Want to learn outdoors skills?

PHOENIX — Are you a beginner interested in learning more about hunting, fishing, camping and other outdoors activities, but don’t know where to start? Do you have a need to be directly connected with your food source and the experience?

The Arizona Game and Fish Department, along with an extensive network of partnering organizations, offers dozens of events throughout the year to suit almost everyone’s needs through the Outdoor Skills Network. The events are organized based on skill level and interest: introductory, beginner, developing, intermediate and experienced.

You can find a schedule of upcoming events, see a description of the skill levels, and sign up for events online at www.azgfd.gov/outdoorskills. The online registration system is mobile-friendly.

“Keep in mind that the event types and descriptions are merely guidelines to help you choose what is best for you — they are not prerequisites,” said Doug Burt, the department’s hunting and shooting sports program manager. “In the end, we want attendees to have the right expectations and the right experience. That’s the key to keeping folks engaged in hunting and traditional outdoor recreation activities.”

There is no cost to Arizona taxpayers for this program. Game and Fish does not receive any of the state’s general tax funds and operates under a user-pay, public-benefit model. The program is an investment in the continuance of wildlife conservation efforts and outdoors recreation participation in Arizona.

Green light: Go fish!

AZGFD, ADEQ release “Green Light” list of fish, including all trout, Arizonans can eat without restrictions

PHOENIX – Arizona anglers have a ton of “Green Light” reasons to keep catching and cooking fresh fish.

For the first time, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) and Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) have launched an initiative to highlight a “green light” list of fish species from specific waters that may be consumed without limits.

The list includes all trout statewide. Arizona has a total of 220 waters that AZGFD manages for trout, making up approximately 40,000 surface acres of lakes and 1,000 miles of rivers or streams.

These “Green Light Fisheries” also include channel catfish supplied for the AZGFD Community Fishing Program.

See all the green light waters on the ADEQ interactive e-Map, including other waters and fish species classified as “Green Light Fisheries.”

During Child Passenger Safety Week, remember life jackets and helmets for kids

PHOENIX — In conjunction with Child Passenger Safety Week, the Arizona Game and Fish Department would like to remind boaters and off-highway vehicle (OHV) riders of the importance of life jackets and helmets for kids.

State law requires all passengers 12 years old and younger to wear a life jacket while on board a boat or watercraft. And when it comes to OHVs, operators and passengers under 18 must wear a U.S. Department of Transportation-safety rated helmet designed for motorized vehicle use.

“When you’re gearing up to take your kids out to enjoy Arizona’s outdoor recreation, ensure that everyone has the appropriate safety gear,” said Josh Hurst, off-highway vehicle law enforcement coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “A properly fitting helmet or life jacket is the most important piece of equipment that you and your children can wear when hitting OHV trails or going out on a boat.”

The best time to check the size and fit of safety gear is before you leave the house. Make sure that everyone in the family, especially children, has the necessary and appropriate safety equipment.

To ensure your child has a properly fitting helmet for riding on or operating an OHV, refer to the helmet manufacturer’s instructions and information. Good fit is essential for ensuring the best protection, and getting advised by a professional is helpful when determining the best option and fit for a child. For more information regarding general helmet information and frequently asked helmet questions, visit the Snell Memorial Foundation website at www.smf.org.

Before heading out to the lake, make sure that life jackets fit snug. Have a child lift his or her arms overhead while you lift up on the life jacket by the shoulder straps; if the jacket rides up above the ear lobes, it’s too big. If you get out to the lake and realize you’ve left a jacket at home, the Arizona Game and Fish Department has installed life jacket loaner stations near the boat ramps at lakes Pleasant, Havasu, Saguaro and Mohave.

Child Passenger Safety Week, which takes place Sept. 17-23, focuses on car safety, but it’s important to remember that safety comes first no matter the type of vehicle or watercraft. The Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety is promoting the week in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and information about events taking place in the state can be found online.

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/.

Jaguar in Chiricahua Mountains video is male

AZGF photo

PHOENIX — Contrary to a news release from a Tucson-based group, biologists from the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that a jaguar recently captured on a trail video camera in the Chiricahua Mountains is a male.

“This Center for Biological Diversity footage confirms that this is a jaguar we’ve seen before, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has photographic proof that this animal is unequivocally male,” said Jim deVos, assistant director for Wildlife Management at AZGFD. “We promptly informed the organization when the news release was issued that there is clear anatomical evidence of this jaguar’s gender.”

