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Wildlife News - March 21, 2014

Posted in: Wildlife News
Mar 21, 2014
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  • Countdown to the Outdoor Expo
  • Mr. Whiskers returns to a community lake near you
  • Sign up for special fundraising event to save recreational shooting opportunities
  • Decreased lead levels in condors this year leave program officials cautiously optimistic
  • You can make a difference for nongame wildlife at tax time 
  • Arizona Game and Fish Commission takes action on Heritage Fund spending proposal before the Legislature  

Countdown to the Outdoor Expo

There are just seven days left until gates open at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 29, for the two-day Arizona Game and Fish Outdoor Expo at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility in Phoenix. Admission and parking are free. There is a nominal fee of $5 or less for some shooting sports (.22 rifles, shotguns, pistols). Join us for this day of family fun, where there’s something to interest and intrigue everyone.
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  • NEW - Kayaking on “Lake Paddlemore”
  • Kids’ catch-and-release fishing and keepsake photo
  • Try out shotguns, pistols, rifles, black powder firearms, and more (adults and youngsters)
  • Archery target shooting
  • Cowboy Mounted Shooting competitions
  • Rock crawlers – OHVs – ATVs
  • Hawks, reptiles, small mammals and other critters
  • Live presentations on birds of prey, urban fishing, reptiles and more
  • Fishing pro demonstrations
  • Boating and safety exhibits
  • Hunting dog presentation
  • Navigate a field course
  • Food, beverage and concessions for sale by vendors
  • 150 exhibitors – outdoor recreation, conservation groups, displays by firearm manufacturers, and more
Concessionaires will have food and beverages available for purchase, and many accept only cash. There is a nominal charge for ammunition at some of the target shooting venues.

Expo hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 29, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 30.  The 2014 Outdoor Expo is easy to get to, located on Carefree Highway, about 1/2 mile west of Interstate 17 in Phoenix.

Gold sponsors of this year’s Outdoor Expo are Cabela’s, Arizona State Credit Union, and Waste Management. Silver sponsors are Sportsman’s Warehouse, Iron City Polaris, Mule Deer Foundation, AWC Silencers, National Rifle Association, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation, the Weatherby Foundation, and Arizona State Parks.

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


Mr. Whiskers returns to a community lake near you
 
To urban anglers, the onset of spring also means the return of the feisty (and tasty) catfish -- more than 15,600 pounds of it.

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On Friday, March 21, the core Phoenix and Tucson Community Fishing Program lakes and ponds (22 waters) will be stocked with channel catfish that average 1.5 to 2 pounds. According to our Arkansas-based contractor, these catfish have typically run from 14-19 inches in length.
In addition, 3,800 pounds of bluegill will be stocked into the same lakes and ponds.

The community lake water temperatures have risen into the 60s, triggering the annual stocking changeover from winter trout to spring catfish. The final winter trout stockings were completed March 8.

“This annual switchover to catfish is now a thriving tradition and an excellent way to get families out fishing,” said Community Fishing Program Manager Scott Gurtin, who has recently replaced longtime CFP manager Eric Swanson (retired). “We have been working hard with our municipal partners to grow from 21 to 36 waters. In addition, we’ve made major changes to our license structure to make it simple, affordable, and fun for the family to get engaged in fishing opportunities within the metro areas.”

Beginning with this spring kick-off stocking, catfish will be stocked every two weeks into most CFP lakes, and every two months into CFP ponds, through mid-June. See a 2014 Community Fishing Guidebook for more details.

Channel catfish are best caught using a hook and sinker setup fished on the bottom. Anglers should use 6 to 10-pound test line, depending on the amount of structure in the area (use heavier line when fishing near structures), with a No. 2 to No. 6 baitholder hook and typical catfish baits such as worms, stink baits, hot dogs, liver or shrimp. Target deep waters around midday and shallower waters after dark.

To fish any of the 36 Community Fishing waters, kids under age 10 fish for free. Youth ages 10-17 may fish with the new Youth Combo Hunt/Fish license for only $5.

