Nevada Department of Wildlife Fall Issue - August, 2009

Big Game Forecast

Many of Nevada’s big game herds continue to thrive and set population records (Page 7)

Eye in the Sky

Biologists now tracking Nevada’s big game by satellite (Page 3)


Nevada Department of Wildlife

Director’s Message
Fellow Sportsmen and Outdoor Enthusiasts, As I read through this issue of the Fall Wildlife Almanac, I started to notice an important reoccurring theme. From the story on wildlife viewing, the big game forecast or fishing on Lake Mead, the Nevada Department of Wildlife website (www.ndow.org) offers the public an incredibly large and comprehensive amount of information and materials to help them with nearly any question or situation in the outdoor world. Take fishing in Nevada for example. Anglers in this state can check on Director Ken Mayer up-to-date fishing reports and stocking information broken down by region. Angler Information Guides detail the top 79 waters in the state, and the How to Fish in Nevada book explains the ins and outs of angling the Silver State. Where to fish, how to fish, fish identification…if you have a question about fishing in Nevada, there is a good chance the answer is on the NDOW website. Hunters in the state are just as fortunate. The website has nearly everything a sportsmen needs to ensure a successful hunt. Hunter information sheets detail specific hunts by species and region. These information sheets tell you about herd movement as well as finding camping or gas stations in the area. NDOW’s mapping section covers everything from hunt unit maps to BLM maps to an interactive mapping program that allows you to build your own map with your own specifications. Application information, hunt statistics and draw odds, and bonus point tables allow sportsmen to put themselves in the best position possible for the big game tag draw. The key to a successful hunt is preparation and there is no better place to start than www. ndow.org. Outdoor and wildlife enthusiasts can find detailed information sheets on the 1
Nevada Department of Wildlife

animals and habitats of Nevada. Learn how to avoid conflict with wildlife or what conservation programs are under way across the state. From bird watching to volunteering, the information is there for your education and enjoyment. So enjoy yourself as you read the 2009 Fall Wildlife Almanac, there are some great stories about what’s going on around the Silver State. But if you have any questions once you’ve finished, you might want to take a minute and check out all the great information on the NDOW website. You just might be surprised how much you find. Consider signing up for one of our list serves: fishing, hunting, habitat and wildlife, follow us on Twitter or in Facebook. There are lots of new ways to learn about the recreational opportunities that the Silver State offers. As always, I recommend that you take some time off from your busy lives and spend it outdoors. I sincerely hope that your days afield are the best ever! Sincerely,

Kenneth E. Mayer, Director Nevada Department of Wildlife


Mountain Quail back in the Stillwaters
By Aaron Meier The last time mountain quail NDOW game biologists Shawn Espinosa were plentiful in the Stillwater (right) and Jason Salisbury release Range in Churchill County (1948) mountain quail back into the Stillwater Range for the first time since 1948. Harry Truman was president and Joe Louis was the heavyweight champion of the world. Shawn Espinosa, upland game biologist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) thinks it’s about time they made a comeback. “Mountain quail are magnificent birds, especially their plumage characteristics. They occupy diverse and varying habitats. We just hope for success in reestablishing the population,” said Espinosa. “Our hope is that these efforts and Humboldt County in 2009 and 2010, but will provide diverse recreational opportunity to much of this depends on source stock availability sportsmen while creating additional population from other states.” Initial efforts to restore mountain quail numbers strongholds.” Mountain quail are found primarily in the in Nevada were difficult with no source stock mountains along the West Coast and are the available. However, a relationship was formed largest North American quail averaging 10-11 between NDOW and the China Lake Naval inches in length. While the California quail has Weapons Station (CLNWS), near Ridgecrest, the well-known curved plume on top of its head, Calif., to supply mountain quail for transplant into the mountain quail has a beautiful long straight Nevada. Since the initial release in the Toiyabe plume. Espinosa states that mountain quail often Range in 1986, over 1,500 quail have been occupy the steepest, and more densely covered released into 29 different locations in Nevada. “Much of the credit for getting this program drainages in a particular mountain range. NDOW began re-introducing mountain quail in rolling goes to retired NDOW biologist Sid Eaton the Stillwater Range in Churchill County in 2008 who facilitated and coordinated efforts with with the release of 97 birds. This year, NDOW CLNWS,” states Espinosa. “Recently, CLNWS has released another 87 birds, which not had a base population number or production Espinosa reports will be the last to support removing any birds; however, western release for the foreseeable Oregon mountain quail populations have been doing well and the Oregon Department of Fish future in this location. “No more releases and Wildlife has provided 200 mountain quail for are planned in the translocation to Nevada over the last two years.” He explains the overall goal is to establish Stillwater Range for now until the success sustainable populations of mountain quail into of these releases has targeted mountain ranges with the birds spread been determined,” he throughout the range. This will allow the birds said. “Plans are in to compensate for any environmental events in place to release birds particular areas that may cause drastic population into Lincoln County declines.
Nevada Department of Wildlife


