Wildlife News Dec. 4, 2008
Dec 4, 2008

Wildlife News - Dec. 4, 2008

  • Leftover spring hunt tags available
  • Help protect Arizona’s bald eagles: Respect closure areas
  • Next commission meeting is Dec. 5-6 in Casa Grande
  • Archery-only deer hunters: Some hunting areas are not open during December nonpermit-tag hunts
  • Biologists discover gizzard shad population explosion at Roosevelt
  • Affordable wildlife-friendly gift ideas for those on your holiday list
  • Winter conditions may cause restrictions on forest road travel
  • Mearns’ quail season opens: Outlook is excellent
  • 2008 survey results released for Kofa bighorn sheep
  • New OHV laws take effect Jan. 1, 2009.
  • Deadline approaching for public comments on fish stocking issues
  • Tickets available for Commission Awards Banquet
  • Hunters can still help monitor for chronic wasting disease
  • Welcome Back the Trout celebration heralds that the winter season is underway
  • Endangered jaguar undergoes first surgery


Leftover spring hunt tags available

There are plenty of leftover hunt permit-tags for spring javelina, turkey and bear available now by mail application on a first-come, first-served basis from the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

More than 9,000 javelina tags, 250 turkey tags, and 70 bear tags remained after the spring big game draw process was completed. The department began accepting applications by mail only on Dec. 1.

For an updated list of leftover permits, along with regulations, applications, and instructions on how to apply, visit www.azgfd.gov/draw.

For those who qualify, there are military hunts available for Fort Huachuca. Call (520) 533-2549 for additional information.

Nearly all hunt types are available for javelina, including juniors-only, general, HAM (handgun, archery, and muzzleloader), and archery-only. The available turkey tags are for general hunts; the available bear tags are for archery-only hunts.

A 2009 hunting license is required to apply for a permit-tag. Licenses can be purchased from an Arizona Game and Fish Department office or authorized license dealer, or you can apply for one by mail in conjunction with your tag application. When applying for a license via the tag application, be certain that all required information and additional payment fees are correct and enclosed. In addition, youth hunters ages 10-13 are required to have completed a certified hunter education course to hunt big game.

Each of these animals make excellent table fare, not to mention the great experience you gain when hunting these wild creatures.

 

Help protect Arizona’s bald eagles: Respect closure areas

It’s time again for Arizona’s bald eagles to begin their breeding activities, and outdoor recreationists are asked to help protect important breeding areas by honoring the closure of 21 areas across the state. Various land and wildlife management agencies close the breeding areas for part of the year, beginning in December, to protect the state’s 48 breeding pairs of bald eagles. Some of the closure areas are located near popular recreation sites.

“Even though the bald eagle is doing well in Arizona, they still require the public’s help to reproduce successfully and flourish in the state,” says Kenneth Jacobson, head of the Arizona Game and Fish Department Bald Eagle Management Program. “Human activity near active bald eagle nests can cause a breeding pair to leave its eggs uncovered, leading to a failed breeding attempt. It can take only 30 minutes for a breeding attempt to fail.”

 The bald eagle was federally listed as an endangered species in 1978. Nationally, the birds recovered enough to be removed from the list last year, but they remain listed as an endangered species in Arizona.

In December, Arizona bald eagles begin rebuilding nests in preparation for laying eggs. During this time, land and wildlife management agencies enact the seasonal breeding area closures. Bald eagles nest, forage and roost at the rivers and lakes that have become some of Arizona’s most popular recreation spots, and this time of year can be challenging for the birds.

However, Jacobson says, “With the public’s help and cooperation, we can all take responsibility for ensuring that Arizona bald eagles breed successfully.”

AIRSPACE ADVISORY

Statewide

  • Statewide – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has established a 2,000-foot above ground level (AGL) advisory along the Salt and Verde river drainages. When traveling in these drainages or near riparian habitat statewide, aircraft should maintain a minimum of 2,000-foot AGL to ensure compliance with state and federal law.

SEASONAL CLOSURES

Alamo Lake

  • Alamo Lake - A portion of upper Alamo Lake may be closed to boats from Jan. 1 to June 30. Contact the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Region IV, Yuma, (928) 342-0091.

Lake Pleasant

  • No vehicle, watercraft, or foot entry is allowed into the Lower Agua Fria Arm from Dec. 15 to June 15. Contact Maricopa County Parks and Recreation, (928) 501-1710.

Verde River

  • Verde River below Sycamore Canyon Wilderness is closed to foot and vehicle entry from Dec. 1 to June 15. Floating through is allowed. Contact Coconino National Forest, Sedona Ranger District, (928) 282-4119.

  • Verde River near Chasm Creek is closed to foot and vehicle entry from Dec. 1 to June 15. Floating through is allowed. Contact Prescott National Forest, Verde Ranger District, (928) 567-4121.

  • Verde River upstream of the East Verde confluence is closed to vehicle and foot entry from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed, but no stopping in the river or landing is permitted. Contact Tonto National Forest, Cave Creek Ranger District, (480) 595-3300.

  • Verde River near Mule Shoe Bend, allows watercraft to float through but no stopping in the river or landing is allowed from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact Tonto National Forest, Cave Creek Ranger District, (480) 595-3300.

