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In This Issue
- Partner Projects: Mexican wolf population gets genetic boost with a record 20 captive-born pups cross-fostered into wild packs
- Wild Arizona: Don’t let it loose: Releasing a pet into the wild is the wrong thing to do
- AZGFD in the News: Please stop trying to ‘save’ baby wildlife, Arizona Game and Fish says. It does more harm than good
- Walk on the Wild Side: Bog Hole Wildlife Area
- Wild Arizona: Make a mark for wildlife: Remember Arizona’s wildlife at tax time
- Video of the Month: Backyard birding
Partner Projects: Mexican wolf population gets genetic boost with a record 20 captive-born pups cross-fostered into wild packs
The Mexican wolf recovery effort recently got a genetic boost when biologists from the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF), and Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP), with extensive logistical support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), worked together to cross-foster 20 genetically diverse wolf pups from captive facilities across the U.S. into litters of wild wolf packs.
Over a six-week period in April and May, 12 pups were fostered into four different packs in eastern Arizona and eight were fostered into three packs in western New Mexico.
Cross-fostering is a proven method used by the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team (IFT) to increase genetic diversity in the wild Mexican wolf population. It involves placing genetically diverse pups less than 14 days old from captive breeding populations into wild dens with similarly aged pups to be raised as wild wolves. The IFT has documented that cross-fostered pups have the same survival rate as wild-born pups in their first year of life (about 50 percent), and survival rates using this technique are generally higher than other wolf release methods.
- Watch a video on cross-fostering from 2017.
“Managing genetics is one of the biggest challenges facing Mexican wolf conservation, even as constant progress is being made on numeric recovery,” said Jim deVos, Assistant Director for Wildlife Management for the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD). “Science has proven that cross-fostering young pups works in increasing genetic diversity.”
A total of seven different captive-born litters provided Mexican wolf pups for fostering into the wild population. The following facilities provided pups this year:
- Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka, Mo. — three pups into Elkhorn pack in Arizona; three pups each into Dark Canyon pack and San Mateo pack in New Mexico.
- Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in Socorro, N.M. — one pup into Prime Canyon pack in Arizona.
- Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kan. — four pups into Hoodoo pack in Arizona.
- California Wolf Center in Julian, Calif. — four pups into Rocky Prairie pack in Arizona.
- Phoenix Zoo, Arizona — two pups into Iron Creek pack in New Mexico.
Aerial support of three cross-foster operations was provided by LightHawk Conservation Flying and a private jet donor associated with one transfer from the Endangered Wolf Center. Their donations made possible three early morning flights of pups from the Midwest to ensure IFT biologists had ample daylight to conduct operations.
“We are grateful to all those who contributed to the success of this year’s efforts, including the staff members at the captive facilities that provided pups and the organizations and individuals that provided flight support,” said Paul Greer, Mexican Wolf IFT Leader for AZGFD.
“Despite the many challenges this year has presented, staff from the captive facilities, LightHawk, and our state partners came through and placed a record number of captive-born pups into the wild,” said Brady McGee, Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator for the USFWS in Albuquerque, N.M. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service thanks these partners for their commitment to ensuring cross-fostering was a success in 2020.”
This is the first time the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has participated in the cross-fostering effort since rejoining the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program last year.
“The cooperation between the two state wildlife agencies was key given the challenges faced with the current pandemic,” said Stewart Liley, Chief of the Wildlife Division, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. “Working together allowed a very successful cross-fostering season and keeping pace with improving genetics in the wild.”
Since the first cross-foster of two pups in 2014, the IFT has documented a minimum of 10 cross-fostered wolves surviving to the end of the year and being recruited into the wild population. The IFT does not capture and collar every wolf pup that survives, so there are likely other cross-fostered wolves that have survived and are currently alive in the population that have not yet been documented.
The IFT will continue to monitor the packs through GPS and radio telemetry signals from collars placed on the wolves to avoid further disturbance. Later, through remote camera observations and efforts to capture the young of the year, the IFT plans to document survival of the cross-fostered pups.
The end-of-year census for 2019 showed a minimum of 163 wild Mexican wolves in the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (76 in Arizona and 87 in New Mexico), up from a minimum of 131 wolves counted at the end of 2018.
Some people mistakenly believe that when their exotic pets get too difficult to manage, it’s OK to release them into the wild. But that is exactly the wrong thing to do. See this video.
Introduced pets — even goldfish — can have devastating effects on native wildlife and ecosystems. In our aquatic ecosystems, they can outcompete sportfish and natives for food and space, prey on native species, and have unforeseeable effects on the food web. Even aquarium pets, once established, can easily take over an aquatic system and negatively impact our native and sportfish populations.
