Fleas test positive for plague in additional location in Coconino County

FLAGSTAFF – Coconino County Public Health Services District (CCPHSD) officials confirmed that fleas collected in the Doney Park area, northeast of Flagstaff, have tested positive for plague (Yersinia pestis). Last week fleas collected in the Red Lake area, approximately five miles northeast of Williams, tested positive for plague. The tests were conducted by the Center for Pathogen and Microbiome Institute at Northern Arizona University.

CCPHSD is notifying area residents and the burrows, which are located on private property, will be treated. The area will be closely monitored to determine if further action is required.

Because the disease is endemic in Coconino County, there are likely additional locations with infected fleas. CCPHSD Environmental Health staff will continue to collect and test flea samples from locations throughout the County.

CCPHSD is urging the public to take precautions to reduce their risk of exposure to this serious disease, which can be present in fleas, rodents, rabbits and predators that feed upon these animals. The disease can be transmitted to humans and other animals by the bite of an infected flea or by direct contact with an infected animal. To limit possible exposure, people are encouraged to avoid rodent burrows and keep dogs on a leash as required by Arizona State law.

An abundance of active prairie dogs doesn’t indicate disease is present. However, a sudden die-off of prairie dogs and rodents, may be an indicator of plague. Persons noticing a sudden die-off of rodents or rabbits are urged to contact CCPHSD Environmental Services at 928-679-8750.

Joint Land Use Study contract awarded

FLAGSTAFF — The Coconino County Board of Supervisors awarded MAKERS Architecture & Urban Design the Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) contract during a regular board session this week.

The Department of Defense (DoD) Office of Economic Adjustment awarded Coconino County a $532,700 grant for a Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) earlier this year. The grant will be used to hire a consultant to provide recommendations for land uses that are compatible with the military missions of Camp Navajo and the Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station while also supporting economic development and community values.

The County issued a request for proposals (RFP) soliciting consultants to perform the study in April, 2017. MAKERS submitted the most competitive proposal and after deliberation, the selection committee determined it had the best plan to meet the RFP requirements and community interests.

“We are pleased to have MAKERS working with the County, the City of Flagstaff and the community on this important study,” said Vice-Chair of the Board and District 3 Supervisor Matt Ryan. “Our military installations are vital to our economic vitality and our national security and an integral part of Coconino County. It’s important that we all work together. MAKERS has a solid team of experienced professionals and is prepared to conduct the extensive public outreach we requested to develop recommendations.”

MAKERS will start the project by developing a detailed communications and feedback plan for public involvement that includes key stakeholders and community leaders.

“On behalf of the Board of Supervisors, I want to thank all partners for their hard work on the JLUS project,” said Chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors Liz Archuleta.

City of Flagstaff Councilmember and Chair of the JLUS Policy Committee, Celia Barotz said, “I’m pleased MAKERS was awarded the JLUS contract and am enthusiastic about the upcoming stakeholder meetings and community conversations. Given the development pressures in the Flagstaff area, this study couldn’t have come at a better time.”

MAKERS is an award-winning architectural and urban design firm providing services to clients throughout the Pacific Northwest and the United States. Founded in 1972, the firm provides a client-oriented business approach stressing attention to project requirements, design quality and budget.

Flotilla of kayakers, AZGFD biologists to float down Lower Salt River to battle invasive apple snail

MESA — Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists and the local kayaking community are joining forces to battle an invasive snail that, left unchallenged, could negatively impact native snail populations, vegetation and fishing along the Lower Salt River.

Last month a flotilla of more than 20 kayakers donned life jackets, grabbed their paddles and set off down the Lower Salt River northeast of Mesa looking for apple snail egg masses.

A group of citizen scientists from Sea Life Arizona Aquarium will again join AZGFD and Tonto National Forest biologists on Friday, Aug. 11 to help count, smash and drown the bright pink egg sacks into the depths of the Lower Salt River.

“Apple snails were originally introduced to Arizona through the pet trade,” said Jeff Sorensen, AZGFD Invertebrate Wildlife program manager, who is leading the project. “Unfortunately, when owners get tired of caring for them, some of these snails are released into our waterways, where they outcompete native species for food and territory. That has a ripple effect on aquatic species, vegetation and consequently our fish.”

