Author Archives: Dev Editor

Castle Rocks State Park Fishing Pond to close to remove illegally introduced goldfish

Goldfish illegally introduced into Castle Rock State Park Pond requires Fish and Game to eradicate all fish from the pond

Castle Rocks State Park Fishing Pond will be closed to public access beginning January 20, 2023. It’s anticipated to reopen to the public in early May 2023. The closure will allow fisheries biologists from the Magic Valley Region to apply a substance that will kill all fish in the pond.

Illegally introduced goldfish in Heagle Park Pond in Hailey are eradicated using rotenone in 2020

The project is a collaboration between Castle Rocks State Park and Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Magic Valley Region. Fish and Game staff will apply rotenone to Castle Rocks Fishing Pond to remove illegally introduced goldfish. Rotenone is a plant-derived fish toxicant that is widely used for fish control projects throughout the United States. All public access to the project area will be restricted during the closure period. Hatchery fish stocking of Castle Rocks Pond will resume following the completion of the project.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to close public access to the Castle Rocks State Park fishing pond, but it’s necessary since goldfish were illegally introduced there” commented Tucker Brauer, Regional Fishery Biologist with the Magic Valley Region, “This is our only recourse to re-set the pond to support sport-fish that anglers love to catch.”

Illegally introduced fish can cause serious damage to natural ecosystems and are extremely difficult to remove once established. Idaho Department of Fish and Game would like to remind the public that individuals illegally transplanting fish where they don’t belong can be held legally responsible for the financial costs to restore the fishery to its prior condition. These restoration related costs can total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The act of introducing fish into another waterbody can also result in a felony charge. It is everyone’s responsibility to help keep Idaho’s waterways free from invasive species.

If you have questions regarding this project, please contact the Magic Valley Regional Office at (208) 324 – 4359

Protect wintering wildlife by leaving them alone during the winter

It’s the hardest time of year to be a deer, elk or other wintering big game animals, and their livelihood literally gets chalked up to “every calorie counts”

Out of sight, out of mind, right? Wrong. Just because wildlife aren’t as visible as they were in the shoulder seasons doesn’t mean they’re “living easy” on their wintering grounds. And if you are seeing wintering wildlife, you may be too close for comfort, which brings us to our next point: Protect wintering wildlife by leaving them alone during the winter.

Winter is a hard time for Idaho’s wildlife, especially for big game animals, like deer and elk, that migrate to lower elevations and spend winter closer to people than during other seasons.

As the snow deepens, forage starts to get limited, and animals usually can’t meet their full nutritional needs by feeding on naturally available food, even at lower elevations where the ground isn’t snow-covered. 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, with fawns and calves being the most susceptible to malnutrition and winterkill.

During an average winter without extreme cold or unusually deep snow, 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. On average, about 40 percent of mule deer fawns perish during a normal Idaho winter — and more during a harsh one.

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.


More Harm Than Good: Why You Shouldn’t Feed Backyard Deer

The hardship of winter motivates some well-meaning people to set out food for deer. The truth is, they’re wild animals adapted to winter, and feeding them can quickly create a variety of problems significantly affecting their health and survival.

Despite good intentions, supplemental feeding of deer often harms them, frequently resulting in their death. Although some deer have adapted to live in urban environments and feed on non-native foods, this change in behavior doesn’t necessarily mean it is a healthy environment for them.

Idaho Fish and Game receives numerous reports of sick deer in the town of Salmon and in many other urban and suburban areas of the state, especially during the fall and winter months. The occurrence of sick deer in towns has been a long-standing issue common among urban deer populations. More often than not, this illness is related to their nutrition.

A Little Deer Biology

Poor nutritional condition in mule deer is caused by disruptions to their highly specialized digestive system. Specifically, human introduced foods such as bird seed, alfalfa cubes, deer blocks and livestock feed can disrupt the delicate balance of their stomach microbiome.

A mule deer’s digestive system is like other ruminants, consisting of four stomach compartments, rather than a single stomach. Deer are dependent on a healthy balance of bacteria, protozoa and fungi to break down their food. As their diets change throughout the year, so do the gut microbes, slowly adapting to differences in diet composition and forage quality.

This change in bacterial composition can take several weeks, making deer poorly adapted to sudden changes in diet. Consequently, even foods with high nutritional value may become difficult or impossible to digest, and animals will often starve to death with full stomachs.

Fish and Game often hear “but deer live in corn fields all over the U.S. You can’t tell me that corn is bad for them.” The difference is that deer in corn fields are also consuming other plant matter rather than just starchy seeds. This helps maintain balanced gut health.

Deer in mountainous habitats have a digestive microbiome that is best suited for living off browse, such as shrubs. Feeding them high-starch feeds (aka sugar) like corn would be like a human trying to survive solely off Snickers candy bars. As great as it sounds, the long-term outcome would be very bad for your health.

Fawns are particularly susceptible to dying from an unhealthy or suddenly changed diet. As rapidly growing juveniles, they lack the body fat reserves to compensate for the additional digestive stress. When their stomach microbiota is disrupted by unnatural foods, they are forced to try and maintain their energy levels by digesting internal fat. With little fat reserves, they quickly resort to the next available source of energy.