  • Verde River below Horseshoe Dam may be closed to vehicle or foot entry on the southwest side of the river from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed, but no stopping in the river or landing on the southwest side of the river is allowed. Contact Tonto National Forest, Cave Creek Ranger District, (480) 595-3300.

  • Verde River below Bartlett Dam is closed to foot or vehicle entry from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed. Contact Tonto National Forest, Cave Creek Ranger District, (480)595-3300.

  • Verde River at the Needle Rock Recreation area is closed to foot and vehicle entry on the east side of the river from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed, but no stopping in the river or landing on east side of river is allowed. Contact Tonto National Forest, Cave Creek Ranger District, (480) 595-3300.

Tonto Creek

  • Tonto Creek from Gisela to 76 Ranch is closed to vehicle, foot entry, and floating through from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact Tonto National Forest, Tonto Basin Ranger District (928) 467-3200.

  • Tonto Creek inlet to Roosevelt Lake is closed to vehicle and foot entry within 1000 feet of the nest on land, and to watercraft within 300 feet on water from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact Tonto National Forest, Tonto Basin Ranger District (928) 467-3200.

Salt River

  • Salt River from Horseshoe Bend to Redmond Flat allows watercraft to float through, but no stopping in the river or landing is allowed from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact Tonto National Forest, Globe Ranger District, (928) 402-6200.

  • Salt River near Meddler Point is closed to vehicle and foot entry within 1000 feet of the nest on land, and to watercraft within 300 feet on water from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact Tonto National Forest, Tonto Basin Ranger District (928) 467-3200.

  • Salt River below Stewart Mountain Dam, is closed to vehicle or foot entry on the south side of the river from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed. Contact the Tonto National Forest, Mesa Ranger District, (480) 610-3300.

Becker Lake

  • A portion of the lake may be closed to watercraft and a portion of the shoreline may be closed to foot entry from Feb. 1 through June 30. Contact the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Region I, Pinetop, (928) 367-4281.

Luna Lake

  • Luna Lake is closed to vehicle and foot traffic on the north side from Jan. 1 to June 30. Contact Apache National Forest, Alpine Ranger District, (928) 339-4384.

Lynx Lake

  • There is no vehicle or foot traffic allowed on the east side of the lake and a portion of the shoreline is closed to watercraft from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact the Prescott National Forest, Bradshaw Ranger District, (928) 443-8000.

Lower Lake Mary

  • There is no vehicle or foot traffic allowed on a portion of the north side of the lake from Jan. 1 to Aug. 30. Contact the Coconino National Forest, Mormon Lake Ranger District, (928) 774-1147.

Greer Lakes

  • A portion of the lake may be closed to watercraft and a portion of the shoreline may be closed to foot entry from March 1 through July 31. Contact the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, Springerville Ranger District, (928) 333-4372.

Woods Canyon Lake

  • A portion of the lake may be closed to watercraft and a portion of the shoreline may be closed to foot entry from April 1 through Aug. 31. Contact the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, Black Mesa Ranger District, (928) 535-7300.

TIPS FOR VISITING EAGLE AREAS

If you are visiting bald eagle country, an advance call to the local land management agency (USDA Forest Service district, etc.) or the Arizona Game and Fish Department may help you plan your trip to avoid disturbing bald eagles. By following these simple guidelines, we can all help ensure that our living wildlife legacy will last for generations to come:

  • Enjoy bald eagles from outside the closures, especially during critical nesting times (December to June). These areas are posted with signs and/or buoys, and most have daily nestwatch monitors. Anyone approached by a nestwatcher and asked to cease an activity or leave a closed area should comply. A few good places to see bald eagles without disturbing them (during December and January) are at Lake Mary and Mormon Lake near Flagstaff or on the Verde River Canyon Train in Clarkdale.

  • Bald eagles protecting an active nest will let you know if you are too close. If a bald eagle is vocalizing and circling the area frantically, you are too close and need to leave the area quickly. Bald eagles incubating eggs or brooding small young should never be off the nest for more than 15 minutes.

  • Pilots should maintain the FAA-recommended 2,000-foot AGL advisory when flying over bald eagle habitat along the Salt and Verde Rivers, Lake Pleasant and Alamo Lake. These areas are designated on the Phoenix Sectional Aeronautical Map. Special brochures for pilots regarding this advisory can be obtained by calling the Arizona Department of Transportation or the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s nongame branch, (623) 236-7506.

  • Help from anglers is especially needed. Monofilament and tackle has killed two nestlings and has been found in two-thirds of all bald eagle nests in the state. Every year we remove this potentially lethal material from nests and/or entangled nestlings. Ospreys, shorebirds, waterfowl and songbirds also succumb to this litter. Do not discard any type of monofilament along rivers and lakes, but recycle it at fishing stores. Keep your monofilament fresh; do not use old brittle line. Make sure to use the correct test line for the fish you are trying to catch. Also, do not cut the line when an undesirable fish is caught and return it to the water with the hook and line attached.

