Wildlife News - Feb. 13, 2009
Feb 13, 2009

  • See early American history come to life at Muzzle Loader shoot
  • Support wildlife in Arizona by becoming a volunteer
  • Visit Game and Fish at the ISE show
  • Public comment period reopened on Arizona fish stocking program
  • Unique jaguar makes public debut
  • Cowboys to show off their six-shooters at Winter Range
  • Desert cleanup effort brings folks outdoors and reconnects them to nature
  • Kids love the outdoors – if you give them a chance
  • Discover Arizona’s stunning wildlife with comprehensive viewing guide
  • Bring your family to the free Game and Fish Outdoor Expo
  • Public comments sought on Western Renewable Energy Zones maps and data
  • Alamo Lake cleanup is Feb. 28


See early American history come to life at the Western National Muzzle Loader shoot

Get your coonskin caps, flintlock rifles, powder flasks and tomahawks ready for action or just come as you are to witness an historic bygone era when stalwart frontiersmen hunted with smoke-belching muzzleloaders or hand-carved bows and arrows. 
 
The Western National Shoot for the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association will be in full swing this weekend at the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Ben Avery Shooting Facility on Carefree Highway just west of I-17.

But this is not just a national competition. It is also an historical, cultural and educational exchange the whole family can enjoy at the largest public shooting facility in the United States. Many of the contestants will be dressed in period clothing; so can you.

Competitors from around the country will engage in such crowd-pleasing events as pistol, hawk and knife, X-sticks, chunk guns, running boar, primitive matches, black powder cartridge, and primitive archery. Tomahawk throwing skills will be put to the test.

There will also be a Traders Row where you can buy everything from fringed leather jackets and authentic Hawken rifles to mountain man stew and Navajo fry bread. You might even find some cannons for sale or possibly hand-carved Indian flutes.

And guess what, the event is free. But you can bring some trading wampum anyway for this winter rendezvous in the warm desert sunshine on the outskirts of Phoenix.

Contestants can even load their tepees or vintage cavalry tents into the old wagon and come camp out.

For those who would like more information, visit www.nmlra.org.


Support wildlife in Arizona by becoming a volunteer

Do you have a passion for the outdoors and want to help leave a wildlife legacy for future generations of Arizonans?

If you like to spend your time, energy, enthusiasm and talents working for the benefit of wildlife and outdoor recreation in Arizona, then the Arizona Game and Fish Department Volunteer Program was made with you in mind.

The Volunteer Program is designed to help department personnel carry out the agency’s mission while providing an opportunity for volunteers to participate, firsthand, in managing Arizona’s wildlife resources.

The program goal is to provide you with a congenial and cooperative atmosphere where you can build relationships with staff and other volunteers, and gain knowledge about Arizona wildlife, wildlife management, and outdoor recreation. We recognize your time is important and worthwhile and will strive to provide a variety of rewarding and educational volunteer experiences.

The department’s volunteer program saw more than 282,731 volunteer hours logged in fiscal year 2007-08, and more than 189,654 volunteer miles were driven to project sites. That’s an estimated $3 million value to the state.

Volunteer opportunities with the department are always available and ever changing in scope. Past projects have included: Wildlife care, facility maintenance and office work at the Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center; instructional work in boating, sport fishing and shooting sports; habitat restoration and clean-up projects; seasonal field projects; surveys; and much more.

You can find an updated list of volunteer opportunities on the department Web site at www.azgfd.gov/volunteer.


Visit Game and Fish at the ISE show

Be sure to check out the Arizona Game and Fish Department exhibits and activities at the ever-popular International Sportsmen’s Expo (ISE), Feb. 27-March 1 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

Once again, Game and Fish is operating the Youth Outdoor Sports Fair at ISE, with a kids fishing tank, live wildlife, wildlife assets auction, BB-gun trailer, plus many other interesting booths and activities for the whole family.

