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: Sandhill cranes return to southeastern Arizona
- Partner Projects: Restrictions in place as bald eagle breeding season begins
- Wild Arizona: AZGFD’s 2021 wildlife calendar available now
- Wild Arizona: AZGFD to kick off virtual speaker wildlife series Jan. 7
- Upcoming Events: Desert Squirrels and Chipmunks
- Video of the Month: Honoring the Heroes
Sandhill cranes by the thousands have once again returned to their wintering grounds at the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area in southeastern Arizona.
For the next few months, viewers can observe almost 20,000 of these fascinating birds on a live-streaming camera installed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The live stream can be viewed at www.azgfd.gov/sandhillcranes.
The cranes will begin to leave the wildlife area between late February and the middle of March. By April, all of the birds will be on their way to their northern nesting grounds, some as far away as Siberia.
“Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area has once again sprung to life with thousands of sandhill cranes,” said Jeff Meyers, the department’s watchable wildlife program manager. “It’s truly a pleasure to offer this unfiltered view of our state’s wildlife directly to the public, giving them a chance to see the migration of this species in action.”
The best time to view the cranes is 30 minutes before and after sunrise, just before they leave to feed for the morning. The leggy birds generally return to the wildlife area before noon, where they will remain for the rest of the day. With the camera being outfitted with infrared technology, viewers also can observe the cranes at night.
The department will do its best to keep the camera focused on the cranes and other interesting wildlife subjects, but there will be times when that isn’t possible because of the unpredictability of wildlife. Viewers who don’t immediately see activity are encouraged to routinely check back.
There are 15 species of cranes scattered across the globe. Two species of cranes are found in North America — sandhill, the most abundant species, and the endangered whooping crane.
Sandhills are wary birds that shy away from areas of dense vegetation that may conceal predators. Cranes prefer to feed and roost in open areas where potential danger can be seen from a distance.
The live stream is supported by the Wildlife Conservation Fund, which comes from tribal gaming and the Wildlife Viewing Program. The cameras are supported in part by public donations.
To view the department’s live-streaming cameras, or to find information on wildlife viewing, visit www.azgfd.gov/wildlife and click on “Wildlife Viewing.”
Arizona’s bald eagles are back, and they will soon be preparing for the next generation of eagles at breeding sites statewide.
To assist with the state’s continued bald eagle population growth, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) encourages outdoor recreationists, aircraft pilots, drone operators and motorized paragliders to do their part by not disturbing the state’s 92 eagle breeding areas. To protect breeding attempts, some portions of public land and water areas will be temporarily closed to help these majestic animals and ensure even more young eagles take to the skies this spring.
“Arizona’s bald eagles are hard at work preparing their nest for what we hope will be a productive breeding season,” said Kenneth “Tuk” Jacobson, bald eagle management coordinator. “The birds nest, forage and roost at rivers and lakes that are also popular recreation spots. That’s why we must be vigilant to help protect the birds and ensure their populations statewide continue to flourish. That success wouldn’t be possible without the cooperation of outdoor recreationists who respect the closures during the breeding season.”
During the 2020 breeding season, 71 young hatched, and 55 reached the important milestone of their first flight, known as fledging.
Pilots are reminded to maintain the FAA-recommended 2,000-foot above ground level advisory when flying over bald eagle habitat, while drones and paragliders are asked to avoid the areas completely. Bald eagles are sensitive to even short durations of low-flying aircraft activity near their nests, and just a few minutes of disturbance can lead to a nesting failure.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has established a 2,000-foot above ground level (AGL) advisory along the Salt and Verde river drainages and lakes such as Lake Pleasant, Roosevelt Lake and Alamo Lake. These areas are designated on the Phoenix Sectional Aeronautical map and also include Alamo Lake, Ashurst Lake, Greer Lakes, Crescent Lake, Luna Lake, Show Low Lake, Chevelon Canyon Lake, Woods Canyon Lake, Lake Mary, Dogtown Reservoir, White Horse Lake and the Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge. Special brochures for pilots regarding this advisory can be obtained by calling the Arizona Department of Transportation or the department’s Terrestrial Wildlife branch at (623) 236-7506.
