Wildlife News - Jan. 15, 2009
Jan 15, 2009

  • Arizona anglers are getting an 11-mile river fishing bonus
  • Wings Over Willcox set for this weekend
  • Game and Fish Expo set for March 28-29
  • Arizona’s pronghorn get an instant population boost
  • Urban lakes received “lunker-sized” incentive trout
  • Off-highway laws spark January rush for new decals
  • Elk and antelope hunting permit applications are due by Feb. 10
  • Meet the Arizona Game and Fish Commission this Saturday 
  • Arizona wildlife officer wins NWTF award
  • Archery 3-D fun shoot for all
  • Becoming an Outdoors Woman program set
  • More hunters are using non-lead bullets in condor country

Arizona anglers are getting an 11-mile river fishing bonus

Arizona anglers are being blessed with an 11-mile trout fishing bonus along the Lower Salt River starting Jan. 22 thanks to plentiful December precipitation and unusual winter runoff in central Arizona that has almost filled the Salt River reservoirs.

Salt River Project will be pulling water from Stewart Mountain Dam from now through the end of spring, allowing this stretch of river to be stocked with trout months earlier than normal.

Arizona Game and Fish Department officials have jumped on this unexpected opportunity to provide anglers enhanced fishing opportunities along this distinctive desert river bordering the Valley of the Sun.
“The Lower Salt River is really a unique Arizona fishing experience. Anglers get to experience fishing for trout in a scenic desert river bordering a wilderness area, just minutes from some of the Valley of the Sun’s population centers. There’s nothing else quite like it,” said Fisheries Chief Kirk Young.

On Jan. 22 at around noon to 1 p.m., the Game and Fish Department will be stocking trout into the Lower Salt River at the Water Users and Blue Point areas that can be readily assessed by anglers via Bush Highway.

Be sure you have a current 2009 Arizona fishing license with trout fishing privileges. For those visiting the Valley, there is a special 4-month nonresident fishing license available at a bargain price.

Young added that this enhanced fishing opportunity along the Lower Salt River is just the leading edge of superb fishing opportunities anglers can expect this year.

“The stars have truly aligned this year and the potential is there for some phenomenal fishing opportunities,” Young said.

Young explained that record runoff in 2005 in central Arizona resulted in a tremendous age class of fish, especially largemouth bass, that are now large four-year-old, line-stripping fish. Last year’s abundant runoff that filled Arizona’s lakes resulted in terrific spawns for both sport-fish and forage fish.

“The bottom line is this year there will be lots of feisty yearling fish to enhance angler catch rates along with lots of larger fish that can make fishing even more exciting. This might indeed be the year anglers will be talking about fondly for years to come,” Young said.

28,000 wintering sandhill cranes are poised
to thrill those attending Wings Over Willcox

There are 28,000-plus wintering sandhill cranes taking center stage with a supporting cast of other birds, bats, rocks and plants to delight and enchant those attending the 16th annual Wings Over Willcox nature festival during the Martin Luther King holiday weekend on Jan. 17, 18 and 19.

This annual festival in the Town of Willcox tucked into the fascinating Sulphur Springs Valley of southern Arizona has become one of the state’s preeminent nature festivals.

The Sulphur Springs Valley, which includes two major wildlife areas operated by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, attracts one of the largest wintering populations of sandhill cranes in the nation.

This year, Game and Fish biologists recently surveyed 28,814 winter sandhill cranes in the valley, including about 8,000 at Crane Lake in the Willcox Playa Wildlife Area, 5,000 at the Apache Generating Station viewing area, and 10,000 at the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area.

There are also new tours for this year’s festival covering astronomy, wildlife of the Chiricahua Mountains, and the inner workings of the Apache Power Station. The seminar speaker topics include such topics as rainwater harvesting, jaguars, wildlife tracking and Siberian cranes.

Come visit the Willcox Community Center to see what Wings Over Willcox is all about. During the Nature Expo portion of the festival there will be live animal displays, educational exhibits, and vendors showing a wide variety of nature-related items for purchase.