Adult apple snails can grow as large as golf balls. Females produce large egg sacks, which resemble pink bubble gum stuck to cattail stalks lining waterways, such as the Lower Salt River.

Apple snails can lay a clutch of 25-500 eggs every 12 to 15 days.

“Just one female apple snail can produce up to 15,000 offspring per year. That is why it’s important for us to engage the public, and our local kayaking and tubing communities to help battle this invasive species,” Sorensen said.

Those wishing to join the battle against the invasive snail can simply smack the egg sacks into the water with a paddle or stick and the eggs will drown. However, use care when coming into contact with the snails as they are an intermediate host for the rat lungworm, which is a nematode that can cause meningitis in humans.​​​​​​​

Crews respond to a new lightning caused wildfire on the Williams Ranger District

WILLIAMS – Fire crews on the Williams Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest are responding to a new lightning caused fire start called the “Government Fire”. The Government Fire was discovered August 4, and has grown to approximately 6 acres in size. It is located on the southwest slope Government Hill just south of Spring Valley and north of Parks near the Sanderson Pass area.The Government Fire is burning in a mixed conifer and ponderosa pine fuel type. Recent moisture from monsoonal rains has dampened the environment considerably, however the fire is expanding moderately burning through available dead and down fuels near the top of the peak. Officials will continue to monitor this incident as wet weather is forecast over the next few days. Fire behavior is expected to be minimal as precipitation moves into the vicinity.

Officials recognize the concerns people have about wildfires that occur relatively close to private property within residential communities. However when fuel moisture is elevated and fire intensity is low, opportunities to allow fire to consume hazardous fuel loads can be beneficial in reducing the risks associated with living in forested areas. The end result will ultimately lower a future threat of a potentially devastating wildfire which can threaten homes and be very difficult to control.

Smoke may be visible from the surrounding communities of Parks, Spring Valley, Pittman Valley, and from the Interstate 40 corridor. Smoke impacts are predicted to be light in the neighboring communities and will be monitored closely.

Man Arrested on Charges Related to Domestic Incident near Parks

PARKS – On August 8, 2017 at approximately 12:24 pm, the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office responded to a domestic dispute occurring between a male and female driving eastbound on I-40. Information was that the couple was travelling from Las Vegas, NV to Texas when a dispute occurred. The female reporting party had tried to exit the vehicle at a gas station in Parks, AZ. At some point during the incident the male fired a shot out of the window from a handgun.

The male subject was located with the vehicle and taken into custody. Thirty-six year old Johnnie Wilcox, III of Killeen, TX was booked into the Coconino County Detention Facility with expected charges of Disorderly Conduct with a Weapon and Felony Endangerment.

Kaibab National Forest employee captures first image of rare beetle

Art Gonzales and his family love exploring the outdoors and identifying species. Photo by Gonzales family. Kaibab National Forest photo.

WILLIAMS – A Kaibab National Forest employee recently captured the first and only known image of a rare beetle.

Art Gonzales, who is currently serving as the acting district ranger for the Williams and Tusayan districts of the Kaibab National Forest, was out with his family this summer near an earthen stock tank on the Williams Ranger District when he came across a beetle that, until now, had no photographic evidence in the scientific literature.

Gonzales, who is an avid birder, can now not only claim fame for his prized photo of the Typocerus gloriosus beetle but also for it being selected as the “Observation of the Week” on the free online platform iNaturalist.org. At the beginning of 2017, the Kaibab National Forest began a citizen science project to identify and document the biodiversity of the forest by encouraging visitors and employees alike to take photos of plants and animals and post them to the project page using the iNaturalist app.

Photo of the Typocerus gloriosus beetle that was submitted to iNaturalist. Photo by Art Gonzales, Kaibab National Forest.

In what was described as an important observation of its taxon by iNaturalist, the Typocerus gloriosus beetle did not have any image sources available until the submission by Gonzales, according to Boris Büche, who is described as “an invaluable beetle expert on iNaturalist who currently has 48,662 identifications.”

