Many of Idaho’s big game seasons will be open shortly which means thousands of individuals will be hitting the trails to Idaho’s back country with vehicles, ATVs and pack animals. But it also is a time when the threat of spreading noxious weed seeds from infested areas to weed-free areas ramps up to a higher level, state noxious weed officials warned.

“This time of year hunters and recreationalists can unknowingly spread huge amounts of noxious weed seed from one area to another because most of Idaho’s noxious weeds are currently in their seed-stage,” said Roger Batt, statewide spokesperson for the Idaho Weed Awareness Campaign.

State weed officials have listed 68 kinds of noxious weeds in Idaho, including a growing number of infestations in wilderness and backcountry areas. These weeds choke out native vegetation which deprives deer, elk, big horn sheep, and other wildlife of their natural food sources resulting in starvation or migration to other areas.

Noxious weed seeds can easily become lodged in ATVs, off –road vehicles, trailers, pack animals, bird dogs, and hunting gear and carried from one area to another. Even a few seeds can start a new noxious weed outbreak.

“Noxious weed prevention means hunters and outdoor recreationalists should try to drive pickups, ATVs, and off-road vehicles only on designated roads and trails away from weed infested areas,” Batt advised. “ATVs, vehicles, trailers, pack animals, hunting dogs, and hunting and camping gear also should be cleaned before moving them to a new area.”

Horses and pack animals also can spread noxious weed seeds in their waste so it is very important hunting trip preparation and precautions include using feed that is certified as noxious weed free for horses and pack animals. A list of outlets selling certified weed free hay and forage is available on the Idaho Weed Awareness Campaign’s website at idahoweedawareness.com.

Batt also recommends that hunters GPS areas infested with noxious weeds and report the coordinates to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture for mapping and future control and management strategies. Hunters and recreationalists headed for Idaho’s back country also can obtain a free copy of Idaho’s Noxious Weed Book, available via the Idaho Weed Awareness Campaign’s, website to help pinpoint and identify the different noxious weeds in their favorite hunting or recreating areas. The book has color photos of noxious weeds, plus detailed information about how to identify the different species of noxious weeds.

“Noxious weeds are a very serious matter,” Batt explained. “It is going to take a combined effort from all of us to help protect our lands, waters, and wildlife by stopping the spread of harmful noxious and invasive plants. Hunters, recreationalists and sportsmen care about Idaho’s wildlife and that means they also need to be concerned about the threat noxious and invasive weeds pose to our state’s wildlife populations.”

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