Be Bear Aware: Dry weather conditions may increase bear activity in the high country

Safety tips to prevent attracting them, and what to do in case of an encounter

PHOENIX – Arizona’s hot, dry conditions have reduced the amount of natural vegetation available to bears in the wild, raising the chance of them wandering into areas they are typically not seen in search of food. Although bears are typically shy and tend to avoid humans they have an excellent sense of smell, and this can be problematic for bears and people.

Wildlife officials advise those living or visiting bear country to avoid feeding wildlife and to not leave trash, food or other attractants such as pet food or bird seed accessible, because a fed bear is a dead bear.

“If a bear becomes habituated to getting food from trash cans and other human sources, it’s only a matter of time before it loses its fear of humans and begins to actively search out human food sources,” says Larry Phoenix, AZGFD region 2 (Flagstaff) supervisor. “At that point, the bear becomes a threat to public safety.”

Here are some tips to avoid attracting bears:

Keep them away from your home

  • Keep all trash inside a secured area until collection day. If that’s not possible, keep food waste in a bag in the freezer and place those in the trash as close to collection time as possible.
  • Take bird feeders down at night.
  • Keep pet and livestock food inside or remove all uneaten food.

Although forest closures or restrictions due to wildfires and hot, dry conditions may temporarily affect access for hiking and camping in parts of Arizona, the following are good tips nonetheless:

Camping

  • Keep your food and attractants secured and inaccessible to bears. Do not keep food in your tent.
  • Don’t burn left-over food or trash on the grill.
  • Set up your campsite away from places where bears might forage for food, such as creeks, rivers and other bodies of water.

Hiking

  • Don’t wear scented lotions, deodorant or perfumes.
  • Make noise or hike in groups.
  • If you take your pet hiking with you, keep it on a leash at all times.

In case of a bear encounter

  • Do NOT run.
  • Back away slowly while keeping your eyes on the bear.
  • Make yourself look bigger than you are by flaunting your arms or pulling your shirt/jacket up higher than your head.
  • Throw items and yell at the bear.
  • If attacked, fight back.

Bear sightings in areas where there is human activity should be reported to AZGFD’s dispatch center at 623-236-7201. For questions or to obtain a brochure on living with bears, visit www.azgfd.com/Wildlife/LivingWith.

Submissions accepted through Aug. 13 at 5 p.m. MST

Do you want to see your photo on the cover of Arizona Wildlife Views magazine? Do you have a knack for capturing great photos of wildlife? Then you won’t want to miss the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s 15th annual wildlife photo contest.

One best in show and 11 first-place winners will be showcased in the 2022 calendar, which is published in the November-December issue of Arizona Wildlife Views. The best-in-show photo is published on the cover of the issue and as one of the photos representing a month.

We’re partnering with Arizona Highways to provide an easier way to submit photographs. Use the online form at www.arizonahighways.com/wildlife-photo-contest to submit your Arizona wildlife photos. Each contestant may submit a maximum of three photographs, which must be uploaded as separate submissions through the form.

Please review the Official Rules prior to entering. Entrants are responsible for complying with the Official Rules or may result in disqualification.

The deadline is 5 p.m. (Arizona time) on Aug. 13, 2021.

Winners will be announced online at www.azgfd.gov/photocontest and www.arizonahighways.com after Nov. 1, 2021.

 

Public comments will be accepted through July 31

PHOENIX — As part of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission’s goal to increase online services for customers, the commission proposes to amend rules within Articles 1 and 3 for the purposes of modernizing its big game tag and hunt and fish licensing system.

The new system will give customers added flexibility following the purchase of a license or tag. An app on their own electronic device will enable customers to view their licenses and tags, allow them to electronically “tag” their harvested animal, and complete their harvest questionnaire. Hunters would still have the ability to receive a paper tag if they prefer.

The prevalence of mobile technology and apps has progressed to the point where they are now an integral part of most everyone’s daily life. The commission envisions the paperless tag option would provide enhanced customer service by providing faster delivery of tags and global access to the customer’s license and tag information anytime, and possibly anywhere, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Both the Arizona Game and Fish Department and customers will benefit from a more efficient process and reduced paper waste.

