The temperatures are starting to climb and the days are getting long, and that’s good news for recreational shooters looking to get out of the city limits to shoot some guns. Summer is a popular season for recreational shooters statewide, but it’s also a critical time of year for some nongame bird species that nest or are commonly found in popular shooting areas.
While the majority of recreational hunters and shooters obey the law, Fish and Game law enforcement officials remind shooters that they are likely to encounter protected wildlife and there is a heavy price to be paid. pay to pull the trigger on a protected species.
Two men recently pleaded guilty to illegally taking a golden eagle (a protected bird of prey) from the Morley Nelson Snake River National Birds of Prey Conservation Area. A judge sentenced the two men to two years probation, as well as a two-year hunting and firearms ban. Each had to pay restitution of more than $3,000.
It’s the shooter’s responsibility to know the law, and a good rule of thumb is to shoot targets rather than wildlife unless you know exactly what you’re shooting at and are doing it legally.
“Illegal shooting of protected nongame wildlife such as owls, hawks, eagles and other birds such as long-billed curlews is a persistent and widespread problem in Idaho,” said Deniz Aygen, Fish and Game Observable Wildlife Biologist. “Long-billed Curlews and many species of raptors are identified by Fish and Game as species most in need of conservation, and unfortunately significant poaching is occurring in areas that have been established to aid in their conservation, but are also heavily used by recreational shooters.
Almost all non-game bird species found in Idaho are protected and therefore illegal to shoot. There are a few non-native species that can be caught year-round with a valid hunting license, including European starlings, Eurasian collared doves, house sparrows, and rock pigeons.
Shooting protected birds may seem harmless, but it has been shown to affect some bird populations.
Research published in 2020 shows that the shooting of protected non-game species – particularly raptors and long-billed curlews – is more common in areas of high use by recreational shooters and occurs more frequently than previously thought. thought before.
Where was the study conducted? In southwestern Idaho in the Morley Nelson Snake River National Birds of Prey Conservation Area.
The study suggested that illegal shooting may have a role in the long-term declines observed for the local long-billed curlew population in the conservation area, which had declined from over 2,000 in the late 1970s to less than 200 in 2014, and now has well under 100 curlews.
The study also implied that a small segment of recreational shooters appear to poach protected nongame species while they target or hunt unprotected nongame species like ground squirrels.
A note on ground squirrels
At this time of year, many shooters target ground squirrels throughout the state. Although there are a few species of ground squirrels open to hunting, such as the Uinta or Columbia ground squirrel, some ground squirrels are protected. For example, northern and southern Idaho ground squirrels, rock squirrels, Piute ground squirrels (in eastern Idaho), Merriam ground squirrels, golden-mantled ground squirrels, and ground squirrels in Wyoming (in southwestern Idaho) are all protected species and should not be targeted.
If you can’t tell the difference between an unprotected and a protected species of ground squirrel, or any other wild animal, you shouldn’t target them.
Check Fish and Game’s ground squirrels webpage for a complete list of protected and unprotected ground squirrel species before heading out.
People can help preserve Idaho’s hunting and fishing heritage by reporting poaching. Make the call if something doesn’t seem right. Contact Citizens Against Poaching at 1-800-632-5999.