Northern AZ prairie dog burrows dusted to combat plague near Williams, Flagstaff

FLAGSTAFF — The Arizona Game and Fish Department, together with the Kaibab National Forest Williams Ranger District, recently applied insecticidal dust Williams and Flagstaff-area Gunnison prairie dog holes for fleas.

Last month fleas tested near the Red Lake area north of Williams tested positive for plague, a potentially fatal disease that could eradicate prairie dog colonies and other infected animals. Plague-infected fleas were also recently found at an AZGFD research plot at Garland Prairie near Flagstaff.

“Unfortunately, it has been a very busy year for plague,” said Holly Hicks, a small mammals biologist with AZGFD. “An infestation can prove detrimental for prairie dog populations because they are highly communal animals, and the disease spreads easily in a colony. That is why it is important for us to identify an infected colony and dust it with insecticide to reduce the risk of infection to other animals and people.”

Crews recently dusted prairie dog holes across 664 acres near Red Lake about 10 miles north of Williams.

On September 3, an AZGFD biologist found a deceased prairie dog, which tested positive for plague near Garland Prairie. To prevent the spread, an additional 800 acres were dusted, including around plots currently being used for sylvatic plague vaccine research.

The disease is carried by fleas which spread the disease through host animals. While prairie dogs are host to fleas, the fleas can remain in the burrow after their host dies and attach themselves to the next host that comes along, which may or may not be another prairie dog.

Badgers, coyotes and foxes are also host to fleas and are more likely to cause a widespread outbreak of the disease because they travel further distances.

Those in areas where plague and/or rodents are known to be present are urged to take the following precautions to reduce their risk of exposure:

  • Do not handle sick or dead animals.
  • Prevent pets from roaming loose. Pets can pick up the infected fleas. De-flea pets routinely. Contact your veterinarian for specific recommendations.
  • Avoid rodent burrows and fleas.
  • Use insect repellents when visiting or working in areas where plague might be active or rodents might be present (campers, hikers, woodcutters and hunters).
  • Wear rubber gloves and other protection when cleaning and skinning wild animals.
  • Do not camp near rodent burrows and avoid sleeping directly on the ground.
  • In case of illness see your physician immediately as treatment with antibiotics is very effective.

More information is available at https://www.cdc.gov/plague/.

Commission OKs hunt guidelines for fall 2018 through spring 2023

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Commission approved guidelines for fall 2018 through spring 2023 hunting seasons at its September meeting in Williams.

The hunt guidelines provide the biological and social parameters used by wildlife managers when developing the annual hunt recommendations (season structures, season lengths, season dates, permits allocated, etc.) These recommendations result in the hunts in which licensed hunters may participate.

Wildlife is held in the public trust; therefore, using science-based principles to shape the hunt guidelines remains paramount to ensure healthy, sustainable and diverse wildlife populations in perpetuity.

The approved hunt guidelines will not affect any current hunts. They will be used to develop hunt recommendations beginning with the fall 2018 seasons.

To view the hunt guidelines, or for more information about the hunt guidelines and hunt recommendations processes, visit https://www.azgfd.com/Hunting/Guidelines/.

Officials lift closure of Kendrick Mountain area on Kaibab and Coconino National Forests

WILLIAMS – Effective at 6 p.m. Wednesday, the Kaibab and Coconino National Forests—in coordination with the Arizona Game and Fish Department—lifted the area closure on and around Kendrick Mountain that has been in place since the Boundary Fire in June. The public can now access the area, which had been closed due to unstable conditions caused by heavy monsoonal rains, but are advised to have heightened awareness about potential safety hazards and exercise increased vigilance regarding personal safety.

“Public safety was the driving factor in keeping the area closed for as long as we did,” said Kaibab National Forest Supervisor Heather Provencio. “It was important that we allow the landscape to stabilize during the immediate post-fire period and especially at the height of our monsoon season. We now believe it is appropriate to lift the closure, but that doesn’t mean that no hazards exist. It is important for people to always be aware of their surroundings when recreating in the forest, but it is especially important in areas recently impacted by wildfire.”

