Wildlife News - Feb. 26, 2009
Feb 26, 2009

  • Biologists begin monitoring collared jaguar
  • Public forums let you provide input on planned recommendations for the 2009-10 hunt regulations
  • See Arizona’s state mammal, learn about OHV laws, buy wildlife assets, and participate in fun activities at the Sportsmen’s Exposition
  • Wildlife research may change deer management on the Kaibab
  • Next commission meeting is March 6-7 in Phoenix
  • Nestwatchers help bald eagle population grow in Arizona
  • Public scoping comment deadline on fish stocking program is March 6
  • Ride responsibly when using OHVs while hunting
  • Condors from Oregon and Idaho to join Arizona’s flock
  • Increased firearms sales set a positive trend for upcoming outdoor events in Arizona
  • Escape to a bygone era when Pistoleros roamed the Wild West
  • Tres Rios Nature & Earth Festival scheduled for March 7-8 in Avondale
  • 2009 Game and Fish Outdoor Expo to be best yet


Biologists begin monitoring collared jaguar

The tracking device on this jaguar's collar will give biologists a better understanding of its movement and foraging patterns.
Early data received from the tracking device on a recently captured and collared jaguar in Arizona is already giving biologists a better understanding of the cat’s movement and foraging patterns.

The male cat was incidentally captured Feb. 18 in an area southwest of Tucson during a research study aimed at monitoring habitat connectivity for mountain lions and black bears. It was the first capture and collaring of a wild jaguar in the United States. The jaguar was fitted with a satellite tracking collar and then released.

With nearly a week’s worth of data, the Arizona Game and Fish Department noted that the jaguar moved several miles after collaring to a very high and rugged area that the cat has been known to use in southern Arizona. The animal has stayed in that general vicinity for a few days with apparent patterns of rest and visits to a nearby creek. During the collaring, the cat appeared to have just fed on prey, which will aid its recovery and allow it to go for a period of time without feeding. 

The satellite tracking technology will allow biologists to study diet and feeding patterns to learn more about the ecological requirements of the species in borderland habitats. 

Scientists have also confirmed the identification of the collared animal: The cat is Macho B, an older male cat that has been photographed by trail cameras periodically over the past 13 years.
  
Macho B is believed to be the oldest known jaguar in the wild. His age was estimated at two to three years old in photographs taken in 1996, making him 15-16 years old now. Previously the oldest known jaguar in the wild was 13 years old. 

“Every indication is that Macho B is doing well and has recovered from his capture and collaring,” says Terry Johnson, endangered species coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “With so little known about how jaguars move throughout our state, every little piece of data helps us understand more about the population segment that uses southern Arizona and New Mexico as the northern part of its range. Until now, all we’ve had is a photo here and a photo there, but nothing that shed light on what the species does while moving within or between habitats.”
  
The GPS tracking collar provides location points for the animal every three hours. While there are no regulations on the appropriate size of a tracking collar, experts agree that a collar should weigh no more than 3-5 percent of the animal’s body weight. At less than two pounds, Macho B’s collar is less than two percent of his body weight, and it should not impede his normal movements and ability to catch prey.
  
The tracking collar was donated by North Star Science and Technology and was specifically programmed for a jaguar in the event this species was incidentally captured during other wildlife management activities.
  
The collar has a unique feature with a special signal to indicate if the jaguar crosses the international border with Mexico.  
  
Mortality due to predation from other large predators, injuries sustained during prey hunts, roadway crossing, disease, accidents or natural causes is possible.  
  
More specific information on the capture location is being protected under the Game and Fish Department’s standard operating procedure not to release location data on threatened and endangered species and for legal reasons that may leave the department liable for “take” violations under the Endangered Species Act.  

The species has been listed 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. 
  
In 1997, the Jaguar Conservation Team was established in Arizona and New Mexico to protect and conserve the species.    
  
Jaguars 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 its range.
  
This conservation effort is funded in part by the Heritage Fund and Indian gaming revenue. Started in 1990, the Heritage Fund was established by Arizona voters to further conservation efforts in the state, including protecting endangered species, educating our 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. 
  
For more information about jaguar conservation in Arizona, visit www.azgfd.gov/jaguar. Additional photos of the collared jaguar may also be obtained by visiting that Web address. 