Eye in the Sky - Big Game Biology from Space
By Aaron Meier and Joe Doucette In the past, game biologists looking to track specific herds used radio collars on the animals and checked on them using telemetry equipment from the ground or during surveys from the air. For the past four years, however, the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) has used a satellite collar that contains a small GPS unit, which generates coordinates of the animal every four hours and a transmitter to transmit the data via satellites to NDOW computers each day. This is not your father’s Department of Wildlife. “After the catastrophic wildfires in 2006, we became concerned for the western Elko County deer herd’s critical wintering areas. This prompted an effort to intensively monitor mule deer movements and their survival using satellite telemetry in real time,” said NDOW big game biologist Mike Cox. What started as a trial run with a handful of collars on a select number of deer has turned into a successful program that now monitors 25-35 collars annually on Nevada deer, elk and bighorn sheep across the state. Since the first deployment of satellite collars on Nevada’s big game animals in 2001, a total of 125 different animals have been fitted with either satellite collars or store-on-board GPS collars. “These collars allow us to have a much better understanding of these animals’ migration routes and seasonal habitat use areas for mule deer and elk and to monitor bighorn sheep survival and their movements in selecting preferred habitat after being released into new areas,” said Cox. “They are accurate, precise, and supply us with tons of data. The collars are night and day more efficient than trying to track them down from the ground or air with telemetry equipment.” He said the objective of the project is to better understand specific staging areas and routes Nevada’s big game animals use to migrate across the landscape. The collars provided even more valuable information after several years of devastating fires destroyed large chunks of historic winter range for Nevada’s mule deer. NDOW was able to evaluate how the deer maneuver through the various burns in an attempt to survive the loss of habitat. This information has helped NDOW and land management agencies better focus limited habitat restoration and conservation funds on specific areas the deer prefer based on the GPS coordinates collected each day. The collars can be programmed to send out a signal at the desired intervals of the biologist according to Kari Story Continued on Following Page 3
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Desert bighorn ewe movements for first seven months after released in new area for reintroduction effort.

NDOW big game biologist Pat Cummings releases a bighorn sheep after attaching a satellite tracking collar.

Huebner, NDOW game biologist for Area 7. “During

the migration periods, I programmed collars to send out a signal every two hours because the deer were traveling so far in a single day. During their stay on the winter and summer ranges I lengthened the intervals to prolong the battery life.” Huebner has a different set of requirements for the data that she gets from her collared deer. “Deer in my area cross two very busy highways and many are hit by cars. We have a deer overpass under construction on US 93 about 10 miles north of Wells (see related story on page 16) and the data from the collars was an important part of determining the location of the overpass and the fencing associated with the overpass.” One of the beneficial aspects for the project is that a GPS signal is sent to the satellite at the intervals defined by the biologists and then just a day or two later they can access the information on the internet, superimpose it over aerial photographs from Google Earth© and determine how fast the animals move, what corridors they

are using and where they are wintering, fawning and summering. “The real benefit is having continuous data recorded every four hours. We can track exactly how the animals move from point A to point B, and discover what obstacles they might have encountered, everything from mining activity to highways. With a conventional VHF collar, we could only track by the air or on foot every one to two months and get a far less detailed idea of how the animals were moving,” said Ken Gray, NDOW game biologist. “As much as biologists would like to spend time in the field collecting the data the old fashioned way on foot, there are only 15 NDOW game management biologists statewide, and with ever increasing responsibilities, there simply is not enough time to collect such detailed information,” says Cox. “Even if an army of volunteers were available, there are too few roads in many of the critical areas to track hourly herd movements.” While the original plan for the satellite collars Story Continued on Following Page
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was to determine how far portions of Elko’s deer herd were going into Idaho to winter, NDOW game biologist Ken Gray explains that the collars are now being used for a much wider range of information. “Recently we changed the direction of our collaring program to see how the extensive fires in Area 6 were affecting the herd’s migration to and from their winter ranges, and the use of these winter ranges once deer arrived.” Gray has found through the data collected from the collars that many deer are having to move through extensive burned areas along their migration routes and that the fawns are probably arriving at the winter range in poorer condition, which has contributed to the low fawn recruitment. The biologists have programmed the collars to fall off the animals after two years, giving them two full annual cycles to see if the deer’s

habits are consistent or not. There is a release mechanism built into the collar as well as a VHF radio telemetry signal which helps the biologists find the collar once it is on the ground. The program is expensive, between the collars, the helicopter trapping and download costs; the estimate is around $5,000 per collar over the two-year life of the collar. But both Gray and Huebner say the information is priceless and they have both learned information that could only have come from this program. The majority of the funding for collars and captures have come from the Wildlife Heritage Trust Fund. Other significant contributors include Nevada Bighorns Unlimited Reno and Midas Chapters, Elko Bighorns Unlimited, Fraternity of the Desert Bighorn, and Newmont and Barrick Goldstrike Corporations.