For adults 18 and over, choices include the Community Fishing license for $24 (good at the 36 CFP locations for residents or nonresidents), the General Fishing license for $37 ($55 for nonresidents), or the Combo Hunt/Fish license for $57 ($160 for nonresidents). Both the General Fishing License and the Combo Hunt/Fish license are valid statewide and at CFP locations, and are valid for 365 days from purchase.

Trout and two-pole privileges are now included in these options. Buy licenses online.

For more information on the CFP, including maps, fish stocking schedules, regulations and fishing tips, pick up a free 2014 Community Fishing Program Guidebook that is available at more than 300 license dealer locations and Game and Fish offices, or download one online.



Sign up for special fundraising event to save recreational shooting opportunities

Tread Lightly! and the Arizona Game and Fish Department are hosting a Fun Shoot and Steak Dinner on Saturday, April 12, to raise funding to implement education and engagement strategies designed to save recreational shooting opportunities on public and private lands in Arizona.

The Respected Access is Open Access campaign is aimed at protecting and enhancing access and opportunities by fostering an enhanced sense of resource stewardship and responsible recreation throughout the outdoor recreation community.

You can sign up either for the Fun Shoot and Steak Dinner, or just for the Steak Dinner Only. Both events will take place on April 12 at the Ben Avery Clay Target Center at 5060 W. Skeet Street in Phoenix (off Carefree Highway, 1.5 miles west of I-17).

  • Fun Shoot and Steak Dinner. Fun Shoot runs from 2-5 p.m., Steak Dinner runs from 5-8 p.m. Price is $100 if you register by March 31, $125 if you register after March 31. Includes targets, two boxes of ammo and raffle tickets.
  • Steak Dinner Only. Runs from 5-8 p.m. Price is $50 if you register by March 31, $75 if you register after March 31.

Space is limited, so pre-registration is requested. To register online, visit https://treadlightly.thankyou4caring.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=379&erid=423072&trid=d581ba12-8ca2-44e2-abed-087364c1911a.


Decreased lead levels in condors this year leave program officials cautiously optimistic
       
Annual trapping and testing of endangered California condors from the Arizona-Utah population this season revealed a substantial decrease in the percentage of birds with toxic blood-lead levels, the lowest in nearly a decade.

“The ups and downs of lead poisoning over the years demonstrate that any single season does not make a trend, but our test results are encouraging,” said Eddie Feltes, field manager for The Peregrine Fund’s condor project. “If this ends up being the beginning of a trend, we hope it will continue.”

Biologists and wildlife officials say the decline is a significant improvement over last year, which was the second worst year on record for lead exposure and condor deaths since condors were reintroduced to Arizona in 1996.

Test results since September show:

  • 16 percent of condors trapped and tested revealed blood-lead levels indicating extreme lead exposure compared with 42 percent of birds last season.
  • The number of condors requiring chelation treatment dropped to 11 birds compared with 28 last season.

Partners in the condor recovery effort feel hunters’ voluntary use of non-lead ammunition and other lead-reduction efforts that they have taken may be one reason for the decrease in lead toxicity levels and mortalities. Other factors possibly influencing results include an unseasonably mild winter and the ability for condors to forage far and wide and consume a variety of food types.

Condor_bloodwork_web.jpg
Chris Parish, condor program coordinator for The Peregrine Fund, said, “Condors and other scavengers benefit from the remains of carcasses left in the field by hunters, but our research has revealed that lead bullets can fragment into tiny pieces, sometimes spreading widely upon impact in an animal’s body, thereby increasing the potential for lead exposure if lead-based ammunition was used.”

To address these challenges, the Arizona Game and Fish Department began a program in 2005 to educate hunters on the use of non-lead ammunition to help condors. During the fall 2013 hunts, 88 percent of hunters in the condor’s core range voluntarily used non-lead ammunition or took other lead-reduction efforts like removing affected gut piles from the field. Hunters in this area have supported the voluntary use of non-lead ammunition at rates greater than 80 percent for the past seven years.

