AZGFD continues to lead successful binational wildlife conservation efforts

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) recently returned six Sonoran pronghorn (Antilocapra americana sonoriensis) to Mexico as part of a binational effort to prevent the Sonoran pronghorn from becoming extinct.

Due to the species population decline, the Sonoran pronghorn was listed as endangered in the late 1960s by the precursor of what’s now known as the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a law that protects at-risk species and their habitats from extinction.

In the early 2000s, severe drought conditions almost decimated the species’ population. As a result, AZGFD partnered with other agencies to implement measures to halt the decline of the species. One of the management strategies included creating a semi-captive breeding program, spearheaded by AZGFD.

The breeding program was launched in 2004 when Mexico allowed AZGFD to take a few Sonoran pronghorns from Sonora and translocate them to the semi-captive breeding pen at Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Arizona.

The success of the program was seen within two years, as several Sonoran pronghorn were released into their natural habitat in Arizona. Nearly 20 years after the inception of the program, Arizona’s Sonoran pronghorn population is estimated to be 456, which is considered a sustainable level.

“The road to delisting and full recovery is an ongoing process, but there is no doubt that past and present collaborative efforts have resulted in positive outcomes”, says Cynthia Soria, AZGFD’s international and borderlands wildlife specialist.

The Sonoran pronghorn’s range is exclusive to southern Arizona and northern Sonora. Nearly 20 years ago, AZGFD and the state of Sonora discussed the possibility of, eventually, Arizona returning the favor to Mexico by sending six Sonoran pronghorn back to Sonora; it was agreed that the option would only be explored once Arizona’s Sonoran pronghorn population recovered to sustainable levels.

In December 2022, the AZGFD along with multiple partner agencies, as part of the annual capture and release operations at the Cabeza Prieta semi-captive breeding pen, processed six Sonoran pronghorn, performed thorough medical evaluations on the animals and fitted them with GPS collars. They transported the animals to northern Sonora’s El Pinacate Biosphere Reserve, where they remained in a holding pen until they successfully adapted to the environment.

On Jan. 10, 2023, representatives from AZGFD and Sonora’s Ecological and Sustainable Development Commission (CEDES), returned to El Pinacate to release the six Sonoran pronghorn back into the wild.

Agency partners:

  • Arizona Game and Fish Department
  • Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP)
  • El Pinacate Biosphere Reserve
  • Comisión de Ecología y Desarrollo Sustentable del Estado de Sonora (CEDES)
  • Dirección General de Vida Silvestre (DGVS)
  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS)
  • Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge
  • National Park Service (NPS)
  • Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
  • Department of Defense (DoD)
  • U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground
  • U.S. Border Patrol
  • Bureau of Land Management

See the February 2023 Fishing Report HERE.

 

News release from Arizona Livestock Loss Board

PHOENIX — The Arizona Livestock Loss Board (ALLB) is implementing a new incentive program that will compensate Arizona ranchers for removing livestock carcasses to locations where they are not accessible to Mexican wolves. The Board will pay ranchers $250 for each carcass that is made unavailable to wolves.

When the ALLB was formed by the Arizona Legislature in 2015, one of its charges was to research ways to reduce livestock depredations by Mexican wolves. As wolf recovery/management programs from other states were reviewed, one depredation avoidance measure that stood out as being effective was removing livestock carcasses from wolf-occupied areas to avoid wolves being drawn to and remaining in the area as they scavenge on the carcass.

“One of the problems associated with wolves scavenging on livestock carcasses is that it increased occurrence of wolves in areas occupied by other livestock, leading to greater opportunity for depredations,” said Jim deVos, the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s (AZGFD) Mexican wolf coordinator.

A substantial benefit is gained when depredations decline. When livestock producers experience reduced economic loss, this benefits the local economy as well as the individual’s financial status. In turn, this tends to help build social tolerance to the Mexican wolf recovery program.

There are a variety of methods that can be used to make carcasses unavailable to wolves, including burying onsite, hauling to a landfill, or placing in a wolf-proof fenced area in the vicinity.

Devos pointed to several other states that have had success with carcass removals. In Oregon, one of the take-home messages from that state’s experiences was a statement that removing bone yards and carcasses from wolf-occupied areas may be the single best action that can be taken to reduce depredations. Part of this was based on following movements of radio-collared wolves, which tended to be long-range, until a carcass was located and the wolves began to center on the area around the carcass.

Both Washington and California support carcass removal as being effective at reducing wolf depredations. In Washington, the director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife directed formation of a working group to plan and implement an effective carcass removal program.

In Arizona, at a recent ALLB meeting, a rancher from Springerville observed that in her experience, carcass removal was effective in managing depredations on her working ranch.

ALLB Past Chairman Ken Van De Graaf said, “After listening to the board member from Springerville discuss her experience, and listening to the staff report from the other states, it was clear that this was a tool that ALLB needed to adopt. As part of the program, the Board will compensate ranchers in the amount of $250 for each carcass that is made unavailable to wolves.”