You can help bald eagle research and recovery efforts by reporting any harassment or shooting of bald eagles. Call the Arizona Game and Fish Operation Game Thief Hotline at 1-800-352-0700 or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement at (480) 967-7900.

 

Next commission meeting is Dec. 5-6 in Casa Grande

The next meeting of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission is this Friday, Dec. 5 and Saturday, Dec. 6, at the Francisco Grande Hotel, 26000 W. Gila Bend Highway in Casa Grande.

Friday’s portion of the meeting begins with an executive session at 8 a.m., followed by the public meeting. Items on Friday’s agenda include:

  • Request for the commission to approve a Notice of Docket Opening and Notice of Proposed Rulemakings to amend Article 3 rules (and additional affected rules in other articles), addressing the taking and handling of wildlife.

  • Request for the commission to approve a Notice of Final Rulemaking and Economic Impact Statement establishing a new Article 10 addressing off-highway vehicles, in response to legislative amendments contained in Senate Bill 1167.

  • Request for the commission to approve a draft Notice of Exempt Rulemaking to amend rules in Article 8 addressing wildlife areas and department property.

  • Request for commission approval for the department to acquire Buck Springs Ranch in Coconino County, Arizona, for recovery of the threatened Little Colorado spinedace.

  • Hearings on license revocations for violations of Game and Fish codes and civil assessments for the illegal taking and/or possession of wildlife.

Saturday’s portion of the meeting begins at 8 a.m. Items on Saturday’s agenda include:

  • Request for the commission to approve Commission Orders 3 (pronghorn antelope), 4 (elk), and 26 (population management) establishing seasons and season dates, bag and possession limits, permit numbers or authorized limits, and open areas for the respective 2009 fall hunting season.

  • Request for the commission to approve the hunt permit-tag application schedule for 2009 antelope and elk hunts.

  • A department briefing to the commission on public access history and issues in southeastern Arizona.

  • A department update to the commission on the Tucson Rod and Gun Club’s efforts to build a nonprofit public shooting range in the Tucson area.

The commission may vote to take action on, or provide the department direction on, the above items and other items on the agenda.

For a complete meeting agenda, visit www.azgfd.gov/commission and click on the “commission agenda” link.

 

Archery-only deer hunters: Some hunting areas are not open during December nonpermit-tag hunts

The Arizona Game and Fish Department wants to remind archery-only deer hunters with over-the-counter permits there are a number of Game Management Units that are not open hunting areas for the 2008 December hunt, as in past years.

Game Management Units 17A, 20A, 22, 23, 37A, and 42 are not included in the December 2008 archery-only season. These units will not be open until the Jan. 1-31, 2009 season.

Archery-only deer hunters are reminded to thoroughly review the 2008 Arizona Hunting and Trapping Regulations before taking to the field for their deer hunt. A 2009 general hunting license is also required to hunt beginning Jan. 1, 2009.

Harvest percentages are the reason for the structure change. In units where the archery harvest exceeded 20 percent of the overall take, the seasons have been shortened, or in some cases, they have become part of the draw system.

The reason for this change is to allocate the harvest among deer hunters in proportion to the demand for that weapon choice. In some management units, the harvest proportion for certain weapon types exceeded the demand.

The same system applies for units where the harvest is less than 10 percent of the total harvest. In those cases, the season was extended. Game Management Units 4A, 4B, 8, 9 and 19A benefitted from this and will see a new season from Jan. 1-16, 2009 for over-the-counter archery-only deer hunters.

The 2008-09 Arizona Hunting and Trapping Regulations can be viewed or downloaded from www.azgfd.gov/rules.

MANDATORY: Over-the-counter nonpermit-tag archery deer hunters must report their harvest by calling 1-866-903-3337.

Also, successful hunters are encouraged to participate in the monitoring for chronic wasting disease (CWD). Hunters can assist the monitoring effort by bringing in the head of their recently harvested deer or elk to any Game and Fish Department office between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Place the head in a heavy plastic garbage bag for delivery, and keep it cool and out of the sun. If the weather is warm, it is best to either bring in the head within a day of harvest or keep it on ice in a cooler before delivery.

For more information about CWD, visit www.azgfd.gov/cwd or www.cwd-info.org.


Biologists discover gizzard shad population explosion at Roosevelt

Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists conducting an autumn fish survey at Roosevelt Lake discovered that a relatively new invader, the American gizzard shad, has experienced a population explosion here at Arizona’s largest inland lake.

 “This species looks like threadfin shad on steroids,” said Fisheries Chief Kirk Young. “These wide-bodied invaders from the eastern United States are shaped like footballs and can readily grow past the size where they are available to most sport-fish as forage.”

Young added that it is a wait-and-see proposition to determine if these invasive shad will have positive or negative impacts on Roosevelt or possibly the other popular fisheries along the Salt River.

During the recent fish survey at Roosevelt Lake, most gizzard shad sampled were in the 9- to 14-inch range and the largest two shad measured 17.7 inches long and weighed 2.3 pounds.

“We are still entering all the survey data, but based on what we saw during the sampling process, it appeared that gizzard shad were almost as numerous as the largemouth bass,” said Natalie Robb, the Mesa regional fisheries program manager.