With the information collected from a satellite collar, NDOW biologists were able to map out the exact route a mule deer doe in northern Nevada took through habitat ravaged by wildfires to reach winter range.

Habitat destroyed by wildfire shown in red.


Nevada Department of Wildlife


Southern Nevada’s Fall Stripers
By Doug Nielsen When summer gives way to fall in southern Nevada, anglers head to the waters of the Lower Colorado River and hunt for big striped bass. Though stripers can be caught year round, the cooler temperatures of fall bring larger fish near the surface at Lake Mead and Lake Mohave where anglers stand a better chance of hooking into a really big fish. Just how large are we talking about? Consider this. The current state record striped bass was pulled from Lake Mohave in 2001. It weighed in at an impressive 63 pounds and measured 49 inches long. The Lake Mead record is 52-pounds, 8-ounces. While record-breaking fish aren’t reeled in every day, or even every year, these records do show what each lake is capable of producing. At Lake Mohave, 30-pound stripers are fairly common, especially in the fall and spring. If you want to catch fish, it pays to know what they eat. Studies of the stripers’ eating habits show that Lake Mead stripers feed almost exclusively on threadfin shad, but they will eat other fish when the opportunity arises. Keep this in mind when selecting your bait. Obviously, live shad is the best bait but they are sometimes hard to find. That’s when you may want to go with anchovies, sardines or squid. Many anglers opt to cut their anchovies into three or four pieces. The heads and tail pieces they use for chum and the center pieces for baiting their hooks. When fishing with natural bait, chumming will greatly enhance your catch rates and is permitted on Lake Mead and Lake Mohave. Keep in mind, however, that you cannot chum with game fish. Some anglers chum with cut anchovies, others with corn. Lures can also be very productive for striped bass, especially when they are actively feeding on the surface. When stripers actively feed at or near the surface they often create quite a commotion on the water’s surface. This disturbance, often referred to as a striper “boil”, is created by the shad or other baitfish as they attempt to escape the feeding frenzy. Do not drive your boat through a boil as this will often cause the stripers to shut down. Instead position your vessel on the outside edge of the boil and cast into it. That way the fish will keep feeding and will be more likely to hit your bait. Popular lure patterns include the Sassy Shad, Kastmaster, Jumping Minnow and Zara Spook among others. In addition to striped bass, Lake Mead and Lake Mohave provide good fall fishing action for both largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. A popular technique for both of these fish is the drop shot fished along the bottom with a plastic worm. Surface plugs, spinnerbaits, crankbaits and other plastics will also catch these popular fish. The Rattle Trap and other crank baits that imitate shad are a good bet in the fall. A key with both species is to fish points and other structure. Every once in a while, Lake Mead will give up a real toad. The state record largemouth bass was caught here in 1999. The fish weighed in at 12 pounds even.
Nevada Department of Wildlife


2009 Big Game Forecast
By John McKay 2009 looks to be an excellent year for big game tag holders in the Silver State. With the lone exception of mule deer, Nevada’s big game herds continue to thrive and set population records. However, with mule deer’s ongoing struggles due to a host of natural and man-made issues, the outlook for this mainstay species continues to cloud an otherwise sunny forecast for Nevada big game hunters. Here’s a brief look at the various species and habitat conditions around the state. Mule Deer Signs through the first half of 2009 point to a good hunting season with late spring storms delivering significant precipitation across much of Nevada. The much needed water dramatically improved habitat conditions and the possibility of good antler growth. However, any recent habitat improvements will be short lived if drought conditions return this summer and fall. Spring mule deer fawn ratios (the percentage of fawns to adults) were mixed across the state in 2008, with ratios in some units at or above the five-year average, some below and others exhibiting record low recruitment. Low fawn ratios ultimately mean limited recruitment, little if any herd growth and possible further declines in populations. Despite low recruitment, buck ratios (the percentage of bucks to does) appear to be holding, with many units at or above the 30 bucks/100 does level. All told, below normal precipitation, coupled with catastrophic wildfires and other large-scale habitat destruction and degradation would seem to point to a continued long-term decline in Nevada’s mule deer herd populations. Rocky Mountain Elk With the exception of Area 26 in southern Nevada, elk populations continue to expand statewide. The spring 2009 population is estimated at 10,900, a 28 percent increase over the five-year average and another record high. The statewide population continues to increase despite aggressive cow elk harvests in many units designed to keep populations at or below management objectives. A total of 1,315 elk were harvested in 2008, with 656 bulls taken, of which 59 percent were six-point or better.
Photo by Dave Peterson

Pronghorn Antelope The highest recorded statewide pronghorn population in history (24,000) was reported in 2008, only to be surpassed in 2009 with an estimated 24,500 animals. As an illustration of just how dramatically pronghorn numbers have grown in recent years the 2009 population estimate is 14 percent over the five-year average of 21,500, which was the new record statewide population in 2006. Above average kid production rates, high postseason buck ratios and an active relocation program by NDOW have continued to expand pronghorn numbers and range in recent years.
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Nevada Department of Wildlife