Rules governing the use and possession of tags remain unchanged.

The public comment period on the proposed rulemaking is now open. Comments are being accepted through Saturday, July 31, 2021, via either:

  • Email: rulemaking@azgfd.gov or ccook@azgfd.gov.
  • U.S. Mail: Arizona Game and Fish Department, Attn.: Celeste Cook, Rules and Policy Manager, 5000 W. Carefree Hwy., Phoenix, Arizona 85086.
  • Telephone: Celeste Cook, Rules and Policy Manager, (623) 236-7390.

The Commission will consider the final rulemaking at its Sept. 24 meeting.

To track the progress of this rule, view the regulatory agenda and all previous five-year review reports, and to learn about any other agency rulemaking matters, visit https://www.azgfd.com/agency/rulemaking/.

PHOENIX — Though conditions remain very dry and several major wildfires continue to burn in our state, some lakes remain open and many have been stocked by the Arizona Game and Fish Department with trout or catfish for anglers to enjoy this weekend. Lakes that are currently accessible are:

  • Show Low as well as Show Low Creek in the Pinetop/Show Low area
  • Goldwater, Lynx, Granite Basin, Watson and Fain lakes in the Prescott area
  • Mormon Lodge Pond south of Flagstaff and Frances Short Pond in Flagstaff
  • Riggs Flat, Frye Mesa, Dankworth Pond and Roper State Park in the Safford area
  • Rose Canyon, Patagonia, Pena Blanca as well as all Community Fishing Program waters in the Tucson area
  • All Community Fishing Program waters in the Phoenix metropolitan area
  • Roosevelt, Apache, Canyon, Saguaro and Bartlett lakes as well as Lake Pleasant
  • Colorado River and associated reservoirs
  • Alamo Lake

For stocking information please visit azgfd.gov to view the summer stocking schedule.
https://www.azgfd.com/fishing/stockschedule/. Stockings will adhere to this schedule to the extent possible given access limitations and water quality conditions.

As of June 25, outdoor recreationists should be aware that the Coconino, Kaibab and Apache-Sitgreaves national forests are in Stage 3 restrictions (full closure). The Tonto National Forest is also in Stage 3 (closure) restrictions, but some lakes (Roosevelt, Apache, Canyon, Saguaro, portion of lower Salt River), roads and developed recreation sites remain open – see the Tonto National Forest news release for open areas. The Prescott National Forest is also in Stage 3 (closure) restrictions, but some lakes (Lynx, Goldwater, Granite Basin) and roads remain open – see the Prescott National Forest closure order for open areas. At this time, the Coronado National Forest is open, but keep checking their website for updates.

The Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management has closed state-owned and managed lands to entry for recreational purposes in all 15 counties in the state. This includes state trust lands outside of incorporated municipalities and most Game and Fish wildlife areas. Some Arizona state parks will remain open under Stage 2 fire restrictions – see the Arizona State Parks website).

Outdoor recreationists are advised to contact or visit the website of the land management agency with jurisdiction over the area they are planning to visit before heading out since fire restrictions may change on a daily basis

Other useful resources:

Current wildfire information in Arizona: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/
Fire restrictions in Arizona: https://dffm.az.gov/fire-restrictions-and-closures-across-arizona

LITCHFIELD PARK, Ariz. — The Wildlife for Tomorrow Foundation will honor the 2020 and 2021 classes of inductees into the Arizona Outdoor Hall of Fame at the annual banquet on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, at the Wigwam Resort, 300 East Wigwam Blvd. in Litchfield Park, Ariz. The 2020 banquet was not held due to Covid-19.

The 2021 inductees are:

  • Arizona Becoming an Outdoors-Woman is a volunteer-driven organization that has taught outdoor skills and provided outdoor experiences to hundreds of women at camps and workshops in Arizona.
  • Bill Hardy, of Tucson, is an outdoorsman, mentor and wildlife-viewing expert who pioneered a glassing technique using binoculars attached to a camera tripod, and who was also instrumental in developing the Three Points Shooting Range.
  • Margie Anderson, of Phoenix, is a longtime outdoors writer, editor and blogger who has written wildlife and outdoor recreation articles for numerous publications and encourages people to experience the outdoors with their kids.
  • Charlie Kelly, of Phoenix, is a tireless advocate for wildlife conservation and the outdoor heritage who has held leadership positions with numerous sportsmen’s/conservation organizations and government boards.
  • Randall Babb, of Apache Junction, is a lifelong hunter, angler and wildlife expert as well as an accomplished writer, artist, photographer and taxidermist who worked for the Arizona Game and Fish Department for more than 30 years.

