Family Spends Christmas Eve Day Rescuing Elk from Frozen River

You look out on a frozen river only to see a dozen elk treading water for their lives. What do you do? If you’re Jeff Stuart and Jordan Fish, you spread the word and take action to try to save them.

The two men saw the animals with their heads bobbing above the icy waters of the Kettle River near remote Barstow, Washington, approximately 95 miles north of Spokane. About 40 elk made it across the river but 12 fell through the ice.

“There were six cows and six calves in the water,” Rylee Stuart posted on her Facebook page. “One calf was already deceased before we started. Our best guess was that they had been there all night drowning, kicking each other, getting huge wounds from the ice.”

As word got out, more than 20 adults and nine kids got involved. They used ropes, kayaks, sleds, a winch and whatever else they could get their hands on to remove the animals one by one, place blankets on them and try to warm them by a fire.

“We laid with these elk, We did CPR on these elk. We cried over these elk. We were strong for these elk as a group,” wrote Stuart.

In the end, the team effort saved six of them – four cows and two calves. Six other elk, four calves and two cows, did not survive. The rescue party also sustained some injuries. Stuart speculates a possible broken hand and foot in addition to cuts, scrapes and a lot of tired, sore muscles.

“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” she told KXLY-TV.

A game warden allowed the families that gave their time and effort during the rescue to salvage the meat.

Go here to read Rylee’s Facebook account and to view a Tik Tok video of the incident.

(Photo credit: Rylee Stuart)

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Protect Wintering Wildlife by Leaving Animals Undisturbed

Below is a news release from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game but its message holds true for wintering animals across the nation.

Winter is a challenging season for Idaho’s wildlife, especially for big game animals that migrate to lower elevations and spend winter closer to people than during other seasons. People can help animals by leaving them undisturbed so they have a better chance to survive winter.

What do we know about wintering wildlife? Forage is limited, and animals usually can’t meet their full nutritional needs by feeding on naturally available forage even at lower elevations. Deer, elk and other big game animals accumulate fat reserves earlier in the year that typically allows them to survive most Idaho winters, but even the healthiest animals’ limited reserves can be depleted, and fawns and calves are most susceptible to malnutrition and winterkill.

During a “normal” winter without extremely frigid temperatures, or unusually deep snow, typically more than 90 percent of adult deer and elk survive. But that number can be significantly lower for fawns and calves, which are smaller and less capable of withstanding winter conditions. On average, about 40 percent of mule deer fawns perish during a normal Idaho winter, and more during a harsh one, so leaving wildlife undisturbed can literally make a life-or-death difference.

One way to avoid disturbing wintering wildlife is simply leaving them alone when you’re outdoors. A simple rule of thumb is if your presence or actions cause them to move, you’re too close.

Know the rules before you head out, and look for seasonal changes and forest closures, such as the recent closure of the Targhee National Forest in Eastern Idaho. Closures like this protect habitats where large populations of wintering deer and elk tend to be congregated. Not knowing is not an excuse. Review up-to-date maps and call your local forest service or Fish and Game office if you have questions.

Keep your dog under your control

Even if your dog isn’t chasing big game animals, its presence may be enough to cause animals to flee and expend unnecessary energy they would not have otherwise used.

To big game animals, a dog is a predator, and the impacts of free-running dogs on wintering game can be substantial. Also remember it is illegal to allow dogs to chase or harass big game.

Remember, you usually have lots of options where you can exercise your dog, but big game animals have few options where they can safely spend their winters.

Watch for big game while driving

Auto collisions involving big game animals typically increase during winter, especially around the holidays, so drivers should be extra cautious.

“Being watchful is the best defense against a wildlife/vehicle collision,” said Krista Biorn, Fish and Game habitat biologist. “Drivers should slow down and allow a few extra minutes to their travel time for their own safety, and the safety of Idaho’s wildlife.”

Collisions between vehicles and wildlife are not only harmful, they are expensive. Hitting a deer or elk often results in thousands of dollars in vehicle damage, not to mention potential injury to vehicle occupants and the loss of wildlife.

These tips will help reduce your chances of an animal collision:

  • Game animals are especially active at dawn, dusk and at night so be extra watchful and cautious during those periods.
  • Scan ahead and watch for movement, especially near the fog line and side of the road. When driving at night, use your brights when appropriate and watch for shining eyes in headlights.
  • If you see one animal cross the road, slow down immediately and look for more to follow.
  • Pay extra attention in areas posted with wildlife crossing signs, which signify common migration areas, or areas where big game winters.
  • Don’t swerve and risk losing control of your vehicle. Brake as much as possible, but stay on the roadway. The most serious crashes often occur when drivers lose control of their vehicles while trying to avoid an animal.