Liberty Wildlife and the Game and Fish Department’s Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center will share the center stage at the Nature Expo with live hawks, raptors, and other amazing birds.  Wildlife experts from the Game and Fish Department will also bring along creepy, crawly critters to interest and thrill kids of all ages.

For the younger kids, there are also special activities, such as nest box building, face painting, nature art, and more.

For more information on this festival, visit www.wingsoverwillcox.com.

If you would like more information about where to view wintering sandhill cranes, be sure to pick up the January-February edition of “Arizona Wildlife Views” magazine that features an article about the Triple Crown of Wintering Sandhill Cranes.

Mark your calendars: Game and Fish Expo set for March 28-29

Mark your calendar for March 28-29 because the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Outdoor Expo at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility on Carefree Highway is expected to be even bigger and better this year – if that is possible.

“The enthusiastic public response to this free outdoor expo has been amazing. This is a hands-on expo with lots to experience from archery to firearms and just about every cool or thrilling outdoor pursuit in between,” said Ty Gray, an assistant director for Game and Fish.

This crowd-pleasing event is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday at the 1,700-acre Ben Avery Shooting Facility located off Carefree Highway just west of Interstate 17.

Gray said that last year, this family-friendly Outdoor Expo drew around 26,000 attendees. “That may be difficult to surpass, but I think the word is out and we might even get more fun-seeking families this year.”

One segment of the expo being expanded this year is the Family Fun area. This area was a big hit last year and Game and Fish is adding some new attractions, such as a fishing demonstration tank with local experts sharing their secrets on various fishing techniques.

“Just like in year’s past, we will also have the kids fishing tank where youngsters can catch a feisty hybrid sunfish, along with archery, live wildlife, and a whole venue of other interesting pursuits and activities,” Gray said.

Gray added that the economic downturn the state and nation is experiencing may make this free outdoor event even more compelling. “When economic times are tough, time spent with the family outdoors can become even more valuable to folks, maybe even more necessary. Plus it’s free and fun – that is a tough combination to beat, no matter what the economic outlook.”

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

Arizona’s pronghorn get an instant population boost
Habitat restorations make way for 100 animals

Arizona’s pronghorn antelope received an instant population boost recently thanks to an area in Utah having an excess of these high grassland speedsters.

Through a professional cooperation between wildlife agencies, the Arizona Game and Fish Department received 100 pronghorn antelope from the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources, to supplement current populations and take advantage of habitat improvements made to historical antelope range here.

To enhance natural population growth, the 100 young pronghorns consisted of a 5:1 doe-to-buck ratio. The department released the animals in three different Game Management Units. Unit 21 received 40 animals near Cordes Junction (20 each at two different sites), Unit 1’s Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area received 20 animals, and Unit 27 received the balance of 40 animals north of Morenci.

“All of these areas have undergone years of habitat improvements, including range fence modifications, removal of encroaching juniper trees, thinning of brush in movement corridors, and the construction of new reliable water sources,” said Brian Wakeling, the department’s acting game chief.

Wakeling pointed out that all these improvements came through countless hours in the field and partnerships with the Arizona Antelope Foundation, the U.S. Forest Service and others.

Wildlife translocations continue to be a valuable tool for improving existing wildlife populations. Although these efforts are primarily funded through sportsmen’s dollars and federal wildlife restoration funds derived from the Pittman-Robertson Act, wildlife belongs and is enjoyed by all of the public, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department continues to follow the North American Wildlife Conservation Model to ensure that wildlife populations are here for future generations to enjoy.

To learn more about the department’s wildlife management and conservation, visit www.azgfd.gov.

Urban lakes received “lunker-sized” incentive trout
Stocking program remains a bright light despite troubled-economy
The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Urban Fishing Program rang in the New Year with a hearty stocking of “incentive” sized rainbow trout into all of the 21 program waters across the state last week.

Incentive rainbow stockings included more fish and bigger fish. Many of the trout ranged from 13-18 inches. This year, there are numerous 5-7 pounders and one behemoth weighing 8 pounds, which has already thrilled one urban angler.

