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Wildlife News - March 23, 2012

Posted in: Wildlife News
Mar 23, 2012
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  • Get ready for next weekend’s Outdoor Expo
  • Urban wildlife are getting active: Tips for avoiding conflicts
  • Preview Arizona’s fall hunting season recommendations at open houses
  • Raymond Wildlife Area east of Flagstaff to close temporarily
  • Spring catfish season now underway at urban lakes
  • Get out and fish during the spring warm-up 
  • U.S. 93 project receives National Environmental Excellence Award
  • Arizonans can help wildlife at tax time


Get ready for next weekend’s Outdoor Expo

Outdoor enthusiasts won’t want to miss the Arizona Game and Fish Department Outdoor Expo form 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 31, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 1, at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility in Phoenix.  Admission and parking are FREE.

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The family-friendly Expo offers loads of activities, exhibits and presentations for people of all ages and skill levels, from novices to seasoned outdoor recreationists.

All of the favorite attractions and activities from Expos in previous years will be offered. There will be live wildlife exhibits featuring hawks, reptiles, and small mammals, huge catch-and-release fishing tanks for kids, target archery, camping demos, the opportunity to try out target shooting on the range, rock crawler demonstrations, field courses, presentations on hunting, fishing, archery and wildlife. There will also be more than 150 exhibitors, including outdoor organizations, government agencies, and vendors of outdoor products and services.

Among the new attractions at this year’s Expo is the Jeep test-drive on a short dirt driving course, sponsored by Airpark Dodge/Ram/Chrysler Jeep.

An expanded boat show will display boats of all kinds, including pontoons, sport boats, fishing boats, cruisers, wakeboard boats, and more. New and used boats will be available for sale by several dealers.

The Arizona Cowboy Mounted Shooters Association will have two full days of exciting competition at the Royce W. Anderson Family Arena on the Expo grounds. Don’t miss the grand entrance of riders at approximately 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Be sure to catch the shooting and archery demos. Exhibition shooter Tim Bradley will put on an amazing display of clay target shooting at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day. Randy Ulmer, a member of the National Bowhunters Hall of Fame, will periodically conduct archery demonstrations both days. The Arizona Cowboy Shooters Association will also conduct fast-draw demos throughout both days of the Expo.

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Off-highway vehicle enthusiasts will be able to see exciting rock crawler demos. Game and Fish will display and offer demos of its new ATV simulator. Pick up information featuring places to ride, OHV laws, and how to ride responsibly while protecting wildlife habitat.

Kids are invited to get some hands-on experience at the youth fishing tanks, sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in the Family Adventure Area. Experienced and novice anglers can see casting techniques and pick up tips from local experts at the Demo Fishing Tank in the Main Area, where demos will be held every hour on the hour. There will also be demos on bow fishing in Cabela's Archery Village.

Hunters can pick up tips from experts, attend presentations on hunting, or visit with representatives of the many sportsmen's and conservation organizations that will be on site. 
      
There will be a full schedule of outdoor talks in the Family Adventure Area. Presentations  include topics such as Arizona’s venomous reptiles, raptors of Arizona, jackrabbit hunting, how to fillet a fish, easy ways for archers to improve their shot, hunting using horses, and the department’s Operation Game Thief program. For a list of talks and times, check out the event program at www.azgfd.gov/expo.

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Try out a variety of firearms, including Glock, Ruger, Smith & Wesson, Beretta, Savage and ATI. Get a feel for different forms of specialty shooting, such as cowboy action, black powder, practical pistol, and steel target shooting, with local shooting groups. Get a feel for clay target shooting and try out shotguns from Benelli, Remington and Beretta. There is a nominal fee for ammunition at most of the shooting venues.

Be sure to drop by Cabela's Campsite for displays of the latest gear or to play outdoor games, and visit the Optics Tent to check out the latest in binoculars and spotting scopes. 

Expo admission and parking are free, but consider bringing a little cash to purchase food and beverages from concessionaires at the expo. There will also be vendors on site offering out-door products for sale.

Gold sponsors of the Arizona Game and Fish Department Outdoor Expo are Cabela’s and Airpark Dodge/Ram/Chrysler/Jeep.
 
The Ben Avery Shooting Facility is located at 4044 W. Black Canyon Blvd. in Phoenix (located on Carefree Highway, about 1/2 mile west of Interstate 17 - just follow the signs).

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is operated on a “user pay, user benefit” business model. The Outdoor Expo promotes wildlife-related and other outdoor activities to the public, which supports the department’s mission and funding through their engagement in those activities. The department receives no Arizona tax dollars, and no tax dollars are used in conducting the Expo. For more information, visit www.azgfd.gov/expo.


