Signature Species 

Bighorn lottery makes big bucks for research

Signature Species

Balancing the needs of wildlife and the wishes of outdoorsmen with an ever-constricting budget is likely one of the biggest headaches for the folks over at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, but once in awhile, everyone scores a win.

IDFG recently held a raffle drawing for a bighorn sheep tag, allowing the winner to hunt for a bighorn in any management unit in the state with the exception of the Hells Canyon area. And while only one hunter actually wins the lottery, the raffle managed to raise $54,000--money that will be used by Fish and Game to fund research done at the Wildlife Health Laboratory looking into bighorn sheep diseases.

Since the raffle started in 1992, it has raised more than $750,000, all of which has gone to bighorn sheep-related issues, from diseases threatening the species to genetic research of native herds in both the Owyhees and along the Salmon River.

Diseases among wild sheep have been a growing concern for years, as wildlife managers have struggled to maintain the populations. Diseases are also the source of some of the conflict between wild sheep and domestic sheep herders in areas where their ranges overlap. In some cases, domestic sheep have been removed from the area, much to the ire of ranchers.

Here's hoping that research helps one of the West's signature species. And speaking of signature species, Idaho's salmon have been faring better in recent years--so much so that anglers have enjoyed some quality seasons.

In fact, some of those salmon seasons are just now closing. Several fishing areas closed on July 28 after harvest limits were reached. Closed areas include the Park Hole section of the Lower Salmon and South Fork of the Salmon rivers--that means all the lower sections of the Salmon are closed as well. All areas on the South Fork of the Salmon are also closed.

If you still want to get some salmon fishing in this year, the Little Salmon River is still open, as is the Upper Salmon from Ellis to North Fork. Chinook season is still running on the Clearwater River drainage, although some areas are limited to jack salmon only. The Snake River is also open from Hells Canyon Dam to Dug Bar.

Of course, the only way to know for sure if the season is still open in a particular area is to consult fishandgame.idaho.gov to find an interactive map.

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