Although ranchers and AZGFD personnel have been removing carcasses for years, the number has been limited by the cost of removals and the limited time that agency personnel have been able to commit to the program given the high demand in managing the wolves themselves.

“When a rancher removes a carcass from their grazing area, it is a benefit to both them and the wolf program, but it is important to recognize that each carcass removal takes time and financial resources to accomplish the removal,” said Clay Crowder, AZGFD’s assistant director for wildlife management. “As the Board implements the financial incentive for removing these dead animals, the hope is that the incentive will increase the rate at which this action occurs.”

The Arizona Livestock Loss Board was established in 2015 by the Arizona Legislature with the purpose of both compensating ranchers for depredations and to research and implement programs that will reduce depredations. In 2022, the Board approved an expenditure of $217,514 dollars for these purposes.

For more information on the Arizona Livestock Loss Board, visit https://live-azlivestocklossboard.pantheonsite.io/.

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department has released the Arizona Wildlife Conservation Strategy (AWCS), a major update to the official State Wildlife Action Plan that will serve as the Department’s roadmap for wildlife conservation over the next decade.

The 10-year strategic plan prioritizes conservation of the state’s “species of greatest conservation need,” identifies threats to those species and their habitats, and outlines specific conservation actions that can be taken to reduce or eliminate the threats.

“The AWCS comes with exciting changes to facilitate increased public engagement and partnership building,” said Clay Crowder, AZGFD’s assistant director for wildlife management.

For the first time, the Department’s State Wildlife Action Plan will be available in an easy-to-view online platform (https://awcs.azgfd.com/) within the AWCS. Users of the platform can explore the plan in-depth, learn about species of greatest conservation need, explore detailed profiles of the state’s habitats, learn about the most pressing threats to wildlife, and find out about conservation actions that can be taken to conserve Arizona’s most vulnerable species.

The AWCS showcases species distribution models for nearly 300 species of greatest conservation need across the state.

Additionally, there are interactive maps of Conservation Opportunity Areas (COAs) — specific areas on the landscape where conservation dollars would be most effective for certain species and their habitat. Each COA is presented with a detailed profile that describes the area and strategy species that occur there, while identifying the most pressing threats and offering practical conservation actions. Like the rest of the AWCS, the COAs are completely voluntary and non-regulatory. They simply provide a roadmap to focus on-the-ground conservation efforts in a targeted and cost-effective manner.

The AWCS has also been added to the Department’s Environmental Review Tool that helps inform and guide project planners, environmental consultants, government agencies, and others in a manner that maintains the quality of Arizona’s landscapes and minimizes negative impacts to wildlife and wildlife habitat.

For 20 years, the State Wildlife Action Plan has helped guide AZGFD’s nongame conservation efforts. It all started in 2002 when the U.S. Congress passed the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program (SWG) that provides federal funding dedicated to the development and implementation of programs that benefit nongame species and their habitats. At the heart of the program is the idea to “keep common species common” and take a proactive approach to conservation — before it becomes too costly to protect species.

“SWG dollars are critical for the state’s wide-ranging conservation projects that focus on nongame species,” said Crowder. “Each year SWG funds bring in about $1.3 million to AZGFD, all of it designated for nongame species. These dollars help fund many conservation efforts, including some of the department’s lesser-known nongame conservation work with the ranid frog program, Gila topminnow reintroduction and grassland bird monitoring.”

In order to qualify for this vital SWG funding source, each state and territory must have an approved State Wildlife Action Plan, which is then required to be revised every 10 years. Revising the latest iteration of Arizona’s plan was a multiyear process that included the public, partner agencies, nongovernmental organizations, tribal communities and industry leaders.

“The AWCS is designed for everyone — from the general public to conservation groups to federal agencies and beyond,” said Crowder. “With increased access to information and data, powerful conservation tools, and increased collaboration with our many partners, the AWCS will help meet the challenges that Arizona’s wildlife will face over the next 10 years.”

 

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department was informed today that Governor Doug Ducey has nominated Lieutenant General (retired) Jeffrey (“Jeff”) Buchanan to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission.

LTG Buchanan earned a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and is passionate about wildlife and natural resources conservation. He and his wife Laura (who also has a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology) are members of various conservation organizations ranging from the Arizona Elk Society to the National Wildlife Federation.

LTG Buchanan retired from a distinguished 37-year U.S. Army career in 2019, having commanded at every level from Platoon to Theater Army. His assignments included tours in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, 25th Infantry Division, 101st Airborne Division, the 10th Mountain Division, and I Corps. He served four combat tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.

From 2016-2019, he served as USNORTHCOM’s Joint Forces Land Component Commander and led the operational-level military response in support of FEMA for five major hurricanes (Matthew, Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Florence) and in support of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency for Southwest border security.