While most non-native tropical fish are bright in color, some goldfish will lose their bright colors and grow upward of 5 pounds, resembling a large crappie or perch. There are many other exotic fish, turtles and pets that have found their way into Arizona’s waters, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) has been educating the public on ways people can help prevent their spread. The department’s Aquatic Invasive Species Program has partnered with the “Don’t Let It Loose” campaign, focusing on the harmful effects of releasing pets and helping owners find responsible ways to care for their unwanted pets.
What are things you can do? If you’re fishing and catch an unidentifiable fish or one that you can identify as nonnative, do not release it back into the water. Instead:
- Take a photo and mark the location found and report it to the Aquatic Invasive Species Program.
- If you think you may have found a species listed on Director’s Order 1, such as any of the snakehead and Asian carp species, please place the fish on ice and contact the Aquatic Invasive Species Program as well, so it can be collected for testing.
- If you or someone you know has any aquarium pets they do not wish to keep, do not release them into any lakes, ponds, or streams. We encourage the public to help us spread the message to other pet owners, and together we can stop the harmful and illegal introduction and spread of unwanted species.
If you would like to report a nonnative species, contact the Aquatic Invasive Species Program at (623) 236-7608 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also report them through our project in iNaturalist via the web, or download the app.
What can people do if they have a pet they can no longer care for and they can’t find another owner willing to care for it? You can contact an animal shelter or agency near you. The knowledgeable personnel in these places can help you find the right place for your pet.
- For more information on what you can do, visit Don’t Let It Loose.
- See a video on AZGFD’s trapping efforts to remove invasive red-eared slider turtles from the Phoenix Zoo lagoon, (the turtle trapping segment starts at the 17:15 mark).
For more information on AZGFD’s Aquatic Invasive Species and Director’s Orders, visit www.azgfd.gov/AIS.
AZGFD in the News: Please stop trying to ‘save’ baby wildlife, Arizona Game and Fish says. It does more harm than good
Kudos to The Arizona Republic and reporter Jamie Landers for a recent article explaining why “rescuing” newborn or seemingly abandoned wildlife, while perhaps well-meaning, is almost never a good idea.
Spring in Arizona brings rising temperatures and longer days, which means more sightings of newborn wildlife. The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) is urging the public to leave them alone.
Young wildlife, like baby birds and young rabbits, found in a yard or field are rarely “abandoned,” the department said in a press release. Often, there’s a perceived predator, and once they leave the area, AZGFD said one or both parents will return and continue to care for their young.
Looking for an escape from the sweltering heat? Then be sure to move Bog Hole Wildlife Area to the top of your “don’t miss” summer getaways list.
The lush wetland plants and trees offer a cool respite, not only for visitors but all kinds of waterfowl and other birds, resident and migratory, as well as a variety of game and nongame wildlife species like white-tailed deer, black-tailed jackrabbit, bobcat and coatimundi.
Located about eight miles southeast of Patagonia, in Santa Cruz County, Bog Hole is a popular site for outdoor activities, including bird-watching, hiking, photography, sight-seeing and picnicking. There is no overnight camping allowed at the wildlife area; however, the property is surrounded by Coronado National Forest, where camping may be permitted.
Patagonia Lake State Park and Parker Canyon Lake, both located nearby, offer facilities and overnight camping.Directions: At this time, the only way to reach the wildlife area is by parking on the side of the Patagonia San Rafael Road (FSR 58) and walking 1.5 miles across the grasslands.
The Arizona Wildlife Fund is a voluntary program that allows Arizona taxpayers to help conserve the state’s wildlife simply by marking the “Arizona Wildlife” box on their annual state tax return.
On March 20, the Internal Revenue Service officially confirmed that the due date for filing tax returns and making tax payments has been extended from April 15 to July 15.
The Arizona Wildlife Fund box first appeared on the state income tax form in 1982. Money goes to benefit hundreds of nongame species of animals (nongame species are those that are neither hunted or fished in a traditional sense). Since the program’s inception, contributions to the fund have aided the conservation and reintroduction of species such as bald eagles, black-footed ferrets, California condors, Apache trout, Mexican wolves, and several of the state’s most intriguing desert reptiles and amphibians.
Arizona is one of 41 states that allows taxpayers to make a voluntary, tax deductible contribution to worthwhile causes. The cumulative effect of taxpayer donations allows the Arizona Game and Fish Department to provide vital support to help protect one of Arizona’s greatest natural treasures — its diverse wildlife — and to ensure that the public has opportunities to view and enjoy these species. The tax check-off is a means for both hunters and non-hunters to contribute toward wildlife management in Arizona.
Arizona taxpayers have donated more than $5 million to the conservation of nongame animals. Over the years, the average donation has been about $20. If you are interested in helping wildlife conservation, inform your tax preparer that you want to “Make a Mark for Wildlife.” Remember, every dollar counts!
More information about nongame and endangered species conservation in Arizona.
Arizona is a great birding destination, no matter the time of year. And a bird-watcher doesn’t have to go far to encounter some fascinating species, either. Just head outside to do some backyard birding.