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Fish and Game want feedback on proposed elk hunt at Camas National Wildlife Refuge

Living the Wild Life

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Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game recently announced the comment period for a proposed hunt on Camas National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge has had the policy of no big game hunts even though there are some areas for hunting waterfowl and upland game. That may change in the near future.

A herd of elk have been using the Camas NWR as a protected haven for many years and on many evenings, they have been slipping off the reserve to cause damage to area farms surrounding it. The justification for the hunt is to “address depredation complaints associated with elk harbored on Camas and to provide more hunting opportunity,” according to the hunt proposal issued by the Fish and Game.

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Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com

“The area around Camas is a consistent depredation hot spot the area,” Curtis Hendricks, the Upper Snake River Regional Wildlife Manager said. “We hear about damage done to the area landowner’s property even though many of them don’t file for depredation imbursement. The landowners eat the damage costs.”

Camas is part of Game Management Unit #63 which has had an unlimited draw permit system where anyone desiring a permit for antlerless elk can get one. The proposal for hunting Camas is that anyone who gets an antlerless tag for Unit #63 will automatically be put in a drawing for one of 80 access permits. Those who are drawn for the Camas tags will have the opportunity to accept or deny it.

The hunt will have ten access permits for eight access periods of about two weeks each will run from September 1-15, followed by one from September 16-30. Each month through December will have two access periods. The permits will be for antlerless elk only.

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Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com

Comments to the Fish and Game on this propose hunt started on Feb. 8 and will close on Feb. 28. On February 23 will be a call-in event to vocally state your thoughts about the proposal and the Fish and Game Commission will make a ruling on the proposed hunt in their meeting on March 18.

Since the hunt will occur on a national wildlife refuge lands, there will also be a comment period organized by the federal government before the hunts can happen. I called Brian Wehausen, manager of Camas NWR on Monday to ask him about the hunt and he did not realize that the Fish and Game had released the hunt information and told me he would get back to me. On Thursday he called me about the federal comment period.

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Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com

“Washington informed me today that the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) will start the comment period on the proposed hunt around mid-April,” Wehausen said. “The comment period will last for 60 days before a decision will be made if the hunt will be allowed.”

According to Wehausen, on refuge lands everything is protected until there is a directive to allow a requested hunt to occur. He will inform us when the comment period begins.

One of the debates on this proposed hunt has to be the number of elk that uses the refuge as a protected haven. Hendricks estimates the numbers fluctuate from 50 to 250 on any given day. Last fall during the rut, I counted a herd of 147. They had spent the night in an alfalfa field during the night and was headed back to the refuge.

“Hopefully we will be able to get the hunt approved and it will be very interesting to see how the elk react to it,” Hendricks said.

To read or listen to the full Camas elk hunt proposal go to: idfg.idaho.gov and go to the Upper Snake Region elk proposals. You can also watch a presentation by the Fish and Game here.

I will be making my comments for the proposed hunt and I hope that if you are interested in wildlife you do the same; the Department needs to know where the public stands on this issue.

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Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com
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