California couple drowns at Lake Havasu

PHOENIX — The drowning of two adults at Lake Havasu on Friday, July 21, is a sad reminder that everyone—regardless of age—should wear a life jacket when out on the water. Although Arizona requires that children 12 and younger must wear a properly fitting life jacket any time a boat is underway, everyone should wear a life jacket at all times while on the water.

The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) reported that 41-year-old Esmeralda Gonzalez of Monrovia, Calif., jumped from a boat in an area near Crazy Horse Cove to go for a swim. She was not wearing a life jacket and began to panic in the water. Her husband, Raul Gonzalez, 44, jumped into the water to rescue her but he also was not wearing a life jacket. They were seen struggling in the water, according to the MCSO, prior to both going under and not resurfacing.

Esmeralda was pulled from the water at about 3:25 p.m. and brought to the Crazy Horse Docks where off-duty Los Angeles County deputy sheriffs administered CPR. She was pronounced dead by Lake Havasu City Fire Department personnel.

At about 3:45 p.m., Raul was located in 12 feet of water by the Lake Havasu City Police Department and the San Bernardino County, Calif., Sheriff’s Department marine units. He was transported to the Crazy Horse Docks and pronounced dead.

The MCSO reported that the accident remains under investigation and alcohol may have been a factor.

U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in 80 percent of recreational boating fatalities in 2016 and that 83 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

“Wearing a life jacket is a critical and simple step that people can take in order to stay safe when out on the water,” said Josh Hoffman, boating safety education coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Don’t just keep life jackets onboard for everyone — take the next step and wear them.”

The Arizona Game and Fish Department recommends that watercraft operators and their passengers take a free boating safety course in Phoenix or Lake Havasu City to learn the information and tips needed to stay safe while on the water.

For more information on boating safety or to register for a hands-on or online safety course, visit www.azgfd.com/Education/Boating.

2017 fall hunt draw results now available

PHOENIX – The waiting is over for hopeful hunters who applied for a 2017 fall hunt permit-tag.

There are three ways to obtain draw results for the deer, fall turkey, fall javelina, bighorn sheep, fall bear, fall bison and pheasant seasons:

  • Sign in to your AZGFD customer portal account.
  • Visit https://draw.azgfd.gov, then click on “View Results and Bonus Points.”
  • Call (602) 942-3000 and press “2.”

A record 90 percent of all applicants applied online (131,457), compared to 10 percent who filled out a paper application (14,309).

For those who were unsuccessful in the draw process, a list of about 2,300 leftover permit-tags is posted at http://www.azgfd.gov/draw. The department will accept applications for leftover permit-tags—by mail only—beginning Monday, July 31. Leftover permit-tags will be available for purchase on a “first come, first served” basis at all department offices beginning Monday, August 7.

All permit-tags are scheduled to be mailed by Aug. 4; all refund warrants by August 11.

AZGFD helps rescue population of native Gila trout following Frye fire

PHOENIX – Hiking steep trails wearing full fire gear Wednesday and Thursday, and often with backpacks holding aerated buckets of fish and other gear, the rescue team salvaged fish from two populations of Gila trout from the ash-blanketed slopes of Mount Graham.

During the aftermath of the 48,000-acre Frye fire, the 13 biologists and wildlife managers from Arizona Game and Fish and Mora National Fish Hatchery transported 79 Gila trout, a rare trout species native to Arizona and New Mexico, from Ash Creek and 111 from Frye Creek in good health to the Mora National Fish Hatchery in New Mexico.

The rescue came just before monsoon season when summer rains are likely to send ash flows toxic to fish down waterways following high-density wildfires such as the Frye fire.

Gila trout, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, are one of two native trout species in Arizona, along with the Apache trout.

“Populations restored in isolated headwaters are unfortunately vulnerable to the risk of post-fire flooding, making our salvage efforts critical,” said Tracy Stephens, AZGFD native trout and chub coordinator. “We could not have done this without the efforts of the Type-2 Incident Command Team, including USFS and BLM personnel from throughout the Southwest Region that coordinated our efforts and ensured our safety.”

In 2012, the nearly 300,000-acre Whitewater Baldy Fire – the largest fire in the history of New Mexico — burned through nearly half of the existing Gila trout streams and fish were eliminated from six of the eight streams that were within the burn area. Gila trout were evacuated from three streams following the fire, including Spruce Creek.

Those fish from Spruce Creek were transported to Ash Creek, where last week they once again were salvaged.

The South Diamond Creek lineage of Gila trout were introduced into Frye Creek beginning in 2009, and this wild population was the first to open to catch-and-release angling for Gila trout in recent Arizona history.

