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: Now accepting entries for Wildlife Photo Contest
- Wild Arizona: Do your part, stay smart about desert tortoises
- Walk on the Wild Side: Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area
- Fun Facts: Blue grouse
- Wild Arizona: The bats are back!
- Video of the Month: Arizona Lottery supports wildlife
Do you have a knack for capturing great photos of Arizona’s wildlife? Do you want to see your photo on the cover of Arizona Wildlife Views magazine? Then you won’t want to miss the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s annual wildlife photo contest.
This year we’re partnering with Arizona Highways to provide an easier way to submit photographs. Entries will be accepted until 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 14.
One best in show and 11 winners will be showcased in the 2021 calendar, which is published in the November-December issue of Arizona Wildlife Views. Photos must be of wildlife species that are native to Arizona and taken in Arizona settings. The photos are evaluated 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. Winners and honorable mentions will be announced in November.
Keep in mind that photographs are not eligible if they include people or man-made objects that are recognizable.
Want some tips and inspiration? Read the article in the May-June issue of Arizona Wildlife Views. It profiles last year’s winner, Julie Curtis, who took her winning photo of two Harris’s antelope squirrels out an open window to her front yard.
So get outdoors and get creative with different wildlife photography approaches. You never know what you’ll see in the backcountry, a city park, or even your own yard.
For more information, including the rules and a link to enter the contest, visit www.azgfd.gov/photocontest.
Much-needed rain brings out desert wildlife in Arizona. Animals may wander in search of mates, moisture and, if necessary, to escape flooding.
Desert tortoises are one of several amazing species that can be encountered during Arizona’s monsoon. The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) urges the public to follow these important guidelines when coming across a desert tortoise:
- Keep wild tortoises wild: Do not remove a tortoise from the wild. Taking a wild tortoise home is illegal in Arizona. Additionally, most tortoises stay in the same small area their entire lives, so a tortoise that has been relocated will not know where to find food and shelter and likely die. For those who are interested in sharing their home with a desert tortoise, and reside within Arizona, they should do it legally and responsibly through the AZGFD Tortoise Adoption Program.
- Keep captive tortoises captive: Do not release a captive tortoise into the wild. “We cannot stress enough how detrimental it is to let a captive tortoise go free in the wild,” said Cristina Jones, turtles project coordinator. “Captive desert tortoises cannot be released into the wild, as they can pass diseases to wild populations and displace wild tortoises. It is also illegal to release captive tortoises into the wild.”
- Keep dogs away from wild desert tortoises: Even the most gentle dog can pose a serious threat to a tortoise. Keeping dogs on leashes or in fenced yards is an effective way of reducing encounters with tortoises.
- If a desert tortoise is spotted crossing a busy road in a populated area, call the AZGFD Tortoise Adoption Program hotline at 1-844-896-5730. AZGFD will determine if the tortoise has escaped from captivity and needs to be reunited with its owner, or placed in the adoption program. Tortoises that have been through the adoption program often, but not always, have small tags glued to their shell with a unique identification number.
- If a desert tortoise is encountered, AZGFD biologists want to know when and where. Email details and a photo (without handling the tortoise) to email@example.com. “A tortoise in the road is simply trying to get to the other side, and the best thing anyone can do is to leave it in the wild,” Jones said.
There are two species of desert tortoise in Arizona — the threatened Mojave desert tortoise, found north and west of the Colorado River; and the Sonoran desert tortoise, which is protected by AZGFD.
Tortoise conservation in Arizona is supported by the Heritage Fund, a voter-passed initiative that began in 1990 to further wildlife conservation efforts in the state through Arizona Lottery ticket sales.
For additional monsoon safety information, visit the Arizona Emergency Information Network.
Ahh . . . Can you feel that cool, refreshing breeze?
There might not be a better place to be right now than Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area, which offers more than 800 acres of cool, high-country opportunities for the entire family.
The area is managed through a partnership between Arizona State Parks, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Forest Service, and City of Show Low. Located north of Show Low in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, Fool Hollow offers wildlife viewing, hiking, picnicking, camping, fishing and more.
