Q: On the way back from McCall today, I came back to Boise via Garden Valley, Lowman and Idaho City.
Every time I drive the Banks to Lowman Highway during the winter, I always see lots and lots of deer and elk. Today all I saw was one beautiful bald eagle. Where are the critters?
AL KRISTAL, email
A: I love this drive in winter so I went to Idaho Fish and Game for an answer to your question.
Surprisingly, despite the cold in the Treasure Valley, it has been quite warm in the high country, said Steve Nadeau, F&G regional wildlife manager.
The south aspects have been pretty much free of snow at lower elevations along winter range when you took the drive. Depending on when someone drives the road, the elk may be visible, or may have moved up to the ridges to bed down, he said.
The best time to see the elk are early morning and evenings, Nadeau said. Driving the road during mid-day might require you to pull over and glass the upper hillsides or ridge tops to spot them.
Nadeau says big game animals are still there, and the agency will conduct aerial surveys in that elk zone later this winter. F&G should have population estimates by the end of February.
WHAT ABOUT C.J. SPILLWAY?
Q: Back in April, there was a story on Idaho Power closing the spillway to fishing at C.J. Strike.
It was originally supposed to reopen in June, but it never reopened. The reason given for closing the dam was monitoring fish populations. What Id like to know is, what is the reason for this long-term closure, and when will the dam reopen for fishing?
STACY R., email
A: I asked Brad Bowlin, communications specialist with Idaho Power, for details on the closure.
The area has been permanently closed for the security of the hydroelectric facility and public safety, he said.
Access to the spillway at Idaho Powers C.J. Strike Dam was restricted last year initially due to sturgeon-population monitoring, and later because of repairs being made to a spill gate.
For some time, federal regulatory agencies, as well as our own personnel, have expressed concern for public safety and the facility security, he said.
The decision was made to permanently close access to the hydroelectric facility. This position is in alignment with regulations at other facilities nationwide.
We understand this area has been popular with anglers for many years. However, we are confident that extensive improvements made to the parks, boating facilities and the C.J. Strike Wildlife Management Area will continue to provide ample opportunities for angling, said Bowlin.
We intend to install signs and update our website to reflect the change, he said.
Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445