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Wildlife News - Dec. 3, 2011

Posted in: Wildlife News
Dec 2, 2011
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  • A perfect holiday gift – leftover spring hunt tags still available
  • Arizona Game and Fish Department unveils HabiMap™ Arizona
  • Outdoor recreationists asked to help bald eagles during breeding season
  • Game and Fish confirms report of jaguar in southern Arizona
  • Prevalence of jaguars in Arizona: How endangered species sighting reports are classified
  • Operation Game Thief offering $500 reward in bald eagle killing
  • Game and Fish officers to get more help in OHV DUI efforts
  • Cause of death of Mexican wolf determined to be lightning

A perfect holiday gift – leftover spring hunt tags still available

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Looking for the perfect holiday gift for the hunter in your family?

There are still tags left over from the spring draw for javelina, turkey and archery bear. Starting Dec. 5, hunters interested in pursuing a springtime harvest can purchase one of these leftover tags in person at any Game and Fish office on a first-come, first-served basis. To apply, hunters will need to submit an application with the four-digit hunt number from the listing of leftover tags.

There are plenty of great spring hunts to choose from:

Javelina

For those interested in hunting javelina, there are permits remaining for every hunt type including:

  • Archery-only javelina, Jan. 1-26, 2012
  • Juniors-only javelina, Jan. 27 – Feb. 5, 2012
  • H.A.M. (handgun, archery and muzzleloader) javelina, Feb. 10-19, 2012
  • General (rifle) javelina, Feb. 24-March 1, 2012

Turkey

Spring turkey gobbler permits remaining will put hunters in excellent turkey country when these gregarious birds are displaying their courting rituals of strutting and gobbling, including:

  • Juniors-only spring turkey (limited weapon shotgun shooting shot), Apr. 20-26 and May 11-24, 2012
  • General spring turkey (limited weapon shotgun shooting shot), seasons vary starting April 27 and closing May 24, 2012

Bear

For those adventurous archery hunters, test your skills hunting spring bear (permits available in a couple of units) during the following season:

  • Archery-only spring bear, May 4 – July 31, 2012

Leftover hunt permit-tags still also can be purchased (first-come, first-served basis) by mail application to: Arizona Game and Fish Department, Attn: Draw/First Come, 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086.

Hunters are reminded they will need a 2012 hunting license to apply. Licenses can be purchased through the application process, at Game and Fish offices and website, or at more than 300 license dealers statewide.


Arizona Game and Fish Department unveils HabiMap™ Arizona
Web-based tool helps proactively plan for Arizona’s wildlife

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The Arizona Game and Fish Department has launched an innovative new tool that utilizes the latest mapping technology to put wildlife data at your fingertips.

HabiMap™ Arizona is a user-friendly, web-based data viewer that allows users to visually explore the distribution of the State’s wildlife, wildlife conservation potential, and stressors to wildlife.

“This is a great example of how technology can be used to assist in transparent wildlife conservation and project planning,” Arizona Game and Fish Department Director Larry Voyles said. “We’re excited to offer a tool that not only allows the Department to better manage wildlife at a statewide scale, but also can be used to help address the growth needs of our state.”

Information available through HabiMap™ Arizona is non-regulatory and may be useful in making decisions about our state’s future growth by considering wildlife early in the planning process. Tools such as HabiMap™ Arizona can help ensure that current and future generations are able to experience Arizona’s rich wildlife heritage. “I can’t think of a better way for the Arizona Game and Fish Department to proactively plan for the future of Arizona’s wildlife,” Jonny Fugate, Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club.

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“Arizona will continue to grow, so the question is not if but how we grow. HabiMap™ Arizona is a tool that can help us have both a healthy economy and healthy wildlife populations,” said Rob Marshall, The Nature Conservancy Director, Center for Science & Public Policy. “We appreciate the department’s investment in developing tools with the capacity to expand and grow as our state changes.”

HabiMap™ Arizona is a component of the Department’s State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP), which provides a framework for helping to set the state’s wildlife conservation priorities. HabiMap™ Arizona provides a visual representation of the Species and Habitat Conservation Guide, which includes more than 300 layers of wildlife data and other information to identify the conservation potential at a statewide level.

Through aggressive protection, management and educational programs, the Arizona Game and Fish Department conserves, enhances, and restores Arizona's diverse wildlife resources. The Department also provides information and suggestions on how you can enjoy and appreciate Arizona’s wildlife. Learn more about the Department at www.azgfd.gov. To learn more about HabiMap™ Arizona, please visit www.habimap.org.


Outdoor recreationists asked to help bald eagles during breeding season

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Each year as part of its highly successful program to manage and conserve bald eagles in the state, the Arizona Game and Fish Department asks outdoor recreationists to help protect important eagle 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 55 breeding pairs of bald eagles. Some of the closure areas are located near popular recreation sites.

