Author Archives: Sam Wermut

Mountain lions sightings continue throughout the Wood River Valley, caution advised

By Terry Thompson, Regional Communications Manager

Mountain lion sightings are increasing in the communities of Ketchum and Sun Valley in the Wood River Valley.
During late April and in May, multiple sightings of mountain lions have been reported by residents of Ketchum and Sun Valley. Most of the reports are of a female lion with two kittens, but some reports are of a single adult lion. Most reports have been sightings in neighborhoods within city limits. Some reports include sightings of lions during daylight hours, which is not typical behavior.

Throughout this time there have been no reports of conflicts between the lions and people or pets.

A young mountain lion takes refuge in a backyard tree in Ketchum.

To ensure that chances of conflict are minimized, residents are encouraged to be vigilant of their surroundings when engaged in outside activities. Parents should supervise the children when playing outside. Pet owners should keep their pets on leash when out walking, both in neighborhoods and on area trails.

Personal safety

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, 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!

Reporting mountain lion sightings and encounters

Wood River Valley residents and visitors should immediately report any encounter that results in an attack to the Magic Valley Regional Office at (208) 324-4359 during business hours, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday. If after hours, reports can also be made to the Blaine County Sheriff at (208) 788-5555.

Mountain lion sightings and observations should be reported to the Fish and Game, Magic Valley Regional Office at (208) 324-4359.

Trail users are encouraged to safely enjoy and share Idaho’s trails with wildlife

By Terry Thompson, Regional Communications Manager

When hiking trails in Idaho it is not uncommon to come across wildlife. Wildlife, like people, don’t like to be unexpectedly surprised. The key to safely observing and recreating around wildlife is awareness of your surroundings.

Spring and summer bring many opportunities for Idahoans and visitors to explore Idaho’s trails which open up access to many backcountry destinations. When trekking up a trail just outside of town or deep into Idaho’s mountains everyone should be aware of their surroundings that they share with many species of wildlife. While most wildlife encounters are welcomed and create lasting memories, inadvertent or surprise encounters can put both people, their pets and wildlife in a potential conflict situation.

Wildlife, such as mountain lions, bears, elk, deer and moose can be found in many location throughout Idaho, sometimes within towns and neighborhoods. Deer and elk have become year-round residents in many Idaho communities, and mountain lions continue to be seen throughout the state on area trails and at times within neighborhoods.

Moose can be found throughout Idaho

The key to safely observing and recreating around wildlife is awareness. Wildlife, like people, don’t like to be unexpectedly surprised, which often leads to a flight or fight response.

Keys to safety when around wildlife

Depending on the situation or wildlife that a recreationist might encounter, making sure that wildlife is aware of your presence is important, especially in spring when many species of wildlife have young. Wildlife are very possessive and protective of their young, much the same as human parents are with their kids. Giving wildlife a wide berth is always a good practice to have when out in Idaho’s great outdoors, regardless of the season or situation.

Another piece of advice is to always make sure that wildlife knows you are in their habitat. While nobody wants to hear loud yelling from someone else on the same trail, simply calling out with “hey bear” or “hey moose” is often enough to give any wildlife in the area a sense that you’re coming down the trail, which might help prevent an unexpected encounter.

Black bears are often seen by hikers in the backcountry. 

In today’s world, many people carry and listen to their music or podcast, often when outside recreating. Wildlife has many different ways to “tell” someone that they are too close or causing the wildlife to feel threatened. Moose will grunt, stomp their hooves, and lay their ears back, while a bear will pop their jaws, or they may huff and woof. But, if a hiker has taken away their sense of hearing by wearing ear buds or headphones they can miss the early warning signs that they are in too close to wildlife. This could very well result in the animal charging or attacking. To the bear or moose, they have behaved appropriately in response to poor behavior of a human.

It is very important for everyone to stay safe when around wildlife by being aware of your surroundings.

A young mountain lion seeks refuge in a backyard tree in Ketchum, Idaho.

Safety tips

Fish and Game will always make public safety a priority when wildlife is in proximity to people.

Use these safety tips when recreating or living near wildlife:

  • Never allow wildlife, especially bears, to get access to human food or garbage. A food-conditioned bear is a public safety hazard, and in some cases will be trapped and euthanized.
  • Always keep your pets on a leash. Even the best trained dog when in a stressful wildlife situation may not respond to commands, which puts the dog and its owner, and the wildlife in a dangerous situation.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings, and use all your senses to keep yourself safe.
  • Carry and know how to use bear spray. Keep it readily accessible, which means in a chest harness or belt carrier. Bear spray may also be an effective deterrent to other species such as mountain lions.
  • If someone encounters a mountain lion or bear, no matter the location, remember these safety actions:
    • NEVER run. Running can easily trigger their natural tendency to chase and catch something that might be considered prey.
    • Do not turn your back on the animal.
    • Make yourself look as big as possible.
    • Make loud noises (i.e. yelling) to make them realize you are not prey.
    • If it can be done safely, pick up rocks or sticks to throw at the animal.
    • Pick up small children.
    • If attacked, fight back!