FALL WILDLIFE ALMANAC And even though the rate of pronghorn population growth has slowed or even reversed in some hunt units, the overall statewide population trend remains positive with good buck ratios and quality animals to be found in every unit. Bighorn Sheep Desert bighorn continue to set population records. The 2009 statewide population estimate of 7,000 is the highest ever recorded and is 19 percent over the fiveyear average. Nevada remains the leader in providing quality desert bighorn hunting with a record 173 tags issued in 2008 and high hunter success at 88 percent. The quality of the animals remained high as well with the average age of harvested rams holding steady at 6.3 years (from 6.4 years in 2007) and an average Boone & Crockett score of over 152 points. California bighorn are also doing very well. Aerial surveys observed high lamb ratios in a number of units and indicate steady growth in almost all herds. The 2008 estimated statewide population is 1,800; also a record high and a thirteen percent increase over the five-year average. Rocky Mountain bighorn populations remain stable to slightly increasing. Moderate lamb production, good age class distribution of rams in the population and growth of the recently augmented Rocky herd in the Mount Moriah area of the north Snake Range of eastern White Pine County all point to a bright future for this species. The thirteen Rocky tags issued in 2008 is the highest number ever and more than double the six tags issued in 2006. Mountain Goat

Mountain goats of the East Humboldts and Ruby Mountains continue to do very well with populations in the three hunt units they regularly inhabit exhibiting a stable to slightly upward trend. Opportunities to hunt this unique trophy species have increased dramatically over the last five years and hunters continue to experience very high success rates (93 percent in 2008). Hunter success, hunter days and average age of harvested animals all indicate stable goat populations with trophy quality animals. Much of the information used in this forecast was gathered from the Nevada Department of Wildlife 2008 – 2009 Big Game Status Book. The status book is a compilation of the annual herd status reports for all big game species as written by area game biologists from around the state. It also contains a wealth of other information valuable to hunters including tag numbers, draw odds, harvest information and historical population estimates. The status book can be read in its entirety on the NDOW website at www.ndow.org.

Nevada Department of Wildlife


Study Shows Impacts of Power Lines on Sage-grouse
By Kelly Clark and Shawn Espinosa A study on the impacts of a utility line on sage-grouse populations in Eureka County is not yet complete; however there have been some interesting findings to date regarding sagegrouse demographics and habitat associations. Sage-grouse populations associated with the study area have experienced a 25% decrease in male sage-grouse lek attendance, and the third consecutive year of population declines. The study was developed as partial mitigation for construction of the line and several funding partners including the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW), University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) and NV Energy cooperated to make the study a reality. Dr. James Sedinger and graduate student Erik Blomberg from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at UNR are currently working on the study, now in its seventh year. Their hypothesis is that raptors and ravens that perch on the new utility line will hunt both young and adult sage-grouse nearby, thereby negatively affecting sage-grouse populations. Alternatively, they propose that the perceived threat of predation associated with the utility line may also cause sage-grouse to avoid those areas, effectively causing them to abandon the leks (strutting and mating grounds), nest sites, and brood rearing areas near the utility line. The study area is along State Route 278 and includes the Cortez and Roberts Mountains in Eureka County. The transmission line, known as Falcon to Gondor, is a 345-kilovolt NV Energy transmission line that was constructed in the fall of 2003. It is 290 km long with 735 towers that vary in height from 23 to 40 meters. It was constructed with H-brace uprights outfitted with perch deterrents. According to NDOW biologist Mike Podborny, the power line is in the middle of Eureka County’s prime sage-grouse habitat. To date, up to 13 sage-grouse lek sites are being monitored, with 950 male and female sage-grouse having been captured and banded or radio marked during the first six years of the study. Of the 13 sites, the number of males on four of the leks increased, six leks had fewer males display, one lek site was about the same and two had insufficient data to reflect a trend. The number of males was at a high of 423 in 2006, and a low of 212 in 2008. The number of females on the leks showed a low of 46 in 2007, and a high of 87 in 2006. In the first six years of the study, 144 raptor surveys were conducted. During the first few years of the study, there was an increasing trend in the sightings of common ravens at sage-grouse leks, but that number dropped dramatically in 2008. The H-brace perch deterrents constructed as part of the line seemed effective for awhile as raptors showed reduced perching bouts (time perched), but ravens have found a way to
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Nevada Department of Wildlife