Public forums let you provide input on planned recommendations for the 2009-10 hunt regulations

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is bringing a new format to the fall hunt recommendation process by offering six public forums across the state to allow constituents an opportunity to provide input to regional biologists before the hunt recommendations are presented to the commission for the 2009-10 hunting seasons.

Each region will be providing details about the populations within their jurisdiction.  This means that if you have interest in a particular unit, you will need to attend the public meeting in that region to discuss management direction.

“This new process of including our customers before finalizing the hunt recommendations will address the concerns of hunters earlier in the process, when we still have the ability to make changes if they are warranted,” said Brian Wakeling, chief of game management. “This collaboration should also reduce some of the questions during the commission meeting, improving the efficiencies of those public meetings.”

Constituents interested in attending a public forum where department biologists will be on hand to share the preliminary details of the recommendations may go to any of the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s regional offices.

Public forum dates, times and locations are:

  • Tuesday, March 3, 6-8 p.m. – Pinetop regional office, 2878 E. White Mountain Blvd.
  • Tuesday, March 3, 6-8 p.m. – Kingman regional office, 5325 N. Stockton Hill Road
  • Tuesday, March 3, 6-8 p.m. – Yuma regional office, 9140 E. 28th St.
  • Tuesday, March 3, 6-8 p.m. – Tucson regional office, 555 N. Greasewood Road
  • Tuesday, March 3, 7-9 p.m. – Mesa regional office, 7200 E. University Drive
  • Thursday, March 5, 6:30-8:30 p.m. – Flagstaff regional office, 3500 S. Lake Mary Road

After the public forums, the final draft of the hunt recommendations to be presented to the commission will be made available for public review at six regional open houses. No formal presentation will be made. However, a knowledgeable staff person will be available to discuss regional hunt recommendations.

Open house dates, times and locations are:

  • Tuesday, April 7, 3-6 p.m. – Kingman regional office, 5325 N. Stockton Hill Road
  • Tuesday, April 14, 4-6 p.m. – Pinetop regional office, 2878 E. White Mountain Blvd.
  • Tuesday, April 14, 4-6 p.m. – Flagstaff regional office, 3500 S. Lake Mary Road
  • Tuesday, April 14, 3-5 p.m. – Yuma regional office, 9140 E. 28th St.
  • Tuesday, April 14, 5-7 p.m. – Tucson regional office, 555 N. Greasewood Road
  • Tuesday, April 14, 3-5 p.m. – Mesa regional office, 7200 E. University Drive

A PDF version of the 2009-10 hunt recommendations will be available for review at the Game and Fish Department's Web site beginning Saturday, April 11 at www.azgfd.gov/h_f/hunt_guidelines.shtml.

Each year, the department makes recommendations to the commission regarding the management of game species for the annual hunting and trapping regulations, which establish the seasons, dates, bag limits, open areas, and hunt permit-tag allocations based on the framework of the hunt guidelines set by the commission every two years. The next guidelines will be set in the summer of 2010 for hunting seasons 2010-11 and 2011-12.

The final recommendations are scheduled to be presented to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission for consideration during its April 17-18 meeting in Phoenix at the department headquarters at 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix (1.5 miles west of I-17). The agenda will be posted at www.azgfd.gov/commission under “commission agenda.”


See Arizona’s state mammal, learn about OHV laws, buy wildlife assets, and participate in fun activities at the Sportsmen’s Exposition

A ringtail (similar to the one shown) will be on display at the ISE show.
Would you like to see Arizona’s state mammal – a ringtail – up close and personal?

Or are you an off-highway vehicle enthusiast who wants to find out more about the state’s new off-highway vehicle decal program and other new OHV laws?

Or maybe you’re just interested in shooting a bow and arrow, finding a pair of elk or deer antlers to decorate the den, or taking your youngster to catch a fish.

If so, then put on your most comfortable walking shoes and come visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department area at the International Sportsmen’s Exposition (ISE) in Phoenix on Friday, Feb. 27 through Sunday, March 1, at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

The Game and Fish Department’s Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center will be bringing an assortment of live wildlife to ISE, including an elusive ringtail that had spent more than a year hiding in the attic of a Phoenix area drug store.