The 2020 inductees are:

  • Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, in Tucson, is recognized as one of the top 10 museums/zoological parks in the country and has been an indispensable partner with AZGFD in several aspects of amphibian and reptile conservation.
  • Josiah (Joe) Austin, of Willcox, is a long-time wildlife conservationist and rancher who has partnered with AZGFD on reintroduction efforts of several wildlife species, including Gould’s turkeys, into historic habitats on his property.
  • Joe Bill Pickrell, of Phoenix, is an avid outdoorsman who has held leadership positions with multiple sportsmen’s/conservation groups and who has tirelessly participated in on-the-ground wildlife projects and fundraising events.
  • Justin Stewart, of Mesa, is a dedicated sportsman and dairy owner who has generously opened his property to a number of events hosted by AZGFD and Wildlife for Tomorrow, including events designed to recruit and retain new hunters.
  • Gloria Tom, of Window Rock, has been director of the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife since 1998 and has coordinated or partnered with AZGFD on conservation, law enforcement, youth events, and other matters.
  • Peggy Anne Vallery, of Oro Valley, has held numerous leadership positions with the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) and, as a staunch advocate for women hunters, started the first NWTF “Women in the Outdoors” event in Tucson.

More detailed biographical information on the inductees can be found on the Wildlife for Tomorrow Outdoor Hall of Fame web page.

To make a reservation for the Arizona Outdoor Hall of Fame banquet, fill out and submit an online order form (a link to the form is also posted at the Outdoor Hall of Fame web page). Tickets are $70 each. There are also sponsorship and advertising opportunities.

The banquet event will begin with a social hour at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner and the induction ceremony. Suggested attire is business casual or western wear.

The Arizona Outdoor Hall of Fame was developed in 1998 by the Wildlife for Tomorrow Foundation to honor those who have made significant contributions to Arizona’s wildlife, the welfare of its natural resources, and the state’s outdoor heritage. Previous inductees include the likes of Senator Barry Goldwater, Congressman Mo Udall, sports writer Ben Avery, outdoor writer Bob Hirsch, the Phoenix Herpetological Society, Senator John McCain, and many other men, women and organizations that have served selflessly and continuously worked for the success of conservation of Arizona’s precious wildlife resources.

Wildlife for Tomorrow is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that exists to accelerate and magnify the impact of the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s mission to conserve and protect Arizona’s wildlife and provide safe, ethical outdoor recreation.

For more information, visit www.wildlifefortomorrow.org/take-action.

Did you know?
Wildlife for Tomorrow is the official philanthropic partner of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Wildlife for Tomorrow provides a way for people who are passionate about the outdoors and wildlife conservation to give back to the places that have given so much joy. Subscribe to Wildlife for Tomorrow to learn about the many ways you can contribute to conservation efforts.

Applications must be received by Aug. 9

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department is offering federal grant money for projects that enhance and improve public boating facilities at Arizona lakes and waterways.

The funds are being offered through the Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG) program, a federal program that has a focus on public boating facilities specifically intended to accommodate watercraft over 26 feet in length. Funding for the grants are provided by federal taxes on the sale of equipment related to fishing and boating, and on motorboat fuel.

Grant funds are awarded through a competitive application process. Applications must be received at the department’s Phoenix headquarters no later than 5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 9, 2021.

For more information on the grant, how to apply, and an application form, visit the department’s boating facilities web page at www.azgfd.gov/boatingfacilities.

SHOW LOW, Ariz. – The Eastern Arizona Counties Organization (EACO) has made a contribution of $25,000 for 2021 to support the Range Rider Program managed by the Arizona Interagency Field Team (IFT) of the Mexican Wolf Recovery Project.