Unfortunately, this means they begin to metabolize their bone marrow and even muscle. Frequently this leads to organ failure and death. This is particularly true in urban environments where deer consistently find unnatural foods, many of which well-meaning people purposefully provide them. Non-migratory local deer, especially fawns, often suffer from things like chronic bloat which is an enteric disease that can lead to an extremely slow, suffering death as a result of being fed.


Reports of mountain lions on the increase in Wood River Valley communities

Being aware of your surroundings is key to personal safety when living near mountain lions

Fish and Game staff from the Magic Valley Region continue to receive frequent mountain lion reports from throughout the Wood River Valley. Mountain lions are killing deer and caching their prey in Ketchum and Hailey neighborhoods, and residents are seeing lions on security cameras and reporting tracks around their homes from Bellevue to Ketchum. Recently, a dog was injured by a mountain lion in Hailey.

To keep both residents and pets safe, Fish and Game is urging everyone to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings, especially during early morning and evening hours when mountain lions are typically more active, although sightings of mountain lions have been occurring throughout the day.

Public safety is always a priority

Mountain lions are common throughout Idaho. While lions are seen throughout the year, observations and incidents do tend to increase during the winter months due to fresh snow making their tracks more visible, along with increased numbers of deer and elk moving onto their winter ranges, which are often in close proximity to local communities.

“We hear reports that some in our communities advise against calling Fish and Game when a mountain lion or black bear is seen in a neighborhood or becomes involved in some type of conflict because there is a perception that calling will always result in animals being euthanized. That statement is not true,” according to Regional Supervisor Craig White, “we will always encourage local residents to notify our office if they observe a lion or their tracks around their homes or come across cached prey, or in the case of black bears, find that a bear has gotten access to their garbage.”

White also noted, “our conservation officers and wildlife biologists are always willing to work with local residents to make sure that they and their pets stay safe. Our goal is not to remove predators like mountain lions and bears from the landscape, but instead to encourage them to continue to live in natural habitats, outside of our communities. Fish and Game has options to deter wildlife, such as hazing, only resorting to lethal removal if an animal has become aggressive when living among people and is determined to be a threat to public safety.”

Even with a number of reported sightings and encounters, there have been no reported attacks on people. However, in rare situations over the past three years, pets and livestock have been killed or injured by mountain lions with some reports of cats disappearing from their homes, presumably from lion predation.

Despite hundreds of reports over the last five years, only four mountain lions have been lethally removed by Fish and Game in the Wood River Valley due to public safety concerns after human-wildlife conflict situations.

Personal safety around mountain lions

Wildlife managers agree that if a person is in close proximity to a lion, meaning they see it, they should:

  • NEVER run away from a mountain lion. The lion’s instinct is to chase and ultimately catch what they perceive as a potential prey.
  • NEVER turn your back on a lion. Always face them while making yourself look as large as you can. Yell loudly, but don’t scream. A high-pitched scream may mimic the sound of a wounded animal.
  • SLOWLY back away while maintaining eye contact with the lion.
  • Safety equipment you may choose to carry could include bear spray, a noise device, like an air-horn, and if you walk in the dark, a very bright flashlight.
  • If you are attacked, fight back!

Tips to reduce human-wildlife conflicts

Homeowners are asked to check around their homes and reduce the potential for a lion to find refuge around their homes. Areas under decks should be blocked so that lions cannot access the space for a day bed. All doors to barns and backyard sheds should be securely closed so that lions cannot gain access to these spaces.

When letting pets outside, especially at night, turn on porch lights and make noise so that any wildlife that might be in close proximity is alerted. Attacks can often be the result of surprise encounters, with both people and pets.

Prompted by concerns for public safety after increasing cases of human-wildlife conflict in the Wood River Valley in 2019 – 2020, a group of Blaine County partners came together to cooperatively work towards a Valley-wide goal of reducing negative interactions between humans and wildlife. The Wood River Valley Wildlife Smart Communities coalition has developed a website that residents can use to learn more about how to safely live in proximity to wildlife

Residents across the Magic Valley should immediately report any wildlife incident or attack to the Magic Valley Regional Office at (208) 324-4359 during business hours, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday, or to your local law enforcement agency. Mountain lion sightings and encounters should be reported to Fish and Game during regular business hours by calling the Magic Valley Regional Office at (208) 324-4359.


Fish and Game begins to feed elk at the Bullwacker feed site west of Ketchum

Feeding elk at the Bullwacker site is to keep elk from moving into Ketchum and Sun Valley and causing human-wildlife conflicts.

Idaho Fish and Game staff from the Magic Valley Region will begin feeding elk at the Bullwacker feed site in mid-December 2022 as deep snow begins to accumulate throughout the Wood River Valley. Over 125 elk are fed in a typical winter. It is anticipated that feeding will continue until April 2023.

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

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.

Feeding at Bullwacker has occurred on an annual basis since the 1980s, with periodic feeding beginning in the 1950s.

The feed site was established with the intention of keeping elk away from the communities of Ketchum and Sun Valley. While many think of feed sites as a way to supplement food on winter range, the Bullwacker feed site’s purpose is to lure elk away from local communities where conflicts can occur.

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 winter. Big game that remains 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.

Contact the Magic Valley Regional Office for more information about winter feeding at (208) 324-4359.