- A closure for the Verde River below Sycamore Canyon Wilderness is not planned this year unless the eagle pair resumes nesting. Verde River below Sycamore Canyon Wilderness may be closed to foot and vehicle entry from Dec. 1 to June 15. Floating through is allowed, but contact the Coconino National Forest, Red Rock Ranger District office for more information at (928) 203-7500 or (928) 203-2900.
- Verde River near Chasm Creek is closed to foot and vehicle entry from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed. Contact Prescott National Forest Verde Ranger District (928) 567-4121.
- Verde River near Cold Water Creek, allows watercraft to float through but no stopping on the river or landing is allowed Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact Prescott National Forest Verde Ranger District at (928) 567-4121.
- Verde River upstream of the East Verde confluence is closed to vehicle and foot entry from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed, but no stopping in the river or landing is allowed. Contact the Tonto National Forest Cave Creek Ranger District at (480) 595-3300.
- Verde River near Mule Shoe Bend allows watercraft to float through but no stopping in the river or landing is allowed from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact the Tonto National Forest Cave Creek Ranger District at (480) 595-3300.
- Verde River below Bartlett Dam is closed to foot or vehicle entry from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed, but no stopping in the river or landing is allowed. Contact the Tonto National Forest Cave Creek Ranger District at (480) 595-3300.
- Verde River at the Needle Rock Recreation area is closed to foot and vehicle entry on the east and portions of the west side of the river from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed, but no stopping in the river or landing on the east side of the river is allowed. Contact the Tonto National Forest, Cave Creek Ranger District, (480) 595-3300.
- Tonto Creek from Gisela to 76 Ranch is closed to vehicle, foot entry, and floating through from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact the Tonto National Forest Tonto Basin Ranger District at (928) 467-3200.
- Tonto Creek inlet to Roosevelt Lake is closed to vehicle and foot entry within 1,000 feet of the nest on land and to watercraft within 300 feet on water from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact the Tonto National Forest Tonto Basin Ranger District at (602) 225-5395.
- Salt River from Horseshoe Bend to Redmond Flat allows watercraft to float through, but no stopping in the river or landing is allowed from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact the Tonto National Forest Globe Ranger District at (928) 402-6200.
- Salt River near Meddler Point is closed to vehicle and foot entry within 1,000 feet of the nest on land and to watercraft within 300 feet on water from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact the Tonto National Forest Tonto Basin Ranger at District (602) 225-5395.
- Salt River below Stewart Mountain Dam is closed to vehicle or foot entry on the south side of the river from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed. Contact the Tonto National Forest Mesa Ranger District at (480) 610-3300.
- Salt River near Goldfield-Kerr Fire Station is closed to foot and vehicle entry on the north side of the river from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed. Contact the Tonto National Forest Mesa Ranger District at (480) 610-3300.
A portion of the west side is closed to all entry from March 1 through Aug. 31. Contact the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest Springerville Ranger District at (928) 333-6200.
Fool’s Hollow Lake
A portion of the shoreline may be closed to foot entry from December 1 through June 31. Contact the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest Lakeside Ranger District at (928) 368-2100.
(Tunnel and River) (not enacted unless pair moves nesting location) – Portions of the lakes may be closed to watercraft and a portion of the shoreline may be closed to foot entry from March 1 through July 31. Contact the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest Springerville Ranger District at (928) 333-6200.
Depending on the nesting location, a portion of the lake may be closed from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact the Arizona Game and Fish Department at (623) 236-7506.
No vehicle, watercraft or foot entry is allowed into a portion of the Lower Agua Fria Arm from Dec. 15 to June 15. Contact Maricopa County Parks and Recreation at (928) 501-1710.
The north side of Luna Lake is closed to vehicle and foot traffic from Jan. 1 to June 15. Contact Apache National Forest Alpine Ranger District at (928) 339-5000.
A portion of trail on the lake’s east side is closed to vehicle and foot traffic from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact the Prescott National Forest Bradshaw Ranger District at (928) 443-8000.
Show Low Lake
A portion of the lake may be closed to watercraft and a portion of the shoreline may be closed to foot entry from January 1 through July 31. Contact the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest Lakeside Ranger District at (928) 368-2100.