“This lively ringtail is too habituated to humans, so we can’t return it to the wild. Therefore, we are using it as an educational animal. It’s been a big hit every place we take it,” said Sandy Cate at Adobe Mountain.

Experts from the Game and Fish Department will also be on hand to talk about the state’s new off-highway vehicle laws and give you the information you need to know about the new OHV decal program.

The department will also have a kids fishing tank, archery clinics, an air-gun trailer, wildlife asset (mostly antler) auctions, and plenty of interesting booths touching on a wide range of information from California condors to quagga mussels.

Wildlife assets will be sold at auction at the ISE show, with the proceeds to benefit wildlife law enforcment efforts.
During the asset sales (it is done as a silent auction with minimum bids) each day, Game and Fish officers will auction everything from large predator skulls such as bears and mountain lions to large elk and deer racks or mounts.

There is even a pristine buffalo head from an animal harvested at the House Rock Valley during the 1950s. Something different this year is jewelry from a law enforcement case, including jewelry made with shells such as abalone. Looking for a museum-quality mounted scorpion in a frame? You can find them at the assets sale booth. There will also be a trophy mule deer (190-plus) on display. Saturday is typically the busiest auction sale day.

ISE hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale (Glendale Avenue and Highway 101). Come see the newest hunting, fishing and outdoor equipment, find out about places to hunt and fish, hear from many outdoor experts during seminars throughout each day, and watch the experts test their skills in competitions.

General admission is $15 for adults, $7 for teens and free for children 12 years and under. Parking is free with paid admission.

For more information, go to www.sportsexpos.com.


Wildlife research may change deer management on the Kaibab

Research findings may result in a change to deer management guidelines on the North Kaibab.
Arizona Game and Fish Department officials have announced they will recommend an amendment to existing hunt guidelines for deer on the Kaibab Plateau as a result of a research study that shows that current methods for monitoring of cliffrose, an important winter food plant for deer, may not be adequate for determining the effects of mule deer abundance on the animals’ winter range.

The department will recommend the amendment at the Arizona Game and Fish Commission’s April 17-18 meeting in Phoenix, when hunt recommendations are approved.

The North Kaibab mule deer herd in Game Management Unit 12A is well known for the abundance of deer and the relative commonplace occurrence of large-antlered bucks. The relative health of this herd is affected by many factors, including precipitation, wildfires, habitat quality, and the hunt guidelines that govern hunting season recommendations developed by the department.

Game animals in Arizona are managed according to hunt guidelines adopted by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission once every two years. These guidelines direct how wildlife managers formulate hunt recommendations. The guidelines themselves are developed based on best available science and socially-derived expectations from public input.

In special places like the North Kaibab, alternative deer management guidelines are adopted to allow for abundant older age class animals, and low hunter density during late-season hunts.

Existing hunt guidelines for the North Kaibab include direction that hunting permits should be adjusted to obtain greater than 20 bucks for every 100 does, take advantage of high fawn recruitment years, and reduce hunting pressure in years with below-average fawn recruitment.

In 2004, the Arizona Deer Association (ADA) and other interested sportsmen expressed concerns that cliffrose use monitoring conducted annually by the department on the Kaibab winter range might be inadequate for determining if the number of deer were compatible with the amount of food. Together, the department and the ADA collaborated on a research study to examine the deer herd's relationship to the winter range.

Although the final analyses have yet to be completed, one thing is clear: The cliffrose monitoring is not adequate to detect effects of mule deer abundance on winter range. A survey conducted this year indicates that population models, recalibrated after a 2004 survey, are right on the money. Hunt recommendations for North Kaibab mule deer hunts for fall 2009 will be made without reference to forage monitoring.

When the research analyses are complete in early summer 2009, hunt guidelines will incorporate suggested changes and will be presented to the Game and Fish Commission for their approval in August 2009.


Next commission meeting is March 6-7 in Phoenix

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission is Friday, March 6 and Saturday, March 7, at the Arizona Game and Fish Department headquarters at 5000 W. Carefree Highway in Phoenix.

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:

  • A briefing on the current status of FY 2009 budget and FY 2010 projected revenue and expenditures for various department funding sources.