Büche used The Cerambycidae of North America guide to identify the observation and added, “In 1976, no more than five specimens were known to science. It is readily identified by its colour pattern, being one of the most beautiful, and most scarce Longhorn beetles on U.S. territory.”

Gonzales, who is known as “birding4fun” on iNaturalist and currently has 593 observations, is an avid outdoorsman and is fascinated with learning about the biodiversity that exists in the Kaibab National Forest. Gonzales said he and a former colleague became engrossed in birding as a hobby, and with it came the stimulation of finding new places, discovering species and the thrill of the chase.

“All those feelings of excitement I got from the chase, identifying new birds, and visiting new locations happened again as I caught the iNaturalist bug,” he explains. “Now I find myself trying to identify just about every living organism I walk past, which makes for some seriously long short walks. Despite my years of being outdoors, I am blown away by how many more life forms I have learned to identify in just the last few months.”

The Kaibab National Forest created its year-long citizen science project with a couple goals in mind. First, biologists and planners hope to increase knowledge of plant and animal species, especially unusual or rare ones such as the Typocerus gloriosus beetle, and to inform the overall species list for the forest as well as management approach. Second, forest managers see the project as a way to build relationships with local communities and visitors, creating an opportunity for shared stewardship and turning visitors into scientists and champions of public lands and the resources they offer.

“Our iNaturalist citizen science project has also helped the employees of the Kaibab National Forest connect kids at the local school to nature through a project called the Williams Middle School BioBlitz,” Gonzales said. “It’s a fantastic way to get kids outdoors.”

Gonzales encourages all visitors to and employees of the Kaibab National Forest to get involved in making observations. The discovery of the Typocerus gloriosus beetle is filling in missing gaps of information about the elusive species and providing invaluable documentation to forest managers. But, Gonzales admits that “secretly” he and a coworker seem to be in a race to find the most species on the forest, which not only serves as a source of motivation but also fun and inspiration.

“Through iNaturalist, I hope to share my excitement with others and share my observations on the Kaibab National Forest with people across the globe,” Gonzales said. “As I walk through the woods, I’m constantly reflecting on the treasures we are provided with all that public lands offer to every one of us. All of the observations my family and I have made were on U.S. Forest Service lands and are available for everyone else to enjoy.”

To participate with the Kaibab National Forest in its citizen science project, visit Kaibab NF 2017 Citizen Science Project on iNaturalist.org. Follow the Kaibab National Forest on Facebook and Twitter @KaibabNF.

Ben Avery Clay Target Center offers deal for dove hunters

PHOENIX — While practice might not make perfect when it comes to dove hunting, it sure could put more of the fast-flying, acrobatic birds in the game vest. As part of the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s “Getting Ready for Dove” campaign, the Ben Avery Clay Target Center is offering dove hunters an opportunity to sharpen their wing-shooting skills in advance of the season opener September 1.

A $5 coupon has been posted online, good for one round (25 targets) of trap, skeet or sporting clays. The coupon is valid for one visit between August 19 and September 2. Visit https://www.azgfd.com/Shooting/BACTC/ or https://www.azgfd.com/hunting/species/smallgame/dove/ to print the coupon. Or just show the coupon on your mobile device when checking in.

“We want Arizona’s dove hunters to have a successful and enjoyable season,” said Jonathan McCraw, range manager. “We’re pleased to be able to offer them an opportunity to come out and break some targets, while saving a few dollars when they bring in a printout of the online coupon or show it on their mobile device.”

“This is a great way to dust off the shotgun and squeeze in a little preseason practice.”

The Ben Avery Clay Target Center is a professionally managed public shotgun-shooting facility, located at 5060 W. Skeet St. (about 1.5 miles west of Interstate 17 on West Carefree Highway) in north Phoenix. Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday (closed Mondays through September). For more information, call (623) 434-8119, or visit https://www.azgfd.com/Shooting/BACTC/.

As a reminder, dove hunters can purchase their Arizona hunting license and Arizona migratory bird stamp online at https://license.azgfd.gov/home.xhtml. Both documents must be in a dove hunter’s possession in the field when the season opens September 1. Save time, buy online!

For more information about dove hunting, visit www.azgfd.gov/dove.