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Wildlife News - May 3, 2013

Posted in: Wildlife News
May 3, 2013
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  • Two pairs of Mexican wolves released
  • Payson Wildlife Fair offers fun for the family
  • Bobcat attacks Show Low woman
  • AZGFD among award recipients for Gila trout evacuation
  • Recent accident a reminder to observe safe hunting practices
  • Bluegill being stocked at Dankworth Pond
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces availability of draft recovery plan for the black-footed ferret
  • Arizona Game and Fish wins two Communicator Awards for video production


Two pairs of Mexican wolves released

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) released a pair of Mexican wolves last week into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area of Arizona. 

In a separate action, the Service also released a second pair of Mexican wolves into the wolf recovery area in New Mexico. Both pairs, selected to increase genetic diversity of the wild wolf population, were previously held at the Service’s Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility where they had undergone an acclimation process to determine their suitability for release.

“We continue to be committed to strategic releases that improve genetic diversity, increase the number of breeding wolves, and offset illegal mortalities in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area,” said Benjamin Tuggle, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Regional Director. 

“The strategically-planned release of the wolf pair into Arizona is to improve the genetic integrity of the wolf population. The release approaches being used are tailored to encourage these wolves to acclimate and behave as wild wolves. Our experience shows that wild- born, wild-raised wolves have a much better chance at success,” says Director Larry Voyles, AGFD.

In Arizona, the Interagency Field Team (IFT) conducted a “soft release” of Mexican wolves F1126 and M1051 (F indicates female and M indicates male) near the Corduroy Creek release site on the Alpine Ranger District in the Apache National Forest.

“We considered several factors in the selection of the release site, including appropriate prey density, distance from occupied residences, seasonal absence of livestock grazing, and occurrence of established wolf packs in the area,” says Chris Bagnoli, the AGFD’s IFT leader.  “This particular site was also chosen in close coordination with the public and with approval from the Forest Service.”

The Arizona pair was placed into an enclosure and will be held for a time to acclimate them to their surroundings. They will be released into the primary recovery zone in compliance with the existing federal 10(j) rule covering the reintroduction project because F1126 does not have previous wild experience.  This will be an initial release of F1126 and a translocation of M1051.

The Service, in cooperation with the IFT, also conducted a “modified soft release” of Mexican wolves F1108 and M1133 into New Mexico. These wolves will be translocated to an enclosure in the Gila Wilderness. The enclosure is designed so that the wolves can chew through and self-release any time after being placed there. Both F1108 and M1133 have previous wild experience, and so are able to be translocated into the secondary recovery zone in compliance with the existing federal 10(j) rule covering the reintroduction project.

For both the Arizona and New Mexico wolf pairs, the IFT anticipates the wolves will begin utilizing the area around the release sites.  The IFT will provide supplemental food while the wolves learn to catch and kill native prey, such as deer and elk, on their own. The supplemental feeding will assist in anchoring the wolves to the area.

The IFT estimates the population of Mexican wolves in the wild to be a minimum of 75 animals, as determined by their most recent annual survey conducted in January 2013, up from a count of 58 last year.

The Reintroduction Project partners are AGFD, White Mountain Apache Tribe, USDA Forest Service and USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – Wildlife Services, several participating counties in Arizona, the Eastern Arizona Counties Organization, and the Service.


Payson Wildlife Fair offers fun for the family

Get out of the heat and head up to the Rim Country for the Payson Wildlife Fair on Saturday, May 11.

The free event will be held at Green Valley Park from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Activities include
fishing, kayaking, BB gun and archery ranges, and displays of animals such as Gila monsters, raptors, bats, rattlesnakes, and more.

Green Valley Lake will be stocked with 800 pounds of rainbow trout, more than double its normal stocking. No fishing license is required for fair attendees, and equipment and bait can be borrowed for free from an on-site fishing booth.

Attendees can also with experts and conservation groups, including the Mule Deer Foundation, Payson Fly Casters, Phoenix Herpetological Society, and Tonto Natural Bridge.

The fair is a cooperative effort between the Arizona Game and Fish Department, USDA Forest Service, Mogollon Sporting Association, and Payson Parks and Recreation Department.

For more information on Green Valley Park, including directions, visit


Bobcat attacks Show Low woman
Officials urge vigilance for potential presence of rabies in other mammals

Following a bobcat attack on a young woman in a neighborhood behind the Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse in Show Low, Arizona Game and Fish Department officials are advising area residents to be alert for any wild animal or pet that appears to behave oddly, indicating the potential presence of rabies.

A Navajo County deputy sheriff responded to the attack call Sunday evening, April 28. At the same time, another deputy sheriff nearby observed a bobcat behaving in an aggressive, abnormal manner and destroyed it. The carcass was collected and shipped to the Arizona State Health Laboratory for necropsy and rabies testing, which confirmed the animal was rabid.