FALL WILDLIFE ALMANAC construct a nest even on very difficult surfaces. This year there was a high number of raven nests observed on the line (11) compared to previous years (high count of eight.) Researchers are reviewing sagegrouse mortality and vegetative characteristics associated with nesting and brood rearing activities. Data collected so far indicates that monthly survival was lowest during the months of April and September. Mortality during the spring is to be expected because of nesting activities and the high visibility of sage-grouse on leks; however, the early fall mortality was interesting because the mortality occurred before hunting seasons began. Both birds and mammals are apparently predators on the sage-grouse. Other findings are that sites with higher shrub diversity experienced increased nesting success. In addition, shrub cover played a more important role in nesting success than understory (grass and forb) vegetation. The 2009 progress report on the study states that this year’s conditions are exceptional for high brood/chick survival, with regular precipitation, and good grass and shrub growth. The report states “Of 20 broods that have hatched, we’ve only documented three complete brood losses so far, and most broods are 2-3 weeks old. With

any luck this high rate of brood/chick survival will carry on through the summer and lead to our first population increase since 2006.” The report “Dynamics of Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus Urophasianus) Populations in Response to Transmission Lines in Central Nevada” will be available on line at www.ndow.org upon conclusion of the study. Greater sage-grouse populations across the West have declined since the 1960s, with some states showing stabilizing trends in the past two decades. Sage-grouse are dependent upon sagebrush for food and shelter throughout the year and depend on sagebrush exclusively during the winter months. Across the West, about 530,000 square kilometers of the sagebrush steppe habitat that Greater sage-grouse depend upon has been lost, and some leading sage-grouse biologists (Connelly, et al) believe that “the loss and degradation of habitat is an important cause of population decline.” At least nine separate petitions to list sagegrouse as an endangered species have been considered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Currently, USFWS is reviewing a lawsuit filed by Western Watersheds Project, a conservation group that sued the wildlife service over its decision not to list Greater sage-grouse in 2005. That decision has been delayed but is now scheduled to be announced in early 2010.
Nevada Department of Wildlife


Doing Your Homework Key to Hunting Success
By Jake Sunderland Preparation is key to a successful hunt. Scouting, research, sighting in your weapon, physical fitness, gear and packing; all these things are important and if you don’t spend time preparing and doing your homework your chances of a successful and enjoyable hunt decrease. Each step to preparing for your hunt is just as important as the next. You can’t have an enjoyable hunt if you don’t know your area, but don’t forget that your chances of success are low if you haven’t prepared your weapon. Forget your tag and your trip is over before it begins. Luckily, the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) has many resources on its website, ndow.org, to help you do your research as you prepare for your hunt. It is important to know your hunt unit; ndow.org can help with its hunter information sheets (found at ndow.org/hunt/ resources/infosheets/), hunt unit advisories that warn of difficult hunter access (found at ndow. org/hunt/resources/ advise/) and detailed maps (found at ndow.org/ hunt/maps/). However, nothing can replace scouting your hunt unit. “The biggest thing is to know your unit by scouting two or three times and studying the resources NDOW has online,” said Mike Cox, a big game staff biologist at NDOW. “Sometimes it’s been a while since you had a tag, so you definitely want to familiarize yourself with the unit and its boundaries.” Cox said that another great way to get to know hunt units is to use NDOW’s Interactive Mapping Service (found at ndow.org/learn/map_project/). Using the Interactive Mapping Service, hunters can view topographic maps, unit boundary maps, land status maps, Wilderness Area maps and much more. “Nevada is 80 percent public land, which is great, but you need to know how best to access 11
Nevada Department of Wildlife

it,” Cox said. “Make sure you know where Department of Defense and tribal lands exist which are close to hunting and make sure you get permission from a landowner to hunt on any private land.” While studying unit maps, keep an eye out for restricted vehicle use areas. While it sounds obvious, it’s important to remember that hunting is a physical activity and that hunters will want to be in shape when they head out into the field. “Get back into shape,” Cox said. “It’s important to have a regimented exercise routine so that you are prepared physically for the hunting season.” Don’t forget to prepare your weapon for the hunt. Sight in your rifle or bow and practice several times at a local range if available. Always pack extra ammunition and arrows. Making sure your weapon is ready and you can accurately shoot it will ensure a clean kill and prevent senseless wounding of an animal. What hunters pack is very important to the success of their trip as well. For clothing, be sure to pack clothes for all types of weather and temperature. Make sure your boots have been broken in. Don’t forget that you must have your hunting license and tag with you at all times. Binoculars, scopes, rope and a headlamp with extra batteries are a must. More on what to pack can be found at NDOW’s Hunter Checklist (found at ndow.org/hunt/resources/check/). The important thing about preparation is that it’s a process that should be spread out over weeks and even months. Doing all this the weekend before you leave on your hunt is a daunting task, but when it’s spread over the course of a few months it’s a great way to extend your hunts from a few days in the field to an activity that you get to enjoy throughout the year at home.


