WGFD hosts 3 public meetings discuss 2011 Hunting Seasons – Pinedale meeting March 28
by Wyoming Game and Fish
March 19, 2011
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department invites the public to participate in the 2011 big game season setting process by attending one of the public meetings scheduled in the region. Game and Fish biologists and wardens will be on hand to discuss big game population data collected this winter and any resulting season changes being proposed for next fall. This year’s regional meetings will be held in Afton, Jackson and Pinedale.
Wildlife managers believe the population of the Jackson elk herd is similar to last year, estimating it at approximately 12,000 animals.
"More animals were counted this year because the deep snow and harsh winter conditions forced animals to low elevation wintering sites earlier this year," said Doug Brimeyer, Jackson wildlife biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. "During the survey last year, winter precipitation was 60 percent of normal and this winter it is well over 100 percent of normal. Deep snow conditions make it easier to observe animals during the survey."
In addition to total elk numbers, the ratio of calves counted per 100 cows is another crucial piece of information managers collect each year to help predict future population trends of big game herds.
Again this year some herd segments were well below the 20-year average for the herd, 25 calves per 100 cows. The Gros Ventre portion of the herd unit had 11 calves:100 cows this winter and last year that ratio was 13 calves:100 cows.
Managers also noted that surveys conducted in August continued to show a disparity in calf numbers from the northern portion of the herd to the southern. "Calf:cow ratios in the southern portion of the herd unit, in southern Grand Teton National Park and on private lands south of the airport, were 41 calves:100 cows this summer while in Yellowstone National Park the calf:cow ratios were half that at 21 calves:100 cows," said Brimeyer.
In general, hunters can expect similar hunting seasons for the Jackson elk herd in 2011 with continued focus on harvesting that portion of the herd that summers along the Snake River corridor in Grand Teton National Park and Hunt Area 78. New for 2011 is the expansion of Hunt Area 78 south of the park. The expansion includes lands south of the park on the west side of Highway 390 south to Highway 22 and Teton Pass.
Hunters in the Fall Creek elk herd south of Jackson can expect continued liberal hunting opportunities as this population continues to be above the overall population objective. However, it is being proposed to scale back the number of antlerless elk permits offered in Hunt Area 84 as that portion of the herd proved to be closer to desired population levels during the annual winter counts.
The Jackson moose herd appears to be continuing its downward trend with low calf:cow ratios observed during this winter’s aerial surveys.
"The calf:cow ratio gives us a look at what we can expect in the future, and basically all the information we have continues to paint a pretty bleak picture for the Jackson moose herd," said Brimeyer. "In 2011, we are closing the four moose hunt areas in the Teton Wilderness."
After another successful bison hunt in 2010, hunters can expect a similar hunting season proposed for 2011. However, managers are proposing to start the bison hunting a month earlier than past years, on August 15, to discourage resident bison from eating winter forage on the National Elk Refuge. The Game and Fish will offer around 400 licenses in 2011 in an effort to continue to move the Jackson bison population towards the objective of 500 animals. Recent counts showed a wintering population at approximately 930 animals. Managers are expecting approximately 150 calves to be born this spring.
Wyoming’s two largest deer herds, the Sublette and Wyoming Range herds, encompass much of the western part of the state west of the Continental Divide. The Sublette herd includes those hunt areas around Jackson all the way south and east to the town of Farson. The Wyoming Range herd includes those hunt areas south of Alpine including Star Valley, the Salt Range and the west slope of the Wyoming Range south to Kemmerer and Cokeville.
Like most big game species, the quality of the winter range is often what determines the quality of the herd. While the annual growth on some key shrub species has improved in recent years, wildlife managers remain concerned about the overall winter range conditions for both deer herds after decades of drought.
Given the generally poor winter habitat conditions and relatively long, persistent winter this year, managers are expecting to see above normal winter mortality in these deer herds this spring. Consequently, proposed seasons in these herds will continue to be fairly conservative, with slightly fewer total days to hunt.
"We continue to have good hunter success and good buck ratios," said Wyoming Game and Fish Wildlife Management Coordinator, Scott Smith.
"However, the winter range in our area has about the maximum number of deer it can sustain. Extended drought conditions, human disturbance and oil and gas development all contribute to limiting our deer herds."
Pronghorn numbers in the Sublette herd south of Pinedale are near desired management levels. Based on above average snow accumulation this past winter coupled with poor 2010 summer shrub production, winter mortality is anticipated to be "normal" to "above normal" on many of the winter range complexes. For the 2011 hunting season, doe/fawn permits will be reduced. 2011 doe and fawn permits are proposed to decrease by a total of 375 licenses throughout the 6 hunt areas in the Jackson/Pinedale areas. Managers believe the permit reductions should stabilize populations at present levels.
All interested parties are encouraged to attend one of the public meetings held in each Game and Fish region discussing the proposals.
March 21, 6-8PM (Open House) Afton Afton Civic Center
March 28, 7PM Pinedale G&F Regional Office
March 29, 7PM Jackson G&F Regional Office
Written comments (no faxes or emails will be accepted) will be accepted through 5 p.m. April 1 by mailing: Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Regulations, 3030 Energy Lane, Casper, WY 82604. Copies of the proposed regulations are available at the same address in accordance with Chapter 1 Regulation Governing Access to Public Records.
All written comments will be presented to the G&F Commission prior to the public hearing at their April 22-23 meeting at the Casper G&F Office.
The G&F supports the Americans with Disabilities Act. Every effort will be made for reasonable accommodations by contacting the nearest G&F office.