“This is one of our most exciting stockings of the season,” said Eric Swanson, Urban Fishing Program manager. “Our vendors continue to raise the bar with the size and quality of fish they bring us. I would love to see the look on some youngster’s face when they land one of these whoppers.”

Anglers 14 and older are reminded to purchase their 2009 Urban Fishing License and to pick up a free copy of the 2009 Urban Fishing Program regulations now available online and at all license dealers in the state. Youth anglers 13 and under do not need a fishing license; however, for trout only, their bag limit is half of a licensed adult.

After your day of fishing is done, keep the memories going with a picture, and post it at the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s photo gallery at www.azgfd.net/photos to share with your friends – it’s easy and it’s free. You might even see it featured in a future department publication. For more information on the Urban Fishing Program, visit www.azgfd.gov/urbanfishing.

New off-highway vehicle laws spark January rush for new decals
15,000 OHV Decals sold in first week

New laws that went into effect Jan. 1 to better manage the skyrocketing use of off-highway vehicles (OHVs) in Arizona have resulted in 15,000 decals being sold during the first week of the New Year.

In the first week of sales, the Arizona Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) has seen the sales of this newly created decal begin in a big way, with 15,000 being sold from Jan. 1 to Jan. 7.

Revenue from the sale of the OHV decals will be used by Arizona State Parks to continue their grant program for damage cleanup and trail building. The Arizona State Land Department will use funds to continue keeping lands available for public use. The Arizona Game and Fish Department will use funding from the decal program to create new OHV educational opportunities and to hire new law enforcement officers specifically for OHV law enforcement.

The cost of the OHV Decal is $25. The decal is required for all OHVs that meet the following two criteria:
1. The vehicle is made by the manufacturer primarily for use over unimproved terrain.
2. The vehicle has an unladen weight of 1,800 pounds or less.

The OHV Decal is available for purchase online at www.servicearizona.com or at any MVD office or MVD third-party service provider. The OHV Decal needs to be purchased now for legal OHV use in Arizona. For more information about, and requirements for, the OHV Decal, go online to www.azgfd.gov/ohv.

Elk and antelope hunting permit applications are due by Feb. 10
Beat the rush and take advantage of Jan. 22 “grace” period to correct errors

You can beat the rush of procrastinators for the 2009 Pronghorn Antelope and Elk Hunt Draw and apply before Jan. 22 to take advantage of the “grace period” where you are offered an opportunity to correct application mistakes.

Here’s how the grace period works. If you apply before Jan. 22 and there is an error on your hunt-permit application, the Arizona Game and Fish Department will make three attempts within a 24-hour period to notify you by telephone (if a phone number is provided) so you can correct the application. Errors can cause an application to be rejected from the draw process.

The final deadline to submit paper applications for a 2009 hunt permit-tag for antelope and elk hunts through the draw process is Tuesday, Feb. 10 by 7 p.m. (MST). Applications must be received by mail or by hand delivery to department offices before the deadline; postmarks don’t count.

Department officials also noted that the printed elk-antelope regulation supplement has been distributed to all license dealers, and the information is also available online at www.azgfd.gov. Hunters are reminded there is no online application process.

Don’t forget – a 2009 hunting license is required to apply. Department officials encourage hunters to get their license before applying for an elk or antelope hunt permit-tag if they wish to do any other hunting in early 2009.

Licenses purchased through the draw process will not be mailed out until April 24, 2009, regardless of application success.

To assist customers and reduce errors, a PDF application form can be filled out using a computer and keyboard, but must be printed, signed and submitted by mail (along with the correct fees by check or money order), or by delivery to any department office. The form can also be printed and then filled out using an ink pen.
The PDF application and the 2009 Arizona Pronghorn Antelope and Elk Hunt Draw Information booklet can be downloaded at www.azgfd.gov/draw.
The elk over-the-counter nonpermit-tags (for limited areas) are also available in 2009. These tags are akin to a “limited opportunity” hunt in areas with very low elk populations. Hunters interested should thoroughly review the regulations and visit www.azgfd.gov/otc to download the “2009 Elk OTC Informational Handout” PDF for frequently asked questions, hunt area boundary descriptions and area maps before purchasing.
For those hunters looking to get into the field before the fall, there are many spring javelina hunt permit-tags available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Javelina over-the-counter archery-only nonpermit-tags for metro Game Management Units are also available at any department office or license dealer. For a list of available spring javelina hunts, visit www.azgfd.gov/draw under “List of Leftover Permits for Spring 2009 hunts (PDF, 45kb).”