Angler Just Misses World Record with Monster Wiper
By Carolyn Montgomery Like any angler, Adam Truran got out his rod, rigged up his line with a Rapala, strapped on his headlamp Adam Truran pulled in this state-record and went fishing early one June wiper out of Lahontan morning, but from there, this fish tale Reservoir June 6, 2009 is a unique one. That early morning at Lahontan Reservoir, Truran was reeling in a new state record for wiper. This story gets even better. Not only did Truran’s 25-pound, 9-ounce, 33-inch long wiper set a new Nevada state record, he was just 1-pound 13-ounces shy of achieving a new world record for the hybrid species. According to the Nevada Department of Wildlife’s (NDOW) Trophy Fish Record book, this isn’t the first wiper state record set at Lahontan Reservoir; in fact, the record has been June on record. In addition to capturing on set and broken eight times since 2000 making average 10-pound wipers, anglers are also having it the most hotly contested chase in the Nevada success with walleye, with a recently reported 9-pound 8-ouncer reeled in, and a largemouth angling record book. A newcomer to the record-holders, Truran bass tipping the scales at 3-pounds 7-ounces. “We expected them to reach maximum size broke the two-year-old record of 25-pounds 6-ounces set by Dan Hannum of Dayton in July at around 25 pounds; the world record being 2007. Expect Hannum to try to regain the title, he 27-pounds 5-ounces,” said Mark Warren, Chief has set the state record four times since 2002, of the Fisheries Division. “With the abundance of and it took him only 15 days to recapture the title Sacramento blackfish in the reservoir, we knew the last time he lost it. that the wipers would have an abundant food Checking NDOW’s source and grow to larger, if not world record Previous record holder Trophy Fish Book, sizes. Dan Hannum Wipers, a hybrid cross of a white bass and a this Churchill County striped bass, were first introduced into Lahontan fishery boasts five state records. In Reservoir in 1993 and, water levels permitting, addition to the wiper, thousands have been stocked every year. In this record white bass, warm-water fishery, they have been getting bigger channel catfish and ever since. In fact, in the 2002 Trophy Fish Record walleye have been book Warren, then a fisheries biologist, predicted, pulled in over the “the wiper record from Lahontan Reservoir should continue to be broken annually until fish reach the years. Lahontan Reservoir, mid-twenty pound size.” How right he was. despite last year’s So grab your fishing gear and get out to your dismal water year, has rebounded favorite water, bragging rights to a new record extremely well due to could be yours, just ask Adam Truran, proud the second wettest owner of the largest wiper in the state of Nevada.
Nevada Department of Wildlife


Wildlife Viewing in the Silver State
By Margie Klein, Norv Dallin and Aaron Keller For those outdoor enthusiasts whose idea of shooting features a camera, Nevada offers a wide variety of wildlife viewing opportunities. Nationwide, wildlife viewing is fast becoming one of the top economic drivers in the tourism category. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported in 2006 that participants spend more than $45 billion annually on wildlife watching activities. Moreover, the report estimated that 71 million people participate in the activity nationwide - a 13% increase over the previous 10 years. And though it may seem strange to some, more than half of wildlife watchers are sportsmen. Wildlife viewing, however, isn’t just for the tourists. With so many new residents hailing from other parts of the country, there is a real interest in finding community ties. What better way to get invested in a new locale than by connecting with nature? Folks looking for knowledge about their local environment are visiting parks, management areas, forests and refuges. Participants are interested in what they can see, when they can see it and where. They also want tips for enjoying the wildlife viewing experience in a responsible manner, but many don’t know what they’re looking for. NDOW is answering the call by providing accurate species lists and wildlife viewing educational programs. The agency is also embracing the world of social networking and can now be found on Twitter. Check us out at http:// twitter.com/NvDOW. Check out some of the outstanding viewing opportunities statewide: Southern Region Though most people probably wouldn’t consider Southern Nevada a haven for wildlife, 13
Nevada Department of Wildlife

there are those who know better. In fact, during recent years, this part of the Silver State has seen a significant increase in the number of people who participate in wildlife viewing. This increase was reflected in the success of the inaugural Wings & Wildlife Festival held recently in Laughlin. NDOW helped to organize the Wings and Wildlife Festival, which took place in March of this year. The first-time event saw over two hundred people in attendance. Events offerings included seminars, birding and wildlife viewing excursions, and the opportunity to speak with representatives of local natural resource agencies. The festival won an award from the Nevada Commission on Tourism. The majority of festival participants were from out-of-state. Since Nevada relies so heavily on revenue generated through tourism, the state is wellserved by jumping on the ecotourism bandwagon. Pink Jeep Tours was Southern Nevada’s original ecotourism operator, but it didn’t take long for other outdoor tour vendors to join them. Even the traditional bus tour operators are joining in and including wildlife as one of the “sites” to see.
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FALL WILDLIFE ALMANAC Catering more specifically to bird-watchers, the Nevada Commission on Tourism (NCOT) is promoting natural sites in the state that offer a rich diversity of bird species, calling the initiative “Wildly Unexpected.” Nevada Magazine, which the NCOT produces, has recently featured ads with celebrities participating in outdoor recreation. Eastern Region Avid wildlife watchers, as well as casual viewers, find a wide variety of wildlife in northeast Nevada’s Ruby Mountains. From the sagebrush covered foothills to the 11,000-foot alpine tundra, over a hundred species of birds and more than 30 species of mammals inhabit this, the wettest mountain range in Nevada. Many of these species are routinely encountered along the 13mile scenic byway through Lamoille Canyon. Wildlife enthusiasts commonly observe mule deer, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep in one drive through the glacier-carved canyon. Hard core birders come from all regions of the United States to see the elusive Himalayan snowcock.

