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For the week of November 22 through 28, 2000

Local moose hunt proposed

Healthy populations help lead to proposal


"We feel that, biologically, with the moose population being what it is up there, two permits will have minimal impact on the population, and it would provide some hunting opportunities."

Mike Todd, Fish and Game spokesman


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

For the first time since their reintroduction to south-central Idaho’s mountains in the early 1970s, moose could be hunted in the Wood River Valley.

Fish and Game’s Magic Valley Region is proposing the hunt for game management units 48 (west of Highway 75) and 49 (east of Highway 75). The proposal is for a total of two bull moose permits to be issued there for the 2001-2002 hunting season.

There are between 70 and 80 moose in the Wood River Valley, more than enough to offer limited hunting opportunities, said Fish and Game spokesman Mike Todd.

By comparison, the Big Lost River Valley area, east of the Wood River Valley, offers six bull moose permits annually. Populations there are between 300 and 400 animals.

"We feel that, biologically, with the (Big Wood) moose population being what it is up there, two permits will have minimal impact on the population, and it would provide some hunting opportunities," Todd said.

The biggest issue likely to be raised about the proposed hunt, he said, is the potential proximity of moose hunting to residential areas. Because moose prefer valleys and wetlands, moose hunters could end up closer to populated areas than elk and deer hunters do.

Moose have not always been a constant variable in the Wood River Valley’s wildlife equation. Historically, the often belligerent beasts roamed freely throughout the Rocky Mountains, across Canada and Europe, and in the lake country of New England.

But when Europeans settled Idaho, moose—along with elk—were exterminated from the state’s south-central mountainous regions to put food on settlers’ plates.

In Idaho’s south-central mountains, moose were reintroduced roughly 30 years ago by Fish and Game. In the early 1970s, the department began trapping problem moose from regions of the state where stocks were healthy, and freeing them in the Big Lost River basin.

The population grew, and in the 1980s, moose were reintroduced to the Smoky Mountains, immediately west of the Wood River Valley. The Sun Valley area was surrounded, but not penetrated, by animals that had called it home for thousands of years.

The department considered reintroducing the animals to the Wood River Valley in the 1980s, but didn’t because of the inevitable social impacts—impacts that are beginning to be felt today as populations continue to expand. Also, Department of Fish and Game conservation officer Lee Frost said, department personnel knew the moose populations would eventually fill in the gap between the areas in which they were reintroduced as their populations grew.

Locally, moose weigh between 850 and 1,000 pounds. Alaskan moose can weigh up to 1,800 pounds.

Moose are herbivores and tend to browse on aquatic plants such as lilies, as well as willow shoots, birches and young aspen. Because most of what they feed on is aquatic or riparian, they generally keep to rivers, streams, lakes or swampy areas in the summer. It is not uncommon, however, to spot a moose on an arid mountain ridge or in a field of sagebrush, Frost said.

Locally, the most concentrated populations are in the Trail Creek and North Fork areas of the Big Wood River drainage. In the winter, moose commonly reside on the western edges of Ketchum and in Trail Creek.

The public will have an opportunity to comment on the proposed Wood River Valley moose hunt at the Magic Valley Region’s open house meeting in Jerome later this month. The meeting will be held at the Jerome regional office from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 30. Phone calls will be accepted Nov. 27 through Nov. 30, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Call 324-4358.

Trophy species regulations (those for bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goats and the like) are reviewed every two years.

 

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