Wildfires in Northeastern California Affect Pronghorn Antelope, Mule Deer and Sage-Grouse Hunts

Contacts:
Scott Gardner, DFG Sage-Grouse Coordinator, (916) 801-6257
Joe Hobbs, DFG Pronghorn Antelope Coordinator, (916) 445-9992
Kyle Orr, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8958

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) plans to recommend that the California Fish and Game Commission reduce sage-grouse hunting opportunities in eastern Lassen County.

Due to significant wildfire activity in the area, DFG is proposing that the California Fish and Game Commission take emergency action later this month to reduce the quota to zero for the September 2012 sage-grouse hunting season in the East Lassen Zone. Such an action would effectively end sage-grouse hunting in that zone this season. DFG may further recommend reducing the quota in the Central Lassen Zone if it is deemed necessary.

The Rush Fire, which started Sunday from lightning strikes, has reportedly burned more than 204,000 acres and was only 30 percent contained. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has closed most roads within the fire perimeter.

The wildfires have burned significant areas in prime sage-grouse habitat, according to DFG Sage-Grouse Coordinator Scott Gardner. The recommended action is needed for the conservation of the species.

Sage-grouse are a candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act because of loss and degradation of habitat, in part due to wildfire and invasive plant species. Their populations have been doing relatively well in recent years. DFG annually monitors sage-grouse populations and will use next winter’s surveys of the area to assess the impacts of the fires. DFG will seek to work with the BLM on habitat restoration opportunities in the future regarding this important range for sage-grouse.

The fires will also affect this weekend’s scheduled opening of pronghorn antelope season in the Lassen Zone, said DFG Pronghorn Coordinator Joe Hobbs. Roads may be closed due to fire response activity and an extensive portion of the zone will likely be burned. DFG contacted 47 of the 50 pronghorn antelope tag holders to advise them they could return their tag for a refund if it was mailed and postmarked by Aug. 17. Nearly all the hunters indicated they still planned to go hunting.

Additionally, fires may affect hunters during the X5b archery and general deer seasons (A9 archery season opens Aug. 18 and the general season opens Oct. 6) where the fire burned an extensive portion of the zone. Further information regarding impacts to deer hunting will be made available following an assessment of fire damage.

DFG recommends that hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts contact the Bureau of Land Management regarding road closures in the area.

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