BOISE – The temperatures are starting to rise and the days are long, and that’s good news for recreational shooters looking to get outside of the city limits to shoot. Summer is a popular season for recreational shooters statewide, but it’s also a critical time of year for some non-game bird species commonly found in popular shooting areas.
While most recreational hunters and shooters follow the law, Fish and Game enforcement officials remind shooters that they are likely to encounter protected wildlife that is not game, and to pay a high price for pulling the trigger on a protected species.
Two men recently pleaded guilty to illegally capturing a golden eagle (a protected bird of prey) in the Morley Nelson Snake River National Raptor Conservation Area. Both men were sentenced to two years of probation, as well as a two-year ban on hunting and possession of firearms. They each had to pay restitution of more than $3,000.
It is a shooter’s responsibility to know the law, and a good rule of thumb is to shoot at targets rather than wildlife, unless you know exactly what you are shooting at and are doing so legally.
“Illegal shooting of protected non-game wildlife such as owls, hawks, eagles, and other birds, such as long-billed curlews, is a persistent and prevalent problem in Idaho,” said Deniz Aygen, observable wildlife biologist for Fish and Game. “Long-billed Curlews and many species of raptors are identified by Fish and Game as most in need of conservation, and unfortunately substantial poaching occurs in areas that were established to aid in their conservation, but are also Widely used by recreational shooters.”
Nearly all non-game bird species found in Idaho are protected and therefore illegal to shoot. There are some non-native species that can be taken year-round with a valid hunting license, including European starlings, Eurasian collared doves, house sparrows and rock pigeons.
This time of year, many shooters target ground squirrels throughout the state. While there are some species of ground squirrels open to hunting, such as the Uinta or the Colombian 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 Wyoming ground squirrels ( in southwestern Idaho) are all protected species and should not be attacked.
If you can’t tell the difference between an unprotected and a protected species of ground squirrel, or any other wildlife, you shouldn’t target them.
Visit Fish and Game’s Ground Squirrel website for a complete list of protected and unprotected ground squirrel species before you head out.
Individuals 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.