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In This Issue
- Partner Projects: At least seven Mexican wolf pups successfully cross-fostered into wild packs
- AZGFD in the News: To protect native fish, agencies put a bounty on brown trout in the Colorado River
- Partner Projects: New maps document ungulate migrations across western U.S.
- Walk on the Wild Side: Colorado River Nature Center and Wildlife Area
- Upcoming Events: Virtual speaker wildlife series
- Video of the Month: Give Arizona’s Wildlife a Future
The Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team (IFT) has successfully captured and radio-collared seven of this year’s cross-fostered pups, documenting record success for the program. Last spring, members of the IFT and the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan cross-fostered a total of 20 genetically diverse wolf pups from captive facilities into litters of wild wolf packs.
As part of ongoing efforts to record survival of cross-fostered pups, the IFT reports the following:
- One of two pups cross-fostered from the Phoenix Zoo to the Iron Creek pack (NM) has been caught and radio-collared.
- One of two pups cross-fostered from the Endangered Wolf Center to the San Mateo pack (NM) has been caught and radio-collared
- Three of four pups cross-fostered from the Sedgwick County Zoo to the Hoodoo pack (AZ) have been caught and radio-collared.
- One of the four pups cross-fostered from the Endangered Wolf Center to the Dark Canyon pack (NM) has been caught and radio-collared.
- One of the three pups cross-fostered from the Endangered Wolf Center to the Elk Horn pack (AZ) has been caught and radio-collared. Unfortunately, this animal was found dead in December.
These results represent the minimum number of the 20 pups cross-fostered in the spring of 2020 having survived to date. In 2019, the IFT captured and collared two out of the 12 pups cross-fostered into the wild. 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 percent).
“We have documented survival in four out of the seven packs that received cross-fostered pups this year — and there could still be more. This is an extraordinary accomplishment by our field team,” said John Oakleaf, Mexican Wolf Field Projects Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The Service would once again like to thank the staff from the captive facilities, LightHawk, and the Interagency Field Team who continue to do incredible and visionary conservation work for the Mexican wolf.”
“It’s exciting to see these results from the team’s cross-fostering efforts this past spring,” said Paul Greer, Mexican Wolf IFT Leader for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “We’re continuing to see progress on numeric recovery while at the same time making progress at infusing new genetics into the Mexican wolf population.”
Cross-fostering is a proven method used by IFT, a task force comprising federal, state and tribal partners, to increase genetic diversity in the wild Mexican wolf population. It involves placing genetically diverse pups less than 14 days old from captive breeding populations into wild dens with similarly aged pups to be raised as wild wolves. Since 2014, there have been 50 genetically diverse wolf pups cross-fostered into the wild. Five cross-fostered wolves have survived to breeding age, resulting in multiple litters of genetically diverse pups born in the wild.
There are currently 14 genetically valuable cross-fostered wolves that are collared and alive in the wild that the IFT is actively monitoring. Very likely there are additional cross-fostered wolves alive in the population that have yet to be captured and collared. The IFT will continue collaring efforts in 2021 to document additional cross-foster survival.
Read about this year’s cross-foster efforts.
AZGFD in the News: To protect native fish, agencies put a bounty on brown trout in the Colorado River
Kudos to The Arizona Republic and reporter Anton L. Delgado for a recent article about a pilot program that incentivizes the harvest of brown trout in the Colorado River. The objective is to keep the predatory brown trout from moving downstream and endangering native fish like the humpback chub.
LARAMIE, Wyo. — For the first time, state and federal wildlife biologists have come together to map the migrations of ungulates — hooved mammals such as mule deer, elk, pronghorn, moose and bison — across America’s West.
The maps will help land managers and conservationists pinpoint actions necessary to keep migration routes open and functional to sustain healthy ungulate populations.
“This new detailed assessment of migration routes, timing and interaction of individual animals and herds has given us an insightful view of the critical factors necessary for protecting wildlife and our citizens,” said Jim Reilly, director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
The new study, “Ungulate Migrations of the Western United States: Volume 1,” includes maps of more than 40 ungulate migration routes in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.
“I’m really proud of the team that worked across multiple agencies to transform millions of GPS locations into standardized migration maps,” said Matt Kauffman, lead author of the report and director of the USGS Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. “Many ungulate herds have been following the same paths across western landscapes since before the United States existed, so these maps are long overdue.”
The migration mapping effort was facilitated by Department of the Interior Secretary’s Order 3362, which has brought greater focus to the need to manage and conserve ungulate migrations in the West. It builds on more than two decades of wildlife research enhanced by a technological revolution in GPS tracking collars. The research shows ungulates need to migrate in order to access the best food, which in the warmer months is in the mountains. They then need to retreat seasonally to lower elevations to escape the deep winter snow.
Ungulate migrations have grown more difficult as expanding human populations alter habitats and constrain the ability of migrating animals to find the best forage. The herds must now contend with the increasing footprint of fences, roads, subdivisions, energy production and mineral development. Additionally, an increased frequency of droughts due to climate change has reduced the duration of the typical springtime foraging bonanza.
Fortunately, maps of migration habitat, seasonal ranges and stopovers are leading to better conservation of ungulate herds in the face of all these changes. Detailed maps can help identify key infrastructure that affect migration patterns and allow conservation officials to work with private landowners to protect vital habitats and maintain the functionality of corridors.
