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Wildlife News – Feb. 25, 2012

Posted in: Wildlife News
Feb 25, 2012
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  • The epic journey of Sonoran pronghorn 851
  • Four public forums remain for fall hunt recommendations
  • Nestwatchers help bald eagle population grow in Arizona
  • Volunteers sought for ferret spotlighting effort
  • Reward offered in case of deer head found at Tucson Mountain Park
  • Raven shot, reward offered for information
  • Mark your calendars for the Game and Fish Outdoor Expo


The epic journey of Sonoran pronghorn 851

Buck 851 was born a few years back, just south of Ajo, Ariz.

Not long ago, the Sonoran pronghorn antelope was nearly extinct. Buck 851 was born in a captive breeding program pen that has seen tremendous success in restoring the Sonoran pronghorn population.  

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When 851 was two years old, he was released as part of an Endangered Species recovery plan effort. (Note: The photo at right is of another Sonoran pronghorn, not 851). He was fitted with a collar equipped with GPS that allowed Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists to keep track of his location on a daily basis. He also sported an ear tag.

Young pronghorn bucks like 851 are released into the wild in an effort to lessen the chance of youngsters sustaining jousting injuries during mating season with the dominant buck in the pen, sort of like teenagers being kicked out of the house when they turn 18.

This young buck stayed in the vicinity of the captive rearing pens for more than a month after he was released. When 851 finally moved out to explore the world, he and another young buck became travelling buddies and wandered north to Gila Bend, crossing the Crater Mountains.

This is not typical behavior for these pronghorn. Buck 851 and his travelling companion crossed back and forth over State Route 85 several times…a dangerous highway for vehicles and an even more treacherous place for wildlife. Buck 851 and the other male stayed on the move, roaming around looking for their place in the world.

Eventually 851’s pal took off and joined a pronghorn herd on the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range, leaving the lonely buck to wander solo in search of a herd of his own. And wander he did.

Buck 851 went west, hoofing through about 40 miles of tough desert terrain along Interstate 8 towards Yuma. Still alone, he turned to the south, and crossed the border into Mexico.

Arizona Game and Fish staff, working together with officials in the State of Sonora, actually spotted 851 on a cooperative aerial survey with Mexico. After seeing the collar, the biologists were able to connect, download and update the GPS data.

The GPS tracking information filled in many details of 851’s travels. On repeated occasions he crossed the U.S.-Mexico Border Fence, which sports a substantial vehicle barrier, as well as Mexico Highway 2, which is known for its dangerous, heavy traffic. And for some reason, perhaps to gain a better vantage point where he could look for his own kind, 851 trekked up the brutally steep, rocky volcano Penacote Peak in Mexico.

As planned, 851’s collar fell off 18 months after he began his epic journey near Ajo. The GPS collars are designed to come off after a year and a half, when a buck’s growth brings greater girth to the neck and swelling when in the rut.

Although 851 is no longer transmitting daily GPS tweets, he has been spotted several times hanging out with a band of does west of Mexico Highway 8 about 30 miles north of Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point). It was a long journey, but at this point, it seems 851 has found a herd of his own and a place to call home.

At one point, only 21 Sonoran pronghorn were left in all the United States. Today, there are more than 100 in the wild. There are also 65 in captive breeding pens, many of which are about to fawn. Altogether, 851 traveled more than 200 miles alone in three months and crossed the Mexican border. Unique behavior and an epic journey that seems to have come to a happy ending.

The actual GPS data recorded on the map covered a three-month period between August and October in 2008 immediately following the release of 851.

The Sonoran pronghorn program is a joint effort between the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The U.S. Border Patrol, Homeland Security, and the U.S. Air Force also continue to be good partners to the program. They report sightings, modify aerial gunnery practice when pronghorn are known to be near targets, and provide funding to help rebuild the Sonoran pronghorn herds.


Four public forums remain for fall hunt recommendations

The Arizona Game and Fish Department will host four upcoming public forums to meet with constituents to gather input on the 2012 fall hunt recommendations for deer, turkey, javelina, buffalo, bighorn sheep, bear, mountain lion, predator/furbearers, small game, and trapping.