White Horse Lake
A portion of the shoreline may be closed to foot entry from March 1 to Aug. 31. Contact the Kaibab National Forest Williams Ranger District at (928) 635-5600.
Woods Canyon Lake
A portion of the shoreline is closed to foot entry from March 1 through Aug. 31. Contact the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, Black Mesa Ranger District at (928) 535-7300.
TIPS FOR VISITING EAGLE AREAS
If you are visiting bald eagle country, an advance call to the local land management agency, such as the local U.S. Forest Service district office or AZGFD, may help to plan your trip to avoid disturbing bald eagles. By following these simple guidelines, we can all help ensure that our living wildlife legacy will last for generations to come:
- Enjoy bald eagles from outside the closures, which are marked with signs and/or buoys. Watch from a distance using a spotting scope, binoculars or telephoto camera lens. If the eagles are persistently watching you, observation at a greater distance is advised.
- Anyone approached by a nest watcher and asked to cease an activity or leave a closed area should comply. A few good places to see bald eagles without disturbing them (during December and January) are at Lake Mary and Mormon Lake near Flagstaff, on the Verde Canyon Train in Clarkdale or Roosevelt Lake.
- Bald eagles protecting an active nest will let you know if you are too close. If a bald eagle is vocalizing and circling the area frantically, you are too close and need to leave the area quickly. Bald eagles incubating eggs or brooding small young should never be off the nest for more than 15 minutes.
- Help from anglers is especially needed. Fishing line and tackle have killed two nestlings and been found in two-thirds of all bald eagle nests in the state. Every year biologists remove these lethal hazards from nests and/or entangled nestlings. Discard any fishing line properly in specially-marked recycling containers or at fishing stores. Also, use line that isn’t old and brittle. Use the correct test line for the fish you are trying to catch. Also, do not cut the line when an undesirable fish is caught and return it to the water with the hook and line attached.
- Duck hunters should scout out their hunting area to ensure that bald eagles are not nesting nearby.
You can help conserve and protect bald eagles and conservation research and recovery efforts by reporting any harassment or shooting of bald eagles. Call the Operation Game Thief hotline at (800) 352-0700, or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement at (480) 967-7900.
AZGFD’s bald eagle management efforts are supported by the Heritage Fund, an initiative passed more than 20 years ago to provide for wildlife education and conservation through Arizona lottery ticket sales.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) has unveiled its 2021 wildlife calendar, which features eye-catching images of Arizona’s incredible wildlife.
Taken by Arizonans from around the state, the calendar features more than a dozen beautiful and fascinating wild critters. A record number of photographs — more than 1,500 — were submitted to this year’s wildlife photo contest.
The winning images are published in the full-size 2021 wildlife calendar, which is published in the November-December 2020 issue of Arizona Wildlife Views magazine.
This year’s wildlife photo contest winner for best in show is Charles Ralston of Waddell. His stunning shot of a cactus wren on the Desert Vista Trail in Phoenix is featured on the cover and inside the 2021 wildlife calendar.
“When I got home and opened the photo on my computer, that was when I realized I had something special,” Ralston said. “I liked the coloring of the background vegetation and how the wren seemed to be perfectly perched on the cactus. I just love seeing wildlife in its natural surroundings.”
The best way to get the 2021 wildlife calendar is to subscribe to the department’s award-winning wildlife magazine, Arizona Wildlife Views. The magazine showcases compelling wildlife and outdoor recreation stories and spectacular photography, as well as the best techniques from experts for experiencing and exploring wild Arizona. It also highlights the on-the-ground conservation efforts of AZGFD biologists and staff who support the more than 800 wild species that call Arizona home.
If you subscribe to Arizona Wildlife Views magazine by Dec. 31, you will receive the calendar issue, as well as a great deal on seven issues for $7. Subscriptions also make great gifts for the wildlife lover in your life. It’s easy to subscribe or give a gift, and you won’t have to pay right away — we can bill you later.