The news release quotes CBD employee Randy Seraglio as saying, “The really exciting part of all this is that we don’t know yet what sex (it) is,” and it refers to “The possibility that it may be a female… capable of jump-starting jaguar recovery in the region.”

A story in the Friday edition of the Arizona Daily Star says that Arizona Game and Fish Biologist Tim Snow informed Seraglio of the cat’s gender on Thursday morning as soon as their news release was made public, but CBD has yet to correct the release on their website.

“One must wonder about CBD’s motives for mischaracterizing this animal, given the clear evidence to the contrary,” deVos said. “We recognize the importance of finding a new jaguar in Arizona, however, no female jaguars have been seen in Arizona in more than 50 years. Those that have come here from Mexico have all been solitary males,” deVos said.

The proliferation of trail cameras near the border has afforded a glimpse into travels of Arizona’s unique visiting jaguars, but the distance from the nearest breeding population in Mexico and the decades-long lack of a documented female make a population in this state unforeseeable.

Because of the distance from other jaguar populations, some 130 miles south of the US border, Arizona is not considered optimal jaguar habitat.

Arizona Game and Fish Commission proposes amendments to Articles 6 and 11

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Commission has proposed to amend its rules following the 2017 five-year reviews of Article 6, Rules of Practice Before the Commission, and Article 11, Aquatic Invasive Species, to enact recommendations developed during the reviews.

The Article 6 (PDF) recommended amendments are designed to align the rule with statute, enable the department to provide better customer service, and reduce regulatory and administrative burdens wherever possible.

The Article 11 (PDF) recommended amendments are designed to make the rules more concise and easier to understand.

The commission approved the Notice of Proposed Expedited Rulemaking amending Articles 6 and 11 at the Sept. 6 Commission Meeting, and it will review the final expedited rulemaking at its Dec. 1 meeting.

Under A.R.S. § 41-1027(A)(7), an agency may use the expedited rulemaking process to implement, without material change, a course of action proposed in a five-year review report approved by the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council provided the rulemaking does not increase burdens or costs to, or reduce procedural rights of, persons regulated by the rule. The commission approved the Article 6 and Article 11 five-year review reports at its Dec. 2, 2016, meeting, and the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council approved the reports at the March 7, 2017, Council Meeting.

An exemption from Executive Order 2015-01 was provided for this rulemaking by Hunter Moore, natural resource policy adviser for the Governor’s Office, in an email dated May 1, 2017.

Copies of the proposed expedited rulemakings are also available on the department’s website at https//www.azgfd.com/agency/rulemaking/.

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/.

U.S. Rep. Gosar leads U.S. House Committee passage of bi-partisan Grand Canyon Bison Management Act

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department applauds the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee for approving a bi-partisan bill that will allow the Department to better manage and conserve the bison population within Grand Canyon National Park.

Today the Committee passed the Grand Canyon Bison Management Act, attaching it as an amendment to the larger Sportsman’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act. The Bison Management Act, introduced in June by U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, requires the U.S. Department of Interior and the Arizona Game and Fish Commission to coordinate on a plan that would allow sportsmen holding a valid state-issued hunting license to assist in management of the bison population within the park.

The amendment follows the release of a National Park Service plan that allows public volunteers to assist in culling an overpopulation of bison on the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Wildlife surveys estimate that about 600 bison have migrated into the park, where hunting is prohibited and bison are impacting both natural and cultural resources.

Left unclear with the current National Park Service plan is whether a licensed, skilled volunteer would be allowed to harvest and keep the entire animal. The Service stated previously that it was legally prohibited from conveying the harvested animal to a private hunter. Approval of the Bison Management Act will provide clear legal direction that allows skilled volunteers to keep the entire animal when leaving the park.

“While the National Park Service plan has some components that move in the right direction, it will surely face endless litigation while a bison herd continues growing unabated on the Grand Canyon National Park,” Arizona Game and Fish Commission Chairman Jim Ammons said. “This federal legislation will allow Arizona Game and Fish Department and Park Service to apply the best wildlife management practices to manage the bison herd effectively and immediately. Right now, Grand Canyon National Park simply cannot properly manage the unhealthy growth of the herd without this legislative fix.”

Rep. Gosar stated that the Bison Management Act provides a direct, cost-effective solution that strives to protect Grand Canyon resources.

“This is another important step in the legislative process to provide local wildlife managers the authority to utilize state licensed skilled volunteers to provide a timely solution, with no cost to taxpayers, to address the exploding bison population problem in Grand Canyon National Park,” Rep. Gosar said.