All Gila trout rescued last week are being held at Mora National Fish Hatchery. The fish from Frye Creek will be used to supplement the South Diamond brood stock. The fish from Ash Creek will be held at the hatchery until an alternative stream is identified, or if conditions in the creek are deemed suitable for the fish following post-monsoon evaluations.

See more information on the Gila trout.

Recent storms serve as reminder for boaters and OHV operators to use caution

PHOENIX — Monsoon season is in full swing and the Arizona Game and Fish Department warns boating and off-highway vehicle (OHV) users that weather conditions can change quickly and could be dangerous for those who aren’t prepared.
The severity of monsoon storms varies greatly from a minor dust storm to a violent thunderstorm capable of producing hail, deadly lightning and/or flash flooding.
Recent storms brought high winds, thunderstorms and rough water to the Lake Pleasant area. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office reported that deputies made multiple water rescues on July 14 and 15:
  • Two paddle boarders were rescued July 14 after being knocked into the water by a severe thunderstorm; one of them was not wearing a personal flotation device. One of the women was taken by ambulance to a local hospital and was released after treatment.
  • Also on July 14, three juveniles operating a Wave Runner personal watercraft encountered storms. One of the juveniles was rescued by a family member, while the other two were secured by Lake Patrol deputies.
  • On July 15, 10 people were pulled from the water and no one sustained significant injuries.
In addition, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office reported that there were multiple instances of property damage — four boats sunk, another beached after becoming partially submerged, and damage was incurred to numerous other boats.
“Arizona is known as a great place for outdoor recreation and activities. But whether you’re out on a boat or riding an OHV, weather is a critical factor that everyone must pay attention to,” said Josh Hoffman, Boating Safety Education coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “If severe weather is likely or storms are appearing nearby, it’s a good time to safely get off of the water or riding trails and move indoors.”
The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Boating and OHV Safety Education programs offer users the following tips to protect themselves and passengers during the monsoon season.
When on a boat or personal watercraft:
  • While life jackets are legally required for children 12 and younger, everyone should wear a life jacket at all times while on the water. Storms can create large waves that could knock a passenger from the boat.
  • Monitor the weather around you, and use a weather radio for updates from the National Weather Service. If storms are predicted or are building, pull your boat out of the water or consider postponing your outing.
  • Secure all gear above and below decks.
  • Keep everyone aboard away from electrical and ungrounded components, and remain as low in the boat as possible.
  • Slow down but keep enough power to maintain headway and steering.
  • Turn on your navigation lights.
  • If possible, head for the nearest shore that is safe to approach. It may be best to ride it out in open water rather than try to approach the shore in heavy wind and waves.
  • Boats should head the bow into the waves at a 45-degree angle. Personal watercrafts should head directly into the waves.
When on an OHV:
  • Always wear proper safety gear, including a helmet, eye protection, long sleeves, pants, over-the-ankle boots and gloves.
  • Carefully seek shelter indoors as storms are developing or are nearby.
  • Never cross running water. While it may look shallow, it may be deep enough that it could push the vehicle downstream or you may get stuck in loose sediment.
  • Drive slowly to not lose control on muddied trails.
  • To avoid being struck by lightning, avoid open fields, high land, trees, poles or other tall objects and standing bodies of water.
  • Be aware of and avoid flash flood zones.
For more information on boating in Arizona, visit www.azgfd.gov/boating. For more information on riding an OHV in Arizona, visit www.azgfd.gov/OHV.

James Ammons becomes chairman of Arizona Game and Fish Commission

PHOENIX — James Ammons assumed the role of chairman of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission on July 1. Charged with leading the five-member commission for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, Ammons has been serving on the commission since 2014 after being appointed to a five-year term by then-Gov. Jan Brewer.

Ammons replaces Chairman Edward “Pat” Madden, whose term as chair expired June 30. Madden will continue to serve on the commission through the end of the year until a successor is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. Commissioners’ five-year terms are staggered, and each commissioner traditionally serves as chair during his or her final year.

A third-generation Yuma native with a passion for hunting and spending time in the great outdoors, Ammons has extensive experience in both business and wildlife issues. Ammons has owned and operated River Cities Adjusters, a Yuma-based transportation service, since 1978 and served as a board member of AEA Federal Credit Union. He is a life member of the Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club where he has served as a board member and president. Ammons was named the club’s “Sportsman of the Year” in 2010 and played an instrumental role in implementing policy and bylaw changes that allowed membership for women.