The woman was attacked about 10:30 p.m., receiving several bites and scratches on her thigh. She was treated at Summit Healthcare Regional Medical Center and subsequently released, receiving rabies vaccines and anti-rabies serum as a precaution, pending outcome of the tests.

“Bobcats rarely attack people, but when they do, the animal is often rabid,” says Bruce Sitko, department spokesman. “While we don’t expect a larger outbreak of the virus in the local area, we want to err on the side of caution in alerting residents to watch and report any abnormal behaviors in other wild or domestic animals, as this bobcat may have had contact with them.”

Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the central nervous system and is always fatal once symptoms appear. The virus can be transmitted to people or animals through bites from infected animals or exposure to infected saliva through open wounds or mucous membranes.

In recent years, the occurrence of rabies has been uncommon in Navajo County. According to Arizona Department of Health Services records, the last confirmed case of any animal testing positive in Navajo County was a bat in 2011. In 2010, three bats tested positive in the county. The last case of a bobcat testing positive for rabies anywhere in Arizona was a single incident in 2011.

To report incidents, contact the Navajo County Animal Control office at (928) 524-4266, Show Low Animal Control office at (928) 537-4365 or the department at (928) 367-4281 during regular business hours. After hours, call 911 and the dispatcher will assist in contacting the proper authority.

Health Services and department officials recommend the following to protect individuals and pets from rabies:

  • Do not pick up, touch or feed wild or unfamiliar mammals. If someone is bitten or scratched, or has had contact with an animal, report it immediately to animal control or health officials and consult a physician as soon as possible.
  • When enjoying outdoor activities, such as hiking or camping, avoid wild mammals, especially those that are behaving abnormally. Such behavior from the animal might include showing no fear; unusual vocalizing; staggering and/or acting sickly; and nocturnal mammals active during daytime.
  • Campers should keep pets under control and maintain a clean camp to discourage visits from unwanted wildlife. Do not leave uneaten food out when retiring for the evening.
  • Keep pets on a leash and do not allow them to wander.
  • Vaccinate dogs and cats against rabies.
  • Do not disturb roosting bats. If a bat is found on the ground, don’t touch it. If the bat is found in an urban area, report it and the location to the local animal control officer or health department.


AZGFD among award recipients for Gila trout evacuation

The collaborative efforts of multiple natural resources agencies to protect Gila trout populations after last year’s devastating Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire were recognized with the 2012 Extraordinary Action Award at the 4th annual Native Trout Conference in Phoenix on April 18.

The award, which is for extraordinary action and support of fish habitat conservation, was presented to: Arizona Game & Fish Department; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Albuquerque, Pinetop, and Mora; U.S. Forest Service Gila National Forest and Coronado National Forest; and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.

Julie Carter, Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Conservation and Mitigation Program Supervisor, said that before monsoons hit, and once it was deemed safe, ground crews in New Mexico horse-backed into the Gila National Forest to salvage the Gila trout, with a helicopter standing by to transport the trout to hatchery crews in Glenwood.

“We had more than 25 people in Arizona waiting to help backpack the fish into Ash Creek,” Carter said. “The project was successful due to the incredible coordination and dedicated biologists, especially ground crews in New Mexico that traveled on the forest immediately after the fire."


Recent accident a reminder to observe safe hunting practices

A hunting accident last week southeast of Flagstaff serves as a reminder for people to please observe safe hunting practices while out in the field.

Two brothers were pursuing and calling turkeys during a legal hunting season in Game Management Unit 6A on April 27 when one was shot by the other in the shoulder with #6 shot from a 12-gauge shotgun. The wounds were not life threatening and the victim was taken to Flagstaff Medical Center for treatment.

The hunter who was shot was sitting against a tree and wearing camouflage hunting clothes while the other was about 25 yards downhill from that location.  

Arizona Game and Fish is currently investigating the accident in cooperation with the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office.

“This accident is a reminder that hunters need to identify their target and beyond before they shoot and be aware of their surroundings,” says Craig McMullen, Flagstaff regional supervisor for Game and Fish. “Hunting continues to be a safe recreational activity, but hunters should avoid becoming complacent, as that is when accidents can happen.”

Arizona averages less than five hunting accidents a year. There have been three hunting-related fatalities since 2007.

“Game and Fish has an excellent hunter education program, and we believe every hunter, regardless of experience level, can benefit from taking it,” said McMullen. “Topics include firearms safety skills, conservation, ethics, planning and preparation for the hunt, survival skills, wildlife management, hunting strategies, game care, and hunting regulations.”

The hunter education program graduates about 2,800 students each year. For more information, visit


Bluegill being stocked at Dankworth Pond

SAFFORD, Ariz. – Bluegill up to six inches long are being stocked for the first time to Dankworth Pond, a 15-acre warm spring-fed pond within Roper Lake State Park.