The meetings will be held at these Game and Fish regional offices:

  • Monday, March 5, from 3-5 p.m. at the Flagstaff regional office, 3500 S. Lake Mary Road
  • Monday, March 5, from 6-8 p.m. at the Mesa regional office, 7200 E. University Drive 
  • Tuesday, March 6, from 7-9 p.m. at the Pinetop regional office, 2878 E. White Mountain Blvd.
  • Thursday, March 8, from 6-8 p.m. at the Yuma regional office, 9140 E. 28th St.

Constituents who are interested in particular game management units within those regions will have the opportunity to discuss management direction.

“The meetings allow us to meet with sportsmen and other members of the public and discuss the direction for the recommendations based on survey data, harvest rates and the hunt guidelines, said Big Game Management Supervisor Amber Munig. “We won’t be proposing permit numbers at this point, but we will generally discuss where permit numbers might be headed. It’s a great way for people to stay informed and provide input into development of the recommendations.”

Previous forums were held on Feb. 22 in Tucson and Feb. 23 in Kingman.

After the public forums have been completed, the final proposed draft hunt recommendations will be made available for public review at several regional open houses and posted on the department’s website at www.azgfd.gov/huntguidelines (it is anticipated they will be posted by April 6, 2012).

Each year, the department makes recommendations to the Arizona Game and Fish 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 final fall hunt recommendations will be presented to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission for consideration during its April 14 meeting in Phoenix.

To learn more about the hunt recommendations and hunt guidelines processes, visit www.azgfd.gov/huntguidelines.


Nestwatchers help bald eagle population grow in Arizona

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

“For more than 30 years, the state’s unique nestwatch program has been an integral component of Arizona bald eagle management,” 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.”

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This year’s nestwatchers began their four-month tour of duty in early February. They will watch 13 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.

The nationally-recognized nestwatch program began as a weekend volunteer effort by the U.S. Forest Service and Maricopa Audubon to help ensure the continued success of bald eagle breeding. Now, 26 government and private agencies and tribes are involved with the program to monitor bald eagle breeding areas that are under heavy pressure from human recreational activities.

In Arizona, the bald eagle population has grown from 11 breeding pairs to more than 60. Last year, bald eagles set three new records: 79 eggs laid, 55 breeding areas were occupied and 56 nestlings fledged. 

The department’s bald eagle conservation program is supported by the Heritage Fund, a 20-year-old voter initiative that provides funding for wildlife conservation and education from Arizona lottery dollars.

For more information on Arizona’s bald eagles, visit www.azgfd.gov/baldeagle


Volunteers sought for ferret spotlighting effort

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KINGMAN, Ariz. – The public has an opportunity to lend a hand in the recovery of the elusive, nocturnal, and endangered black-footed ferret, which was once considered the most endangered mammal on the planet.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is seeking volunteers to help with the spring spotlighting population survey effort in the Aubrey Valley, just west of Seligman, from March 8-12.

Twice thought to be extinct, a small population of black-footed ferrets was discovered in 1981. A mere 18 were left when captive breeding efforts began in 1985. In 1996, Arizona’s Aubrey Valley was selected as a reintroduction site.

In just the last 10 years in Arizona, black-footed ferrets in Aubrey Valley have reached a population high enough to be considered self-sustaining, meaning no captive-bred ferrets are needed to maintain a population. In 2010, the ferret reintroduction crew documented 96 individual ferrets, followed by a record 116 last year.

“Volunteers play a vital role in this recovery effort,” said Jeff Pebworth, wildlife program manager at the Game and Fish Kingman office. “We don’t have the personnel available to fully staff these spotlighting events, and the program’s continued success depends on people remaining involved.”

Volunteers must be able to stay attentive from sunset to sunrise and they must be willing to learn how to use a Global Positioning System (GPS).

Individuals can volunteer for one or more dates. A parent or guardian must accompany any youth under 18.