Urban wildlife are getting active: Tips for avoiding conflicts

Arizona’s mild winter and exceptionally low rainfall has wildlife on the move, especially in urban areas on the fringe of natural habitat in desert areas. Greenbelts, yards and golf courses are especially attractive to critters because they offer easy access to meals and shelter areas.

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Green areas bring in the small mammals like rabbits, which in turn attract coyotes and javelina when the desert is dry and lacks adequate food resources,” said Darren Julian, an urban wildlife specialist for the department’s Mesa regional office. “Negative encounters with wildlife are almost always associated with a food source, so it’s important to work with your neighbors to discourage wildlife from coming into close proximity to people.”

Coyotes and javelina are the large animals most frequently seen in populated areas. They are usually timid and run away if challenged, but they can pose a risk to people once they become comfortable around humans, usually as a result of feeding or indifference. It’s important to use caution during the spring when many wildlife species breed. Animals with young can be very territorial and defensive, and may bite or otherwise attack humans if they feel their young are threatened. When animals like coyotes and javelina lose their natural fear of humans, backyards can become safe havens and pets can end up becoming food sources.
 
People have a responsibility to help keep wildlife “wild.” Many wild animals are already present in urban areas, but they should not be allowed to get comfortable when humans are around. Residents and visitors should remove all potential food sources from their yards, patios or decks. To make wildlife feel unwelcome in urban areas, try these tips:

  • Do not feed wildlife.
  • Keep birdseed and water sources off the ground and out of reach. 
  • Store garbage inside and place trash containers outside at the last possible time on day of pickup.
  • Feed pets inside or remove uneaten pet food between feedings.
  • Keep pets indoors, in a secure outdoor enclosure with a roof, or on a leash.
  • Supervise small children outdoors.
  • If you see a coyote or javelina, discourage it from being in the area by using aggressive gestures with your arms and legs, yelling, shaking a can filled with pennies or pebbles, or spraying it with a hose or “SuperSoaker” filled with diluted ammonia.
  • Trim back plants and bushes around the house, yard and patios to eliminate places for wildlife to hide or rest.
  • Install outdoor lighting.
  • Use fences and walls at least six feet high, and bury the bottom a few inches underground.
  • Keep coyotes from getting over the tops of fences or walls by installing barbed wire, electric wire, or a pipe that spins around a wire.

For more information or questions on reducing wildlife conflicts in your area, visit the department’s website at www.azgfd.gov/urbanwildlife.


Preview Arizona’s fall hunting season recommendations at open houses

The Arizona Game and Fish Department invites the public to get a first look at the proposed 2012-13 fall hunt recommendations for deer, turkey, javelina, bighorn sheep, buffalo, bear, and mountain lion regulations, as well as the recommendations for 2012-14 small game, predator-furbearer and trapping regulations, at a series of regional open houses beginning April 5.

While there is no formal presentation given, a knowledgeable staff person will be available to discuss hunt recommendations and answer questions specific to their region.

All of the six self-paced open houses run from 3-5 p.m. and will be held at the following Game and Fish regional offices:

  • Thursday, April 5, Pintetop, Region 1 Game and Fish office, 2878 E. White Mountain Blvd., (928) 367-4281.
  • Thursday, April 5, Kingman, Region 3 Game and Fish office, 5325 N. Stockton Hill Road, (928) 692-7700.
  • Monday, April 9, Tucson, Region 5 Game and Fish office, 555 N. Greasewood Road, (520) 628-5376.
  • Tuesday, April 10, Yuma, Region 4 Game and Fish office, 9140 E. 28th St., (928) 342-0091.
  • Wednesday, April 11, Flagstaff, Region 2 Game and Fish office, 3500 S. Lake Mary Road, (928) 774-5045.
  • Wednesday, April 11, Mesa, Region 6 Game and Fish office, 7200 E. University Drive, (480) 981-9400.

The proposed recommendation packages are anticipated to be posted Sunday, April 1, at the Game and Fish Department’s website at www.azgfd.gov/huntguidelines. This webpage is also an excellent resource to learn more about the hunt recommendation and hunt guideline processes, including when they happen and how the public can provide input during both processes.

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission will be presented with the recommendations on Saturday, April 14, during its regular meeting in Phoenix at the Game and Fish headquarters on 5000 W. Carefree Highway in Phoenix. An agenda will be posted at www.azgfd.gov/commission under “Meeting Agenda.” The meeting can be attended in person, or viewed online at regional offices and via webcast.


Raymond Wildlife Area east of Flagstaff to close temporarily

The Raymond Wildlife Area, about 30 miles east of Flagstaff, will be closed to the public from Friday, March 23 through Wednesday, June 20.