  • Request for the commission to approve the acquisition of Phase IV of Coal Mine Canyon in Santa Cruz County to further secure the watershed.

  • Request for commission approval of the program narrative for U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Funds (Federal FY 2009 / State FY 2010).

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

  • Selection of new members of the Heritage Public Advisory Committee.

  • An update on implementation of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan land acquisition program and multi-species conservation planning efforts by Pima County.

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

  • A presentation on the Northern Arizona Regional Shooting Facility, including the current issues, planning efforts, and pending decisions on the proposed Willard Spring land exchange.

  • A briefing on the Hunter Questionnaire Improvement Report prepared by the department.

  • A briefing on the Mountain Lion and Bear Conservation Strategies Report prepared by the department. This presentation is for information purposes only.

  • A presentation on possible approaches that will allow commissioners to engage with the public at additional venues and by additional means other than commission meetings (this item is a follow-up on the commission’s desire to keep constituents across the state engaged in the aftermath of the decision to hold 2009 meetings in Phoenix to save costs during the current budget situation).

The commission may vote to take action or provide the department with direction on the agenda items. For a complete agenda, visit www.azgfd.gov/commission and click on the commission agenda link.


Nestwatchers help bald eagle population grow in Arizona

While you are lying in your bed at night, 20 people are sleeping in tents so they can wake up at the crack of dawn to help protect our state’s bald eagles.

Nestwatchers monitor bald eagle breeding areas each spring.
“For more than 30 years, the nestwatch program has been an integral component of Arizona’s bald eagle management plan,” says Kenneth Jacobson, head of the Arizona Game and Fish Department Bald Eagle Management Program. “Nestwatchers have helped save the lives of over 60 eagle nestlings since the program began in 1978. Their contributions certainly have helped Arizona’s bald eagle population grow.”

This year’s nestwatchers began their four-month tour of duty on Feb. 6. They will watch 11 breeding areas, most along the Salt and Verde rivers in national forests, on Native American lands, and in Maricopa County parks. The contractors will observe from dawn to dusk, collecting data about the eagles’ behavior, educating the public, and notifying rescuers of any life-threatening situations for the birds.

Breeding area closures have been a part of successful bald eagle management in Arizona.
The nestwatch program began as a weekend volunteer effort by the U.S.D.A. Forest Service and Maricopa Audubon to help ensure the continued success of bald eagle breeding. Now 23 agencies are involved with the program to monitor bald eagle breeding areas that are under heavy pressure from human recreational activities.

A recent statewide survey identified four new breeding areas, bringing the total number of breeding sites in Arizona to 59. In addition, at least 11 eggs have already hatched, 36 pairs of bald eagles have laid eggs for the year, and a total of 42 breeding areas are occupied by breeding adults. By the end of the breeding season, biologists expect nearly 50 pairs of bald eagles to breed in Arizona this year.


Public scoping comment deadline on fish stocking program is March 6

The department annually stocks more than 3 million fish for anglers to catch in approximately 160 lakes, rivers and streams.
If you would like to submit comments regarding Arizona’s sport-fish stocking program, the deadline is March 6.

The public comment period for scoping was reopened last month. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Arizona Game and Fish Department are seeking assistance with identifying the extent and variety of issues that may be associated with fish stockings in the state. The agencies 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.

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.

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

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

During the initial comment period during November and December, Game and Fish 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.

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.

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.


Ride responsibly when using OHVs while hunting

Off-highway vehicles (OHVs), specifically all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), provide good help during hunting season. Each year more and more people are using them. Because ATVs are easier than walking, can access terrain that most vehicles cannot, and can assist in the retrieval of game, they provide an advantage to hunters across Arizona.

When out in the field, remember, in Arizona it is illegal to hunt from any vehicle, and OHV rules and laws designate that no one may use a motor vehicle to assist in the taking of wildlife (except as permitted under the Challenged Hunter Access Mobility Permit, A.R.S. 17-301B).

We recommend that if you see anyone hunting from an ATV, call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-352-0700.