“Bald eagles continue to do well in Arizona, but they are sensitive to human activity during the breeding season and it can take as little as 30 minutes of leaving the eggs uncovered for a breeding attempt to fail,” says Kenneth Jacobson, head of the Arizona Game and Fish Department Bald Eagle Management Program. “Cooperation from outdoor recreationists during the breeding season has been a major reason that the population continues to grow.”

The bald eagle was federally listed as an endangered species in 1978. Nationally, the birds recovered enough to be removed from the list in 2007.

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.

Game and Fish’s bald eagle management efforts are supported by the Heritage Fund, an initiative passed 20 years ago to provide for wildlife education and conservation through Arizona lottery ticket sales.

AIRSPACE ADVISORY

Statewide

  • Statewide – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has established a 2000-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 2000-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, but no stopping in the river or landing is permitted. 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.

Crescent Lake

  • A portion of the entrance road may be restricted to a “no stopping zone” and a portion of land near the parking area may be closed to foot entry from April 1 through July 30. Contact the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, Springerville Ranger District, (928) 333-4372.

Luna Lake

  • Luna Lake is closed to vehicle and foot traffic on the north side from Jan. 1 to June 30. The area adjacent to the nesting closure on the upper end of the lake is closed from Feb. 15 to July 31. Contact Apache National Forest, Alpine Ranger District, (928) 339-4384.

Lynx Lake

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

Lower Lake Mary

  • There may be 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

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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 many 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.


Game and Fish confirms report of jaguar in southern Arizona

The Arizona Game and Fish Department was able to confirm a hunter’s Nov. 19 report of a jaguar southeast of Tucson and collect hair samples from the area for possible DNA testing.
 
Game and Fish categorizes the report as a Class I-10, meaning the report is considered verifiable or highly probable, and visual or physical evidence is provided and confirmed. 

The report was initially received on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 9 a.m. from an experienced hunter using dogs to hunt mountain lions. The dogs pursued a large cat that was treed approximately 15 feet up in a mesquite tree, and the hunter was able to obtain photographs and video. After photographing the animal, the hunter quickly left the area with his dogs and observed from a distant point. The animal remained treed for approximately 15 minutes and then headed south.

Based on the images, biologists believe the cat is an adult male jaguar that appeared in good, healthy condition and weighed approximately 200 pounds.

Biologists who have viewed the photos consider them to be of excellent quality with considerable detail. In the future, the department hopes to compare the photos and video to images of other jaguars photographed throughout Arizona in the past. They will try to use comparisons between a jaguar’s unique spots, or “rosettes,” to determine if the animal has been identified previously.

Four of the last five confirmed jaguar sightings in Arizona have been reported by hunters, who all took responsible action to document the animal, report it to Game and Fish, and leave the area once the animal was identified as a jaguar. These hunters have provided biologists with critical information that may not otherwise be known, information that will help increase the understanding of the species’ existence in the borderland area.

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. 

Jaguars once ranged from southern South America through Central America and Mexico and into the southern United States. It is believed that southern Arizona is the most northern part of the range for a population of jaguars living in Sonora, Mexico. As noted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a 2006 report, it appears there is “regular intermittent use of the borderlands area by wide-ranging males.” The report also observes that “no indication of the presence of females or cubs, indicates that physical and biological features in the U.S. may allow individual transients to survive, at least temporarily, but do not support a breeding population.”

Jaguars are the only cat in North America that roar. They prey on a variety of mammals, fish, birds and reptiles. Females breed year-round and have litters of one to four cubs that stay with their mother for nearly two years. 


Prevalence of jaguars in Arizona: How endangered species sighting reports are classified

Have you seen a jaguar in southern Arizona? To distinguish these possible sightings from young mountain lions, bobcats or even a large housecat, the Arizona Game and Fish Department uses a three-tiered classification system to rank reported sightings from the public based on the level of physical evidence available.

Often a confirmed sighting of a rare species, like the recent observation of a male jaguar by a mountain lion hunter, will generate an increase in public reports.

“The public’s involvement with wildlife and their willingness to contact the department is very valuable,” says Gary Hovatter, deputy director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “The outcome of the vast majority of these reports demonstrates that rare species truly are rare, but every public report represents an opportunity for the department to potentially learn more about the state’s wildlife and Arizonans interest in it.” 

Game and Fish receives as many as 60-80 jaguar and ocelot sighting reports from the public per year in southern Arizona. In all but rare cases, the department’s policy is to follow-up and investigate these reports.
Wildlife managers visit the location of the possible sighting and attempt to recover tracks, scat, hair, scrapes and any other evidence that would help lead to a definitive identification of the reported animal. 

The presence of physical evidence such as scat, hair or photos and video can lead to a classification of “verifiable” or “highly probable.” In the most recent instance of a jaguar sighting report from a member of the public, high-quality photos and video evidence were available and helped biologists arrive at this classification. In addition, the department collected hair samples that they will attempt to use for a DNA analysis, which will further confirm the sighting as a jaguar. 