Meet the Arizona Game and Fish Commission this Saturday 

You’ll have a chance to meet the members of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission and provide your input on the department’s activities and priorities when the commission holds its annual “Meet the Commission” event this Saturday, Jan. 17. The public is highly encouraged to attend.

The meeting will be held at the department’s headquarters at 5000 W. Carefree Highway in Phoenix. The chairman’s welcome and commissioner introductions start at 1:30 p.m., followed by a presentation of the “Year in Review” video and then a question-and-answer session. 

"Every year, we hold this event to give our customers a chance to get to know the Arizona Game and Fish commissioners who make the decisions that affect them," says department Ombudsman Marty Fabritz. "Each commissioner will make a statement, and then, the public can ask questions and give comments about what's important to them." 

On Friday, Jan. 16, the commission will hold its regularly scheduled meeting at the department headquarters, 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix. The meeting starts at 8 a.m. with an executive session, followed by the public session. Items on the agenda include:  

* A presentation to the commission on the status and recent activities associated with the department’s “Areas of Conservation Priority” and future geographic information system (GIS) mapping efforts.
* A presentation to the commission on potential future mechanisms for incorporating wildlife habitat protection measures into local and state land use planning processes.
* A presentation to the commission on the process required to legally name the hills on the Ben Avery Shooting Facility as a topographical feature.
* Hearings on license revocations for violation of Game and Fish codes and civil assessments for the illegal taking and/or possession of wildlife.
* A vote to elect a commission chair, vice-chair, and chairs of various standing committees for 2009.

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

Arizona wildlife officer wins NWTF award

The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) has announced that Rick Langley, game specialist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Pinetop region, will be honored as NWTF’s “Arizona Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer of the Year” for his efforts in conserving America's wildlife.

Langley, who lives in Pinetop, will be recognized during the federation’s 33rd annual Convention and Sport Show, held Feb. 19-22 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn.

By earning the State Wildlife Officer of the Year award, Langley and other state winners are eligible for NWTF's National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award, which will be presented at the annual awards banquet on Feb. 21.

Langley has worked for the Arizona Game and Fish Department for 15 years. He served for three years as a wildlife manager in Game Management Unit 15D (based in Bullhead City) and for nine years in Unit 12B (based in Page). He has been the game specialist in the Pinetop regional office for the past three years.

“I had a strong interest in working for the department because the work scope involves a combination of field biology and law enforcement,” says Langley. “I enjoy the hands-on work of wildlife conservation.”

Langley was instrumental in writing plans, coordinating manpower and equipment, and leading several captures of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the Morenci Mine area that provided animals for translocation to the West Clear Creek area of Unit 6A to establish a new sheep population in historic sheep habitat.  A core group of animals is currently doing well there well.

He also played a lead role in planning, coordinating, and conducting four captures of Merriam’s turkey in Region I in 2007 and 2008 that provided more than 200 birds for translocation to Regions III and VI to enhance existing wild turkey populations and establish new populations in suitable habitats.

NWTF initiated the State Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award in 2000 to highlight the contributions from wildlife officers across the country. In addition to playing a crucial role in helping to convict wildlife criminals, many wildlife officers volunteer their own time to help educate youth about the importance of wildlife, conservation and our hunting traditions.

NWTF is a national nonprofit conservation organization that was founded in 1973 and has worked with wildlife agencies to restore wild turkey populations from 1.3 million wild turkeys to nearly 7 million today. NWTF's volunteers raise funds and work daily to improve critical wildlife habitat, increase access to public hunting land, and introduce people to the outdoors and hunting.