Also, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Arizona State Parks and volunteers recently stocked Channel catfish weighing up to two pounds.

A total fish kill occurred at the pond in 2010 because of insufficient oxygen in the water created by an overabundance of aquatic vegetation. In 2011, the pond was drawn down and a prescribed burn was completed, removing a majority of the cattails and vegetation.

The pond was then refilled, and the shoreline is now completely accessible for fishing.  Two more stockings of Channel catfish are planned within the next two months.

An opening date will be announced at


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces availability of draft recovery plan for the black-footed ferret

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on April 23 announced the availability of the Black-footed Ferret Draft Revised Recovery Plan.

The black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) was historically found throughout the Great Plains, mountain basins, and semi-arid grasslands of North America wherever prairie dogs occurred. The species is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

“The black-footed ferret recovery is a success story in the making,” said Noreen Walsh, regional director of the FWS Mountain-Prairie Region, in a FWS news release. “For decades, the Service and its partners representing over 30 state, federal, tribal, and private organizations have been involved in a coordinated recovery effort.”

Twice thought to be extinct, a small population of black-footed ferrets was discovered in Wyoming in 1981. A mere 18 were left when captive breeding efforts began in 1985.

In 1996, Arizona’s Aubrey Valley was selected as one of several reintroduction sites in the western United States. Conservation efforts at the Aubrey Valley site, spearheaded by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, have been very successful. Population surveys documented a record 123 individual ferrets there in 2012, and the population is high enough there to be considered self-sustaining, meaning no captive-bred ferrets are needed to maintain a population at the Aubrey Valley site.

The reintroduction of black-footed ferrets in Arizona was possible because of the state’s Heritage Fund which, when matched with federal dollars, accounts for the project’s funding. This, along with the dedication of volunteers, has made Arizona’s reintroduction effort a model for other sites to emulate.

In its news release, the FWS stated that the ferret’s close association with prairie dogs is an important factor in the decline that occurred in black-footed ferrets. From the late 1800s to approximately the 1960s, conversion of native grasslands to cropland, poisoning, and disease dramatically reduced prairie dog numbers. The ferret population declined precipitously as a result.

“The single, most feasible action that would benefit black-footed ferret recovery is to improve prairie dog conservation,” said Pete Gober, the FWS black-footed ferret recovery coordinator, in the news release. “If efforts are undertaken to more proactively manage existing prairie dog habitat for ferret recovery, all other threats to the species will be substantially less difficult to address. Down listing of the black-footed ferret could be accomplished in approximately 10 years if conservation actions continue at existing reintroduction sites and if additional reintroduction sites are established.”

The objective of a recovery plan is to provide a framework for the recovery of a species so that protection under the ESA is no longer necessary. A recovery plan includes scientific information about the species and provides criteria and actions necessary for the FWS to be able to remove it from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. Recovery plans do not regulate federal agencies or their partners, but recovery plans are often adopted by federal agencies as sound environmental policy.

Although ferret habitat has been dramatically reduced from historical times, a sufficient amount remains if its quality and configuration is appropriately managed. This management, for the most part, is likely to be conducted by traditional state, tribal, and federal fish and wildlife and land management agencies. Additionally, it will be important for private parties, including landowners and conservation organizations, to continue to support ferret recovery. Many partners contributing to ferret recovery in many places will help minimize the risk of loss of wild populations.

Specifically, stated the news release, recovery of black-footed ferrets will depend upon: (1) continued efforts of captive breeding facilities to provide suitable animals for release into the wild; (2) conservation of prairie dog habitat adequate to sustain ferrets in several populations distributed throughout their historical range; and (3) management of sylvatic plague, a disease that can decimate prairie dogs, as well as ferrets. 

The FWS is inviting public review and comment on the Draft Recovery Plan for the Black-footed Ferret.  You can view and comment on the plan at: Comments will be accepted until July 24, 2013.

Hand written comments may also be submitted to: National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center, USFWS, Attn: Draft Recovery Plan, P.O. Box 190, Wellington, CO 80549.


Arizona Game and Fish wins two Communicator Awards for video production

The winners of the 2013 Communicator Awards have been announced by the International Academy of the Visual Arts, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department has been honored with two Awards of Distinction for video production.

With more than 6000 entries received from across the U.S. and around the world, the Communicator Awards is the largest and most competitive awards program honoring the creative excellence for communications professionals.

AZGFD’s winning entries were:

“Condor ER,” produced by Carol Lynde and Julie Hammonds, was honored in the Film/Video – Nature/Wildlife category.

“Eagle Nest Reborn,” produced by Carol Lynde, was honored in the Internet Video – Documentary category.

The videos were produced for Arizona Wildlife Views, the department’s 13-week television series. They can also be viewed on the department’s YouTube channel at

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