At Roosevelt Lake, gizzard shad were first discovered during water quality sampling during January of 2007. Department biologists at the time recognized that gizzard shad are capable of rapid reproduction – a single female can produce up to 400,000 eggs. But the biologists were not expecting these newcomers to experience such a rapid population expansion.

Gizzard shad, which are native to the eastern United States, will likely compete for space and food with threadfin shad, another nonnative that has become the primary forage fish for sport-fish in the state’s larger impoundments. Immature gizzard shad will also compete for food sources with the larval stages of popular game fish.

However, at about 1-inch in length gizzard shad become more specialized, lose their teeth, exhibit deeper bodies and become filter feeders that consume small invertebrates and phytoplankton (free-floating algae).

“In Texas, they have found that bass can’t generally eat gizzard shad larger than 7 inches long,” said Robb, adding that on the plus side, these large shad can provide a significant meal for bass that do eat them.

Gizzard shad are seldom caught by hook and line and their pungent odor and soft flesh generally render them unsuitable as table fare, but in some parts of the country anglers use them as cut bait for catfish.

Robb explained that in most Arizona lakes, the predominant forage fish is the threadfin shad, which even as an adult is readily fed upon by sport-fish species such as largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and crappie.

However, gizzard shad grow to about 4 inches in length during their first year and readily grow to sizes of 9 to 14 inches in length, yet can exceed 20 inches in length. In Texas, a gizzard shad harvested with a spear gun measured 18.25 inches and weighed in at 2.97 pounds.

Based on the experiences in the Colorado River Basin and other locations where gizzard shad have invaded, biologists said these quick-growing, rapidly-reproducing shad from the herring family will likely spread to the other lakes along the Salt River, such as Apache, Canyon and Saguaro.

Biologists at Lake Powell first noted gizzard shad in 2000 near the San Juan inflow. In netting surveys at Powell in 2006, gizzard shad accounted for almost as much fish flesh as striped bass. These large invasive shad have spread to Lake Mead as well as the headwaters of the Colorado River.

For the full version of this article, including information on gizzard shad history and biology, visit www.azgfd.gov/artman/publish/article_1042.shtml.

 

Affordable wildlife-friendly gift ideas for those on your holiday list

Every year many people face the same holiday season challenge: what to buy for that family member or friend who seems to have it all?

This year, make it affordable and rewarding by considering one of the many unique gift ideas the Arizona Game and Fish Department has to offer.

“If you’re looking for an outdoors-oriented gift for family and friends, we have a number of reasonably priced items that they’ll enjoy,” said Information Branch Chief Bob Miles. “Purchase of these gifts will benefit wildlife as well.”

Buyers are sure to find something for everyone with a variety of gift ideas and prices, including: 

  • Arizona Wildlife Viewing Guide – Arizona provides some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in the nation, with more than 900 animal species and 50 million public acres of natural land to explore. This guide takes you on a magnificent journey through 128 unique sites and the wildlife found at them, accompanied by beautiful photographs of the sites and animals. Readers will enjoy tips for wildlife watching, a tiered rating system that highlights “can’t miss” locations, site features and driving directions. The book can be purchased for $14.95 at the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s seven offices statewide and through the department’s Web site at www.azgfd.gov/publications.

  • Arizona Wildlife Views magazine – Published bimonthly by the Game and Fish Department, the magazine offers a variety of articles on hunting, fishing, boating, wildlife viewing and conservation in Arizona, as well as “Focus Wild” children’s articles. Subscriptions are $8.50 per year. Order at www.azgfd.gov/magazine.

  • 2009 Arizona Wildlife Calendar – With spectacular photos of Arizona’s wildlife, the calendar will provide daily enjoyment, as well as note key wildlife events and approved hunting and fishing season dates. The photos this year were chosen from more than 1,200 images submitted by customers to the Game and Fish Department’s calendar contest. Calendars make perfect stocking stuffers at only $3 each. Purchase at any Game and Fish office or at www.azgfd.gov/artman/publish/article_978.shtml.

  • Fishing licenses – Get outdoors and enjoy time off at the holidays with a half-price fishing license that will last you through the end of the year. 2008 general state fishing licenses may be purchased at any Arizona Game and Fish Department office for only $11.75. Or, get a jump on the 2009 season by buying a 2009 license now. Individual licenses cost $23.50 for Arizona residents or $70.25 for nonresidents. Trout stamps are $15.75 for residents or $57.75 for nonresidents. Urban fishing licenses are $18.50 for residents and nonresidents. There are many other license products available; visit http://www.azgfd.gov/eservices/licenses.shtml.

  • Discount pass at Ben Avery Shooting Facility and gift certificates at Ben Avery Clay Target Center – The Ben Avery Shooting Facility offers an 11-visit “shooter’s pass” for $70 (normal fee for an all-day visit to the range is $7, so you get one day for free). The Ben Avery Clay Target Center offers gift certificates in any amount for trap, skeet and sporting clays shooting. Remember, an excise tax on the purchase of firearms, ammunition and archery equipment helps fund federal assistance to state wildlife agencies for wildlife conservation.