Ammons has worked on multiple waterhole development projects, various wildlife conservation initiatives, and Bureau of Land Management recreation management planning. He is a member of numerous organizations, including the Arizona Antelope Foundation, the Arizona Mule Deer Association, the Arizona Elk Society and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Ammons also is a life member of the Wild Sheep Foundation, Grand Slam Club and the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society.

“As chairman, I look forward to a continued productive working relationship between the commission, department and public to ensure that Arizona’s wildlife is protected, conserved, enhanced and managed,” Ammons said.

The commission oversees the Arizona Game and Fish Department and establishes policy for the management, conservation and harvest of wildlife. The commission makes rules and regulations for managing, conserving, and protecting wildlife and fisheries resources, and safe and regulated watercraft and off-highway vehicle operations for the benefit of the citizens of Arizona.

For more information about the commission, visit www.azgfd.gov/commission.

Outdoor Writers Association honors Arizona Game and Fish video producer

PHOENIX — Arizona Game and Fish video producer David Majure recently received three Excellence in Craft Awards from the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA). Majure was recognized for his work on the department’s Arizona Wildlife Views TV show and received the following awards in the TV/Video/Webcast contest categories:

  • Second Place, Conservation or Nature Category, “Owl Rescue and Release”
  • Second Place, Family Participation/Youth Outdoor Education Category, “A Wild Time at Summer Camp”
  • Third Place, Gear/Technical Category, “Duck Decoys”

“David is a consummate video producer, whose storytelling talents have really raised the level of excellence of Wildlife Views TV,” AZGFD Information and Education Branch Chief Bill Andres said.

Winners were announced June 27 at OWAA’s annual conference in Missoula, Mont. Arizona Wildlife Views is a 13-episode half-hour program that airs on Arizona PBS (Channel 8.1, or Channel 1008 on Cox Cable), and city cable channels statewide.

The show is produced by the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Information Branch and can also be found at www.azgfd.gov/video.

The Outdoor Writers Association of America is an international organization that represents a diverse group of professional communicators dedicated to sharing the outdoor experience. They inform the public about outdoor activities, issues and the responsible use of our natural resources.

Upgrades coming to Ben Avery Shooting Facility’s main range

PHOENIX — When the Ben Avery Shooting Facility’s main range opens bright and early Aug. 30, recreational shooters will zero in on several improvements:

Earthen berms that serve as backstops for 67 shooting stations will be higher, more level and — most important — safer.
Target bumpers (which hold up the target frames) with re-stenciled lane numbers.
Refurbished shooting benches.

In order to complete more than $100,000 in improvements, the main range will be closed to the general public Aug. 14-29. The projects will be paid for through funding from the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR). The Arizona Game and Fish Department does not receive general funds from the State of Arizona.

“While this work is going to inconvenience some folks, due to the extended duration of the closure, the work on the range is necessary to maintain the highest levels of standards of safety and stewardship that our customers have come to expect from the facility,” said Christopher Dean, range manager.

The two-week closure also will apply to the adjacent specialty ranges designated for user groups – Smallbore, Rifle 2 (which also will see improvements to its berm), Pistol 3 and Pistol 4.

Located on 1,650 acres in north Phoenix, the Ben Avery Shooting Facility is one of the nation’s largest publicly-operated shooting facilities, drawing more than 120,000 shooters each year. A City of Phoenix “Point of Pride,” the facility has received a five-star rating from the National Association of Shooting Ranges.

For more information, visit www.azgfd.gov and click on “Shooting,” or call (623) 582-8313.

Wanted: Your best wildlife photos

PHOENIX — If you enjoy watching and photographing Arizona’s amazing wildlife, consider entering the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s annual wildlife calendar photo contest.

Send three of your finest wildlife photos via email or through a file-sharing website. Information and rules are posted at www.azgfd.gov/photocontest. As always, entry is free.

Winning images will be featured in the 2018 wildlife calendar, in the November–December 2017 issue of Arizona Wildlife Views magazine. Cash prizes are awarded. Prize money is funded through publications sales.

Whether you’ve photographed a colorful hummingbird in flight, a bighorn ram perched on a rocky ledge or a rabbit sipping water from a pond, submit your best work. Your photo could be chosen as a winner or for honorable mention.

The contest accepts entries through August 11 at 5 p.m. MST.

Nominations sought for 2017 Game and Fish Commission Awards

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Commission is soliciting nominations for its 2017 Commission Awards. The deadline for submission is Aug. 24, 2017. The purpose of these awards is to recognize Arizonans who have contributed significantly to the conservation of the state’s wildlife, its outdoor heritage, and the mission of the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Nominations may include individuals, organizations, clubs, foundations or government agencies. Arizona Game and Fish Department employees are not eligible for nomination.