Upon retirement, he and his wife moved home to Patagonia, Ariz., where he consults from his home office. In addition to serving as a Senior Fellow for National Defense University, LTG Buchanan serves as a Senior Mentor for the Department of the Army. He currently serves on three not-for-profit boards.

In addition to his Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology, he also earned a Master of Arts in Leadership Development from the U.S. Military Academy.

Pending confirmation by the Arizona Senate, LTG Buchanan would replace commission member Leland (“Bill) Brake, whose term is expiring.

There is still time to reserve a spot at the annual Arizona Game and Fish Commission Awards Banquet set for Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, at the Hilton Phoenix Tapatio Cliffs Resort, Grande Ballroom, 11111 N. 7th Street in Phoenix. The Commission will recognize 14 individuals and one group at the banquet.

Reservations are being accepted for $75 per person by filling out and submitting the online registration and sponsorship form.

For more information and a list of award recipients, visit https://www.azgfd.com/agency/commission/awards/.

Harvest limits will reset in August 2023 (not January 2023)

 

PHOENIX — Hunters with over-the-counter archery deer nonpermit-tags are reminded that harvest limits have been set by unit and species, and hunters are required to report their harvest. Once the harvest limit is reached for a unit and species, that unit will close to further archery deer hunting for the remainder of the season. Please note that harvest limits will reset in August 2023, not January 2023.

Season and closure status can be found at https://harvest-tracking.azgfd.gov/. Hunters will be responsible for checking online or by telephone, 623-236-7961, before hunting to determine if their desired unit is still open. Some units have already reached their harvest limit and are closed for the January 2023 season.

More information about over-the-counter archery deer hunting is at https://www.azgfd.com/hunting/draw/archerydeerhunting/.

PHOENIX — Space is still available at the annual Arizona Game and Fish Commission Awards Banquet set for Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, at the Hilton Phoenix Tapatio Cliffs Resort, Grande Ballroom, 11111 N. 7th Street in Phoenix.

The Commission will recognize 14 individuals and one group at the banquet. The awards honor those who have contributed significantly to the conservation of the state’s wildlife, its outdoor heritage, and the mission of the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Reservations are being accepted for $75 per person by filling out and submitting the online registration and sponsorship form. The event begins with a social hour at 4 p.m., followed by dinner and the awards presentation at 5:30 p.m.

Those being honored are:

  • Award of Excellence – Brian McIntyre, Cochise County Attorney’s Office
  • Youth Conservationist of the Year – Buck Pruit, Gila Ridge High School FFA Agricultural Mechanical Team
  • Media of the Year – Robbie Kroger, Blood Origins
  • Conservation Organization of the Year – Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society
  • Conservationist of the Year – Don McDowell
  • Natural Resource Professional of the Year – Scott Feldhausen
  • Volunteer of the Year – Doug Beach
  • Educator of the Year – Kathy Balman
  • Mentor of the Year – Gabriel Paz
  • Advocate of the Year – Senator David Gowan
  • Business Partner of the Year – KUIU
  • Buck Appleby Hunter Education Instructor of the Year – Jim Rich
  • Wildlife Habitat Steward of the Year – Scott and Dawn Dunton, Dunton Ranch
  • North American Model Commissioner’s Award – Kelly Alkhoury

All of the costs associated with the awards banquet are paid for by ticket sales and sponsorship donations, including the complimentary tickets for award recipients and their spouse or guest. Table sponsorships for organizations are available in several categories.

The first Commission Awards event was held in January 1991. Since then, more than 400 people have been recognized for their dedicated work toward securing Arizona’s wildlife for generations to come.

Questions? Please contact Olga Kline at (623) 236-7276 or e-mail at okline@azgfd.gov.

See the December 2022 Fishing Report HERE.

PHOENIX

PHOENIX — Do you enjoy beautiful wildlife photography? Are you looking for a great gift idea for the wildlife enthusiast in your family? If so, one of the best deals around just got better.

Order a subscription to Arizona Wildlife Views magazine by Dec. 31, 2022, and you will receive six issues per year of the award-winning bimonthly magazine, including the full-size Arizona Wildlife Calendar published in the November-December issue, along with extra bonus issues, at these low prices:

  • $12 for one year, includes one free bonus issue (seven issues total);
  • $18 for two years, includes two free bonus issues (14 issues total);
  • $25 for three years, includes three free bonus issues (21 issues total).

The Arizona Wildlife Calendar showcases the 12 winning photographs from the annual photo contest hosted by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The winning photographers are listed here.

The calendar is also being sold at all Arizona Game and Fish offices for $3 while supplies last.

Whether it’s for yourself or you’re giving a gift, Arizona Wildlife Views is the perfect way to learn about the state’s wildlife and wild places. Subscribe today!

Pleasant Harbor July_Sept 2016