The Game and Fish Commission recently approved the closure to help wildlife managers maintain the local bison herd that lives on property owned by the department. Closing the Raymond Wildlife Area is necessary for the protection of ranching operations and property of nearby neighbors, as well as for the safety of the public.

The bison have been moving off the wildlife area because of pressure from visitors. Hunting activity is also motivating the bison to move. Bison are the largest land mammal in North America. They become nervous easily and react by running away. A fast-moving 2,000-pound animal is dangerous for anyone or anything in its way. 

Bison have been living on the Raymond Wildlife Area since 1945, when they were brought there from the department-owned House Rock Valley Wildlife Area. The move was necessary back then because drought was threatening the survival of the House Rock herd. The Raymond Wildlife Area covers about 15,000 acres and is located 12 miles south of the Buffalo Range Road exit (number 225) on Interstate 40.

“Without people approaching them, the bison may stay on the wildlife area through the early calving season,” says Ron Sieg, supervisor for the Flagstaff Regional Office. “We will feed the bison to encourage them to stay on the wildlife area until the grass starts greening up.”

Game and Fish will be posting information about the closure at the Buffalo Range Road exit off I-40 and all entrances to the wildlife area. Information is also available on the department’s website.

When observing wildlife, remember to keep a safe distance. Do not feed or try to approach wildlife. For more information, visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department website at www.azgfd.gov.


Spring catfish season now underway at urban lakes

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The catfish season officially kicked off Friday, March 23, at all Urban Fishing Program lakes and ponds in the Phoenix and Tucson areas. Two large trucks were used to deliver 8,000 catfish to 20 Urban Fishing Program waters throughout the day.

Warming spring temperatures signal the fish-stocking changeover from trout to catfish. The farm-raised catfish from Arkansas will be delivered and stocked into Urban Fishing Program lakes and ponds every two weeks through June. Traditionally, when the Arizona Game and Fish Department switches fish suppliers from winter trout to spring catfish, anglers are given the specific day of stocking. For all other catfish stockings, only the stocking week (Mon.-Sat.) is announced.

The usual baits – including worms, stink baits and shrimp – should work well for catching “Mr. Whiskers.” Daily limits are four catfish per person at urban lakes or two catfish per person at urban ponds. (Note regulations and park signage for lake and pond designations).

For more information, please visit www.azgfd.gov/urbanfishing.


Get out and fish during the spring warm-up

The spring warm-up in the desert regions after last week’s storm has made this a great time to grab your rod, head out, and enjoy some fishing and the outdoors.

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A favorite spot at this time of year is Alamo Lake, west of Wickenberg. There are plenty of great camping sites, fishing cleaning stations, and lots of other amenities. 

Alamo Lake lacks something most other waters have -- recreational boaters. There are no jet skis to cut fishing lines, and no bouncing around in the wake of weekend ski boats. There is no marina at Alamo, and nowhere to purchase boat gasoline. It all adds up to a big PLUS for people who just want to fish. Some call Alamo a "pure fishing lake."

Roosevelt Lake is another top pick. There are camping spots galore, and the fishing can be fantastic for anglers who can figure out the pattern. If last week’s storm didn't stir things up too much, there should be terrific fishing here over spring break.

Another great place to visit and camp is Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood. Game and Fish stocks the ponds with trout, and the park is very kid-friendly. Visit http://azstateparks.com/Parks/DEHO/index.html for more information.

The Verde River is also stocked and offers great fishing opportunities this time of year. Tuzigoot National Monument is a short drive away, and the Verde waters are also stocked in the area adjacent to the bridge that leads to nearby Indian ruins on the hillside. For a change of pace, take a ride on the Verde Canyon Train and visit the historic and picturesque mining town of Jerome.

Roper Lake State Park near Safford is another great fishing pick. Enjoy great views of Mt. Graham. Roper is also stocked with trout. There are plenty of camping spots, as well as rustic but comfy "camping cabins."  There is even an outdoor hot tub! For more information, visit http://azstateparks.com/Parks/ROLA/index.html.

Apache Lake, located along the famed Apache Trail, is also a great spring fishing destination. Smallmouth are still on the comeback trail here, but largemouth bass fishing has been great. Yellow bass and walleye are also reported to be plentiful. Apache offers spectacular scenery and is tucked between the Superstition Wilderness and the 3-Bar Wildlife area. It's just a thin seam of civilization winding though wild and rugged habitats where humans rarely tread. Getting there can be an adventure for anyone afraid of heights or who gets the jitters on the narrow, winding Fish Creek Hill dirt road, with its steep cliffs, stunning drop-offs and lack of guardrails. Fish Creek Hill is not for the faint of heart.