To submit a Commission Awards nomination, download a nomination form and submit the completed form and all supplemental materials to:
Arizona Game and Fish Department
Attn: 2017 Commission Awards
5000 W. Carefree Highway
Phoenix, AZ 85086

Nominations also can be submitted via email to lroe@azgfd.gov or faxed to 623-236-7299.

The submission deadline is 5 p.m. on Aug. 24, 2017.

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission will select the 2017 Commission Award recipients at its Sept. 8-9, 2017, meeting. The awards will be presented at the annual Arizona Game and Fish Commission Awards Banquet to be held on Jan. 13, 2018.
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AZGFD reviewing feds’ draft Mexican wolf recovery plan

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department is reviewing the draft Mexican wolf recovery plan released June 29 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Although the plan appears to address the substance of AZGFD’s lawsuit filed in June 2015, Department scientists are continuing to evaluate the plan in detail before submitting formal comments by the August 29 comment deadline.

The draft plan outlines several key strategic acknowledgements to ensure the success of Mexican wolf reintroduction, including the recognition of Interstate 40 in Arizona and New Mexico as the appropriate northern boundary for recovery encompassing all of this wolf’s historical range, as well as recognition of the critical role Mexico plays in any recovery effort within the U.S.

“This science-based plan provides a description of the Mexican wolf’s historical range to ensure proper genetic management between Mexican wolves and Canadian gray wolves that were transplanted into the northern Rocky Mountains, which are prominent in areas north of I-40,” said Jim deVos, assistant director for wildlife management for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “This affords agencies invested in wolf recovery a pathway toward preserving and protecting the Mexican wolf from genetic swamping that would jeopardize this uniquely smaller subspecies.”

Arizona Game and Fish’s involvement in Mexican wolf conservation began in the mid-1980s. Since that time, the Department has spent more than $7 million on wolf recovery in the state and has been the predominant on-the-ground presence working to manage Mexican wolves.

Genetic viability has been one of the most controversial elements of Mexican wolf recovery. “The Department is analyzing the plan, which appears to be developed on the best available science by Dr. Philip S. Miller, a world-renowned population viability analysis expert,” said deVos. “Based on Dr. Miller’s analyses, the plan includes explicit science-based numbers of wolf releases required to maintain a genetically diverse Mexican wolf population.”

DeVos also noted that the draft plan outlines criteria for formally delisting and down-listing the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies, and that it also formally recognizes the key role Mexico plays in any recovery effort, given that 90 percent of Mexican wolf historical habitat is within Mexico.

“In total, the plan provides management options and direction to future delisting of Mexican wolves as an endangered subspecies and addresses weaknesses in the 1982 recovery plan,” said deVos. “We will work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies to ensure the success of wolf recovery efforts, in balance with other elements of the ecosystem, wildlife and the people who live, work and recreate on this landscape.”

In June 2015, AZGFD filed a lawsuit against the secretary of the Department of Interior and the Fish and Wildlife Service seeking an updated recovery plan – a requirement of the Endangered Species Act, the first update since the current plan was published in 1982. In April 2016, the Service signed a settlement agreement with AZGFD and other parties to complete a final revised Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan by the end of November 2017.

The public is invited to submit written comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the draft plan, either electronically (go to http://www.regulations.gov and enter the docket number FWS-R2-ES-2017-0036 in the search bar), or by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R4-ES-2017-0036, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803. Comments must be received on or before Aug. 29, 2017. To view the draft recovery plan and other documents, visit https://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/MWRP.cfm.

The Service also will hold two public meetings in Arizona to provide an opportunity for citizens to learn about the revised Mexican wolf recovery plan and to provide written comments. The dates and times of these information meetings are:

  • Tuesday, July 18, 6-9 p.m., Flagstaff, Northern Arizona University’s Prochnow Auditorium, South Knowles Drive.
  • Wednesday, July 19, 6-9 p.m., Pinetop, Hon-Dah Resort’s Casino Banquet Hall, 777 AZ-260.
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Two additional public meetings will be held in New Mexico: July 20, 6-9 p.m., Truth or Consequences, Ralph Edwards Auditorium, Civic Center, 400 W. Fourth; and July 22, 2-5 p.m., Albuquerque, Crowne Plaza Albuquerque, 1901 University Blvd. NE.

The Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, White Mountain Apache Tribe, USDA Forest Service, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – Wildlife Services, and several participating counties in Arizona.

For more information on Mexican wolves, visit www.azgfd.gov/wolf.