“In a way, we are kind of overflowing to outside the stadium this year,” said Ty Gray, the department’s assistant director for information and education. “We’ll have some indoor exhibits, but are moving our increasingly popular introductory archery classes outside the stadium but near the Youth Outdoors area so we can handle even more participants. In that same outdoor area, we will also have our boating and off-highway vehicle experts available.”

In addition to the Youth Outdoor Fair, this year’s 9th annual ISE will once again fill the University of Phoenix Stadium with fishing, hunting and outdoor products and destination experts.

You can also increase the show's value even more by attending seminars, getting personal lessons from expert instructors, entering a contest, and bringing the kids to the Youth Outdoor Sports Fair.

Don't miss this valuable opportunity to celebrate the outdoors with family and friends, capture show-priced bargains, and meet face-to-face with guides and lodge owners from nearby and around the world. ISE Phoenix has it all, including:

  • Freshwater and saltwater rods, reels and gear.
  • ATVs, Sport-fishing boats and kayaks.
  • Fly-fishing equipment, try-out areas and instruction.
  • Weekend getaway adventures and dream vacations to fishing and hunting destinations.
  • Fishing guides and hunting outfitters.


Public comment period reopened on Arizona fish stocking program

The public comment period for scoping has been reopened on Arizona’s sport-fish stocking program. Federal and state agencies are seeking assistance with identifying the extent and variety of issues that may be associated with fish stocking in the state.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Arizona Game and Fish Department officials will use the public’s input as part of a draft environmental assessment process that is required to continue using federal funding for stocking activities in Arizona.

The deadline for submitting written comments is March 6. 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, or to

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

Game and Fish has previously conducted three public open houses in Phoenix, Pinetop and Tucson, and collected 150 written comments. Previously submitted comments are being considered and need not be resent.

Once this latest 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.

Each year, the Arizona Game and Fish Department stocks more than 3 million fish for anglers to catch in approximately 160 of Arizona’s lakes, rivers and streams – mostly rainbow, Apache, brook, and cutthroat trout, but some warmwater species such as largemouth bass and channel catfish as well.

The stocking program is supported with federal funds through the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program, along with state funds from the sale of licenses and trout stamps.

State wildlife officials pointed out that recreational angling in Arizona totaled 4,156,000 angling days in 2006, creating a statewide economic impact of more than $1.1 billion annually. Thanks to back-to-back years of excellent winter precipitation and snow pack, Arizona officials are expecting increased user days this year as anglers take advantage of the improved fishing conditions.

Arizona’s natural fish fauna historically consisted of 36 species of fish, few of which were traditionally sought by early American or present-day anglers.

Since the early 1900s, the Arizona Game and Fish Department and other agencies have supplemented recreational angling opportunities by stocking state waters with sport fish species.

Although most of the trout species caught in Arizona likely come from fish hatcheries, most of the warmwater species in the state – especially those in the larger impoundments such as Roosevelt Lake – come from natural reproduction.

The federal funding apportioned to Arizona is authorized under the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act, 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.


Unique jaguar makes public debut

A wild-born jaguar currently in captivity in the United States made his public debut at the Phoenix Zoo on Feb. 7.

Illegally captured in Mexico, the cat suffered extensive damage to his canine teeth due to inadequate confinement, before being confiscated by the authorities and transferred to Centro Ecologico de Sonora, a large zoo located in Hermosillo. The Mexican government authorized a loan of the animal to the zoo so that critical dental surgery could be performed. The loan of the cat was coordinated by Game and Fish in partnership with the zoo.

Dr. Chris Visser, a board-certified veterinary dental specialist, volunteered his time to perform the two dental surgeries, which occurred prior to the jaguar’s public debut. Joining Dr. Visser in the effort was his son, human dentist Dr. Louis Visser, and a team of veterinarians who helped perform four root canals and three extractions to repair the cat’s life-threatening dental damage.