Idaho is an amazing place to live and recreate in, no matter the season. Many different wildlife species live in the same spaces as people, so it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep wildlife wild while keeping yourself, pets and your neighbors safe.

Negative wildlife encounters are rare, and it’s the goal of Fish and Game to ensure that local residents and visitors know how to keep themselves safe when living and recreating around wildlife.

For more information about human-wildlife safety tips contact your local Fish and Game office.

Idaho’s black bears are out of their winter dens looking for food

By Terry Thompson, Regional Communications Manager

The key to keeping Idaho bears wild is to never let them have access to human food. A food-conditioned bear can quickly become a threat to public safety which never ends well for the bear.
After spending the winter months hibernating, black bears are now emerging from their dens. Once they leave their dens they are now hungry bears and will immediately start looking for food, mostly spring grasses, but pretty much anything that can provide easy calories. During hibernation, black bears survive by burning fat reserves, a boar (male) black bear usually loses 15-30% of their body weight, while a sow with cubs can lose up to 40% of her body weight. After emerging from hibernation, black bears are on a quest to eat between 15,000 – 20,000 calories to replenish fat reserves before winter sets in again, which means they are constantly searching for food.

The key to keeping Idaho bears wild is to not allow them to access human food around neighborhoods and homes. Black bears have been roaming North America for the last 500,000 years – they are well-equipped to survive without human food, by foraging primarily on grasses, buds, forbs, insects, berries, and occasionally meat.

Feeding bears, even unintentionally, can attract them in to our communities and neighborhoods. Bears are extremely intelligent, and can learn very quickly to associate people with food. The presence of unsecured human food sources like residential garbage, bird feeders, dog food, chicken coops, or even fruit trees, can, and does cause human-bear conflicts. Food-conditioned bears in neighborhoods can rapidly lose their fear of people, which often results in bears getting too close to people.

Bears can get a tremendous number of calories from a backyard bird feeder.

The sad outcome of a food-conditioned bear in a neighborhood is that a once wild bear has now become a threat to public safety.

It’s a community responsibility to keep bears wild

It never ends well for the bear who becomes conditioned to human food. You may have heard the saying “a fed bear is a dead bear” which is an unfortunate reality. Once a bear learns to associate humans with food, public safety is at risk, which ultimately results in the bear being killed.

A black bear can easily get into unsecured residential garbage.

Although Fish and Game does not want to euthanize bears, public safety will always be the priority. A food-conditioned bear presents a risk to human safety and it cannot be successfully relocated. Often, the bear returns to where it was trapped because it knows there is a food reward waiting for them. Moving this bear might also just transfer the problem to another community or campground in the backcountry.

Every resident, and even seasonal visitors needs to pledge to eliminate all chances for bears to get human food, ever!

Idaho residents that live in close proximity to wildlife value that opportunity. However, that also means everyone shares the responsibility to keep wildlife wild. Allowing bears to become comfortable living in your neighborhood could be a death sentence for the bear. While a bear in your yard might be exciting, you must do your part to keep the bear wild by not allowing them to find human food.

Make sure bears know that they don’t belong in neighborhoods.

When a bear learns that walking across your yard or deck is OK, it will continue that behavior. By doing nothing, the bear learns that people are harmless and that making daily walks around your house is both acceptable and potentially rewarding if they find food.

A black bear does not belong in a residential backyard.

If you have a bear around your house, or in your neighborhood, and, if it can be done safely, immediate action is necessary to haze the bear to let it know it is not welcome. This can be done by loud yelling, clapping your hands, banging on pots and pans, basically anything to scare it away.

Bears are very smart. They can learn quickly where they are not welcome. Hazing can be a very effective tool to keep bears out of communities and neighborhoods and in doing so, you will help preserve the wild nature of bears that is essential for their survival.

Do your part to keep yourself, your neighbors and the bears safe

There are very simple things you can do to keep everyone safe and bears roaming the mountains where they belong.

  • Where possible, use a bear-resistant garbage container. Contact your local disposal company to see if they have bear-resistant container options.
  • Don’t put your garbage out until the morning of pickup, and until then, keep your garbage in a secure location, like a garage.
  • Birds don’t actually need bird feeders to survive during the summer months because of an abundance of natural food sources. Residents are encouraged to take them down during the summer and fall. Bears can get a tremendous amount of calories from bird feeders, such as a 2,500 calorie reward from one pound of black oil sunflower seed, or 3,200 calorie reward from 32 ounces of hummingbird food.
  • Don’t leave pet or livestock food outside where a bear can find it.
  • Put an electric fence wire around chicken coops and bee hives.

It’s up to everyone to keep our communities safe, while keeping bears, and all wildlife, wild.

For more information contact your nearest Idaho Department of Fish and Game office.

Put your bird feeders up, but keep them clean says Idaho Fish and Game

By Jennifer Jackson, Regional Communications Manager

Salmonellosis outbreaks among birds have been making headlines in Idaho and neighboring states, which highlights the importance of keeping bird feeders and feeding sites clean to prevent the spread of diseases. If you want to set-up your bird feeders for spring, Idaho Fish and Game says go for it—just keep these tips in mind to help protect your fine-feathered friends.

