Flight operations begin Feb. 7 for Mexican wolf population survey

PINETOP, Ariz.  — Residents of Alpine, Ariz., Reserve, NM and surrounding areas may notice a low-flying helicopter in the region between Feb. 7 and Feb. 20 as biologists conduct their annual Mexican wolf population survey and capture.

The flights are part of the Mexican wolf Reintroduction Project, a multi-agency cooperative effort among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Service Inspection Service – Wildlife Services and the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

Watch a Wildlife Views episode on Mexican wolf recovery

Survey flights will occur — weather permitting — on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation; the Apache-Sitgreaves, Gila and Cibola National Forests in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico; and possibly some locations immediately outside forest boundaries.

“Each year this survey is done in the wintertime to provide a snapshot of the Mexican wolf population, by collecting critical data to help partner agencies make sound management decisions in the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program,” said Paul Greer, AZGFD Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team leader. “Additionally, data collected helps us know how these animals are using habitat in Arizona and New Mexico.”

As part of the operation, biologists will attempt to capture selected wolves born in 2018 that have not yet been fitted with a radio telemetry collar, in addition to those with collars that need a battery replacement or any wolf appearing to be sick or injured. Wolves are captured after being darted with an anesthetizing drug from a helicopter containing trained personnel.

After being immobilized, the wolf is then brought by air to a staging area for processing and any necessary veterinary care. The wolf is then returned to the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA) and released on public land.

The field team is contacting private landowners to gain permission to property to capture a wolf, if necessary, and will be coordinating with land management agencies and county sheriff offices on survey operation details.

There were a minimum of 114 wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico at the end of 2017, according to a survey by the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team. The survey found that there were 63 wolves in Arizona and 51 in New Mexico.

Results of the survey will be made available to the public in March. For more information on the Mexican wolf reintroduction program, visit /wolf or https://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/.

Live stream of bald eagle nest brings wildlife to your smart device

PHOENIX — The camera is set, zoomed in and ready to broadcast the day-to-day life of a pair of bald eagles hoping to raise a family inside their nest at Lake Pleasant Regional Park.

On Tuesday, Dec. 18, the Arizona Game and Fish Department — in partnership with Salt River Project, Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department, Arizona State Land Department and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation — began live-streaming from the camera perched near the bald eagle nest on Lake Pleasant.

Watch the cam

View webcam footage

“We are thrilled to bring this camera to fruition,” said Randy Babb, AZGFD watchable wildlife program manager. “Our goal is to provide opportunities for people to truly appreciate and connect with Arizona’s wildlife, and live-feed wildlife cameras such as this help us to do exactly that. People will be fascinated as they learn from and watch these nesting eagles incubate eggs and rear their young in real-time.”

Records show bald eagles have inhabited Lake Pleasant since at least 1979, with the first documented nesting attempt occurring in 1984. While no young were produced until 1993, 28 birds have since survived to take their first flight, known as fledging.

Two eggs were laid in the nest in early January 2018 and each hatched the following month. The two young successfully fledged in late April.

“Park visitors are always excited to catch a glimpse of these magnificent raptors flying overhead while they’re recreating at Lake Pleasant Regional Park,” said R.J. Cardin, director for the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department. “Now, through the addition of the eagle cam, everyone can enjoy this experience from the comfort of their own home.”

The camera feed was made possible through permitting and coordination with Arizona State Land Department, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Maricopa County Parks and Recreation, and Salt River Project.

“These beautiful birds often nest in and around the state’s rivers and reservoirs, and we are proud to be a part of a program that allows more members of the public to view these majestic raptors,” said Kara Montalvo, SRP Director of Environmental Compliance and Permitting.

The bald eagle cam is the fourth wildlife camera offered by the department, which also provides seasonal views of wintering sandhill cranes in southeastern Arizona, a bat roost at Cluff Ranch Wildlife Area and an underwater pupfish cam. All the live streams can be viewed at www.azgfd.gov/livecams.

Viewers are asked to check the cameras frequently if there is no activity in the nest. Often the birds will leave at multiple times for feeding. If eggs are laid, viewing will be more consistent and predictable.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department Lake Pleasant bald eagle live-streaming camera is funded through Heritage and Pittman Robertson funds, the Southwestern Bald Eagle Management Committee and public donations.  