Those wishing to volunteer, or needing more information, should e-mail azferret@azgfd.gov by Feb. 27 with “March Spotlighting” in the subject line. Individuals should indicate which night(s) they are available to help; include a first and last name, a contact number, and if anyone else will be attending with them.

Additional information will be sent following contact, including meeting location and times.

Volunteers should also note any of the following equipment they can bring: GPS, clipboard, headlamp, pen, compass, binoculars, walkie-talkies, 4x4 vehicle (please list passenger capacity), compass, spotlight (that can plug into a cigarette lighter), or a cordless rechargeable spotlight. It can be cool during the March event, so individuals need to dress appropriately.

The reintroduction of these specialist carnivores 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.


Reward offered in case of deer head found at Tucson Mountain Park
 
TUCSON,  Ariz. – The Arizona Game and Fish Department Operation Game Thief program is offering a reward of up to $1,250 for information leading to an arrest in connection with discovery of a mule deer buck’s head Sunday, Feb. 12, at Tucson Mountain Park.
 
The remains, with four-point-by-four-point antlers intact, were found 12:30 p.m. on the David Yetman Trail near the Camino de Oeste Trailhead. The deer had apparently been dead for more than a week.
 
“Poachers are not hunters. They are thieves stealing wildlife from the citizens of Arizona,” said Regional Supervisor Raul Vega of Game and Fish in Tucson. “It is unlawful to not have proof that an animal was legally taken. The antlers are what determines the legality of a hunt.”
 
Hunting is legal in Tucson Mountain Park, and the deer hunt there ended Jan. 31, so it is possible that the deer was killed legally but that the head was dragged to that location by a predator.

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 #12-000173. Information may also be provided on-line at http://www.azgfd.gov/ogt_form.shtml.
 
Most poaching cases in Arizona are class two misdemeanors punishable by up to four months in jail and a $750 fine. Civil penalties may also apply.
 

Raven shot, reward offered for information

KINGMAN, Ariz. – A reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the shooting of a raven.

The raven was shot on or about Feb. 10 near Kingman Middle School, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Operation Game Thief program is offering a reward of up to $100 for information in the case.

The raven was seen walking around with an injured wing and was transported to a veterinarian’s office. A .22 caliber bullet was found near the chest and the bird was euthanized.

“There is no season on ravens,” said Zen Mocarski, public information officer for the Game and Fish office in Kingman. “They are federally protected.”

Mocarski said a person didn’t have to see the act, but might have overheard a conversation, which can provide a valuable starting point.

“Through the Game and Fish Operation Game Thief program, we have managed to catch a number of poachers,” Mocarski said. “It’s important to remember this is not the act of sportsmen, it’s the act of a criminal.”

Anyone with information regarding this case, or any wildlife violation, should call the OGT hotline at (800) 352-0700. Web submissions can be reported via the Internet by going to www.azgfd.gov/thief. Identities will remain confidential. Anyone calling should reference case number 12-000186.


Mark your calendars for the Game and Fish Outdoor Expo

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Don’t forget to mark your calendars to attend the Arizona Game and Fish Department Outdoor Expo on Saturday, March 31 and Sunday, April 1, at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility in Phoenix.

Arizona’s largest hands-on outdoor expo offers loads of fun activities, exhibits and educational presentations for the entire family:

  • See live wildlife (hawks, owls, reptiles)
  • Learn target archery 
  • Take the kids to the huge catch-and-release fish tanks 
  • Hike a nature/hunter education field course 
  • Try out shooting sports in a safe environment on the shooting range 
  • See camping demos and get tips on the best ways to set up a camp 
  • View off-highway vehicle displays and pick up tips on responsible riding 
  • Arizona Boat Show - boating displays and tips on watercraft recreation and safety 
  • Try out specialty shooting disciplines – cowboy action, black powder, rifle and pistol silhouette, trap/skeet, more 
  • Get hunting and fishing tips from local experts 
  • Watch cowboy action shooters and mounted cowboy shooters in thrilling displays and competition 
  • Attend wildlife presentations 
  • Visit with more than 150 exhibitors and vendors

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Admission and parking are free. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 31 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 1.

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 I-17 – just follow the signs).

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

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