The Rubies and the East Humboldt Range hold the only populations of these unique birds in the Western Hemisphere. Steptoe Wildlife Management Area located south of Ely in eastern Nevada, hosts big game, small game, waterfowl and upland birds. In addition to the largest elk herd in the state, over 140 species of songbirds, 30 shorebirds, 20 ducks, 15 species of hawks, seven owls, and 12 bats have been recorded on the area. With extensive upland and wetland restoration work currently under way, antelope, deer and elk will increase. Roads through the area accommodate wildlife watchers and photographers. Ruby Valley straddles the ElkoWhite Pine County line and is home to Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge and the associated state-owned Franklin Lake Wildlife Management Area. Over 200 springs originating from the base of the Ruby Mountains provide life-sustaining water to the 39,926-acre refuge. Exceptional waterfowl and shorebird viewing is found in this out of the way, Great Basin oasis. The area provides a resting and feeding stopover for
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migrating waterfowl from the Central and Pacific Flyways. The refuge, which supports the largest population of nesting canvasback ducks west of the Mississippi River outside Alaska, is a vital waterfowl nesting area for many species. Several roads open to automobiles and bicycles allow close up views of many of the 207 bird species found in the area. Mule deer and antelope can often be spotted grazing in the nearby meadows as well. Western Region Aaron Keller, conservation educator at NDOW, explains that one of the tricks to watching wildlife is recognizing good wildlife habitat. The strip along a river is called a riparian area, one of the most valuable habitats for wildlife. In a riparian area, variety is key. Trees and shrubs of different ages and heights offer a multi-level layering of places for birds to perch, rest or nest. A mix of understory and aquatic plants offer a banquet of food opportunities in berries, shoots, leaves and seeds. The cool river entices many animals of all shapes and sizes for drinking water, or to find a shady place to escape. Unlike most rivers in the world, Great Basin rivers do not flow into 15
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the sea. Their water sinks into the ground or is evaporated into the atmosphere. Water is scarce in this part of the country and the demands and pressures for rivers to fulfill a variety of needs are growing. The shortage of water effectively makes wildlife populations gravitate to the streams and rivers of northern Nevada. It is not uncommon to walk the Truckee River and view ducks, geese, mink, muskrat, and deer just to name a few. Migrating birds will often chart their route along river courses to ensure plenty of places to stop along the way. These migration routes are followed by wildlife on the ground too! The routes can be viewed season after season, and the chances of seeing the same animal year after year is not unheard of. One prime example of these valuable Northern Nevada riparian areas is the Oxbow Nature Study Area. A visit to the Oxbow will take you back in time to what the Truckee River looked like before all of the houses and roads were built. You will have the opportunity to view many species of wildlife in the gallery forests, along the trails, and if you look close you might spot a passing cutthroat trout swimming upriver looking for mayflies to catch for lunch.


