Wild+Life is a monthly e-newsletter with news about wildlife-watching activities, wildlife natural history, habitat and research projects benefiting wildlife, fun facts and upcoming events. Sign up to get Wild+Life delivered to your inbox every month.
In This Issue
- Wild Arizona: Water for Wildlife
- AZGFD in the News: Now accepting entries for Wildlife Calendar Photo Contest
- Walk on the Wild Side: Becker Lake Wildlife Area
- AZGFD Biologists at Work: Gregg Cummins, sport fish specialist, Kingman
- Upcoming Events: High Country Hummingbird Festival
- Video of the Month: Spadefoot Toads – Arizona’s Fantastic Beasts
While most of Arizona enjoyed one of the wettest springs in years, not nearly enough rain fell to end the state’s long-term drought.
For wildlife, that means less available water and a bigger fight for survival, especially during the harsh summer months. AZGFD maintains 3,000 water catchments, or man-made watering sites built in remote locations, around the state for the benefit of all wildlife.
The cost to haul water to these sites adds up throughout the year. AZGFD receives no general fund dollars from the state, so it takes the generosity of those who care about Arizona’s wildlife to help fund these much-needed efforts. This can be done by texting SENDWATER to 41444. All donations go toward the department’s water-hauling project.
Visit www.sendwater.org to learn more about how AZGFD’s conservation efforts are paying off.
Do you want to see your photo on the cover of Arizona Wildlife Views magazine? Do you have a knack for capturing great photos of Arizona’s wildlife? Then you won’t want to miss AZGFD’s 13th annual Wildlife Calendar Photo Contest.
One best in show and 11 first-place winners will be showcased in the 2020 calendar, which is published in the November-December issue of Arizona Wildlife Views, an award-winning magazine about wildlife and outdoor recreation.
The judging process is “blind,” which means entries are assigned a number and evaluated anonymously. Personal information is not attached to images or revealed during judging. Photos are evaluated solely on creativity, photographic quality, effectiveness in conveying the unique character of the subject, and whether or not submitted images meet the basic size and formatting requirements.
Entries are accepted through 5 p.m. (MST), Aug. 9, 2019. Cash prizes will be awarded, and prize money is funded through publications sales.
As always, the contest is free to enter. It’s also easy. Entries can be submitted via email or through a file-sharing website. The official rules are posted at www.azgfd.gov/photocontest.
The Becker Lake Wildlife Area is a blue-ribbon trout fishery and waterfowl area located within the Springerville city limits in east-central Arizona.
Becker Lake is stocked with rainbow trout. The lake also contains Little Colorado suckers, fathead minnows and illegally stocked green sunfish, largemouth bass and channel catfish. Fishing is with artificial fly and lure, single barbless hooks only, and catch-and-immediate release for trout.
Many species of waterfowl can be found here throughout the year. Big game species that occasionally use the area include pronghorn and mule deer. Small mammals that often can be observed include the White Mountains ground squirrel and Gunnison’s prairie dog. Raptors occurring on the area include ferruginous hawk, Swainson’s hawk, rough-legged hawk, bald eagle, osprey and peregrine falcon. Several birds rarely recorded in northeastern Arizona that have been observed at Becker Lake include the red phalarope, least flycatcher and northern shrike.
Becker Lake was created in 1880 through the construction of a dam at the head of an old oxbow of the Little Colorado River. The lake primarily was used for irrigation purposes, although a fishery did exist. In 1973, the Becker family sold 338 deeded acres to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, which included the lake (about 100 surface acres). The Commission directed the Arizona Game and Fish Department to manage Becker Lake as a quality trout fishery. Since that time, the department has managed the lake as a “blue ribbon” fishery with special regulations, such as motor restrictions, bag and possession limits, restricted methods of take and seasonal closures.
In January 2002, the department purchased an additional 291 acres of adjacent private land, utilizing the department’s Heritage Fund to protect and enhance stream and riparian habitat along the Little Colorado River for wildlife species of special concern.
