts every year in each of Fish and Game’s 99 hunt units. That’s understandable, but there are many factors that influence how often population counts can occur across the state.

Population surveys take a significant amount of time, personnel hours and resources. Combining the personnel costs with very expensive hourly costs for helicopter flight time – which often runs thousands of dollars per day – the total cost can easily exceed the annual budget allocated for population monitoring.

Due to high costs of helicopter time, biologists must design and plan a survey to ensure quality data is collected and also decide how high the helicopters fly, at what speed and what specific elevation contour intervals. Add ever-changing weather and snow conditions, which affect how much animals are congregated on the landscape and how easy they are to spot, and what seems like a straight-forward task can be extremely difficult to complete.

Hunters are often interested in one particular game management unit — or hunt units, as they are commonly known — and typically the one they hunt. But data collected from radio-collared mule deer show some winter ranges contain deer that migrate from summer ranges across many different hunt units. Understanding these seasonal movements led to the development of more biologically meaningful collection of data, or what biologists refer to as Data Analysis Units.

Each DAU includes information about both summer and winter ranges, as well as migratory routes for deer populations, which collectively are used as the sampling unit to manage deer populations.

DAUs are created so deer survival, recruitment, mortality and harvest rates are similar throughout the DAU and across all seasons, so what happens in one unit generally represents what happens in the entire deer population within several hunt units.

Abundance surveys estimate herd sizes

An “abundance survey” includes counting deer or elk within a specific DAU by flying a grid across all winter ranges within that DAU. Normally, these surveys are done with a helicopter every four to five years.

A typical abundance survey may take several weeks to survey the entire DAU, and they are typically flown between mid-January and early March to ensure deer are concentrated on low-elevation winter ranges.

Biologists know they won’t spot every animal while flying over various terrain and counting deer, elk and other animals, so they have a way to account for those “missing” animals. Fish and Game researchers developed a “sightability model” that corrects the count to include wildlife not observed.

The model was developed because it is nearly impossible to count every animal on a given flight. It was originally developed by flying over an area and counting the animals, then having a ground crew go back and intensively search the area and compare counts to between the two methods to see how many animals were missed and create a formula to account for it.

A survey might observe 10,000 deer on a winter range, but the sightability model will correct the estimate for those deer not seen, which could increase the estimate in the 11,000 -13,000 range.

The sightability model is designed to account for varying factors, such as snow cover, deer group size, number of deer found in heavy cover, etc. For example, the sightability model would be different in flat, open terrain than it would in a steep canyon with lots of cover.

Not every DAU in the state is surveyed for several reasons, such as, they have very low densities of animals, or the animals are widely dispersed across the area. Some are simply too vast, so it would be cost prohibitive to survey them, and others may not have winter ranges where animals congregate and biologists could count them.

Using modeling to estimate abundance between surveys

If Fish and Game staff only counts animals in the field once every four to  five years, how do they know how many animals there are in years between surveys? After all, five years can be a long time, especially when populations fluctuate significantly from year to year due to weather and other factors.

The equation is complicated, but the answer is in mathematics and experience.

For mule deer populations, Fish and Game researchers have developed a robust mathematical formula, called an “integrated population model,” which allows them to reliably estimate abundance from year to year between actual surveys.

The integrated population model combines various sets of data — and lots of them — that biologists collect and continue to update annually, including information gleaned from monitoring fawns and does wearing tracking collars, satellite images that allow them to assess localized weather and habitat conditions, age and sex ratios from annual herd composition surveys (more on that later) and harvest data.

When the abundance surveys are flown again, it’s a chance to check the math and ground-truth the population modeling, and typically, the two numbers are pretty close. As Fish and Game researchers have continued to refine the formula over the years, the modeling has steadily improved.

“Our integrated population modeling, at this point, is probably more accurate than our actual aerial abundance surveys because the model relies on several streams of data instead of a single estimate,” said Mark Hurley, Fish and Game’s wildlife research manager. “With the modeling, there is much lower potential for a single instance of weather, or animal behavior, to influence the result.”

In addition to continually refining the integrated population model for Idaho’s mule deer herds, Fish and Game researchers are currently developing a similar model for elk. Because the two animals are different, the population model must be as well.

“We simply don’t have the long-term data stream we have with mule deer. But we’re working on improving those data streams,” Hurley added. “As a part of that process, we’ve had to develop new ways to overcome obstacles that are unique to collecting data about elk populations. But at this point, we’re very close to rolling that out.”

Herd composition survey

A herd composition survey is performed annually in many DAUs across the state. These surveys typically require fewer flight hours and are typically flown in early December to estimate the ratios of fawns to does and bucks to does. Early winter fawn:doe ratios measure fawn survival for the first six months of life, which is an important component to model and estimate future deer populations.

Herd composition surveys cover areas representative of the deer herd’s distribution in a given Data Analysis Unit and identify enough fawns, does and bucks to accurately estimate composition. A composition survey of 750 or 1,000 deer is fairly typical in most DAUs, and it is considered a large enough sample size to accurately estimate the composition of the entire population.

The primary purpose of a composition survey is to acquire reliable fawn:doe ratios, but buck:doe ratios are obtained at the same time. Because bucks are in smaller groups than does with fawns and occupy different areas on the landscape, a higher sample of deer is required to get a reliable buck:doe ratio. So where these ratios are important, managers spend more time surveying.

The integrated population modeling can also provide reliable estimates of buck ratios because all the data needed is already collected for the population estimates: survival of adult survival, fawn survival, and annual harvest.

Aerial surveys remain an important tool for wildlife managers

Aerial surveys are still important to estimate big game populations, and in addition to costs, flights also present considerable safety risks to Fish and Game staff and pilots. In the future, monitoring will likely be less reliant on aerial surveys due to the increasing cost of helicopter time and availability of experienced pilots with suitable helicopters.

There may come a day when Fish and Game wildlife managers no longer need to conduct helicopter surveys to double check their population modeling, or conduct herd composition surveys. Fish and Game researchers are currently developing other methods and tools to estimate big game populations, including continued and improved survival monitoring through tracking collars, and estimating abundance and herd composition by using remote cameras.

Regardless of methods, Idaho Fish and Game will always keep a watchful eye on big game herds and use the best-available technology to help them manage Idaho’s wildlife.

(Photo credit:  Jen Burns/Idaho Department of Fish and Game)

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Great Smokies Elk Thriving 20 Years after Restoration

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/great-smokies-elk-thriving-20-years-after-restoration/

Twenty years ago this month, the gate of a trailer swung open and wild elk returned to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Since that day, tourists flock by the thousands to enjoy the area hoping to catch a glimpse of the growing herd which now numbers more than 200.

“It is much more successful than most people ever imagined,” Jim Blyth business owner and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation member, told the Mountaineer. “Those of us involved in the release had a vision it would turn out the way that it has, but I don’t think the community anticipated how people would come from all over to see the elk.”

Blythe was among a limited group of people who received invitations to witness the first release of elk in 2001.

“It is probably one of the highlights of my life, helping to bring back an animal that roamed here 175 years ago before they were hunted to extinction,” Blyth told the Mountaineer.

RMEF provided both funding and volunteer support to assist the successful effort.

(Photo credit:  Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)

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