The Division of Wildlife Resources is gearing up for what Derris Jones described as a "big year," for the West Nile Virus. Jones presented a DWR update to the Emery County Public Lands Council at their April Meeting. Jones reported if the virus follows the same trend it did in Colorado last year that the area could be in for a lot of problems. The division will be monitoring the birds mainly, raptors, jays, crows and ravens. A sick bird is the best, or a recently dead bird, as the testing needs to occur within 24 hours to be effective. Residents are urged to contact the DWR to pick up sick or dead birds for testing.
Jones gave an update on the Wilcox acquisition and their interim management plan. Access to the property will include foot or horseback for now until they can get a management plan written; they will also be keeping the gates locked. Jones volunteered to give supervised tours of the property to see what's there. The University of Utah will also be doing some archaeological work on the property. The U of U has some grant money available which they will be using to maintain the property. Work will include new roofs on the buildings and an overhaul of the septic and water systems. Jones said they hope to employ local contractors on the project, but because of the distance involved in reaching the property, contractors will need to stay on the site to complete the projects. The division is working on organizing the management team for the Wilcox acquisition.
Jones updated the council on the Gunnison sage grouse. "They were petitioned in 2000 as a category 5 and a lot of money and effort has gone into their restoration after a review they were listed as a category 2 and there is a fair chance they will be listed, but we are trying to keep them off the list. You need to keep that in mind as you talk about sage grouse," said Jones.
Jones reported a good fawn crop and the deer had made it through the winter with reduced sagebrush. Jones also let everyone know about the prairie dogs and their efforts to protect them during their whelping season. Private land owners can still take care of prairie dogs causing damage to their land.
There is a change in the depredation law for the killing of wildlife on private land 72 hours after notification to the DWR office. The change states the director will have the right to say no you can't kill the animals and the situation will be reviewed by an independent panel to see if it is justified or not and will allow the division and a landowner to come up with another plan to help so the owner would not have to kill the animals. Jones said this step has been taken because of some abuse of the old system. A particular farmer was planting a row of winter wheat to attract the deer into his field and then would shoot them. Jim Gilson also pointed out a case where a landowner down on the Paunsagaunt limited entry deer area started shooting deer on his property and sportsmen offered to fence his entire property and he refused. Jones said this legislation will allow the director some control over such incidents. The legislature is still concerned about the deer populations and doing what they can to protect deer. Jones said they are also in the process of filling a position on the RAC board. Gilson reported on the coyote control efforts which have taken place and the elimination of 53 coyotes with 16 of those from the top of Gentry. Gilson described the coyotes as being very adaptable and they kill the fawns for food. A $5 increase in a deer license will raise additional funds which will be set aside for wildlife services.