  • Donation to Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center – The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s rehabilitation center treats more than 1,000 sick and injured animals annually and provides wildlife education to local schools. For more information on making tax-deductible donations to support wildlife rehabilitation, visit www.azwildlifecenter.org or call (623) 587-0139. 

 

Winter conditions may cause restrictions on forest road travel

With winter weather on the way, managers of the Coconino and Kaibab National Forests said it may become necessary to temporarily restrict motor vehicle travel. This is a seasonal restriction, which includes all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).

Temporary travel restrictions will be implemented on the Coconino National Forest and on the Williams and Tusayan ranger districts of the Kaibab National Forest when soils become saturated due to precipitation.  The North Kaibab Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest will not be included in the wet weather travel policy due to different soil conditions ands elevations.

If it becomes necessary to implement wet weather travel restrictions, cross-country motor vehicle travel will be prohibited, and many roads will be temporarily closed. A backbone system of roads may remain open to allow forest access. However, during times of heavy rain or snow, forest managers could choose to close all roads in affected areas to protect forest roads and resources and to provide for public safety. Roads that remain open are the most suitable for travel during wet conditions and will be strategically located to provide reasonable access to the forests.

During previous winters, forest roads, soils and vegetation sustained damage from motorized vehicles following periods of wet weather. Some forest travelers continued to use forest roads and travel cross-country despite extremely wet and muddy conditions, which led to deep ruts and the creation of alternate routes around problem spots.

When wet weather travel restrictions become necessary, they will be implemented in a similar way to fire restrictions and area closures. Based on conditions on the ground, the forest supervisor will issue an official order which restricts use to those roads that are most suitable for travel. The restrictions will be lifted as soon as conditions allow. Just as with fire area closures, wet weather travel restrictions will likely not have to be implemented annually.

John Booth, Forest Engineer for both the Coconino and Kaibab National Forests, emphasized “The wet weather road restrictions are a proactive attempt to protect roads and soils during the times when they are most susceptible to damage.”

The Kaibab and Coconino National Forests developed the wet weather travel policy in coordination with the Arizona Game and Fish Department due to the large numbers of hunters in the woods during the times when cold, wet weather is most likely to occur. The goal of the partnership between the forests and the department is to provide reasonable motor vehicle access while also protecting forest roads and resources and providing for public safety.

“Besides the damage to the forest that occurs following very wet weather, we also have drivers getting stuck in the mud and having to call for help from towing companies to have their vehicles extricated,” Booth said. “We had to find a solution to this problem.”

When restrictions are implemented, signs reading, “Entering wheeled motorized restriction area. Use only roads and trails shown on official map,” along with a second sign displaying a map showing open routes in the area, will be posted at strategic access points on the forests. Motorized travelers will be required to stay on those designated routes until the soils dry out and the restrictions have been lifted.

If wet weather travel restrictions are implemented, information including maps showing routes to be left open will be posted on the forest websites:

http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino/
http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/kai/

On the Coconino National Forest, several other roads may be closed due to winter conditions:

  • Road Closures – Higher elevation roads which will be closed this weekend include: Lockett Meadow Road 552 and Elden Lookout Road 557.

  • Pre-Season Snowbowl Road Closure - Snowbowl Road is closed on weekends and holidays when winter road conditions exist and the ski area is not open. Arizona Snowbowl is responsible for all snowplow and cinder operations on Snowbowl Road, but does not plow on weekends and holidays when they are closed.

  • Seasonal Motorized Vehicle Closures - Two areas off of Highway 180 are subject to a “Seasonal Motorized Wheeled Vehicle Closure” from December 1 – March 31. These areas will be closed to wheeled vehicles.  The Wing Mountain Vehicle Closure encompasses the cross-country ski trails, the snowplay area, and includes Forest Roads 222, 519, 519A and 222B beyond Wing Mountain parking area. The Flagstaff Nordic Center Vehicle Closure includes the trail system and Forest Road 151E. These seasonal closures are implemented in order to provide managed winter recreation areas.

 

Mearns’ quail season opens: Outlook is excellent

Bird lovers: Forget the turkey—the Mearns’ quail season opened Nov. 28, the day after Thanksgiving.

“This will probably be one of the best Mearns’ seasons in my lifetime,” Randy Babb, an ardent quail hunter and the Information and Education Program Manager for the Game and Fish Department’s Mesa regional office.

This season might be one that will go down in the record books, report Game and Fish biologists. Last year’s season (2007-08) was one of the best in years. When you combine that with the well-timed seasonal rains this summer, the result should provide superb back-to-back seasons.

“The amount of coveys we encountered last year on any given day of hunting was easily in the double digits, depending on how long we hunted,” said Babb.

Babb says the rainfall that came in spring and summer of 2008 should provide all the ingredients for excellent reproduction from the healthy holdover populations of last season.

“Hunters should also keep their eyes open for cottontails while they hunt the rolling scrub oak- covered grasslands in southern Arizona. Their numbers are up due to the excellent conditions, and they make a tasty addition to any quail dinner,” Babb adds.

The Mearns’ quail season runs from Nov. 28, 2008 until Feb. 8, 2009. The daily bag limit for this challenging polka-dotted game bird is eight. A general hunting license is required for hunters 14 and older. Hunters are reminded that a 2009 license is required to hunt beginning Jan. 1, 2009. Licenses are available at all department offices and more than 300 license dealers statewide.

