FWP briefs, information and updates

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Inspectors find mussels on boat being transported through Montana

The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Anaconda watercraft inspection station intercepted a boat carrying invasive mussels Monday. The boat was being transported from the Great Lakes area to Bellingham, Washington, by a commercial hauler. The boat was last used on Lake Huron and had been in dry dock since October.

Mussels were found on the transom and trim tabs and were dried-up and dead. The inspectors decontaminated the boat before releasing it. The boat will not launch in Montana.

This is the first boat with mussels that watercraft inspectors have stopped this year.

FWP reminds all those transporting motorized or non-motorized boats into Montana to have their watercraft inspected before launching. Boat owners are required to stop at all open watercraft inspection stations. Persons purchasing used boats should ensure the watercraft are clean, drained and dry before crossing Montana state line. To find a watercraft inspection station, visit http://cleandraindry.mt.gov/.

Watercraft inspection stations open across the Montana

Some watercraft inspection stations are opening across the state for the 2019 boating season, and boaters transporting motorized or non-motorized watercraft are required to stop at stations they pass, as directed by signs. Additionally, western Montana boaters should review specific watercraft inspection requirements and local station information.

In west-central Montana, boaters must stop at any station they pass and also seek out an inspection (even if they don’t pass a station) if they are bringing a boat over the Continental Divide into western Montana; launching in the Flathead Basin if the watercraft last launched outside the basin; or if they are bringing a boat into Montana from out-of-state and preparing to launch it for the first time this season.

Boaters requiring an inspection can find several stations already in operation for the season in western Montana, and more will open by the end of May. Open stations include one along Interstate 90 near Anaconda (west bound) that operates daily from 7 a.m.-8 p.m.; near the town of Ravalli on the southern end of the Flathead Basin, in operation from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily through mid-May and then 24 hours a day; and at Clearwater Junction in the Blackfoot Valley.

The Clearwater Junction station will inspect watercraft traveling both east and west on Highway 200 this season and will operate 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. from now until May 23. Starting May 24, the Clearwater Junction station will operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

If regulations require you to get a watercraft inspection and you will be traveling past a station outside of operating hours, please plan to go to the Missoula FWP office, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for a watercraft inspection prior to launching. Those seeking out an inspection at the Missoula FWP office are encouraged to call ahead to 406-542-5500.

In Kalispell, the FWP inspection station operates seven days a week; weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends and holidays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The station is located at the FWP Region 1 office, 490 N. Meridian Rd, next to the Flathead County Fairgrounds.

Some inspection stations operate in partnership with the Blackfeet Nation, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and Missoula County Weed District. To find a watercraft inspection station and to learn more, go to CleanDrainDryMT.com or call the FWP Aquatic Invasive Species Bureau at 406-444-2440.

Hunting

Spring bear hunting season open

Montana’s spring black bear hunting season opened April 15, and it’s important for hunters to refresh themselves on tips for identifying the difference between black bears and grizzly bears.

All black bear hunters are reminded that they must successfully complete Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ bear identification test before purchasing a black bear license.

Take the bear identification test online at fwp.mt.gov; click the Education tab, then click “Bear Identification Program.” Complete the training and test, and then present the printed online certificate to purchase a license. The training and test can also be obtained on paper, with a mail-in answer card, at FWP regional offices.

The 2019 black bear regulations are available online on the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov, at FWP region offices and license providers.

Black bear hunting licenses purchased after April 14 may not be used until 24 hours after purchase. Black bear hunters are limited to one black bear license a year.

Regulation change

This year’s regulations include an important change. While successful black bear hunters must present a complete hide and skull to FWP within 10 days of harvest, including evidence of sex, evidence of sex is not required to be naturally attached. This is a change from previous years.

The print version of the regulations contains an error and still reads that evidence of sex must be naturally attached to the hide when presenting it to FWP (pg.4).

In general, evidence of sex is not required to remain naturally attached to big game animals. However, it is required to accompany the animals from the field to the point of processing.

Hunters are reminded that it is unlawful to harvest bear cubs (bears under one year of age), and females with cubs. Remember, if you’re unsure of whether the bear is grizzly or black, male or female, take the extra time to observe the animal before attempting to harvest.

FWP encourages residents to “Be Bear Aware” and remove attractants every spring. Residents are asked to remove or secure food attractants such as garbage and bird feeders and bird seed. Chicken and livestock should be properly secured with electric fencing or inside a closed shed with a door.