The jaguar spent the last month recovering and getting acclimated to his new exhibit and the Zoo’s female jaguar, with whom he will share the exhibit.

“Having this animal in captivity provides an exciting opportunity for jaguar conservation,” said Bill Van Pelt, the jaguar conservation program manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “DNA studies done during his stay will help us learn more about the little-studied population segment that uses southern Arizona and New Mexico as the northern extent of its range.”

The U.S. has listed jaguars as endangered since 1997. They once ranged 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 northernmost extent of their range.

This conservation effort was made possible through support from Arizona’s Heritage Fund. The Heritage Fund was established in 1990 by Arizona voters to further conservation efforts in the state, including protecting endangered species, improving wildlife habitat, educating our children about wildlife, helping urban residents to better coexist with wildlife, and creating new opportunities for outdoor recreation.


Cowboys to show off their six-shooters at Winter Range

The Old West will come alive once again when more than 600 men, women, and juniors gather for the 18th annual Winter Range hosted at the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Ben Avery Shooting Facility from Feb. 25 – March 1.

Winter Range is an exciting “Old West” style, five-day event that provides the backdrop for the Single Action Shooting Society’s National Championship of Cowboy Action Shooting. This annual event traditionally draws thousands of spectators and Old West enthusiasts.

Cowboy Action Shooting™ is the fastest growing shooting sport in America, and requires contestants to compete with firearms typical of those used in the taming of the Old West:  single-action revolvers, lever-action rifles, and old-time shotguns. Participants must also adopt a “shooting alias” appropriate to a character or profession of the late 19th century, a Hollywood Western star, or an appropriate fictional character, and then costume themselves accordingly.

In addition to the competitive events, Winter Range will also feature displays of period militaria, exhibitions of western skills and crafts, and vendors purveying everything from period clothing to antiques and reproductions. Entertainment will be readily available in the form of a number of singers, cowboy bands, and the authentic history of gaming and masterful sleight of hand by the amazing Lafitte, Knight of the Green Cloth. A variety of food services are also available – from authentic chuck wagon cooking to hot dogs. This is an exciting event for the whole family.

The Ben Avery Shooting Facility is located in north Phoenix on Carefree Highway just west of I-17 (Exit 223). Daily event times are 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. from Wednesday, Feb. 25 through Saturday, Feb. 28, and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Sunday, March 1. Admission is free, but parking is $5. While in the shooting areas, spectators will be required to wear eye protection (sunglasses and corrective glasses are acceptable) and ear protection is strongly suggested, especially for children.

For more information about Winter Range, visit www.winterrange.com.


Desert cleanup effort brings folks outdoors and reconnects them to nature

Nearly 100 volunteers collected dilapidated furniture, rusted 55-gallon barrels, more old tires than one could count, and bags upon bags of miscellaneous garbage during the Feb. 6-8 weekend cleanup near Wickenburg, despite the threats of winter rains that blanketed the state.

A large portion of the desert in Game Management Unit 42 plagued by years of littering is lush once again thanks to a coordinated effort between the Bureau of Land Management, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and many concerned citizens in this cleanup effort.

“We were lucky to have two productive days to clean up before those big storms hit,” said Craig Heath, Game and Fish wildlife manager. “It’s all because we had an excellent turnout of private citizens, sportsmen, conservation organizations, students from Nadaburg Elementary School, and two Cub Scout troops.”

Productive is an understatement. Fresh helping hands arrived periodically throughout the day. When it was all over, old tires alone filled 2 1/2 industrial-sized dumpsters, and another dumpster was packed full with other trash.

Over the years the trash has piled up, and besides being unsightly, the large piles of trash can be harmful to wildlife, pose a fire hazard, and damage the landscape.

"This cleanup was beneficial in a number of ways. It lets the public learn more about the issues we [land owners] face with managing public lands,” said Penny Foreman, outdoor recreation planner for the Bureau of Land Management. “And it rids the very popular Hassayampa Valley area of unsightly and potentially unsafe trash and debris.”

