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In This Issue
- AZGFD in the News: Sandhill cranes flock to southern Arizona, giving nature buffs a “magnificent sight”
- Wild Arizona: Majestic find
- AZGFD Biologists at Work: Tegan Wolf, Tortoise Adoption Program coordinator
- Walk on the Wild Side: Page Springs Fish Hatchery
- Upcoming Events: Virtual speaker wildlife series
- Video of the Month: Chiricahua leopard frogs and drought
AZGFD in the News: Sandhill cranes flock to southern Arizona, giving nature buffs a “magnificent sight”
Kudos to The Arizona Republic and reporter Lindsey Botts for a recent article about a guided photography tour at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area, where nature buffs gathered with their high-powered cameras to learn from department experts how to get that “perfect” shot. Their subject? The more than 30,000 sandhill cranes that congregated this winter at the wildlife area in southern Arizona.
Often during aerial population surveys we encounter interesting “finds” that typically can only be seen from an above-ground view. Whether it is an old mine site with oxidized and abandoned equipment just outside the entrance — denoting its usefulness or the strenuous extraction out of wilderness have both likely passed — or observing a dated campsite or remnants of weather and Mylar balloons, some of the most interesting sights are that of cultural significance.
This cliff dwelling at Apache Lake is one of many that we routinely see during bighorn sheep surveys, but we saw something special late last year. Taking advantage of the cool, shaded cave area and seeking refuge from the big “whirlybird” in the sky, this group of desert bighorn sheep gave us a great photo opportunity.
We often speculate about the life of the previous inhabitants of these dwellings, but now we also wonder if they had the same appreciation, use and harmony with bighorn sheep — like those of us so fortunate to work with this iconic and majestic species.
— Dustin Darveau, terrestrial wildlife specialist; John Dickson, wildlife manager
As the Tortoise Adoption Program coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Tegan Wolf’s main focus is caring for almost 350 desert tortoises a year. She and her colleagues cover the tortoises’ needs until they are adopted by Arizona residents.
Each year from April through September, Wolf coordinates adoptions of the tortoises. Arizona families complete a brief application and must fulfill several habitat requirements at home before adoption is possible. Tortoises can live to be 80 to 100 years old, so the commitment to adopt must be taken seriously.
“Medications are administered to tortoises that require medical treatment and pens are cleaned often so they are comfortable,” Wolf said. On a daily basis, approximately 100 tortoises need feeding and watering.
Caring for so many tortoises is fun, but it’s also a lot of work. While Wolf is busy completing projects, she works with Wildlife Center animals for only a small portion of the day. Seeking to have more time with the animals, Wolf said it’s rewarding to see how the adoptions improve the lives of families and the tortoises.
“I love when entire families come out to see their new family member,” she said. “I also enjoy working with the animals and being outdoors.”
Wolf said each tortoise has a different personality, which makes it fun to learn about each one.
“The animals here make me smile every day,” she said. “They are the reason we work so hard.”
For information about how to adopt and care for a desert tortoise, visit www.azgfd.gov/tortoise
— Anna Johnson, associate editor
The Page Springs Fish Hatchery is more than just the state’s largest coldwater fish production facility, producing almost 700,000 trout each year.
Nestled among the cool pines of the Coconino National Forest, families enjoy hiking the nature trail bordering Oak Creek, and children like visiting the show ponds to see the hatchery’s finest and largest trout.
The nature trail, which features signage that describes riparian habitat and wildlife, meanders through the hatchery grounds and along Oak Creek. The trail is a great place to see wildlife and view birds. Some common birds in the area include the black-crowned night-heron, great blue heron, belted kingfisher and Clark’s grebe.
The unique setting of the hatchery provides habitat for other wildlife species. A few fish-eaters, like skunks and raccoons, have been known to stop by and sample the trout. In fact, Arizona Game and Fish Department employees rescued a skunk a few years ago when it attempted to swim in one of the raceways. In the surrounding uplands, mule and white-tailed deer, javelina, elk and black bear are seen from time to time.
In addition to being a major trout producer, Page Springs also features a smaller warm-water hatchery. Bubbling Ponds produces sportfish, such as bluegill, largemouth bass and walleye, as well as sensitive species such as razorback suckers and Colorado pikeminnow that are used in native fish conservation and recovery efforts.
The hatchery is located on Page Springs Road, just south of where it crosses Oak Creek. Page Springs Road is located west of Interstate 17, between State Route 89 and Cornville Road.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) has partnered with the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center (SWCC) to host virtual wildlife lectures. In addition to partnering with SWCC, the department’s Wildlife Viewing Program will conduct its own critter-based lectures twice each month.
- California Condors — 6:30-8 p.m. March 24 (SWCC). Description: California condors are the largest flying birds in North America, with wingspans that measure up to almost 10 feet wide. Learn about these fascinating, elusive giants, the causes of population decline, and the efforts to bring them back from the brink of extinction. Register
- Rattlesnakes of Arizona — 6:30-8 p.m. April 7 (AZGFD). Description: Snakes have suffered from a lot of bad press, especially rattlesnakes. The fact is that snakes serve an important ecological niche and have their own intrinsic value. Learn the truth about Arizona’s different species, their behaviors, diet, and just how dangerous they are — if at all. Register
See how drought is affecting the efforts of Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists to conserve and protect the federally threatened Chiricahua leopard frog.
Watch the video