March  22 brought a new moon. It’s a good time to try for striped bass at night under lights, as well as crappie. The full moon will be out on April 6, and will likely be the time for crappie spawning at Roosevelt Lake, although the crappie could start staging for the spawn much earlier.

If the weather does cool down, try Willow Beach for stocked rainbow trout, and for the huge stripers that come into feed on those stockers. The facilities at Willow Beach have been refurbished and there is even a campground. Visit http://willowbeachharbor.com/ for more information. There are boats, kayaks and canoes to rent, and fishing from the new pier is permitted. Keep an eye out for desert bighorn sheep roaming the cliffs along Black Canyon and strolling around the marina. Peregrine falcons are often spotted zipping through the sky.

For more fishing information, visit www.azgfd.gov/fish.


U.S. 93 project receives National Environmental Excellence Award
ADOT, Game and Fish partnership addressed safety

An innovative partnership project that addressed public safety and wildlife habitat connectivity has garnered yet another award.

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The U.S. 93 Hoover Dam to milepost 17 project delicately balanced the need to build a safe highway with the needs of the ecosystem in an environmentally sensitive area in Mohave County. For this reason, the National Association of Environmental Professionals has named the project as a recipient of the 2012 National Environmental Excellence Award in the conservation category.

The $71.3 million Arizona Department of Transportation project, completed in late 2010, provides motorists with a continuous four-lane divided highway from Interstate 40 in Kingman to the new Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge over Hoover Dam.

The project has received national recognition for three wildlife overpasses, designed in collaboration with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, to protect motorists and provide safe crossings of U.S. 93 for the desert bighorn sheep that are native to the region.

“This is a highly deserving project that promotes environmental stewardship by providing wildlife connectivity strategies for the Black Mountain desert bighorn sheep and other wildlife while enhancing the safety of the traveling public with a modern four-lane divided highway,” said Karla S. Petty, Arizona Division administrator for the Federal Highway Administration.

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The overpasses are the first of their kind built specifically for the largest contiguous herd of desert bighorn sheep in the United States. A few months after the project was completed, cameras installed on the crossing bridges captured the desert bighorn sheep using the new overpasses, which are 100 feet wide and 203 feet long.

“As Arizona’s population grows, it’s critical that we plan ahead to preserve the state’s wildlife heritage while also reducing the number of vehicle collisions with wildlife,” said Ray Schweinsburg, research program supervisor for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Maintaining networks of connected habitat and implementing solutions to reduce wildlife-car collisions is bigger than just one department, making partnerships like this one on Highway 93 key.”

This is the fifth major award this project has received. Others include:

  • The Arizona Chapter of the American Public Works Association Transportation Project of the Year in the $25 to $75 million category
  • The American Council of Engineering Companies of Arizona 2011 Engineering Excellence Judge’s Choice Award to the project designer, AMEC Earth & Environmental, Inc.
  • The FHWA Exemplary Ecosystem Initiative Award – one of only 12 projects to receive the award in 2011
  • The 2011 Arizona Transportation Partnering Excellence Award

The success of the project can be attributed to the partnership and tireless effort across multiple agencies, including Federal Highway Administration, Arizona Game and Fish Department, National Park Service, Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, FNF Construction and AMEC Environment & Infrastructure, according to ADOT Director of Environmental Services Todd Williams.

“This project represents one of the most comprehensive efforts in North America to reduce the risk of wildlife-vehicle collisions and enhance wildlife movement across a high-speed rural highway,” said Williams.

ADOT Kingman District Engineer Michael Kondelis added, “This has been a model project. All agency partners and team members worked extremely hard and made significant contributions for this project’s success.”

The NAEP award presentation will take place in May in Portland, Ore.


Arizonans can help wildlife at tax time

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The deadline for filing income tax returns is approaching, and Arizonans have an easy way to help the state’s wildlife by “making a mark” on their state income tax form.

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

Arizona is one of 41 states that allow taxpayers to make a contribution to worthwhile causes, like wildlife conservation. Last year, the average donation was nearly $22. Arizona started the program more than 25 years ago, and since then taxpayers have donated more than $5 million to the conservation of nongame wildlife species (those that are neither hunted nor fished in the traditional sense).

The Arizona Wildlife Fund box is on line 44 of the state’s long income tax form, or line 40 of the short tax form. 

“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 Eric Gardner, nongame branch chief for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “The fund has a tremendous impact on conserving one of Arizona’s greatest natural treasures – its wildlife -- which provide a variety of low-cost recreational opportunities for residents to enjoy and real economic benefits to local communities.”

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.

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