Large rogue dumpsites like this pose a number of problems besides the obvious, making these trash sites a costly burden to clean up - all because some folks won’t drive to an authorized landfill.

If you get a chance, take the scenic drive along Vulture Mine Road out of Wickenburg and  take a moment and stop at Vulture Peak Trailhead. There will be a poster from the cleanup in the kiosk signed by all the participants, with photos and artwork by the kids from the event to remind everyone to: Give a hoot, don’t pollute!

To learn more about volunteering opportunities with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, visit www.azgfd.gov/volunteer.


Kids love the outdoors – if you give them a chance

As mentioned in the article above, refurbishing a trash-laden desert area was the focus of a cleanup event near Wickenburg, but for those volunteers who came out, something else happened. They “got outdoors,” and so did their kids.

It is amazing what a great teacher Mother Nature is. Before long, the kids were enjoying unstructured play in the open desert. They were playing in the dirt, collecting rocks, smashing rocks (looking for crystals), finding bugs, and all sorts of fun kid stuff not dependent on electricity, remote controls or television.

 It was kind of like Discovery Channel – but in real life.

“Lessons learned at events like this set the foundation for good citizens, respect for wildlife and the environment,” said Kellie Tharp, environmental education program manager with Game and Fish.

To provide other activities for the kids during the cleanup, the Game and Fish Department brought out a number of wildlife educational materials, including animal bone boxes, live wildlife and a BB-gun trailer. The bone boxes contain the hides, skulls, rubber tracks, and pictures from a variety of Arizona animals. The live animals on hand from the department’s Wildlife Center included hawks, owls, raptors, a Gila monster, snakes, and one jumpy antelope squirrel.

“I have kids, too, and I know they need lots of distractions,” said Craig Heath, Game and Fish wildlife manager. “Both the animal boxes and live wildlife are always a big hit. And the older kids love our BB-gun trailer, where they learn how to shoot safely from our instructors.”

During these times of economic uncertainty, there is one core thing that never comes off the budget list, and that’s spending quality time with your family.

Tharp adds, “These outings are a chance for some quality family time, as well as some good old-fashioned ‘getting dirty’ exercise.”

To learn more about the department’s environmental education program, visit www.azgfd.gov/focuswild.


Discover Arizona’s stunning wildlife with comprehensive 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. Wildlife viewing is a family-friendly recreational opportunity that provides entertainment and quality time for all budgets.
  

The Arizona Wildlife Viewing Guide takes you on a magnificent journey through the state’s canyons and cliffs, deserts and plateaus. It offers detailed descriptions of 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 and a tiered rating system that highlights “can’t miss” locations. Site features, driving directions and contact information are also included.

Wildlife viewers will quickly find that the guide is a “must have” resource that they won’t leave home without.

Locations are divided into five regions and include national and state parks, wildlife refuges and nature trails. Grand Canyon National Park, with its spectacular geology and more than 500 wildlife species, and Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area, with more than 30,000 wintering sandhill cranes, are among the many “must see” locations.

“With so many beautiful sites and wildlife species highlighted in the book, residents and visitors to our great state will have a long ‘to do’ list that will provide them with diverse wildlife viewing opportunities not found in many other states,” says Bob Hernbrode, Arizona Game and Fish Department Commission Chair and a member of the publication’s steering committee.

A national survey indicates that Arizona residents and visitors spent more than $825 million in 2006 on wildlife watching in the state. Wildlife watching includes closely observing or photographing wildlife. 

The book is available for $14.95 at any Arizona Game and Fish Department office or by going to the department’s Web site at www.azgfd.gov/publications for a mail-in order form.

The Arizona Wildlife Viewing Guide is a joint effort between the Arizona Game and Fish Department and Watchable Wildlife, Inc.

The guide is made possible by a grant from the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Heritage Fund, a fund created by Arizona voters in 1990 to support conservation efforts through lottery ticket sales in the state.