For more information about NWTF's law enforcement award winners or its efforts to support wildlife law enforcement, call (800) THE-NWTF, or visit www.nwtf.org.

Archery 3-D fun shoot for all

A 3-D archery fun shoot will be held at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility’s archery range Saturday, Jan. 17 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

This fun shoot is a 20-target course designed to be fun, exciting and challenging. All ages and skill levels are welcome. Additionally, the course is open to all Arizona Archery in the Schools shooters as part of the 3-D Regional Shoot.

No registration is required. The cost is $12 for shooters 18 and older and only $5 for those 17 and younger. For Archery in the Schools 3-D information, please contact Denise Raum at (623) 236-7567 or draum@azgfd.gov

The Ben Avery Shooting Facility is located on the northwest corner of I-17 and Carefree Highway. Archers can enter the range at Archery Drive, which is the first light on Carefree Highway about 1.25 miles west of I-17

Becoming an Outdoors Woman program set

The Arizona Wildlife Federation will be sponsoring a winter Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) workshop. The dates are Feb. 6-8, 2009 in the Goldfield Mountain Range. This retreat will showcase the beauty and wonder of our desert.

The place is Saguaro Lake Ranch, which is a historical resort-style retreat located in the Tonto National Forest in the heart of the Arizona Sonoran desert. The banks of the Salt River are a fly rod cast away, and Stewart Mountain Dam, which backs up Saguaro Lake, is a short walk. This unique venue provides both trout fishing and bass fishing opportunities for BOW participants.

Details of class descriptions can be found at www.azwildlife.org or by calling (480) 644-0077.  You can also e-mail Linda at gettingwildnaz@yahoo.com

More and more hunters are using non-lead bullets in condor country

PHOENIX —  Arizona’s sportsmen and women are stepping up to help the recovery of endangered California condors.

For the fourth consecutive year, participation in the state’s voluntary non-lead ammunition program has grown.

Surveys shows that 90 percent of hunters took measures in 2008 to reduce the amount of available spent lead ammunition in the condor’s core range versus 80 percent the year prior. 

“We are very encouraged by the high participation rate in 2008 and the year-over-year increases since the program began,” says Kathy Sullivan, the condor program biologist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “It clearly indicates that hunters are aware of the conservation challenges condors face, and they are willing to voluntarily take action to reduce the available lead.”

Lead poisoning has been identified as the leading cause of death in condors and the main obstacle to a self-sustaining population in Arizona. Studies show that lead shot and bullet fragments found in game carcasses and gut piles are the main source of lead in condors.

Of the 90 percent of successful big game hunters who took lead reduction efforts, 654 used non-lead ammunition during the fall hunts in the condor’s core range. Another 160 hunters removed gut piles from the field or took other action to reduce the condor’s access to lead.    

The Arizona Game and Fish Department, and its partners the Arizona Deer Association, Arizona Elk Society, Arizona Antelope Foundation, Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, and the Arizona Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, have encouraged hunters to continue sportsmen’s proud tradition of wildlife conservation by using non-lead ammunition in condor range (Game Management Units 9, 10, 12A/B, and 13A/B).

The department started offering free non-lead ammunition in 2005 to hunters drawn for hunts in the condor’s core range, which includes Game Management Units 12 A/B and 13A. The free non-lead ammunition program is supported in part by the Heritage Fund, a voter-passed initiative started in 1990 to further conservation efforts in the state, including protecting endangered species, educating children about wildlife, helping urban residents to better coexist with wildlife, and creating new opportunities for outdoor recreation. Funding comes from Arizona Lottery ticket sales. 

Participation in the non-lead effort has jumped more than 40 percent from its initial levels in 2005.  

The condor is the largest flying land bird in North America. The birds can weigh up to 26 pounds and have a wingspan of up to 9 1/2 feet. Condors were first reintroduced in Arizona in 1996, and they now number 66 in the state. Visitors at the Grand Canyon and Vermilion Cliffs may be able to observe the birds, especially during the spring and summer.

For more information on condors and lead, visit www.azgfd.gov/condor.