“Hunters and shooters are the only ones who can solve this problem, and I believe we are well on our way. We identified a problem, proposed a reasonable solution and, most important, we asked for help,” Parish said. “Change is happening, resulting in less lead available to condors and other scavengers each year, making the goal of recovery ever more possible.”  

Since 2002, condors have been expanding their range, becoming increasingly self-sufficient as they find wildlife and domestic livestock that died naturally and feeding on all types of large animals. In response to the condors’ movement into southern Utah, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources recently completed a second year of outreach and incentives to reduce lead exposure in that portion of the condor’s range.  
    
The recovery effort is a cooperative program by federal, state, and private partners, including The Peregrine Fund, Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Strip Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management, Grand Canyon and Zion national parks, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and Kaibab and Dixie national forests.

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


You can make a difference for nongame wildlife at tax time

Did you know that your state taxes do not support the conservation of Arizona’s wildlife, but your donations do? Taxpayers can help the state’s wildlife at tax time by “making a mark” on their state income tax form.

The Arizona Wildlife Fund is a voluntary program that allows Arizona taxpayers to make a donation to specifically help imperiled and endangered wildlife, including majestic bald eagles, black-footed ferrets, California condors, Apache trout, Mexican wolves and desert tortoises, among other nongame species.

“Since Game and Fish does not receive any general fund dollars, the Arizona Wildlife Fund provides important support for managing and conserving some of the state’s most iconic native species,” says Mike Rabe, nongame branch chief for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “The fund goes only to nongame species that are not hunted or fished, and the cumulative effect of even a dollar can have a tremendous impact on conserving one of Arizona’s greatest natural treasures -- its wildlife.”

Arizona is one of 41 states that allow taxpayers to make a contribution to worthwhile causes. Since Arizona started the program more than 25 years ago, taxpayers have donated more than $5 million to the conservation of nongame animals. Nongame are wildlife species that are neither hunted nor fished in a traditional sense.

Last year, the average donation was more than $21.

The Arizona Wildlife Fund box can be found on line “40” of the state’s long income tax form, or line “33” of the short tax form.  

For more information on the Arizona Wildlife Fund, visit www.azgfd.gov/makeamark. To learn more about the conservation and reintroduction efforts the fund supports, visit www.azgfd.gov/w_c/nongame_species.



Arizona Game and Fish Commission takes action on Heritage Fund spending proposal before the Legislature  

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission on March 17 held a meeting to discuss the strike-everything amendment to House Bill 2127, a proposal that would allow the Arizona Game and Fish Department to use Heritage Fund property acquisition funds to operate and maintain (O&M) Heritage Fund properties that the commission owns.

The department recommended that the commission vote not to move the strike-everything amendment forward. The commission voted unanimously to approve the department’s recommendation.

The commission asked the department to provide additional information  and more detail on current O&M expenditures on Heritage Fund acquired properties for a meeting tentatively scheduled for March 28. The commission also asked the department to develop and present a funding solution by Sept. 1 for the commission to consider.

The solution should consider the following: protect the department’s ability to operate current properties and related programming; require future Heritage Fund property acquisitions to have appropriate O&M built into them; and, the solution should not rely on increased use of sportsmen’s dollars to support O&M, nor should it negatively impact the nongame wildlife program.

Constituents expressed concern about the amendment as proposed, that the commission might no longer
acquire properties that benefit wildlife and would perhaps use the full $2.4 million acquisition allocation for O&M. Constituents also expressed concern over the lack of public input on the current proposal. Many of the organizations expressed a desire to work with the department in seeking solutions to these issues. The commission agreed and asked the department to work with interested organizations and the public to develop recommended solutions.

Since voters passed the Heritage Fund Act in 1990, the department has acquired 16 properties that conserve important threatened and or endangered species wildlife habitat.   


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