Potential risks in any area recently burned by wildfire include the following:

  • storms resulting in flash flooding that could wash out roads, initiate debris flows, and entrap people at flooded stream courses;
  • unsound burned trees (snags) that could fall or shed large limbs;
  • eroded and very rough roads resulting in dangerous driving conditions;
  • unstable terrain with potential for rolling debris (logs, rocks, boulders, etc.);
  • burned out stump holes that could cause injury if stepped in;
    and, blowing dust on roads and hillsides.

Visitors to the Kendrick Mountain area are advised to follow these outdoor safety best practices:

  1. Know the weather forecast and check it frequently as conditions can change in a very short timeframe.
  2. Let someone outside of the area know exactly where you are and where you will be going daily.
  3. Do not park vehicles or camp in areas with burned snags or where potential flood waters would prevent escape. Know where you are in relation to drainages.
  4. During windy conditions, remain in open areas that are free of trees (both live and burned) as much as possible.
  5. If an area seems unsafe for any reason, leave.
  6. Have good maps and know where you are at all times.
  7. Keep a well-charged cell phone with you and check it frequently so you know when you’re in an area where there is no coverage.
  8. Understand that there are many areas on public lands that are remote. It can take a very long time before responders can arrive if a rescue is required. The Kendrick Mountain area is very remote.

Visitors to the Kendrick Mountain area should also be aware that Forest Road 149 on the Kaibab National Forest side and which leads to the Pumpkin Trailhead is undergoing maintenance work for at least the next week. Barricades are installed at the entry to the road, so Pumpkin Trail users will have to park along Forest Road 171 and then walk to the trailhead, which will add about a mile to overall hiking distance. No driving or parking along Forest Road 149 will be allowed until the road maintenance work has been completed and the barricades removed.

The Kaibab and Coconino National Forests have been coordinating closely with the Arizona Game and Fish Department on the lifting of the Kendrick Mountain area closure due to several big game hunts opening in northern Arizona. The mountain is part of Game Management Unit 7W, and there are many hunters planning trips to the area in the coming weeks.

“We urge hunters to understand the potential hazards and to prepare accordingly,” said Colby Walton, wildlife manager with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “We know people wait a long time for their hunts. We want them to get to have the experience, but we also want them to do it safely, recognizing that any area recently impacted by wildfire will likely have some greater risk than other areas.”

5 mule deer trophies recovered during search of Flagstaff resident’s home

Loren McReynolds poses with a nontypical mule deer that he is alleged to have killed within the boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park.

FLAGSTAFF — Following a multiyear investigation by the Arizona Game and Fish Department into the hunting activities of Loren McReynolds, several state and federal agencies served a search warrant at his Flagstaff residence.

During the search of McReynolds’ home, investigators recovered five mule deer trophies that law enforcement suspects were unlawfully taken, including notable, nontypical mule deer antlers alleged to be from a deer killed within the boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park. The trophy buck was believed to be a well-known resident deer that lived within the park and was very identifiable.

McReynolds has a previous history of alleged wildlife violations, and was arrested in January 2017 for weapons violations and for killing federally protected burros north of Williams, Arizona.

“We have been working on this case for several years and all of the hard work finally paid off with the service of this search warrant,” said Gene Elms, Law Enforcement Branch chief for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “The department has received many complaints about McReynolds’ hunting activities over the years. Thanks to those individuals who came forward and the diligence of our investigators, we have the evidence to pursue criminal charges for McReynolds’ actions.”

If convicted, the violations carry possible jail time and court fines. In addition, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission has authority to seek civil restitution for the loss of wildlife to the state and suspend or revoke McReynolds’ hunting privileges.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department encourages anyone with information about the illegal take of wildlife to call the Operation Game Thief hotline at (800) 352-0700 or visit www.azgfd.com/ogt. The department pays cash rewards to individuals whose reports of wildlife crimes lead to an arrest. Callers can remain anonymous, and their confidentiality is protected. Money for rewards comes from donations, court fines and civil restitution by violators who commit wildlife crimes.