The southern Arizona country where Mearns’ inhabit will be very active this time of the year with other outdoor enthusiasts, including rifle deer season. Hunters are encouraged to wear “hunter orange” when taking to the field to make their presence visible to all other users in the field.

For the full version of this article, including tips on Mearns’ quail hunting, visit www.azgfd.gov/artman/publish/article_1035.shtml and scroll down the article.

 

2008 survey results released for Kofa bighorn sheep
Populations remain low, management agencies’ concern is still high

The recently completed survey of the desert bighorn sheep population on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Arizona is estimated at 436 sheep.

The survey estimate is down from the 2007 survey estimate of 460 sheep, but it is up from the lowest recorded estimated level of the 2006 survey of 390.

Due to standardized survey methodology and scientific margin of accuracy, biologists’ analysis of the past three surveys indicates no significant decline or improvement to the herd’s population. Wildlife management agencies remain concerned about the low population levels on the refuge compared to the estimated 812 animals of the 2000 survey.

Seasonal rains were fair to good and improved habitat conditions throughout much of the refuge. All of the sheep appeared healthy during the aerial surveys. Biologists observed lamb-to-ewe ratios of 29 lambs per 100 ewes, which is above the long-term average of approximately 20 lambs per 100 ewes for the refuge. However, a slightly higher lamb-to-ewe ratio has not yet translated into an increase in the population - it has only stabilized it.

Once a very robust population, the size of the herd on the refuge has dropped significantly since 2000. Wildlife experts attribute the decline to a variety of potential factors including drought, predation, water availability, disease and human disturbance. Due to the significance of this sheep population, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) and Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) are conducting an ongoing, joint study to collect data on these and other suspected causes of the population’s decline.

"We recognize the importance of Kofa's bighorn sheep and will continue to be proactive in managing this unique resource,” said Mitch Ellis, manager of the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge Complex. “We're also confident that effective and appropriate wildlife management within the wilderness context of Kofa will be achieved."

In November 2007, 30 ewes were captured and fitted with tracking devices in order to monitor nutrition, movements, and mortality to assist in making active management decisions to assist in restoring the herd’s population. Testing results for pneumonia on captured sheep were negative; however, lab results for other disease analysis of blood samples are still pending. The project study is scheduled to run through the fall of 2010.

“The importance of the health of the Kofa bighorn sheep population remains extremely important to restoration efforts of the desert bighorn sheep in the entire southwest,” says Gary Hovatter, Arizona Game and Fish chief of staff. “We remain committed to our active management and monitoring approach to improve the herd to its historic average population numbers.”

An extensive Web site dedicated to the Kofa NWR bighorn sheep is available at www.azgfd.gov/kofa. The AGFD launched the site in November 2007. Everything from the latest updates, background information, frequently asked questions, past press releases, active management activities and more can be found at this one-stop resource center.

For the full version of this article, visit www.azgfd.gov/pdfs/w_c/bhsheep/2008surveyresults.pdf.

 

New OHV Laws take effect Jan. 1, 2009

In less than a month, new laws governing the use of off-highway vehicles (OHVs) in Arizona will officially go into effect. ALL OHVs designed by the manufacturer for off-highway use and weighing 1,800 pounds or less will need to purchase the new OHV Decal from the Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) beginning Jan. 1, 2009. The price of the OHV Decal has not yet been announced.

If your machine does not have registration or a title, then MVD suggests that you title your machine as soon as possible. You can get more information about getting your vehicle titled at www.azdot.gov/mvd (click on the “frequently asked questions” button on the left side of that page). Once you have your title you’ll be able to order your OHV Decal at www.servicearizona.com on Jan.1 and be able to avoid long lines at an MVD office in early January.

The OHV Decal is NOT registration for your vehicle! It is considered a “user play, user pay” Arizona off-highway user fee. You will receive a break on your vehicle registration once you’ve purchased the OHV Decal, if your vehicle is considered “street legal.” However, that discount will not be realized until your registration comes up for renewal after Jan. 1, 2009.

If you are from out-of-state coming into Arizona, you can still operate here as long as you meet all of the following requirements:

  1. You are not a resident of Arizona.
  2. You own the vehicle.
  3. Your vehicle displays current registration or user indicia from your permanent state of residency.
  4. The vehicle is not in Arizona for more than 30 consecutive days.

If you come to Arizona from a state that does not register or title OHVs, you would be requested to get an Arizona title and purchase the OHV decal for legal use in Arizona.

For more information about the new OHV laws going into effect on Jan. 1, 2009, go online to www.azgfd.gov/ohv.

 

Deadline approaching for public comments on fish stocking issues

The Dec. 19 deadline is rapidly approaching for public comments on issues associated with sport-fish stockings in the state as part of a draft environmental assessment process being conducted by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The public input is being sought to determine the extent and variety of issues that should be addressed by the draft environmental assessment. All comments must be submitted in writing no later than 5 p.m. on Dec. 19.

