Thursday, December 30, 2010

Winter storms and deer crossing highways--a fatal mix

Most of Utah’s major roads pass through or travel along ranges deer and elk use in the winter. During the winter, deer and elk can be active throughout the day. But they’re most active near dawn and dusk—exactly when visibility is at its worst.

Add in the winter storms passing through Utah, and you end up with a potentially fatal mix for motorists and wildlife. In fact, studies have shown that in some high-use winter range areas, the number of deer killed by cars might be equal to or greater than the number of deer taken by hunters in those same areas during the hunting season!

Travel tips
To lessen the chance that you hit a deer or elk this winter:
Slow down and travel at a speed that’s safe for the condition of the road you’re traveling. Just because a highway sign says the legal limit is 65 miles per hour doesn’t mean it’s safe to travel that speed when there’s ice or snow on the road. In icy or snowy conditions, it’s likely that you should be driving between 30 and 50 miles per hour—maybe even slower.

Pay attention to the highway signs that have the symbol of a deer on them. These signs indicate areas where deer, elk and other wildlife frequently cross the road. And remember that the area where deer and elk might cross the road isn’t just the local area where the sign has been placed—the area extends 10 to 20 miles past the sign.

A recent deer mortality study conducted along 70 miles of U.S. Highway 40 in northeastern Utah gives a snapshot of the number of deer that are killed by vehicles.

The study found that in 12 sites—each site being one mile in length—more than 40 deer carcasses were removed each year over a five-year period. There were only eight one-mile sites along the 70-mile stretch where workers removed less than 10 deer carcasses per mile.
And this study focused only on the number of carcasses removed—it did not consider how many deer were hit by vehicles and then wandered away from the road before they died.

Using studies like this one, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources works closely with the Utah Department of Transportation to determine where to place signs and where to build fences, escape ramps, crossings and other enhancements to help make Utah’s roads safer.

Watch for movement.
In addition to slowing down when you see a deer crossing sign or when snow, ice or rain has deteriorated the road conditions, watch for movement. Often the first sign that a deer or an elk is near the road is when a roadside reflector suddenly “blinks.” If a deer or elk walks between the reflector and your headlights, it gives the appearance that the light has gone out.

Again, slow down— the road the animal sees in front of it is the clearest place for it to run. It’s likely the animal will jump in front of your car as you approach it. And remember, deer and elk often travel in herds—if you see one, it’s likely more animals are in the area.

Be safe this winter. Slow down and watch for deer and elk. It’s better to arrive at your destination a few minutes late than not to arrive at all.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Meteor Shower and Solstice Eclipse Highlight December Night Skies

Patrick Wiggins, NASA Solar System Ambassador to Utah, shares some December highlights to the night skies including the Geminid Meteor Shower tonight and a Lunar Eclipse on the Solstice.

December 13-14 Geminid Meteor shower. Some meteors may be visible before midnight on the 13th but the peak is predicted for about 4 a.m. MST on the 14th. Naked eye event only. Telescopes and binoculars restrict how much of the sky the observer can see. So bundle up, enjoy some warm drinks and just lay back and look up. Those observing in the country away from light polluted urban skies may see as many as 2 Geminid meteors per minute. Considerably less if observing from in the city.

December 18 Moon spends the night drifting next to the Pleiades (plea'-ah-deez) star cluster. Also known as the Seven Sisters. The Japanese call it Subaru which is why a stylized representation of the cluster is used as the Subaru Motor Company's logo.

December 20-21 Highlight of the month, a total eclipse of the Moon. Partial eclipse begins at 11:33 p.m. MST when the darkest portion of Earth's shadow starts to cover the Moon's face. The Moon will be high in the SE sky at that time. Total eclipse begins at 12:41 a.m. and ends at 1:53 a.m. all the while very high in the S to SW. Partial eclipse ends at 3:01 a.m. with the Moon a bit over half way up the western sky. This will be the first total eclipse of the Moon visible from Utah since February 2008. The next total lunar eclipse to grace Utah's skies is set for next December (2011). Since this is not an eclipse of the Sun no special eye protection will be needed to view the eclipse. If there's to be only one clear night all month, let this be it.

December 21 December solstice. 4:38 p.m. MST. Official start of winter in the northern hemisphere, official start of summer for those "down under". Sun is as far south as it's going to get this year. No doubt many will throng to the U.K.'s Stonehenge. But will any brave the journey to "Utah's Stonehenge" (aka Sun Tunnels)  . :)

December 26 Month's best pass of the International Space Station. Rises in the SW about 6:25 p.m. High overhead at 6:28. Passes into the shadow of the Earth and fades from view half way up the NE about 6:29. Very easy to see with just the naked eye, even in the city, as a bright "star" moving slowly across the sky.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Limited Access to Snowmobile Trails near Monte Cristo-Hardware Ranch

Salt Lake City – Due to pipeline work, Ant Flat Road between Highway 39 and Hardware Ranch will be plowed now until December 15. From December 15 through January 1, Ant Flat Road between Hardware Ranch and Scare Canyon will be plowed.

Until January, it is not possible to make a complete circuit of Curtis Creek Loop. If you plan to ride this loop, be sure to take extra gas for a two-way trip. After January 1, Ant Flat Road will be allowed to fill in with an 18-inch base of snow, then, snowmobile grooming will begin.