The migration maps also help researchers monitor and limit the spread of contagious diseases, such as chronic wasting disease, which are becoming more prevalent in wild North American cervid populations such as deer, elk and moose.
“Arizona is excited to be part of this effort,” said Jim deVos, assistant director for wildlife management for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “This collaboration has allowed us to apply cutting-edge mapping techniques to decades of Arizona’s GPS tracking data and to make those maps available to guide conservation of elk, mule deer and pronghorn habitat.”
Many of these mapping and conservation techniques were pioneered in Wyoming. Faced with rapidly expanding oil and gas development, for more than a decade the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the USGS Cooperative Research Unit at the University of Wyoming have worked together to map corridors to assure the continued movements of migratory herds on federal lands.
Migration studies have also reached the Wind River Indian Reservation, where researchers are collaborating with the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Fish and Game to track mule deer and elk migrations and doing outreach to tribal youth. Reilly said the interactions with state agencies and the tribes, especially with the Wind River students, have been a hallmark of this effort and have been remarkably successful.
For example, the mapping and official designation of Wyoming’s 150-mile Red Desert as part of the Hoback mule deer migration corridor enabled science-based conservation and management decisions. Detailed maps also allowed managers to enhance stewardship by private landowners, whose large ranches are integral to the corridor. Partners funded fence modifications and treatments of cheatgrass and other invasive plants across a mix of public and private segments within the corridor.
“Just like Wyoming, Nevada has long valued our mule deer migrations,” said Tony Wasley, director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife. “This effort has provided us with a new level of technical expertise to get these corridors mapped in a robust way. We look forward to using these maps to guide our stewardship of Nevada’s mule deer migrations.”
In 2018, the USGS and several western states jointly created a Corridor Mapping Team for USGS scientists to work side-by-side with state wildlife managers and provide technical assistance through all levels of government. With coordination from the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the information-sharing and technical support of the team, agency biologists from Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming collaborated to produce migration maps for the five ungulate species. In 2019, the Corridor Mapping Team expanded to include mapping work across all states west of the Rocky Mountains.
In addition to managers from the respective state wildlife agencies, the report was co-authored by collaborating biologists from the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Land Management, among others. The maps themselves were produced by cartographers from the USGS and the InfoGraphics Lab at the University of Oregon.
For more details about big-game migrations in the Western United States, read the report, or download the data via www.ScienceBase.gov. To explore the Western Migrations web viewer, visit the online portal.
From beach access to the Colorado River, a trail system and interpretive signage, to shade ramadas, benches, viewing decks and boardwalks, the Colorado River Nature Center and Wildlife Area has it all.
The 500-acre facility is located within the city limits of Bullhead City, Ariz., and is intended to provide a natural environment for low-impact recreational uses. It is maintained through a cooperative management agreement between the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Bullhead City (City) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
There are several hiking trails from which to choose. The parking lot is adjacent to a paved trail that goes around the backwater ponds at the nature center. This trail has educational signage that describes the local wildlife, sitting benches for casual strolls, and a covered picnic ramada with picnic tables for family outings.
Wildlife in the area is primarily limited to desert species — coyote, bobcat, desert cottontail, black-tailed jackrabbit, desert woodrat, Merriam’s kangaroo rat, and greater roadrunner. Other wildlife that can be seen here on occasion include mountain lion, striped skunk, badger, beaver and gray fox. The Colorado River is historically a travel corridor for many species of migratory birds, waterfowl and native songbirds.
Directions: Take Route 95 south out of Bullhead City about seven miles, then turn west on Richardo Avenue, which leads directly into the nature center.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) has partnered with the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center (SWCC) and Boyce Thompson Arboretum (BTA) to host virtual wildlife lectures. Watchable Wildlife Program manager Jeff Meyers, along with program coordinator Cheyenne Dubiach, will be sharing their knowledge about fascinating wildlife species that call Arizona home.
In addition to partnering with SWCC and BTA, the department’s Watchable Wildlife Program will conduct its own critter-based lectures twice each month beginning Jan. 7.
- Peregrine Falcons — 6:30-8 p.m. Jan. 7 (AZGFD). Description: Peregrine falcons make cheetahs look slow. These raptors not only are the fastest vertebrate on the planet, they are incredible predators in their own right. Listed as an endangered species only a few decades ago, peregrine falcons have made an incredible recovery and were removed from the endangered list. Learn about these amazing birds and why Arizona was one of the first states to support robust populations. Register
- Packrats — 6:30-8 p.m. Jan. 14 (SWCC). Description: Also known as woodrats, packrats are renowned for their hoarder-style method of home improvement. In truth, this is just one of the many adaptations these mammals use to survive and thrive in the Sonoran Desert. Register
- Desert Mammals — 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Jan. 16 (BTA). Description: The ecology of Arizona is the byproduct of physio-geographical phenomena that have impacted all aspects of the state’s natural history and given Arizona its unbelievable diversity of plants and animals — with 134 native mammal species. Learn about the diverse species that call Arizona home. Register
- Bats of Arizona — 6:30-8 p.m. Jan. 28 (AZGFD). Description: Bats are misunderstood creatures. These flying mammals are an incredible species that fill a special niche. Learn about the different species that inhabit Arizona, their natural history and what is so great about these animals. Register
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