  • Before putting up your feeders, clean them with warm soapy water and then dunk/rinse them with a 10% bleach solution. Rinse and dry them well before adding food. This process will disinfect your feeders and reduce the spread of salmonellosis, respiratory infections, eye ailments, and other diseases among birds. To avoid spreading salmonella bacteria to humans, wear rubber gloves while cleaning/handling bird feeders, and immediately afterward wash hands with soap and water, hand sanitizer, or alcohol wipes.
  • Use this sanitization method to clean your feeders (and even bird baths) at least once every two weeks. While the design of hummingbird feeders makes them a much lower risk for salmonella transmission, these feeders also require regular cleaning.
  • Remove old, uneaten feed and seed casings regularly—even every few days depending on the feeder and condition of the food. Food that is old or wet can become spoiled or moldy which can make birds sick.
  • Distribute food among multiple feeders to discourage crowding, which reduces the opportunity for sick birds to touch and contaminate each other.
  • Tidy below the feeder routinely. Rake or shovel up feces and seed casings; rinse off decks and porches. On snow-covered areas, scraping off a few layers of snow should do the trick. Accumulated food and feces can contaminate feeding areas for bird. It can also attract unwanted rodents.
  • Avoid placing feeders and bird baths near bushes or structures that can hide lurking predators like housecats, dogs, and even wild animals.
  • Bird feeders and bird food kept on decks and porches may attract nocturnal critters like raccoons and skunks. If this is an issue, store the feed (and possibly the feeders themselves) indoors at night when these animals are the most active. If you have bears in your area, you may even consider leaving feeders down as they can attract hungry bears coming out of hibernation.
  • If you suspect you have sick birds visiting your feeder, remove the feeder for at least two weeks and clean the feeder thoroughly using the soapy water/bleaching process described above before putting it back out.

Keep in mind, sick birds can display a variety of symptoms, or none at all, depending on the disease. Birds that are lethargic, emaciated, easy to approach, have visible crustiness in their eyes, or other questionable behavior/appearance could be experiencing some kind of illness. If you see what you suspect is a sick bird, don’t try to treat it yourself. Call your nearest regional Fish and Game office.

Southern Idaho residents encouraged to temporarily remove bird feeders due to a suspected outbreak of salmonellosis

By Terry Thompson, Regional Communications Manager

Salmonellosis, a fatal disease in birds, is suspected to have been found in southern Idaho birds that frequent area bird feeders.

Update: Put your bird feeders up, but keep them clean says Idaho Fish and Game

After reports of sick and dying birds began to reach biologists in northern Idaho, it appears that salmonellosis, also commonly known as salmonella, might have been detected in southern Idaho. Salmonellosis is a common and generally fatal bird disease.

Wild birds that frequent feeders in the winter can be especially susceptible to outbreaks due to the large numbers of birds coming to the feeders.

A female American goldfinch showing signs of salmonellosis in the Twin Falls area.

Over the last several weeks, Fish and Game biologists with the Panhandle Region have received reports of sick or dead wild birds. The current die-offs in that part of the state are thought to be from salmonellosis. Outbreaks that are associated with bird feeders may cause high mortality across large geographic areas.

In an effort to reduce the transmission of salmonellosis, biologists recommend that those who have bird feeders in their yards temporarily discontinue all feeding of wild birds for at least a few weeks.

While feeders are removed from use, they should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, and all spilled or soiled bird seed on the ground should be picked up and discarded.

“We all love to see wild birds come to the feeders in our yards” said Regional Diversity Biologist Lyn Snoddy, “but at times like this, we all need to collectively do what’s best for our wild bird population by removing and cleaning our feeders for at least a couple of weeks. This short term effort will help stop the suspected spread of salmonellosis in southern Idaho.”

While bird feeders should always be cleaned on a regular basis with warm soapy water, a more rigorous cleaning is required during suspected outbreaks of salmonellosis. Feeders should be cleaned with a 1:10 ratio of household bleach to water. After soaking in the bleach solution, feeders should be rinsed and dried before refilling with seed.

All birds that frequent bird feeders can be impacted by salmonellosis, which is transmitted through the droppings and saliva of sick birds. Birds infected with salmonellosis can exhibit symptoms such as ruffled feathers, lethargy and diarrhea, and can appear very emaciated.

The public can help stop the spread of salmonellosis by temporarily, but completely, halting the feeding of wild birds, which will encourage birds to disperse and forage naturally.

Although uncommon, salmonella bacteria can be transmitted to humans through direct contact of sick birds or droppings. To avoid transmission to humans, people should take precautions when handling sick or dead wild birds, and when cleaning bird feeders or bird baths by wearing gloves and thoroughly washing their hands. Additionally, pet owners, especially those with cats, are encouraged to keep them inside to ensure they do not catch or consume sick birds.

For more information, contact a Fish and Game regional office.