One of the main concerns associated with OHV use is the impact to wildlife habitat. Most OHV users are responsible riders who recognize the impacts their activity can cause, and they voluntarily take steps to reduce them. TREAD lightly, a national coalition that promotes outdoor ethics and stewardship, has created a list of 10 tips for treading lightly while hunting. In Arizona, eight of the “TREAD lightly 10” apply to our hunters, so they allowed us to use those eight and we added two more to make it a top 10:

  1. Always keep your vehicle on roads and designated OHV trails. Never make your own shortcuts, switchbacks or trails.

  2. Check with local land managers regarding game retrieval regulations. Typically, you should get as close as possible to your game without driving off the road or trail, and then travel by foot to the site of your kill.

  3. Flagging and marking trails is unsightly. If flagging is necessary, remove it as you leave.

  4. Avoid sensitive areas. Steer clear of stream banks, lakeshores and meadows whenever possible. Remember, motorized vehicles are not allowed in areas designated as “wilderness.”

  5. Carry out what you carry in. Pick up shell casings (yours and others) whenever possible. Never litter and avoid burning or burying trash.

  6. If you must cross a stream while driving, do so only at approved fording points (usually where the trail crosses the water). Cross slowly at a 90-degree angle.

  7. Observe proper sanitary waste disposal by burying human waste 6-8 inches deep and at least 200 feet from trails, campsites, lakes and streams.

  8. Educate yourself and be prepared. Make sure you also have the right maps, equipment and clothing to make your trip safe. 

  9. Tell someone where you are going and when you will return.

  10. When carrying a rifle or shotgun on an ATV, it should be unloaded and firmly attached to the vehicle. It is unsafe to carry a rifle or shotgun mounted on the handlebars, because a rifle mounted on handlebars might be longer than the width of an ATV and stick out over the sides. This increases the chance of having the rifle hit something such as a tree, causing the driver to lose control.

For more information about safe, ethical and responsible OHV use during hunting season, go to our Web site at www.azgfd.gov/ohv.


Condors from Oregon and Idaho to join Arizona’s flock

Four California condors will be released into the wild on March 7.
Come witness a rare and spectacular sight that few places outside Arizona can offer: the release into the wild of endangered California condors. The public is invited to attend the 14th annual release on Saturday, March 7 at 11 a.m. when four condors will be released at the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.

“It’s always a thrill to add more individuals to this growing flock, as well as to see them producing young successfully on their own in the wild,” says Chris Parish, condor field project supervisor with The Peregrine Fund, the group releasing the birds.

Of the birds to be released, one was hatched and reared at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Idaho, and the other three originated from the Oregon Zoo’s captive breeding program. 

“Arizona is privileged to be home to one of only three wild California condor populations in the world, so residents and visitors to our state have a unique opportunity to watch this release,” says Kathy Sullivan, a condor biologist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “The public gets really into the release, waiting for the birds to come out and trying to subliminally encourage them to take that first flight out of the holding pen.” 

Once numbering only 22 birds, 169 California condors now grace the skies of California, Mexico and Arizona. The original 22 birds were captured in the 1980s in an effort to save the species through captive breeding. Condors produced in captivity are now periodically released to help grow the wild populations.

Condors were added to the federal endangered species list in 1967. 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 into Arizona in 1996, and there are now 67 in the state. Visitors to the Grand Canyon are often able to observe the birds during the spring and summer, and they can be seen at the Vermilion Cliffs during the winter.

Lead poisoning is 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.  

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, encourage hunters to continue their 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.  Contacts made with hunters in the field show that 90 percent of hunters took measures in 2008 to reduce the amount of lead available to condors.

To view the condor release: Drive north on Highway 89 out of Flagstaff. Turn left (west) onto Highway 89A toward Jacob Lake and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Drive about 25 miles past Marble Canyon until you turn right onto House Rock Valley Road (BLM Road 1065). Travel about three miles to a shaded viewing area on the right. On top of the cliffs to your east will be the location where the condors are released. The release site is approximately one mile from the viewing point. Biologists will be on-site to answer questions and several spotting scopes will be available to the public, although participants are encouraged to bring their own binoculars or spotting scopes for better viewing. Pack cold weather clothing, drinks and sunscreen.