“If you witness suspicious hunting activity, call the Operation Game Thief hotline immediately,” Elms said. “A caller’s quick actions not only increase our chances of apprehending the violator, but they also help protect Arizona’s wildlife.”

Public invited to release of California Condors on September 30, at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

VERMILION CLIFFS – California Condors will be released to the wild in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in northern Arizona at 11 a.m. Saturday, September 30. The public is welcome to observe the release from a viewing area where spotting scopes will be set up and project personnel will be available to answer questions.

The release coincides with National Public Lands Day, the nation’s largest hands-on volunteer effort to improve and enhance America’s public lands. National Public Lands Day involves the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies, along with state and local governments and private groups.

· Driving directions: Take Highway 89A from Kanab or Page to the Vermilion Cliffs (from Flagstaff take Highway 89 to Highway 89A). Turn north onto BLM Road 1065 (a dirt road next to the small house just east of the Kaibab Plateau) and continue almost 3 miles.
· Bring: Spotting scope or binoculars, sunscreen, water, snack, chair and layered clothing
· Details: Informational kiosk, shade structure, and restroom at the site.
· Map: https://www.blm.gov/sites/blm.gov/files/documents/files/2010%20VCNM%20California%20Condor%20Release%20Map.pdf

This will be the 21st annual public release of condors in Arizona since the condor recovery program began in 1996. Condors are hatched and reared in captivity at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho, and transported to Arizona for release to the wild. Condors also come to the release site from the Oregon Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo, and San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

As of June 30, there were 74 condors in the wild in the rugged canyon country of northern Arizona and southern Utah. The world’s total population of endangered California Condors numbers over 450 individuals, with more than half flying in the wilds of Arizona, Utah, California, and Mexico. The historical California Condor population declined to just 22 individuals in the 1980s when the program was initiated to save the species from extinction.

The Arizona-Utah recovery effort is a cooperative program by federal, state, and private partners, including The Peregrine Fund, Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management’s Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Grand Canyon and Zion national parks, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and Kaibab and Dixie national forests among many other supporting groups and individuals.

For more information about California Condors in Arizona: http://www.peregrinefund.org/condor

Game and Fish Commission to meet Sept. 8 and 9 in Williams

PHOENIX — The next meeting of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission will be at 8 a.m. Friday, Sept. 8, at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel at 235 N. Grand Canyon Blvd. in Williams.

The public can attend the meeting or view it on a webcast at www.azgfd.gov/commissioncam. The meeting also can be watched on streaming video at any regional office statewide.

Those who wish to speak to the commission may submit “speaker cards” (blue cards) in person at the meeting or from any Game and Fish office. The ability to speak to the commission is not available for those viewing the webcast.

Items on Friday’s agenda include:

  • A renewal of a road closure on state trust land about 12 miles northeast of Benson.
  • Approval of a wildlife studies agreement between AZGFD and the city of Scottsdale for conservation projects within the McDowell Mountains.
  • A briefing on the status of state and federal legislation related to the department’s mission.
  • A briefing on development of a long-term, state-wide public awareness campaign.
  • An update on the department’s efforts toward accomplishing commission priorities.
  • An update on Williams-area sport fisheries, including economic impacts and recent habitat work.
  • An update on developments relating to resource management plans and actions on federal lands in Arizona.
  • Hearings on license revocations for violations of Game and Fish codes and civil assessments for the illegal taking and/or possession of wildlife (time certain at 10 a.m.).
  • An informational update on the department’s Hunter Education program.
  • An informational update on the department’s Shooting Sports program’s projects and activities.
  • Approval of a Notice of Expedited Rulemaking amending Article 6 (addressing rules of practice before the commission) and Article 11 (addressing aquatic invasive species) rules.
  • An endangered species update on the evacuation of Gila trout from Ash and Frye creeks during two large wildfires.
  • Amendment of Commission Order 40 to temporarily close Frye Creek Gila trout fishery to allow evaluation and restoration of the population.
  • Consideration of a petition to close .3 miles of road on state trust land near Congress.
  • Consideration of a memorandum of understanding with the state of Nevada on hunting and fishing license reciprocity.
  • Consideration of a memorandum of understanding with the National Forest Foundation on conservation and education programs.
  • Approval of a plan with the Mexican government for the importation/exportation of Sonoran pronghorn with Sonora, Mexico to improve the genetic variability over the next two years to support recovery goals.
  • Approval of proposed hunt guidelines for fall 2018 through spring 2023.
  • Presentation of the 2017 Annual Commission Award nominees and selection by the commission of the award recipients.