In addition to Ralston, 11 other winning photographs were selected to be featured:
- Don Constantine, Flagstaff: California condor
- Sue Cullumber, Chandler: Burrowing owls
- Julie Curtis, Golden Valley: Desert cottontail
- Mary Lou DeZeeuw, Show Low: Bull elk
- Robert Frost, Tucson: Gould’s turkey
- Adam Gutierrez, Surprise: Southwest speckled rattlesnake
- Bryan Keil, Gilbert: Gambel’s quail
- John Kulberg, Wellton: Desert bighorn sheep
- Mary Roger, Prescott Valley: Great blue heron
- Heather Spencer, Prescott: Pronghorn
- Lucas Wright, Chandler: Black bear
The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) is getting ready to roll out a new and exciting way to keep people connected with the state’s diverse wildlife.
In addition to partnering with the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center and Boyce Thompson Arboretum on a virtual speaker wildlife series during the pandemic, the department’s Watchable Wildlife Program will be adding mostly critter-based lectures twice each month beginning Jan. 7.
The 90-minute lectures will be hosted by AZGFD biologists Jeff Meyers and Cheyenne Dubiach. Register here. A link to the event will be provided. The cost for each lecture (which includes a question-and-answer session) is $10.
- Peregrine Falcons — 6:30-8 p.m. Jan. 7. Description: Peregrine falcons make cheetahs look slow. These raptors not only are the fastest vertebrate on the planet, they are incredible predators in their own right. Listed as an endangered species only a few decades ago, peregrine falcons have made an incredible recovery and were removed from the endangered list. Learn about these amazing birds and why Arizona was one of the first states to support robust populations.
- Bats of Arizona — 6:30-8 p.m. Jan. 28. Description: Bats are misunderstood creatures. These flying mammals are an incredible species that fill a special niche. Learn about the different species that inhabit Arizona, their natural history and what is so great about these animals.
- California Condors — 6:30-8 p.m. Feb. 18. Description: California condors are the largest flying birds in North America, with wingspans that measure up to almost 10 feet wide. Learn about these fascinating, elusive giants, the causes of population decline, and the efforts to bring them back from the brink of extinction.
- American Black Bears — 6:30-8 p.m. Feb. 25. Description: Take a dive into the natural history and modern biology of an iconic species, Ursus americanus, the black bear. These animals are opportunistic feeders, and they have complex and interesting lives.
- Foxes of Arizona — 6:30-8 p.m. March 11. Description: You’ve heard sayings like “a fox can be smarter than a wolf,” or someone is being “sly, like a fox.” Few creatures have such a storied and interesting history as does the fox. Learn about Arizona’s three resident species, focusing on their biology, behavior, and natural history.
- Rattlesnakes of Arizona — 6:30-8 p.m. March 25. Description: Snakes, in general, have suffered from a lot of bad press, some of it dating back ages. Rattlesnakes have suffered even greater levels of fear from folks than most snakes. The facts are that snakes serve an important ecological niche and have their own intrinsic value. Learn the truth about the different species, their behaviors, diet, and just how dangerous — if at all — Arizona’s rattlesnakes really are.
For more information, contact Dubiach at (602) 509-8122, or email: email@example.com.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s popular Watchable Wildlife Program has gone virtual. Game and Fish has partnered with the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center and Boyce Thompson Arboretum to host virtual wildlife lectures. Program manager Jeff Meyers, along with program coordinator Cheyenne Dubiach, will be sharing their knowledge about fascinating wildlife species that call Arizona home.
High Cost of Fragmentation — 6:30 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center.
Learn about the high cost of habitat fragmentation and how it affects wildlife, ecosystems and humanity. A portion of the lecture will explore some case studies conducted in Arizona and discussion will include possible solutions to one of the most significant threats to wildlife and humanity in modern times. Register here.
Desert Squirrels and Chipmunks — 11 a.m. Dec. 19 at Boyce Thompson Arboretum.
Take an in-depth look at these fascinating rodents known for their charismatic acrobatics and adorable antics. Learn about the natural history, modern distribution and special adaptation of these small mammal desert dwellers. Register here.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department is thankful for all of the frontline healthcare workers who are sacrificing so much and working so hard right now to take care of us. Check out this video of our wildlife managers joining in a “thank you” parade to honor some of Kingman’s healthcare heroes.