Whether you’re bear hunting, shed hunting, hiking, camping or mountain biking, here are some tips to stay safe in bear country:

•Always carry bear spray and know how to use it.

•Never approach a bear. Respect its space and move away.

•Travel in groups of three or more people whenever possible and plan to be out only in the daylight hours.

•Make your presence known by talking or other means, especially when near streams or in thick forest where visibility is low. This can be the key to avoiding encounters. Most bears will avoid humans when they know humans are present.

•Don’t approach a bear; respect their space and move off. Remember, female bears are very protective of new cubs.

•When camping, always secure food attractants, whether it’s in a bear-safe container or by hanging all food, trash and other odorous items well away from camp and at least 10 feet above ground and 4 feet from any vertical support. Keep a clean camp at all times. Never cook or eat in your tent.

•When hunting, immediately field dress the animal and move the carcass at least 100 yards from the gut pile.

•When mountain biking, slow speeds around sharp corners and in densely forested areas.

Mountain lion hunting closed in HD’s 204, 260, 261, 262

The hunting of all mountain lions in Montana hunting districts 204, 260, 261 and 262 — which include portions of Ravalli, Granite, and Missoula counties — closed April 12.

The order halting the hunt came shortly after Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials received word that the pre-established harvest quota for the districts combined had been met.

Female mountain lion hunting reopened in HD 511

The hunting of female mountain lions in south-central Montana hunting district 511, which includes portions of Wheatland, Fergus and Golden Valley counties, has been reopened to the hunting of female mountain lions.

For more information, visit FWP’s website at fwp.mt.gov, click on “Hunting” then “Drawing & Quota Status”, or call the toll-free number at 1-800-385-7826.

Wildlife

FWP proposes re-establishing sharp-tailed grouse populations west of continental divide

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is proposing to re-establish self-sustainable sharp-tailed grouse populations west of the Continental Divide.

FWP would achieve this objective through reintroductions of sharp-tailed grouse in core areas with the most suitable habitat: the Blackfoot Valley; the northern Bitterroot Valley; and the Drummond Area.

FWP would capture a total of 75-180 grouse each year for five years across Regions 4, 5, 6, and 7. Capture locations would be dispersed in a way that would minimize impact to source populations.

The Western Montana Sharp-tailed Grouse Reintroduction draft environmental assessment was released for a 30-day public comment period on Feb. 15. FWP received 52 comments for the draft EA. The public comments were generally positive and supportive in nature with few comments either neutral or non-supportive. The draft EA did not identify any significant negative impacts through the proposed action to Montana’s sharp-tailed grouse population.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to review the proposal at its April 25 meeting in Bozeman.

Sharp-tailed grouse are native to Montana and classified as an upland game bird, but there has not been a hunting season in the western part of the state since 1948. Populations west of the Continental Divide were thought to be extirpated by the mid-2000s, and restoration and conservation has remained an FWP priority. Sharp-tailed grouse populations in other areas of the state have remained stable, likely due to large landscapes of suitable habitat.

The draft notice for the Western Montana Sharp-tailed Grouse Reintroduction draft environmental assessment was published April 4, 2019, and a copy is available online at http://fwp.mt.gov/news/publicNotices/.

2018 Chronic Wasting Disease Surveillance Report available online

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks recently completed the 2018 Chronic Wasting Disease Surveillance Report. The report is available on the FWP website.

During the 2018 season, FWP collected a total of 1,922 samples from mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose. FWP detected 26 new cases of CWD among wild deer, including 21 cases along the northern border in every county from Liberty County east to the North Dakota border, and five cases within the CWD-positive area south of Billings.

Prevalence of CWD in the northern CWD-positive hunting districts (HDs 400, 401, 600, 611, 670, and 640) averaged 2 percent in mule deer, and 1 percent in white-tailed deer. Among these hunting districts, prevalence varied from 2 to 4 percent among mule deer and 0 to 4 percent among white-tailed deer.

South of Billings, CWD prevalence was estimated to be 2 percent in mule deer and 1 percent in white-tailed deer. Prevalence varied across hunting districts ranging from less than 1 percent to 6 percent in mule deer and 0 to 1 percent among white-tailed deer

FWP has been conducting surveillance for CWD since 1998, and first detected the fatal disease in wild deer in 2017.

For more information about CWD, including the complete 2018 surveillance report, visit fwp.mt.gov and click on CWD.

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