Once the comment period ends, the wildlife agencies will prepare a draft environmental assessment to evaluate the social, economic and environmental effects of stockings related to continue funding for the program through the Sport Fish Restoration Program.

Written comments can be sent to either:

  • David Weedman, Aquatic Habitat Program Coordinator, Arizona Game and Fish Department, 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086. E-mail:  fishaz@azgfd.gov.

  • Harold Namminga, Sport Fish Restoration Grant Administrator, Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 1306, Albuquerque, NM 87103.

The federal funding apportioned to Arizona is authorized under the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1950, commonly referred to as the Dingell-Johnson Act and Wallop-Breaux Act. It provides federal aid to state wildlife agencies for management and restoration of sport fish.

These Sport Fish Restoration funds are derived from a federal excise tax at the manufacturing level on certain items of sport-fishing tackle, fishing equipment and motor boat fuel.

For more information, visit www.azgfd.gov/fishea.

 

Tickets available for Commission Awards Banquet
Seating is limited, so reserve your seats today

The annual Commission Awards Banquet is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009 at the Four Points by Sheraton Phoenix North, 10220 N. Metro Parkway East in Phoenix. The event begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner and presentation of the commission awards. Seating is limited to this special event, so make your reservations today.

Each year, the evening brings together hundreds of people who share a strong and personal interest in wildlife. It provides an opportunity to meet the Game and Fish Commission and honor the recipients of this year’s commission awards for their contributions toward Arizona’s wildlife and the mission of the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Individual tickets are $50. Tables of 10 are $470 - a discount of $30. Organization sponsorships are available for $550 and include a table in the organization's name, recognition in the event media presentation and post-event press release, and five banquet tickets for the organization. Another five tickets will be donated, in that organization's name, to award recipients and guests.

For more information (including a list of award winners) or to obtain a reservation form, visit www.azgfd.gov/inside_azgfd/commission_awards.shtml or contact Marty Fabritz at (623) 236-7281.

 

Hunters can still help monitor for chronic wasting disease

Hunters are reminded they can help the Arizona Game and Fish Department monitor for chronic wasting disease this season by bringing in the head of their recently harvested deer or elk for sampling.

You can assist by bringing in the head of your recently harvested deer or elk to any Game and Fish Department office between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Place the head in a heavy plastic garbage bag for delivery, and keep it cool and out of the sun. If the weather is warm, it is best to either bring in the head within a day of harvest or keep it on ice in a cooler before delivery.

To better assist the surveillance efforts, you will be asked to fill out a form with your drop-off. Please include the following information: county, game management unit in which the animal was harvested, hunt and permit number, and an address and phone number where you can be reached. If this information is not provided, the department will be unable to test the head.

You will be notified of the test results by postcard within six to eight weeks. There is no charge for the testing and notification.

In particular, all successful hunters in Game Management Units that border the states of Colorado, Utah and New Mexico are strongly encouraged to participate in the voluntary CWD sampling program, since deer from this area of the state have the greatest potential for initial detection. CWD has not yet been found in Arizona, but has been in those states.

CWD is a wildlife disease that is fatal to deer and elk. Currently, there is no evidence that CWD poses a risk to humans.

The department has been conducting surveillance using hunter-harvested deer and elk since 1998. Test samples from more than 10,000 animals during that time (close of 2007-08 season) have found no evidence of CWD. Aggressive monitoring is essential to detect the disease early if it does arrive in Arizona.

The department recommends these guidelines for hunters in the field:

  • Don’t harvest any animal that appears to be sick or behaves oddly. Call the Arizona Game and Fish Department at 1-800-352-0700 if you see an animal that is very thin, has a rough coat, drooping ears and is unafraid of humans.

  • When field-dressing game, wear rubber gloves and minimize the use of a bone saw to cut through the brain or spinal cord (backbone). Bone out the meat. Minimize contact with and do not consume brain or spinal cord tissues, eyes, spleen, or lymph nodes.

  • Always wash hands thoroughly after dressing and processing game meat.

  • If you hunt in another state, don’t bring back the brain, intact skull or spinal column. It’s OK to bring back hides and skull plates that have been cleaned of all tissue and washed in bleach.

  • Taxidermied heads, sawed-off antlers and ivory teeth are OK to bring home.

  • If you intend to hunt out of state, contact the wildlife agency in the area you intend to hunt. Several states have regulations on carcass movement.

Archery-only Harvest Reporting:
Nonpermit-tag (over-the-counter) archery-only deer hunters are reminded that harvest reporting is mandatory, please call (866) 903-3337 to report your deer harvest.

 

Welcome Back the Trout celebration heralds that the winter season is underway

The sound system sent the acoustic guitar notes reverberating across the placid lake waters as Chuck E. Baby and the Allstars sang the laments to the familiar Brad Paisley song, “I’m Gonna’ Miss Her.”
 
“I love her, But I love to fish, I spend all day on the water, And hell is all I catch”

The songs added festive notes to the annual “Welcome Back the Trout” festival at Tempe Town Lake on Nov. 25 as Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman stocked the first nets full of lively rainbows, with help from lots of the youngsters attending this exciting fishing event.