Wildlife that call Fool Hollow home include squirrels, raccoons, beavers, elk and deer, as well as birds like goldfinches, bluebirds, Steller’s jays and various waterfowl (including geese, herons, egrets and ibis on a seasonal basis).
For hikers, there’s a 1.5-mile trail that winds along the lake, with access to the 103 miles of the White Mountain Trail System within 15 miles of the recreation area.
Directions: From Show Low, travel west on West Deuce of Clubs and turn right onto East Linden Road. Travel for about 2.5 miles and turn right. Take the first right (about .7 miles), and the destination will be on the left.
For birdwatchers who might have put their hobby on hold during the scorching summer months, here’s a cool idea:
Head for the highest mountains — we’re talking the spruce-fir forest habitats above 8,500 feet in the White Mountains, Kaibab Plateau and San Francisco Peaks — and try to spot a blue grouse or two.
The blue grouse, also known as the dusky grouse (which recently was separated as a distinct species from the blue grouse of the extreme western U.S.), is about the size of a chicken and can be found at some of the state’s highest elevations. The bird is most often associated with spruce, fir and aspen trees, along with gooseberry and raspberry bushes.
This also is the time of year when chicks hatch (usually five to 10) and begin feeding on insects. Family groups break up in late fall, and single birds or small, loose groups of up to several birds can be found in the winter.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this bird is the male’s flamboyant mating display. The male will fan its broad tail, appearing like a miniature turkey, while inflating purple air sacs on its neck and a yellow, fleshy comb over the eyes to attract prospective mates. The male also will produce a low hooting call during this ritual and put on tumbling displays in flight during courtship.
— Includes information from “An Introduction to Hunting Arizona’s Small Game,” by Randall D. Babb
The chattery, fuzzy, winged creatures of the night are once again the stars of the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s (AZGFD) live-streaming wildlife cameras.
AZGFD installed the bat roost camera in 2018, giving wildlife enthusiasts throughout the world the chance to watch migratory Yuma myotis bats and other bat species while they roost at the Cluff Ranch Wildlife Area near Safford, in southeastern Arizona.
“Bats are truly amazing animals,” said Jeff Meyers, watchable wildlife program manager. “In Arizona, we have a wonderful diversity of bats that perform pretty much all the same tasks that birds do. Some — such as the lesser long-nosed and Mexican long-tongued bats — drink nectar, while others are voracious insect predators, consuming up to 1,000 mosquito-sized insects an hour. We’re really excited to offer this fascinating, real-time glimpse into an active bat roost.”
The best opportunity to view the animals is from about 8 to 10 p.m. As temperatures rise throughout the summer, the bats will move to being more visible in the morning hours until about 10 a.m.
Bats were first observed in an old barn located on the Cluff Ranch property in 1992. It soon was discovered that at least one species was using the barn to birth and raise its young. While it does not appear to serve as an active nursery site now, today it is used by pallid bats, canyon bats, Mexican free-tailed bats, cave myotis and Yuma myotis.
In keeping with AZGFD’s mission to “conserve and protect” wildlife, the barn was set aside for the bats’ use, and disturbances are kept to a minimum to ensure their safety and continued use of the building.
“One of our goals at AZGFD is to connect and engage the public with their wildlife,” Meyers said. “Live-streaming wildlife cameras are just one more tool to do just that.”
AZGFD biologists regularly monitor the bat cam and study these fascinating mammals throughout the summer and early fall.
The bat cam is just one of five seasonal live-streaming cameras run by AZGFD. The popular sandhill crane cam shows thousands of the migratory birds wintering in southern Arizona, while the desert pupfish cam offers a live view of the small fish’s daily life. View all wildlife cameras.
The Arizona Lottery is proud to support the Arizona Game and Fish Department through the Heritage Fund. This fund helps protect endangered species, acquire habitat for the benefit of sensitive species, provide access to outdoor recreational opportunities, and environmental education.