Bring your family to the free Game and Fish Outdoor Expo

The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Outdoor Expo is Arizona’s largest “outdoors” public event, intended on exposing people of all ages to our state’s magnificent outdoor recreational opportunities. The entire family can explore numerous activities and demonstrations that include live wildlife displays, camping, archery, hunting, fishing, shooting sports, wildlife conservation, off-highway vehicle riding and boating.

This two-day event will be held Saturday, March 28 and Sunday, March 29 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Ben Avery Shooting facility, one the largest public shooting facilities in the country.

You and your family can see live wildlife such as hawks, owls and reptiles, observe bass fishing demonstrations, try out target archery, see off-highway vehicles such as rock crawlers while learning about responsible OHV use, try out shooting sports on the range, view boats on display, and watch the Scholastic Clay Target Program and Archery in the Schools competitions.

Children will get a chance to catch a fish, try rock climbing, archery and youth air gun shooting, learn about wildlife conservation, and see exciting demonstrations by the Cowboy Action Shooters. 

Visit with more than 100 ‘outdoor’ vendors and exhibitors, including sportsmen’s and conservation groups, outdoor retailers, firearm manufacturers, shooting organizations and government agencies. 

There’s something for everyone, and admission and parking are FREE!

So you don’t miss a thing, trolley transportation is available throughout the 1,650-acre shooting facility, which is located on Carefree Highway, 1/4 mile west of I-17. However, bring a little cash for snacks and drinks at the food court and to take part in the specialty target-shooting activities.

This year’s Gold Sponsor is Pierce Bullet Seal Target Systems, a world-renowned target and frame supplier that will debut its new and unique state-of-the-art “Best Shot” barbecue grill, shaped in the form of a large pistol, at the event. To learn more about Pierce’s pistol grill, and “all weather proof” and “fully recyclable” targets and frames, visit www.pbsts.com.

There’s still time for “outdoor-related” vendors and sponsors to participate. Information about the event and vendor/sponsor registration forms can be obtained at www.azgfd.gov/expo or by calling (602) 236-7222. More than 26,000 visitors attended last year’s Expo.

In tough economic times, it’s important for everyone to focus on what is really important, including spending time with family and friends. Outdoor pursuits are the perfect opportunity to reconnect with family and friends. Come out to the Expo and learn how to re-invest in that valuable outdoor connection.


Public comments sought on Western Renewable Energy Zones maps and data

The Western Governor’s Association and the U.S. Department of Energy are seeking public comments on several draft documents and maps developed by the Western Renewable Energy Zones' project.

The Western Governor’s Association and U.S. Department of Energy have used a stakeholder-based process to identify areas with vast, concentrated and developable renewable energy resources and with low land development conflicts.

Comments may be submitted from February 2 through March 2, 2009. For more information, including how to submit comments, visit www.westgov.org/wga/initiatives/wrez/enviro/comments-el.htm.
 

Alamo Lake cleanup is Feb. 28

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is organizing the annual Alamo Lake cleanup for 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 28. Volunteers are needed — it’s hard but rewarding work, and you’ll be helping to improve this popular area.

Arizona State Parks is waiving the camping and boat launch fees for those registered for this effort.

Participants are staying at the Cholla Campground, and those using boats will launch from the Cholla Launch Ramp as well. Please feel free to come and camp out on Friday night to save having to get up before the crack of dawn. The cleanup will start at 8 a.m. on Saturday.

There will also be a dinner and door prizes on Saturday evening following the cleanup. Once the cleanup is done, there might just be some time to fish – and there will be lots of anglers there who know the lake well.

Game and Fish will operate a pontoon boat for collecting shoreline litter and will also have a dump truck to haul away the trash. Be sure to wear gloves.

For more information, contact Wildlife Manager Stewart Kohnke at (928) 684-3763 or (928) 342-0091.