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
- AZGFD in the News: Wildlife officials drew a line at I-40 for Mexican gray wolves, but has it hurt recovery?
- Wild Arizona: Two tips for better wildlife photos
- Walk on the Wild Side: White Mountain Grasslands Wildlife Area
- Upcoming Events: Virtual speaker wildlife series
- AZGFD Biologists at Work: Amber Munig, big game management program supervisor
- Video of the Month: Hummingbird bandings at Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area
AZGFD in the News: Wildlife officials drew a line at I-40 for Mexican gray wolves, but has it hurt recovery?
Kudos to The Arizona Republic and reporter Lindsey Botts for a recent article about whether Arizona’s I-40 should serve as a boundary in the Mexican gray wolf recovery effort. Arizona Game and Fish Department experts Jim deVos, Mexican wolf coordinator, and Jim Heffelfinger, a wildlife science coordinator, offer their analyses.
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
Looking for a spectacular getaway this fall? The White Mountain Grasslands Wildlife Area awaits.
Located near the towns of Springerville and Eagar in the White Mountains, this 2,850-acre gem offers plenty of opportunities for wildlife viewing, birdwatching, hiking, or just simply enjoying the changing leaves and crisp, clean air.
The Ocote Trail is a 2.6-mile hiking trail of moderate difficulty that overlooks and loops a large draw featuring juniper woodland, grassland and ponds. There’s a good chance of seeing pronghorn, rock and golden-mantled squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits, or maybe even an elk, coyote, badger, striped skunk or gray fox.
Both mountain and western bluebirds are found in the junipers in winter. The meadows and grasslands offer opportunities to see golden eagles, northern harriers, red-tailed hawks and other raptors. Birdwatching is best in spring, summer and fall.
Directions: From Eagar, drive west on State Route 260 about five miles to the junction of the road to the Springerville transfer station at milepost 391.4. Follow the paved road north, then west .6 miles to the southwest corner of the first hill. When the road turns north again, take the dirt road to the left three miles, in a northwest direction, to a cattle guard on the fence-line boundary. Cross the cattle guard and proceed a short distance to the parking area.
Park at designated sites only. The road is suitable for passenger cars. The area is open from sunrise to sunset.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) has partnered with the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center (SWCC) and Boyce Thompson Arboretum (BTA) to host virtual wildlife lectures. In addition to partnering with SWCC and BTA, the department’s Wildlife Viewing Program will conduct its own critter-based lectures twice each month.
- Why Bats are Incredible (and Misunderstood) — 6:30-8 p.m. Oct. 7 (AZGFD). Description: Bats are completely misunderstood creatures. These flying mammals are an incredible species that fill a special niche. Learn about the different species in Arizona and their natural history. Register
- Origins of the Sonoran Desert — 6:30-8 p.m. Oct. 14 (SWCC). Description: What is a desert? Arizona has one of the most diverse flora and faunal assemblages in the nation. Of the four deserts that cover large parts of Arizona, the Sonoran Desert has the greatest diversity. Learn more about this desert and the species that inhabit it. Register
- The Interesting Lives of Black Bears — 6:30-8 p.m. Nov. 9 (AZGFD). Description: Learn about the natural history and modern biology of the black bear. These animals are opportunistic feeders and have complex and interesting lives. Register
Amber Munig enjoys leading the big game management program for the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD). Her days are busy ones, working on species management, wildlife projects, population data, and efforts with conservation partners.
“I’m also able to get out to participate in population surveys, wildlife captures and habitat work,” she said.
Munig has worked for AZGFD since 1989, when she started as an intern. Her role now includes managing all 10 of the state’s big game species, as well as predatory and fur-bearing species. “I have always been interested in nature and what makes it tick,” she said. “I love spending time outdoors hunting, hiking and camping with my family.”
Munig is a mega-outdoors enthusiast. A scuba diver since the late 1980s, she has traveled for dive trips to places like Bonaire and Fiji. Munig also loves the kelp forests off California’s shores. “Underwater wildlife is amazing,” she said.
Seeing her work benefit department projects is Munig’s favorite part of the job. For many years, she has managed AZGFD’s harvest and population survey datasets, which are key to managing for sustainable wildlife populations. Large projects have included coordinating the capturing and quarantining of elk for reintroduction in West Virginia, and helping to restore native wildlife such as pronghorn and bighorn sheep to their historical habitat. Munig and her team work together to ensure wildlife is here for future generations.
Some of Munig’s favorite career memories include a time when she traversed most of the state, evaluating habitat suitability for pronghorn.
“I loved being out in the middle of nowhere, experiencing the new areas with no one around and then dropping the tailgate for a homemade sandwich,” she said. “Or, after a long day of hiking and having sore feet, I would come across a creek. Soaking your feet in cool water is an amazing way to end the day. Arizona has some amazing hidden pockets.”
People are surprised when Munig shares information about her profession, then adds that she’s also a hunter. “Hunters were the first wildlife conservationists,” she said. “If not for them, we wouldn’t have many of the species we have today.
“On the day of big game captures, I watch the animals leap from the trailer into their new home . . . I remember why I’m a wildlife biologist and I smile.”
Check out this video on how hummingbird bandings are conducted annually by the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory to study migration and population numbers of hummingbirds in the Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area. By the way, the visitor center at the wildlife area is open, and visitors can picnic and hike in the area to view hummingbirds and other wildlife.