“Viewers wishing to support the Watchable Wildlife program and its wildlife cameras are asked to consider making a donation,” Babb added. “These cameras are very expensive to install and maintain and we appreciate any and all donations.”

Funding to be used to research potential impact of white-nose syndrome in AZ

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) was awarded $29,839 in grant funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to help protect the state’s 28 species of bats from white-nose syndrome, a deadly fungal disease.

Funds issued by the FWS were part of nearly $1 million in grants to 39 states to help combat the disease that has killed millions of bats in recent years nationwide. In Arizona, the funding will be used to research whether the fungus has begun to impact local cave-dwelling bats.

Learn more about Arizona’s bats

“The fungus that causes white-nose syndrome has left a lasting impact on the nation’s cave-dwelling bat populations. Bats give birth to only one young per year, so recovery from this disease will take decades,” said Angie McIntire, an AZGFD biologist and bat specialist. “These funds will allow us to continue our research and data collection to better understand the winter ecology of cave-dwelling bats in Arizona and to monitor for this deadly disease.”

First discovered in New York in the winter of 2006-2007, white-nose syndrome received its name from the white fungus that was found on a bat’s muzzle and wings. White-nose syndrome has killed more than 5.7 million bats in eastern North America.

The syndrome has now spread to 33 states and seven Canadian provinces and infects eight of the top 10 agricultural producing states. While the syndrome hasn’t yet been detected in Arizona, it’s critical to monitor for the disease and research its impact to better protect our 28 species of bats, which include 13 that migrate or that are active in winter, and 15 presumed to hibernate.

VERMILION CLIFFS, Ariz. – There is nothing quite as iconic in the western United States as a California Condor soaring over the red-rock-canyon landscapes of northern Arizona and southern Utah. Thanks to people working together to recover this species, condors have become a fixture in southwestern skies. On National Public Lands day this year, the public is invited to join the recovery effort by witnessing first-hand a spectacular release into the wild of several captive-bred young condors.

California Condors will be released by The Peregrine Fund atop the spectacular cliffs in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in northern Arizona at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 22. The public is welcome to observe the release from a viewing area where spotting scopes provided by partners and Swarovski Optik will be set up and project personnel will be available to answer questions.

The release coincides with National Public Lands Day, the nation’s largest hands-on volunteer effort to improve and enhance America’s public lands. National Public Lands Day involves the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies, along with state and local governments and private groups.

This will be the 23rd annual public release of condors in Arizona since the southwest condor recovery program began in 1996. Condors are produced at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho, the Oregon Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo, and San Diego Zoo Safari Park and then transported to release sites annually for release to the wild.

The historical California Condor population declined to just 22 individuals in the 1980s when the greater California Condor Recovery Program was initiated to save the species from extinction.  As of July 25, 2018 there were 85 condors in the wild in the rugged canyon country of northern Arizona and southern Utah and the total world population of endangered California Condors numbers nearly 500 individuals, with more than half flying in the wilds of Arizona, Utah, California, and Mexico.

The Arizona-Utah recovery effort is a cooperative program by federal, state, and private partners, including The Peregrine Fund, Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management’s Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Grand Canyon and Zion national parks, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and Kaibab and Dixie national forests among many other supporting groups and individuals.

For more information about California Condors in Arizona visit http://www.peregrinefund.org/condor.

PINETOP, Ariz — The Arizona Game and Fish Department will present its annual watchable waterfowl workshop at the Pinetop regional office at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 1.

The program is free to the public and will consist of a classroom presentation and discussion of waterfowl identification, life history, behavior patterns and the waterfowl’s importance to wildlife conservation in Arizona and North America. The presentation will be followed by an optional trip to a local lake to observe waterfowl first-hand.

Both hunters and wildlife watchers are encouraged to attend to increase their waterfowl identification skills.

Participants are advised to dress appropriately for weather conditions for that day and to encouraged bring a set of binoculars or a spotting scope for improved observation.

Please call the Pinetop Game and Fish office at (928) 532-3680 to register. Registration is not required, but is appreciated to ensure proper staffing.

The Pinetop Regional office is located at 2878 E. White Mountain Blvd. in Pinetop.

Pleasant Harbor July_Sept 2016