The festival has become an annual Arizona holiday tradition signaling that the prime winter trout fishing season is underway. There was also something new this year. The City of Tempe had kayaks on hand for folks to try – for free.

As usual, the good folks at Cabela’s Outfitters came to help out. In addition, the professional anglers from Bass Pro Shop just down the road came out in force to share their fishing secrets with those fishing along the shoreline.

The 3,500 trout stocked in Tempe Town Lake were just the first installment of 24,000 rainbows headed to this unique fishery from now through early March.

But thousands of rainbows for Tempe Town Lake is not the only fish-stocking tale.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department has also been busy stocking rainbow trout in Canyon and Saguaro lakes near Phoenix, along with a uniquely Arizona fishery, the Lower Salt River (below Saguaro Lake). This desert river adjacent to the Valley of the Sun is stocked each winter with rainbow trout. There are those in the Valley who fish it prior to going to work in the morning, or in the evening after work.

Two other popular areas are also stocked with rainbows in winter – the Prescott area lakes and the Verde Valley waters. Oak Creek is stocked weekly with rainbow trout and also has a catch-and-release section where crafty anglers can enjoy a battle of wits with stream-wise browns that lurk in the shadows.

Two fun little streams – West Clear Creek and Beaver Creek – are also stocked with trout during the winter season. Those anglers thirsting for a little fishing adventure will enjoy hiking a short ways upstream into secluded canyons along both these creeks. In fact, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep have been transplanted the last several years into the West Clear Creek area.

You also have the choice of four stocking sites along the Verde River between Camp Verde and Cottonwood. In addition, the imminently accessible lagoons at Dead Horse Ranch State Park are stocked with trout during winter.

Other popular winter fisheries are located near Prescott. Goldwater Lake along Senator Highway in the Bradshaw Mountains just above Prescott has been stocked with trout, as has Lynx Lake and Fain Lake.

In southern Arizona, Parker Canyon and Patagonia lakes are stocked with trout in winter.

So just take your pick and get out for winter trout.

 

Endangered jaguar undergoes first surgery
Only wild-born jaguar in an American zoo receives critical dental work

The week before Thanksgiving was a busy one for an endangered jaguar at the Phoenix Zoo. After arriving from Mexico, the animal underwent complex surgery on Nov. 21 to begin its recovery from injuries sustained while in captivity.

Illegally captured from the wild but subsequently seized by Mexican law enforcement officials, the young male cat suffered damage to its canine teeth while being kept in an inadequate enclosure. The Mexican government authorized a one-year loan of the cat so that the necessary dental surgery could take place at the zoo.

A board-certified veterinary dental specialist, Dr. Chris Visser, volunteered his time to perform the surgery with assistance from dentist Dr. Louis Visser, anesthesiologist Dr. Victoria Lukasik (one of two veterinary board certified anesthesiologists in Arizona), and cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Brian DeGuzman.

The extent of the damage was unknown until X-rays and blood were taken after the cat was sedated. Based on the results of those tests, veterinarians chose to extract three upper incisors and perform four root canals on the other affected teeth.

“Dr. Visser has long been a tremendous asset to the Phoenix Zoo, performing many procedures on our animals,” said Phoenix Zoo CEO/President Bert Castro. “We are grateful that Dr. Visser’s work will improve the quality of life of this jaguar and hope to learn more about this magnificent animal through some important DNA studies we will be conducting. After its stay in quarantine, this amazing animal will be on exhibit so that our guests can meet it and learn more about the plight of the jaguar in this region.”

While the jaguar was sedated, veterinarians also took blood and tissue samples as part of a DNA study being done to learn more about the jaguar population segment that uses southern Arizona and New Mexico as the northern extent of its range. Genetic analysis will be done by Dr. Melanie Culver at the University of Arizona.

“We look forward to gaining new information from the lab tests to learn more about a virtually unstudied segment of the jaguar population,” said Arizona Game and Fish Department project manager, Bill Van Pelt. “We hope to use the test results and visual observations of the jaguar over the next year to learn more about how this animal varies from individuals in other population segments throughout Mexico, and Central and South America.”

Even with the surgery, the jaguar will not be returned to the wild.  Preliminary evaluations conducted in Mexico shortly after placing the animal in a zoo determined the tooth damage was too extensive to allow the animal to be successfully returned to the wild.

The jaguar loan and medical services are a cooperative international effort of the Mexican government, the Centro Ecologico de Sonora, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, and the Phoenix Zoo.

Jaguars range from southern South America through Central America and Mexico and into the southern United States. By the late 1900s, jaguars were thought to be gone from the U.S. landscape, but two independent sightings in 1996 confirmed that jaguars still used Arizona and New Mexico as part of the northern most extent of its range.

The species has been protected outside of the United States under the Endangered Species Act since 1973. That protection was extended to jaguars within the U.S. in 1997, the year after their presence in the Arizona and New Mexico borderlands was confirmed. A team – the Jaguar Conservation Team – was established in Arizona and New Mexico to conserve the species.

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The Wildlife News e-newsletter is issued every other week and contains detailed and comprehensive information on the activities of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. To sign up for this newsletter or other Arizona Game and Fish Department electronic information products, go to www.azgfd.gov/signup.