A second-tier classification is one that lacks physical evidence, but is considered “probable” or “possible” because the sighting was made by an experienced or reliable observer that usually has wildlife or field experience. In June, a Border Patrol pilot on routine patrol sighted a large copper-colored cat with spots and a long tail in forested mountains north of the Mexican border.  The pilot was not able to provide physical evidence and a field investigation by the department did not yield any evidence. Therefore, the sighting was considered “probable,” but not confirmed, as the pilot has extensive field experience and was able to make several passes over the animal to view it at different angles.

Game and Fish encourages the public to report sightings of what they believe to be an ocelot or jaguar by calling the Operation Game Thief hotline at (800) 352-0700.  Reports will be followed up with site visits by officers and biologists, so people should take care to provide location details (GPS or map) and not disturb any of the area around the site.


Operation Game Thief offering $500 reward in bald eagle killing

The Arizona Game and Fish Department's Operation Game Thief program is offering a $500 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case of a dead bald eagle found by a hiker Nov. 21 in the Tucson Mountains.
 
The eagle carcass was found in a paper bag with rocks piled on top. It was located on a mountainside approximately 300 yards north of the Tucson Mountain Park parking area atop Gates Pass, where it may have been killed. The eagle’s tail and primary feathers had been removed, along with the feet.

Game and Fish officials believe the eagle was dead a few days before being discovered. Individuals with information about the case are urged to call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-352-0700, anonymously if need be, and reference OGT # 11-001867. Information may also be provided online at http://www.azgfd.gov/ogt_form.shtml.

The bald eagle was removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in 2007.


Game and Fish officers to get more help in OHV DUI efforts

The Arizona Game and Fish Department received a grant for $4,000 from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety which allows for the purchase of eight Preliminary Breath Testing (PBT) devices.

These devices are field-based units that can help determine if someone is driving or operating under the influence. In Arizona, .08 is the legal limit for driving any motor vehicle or operating a boat.

“The department’s objective is to increase our DUI enforcement efforts through off-highway vehicle (OHV) patrol efforts,” said Jimmy Simmons, OHV law enforcement program manager. “With the nine new law enforcement specialists we have employed, these PBTs will be used on their OHV patrol efforts, task force operations and DUI/OHV details, to aid them in apprehending OHV operators that are driving under the influence.

The use of the PBTs should help decrease the chance of off-highway collisions or accidents before they occur, and in addition, keep people from driving under the influence on the state’s roadways.

The department is training officers in Advanced Roadside Impaired Driver Enforcement (ARIDE) and Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) training, which will also ramp up efforts to make the state a safer place to recreate on and off the highway as well as on our state’s waters.

The Arizona Governor's Office of Highway Safety is the focal point for highway safety issues in Arizona. GOHS is a cabinet agency that provides leadership by developing, promoting, and coordinating programs; influencing public and private policy; and increasing public awareness of highway safety.

For more information on OHV education programs and law enforcement efforts by the AZGFD, go online to www.azgfd.gov/ohv.


Cause of death of Mexican wolf determined to be lightning

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel at the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Lab in Oregon have determined the cause of death for a Mexican wolf found dead in August in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (ASNF) of eastern Arizona. Necropsy test results revealed it was killed by a lightning strike. The wolf, known as AF1110, was the alpha female for the Hawks Nest Pack.

Members of the Interagency Field Team (IFT) were initially alerted to the situation when they received a mortality signal from the animal’s telemetry collar during a routine survey. Upon investigating the site the following day, they located and recovered the carcass in an open meadow containing standing water. There were frequent, strong thunderstorms in this area during the latter part of August.

The Hawks Nest Pack was one of three packs in Arizona directly affected by the Wallow Fire this past summer – the largest wildfire on record in Arizona. The fire burned over the pack’s primary den site in June. However, AF1110 and other pack members were able to move the pups-of-the-year to a safer area nearby. The IFT documented that AF1110 produced at least six pups this year.

Current surviving pack members include adult male AM1038, juvenile female f1208, and two pups wearing telemetry collars – male pup mp1244 and female pup fp1247. At least one other pup is currently traveling with the pack. Another yearling male captured and collared by the IFT in October, m1248, is alive, but no longer traveling with the pack. AM1038 is most likely the sire of the pups produced by the Hawks Nest Pack this year. The pups are weaned and have been traveling with the other pack members throughout the pack’s territory on the ASNF.

AF1110 was one of the most consistent breeding females in the reintroduction project over the past few years. The breeding male from the Hawks Nest Pack was illegally killed in 2010, but AF1110 apparently established a bond with AM1038 earlier this year. AM1038 had previously been the breeding male for the Fox Mountain Pack in New Mexico. Its telemetry collar apparently ceased working effectively, as the IFT last located the collar signal in December 2009 during a routine aerial telemetry flight. This past October, the IFT located AM1038 once again, but now traveling with the other Hawks Nest members in the pack’s traditional territory.

Mexican wolf reintroduction in the Southwest is a joint effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, White Mountain Apache Tribe, USDA Forest Service, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service - Wildlife Services, and other stakeholders.

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.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.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.
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