Grizzly, tundra swan hunts on IDFG commission meeting agenda

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A tundra swan hunting season, second deer tags and a discussion on whether Idaho should adopt a grizzly bear hunt are among agenda items at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game Commission meeting this month in Boise.

The meeting, March 21-22, at the Idaho Fish and Game Boise headquarters includes more than 27 agenda items and is open to the public.

Biologists will apprise commissioners from Idaho’s seven regions on whether to open a tundra swan hunt in the state.

For years, shooting swans has been illegal in Idaho and IDFG admonished goose hunters to be careful not to kill swans.

“If it’s bigger than a snow goose, has no black wingtips like a snow goose does, it’s a swan,” according to IDFG literature. Shooting a swan could draw a sizable fine and the loss of hunting privileges.

Two kinds of swans, tundra — once called whistling swans — and trumpeter swans can be found in Idaho.

As other neighboring states consider opening a tundra swan hunt, Idaho is joining the discussion.

In a survey conducted two years ago, 17,178 trumpeter swans were counted, the entire Rocky Mountain population. Of those, 6,933 trumpeter swans were counted in the tri-state area of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana with 5,092 in Idaho. There is little survey data available on tundra swans in Idaho.

Commissioners will also hear discussions on whether to employ a grizzly bear hunt as a management tool in Idaho.

The greater Yellowstone population of grizzly bears was delisted in June 2017 and the conservation strategy for Yellowstone grizzlies allows for a hunt when the population estimate is greater than 600 bears. The 2017 population estimate is 718 bears. The states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho all share management responsibilities for grizzly bears in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem and using hunting as a management tool is consistent with the conservation strategy and bear conservation, according to IDFG.

Through a memorandum of agreement developed by the three states, hunter harvest would be allocated with 58 percent of harvest going to Wyoming, 34 percent to Montana and 8 percent to Idaho. The allocation is based on the percentage of land area of each state inside the designated monitoring area — not counting National Park Service lands.

The harvestable number of bears for 2018 is 19 total bears in the Greater Yellowstone, with 17 males and two females allowed for harvest.

IDFG will ask the commission for permission to gather public input for a future hunt.

An analysis on how many people purchase second deer tags in Idaho and how much revenue the program generates is also on the agenda.

Historically, IDFG sold most of its nonresident tags available in the quota, but sales began to decline in 2009. The decline continued through 2012 when 40 percent of the nonresident tags remained unsold at the end of the hunting season, according to IDFG.

In the last two years however, nonresident tags have sold out, in part, because the tags can be sold at an undiscounted price to resident hunters after Aug. 1.

In the last two years, all nonresident tags have been sold out. Sale of full-priced second tags generated $642,300 last year and $865,800 in 2016.

According to IDFG, 52 percent of second deer tags were purchased by residents in 2017, compared to 50 percent in 2016, and 45 percent in 2015.

An estimated 1,129 deer were harvested with second deer tags, which is less than 3 percent of statewide harvest.

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