The release site at the Vermilion Cliffs Monument features a new informational kiosk, shade structure and restroom built by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The condor reintroduction in Arizona is a joint project of many partners, including Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Peregrine Fund, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Kaibab National Forest and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

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


Increased firearms sales set a positive trend for upcoming outdoor events in Arizona

The recent reports of increased firearms and ammunition sales across the nation set a positive note for upcoming shooting events and outdoor shows in Arizona despite the nation’s challenging economic downturn, said Arizona Game and Fish Department officials.

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, firearms sales in the nation jumped 28.8 percent in January, for a variety of reasons.

In addition, Winchester previously announced that ammunition sales were up 18 percent in the last quarter of 2008 compared to the previous year.

According to CNNMoney.com recently, there was an 11-percent increase during January of single-day campground reservations over last year, indicating outdoor recreation remains hugely popular even in this economy. (For information about inexpensive family camping vacations, visit http://camping.about.com/b/2008/12/30/camping-outlook-2009.htm).

At the recent SHOT Show in Florida, which is the annual retail trade show for those in the outdoor industry, attendance increased 3 percent this year.

“Yes, economic times are tough and it’s obvious that lots of people are facing financial hardships. But lots of folks also respond to such challenging times by realizing the things that matter most to them – family, friends and the outdoors – can be enjoyed without a big hit on the family budget,” said Gary Hovatter, deputy director for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Hovatter said the department remains optimistic about the public’s participation in upcoming national shooting events and regional outdoor shows on the immediate horizon in Arizona.

“These are all fun and exciting outdoor events for families and individuals that don’t challenge the wallet or purse,” Hovatter said. “Plus, with the fact that we are experiencing back-to-back years of excellent winter precipitation, the prognosis couldn’t be better for enhanced wildlife-related recreation opportunities in Arizona this year from hunting and fishing to wildlife watching and camping.”

The upcoming parade of popular shooting events, outdoor shows and nature festivals include:

  • Winter Range, the crowd-pleasing national championship for cowboy action shooting, is unfolding Feb. 25-March 1 at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility.

  • The ever-popular International Sportsmen’s Exposition (ISE) is Feb. 27-March 1 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

  • The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Outdoor Expo that abounds with hands-on activities at the 1,700-acre Ben Avery Shooting Facility is set for March 28 and 29 (with a youth day for schools on March 27).

  • Tres Rios Nature and Earth Festival, which is a wildlife-watchers delight, is March 7-8 at the Game and Fish Department’s Base and Meridian Wildlife Area where Avondale Boulevard meets the Gila River.

  • The Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival has become an annual spring celebration and is scheduled for April 23-26.

“Are most people willing to spend more during these challenging economic times? Probably not, but reconnecting with family outdoor traditions remains a great value, especially this year with the lakes filling and our diverse habitats greening up nicely,” Hovatter said.

Hovatter added that for most families, finding fishing tackle, binoculars, shootin’ irons, wildlife calls and camping equipment is mostly a matter of digging through garages and closets or calling friends and relatives.

Game and Fish officials added that there are opportunities for outdoor-related businesses and organizations to participate in the department’s upcoming outdoor expo in late March. Visit www.azgfd.gov/expo for more information, or see the article in this newsletter.


Escape to a bygone era when Pistoleros roamed the Wild West
Come out to “Winter Range” at Ben Avery Shooting Facility

The cowboy action shooters will be competing this weekend at Winter Range.
Hankering to escape this hectic century and get into a rootin’ tootin’ six-gun frame of mind while traveling back to that bygone era when steel-eyed Pistoleros roamed the wild West?

Well pard, just hop on your old cayuse and mosey over to the Single Action Shooting Society’s national shooting competition during the annual Winter Range on Feb. 25-March 1 at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility, which is just a short trail ride along I-17 to the outskirts of town along Carefree Highway.

Be sure to peruse the wanted posters because you might just run into pistol-packin’ characters like E.Z. Shot, Nine Toe Joe, or Mad Coyote. Also, stop by and say howdy to Pea Patch in her feathered hat or the entertaining Brighton Belle as well.

Yep, those are the trail names of real-life characters from the Arizona Territorial Company of Rough Riders who are helping to stage this classic cowboy event, but in the spirit of the old West, those names are not necessarily the ones town marshals or Pinkertons will uncover on their birth certificates.

