The North Dakota Game and Fish Department divides the state into eight advisory districts that follow the state’s judicial districts. District 8 includes the counties of Adams, Billings, Dunn, Golden Valley, Hettinger, Slope and Stark.
By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
This year the District 8 Advisory Board fall meeting was held in New England on Tuesday, Dec. 1 in the basement of the Memorial Hall. Wildlife Division Chief Jeb Williams said the meetings allow the department a chance to talk to the people that are out in the field everyday. Williams said they try to hold the fall meeting around the end of November and beginning of December. They try and align the date with the end of deer-gun season, this allows the department to hear how all of the fall hunting seasons went, not exclusively deer hunting.
The meeting was broken up into two sections. The first hour was designated for audience participation. The meeting attendees voiced concerns about issues ranging from check points, to hunters carrying animals across state borders, among other topics.
One of the big concerns facing the Game and Fish Department, as it relates to hunters, is the decreased deer populations. Williams said this season they saw the lowest number of issued deer tags since 1978. This year they issued 43,275, a vast difference from 149,000 in 2008. Williams said winter weather could be a factor in the decreased deer population.
“We had three consecutive winters here in North Dakota in 2009, 2010 and 2011 that were pretty significant,” Williams said. “That definitely drives down the population.”
He added that the department recognizes the changes in numbers, with the help of hunters, and they adjust the amount of tags issued accordingly.
During the second hour the meeting was designated for presentations by the Game and Fish Department. The department discussed four topics: mountain lion management, aquatic nuisance species, fishing proclamation changes and deer management goals.
Williams said that 2005 was the first year the department had a mountain lion season. And now after a decade of monitoring and managing, they will begin holding separate special meetings to discuss those findings with the public.
One subject that Williams said doesn’t get enough attention on this side of the state is aquatic nuisance species. The most popular name among the nuisance species is the zebra mussel.
“One of the reasons you don’t hear as much about it (here), is because there isn’t as much,” Williams said.
Zebra mussels out compete the native wildlife in a given area, and when found Williams said it turns into a management situation rather than an eradication situation. The zebra mussels are hard and nearly impossible to contain if found because even one microscopic larvae can grow to an infestation. Williams also wanted to mention the effect zebra mussels can have on local water municipalities, a topic he said consistently gets overlooked.
“It’s not just a fish and wildlife issue,” Williams said.
The mussels can attach to pipes under water and get into the infrastructure of the water systems.
The department also discussed potential changes to the North Dakota Fishing Proclamation, a document that’s updated every two years.
The potential changes that would go into effect April 1, 2016 include:
Opens some/all of Lake Alice, Silver Lake (Benson Co.), Rose Lake and Lake Ardoch Refuges to some seasonal fishing, reduction of the statewide possession limit of bluegill, yellow perch and white bass from 80 to 40 each, open Sweet Briar Dam and Braun Lake to Dark House Spear Fishing, close Larimore Dam and Wood Lake to Dark House Spear Fishing, Eliminate largemouth’s and northern pike length restrictions on Red Willow Lake and largemouth bass length restrictions on North and South Golden Lakes, silver carp can now be harvested by any legal means, snapping turtle harvest allowed between July 1 and Nov. 15 but only one per day in possession, and clarifying that it is illegal to introduce anything into waters of the state for the purpose of enhancing the direct observation of fish in the water—underwater cameras excluded.
Williams said he enjoys the meetings because it allows the department to get a sense of what the local people have concerns for and what is going on the given region. He also likes the fact that it is a face to face meeting. In today’s world the department has little problem communicating electrically and distributing information out to the local wardens, but being able to get out in the communities can give the department a better sense of what’s going on in the field.
“The department makes themselves available, open to the public and people can come here, they maybe have a compliment, they maybe have a complaint, we address it,” Williams said.
The event was set up by Scott Schmidt and his children Will and Katie as representatives of Hettinger County 4-H.