Don’t feed wintering big game

It may seem counterintuitive when there’s limited food available for deer, elk and other animals, but feeding big game can cause big problems, even with good intentions.

Fish and Game’s policy is that natural habitat and feed must sustain wildlife, except in emergency situations. Regardless of the severity of winter, some animals will naturally perish. That’s an inescapable part of nature, and animals too stressed from winter can die even when food is available.

When big game animals are fed by people, it can create a long list of problems. They can become habituated to hand outs, change natural migration patterns, damage property, create traffic hazards and attract predators such as mountain lions. Congregated animals can also more readily transmit diseases, such as brucellosis and chronic wasting disease, and create other problems.

If it’s an emergency situation, Fish and Game staff will feed animals

Fish and Game has winter feeding advisory committees in each region of the state except the Panhandle, which has never had a winter feeding program, and they are prepared to take action if an emergency situation arises.

The regional advisory committees monitor weather conditions and keep a watchful eye on snow depth. They also monitor whether there is crust on snow that hinders an animal’s ability to forage for food, extended periods of sub-zero temperatures, whether animals are congregating on private agriculture lands and causing problems, and other determining factors.

If these situations occur due to extreme winter weather, the committees convene and make recommendations to Fish and Game whether to begin emergency winter feeding.

(Photo credit: Idaho Department of Fish and Game)

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Utah Program Reduces Urban Wildlife Population, Feeds Scores

What happens to deer, elk and other big game that cause damage in neighborhoods and to farmers and ranchers? In Utah, many are removed to reduce negative impacts on hay fields, crops and to reduce vehicle-wildlife collisions. So that begs the question, what happens to the meat?

“We try to donate every piece of meat that we can. We call around and make sure that we’ve got people to donate the meat to,” Cody Evans, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) landowner specialist, told the Cedar City News. “Residential deer don’t migrate. They’re born or reside in city limits or agricultural fields, so they’re not huntable and they do more damage than they help an area.”

DWR employees are not allowed to keep the meat. Instead, they follow careful field dressing procedures to help ensure the meat is properly handled before it is donated to the public. Donated animals are only field dressed and need to be processed when received.

According to the DWR, donations may occur at any time, including the middle of the night. Recipients are typically selected on a first-come, first-served basis, but preference may be given to those closest to where the animal is available.

Wildlife species include deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, fish, game birds and, in rare circumstances, bison or bighorn sheep.

Meat from animals that are poached is also made available.

Go here for additional information, including how to sign up for the program.

Check with the state wildlife agency where you live to see if similar programs are offered.

(Photo credit: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

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Washington Offers Special Hunt Drawing for Early Hunter Reporting

Below is a news release from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Hunters who report their 2021 black bear, deer, elk, or turkey hunting results by Monday, Jan. 10, will have the opportunity to win one of nine deer and elk incentive permits for fall 2022, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) officials said today.

WDFW Game Division manager Anis Aoude said the Department is offering the special permits, which will be awarded through a drawing this spring, as an incentive to encourage hunters to report their results as soon as possible.  The special permits will be valid from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31, 2022.

“Incentive hunts include five deer permits and four elk permits in various areas of the state,” said Aoude. “This is a great opportunity for hunters to submit their hunter reports early.”

To qualify for the drawing, hunters must submit a report by Jan. 10 for each black bear, deer, elk, or turkey tag they purchased, and each special hunting permit they received in 2021.

All hunters, regardless of their success in the field, must submit hunting reports for each transport tag by Jan. 31. Failure to meet the deadline can result in a $10 reporting fee, which hunters must pay before they buy a license for the 2022 season.

“We use these annual hunting reports to guide how we manage game populations and develop future hunting seasons,” Aoude said.

Hunters can report online. To report online, hunters will first need to establish an online account by creating a username and password and providing an email address. Individuals can use these accounts for many purposes, including filing harvest reports and purchasing hunting and fishing licenses.

Anyone with questions regarding the online system can contact WDFW’s Licensing Division at (360) 902-2464.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife works to preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.

(Photo credit: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)

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Wyoming Hunting Applications Open January 3rd

Below is a news release from the Wyoming Game & Fish Department.

For hunters, Jan. 3, 2022, is more notable than New Year’s Day. That’s when the Wyoming Game and Fish Department opens applications for six different big game species and wild turkey. All hunters must have a username and password for the Game and Fish user account to submit applications online.

Beginning at 8 a.m., resident and nonresident hunters can submit applications for elk, deer, antelope, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and spring wild turkey. The first deadline is Jan. 31 for nonresident elk and resident and nonresident spring wild turkey. It’s also the new deadline for the Wyoming Super Tag raffle.

