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In This Issue
- Partner Projects: 2018 Mexican wolf count cause for optimism
- Walk on the Wild Side: Wenima Wildlife Area
- Wild Arizona: 5 secret Arizona swimming holes worth the hike
- Fun Facts: Do bears snore?
- Video of the Month: Meet Anne Justice-Allen, wildlife veterinarian
Note: The information below is from a joint news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
The Mexican wolf count earlier this year indicates that the population of Mexican wolves has increased by 12 percent since last year, raising the total number of wolves in the wild to a minimum of 131 animals.
That number is among the findings of the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team (IFT), a task force comprising federal, state and international partners. From November 2018 through January 2019, the team conducted ground counts in Arizona and New Mexico that concluded with aerial counts of Mexican wolves in February.
Among the IFT’s findings: 131 wolves are nearly evenly distributed — 64 wolves in Arizona and 67 in New Mexico. Last year, the team documented 117 wolves. This year’s total represents a 12 percent increase in the population of Canis lupus baileyi.
“The survey results indicate the Mexican wolf program is helping save an endangered subspecies,” said Amy Lueders, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Region. “The Mexican wolf has come back from the brink of extinction, thanks to scientific management and the dedicated work of a lot of partners. With continued support and research, we can continue to make progress in Mexican wolf recovery.”
“The numbers highlight the wolf’s progress in the wild,” said Jim deVos, assistant director of wildlife management for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “The results of this census are very important as they reflect the great progress being made in the recovery of the Mexican wolf in the United States. The increase of about 12 percent in the Mexican wolf population is not an isolated year, but rather a continuum of increases over the last 10 years.”
This year’s findings confirmed:
- There are a minimum of 32 packs of wolves (two or more animals), plus seven individuals.
- A minimum of 18 packs had pups; 16 of these packs had pups that survived to the end of the year.
- A minimum of 81 pups were born in 2018, and at least 47 survived to the end of the year. That’s a 58 percent survival rate.
- The population growth occurred despite 21 documented mortalities last year.
- Eleven wolves were captured during the aerial operations.
- Seventy-nine wolves — 60 percent of the population — wore functioning radio collars. The collars help researchers manage and monitor the population and are vital to collecting scientific information.
In addition to the Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department, partners in the recovery program include the Mexican government, White Mountain Apache Tribe, U.S. Forest Service, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service — Wildlife Services, several participating counties, and the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan.
The Wenima Wildlife Area, located about three miles northwest of the towns of Springerville and Eagar in the White Mountains, is an excellent place to view a wide variety of birds.
While birding can be rewarding throughout the year, the best times are spring, summer and fall. Some of the species of waterfowl, birds and raptors that can be seen here include golden eagle, American kestrel, belted kingfisher, blue grosbeak, indigo bunting, black-crowned night-heron, green-backed heron, yellow-breasted chat, black phoebe, gray catbird, and a variety of migrating warblers and songbirds. Check the bluff edges for raptors. Both mountain and western bluebird are found in the junipers in winter.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department acquired part of the property in 1993 (and the remainder in 1995) and has steadily enhanced habitat values and the attractions for visitors. Two hiking trails provide easy access to both streamside and upland areas where visitors can view beaver, mule deer, pronghorn, ringtail cat, ground squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits and lizards. Powerhouse Trail is .7 mile in length, proceeding south from the east side of the bridge over the Little Colorado River, while Beavertail Trail runs 1.5 miles north, starting from the west side of the bridge.
To get to the Wenima Wildlife Area, take U.S. Highway 60 a couple miles west going out of Springerville. At the junction of U.S. Highways 60 and 180/191, go a quarter-mile north on Highway 180/191 and look to turn right onto a graded dirt road going northeast. After 1.5 miles, the graded road drops a short distance into the Little Colorado River canyon corridor. Park at the designated parking area next to the restroom and information kiosks. The wildlife area is open from sunrise to sunset.
Looking for some interesting and scenic places to go hiking and maybe see some wildlife while you’re at it? The Arizona Office of Tourism’s travel newsletter has an article titled “5 Secret Arizona Swimming Holes Worth the Hike.”
Some of these hikes are more difficult than others, so do your homework first. The author notes, “Most of these swimming holes are dependent on rainfall or snowmelt. Always check conditions before setting forth on your hike.”
and other interesting tidbits
Note: This article originally appeared in the May-June 2018 edition of Arizona Wildlife Views magazine. To learn more about this award-winning magazine and to subscribe, visit www.azgfd.gov/magazine.
Recently, there has been higher bear activity in human-developed areas statewide. This is because of the dry conditions and food shortages in their natural habitat. They are coming into human-developed areas in search of food and water. As I was chatting with a member of the public a few weeks ago about these bears, she asked, “Do bears snore?” Well, I can honestly say that I’ve never been asked that before and I had no idea. Naturally I went to the internet and promptly found a hysterical video of a denned bear sawing logs (search YouTube for “black bear snoring”). So, I can positively say now the answer is “yes!”
Whatever you do, don’t try to outrun a bear. While they look rotund and lumbersome, black bears can run up to 35 mph. The average human spring speed is around 15 mph. So instead of running, what should you do? The answer is: BE BIG! Bears are normally shy and avoid conflict. By standing up tall, shouting, waving your arms and throwing water bottles or racks at the bear, you make yourself seem like a threat and the bear will probably leave. Bears are very protective of cubs, so you should always avoid walking up to cubs or standing between a sow and her cubs.
Wildlife managers frequently hear, “I saw a brown bear!” A brown bear (Ursus arctos) is another name for a grizzly bear. Arizona only has one species of bear, the black bear (Ursus americanus). Black bears come in different color phases including brown, cinnamon and even blonde. Black bears may also have some white on their chests.
Just a word of advice, don’t eat what they eat. On average, a bear consumes 5,000-7,000 calories every day. In preparation for winter, bears overeat (called hyperphagia) and increase their body weight by about 35 percent. They will consume up to 20,000 calories a day, equivalent to about seven large cheese pizzas! Bears are omnivorous: a majority of their diet consists of nuts, berries and vegetation. Occasionally they will eat carrion, insects and young mammals.
Karen Klima is the terrestrial wildlife program manager in the department’s regional office in Tucson.
What does a wildlife veterinarian do at a state fish and wildlife agency? Our video of the month shows what Anne Justice-Allen, the wildlife veterinarian for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, does to help the department conserve and protect more than 800 native species.