Last year EACO made a $35,000 contribution toward the Range Rider Program, and depredations dropped 39% compared to the same time period the previous year, even though the Mexican wolf population grew. The end-of-year population count increased 14% from 163 in 2019 to 186 in 2020.

Range riders are people who spend time in areas where wolves and cattle are in proximity and chase wolves from the area. It is a way of proactively deterring conflict between wolves and livestock. The work occurs in much of eastern Arizona and is directed to areas where high levels of depredations are occurring.

“The Eastern Arizona Counties Organization has really stepped up in the effort to help reduce Mexican wolf depredations by providing, for a second straight year, a grant to the Arizona Game and Fish Department to support the Range Rider Program,” said Jim deVos, Mexican wolf coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Those who manage wolves on the ground have found that range riding is one of the more effective tools to reduce depredations, and the funding from EACO has been invaluable to the department in supporting additional range riders.”

Created in 1993, the EACO includes Apache, Cochise, Gila, Graham, Greenlee and Navajo counties. The EACO counties have developed a leading role in natural resources and public lands management issues in eastern Arizona, including forest and watershed restoration, travel management and public land access, threatened and endangered species management, rural economic development, and recreation issues.

“EACO is pleased to provide this funding to AZGFD and the IFT,” said Jason Whiting, EACO chair. “Prior to this past year when funding was provided, the number of depredations over the previous two years had increased as the wolf population increased, and this was impacting the region’s ranchers. Wolf depredations usually peak in early summer and continue into the fall, so this funding for the Range Rider Program will be put on the ground now.”

More about EACO
EACO county supervisors provide leadership to the Natural Resources Working Group in the White Mountains, the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), the Mexican Wolf Recovery & Management Team, the Mexican Spotted Owl Leadership Forum, among others, and work closely with local stakeholders and state and federal partners in all natural resources and public lands management issues in Eastern Arizona.

New comment deadline is June 25; Proposal would continue federal funding to support AZGFD sport fish stocking program

 

PHOENIX — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) today extended the deadline for the public to comment on the draft Environmental Assessment (dEA) of Arizona’s sport fish stocking program. The original June 11 deadline has been extended for two weeks, until June 25, 2021, to allow for more comment opportunity. The methods of providing public comments remain the same as in the original announcement and are described below.

The dEA is part of a process to continue to allow federal Sport Fish Restoration funding to support AZGFD’s long-standing program of stocking fish for public recreational opportunities, and for hatchery operations and maintenance. Each year, thousands of anglers in Arizona take advantage of the fish stocking program, which is funded in part by federal dollars from the Sport Fish Restoration Program and augmented by state dollars from fishing license sales.

Every 10 years, USFWS and AZGFD evaluate the social, economic and environmental effects of Arizona’s stocking program, and pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), prepare a dEA that analyzes possible actions or alternatives. The preferred alternative for the agencies, also known as the Proposed Action, would allow AZGFD to continue its stocking program for the next 10 years and also includes conservation measures to reduce potential impacts on federally listed or sensitive native aquatic or semi-aquatic species.

Members of the public are encouraged to review and provide comments on the dEA. Written comments can be submitted from May 11, 2021 through 5 p.m. (Arizona time) on June 25, 2021. Comments can be either:

• Emailed to fw2fa@fws.gov, or
• Sent by U.S. Mail to Arizona Game and Fish Department, Attention Dave Weedman, 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086 (must be postmarked no later than June 25, 2021).

Your written comments—including personal identifying information, such as name, address, phone number, and email address—may be made publicly available at any time. While you may ask that personal identifying information be withheld from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Two Facebook Live sessions with information about the dEA were held June 1 and June 2 and are available for on-demand viewing:
• View the June 1 session – covers AZGFD northern regions (1, 2, 3).
• View the June 2 session – covers AZGFD southern regions (4, 5, 6).

View the draft Environmental Assessment

PAYSON, Ariz. — The next public meeting of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission will be Friday, June 11, at the Quality Inn, Conference Room, 801 N. Beeline Highway in Payson.

The meeting begins at 8 a.m.