There are three public access points to get to the Becker Lake Wildlife Area. The Lakeview Trail and Becker Lake access is two miles west of the traffic light in Springerville on U.S. Highway 60; turn south into the main Becker Lake area, designated with signage. The River Walk Trail access is one mile west of the traffic light on U.S. Highway 60; turn south into the parking area just before crossing the bridge over the Little Colorado River. The River Walk Trail also can be accessed off Airport Road. Parking is at designated sites only, and the wildlife area is open from sunrise to sunset.
Though his friends and family tease that he basically fishes for a living, Gregg Cummins does spend a lot of time at Arizona’s lakes and streams, managing sport fish populations from Lake Mead to Camp Verde.
“There are times when I hook-and-line sample, which looks a lot like fishing,” said Cummins, sport fish specialist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s regional office in Kingman. “We also set nets and electrofish.”
One of three fisheries specialists charged with making sure the public has fish to catch in this region, Cummins takes pride in a “trash-to-habitat” project, using leftover polypropylene gas pipe tubing from construction projects. Unisource Energy Services transports the materials to a local prison, where inmates stick the tubing into concrete to make something Cummins calls a “poly-shrub.”
“So far, we’ve dropped these into Lake Mohave and Lynx Lake to provide fish habitat,” he said. “Any kind of habitat in an older man-made lake gets used. Organic materials like trees, from when the lake was completed, are rotted out now. This stuff will last forever. It provides attachment points for algae and cover for young fish, as well as for predators. Pretty much every kind of fish benefits.”
Cummins didn’t always plan to “fish for a living.” He was a special education teacher and football coach when a job opportunity came up In 2006.
“I grew up thinking that working for Arizona Game and Fish would be pretty cool,” he said. “I get to spend lots of time outdoors, which I love.”
The Arizona Game and Fish Department is hosting its 16th annual High Country Hummingbird Festival from 8 a.m. to noon July 27 at the Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area near Springerville and Eagar. The free, family-friendly festival will include:
- Hummingbird banding by Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory
- Plant displays to attract hummingbirds
- Live wildlife from the department’s Wildlife Center
- Take a photo with a live bird at the critter photo booth
- Activities designed for children
- Informational talks about hummingbirds and bird calls of the White Mountains
- A class on photographing hummingbirds by Game and Fish photographer George Andrejko
- Booths from local, outdoor-oriented organizations
The Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area is located southeast of Eagar and Springerville. From Eagar, take U.S. Highway 191 toward Alpine for about two miles to the signed turnoff at the top of the first hill. Drive south five miles to the Sipe property on a gravel road suitable for passenger cars.
Come prepared to spend most of the morning outdoors with the potential of some summer rain. Parking will be extremely limited if the area receives rain. Attendees are encouraged to check the weather forecast for the day of the event.
The Round Valley Chamber of Commerce will provide breakfast items and lunch concessions for purchase. Pets must be kept on leash and are not allowed near live wildlife.
For more information, visit azgfd.com/wildlife/viewing/events/hummingbird-festival/ or call the Game and Fish office in Pinetop at (928) 532-3680. The most current information and event schedule can be found on the AZGFD Pinetop Regional Facebook page.
More Upcoming Events
Bat Netting – July 20 at Boyce Thompson Arboretum – MEMBERS ONLY
Arizona is home to 28 species of bats, many of which live and forage right in our own backyards. This is an exciting opportunity to meet these misunderstood and fascinating creatures in person. Time: 7-10 p.m. Cost: $25. Register: http://btarboretum.org/events.
Packrats – July 25 at Desert Botanical Garden
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 in the Sonoran Desert. Dig deeper with the department’s Jeff Meyers. Time: 6-8 p.m. Cost: $34 ($27 for members). Register
Bat Netting – July 26 at Needle Rock Recreation Area
Join the department’s Jeff Meyers identify bats that are captured and collect important data before they are released. Time: 7-10 p.m. Cost: $25. Register
Perhaps no wildlife species depends more on monsoon rains than the spadefoot toad. Active only three months a year, these amphibians are superbly adapted to their desert home. After lying dormant for as long as two years, spadefoot toads emerge from subterranean burrows, awakened by the low frequency of rainfall or thunder. Check out this fascinating video.