Biologists predict that the herd could grow to nearly 800 in the next three years and be as large as 1,200 to 1,500 animals within 10 years without further management actions to control the size of the herd. AZGFD continues to collaborate with the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and the InterTribal Buffalo Council on bison management guidelines for herd reduction.

“The Arizona Game and Fish Commission and Department thank Dr. Gosar for continuing to pursue this issue for the conservationists who appreciate the Park’s historic landmarks and want to protect them and prevent undue degradation to habitat and native species by managing the bison herd at sustainable levels,” Ammons said.

The bipartisan House bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Reps. Tom O’Halleran, David Schweikert and Trent Franks.

Operational details of herd reduction under the National Park Service plan are still being worked out and more information, including potential volunteer opportunities, will be announced at a later date by the National Park Service.

Arizona’s bald eagles expand breeding sites in 2017

PHOENIX — Arizona’s bald eagle population continues to soar as the number of breeding areas expanded statewide and a record 82 young hatched during the 2017 breeding season, according to an annual Arizona Game and Fish Department survey.

While the number of hatchlings rose from the previous high of 79 in 2016, the number of young that actually fledged dipped slightly to 63 birds that made the important milestone of their first flight. In Arizona, at least 95 eggs were laid, which was slightly less than the 97 laid in 2016, and a record 85 breeding areas were identified, including two new areas.

“We continue to see phenomenal growth of Arizona’s bald eagle population,” said Kenneth Jacobson, AZGFD bald eagle management coordinator. “An increase in breeding areas and increasing numbers of hatchlings is a testament to the resiliency of these magnificent animals and our ongoing efforts to help recover bald eagles in Arizona.”

Arizona’s bald eagle populations have flourished since 1978, when 11 pairs were counted within the state and the species was listed as endangered. Today there are an estimated 67 adult breeding pairs.

Bald eagles in Arizona were removed from the federal Endangered Species Act in 2011. The department’s conservation efforts contributed to the species recovery. Nationally, the birds remain protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

The impressive growth of the population is attributed to the continued efforts of the Southwestern Bald Eagle Management Committee – a coalition of AZGFD and 25 other government agencies, private organizations and Native American tribes – and its years of cooperative conservation efforts, including extensive monitoring by the nationally-awarded Bald Eagle Nestwatch Program.

The breeding season for bald eagles in Arizona runs from December through June, although eagle pairs at higher elevations nest later than those in the rest of the state.

Continued support from the committee, State Wildlife Grants and the Heritage Fund (Arizona Lottery ticket sales), will help ensure that Arizona’s bald eagles continue to thrive.

For more information on bald eagles in Arizona, visit www.azgfd.gov (click on “wildlife”) or www.swbemc.org.​​​​​​​

Online applications for 2018 spring hunts now being accepted

PHOENIX – The Arizona Game and Fish Department now is accepting online applications for 2018 hunt permit-tags issued through the draw process for spring turkey, javelina, bison and bear.

To apply online, visit https://draw.azgfd.gov/ and scroll down to “Apply for a Draw.”

The deadline by which the department must receive all applications – online or paper – is 11:59 p.m. (Arizona time) Tuesday, October 10, 2017. Postmarks do not count.

Paper applications can be mailed to: Arizona Game and Fish Department, Attn.: Drawing Section, P.O. Box 74020, Phoenix, AZ 85087-1052, or dropped off at any regional office statewide.

The “2018 Spring Turkey, Javelina, Bison, Bear and Raptor Capture Hunt Draw Information” booklet is available online at www.azgfd.gov/draw. Printed booklets are available at department offices and license dealers statewide.

Applicants must possess a valid Arizona hunting license to apply online for a hunt permit-tag. That license must be valid on the last day of the application period (October 10, 2017). Licenses are valid for one year from date of purchase. Licenses are available online, as well as at all Game and Fish offices and license dealers statewide.

Meanwhile, the department encourages applicants to consider purchasing PointGuard when applying online for a hunt permit-tag. PointGuard ensures if a successful applicant is unable to participate in a hunt for any reason, the accumulated bonus points that were expended to draw that hunt permit-tag will be reinstated.

Applicants first must sign up for a free AZGFD portal account to purchase PointGuard (visit www.azgfd.gov, click on the “My Account” button in the upper right-hand corner of the home page, then select the “Create Account” option). PointGuard is $5 per species, per applicant, purchased at the time of completing the online application, or prior to the application period deadline.

For more information, visit www.azgfd.gov/draw, or call (602) 942-3000. For more information about PointGuard, visit https://www.azgfd.com/hunting/pointguard.