A complete agenda and more information on viewing the meeting, or speaking to the commission, can be found here or at at https://www.azgfd.com/agency/commission/meetingagenda/.

Fostered Mexican wolf pups advance genetic recovery effort

 

PINETOP, Ariz. –​​​​​​​ A record 22 captive-born Mexican wolf pups were placed in wild dens to be raised in the wild by their surrogate parents after another successful cross-foster season. For six years, wild Mexican wolves have been raising captive-born pups as their own, helping to boost the genetic diversity of this endangered subspecies and moving the wild population towards recovery.

During April and May, nine pups were fostered into three different packs in eastern Arizona and 13 were fostered into five packs in western New Mexico.

“Fostering is an outstanding example of a working private-public recovery program.  Wolf recovery has to recognize the importance of meeting genetic criteria, which requires many private organizations maintaining captive wolves for release into the wild.  Without this important partnership, genetic recovery would be essentially impossible,” said Jim deVos, AZGFD Mexican Wolf Coordinator.  “Importantly, we are now seeing Mexican wolves that have been fostered producing litters themselves supporting the use of fostering as an effective conservation tool.”

Cross-fostering is a proven method used by the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team (IFT) to increase genetic diversity in the wild Mexican wolf population. It involves placing genetically diverse pups that are 14 days or younger from the captive breeding population into wild dens with similarly aged pups to be raised in the wild by experienced wolves. The IFT has documented that cross-fostered pups have the same survival rate as wild-born pups in their first year of life (about 50%).

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service remains committed to improving the health of the wild population of Mexican wolves, and cross-fostering is one of the many tools we are using to make progress in that direction,” said Allison Greenleaf, biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “To see this program continuing to have success is a true testament to the hard work of all our field staff and partners.”

Five different captive-born litters provided Mexican wolf pups for fostering into the wild population. The following facilities provided pups this year:

  • Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka, Missouri: one litter provided two pups into the Owl Canyon Pack in New Mexico and three pups into the Elk Horn Pack in Arizona; a second litter provided three pups into the Lava Pack in New Mexico and three pups into the Hoodoo Pack in Arizona
  • El Paso Zoo in El Paso, Texas: one litter provided three pups into the Castle Rock Pack in Arizona and one pup into the Leon Pack in New Mexico;
  • Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in Socorro, New Mexico: one litter provided two pups into the San Mateo Pack in New Mexico and two pups into the Leon Pack in New Mexico; a second litter provided three pups into the Dark Canyon Pack in New Mexico.

Aerial support for this year’s operations was provided by three private organizations: LightHawk Conservation Flying and APLux and Aero Charter. In addition, Arizona Game and Fish Department provided air support to facilitate fostering efforts.

“The cooperation between Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has allowed another record year, allowing us to improve the genetic diversity in the wild population and gaining on the goal for genetic recovery,” said Stewart Liley, Wildlife Management Division Chief at New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.

Since the beginning of the cross-fostering program, the IFT has documented a minimum of 12 cross-fostered wolves currently alive and surviving in the wild. Seven of these wolves have reached breeding age (two years old) and count toward the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan criterion for genetic recovery of the population. Four of these cross-fostered wolves have subsequently produced pups in the wild. Pups are too young to mark when fostered, therefore only those that are recaptured can be confirmed as being alive. It is likely that other fostered pups are alive and contributing to improving the genetic diversity of the wild population and helping meet recovery criteria.

The IFT will continue to monitor the packs that pups were placed in through GPS and radio telemetry signals from collars on older wolves within the pack to avoid further disturbance. Later, through remote camera observations and efforts to capture the young of the year, the IFT plans to document additional survival of cross-fostered pups.

The end-of-year census for 2020 showed a minimum of 186 wild Mexican wolves in the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (72 in Arizona and 114 in New Mexico). This marked a 14% increase in the population from a minimum of 163 wolves counted at the end of 2019. The IFT documented a 24% growth in the Mexican wolf population in 2019, which has nearly doubled in size over the last five years.

Cross-fostering is a coordinated effort of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico State Lands Office, U.S. Forest Service, and the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan.

For more information on the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program, visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s website or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s website.

Pleasant Harbor July_Sept 2016