Arizona Wildlife Conservation Success Stories
The Arizona Game and Fish Department manages more than 800 species of wildlife, conserving these incredible animals for future generations. Our state’s unique wildlife make the great outdoors so great. And we’re working every day to keep it that way.
Building a new habitat for the burrowing owl
The western burrowing owl’s use of burrows makes it susceptible to impacts from ground disturbing activities. Burrowing owls are increasingly at risk of displacement in the greater Phoenix area due to commercial and residential development.
As one of several solutions to help conserve and protect the species, the Arizona Game and Fish Department is relocating these owls to key areas, such as Powers Butte Wildlife Area. Powers Butte Wildlife Area was selected to be a new relocation site as its food plots for other wildlife species provides excellent habitat for burrowing owls, in addition to the exemption of any development in the future.
American Kestrel nestwatch program
During the breeding season, American kestrels need access to nesting cavities found in trees and saguaros, but lack the ability to excavate their own. They rely on structures already built by other animals.
To bring awareness to the state’s American kestrel population declines and encourage the placement, monitoring and reporting of nest box occupancy, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, as part of the National American Kestrel Partnership, started the volunteer-based American Kestrel Nestwatch Project in Arizona. Through the project, artificial nest boxes are built and placed on federal, state, tribal and private lands. Through early studies of the species, factors influencing population declines may be identified and addressed long before it requires additional protections.
Bald Eagles – Recovering our national symbol
Once endangered, bald eagle populations have been slowly recovering in Arizona thanks to the careful work of the Arizona Game and Fish Department and its partners on the Southwestern Bald Eagle Management committee – a coalition that includes government agencies, private organizations and Native American tribes.
In 1978, there were only 11 breeding pairs in Arizona. During the 2021 breeding season, the state had 93 breeding areas. 87 young hatched, with 69 reaching the important milestone of their first flight, known as fledging. With continual monitoring and habitat protection efforts, AZGFD hopes to help this majestic bird flourish in Arizona once again.
Helping bighorn sheep cross the road
Highways have put Arizona’s bighorn sheep populations at risk due to wildlife-vehicle collisions, interference with access to adequate water and lack of habitat connectivity.
In a historic and innovative collaboration with USFWS, Federal Highway Administration, and ADOT, the Arizona Game and Fish Department constructed three wildlife overpasses and adjacent funnel fencing along a busy 15-mile stretch of Highway 93 north of Kingman to allow wildlife to cross over the road safely. The success of this project led to collaboration with Nevada Department of Wildlife, Nevada Department of Transportation and other agencies to construct similar infrastructure along new Interstate 11, which is already showing positive results.
Gould’s turkey – Restoring a native species
One of Arizona’s two native turkey species, Gould’s turkeys were once common in southern Arizona. Plentiful at one time, they were an important food source for those who settled and worked in the rugged lands of the south. However, by 1930 they had disappeared from Arizona’s landscape.
The first efforts to restore the population took place in 1983 in the Chiricahua Mountains in southeastern Arizona. Now, the Gould’s turkey population has topped 1,000 and continues to grow throughout the Huachuca, Chiricahua and other mountain ranges in southern Arizona. Today, Arizonans can experience the Gould’s turkey firsthand in its natural environment.
Sonoran pronghorn – Protecting an endangered species
Sonoran pronghorn are an endangered subspecies of the American pronghorn and are one of four surviving subspecies found in western North America. After more than 17 years of partnered wildlife conservation work in Arizona, the statewide population of the species is experiencing recovery.
A drastic population decline in 2002 left the U.S. Sonoran pronghorn population at about 21 animals. Working with partner agencies, the Arizona Game and Fish Department implemented a captive breeding program to bring the species back from the brink of extinction. Now the statewide population exceeds 450 individuals and more than 360 Sonoran pronghorn have been released into the wild.
Apache Trout – Welcoming back Arizona’s state fish
Arizona’s state fish was once nearly driven to extinction by overfishing and the introduction of non-native trout species, becoming one of the first species to be federally listed as endangered in 1969.
For the past 40 years, the Arizona Game and Fish Department has worked together with the White Mountain Apache Tribe, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and USDA Forest Service to restore Apache trout habitats and increase populations. The hard work has paid off significantly – anglers can once again fish for Apache trout in designated streams, and populations are nearing the criteria to be removed from the endangered species list altogether.
Black-tailed prairie dog – Restoring a keystone species
Sometimes the true value of an animal isn’t known until it’s gone. Native to southern Arizona, the black-tailed prairie dog once flourished, until expanding agriculture and ranchers’ efforts to poison these “pests” drove them out for good.
As it turns out, the black-tailed prairie dog is an essential part of the grasslands ecosystem. Other plant and animal species suffered as a result of the black-tailed prairie dog’s expulsion. Today, efforts to reestablish these perky pups are slowly gaining ground, with five current reintroduction colonies and more planned for the future.
Mexican wolf’s call returns to the wild
Mexican wolves once roamed Arizona, but as the Wild West attracted more settlers, these wolves were pushed nearly to extinction to protect livestock and give hunters one less predator to compete with.
It’s taken four decades of collaboration between multiple states, national and international agencies to agree upon and execute a recovery plan for the Mexican wolf. Using science-backed methods that included captive breeding and cross-fostering, the Arizona Game and Fish Department managed the reintroduction of 11 wolves into Arizona in 1998. Today, more than 100 Mexican wolves thrive in the Arizona wild.
Want to Get Involved with Wildlife Conservation?
Volunteer your time, or donate to help us with conserving and protecting our wildlife. When you purchase a hunting or fishing license online, resources go back into wildlife conservation.