On Saturday, Sept. 9, the commission may attend a fishing trip and tour of the historic 1800s Hat Ranch.

To view a copy of the full meeting agenda, visit www.azgfd.gov/commission and click on the “commission agenda” link.

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission is a five-member, policy-setting board that oversees the Arizona Game and Fish Department. For more information about the commission, visit www.azgfd.gov/commission.

Forest Service completing thinning project north of Parks

PARKS – Tree removal has begun on a 1,039-acre project on the Williams Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest associated with the Four Forest Restoration Initiative.

The Community Tank Timber Sale area is located about 11 miles north of Parks just south of Forest Road 171 and west of Kendrick Mountain Wilderness near Pumpkin Center. Harvesting operations recently began in the area and are expected to be completed by the end of this year, depending on weather conditions over the next few months.

As thinning work is implemented, residents and visitors can expect to see heavy, mechanized equipment and workers in the project area and an increasing number of log trucks traveling along the haul route. Because work is progressing quickly at the project site, it is expected that log trucks will begin hauling this week.

The major haul route will be from the project area south along Forest Road 141 through Parks to Interstate 40. It is possible that there could be a significant number of trucks hauling timber through this area until project completion.

Members of the public are urged to use extreme caution near timber removal and hauling operations. Besides the presence of heavy equipment and log trucks, there will also be trees being felled and stacked into log decks, which can be unstable. Visitors to the area should not camp near nor climb on them, as they often shift and have the possibility of collapse.

“It’s really important that local community members and visitors understand that they need to be careful when driving near a log truck or in areas where logging work is occurring. These are not areas to camp or play around in, and people need to be aware of what is happening around them,” said Tom Dauenhauer, a timber sale administrator for the Kaibab National Forest. “In the long run, the benefits of this work will be safer communities and healthier forests for all of us for years into the future. In the short term, though, it means being extra vigilant near project areas and haul routes so that this forest restoration work can be accomplished safely.”

The objectives of the Community Tank Timber Sale are to reduce fuel loading and the potential for future high-intensity wildfires and to improve forest health and watershed conditions. The thinning and logging work occurring on the Williams Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest is associated with the Four Forest Restoration Initiative.

The goal of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative is to accelerate the pace and scale of restoration within 2.4 million acres of ponderosa pine forest in northern Arizona to increase resilience and proper functioning. Restoring this fire-adapted ecosystem is accomplished with a suite of restoration activities – from watershed maintenance and habitat improvements to prescribed burning and thinning.

For additional information on the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, visit www.fs.usda.gov/4fri. Members of the public can find additional information on the Kaibab National Forest through the following sources:

Twitter: www.twitter.com/KaibabNF (Text ‘follow kaibabnf’ to 40404 to receive text messages.)
Kaibab website: www.fs.usda.gov/kaibab
Kaibab Facebook: www.facebook.com/KaibabNF

Final proposed hunt guidelines for 2018-19 through 2022-23 seasons online

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department has posted the final proposed hunt guidelines for the 2018-19 through 2022-23 hunting seasons. The final proposed hunt guidelines, public comments and commission memo addressing those comments can be viewed at https://www.azgfd.com/Hunting/Guidelines/

The final proposed hunt guidelines will be presented to the commission for consideration during its Friday, September 8 meeting in Williams.

Youth crews spend summer supporting public lands and creating community

WILLIAMS – Williams YCC corps members work with fire and archaeology crews to thin and pile trees on the Williams Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest. – Kaibab National Forest photo

The Kaibab National Forest hosted two youth crews for the summer to accomplish projects, experience public lands, and learn skills and a strong work ethic, all while earning money and the possibility of an education award upon program completion.

The Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) is a program coordinated through the Arizona Conservation Corps that affords young people, typically 17- and 18-year-olds, the opportunity to perform community service and resource conservation through hands-on project work with a variety of land management and community partners, including the Kaibab National Forest. As in past years, the Kaibab hosted two crews this summer, one stationed in Williams and the other in Fredonia.

Williams YCC corps members assist in removing invasive crayfish from Keyhole Sink on the Williams Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest. – Kaibab National Forest photo

“When I think about the experience our YCC members get serving on public lands, I’m struck with what a great opportunity it is for them to develop a healthy relationship with work and service,” said Russ Dickerson, operations director for the Arizona Conservation Corps. “They get to work as a close team, come to understand that if they don’t give it everything they have someone else may have to pick up the slack, and see firsthand the lasting impacts that their service can have.”

The 2017 YCC program ran from June 5 to July 22. Corps members worked Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and assisted with a variety of resource areas on the Kaibab National Forest including range, wildlife, recreation, fire, archaeology, timber and silviculture. Both the Williams and Fredonia YCC corps members completed a remarkably diverse array of projects helping Kaibab employees with work they may not have otherwise had the time or person-power to accomplish.

The Williams YCC crew assisted range staff in removing a broken trick tank, which is a watering device for livestock or wildlife, and unneeded fencing material. Working with the recreation department, they helped maintain the popular Bill Williams Mountain Trail by using crosscut saws to clear fallen trees, and they helped clean out drainage ditches. Assisting silviculturists, they scrubbed aspen trees to remove damaging oystershell scale insects and helped monitor the condition of aspen stands.

“On the Kaibab National Forest, we take a multi-faceted approach to protecting our aspen, which are in decline due to a variety of factors,” said Josh Giles, silviculturist for the Williams and Tusayan districts of the forest. “The corps members helped us scrub off pathogens, cut encroaching conifers out of aspen stands in order to reduce competition, and monitor the progress we are making to protect this important species. We were able to teach them about the precarious state of aspen and the role we can play as land managers to help make a difference.”

The Williams YCC corps members worked with fire and archaeology crews to thin and pile trees from the historic 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps interpretive site located near Barney Flat south of Williams. They also removed fuels and low vegetation from historic logging railroad grades across the Williams Ranger District in order to help protect the sites from future wildfires. Finally, they assisted biologists in removing crayfish, an invasive species, from Keyhole Sink. Crayfish are not native to Arizona, but they have become established in many waters throughout the state and endanger aquatic native species.

Fredonia YCC corps members accomplished an equivalently impressive list of projects during their tenure on the North Kaibab Ranger District. They worked with the range department to remove invasive bull thistle and old, unneeded fencing across the district. They assisted the timber and silviculture programs to mark boundaries for a timber sale while also being taught skills in map reading and GPS, plant and tree identification, forest health, and insect and disease identification.

“Working with the youth is not just about getting the job done,” said Allison Ayers, wilderness and trails specialist with the North Kaibab Ranger District. “It’s also about empowering young people to do things they never thought in their wildest dreams that they could do. This program makes the impossible possible for many young adults.”

The Fredonia YCC crew also assisted in clearing and maintaining a number of trails, including the iconic Rainbow Rim Trail, and received instruction on crosscut saw and ax use and technique. They helped spruce up the popular Kaibab Plateau Visitor Center and were treated to a presentation on California condors. They assisted in painting the porch, steps and outhouse at the historic Jacob Lake Ranger Station Cabin and then got to take an educational tour of the North Kaibab Ranger District to view archaeological sites and learn about Forest Service cultural resource management and laws.

From camping out at Big Springs to trekking to a fire lookout, Fredonia YCC corps members were offered engaging opportunities to not just work in but to also learn about public lands and their management.

“On the Kaibab National Forest, we have partners who have been committed to YCC members’ development for a long time and are really invested in our YCC members’ experiences,” Dickerson said. “If the YCC members work as hard in their future endeavors and take the lessons they learn about communication and teamwork along with them, there’s no need for any of us to worry about the future.”