Safe Passage for Nevada’s Deer
By Joe Doucette In a collaborative effort, the Nevada sale of the bighorn sheep license plate) and Department of Transportation (NDOT) and the $37,900 from Wildlife Heritage funds for fencing Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) are and monitoring of game movement. The Wildlife building a wildlife crossing overpass approximately Restoration funds are received under the Pittmannine miles north of Wells, Nevada on US 93. In Robertson Act, which is funded through an 11 addition to the overpass, there will be wing fences percent tax on firearms and ammunitions, a 12.4 helping to funnel the deer to the overpass. This percent tax on archery-related equipment and a wildlife crossing overpass is one of the first of its 10 percent tax on handguns. These taxes are kind in the western United States. provided to state fish and game agencies across “We average 1,500 to 3,000 deer migrating the nation to support wildlife management. through this corridor across US 93 in an average “The overpass will be approximately 160 feet year,” explains Kari Huebner, NDOW big game wide and span almost the same distance going biologist, “and many are struck by vehicles, some over the highway,” says Huebner. are reported but many aren’t.” According to Huebner, the overpass will be The project, designed to protect both deer covered with dirt and a mix of desirable and and humans alike, has been in the planning native plant species will be planted. The site was for two years. To pay for the project NDOT will selected because the topography requires very be using approximately $1.5 million from the little build up for the overpass as there is already American Recovery an embankment and Reinvestment that is almost at the Act and NDOW ideal height. and supporters are The results Artist rendition of finished overpass on US 93, approximately nine miles north of Wells. providing $880,395. of a mule deer For this overpass satellite collaring project, NDOW has project showed contributed $500,000 that this area is a from the wildlife primary route for portion of the the Area 6 and Area Question 1 Bond 7 mule deer herd Initiative. This bond to migrate through was approved by (see related story in the public on Nov. the Almanac). The 5, 2002. NDOW overpass will be received $27.5 built in such a way million to enhance, that animals should protect and manage not be visible from wildlife and wildlife the road. Besides habitat, enhance recreational opportunities mule deer, both elk and antelope will also benefit related to wildlife, and develop and renovate from the overpass. facilities and improve existing habitats for fish and NDOW will perform a monitoring project using a wildlife. combination of motion activated still and possibly In addition for this project, NDOW contributed video cameras to determine what species are $267,495 in Wildlife Restoration funds, $75,000 using the overpass, when it is being used and the from the Nevada Wildlife Record Book (a nonprofit number of animals using the overpass. sportsmen’s group that receives its funding from
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Onion Valley Reservoir on the Road to Recovery
By Chris Healy The long road to recovery for the fishery at Onion Valley Reservoir began earlier this summer when the Nevada Department of Wildlife stocked 4,000 rainbow trout in the popular Humboldt County reservoir. This was the first stocking of fish since 2006. Uncertainty over sustainable water supplies has prevented NDOW from stocking trout in the reservoir the last couple of years. Blain Merrell, hatchery technician for the Nevada Department “We now feel that there of Wildlife, stocks fish into Onion Valley Reservoir. is enough water for the downstream user to have their allocated share and still have enough water leftover to support a trout fishery,“ large amounts of available food for the fish.” In says NDOW Fisheries Chief Mark Warren. past years Onion Valley Reservoir has received “Fishing success at the popular reservoir will not allocations of rainbow, bowcut and tiger trout. reach expected “heights” until enough fish can “They grow fast in these waters which is why this be stocked to fill the 100-acre reservoir. That fishery is so popular,” says Warren. process will take between 18 and 24 months.” Despite its remote location, the Pine Forest Onion Reservoir’s annual allocation of fish is Complex has been a popular destination for usually 16,000 rainbow, bowcut and tiger trout. anglers throughout northern Nevada. The Repairs to the dam and the water outlet popular trout fishery is located in the Pine Forest structure in late 2005 and early 2006 prevented Range near Denio, Nevada, and is part of the water storage during the ensuing winter period. Pine Forest complex of fisheries. Blue Lakes and Some fish were stocked in the spring of 2006 Knott Creek Reservoir are the other “destination” but the reservoir went dry later that summer and fishing hot spots in the area, which is in northern when dry winters followed in 2007 and 2008, Humboldt County near the Oregon border. the popular fishery, once again, did not receive Angling opens at these high mountain fisheries enough water to warrant trout stocking. on the second Saturday of June each year and “It takes awhile to rebuild a fishery,” says closes to fishing on November 15. Travelers Warren. “We will probably stock again this into the area are reminded that roads in the Pine fall, depending on water levels, and we plan to Forest Range are primitive in nature and usually stock Onion at its allocated numbers of fish in require a sturdy four-wheel drive vehicle. 2010 (16,000 trout) to take advantage of the 17
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Students Learn NDOW Ropes
By Craig Mortimore The James Lathrop & Wayne Capurro Memorial Scholarship Program provides select students with the opportunity to work with the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) during the summers to obtain exposure to the wildlife management profession. Graduating seniors of Nevada high schools, private schools, home-schooled students meeting the high school graduate equivalency requirement or persons already enrolled at the University of Nevada, Reno are eligible to compete for these full time seasonal aid positions. The employment begins at earliest available date in the spring and ends once the fall semester commences. The scholarship is not a direct grant or gift payment to a student in the traditional sense; rather it is an employment opportunity where wages earned can be used to help support his/her college education. Scholars are paid seasonal employees of the NDOW and receive ‘on-the-job’ training to provide them with practical knowledge and experience to enhance their college studies and future career. The Reno Chapter of Nevada Bighorns Unlimited (NBU) underwrites a portion of this scholarship program which is co-named in honor of one of their founding members James Lathrop. Additional funding support is provided by the Nevada Wildlife Record Book and is also named in memoriam for one of their founding members Wayne Capurro. Both men made outstanding contributions to wildlife management through their roles as hunters, volunteers, organizers and advisors to the Department, the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners and the many wildlifeoriented organizations that mutually support the sustained health of Nevada’s wildlife resources. Just this year, NDOW combined the two separate scholarships under a single moniker, the Lathrop-Capurro Scholarship. Next year, it is Game Division’s intent to invoke another name change, calling it the Lathrop-Capurro Wildlife Internship Program. Since the first scholarship was awarded to Ralph Cinfio in 1991, the combined programs have provided Game Division with a total of 28 individual seasonal workers, including the four active seasonal aids now with the agency. Twelve people have completed the entire four year option and NDOW went on to hire four of them, including Tyler Turnipseed, Kari Huebner and Scott Giles who are now veteran employees. The students have come from all over the state, rural and urban and many have gone on to work in the wildlife conservation field. Today the Game Division collaborates with professors and graduate students at UNR’s college of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources to nurture these seasonal workers’ academic foundation as well as their practical experience. Combined, it is our intent to create exceptional graduates, hopefully most with advanced degrees, that are ready to contribute to the conservation movement.
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Students Luke Wartgow (left) and Adam Burnside examine a captured black bear.


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