You can even don your rowdy cowboy garb and come do a little Western play acting yourself - it’s all part of visiting or participating in this crowd-pleasing national cowboy action shooting competition where you can see shooters compete using authentic or replica Western firearms.

You might be flabbergasted by quick-shooting main match participants using firearms from the late 1800s or be thrilled by horse-mounted desperadoes galloping full speed across the desert floor to blast balloons with their trusty six guns.

Don’t miss a visit to Sutlers Row, where good folks will be offering their wares, ranging from period firearms and clothing to leather goods and fancy folderol, plus hundreds of articles used by working cowboys and town folk of the era.

What’s more, period militaria from the Indian Wars to Cuba will be on display.

It’s another piece of history coming to life in the picturesque upper Sonoran desert of the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s 1,700-acre Ben Avery Shooting Facility, which is the largest multi-purpose public shooting facility in the United States.

You can also hang around for Saturday night grub and be entertained by “Pioneer Pepper and the Sunset Pioneers,” who will take you back to the nostalgic era when singing cowboys livened up the nights (or the Silver Screen) with their Wild West musical shows.

By the way, you can enjoy this exciting Wild West event for free, but please bring a $5 donation to tie your horse to the hitchin’ rail or park your ranch wagon near the horse corrals.

Plus, there’ll be plenty of tender beef steak, strong cowboy coffee and savory range-cooked beans from the vendors (along with lots of other food), so you can hang on the feed bag while rambling about.

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.

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.


Tres Rios Nature Festival scheduled for March 7-8 in Avondale

The Tres Rios Nature and Earth Festival is fast approaching! The 2009 family-friendly festival will be held on March 7-8 at the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Base and Meridian Wildlife Area (B&M Wildlife Area) in Avondale, Ariz.

Held near the confluence of the Gila, Salt and Agua Fria rivers, the festival is held in cooperation with the Wildlife for Tomorrow Foundation and local communities, and celebrates the rivers, wildlife, outdoors, history and heritage of the area and Arizona.

Festival hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both days. Admission is free.

Event highlights include:

  • Fishing clinics
  • Bird watching
  • Wildlife displays
  • Canoe trips
  • Hiking tours
  • ‘Green’, historical and nature education displays 
  • Children’s nature and fun zone 
  • Entertainment from local entertainers such as the renowned ‘Back Porch Bandits’
  • Food and craft items for sale

The event at Base and Meridian Wildlife Area is located adjacent to the Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, five miles south of I-10 on Avondale Boulevard (7602 S. Avondale Blvd., Avondale, AZ 85323).

For more information, visit www.tresriosnaturefestival.com or call (623) 204-2130.


2009 Game and Fish Outdoor Expo to be best yet
Mark your calendars for March 28-29

Target archery is just one of the many fun activities at the Outdoor Expo.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Outdoor Expo is Arizona’s largest ‘outdoor’ 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 camping, hunting, fishing, wildlife conservation, off-highway vehicle riding and boating.

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

There’s loads of activities—test your skill at target archery, see live wildlife, observe bass fishing demonstrations, try out firearms on the shooting range, see off-highway vehicles such as rock crawlers and learn about responsible OHV recreation, 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, view live wildlife such as birds of prey and reptiles, and see exciting demonstrations by groups such as the Cowboy Action Shooters.

Visit with more than 100 ‘outdoor’ vendors and exhibitors that include sportsmen’s/wildlife conservation groups, firearms manufacturers, government agencies, outdoor product retailers, specialty shooting organizations, and more.

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

So you don’t miss a thing, trolley transportation is available throughout the 1,700-acre shooting facility, which is located on Carefree Highway, ½ mile west of Interstate 17. Plan on an all-day event. Although the event is free, you might want to bring some cash for food and beverages at the food court, or for purchasing ammunition (nominal fee) if you want to try out firearms on the range.

This year’s Gold Sponsors are Pierce Bullet Seal Target Systems and the American Red Cross, Grand Canyon Chapter. To learn more about our sponsors, visit www.pbsts.com or www.arizonaredcross.org.

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) 942-3000.

Getting outdoors and experiencing outdoor recreation is a great way to spend time with friends and family. More than 26,000 people attended last year’s Expo. Come on out – it’s fun and it’s free, and that’s a tough combination to beat!