All told, YCC corps members contributed a whopping 2,410 hours toward project work on the Kaibab National Forest that forest personnel likely would not otherwise have been able to accomplish. They also saw places that few people will ever see, experienced challenges that not everyone could overcome, and made investments in public lands that will endure for years or even decades.

“We’ve all been passed a torch to conserve and care for these lands that have been set aside, and we should see to it that we’re able to pass that same torch. Additionally, though, there’s something delightfully subversive about a young person swinging an ax,” Dickerson said. “The story about young people only staring at their phones and thinking only for themselves is so widespread that it goes unchallenged. I know a different set of young people, though – their boots are trashed, their hands have hard callouses, their packs are heavy, and they’re giving, unselfish, aware, and thoughtful.”

For additional information on YCC, visit www.azcorps.org. Follow the Kaibab National Forest on Facebook and Twitter @KaibabNF.

Kaibab National Forest releases video showcasing Snake Gulch and its prehistoric paintings and etchings

WILLIAMS – The Kaibab National Forest has released a short video telling the story of a remote canyon north of the Grand Canyon that is home to an incredible array of prehistoric paintings and etchings.

“Snake Gulch: A Passage Through Time” captures the beauty and value of that place and its colorful images, which represent thousands of years of human history and leave a visual record of the rich cultures that once occupied the area. It also showcases the dedication of the people who cherish and work to preserve it.Snake Gulch is located in the Kanab Creek Wilderness on the North Kaibab Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest. For the past three decades, Forest Service archaeologists, with the assistance of volunteers, academic researchers and local tribes, have been documenting, photographing, interpreting and working to preserve the thousands of sites over a winding 10-mile stretch within this remarkable canyon.

“Managing cultural resource sites on public lands is an enormous task, and federal archaeologists can’t do it alone,” said Connie Reid, archaeologist and tribal liaison for the North Kaibab Ranger District. “Our tribal partners and volunteers play a tremendous role in helping agency archaeologists like me in caring for these irreplaceable sites. Our goal is to share these incredible resources with the American public, while respecting tribal values and doing what we can to protect the area for future generations to learn from and enjoy.”

The ancient images found in Snake Gulch were left by Native American people who occupied the region thousands of years ago. Many of the images were made during the transition period from the hunting and gathering lifestyle to agriculture, often referred to as the Neolithic Transition. On the canyon walls, there are many anthropomorphic, or human-like, images with head dresses, necklaces and other forms of adornment engaging in celebratory activities like dancing and playing music, as well as other day-to-day subsistence activities such as hunting and farming. These images give archaeologists rare glimpses into the vibrant cultures that once called the area home.

In recognition of the significance of archaeological and historic sites like Snake Gulch that are located on public lands, Congress passed the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966. The act directs federal agencies to protect significant cultural resources located on public lands and share that legacy with the American people.

October 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act and began a year-long celebration of archaeological and cultural resources in the Forest Service’s Southwestern Region, which manages some of the most important and spectacular sites in the country.

As part of that celebration, the Kaibab National Forest developed an extensive photo library of the invaluable images of Snake Gulch that can not only be viewed by the public but can also serve as a reference source for researchers and a monitoring tool for forest archaeologists. Kaibab National Forest employees also decided to share the treasures of Snake Gulch and the importance of valuing them with a wider audience by producing “Snake Gulch: A Passage Through Time.”

While the work in Snake Gulch is far from complete, the Forest Service has set a foundation to better protect and preserve these amazing nonrenewable resources over time. The Kaibab National Forest continues to work with youth groups, professional artists, tribal elders, volunteers, and other organizations and individuals to make progress on this significant documentation and preservation endeavor.

“I would say to the youth to be respectful of places like this, to take care of it so that their children and their grandchildren can see these writings. These places are places of power, what we call ‘puha,’” said Glendora Homer, member of the Kaibab Band of Southern Paiute. “Respect is the most important thing that you can give a place like this. Respect the beliefs of the Indian people. Respect these writings. They might not mean anything to you, but they do have great meaning to us and great significance to us. This is also a part of your heritage as Americans, and we as Americans have to take care of our cultural heritage sites.”