Utah Split into Smaller Deer Hunting Areas for 2012

Salt Lake City -- In 2011, Utah’s general buck deer hunt will run very much like it did in 2010. There is one big change, though -- the rifle buck deer hunt will run for nine days.

While the changes for 2011 are relatively small, the changes for 2012 are huge.

Starting in 2012, general deer hunting will happen within smaller hunting areas called units. Currently, the general hunt happens within five larger regions.

Members of the Utah Wildlife Board approved the 2012 deer hunting changes by a 4-2 vote at their meeting on Dec. 2.

You can listen to an audio recording of the meeting at . The recording should be available by Dec. 3.

The changes the board approved for the 2011 season can be found in Utah’s 2011 big game application book. The free book should be available at  by the end of December.

A copy of the rules hunters must follow while they’re in the field will be available in summer 2011.

2011 hunt
A nine-day rifle hunt for all hunters, regardless of their age, was the biggest change the board approved for Utah’s 2011 general buck deer hunt.

In 2010, those over 18 years of age were allowed to hunt only five days  on most of Utah’s deer hunting areas.

The board reduced the length of the 2010 rifle hunt to try to reduce the number of bucks hunters took. Anis Aoude, big game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, thinks hunters will be happy that the rifle hunt has been lengthened to nine days.

“I appreciate what the board was trying to do,” Aoude says, “but, unfortunately, reducing the length of a hunt isn’t the best way to save bucks.”

Aoude says reducing the length of a hunt forces hunters to make the most of the days they do have. ”And they’re more likely to take the first buck they see,” he says.

While the rifle hunt will run for nine days across most of Utah, four small areas in the state will have a slightly shorter season in 2011.  The rifle hunt on the following units -- Oquirrh-Stansbury, South Slope (Vernal), Monroe, and Plateau, Boulder/Kairparowits -- will run for five days.

2012 hunt
The major deer hunting change the board approved happens in 2012.

That’s when Utah’s five deer hunting regions will be eliminated.  Once the regions are eliminated, the state will be split into smaller hunting areas.

The number of bucks biologists manage for will also change.

Currently, biologists manage the state’s deer herds with a goal of finding an average of at least 15 bucks per 100 does across five regions after the hunting season is over in the fall.

Starting in 2012, biologists will manage smaller units with a goal offinding at least 18 bucks per 100 does on each unit after the hunt is over. (The total number of hunting units will be determined sometime next year.)

Aoude says decreasing the number of hunters in the field is the most effective way to increase the number of bucks per 100 does.

DWR biologists will have to determine how many hunting permits will have to be cut so they find at least 18 bucks per 100 does on each unit after the hunting season is over in the fall. Aoude’s current estimate is about 13,000.

Since fewer permits will be offered, the price for a general deer hunting permit may go up. But Aoude isn’t sure yet exactly what the price will be.

The following will also change in 2012:-- General-season archery hunters will no longer be allowed to hunt across Utah. Instead, they’ll have to hunt on the unit they obtained a permit for.

The board approved the archery hunting change by a 4-3 vote.

--There’s a good chance the state’s Dedicated Hunter program will change in 2012. Exactly what the program will look like in 2012 still needs to be determined, however.

For more information, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office or the DWR’s Salt Lake City office at (801) 538-4700.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

ROCKIN' Utah Winter Activities offered

Salt Lake City – Join Utah State Parks staff for winter ROCKIN’ Utah programs. Celebrate an old-fashioned Christmas, build snow caves, and more.

December 4 Territorial Statehouse State Park and Museum - Fillmore
Old Time Christmas: Bring your family and celebrate the true spirit of Christmas the old-fashioned way. Make homemade ornaments, string popcorn for your tree, play games, make candles and create simple pioneer toys. This is a joyful event for the entire family and a great way to begin the holiday season. Activities begin at noon and conclude at 4 p.m. Registration is $10 per family with up to eight participants.

December 11 Camp Floyd/Stagecoach Inn State Park and Museum - Fairfield
Ladies of Camp Floyd Day Camp: Take a step back in time to learn about the lives and times of women at Camp Floyd. Participants wear period dresses, meet costumed interpreters, play 19th century games, learn etiquette of the period, construct rag dolls, learn period dances and more. This program is designed for youth eight to 11 and an adult must accompany participants. Activities begin at 10 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. Registration is $15 per person and is limited to 24 participants.

January 15 Wasatch Mountain State Park - Midway
A Day in the Snow = Fun: Despite the cold and snow, winter is more accessible than you might think. Strap on snowshoes provided by the park and head out on a short trek to an open field where we build snow caves, play snow games and enjoy Dutch oven soup. Later, we’ll head back to the visitor center and warm up and wind down in front of a warm fire. Activities begin at the visitor center at 9 a.m. and end at 1 p.m. Space is limited to 35 participants, and registration is $10 per family.

To register for a ROCKIN’ Utah event or for more information about more activities, please call 801-537-3123 or email .

ROCKIN’ Utah creates opportunities for families to explore the outdoors and learn skills to build their own connections with nature, and gain a greater appreciation of Utah’s natural and cultural resources.