First portion of Spearfish Falls Trail System complete

 Representatives for the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) say the first section of the trail system near Spearfish Falls is officially complete. The department will hold a dedication ceremony on Oct. 5 to commemorate the occasion.

“We are excited to celebrate this step in the Spearfish Falls trail system,” said Katie Ceroll, director of the division of parks and recreation, in a release. “The area has undergone several improvements since 2016, when GFP purchased the land thanks to a donation from the Spearfish Canyon Foundation.”

Access to the lower falls viewing area across Spearfish Creek was restored last summer with the reestablishment of the trail on the north side of the Latchstring Restaurant, the construction of a new bridge with the assistance of the National Guard through the Golden Coyote Operation and completion of the lower observation deck.

This summer, crews completed trail work on the upper viewing area, including the upper observation deck, which cantilevers over the side of the falls. The trail system includes a series of interpretive signs and maps to engage and inform visitors. Grant assistance for this project came from the Recreational Trails Program (RTP); these funds come to the State of South Dakota through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Ceroll says the improvements to the trail will accommodate visitors while still protecting the environmentally sensitive area. Further trail improvements will connect Spearfish Falls, Roughlock Falls and the Savoy pond, and provide safe and sustainable trail connectivity, access and viewing to these popular areas.

The ceremony will take place at 9:30 a.m. at the upper observation deck. Following the dedication, attendees are invited to participate in a one-hour guided hike to the lower observation deck. In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be held inside the Latchstring Restaurant.

GFP receives grant to help curb poaching

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) recently received money to purchase a turkey decoy thanks to a grant from International Wildlife Crimestoppers, Inc. The decoy will be used to help curb poaching during turkey hunting seasons.

The decoy is a strutting male turkey with a swivel base and robotic tail and includes a turkey skin that covers the decoy.

“We are both honored and excited about the grant,” said Cory Flor, district conservation officer supervisor in Miller, in a release. “It will give us an opportunity to have the officer, violator and the resource in the same place at the same time to make an arrest.”

According to Flor, there are areas in the state where GFP can use the decoy to curb trespassing, road hunting issues, shooting after hours, shooting too close to houses and shooting from a vehicle.

The decoy cost $1,540. GFP was required to pay shipping fees.

Salmon station open for egg collection

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) has opened the Whitlock Bay Salmon Spawning Station near Gettysburg for the 2017 season.

“Crews are expecting below normal returns of adult salmon likely due to increased predation on juvenile salmon stocked in 2014 and 2015,” said GFP fisheries biologist Robert Hanten said in a release. “Although salmon numbers are expected to be low, anglers still have an opportunity to catch a salmon this fall.”

Fisheries crews will also be electrofishing on Lake Oahe in an attempt to capture additional adult salmon for spawning.

Whitlock Bay Salmon Station is located 18 miles northwest of Gettysburg by West Whitlock Recreation Area. The station will be open for tours on Oct. 4, 11, 18, 25 and Nov. 1 from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. The fish ladder observation deck is open at any time. Group tours can also be arranged by calling 605.223.7681.

GFP seeking comments on current mountain lion management plan

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) is seeking comments on the 2010-2015 mountain lion management plan prior to drafting the next management plan.

All individuals interested in mountain lion management in South Dakota have from now through Nov. 15 to provide suggestions and comments on the plan in its current form. These comments will assist the GFP in determining additional public involvement and identifying topics that need to be considered during the plan revision process. A final revised plan, which incorporates additional public comment, is scheduled to be presented to the GFP Commission in mid-2019 for adoption and implementation.

The current mountain lion management plan can be found online at: gfp.sd.gov/wildlife/management/plans/docs/MountainLionManagementPlan.pdf. Written comments on the plan can be sent to 523 E. Capitol Ave., Pierre, S.D. 57501, or emailed to LionPlan@state.sd.us. Comments must be received by November 15, 2017, and include your full name and city of residence. To request a printed copy of the plan, please call 605.773.3387.

 Hunters asked to guard against wildfires this fall

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) is asking hunters going into the field this fall to be diligent in preventing and detecting fires under the extreme dry conditions in certain parts of the state.

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Tom Kirschenmann, assistant director for the Division of Wildlife, stressed that hunters are helpful in preventing and catching fires early. “Hunters are among our very best fire-prevention tools,” he added. “With their precautions, thoughtful actions and diligence in watching the horizon, we have extra sets of eyes in the field that are valuable in preventing and reporting wildfires.”

Hunters are an active part of fire prevention by preparing for and observing the following:

• Carry a phone with a list of emergency contact numbers.

• Know where cell service is available or not available.

• Be aware of private landowners’ concerns about wildfires, and carefully follow restrictions that landowners place on hunters.

• Restrict driving to established roads and trails.

• Park vehicles in designated areas away from tall vegetation.

• Ensure that catalytic converters and mufflers are in good repair.

• Walk into hunting areas and walk out, including retrieval of game, whenever possible.

• Camp only in designated areas and restrict the use of campfires.

• Keep water, a bucket, shovel and other firefighting equipment in your vehicle.

• Hunt in the early morning when high humidity reduces fire danger.

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