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: High Country Hummingbird Festival will be virtually broadcast
- Wild Arizona: 30 years, 800+ species, untold benefits
- Walk on the Wild Side: Luna Lake Wildlife Area
- AZGFD Biologists at Work: Allen Zufelt, California condor program manager
- Wild Arizona: Two tips for better wildlife photos
- Video of the Month: Liberty Wildlife
The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) will virtually broadcast this year’s High Country Hummingbird Festival at 8 a.m. Aug. 8.
The 17th annual event will be livestreamed from the Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area on AZGFD’s Pinetop regional Facebook page at Facebook.com/AZGFDPinetop/. No public events are planned.
The Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory bands hummingbirds each year to study their migration patterns, as well as document their numbers at the wildlife area near Pinetop. A question-and-answer session will be conducted with hummingbird banders Sheri Williamson and Tom Wood, both of whom founded the observatory, following the banding broadcast.
The visitor center remains closed at the Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area, but picnicking and hiking are allowed. For information on recreating safely and responsibly outdoors, review all guidelines established by the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as these tips provided by AZGFD.
Questions for the hummingbird banders will be solicited from the public via Facebook posts or by email to Jackie Follmuth, public affairs community liaison, at email@example.com.
Thirty years ago, Arizonans showed their support for wildlife in a momentous way. In 1990, voters passed the Heritage Initiative by a nearly two-to-one vote, allowing up to $10 million in lottery funds to be invested annually into wildlife and habitat conservation.
The positive effect of this funding source on the Arizona Game and Fish Department cannot be overstated — the department does not receive general fund tax dollars. Funding is provided primarily by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, tags and stamps, as well as a federal excise tax on firearms, ammunition and fishing equipment.
The Heritage Fund makes up about 10 percent of the department’s budget and helps it to leverage federal grants that would otherwise be out of reach.
Nestled in the White Mountains is the Luna Lake Wildlife Area, a cool, high-elevation escape from the desert heat.
The wildlife area provides riparian, wetland and aquatic habitat for many species. A large number of ducks and geese, bald eagles, osprey and migratory songbirds abound. Other species include Merriam’s turkey, long-eared owl and Wilson’s snipe.
In addition to waterfowl and trout fishing, the uplands are managed for regular use by elk. Other mammals that are commonly found in the area are mule deer, long-tailed weasel, and silver-haired bat.
Luna Lake is located three miles east of Alpine on Highway 180, making it an easy destination for wildlife watchers, hikers and boaters (a concession/general store is on location). For more information, contact the Alpine Ranger District at (928) 339-4384.
One of the most critically endangered birds in the world, the California condor, is slowly making a comeback in Arizona, thanks to the Arizona Game and Fish Department and experts like Allen Zufelt.
As the department’s condor program manager, Zufelt and his team spend most of their time addressing one of the biggest threats to the survival of the species — lead poisoning as a result of the birds ingesting fragments of lead bullets from feeding on carcasses or gut piles of animals shot by hunters.
“My job entails a lot of discussion with hunters and hunting groups, providing lead-free ammunition, giving presentations to different groups, and highlighting the issue of lead poisoning and how we can reduce that in order to promote ecosystem health,” Zufelt said.
The team’s hard work is paying off, with almost 90 percent of hunters willingly trading in their lead-based bullets for safer ammunition that poses less of a risk to these magnificent birds.
There once was a time when Zufelt thought he would be an engineer, but his career path took a detour while he was flipping through a course catalog one day as a student at Northern Arizona University. “When I first saw that they offered a Biology-Fish and Wildlife Management degree, I thought, ‘This is exactly what I do for fun all the time. What could be better?’ ”
Now, 16 years into his career, Zufelt knows that he made the right move. His favorite thing about the job is that he gets to make a difference in the world.
“I feel that this is a sacred stewardship we have as people, and I am happy to be a part of that,” Zufelt said. “Whether I’m surveying elk, capturing pronghorn, monitoring condors, conducting snorkel surveys, or working on my computer, I’m involved in driving where our wildlife will be for generations to come.”
It’s not all hard work, however. Zufelt remembers a time when he was in the field and spotted a condor playing with bridge cross-members (the structure that gives a bridge its rigidity). “It would flap and flap really hard to get to the top of this cross-member, and then it would slide down to the bottom. It played like this for quite some time,” he said.
Wildlife conservation in Arizona isn’t an easy job, and Zufelt knows that it takes more than just the team at Game and Fish to conserve and protect the state’s wildlife — it takes everyone. His advice?
“Use common sense when you venture out into the world,” he said. “Don’t destroy quality places with your activities. Stay on roads, take your trash home with you, be thoughtful and aware of how your actions are affecting others, and we will all have made a better place for everything and everyone.”
Wildlife photography is a pursuit that can be enjoyed for a lifetime. There’s always something new to learn.
This time of year offers plenty of opportunities to take pictures of birds and animals. When you’re outside with a camera this month, make it a point to practice your composition skills. As you look at the subject, look at its surroundings, too. In my opinion, some of the best images have the fewest elements. Watch for branches and rocks and other things that obstruct the view or distract from the subject, and re-compose to eliminate those.
Also, control the depth of field to focus attention where you want it. Wildlife photography is not like shooting a landscape, where you want everything in focus. Here, often you want the background to blur. Use larger apertures (a smaller f-stop number) and closer focusing distances to produce a shallower depth of field. This technique will make your wildlife subject the center of attention, just as it should be. — George Andrejko, photographer, Arizona Game and Fish Department
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.
See how Liberty Wildlife nurtures the nature of Arizona through wildlife rehabilitation, natural history education and conservation services to the community.