For 2022 planning, hunters can use the Game and Fish Hunt Planner for estimating season dates. Tentative season information is available for moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat. Elk, deer and antelope hunters can use prior season information for the best estimate. Final season information will be published May 1 with time for hunters to make modifications or withdraw applications. Read about more updates in the 2022 Hunting License Application Information.

Nonresident applicants for moose and bighorn sheep will need to elect to opt-in with their applications to be awarded a preference point if unsuccessful in the draw. They will not be automatically purchased if unsuccessful. Otherwise, unsuccessful applicants can apply for a point beginning in July.

Anyone with questions regarding hunting applications or the Game and Fish user account can call (307) 777-4600.

(Photo credit: Wyoming Game & Fish Department)

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Montana Extends Deadline to Comment on Hunting Regulations

Below is a news release from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

The deadline for public comment on the 2022/20223 hunting regulation proposals has been extended from Jan. 14 to Jan. 21, 2022.

Those interested can view the proposals and provide comment online at Comments also can be submitted by email to

This is a second opportunity for the public to provide input on 2022/2023 draft hunting regulation proposals. Earlier this fall, Fish, Wildlife & Parks biologists offered science-based regulations proposals that combine some hunting districts, reduce some license and permit types, and eliminate hunting district portions. FWP staff held informational meetings around the state, and the public was invited to submit comments on those initial proposals. FWP adjusted the proposals based on public comment and presented them to the commission. The commission approved the draft regulations for public comment at the Tuesday meeting.

FWP is holding season-setting meetings around the state to discuss the draft hunting regulations with interested members of the public. At the meetings, biologists will present information on the draft hunting regulations approved by the commission. Following the presentations, there will be time for questions and answers.

Each of FWP’s regions will hold a virtual season-setting meeting as well as part of their January Citizen Advisory Committee meetings.

To view a list of the meeting dates, locations and times, click here.

(Photo credit: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks)

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Idaho Feed Site Designed to Keep Elk, Deer Away from Towns

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

Staff from Fish and Game, Magic Valley Region began feeding elk at the Bullwacker feed site on December 23, 2021 as deep winter snows began to accumulate throughout the Wood River Valley. The site typically feeds over 125 elk each year.

Located west of Ketchum, the Bullwacker feed site is the only Fish and Game Commission sanctioned feed site in Idaho. Depending on winter conditions, feeding typically begins in late December or early January.

Elk feeding at the Bullwacker feed site west of Ketchum

Residents and visitors are asked to stay away from the feed site in order to not disturb the elk.

It is anticipated that feeding will continue until April 2022.

Residents should also be aware that the Ketchum Ranger District, Sawtooth National Forest has instituted its yearly closure in the Warm Springs drainage to protect wintering deer and elk from human-caused disturbances. All national forest lands from the West Fork of Warm Springs east to Ketchum and north of the Warm Springs road within the Warm Springs drainage will be closed. The area closure will be posted with signs at normal access points.

History of the Bullwacker feed site

Feeding at Bullwacker has occurred on an annual basis since the 1980s, with early feeding beginning in the 1950s. The site was established with the intention of keeping elk away from Ketchum and Sun Valley. While many think of feed sites as a way to supplement food on winter range, the Bullwacker feed site purpose is to lure elk away from local communities.

A large number of deer and elk have become year-round or seasonal residents within communities throughout the Wood River Valley, leading to an increased number of human-wildlife conflicts in the wintertime.  Big game that remain in and around communities run a higher risk of getting hit on roads and highways, caught in fences, falling through thin ice on decorative ponds and into household window wells, as well as getting chased by off-leash dogs, and tangled in swing sets and hammocks.

Feeding wildlife by residents is strongly discouraged since unauthorized feed sites can lead to unintended consequences of attracting wildlife into close proximity of towns and neighborhoods. (Please read Feeding elk and deer in town does more harm than good.)

For more information about how to reduce human-wildlife conflicts and suggestions on how to live and recreate safely around wildlife visit the Wood River Valley Wildlife Smart Communities website.

(Photo credit: Idaho Department of Fish and Game)

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Biologists Take to Idaho Skies in Search of Game

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

Over the next several weeks wildlife biologists from Fish and Game’s Magic Valley Region will be flying surveys for mule deer and elk across many of the region’s game management units. The purpose of these surveys is to gather abundance and herd composition information that help game managers understand population numbers and trends.

Area residents may see the survey helicopter flying low over the landscape over the next several weeks.

Wildlife biologists survey big game populations using helicopters

Herd composition surveys for deer will happen in the Bennett and Picabo hills and Jasper Flats north of Picabo, as well as in the Sublett, Black Pine and Jim Sage mountains and the South Hills.

Abundance surveys for elk will be conducted in the Pioneer Mountains and for mule deer in the Sublett and Black Pine mountains of southern Idaho.

In late December and early January helicopter operations will also be used to place radio collars on mule deer and elk using a net gun to capture the animals. This information is used to estimate winter survival and document seasonal movements.

Logistics of surveys

Many assume that Fish and Game conducts deer and elk surveys in every unit, every year. While this may seem logical, there are many different factors that influence how often population counts can occur across the state.

A population survey takes a significant amount of personnel time and resources to complete. Combine these costs with very high hourly costs to fly helicopters, upwards of $1,000/hour, and the combined costs can easily exceed the annual budget allocated for population monitoring.

Add ever-changing weather and snow conditions to the mix, and what is thought of as a straight-forward task can become extremely difficult to complete.

Herd composition survey

Mule deer herd composition surveys are performed annually in many Data Analysis Units (DAUs) across the state. A DAU, or Zone for elk, is comprised of multiple game management units. These surveys are typically flown in early December to estimate fawn:doe and buck:doe ratios. Early winter fawn:doe ratios is a measure of fawn productivity for the first six months of life, and is an important component to model and estimate deer populations into the future. Likewise, calf:cow and bull:cow ratios are gathered for elk.

View across the landscape from a helicopter during a big game winter survey

Herd composition surveys cover areas representative of deer distribution in a given area and classify enough animals to accurately estimate composition. A composition survey of 750 or 1,000 deer is fairly typical in most DAUs and is considered a large enough sample size to accurately estimate the composition of the entire population.

A herd composition survey may take up to two days.

While the primary purpose of a composition survey is to acquire reliable fawn:doe ratios, buck:doe ratios are also obtained at the same time. However, because bucks are in smaller groups and occupy different areas on the landscape than does and fawns, buck:doe ratios are inherently conservative and typically underestimate buck numbers.

Abundance surveys

An abundance survey counts deer or elk within a specific DAU or elk Zone by flying a grid across winter ranges within the DAU or elk Zone. Typically, these surveys are flown with a helicopter every 4-5 years.

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

Not all deer or elk are observed during an aerial abundance survey. There are a number of reasons why. Thick vegetation can conceal animals from observation and the lack of snow cover can make deer and elk more difficult to detect. In addition, animals on the move or in large groups are much easier to observe than small groups of bedded animals. Because of this, Fish and Game has developed a “sightability model” which corrects the count to include animals not observed during survey.

As an example, a survey might physically count 10,000 deer on a winter range, but the sightability model will correct the estimate for those deer not seen. The model could “correct” the population estimate by 10-20%, depending on the conditions (snow cover and vegetation) and animal behavior (group sizes and activity) at the time of the survey.

Many western states have now adopted Idaho’s survey protocols and sightability models to estimate their own big game populations.

(Photo credit: Idaho Department of Fish and Game)

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Arizona Hunting, Fishing Licenses Go on Sale January 1

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

In a move to further modernize its licensing system, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) will no longer offer traditional paper “book” licenses sold through license dealers beginning Jan. 1.

Many current dealers will continue to sell licenses after Dec. 31, but they will do so through AZGFD’s online purchase system. Some dealers will no longer sell licenses after Dec. 31. See list of license dealers offering electronic license purchases beginning Jan. 1.

As always, customers can also purchase their hunting, fishing or hunt/fish combo licenses online directly at, 24/7, or in person at AZGFD offices during normal business hours (8-5 M-F).

There are several benefits to buying your license online:

  • Ease of use. With just a few clicks of a computer mouse or taps on the screen of a smartphone or tablet, anyone can purchase a license online quickly and easily.
  • Print your license or save it on your phone. A license purchased online can be printed from your printer, or it can be saved as a photo or PDF to a smartphone. The electronic version is valid if requested by an AZGFD official as long as the license hasn’t expired.
  • Reprint a lost or misplaced license for free. Lose or misplace a printed license? No worries, you can print a new one from your printer anytime at no charge.

Go here for additional information including how to buy a license online.

(Photo credit: Arizona Game and Fish Department)

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New Arizona Law Banning Use of Trail Cams for Hunting Takes Effect January 1st

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

Arizona hunters are reminded the new Arizona Game and Fish Commission rule R12-4-303.A.5, which states that a person shall not use a trail camera for the purposes of taking or locating or aiding in the take of wildlife, becomes effective Jan. 1, 2022.

The commission unanimously approved the rule at its June 2021 meeting in Payson after an extensive public input process.

A prohibition on the use of “live action” trail cameras for taking or locating or aiding in the take of wildlife had already been in effect since 2018.

The new prohibition does not apply to other uses of a trail camera such as research, general photography and security. However, any photograph or data captured by a trail camera after Jan. 1, 2022 and used for the take or aiding in the take of wildlife will be unlawful, even if that was not the initial intended use of the trail camera.

For more detailed information, click here.

(Photo credit: Arizona Game and Fish Department)

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