AZGFD to hold OHV sobriety checkpoint February 17

PHOENIX – The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) will conduct an off-highway vehicle (OHV) sobriety checkpoint Saturday, February 17 on the Tonto National Forest north of Fountain Hills.

AZGFD is conducting the checkpoint to ensure public safety by detecting and deterring impaired operation of OHVs. Those using an OHV are reminded to use the following safety tips:

  • Never operate an OHV while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
  • Helmets are required by law for all riders under the age of 18 regardless of the off-highway vehicle type. However, they are strongly recommended for all riders.
  • Wear a seat belt at all times, if equipped.
  • Only carry the number of passengers recommended by the manufacturer for your vehicle. Often many accidents are the result of too many people riding a machine that was designed for fewer passengers.
  • Wear riding goggles, a long-sleeved shirt, pants, riding gloves and over-the-ankle boots.v
  • Never ride alone.
  • Be prepared and equipped with a map, a first aid kit, whistle and have basic tools on hand.
  • Stay on designated trails.
  • Take an OHV safety education course designed to teach off-road motorists how to ride safely and responsibly.

Remember, state law requires all OHVs in Arizona require a title, license plate and an OHV decal to operate on public and state trust lands.
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For more information about OHV use and safety course options, visit www.azgfd.gov/ohv.

Fatal Yuma County off-highway vehicle accident a reminder to practice OHV safety

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department reminds all off-highway vehicle (OHV) drivers and passengers to wear the proper safety gear, including a helmet, in the wake of a fatal accident that killed a 77-year-old Wellton, Arizona man Thursday.

The man lost control of the all-terrain vehicle (ATV) he was driving when he hit a rut in the roadway and was thrown from the vehicle, according to the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office, which investigated the crash. The man was not wearing a helmet and succumbed to his injuries at a local hospital.

“It’s critically important for all OHV drivers and passengers to always wear a helmet,” said Kim Jackson, AZGFD Off-Highway Vehicle Safety Education program manager. “Helmets save lives and all riders should make sure they are wearing one before heading out on the trails.”

Helmets are required by law for all riders under the age of 18 regardless of the off-highway vehicle type. However, they are strongly recommended for all riders. In addition riders should remember to:

  • Wear a seat belt at all times, if equipped.
  • Only carry the number of passengers recommended by the manufacturer for your vehicle. Often many accidents are the result of too many people riding a machine that was designed for fewer passengers.
  • Wear riding goggles, a long-sleeved shirt, pants, riding gloves and over-the-ankle boots.
  • Never ride alone.
  • Be prepared and equipped with a map, a first aid kit, whistle and have basic tools on hand.
  • Stay on designated trails.
  • Take an OHV safety education course designed to teach off-road motorists how to ride safely and responsibly.

For more information about the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s OHV program and safety course options, visit www.azgfd.gov/ohv.

Come on out to the AZGFD Outdoor Expo March 24-25

PHOENIX – The largest hands-on outdoor recreation expo in Arizona is coming soon! Dates are set for the Arizona Game and Fish Department Outdoor Expo presented by Shikar Safari Club International. Come out Saturday, March 24 and Sunday, March 25 to the Ben Avery Shooting Facility in Phoenix. Admission and parking are free.

One big change this year is we’re expanding the size of our amAZing wildlife tent, which has been a huge attraction the past couple of years.

You’ll have the opportunity to see live “ambassador animals” from the department’s Wildlife Center and learn fun facts. As always, there will be plenty of hands-on fun for all ages like kids fishing tanks, target archery and other shooting sports in a safe, supervised, controlled environment on the range.

Get a feel for specialty shooting disciplines like clay target, cowboy action, practical pistol, black powder, and air gun. Check out the many firearms manufacturers, including some new brands this year.

Don’t miss the always popular cowboy mounted shooting competition. See OHV and ATV exhibits. Give kayaking a try at the “Lake Paddlemore” kayaking pond. Hike a field course and learn cool camping tips. Learn about boating and how to stay safe on the water. Talk to experts about Arizona’s wildlife, fishing, hunting and more. Visit with more than 100 exhibitors, including outdoor recreation and conservation groups, government agencies, and commercial vendors of outdoor products and services.

The department will auction off its annual collection of wildlife assets at the Expo. Sets of antlers, hides, skulls and head mounts, as well as wildlife artwork and taxidermy – all seized during law enforcement investigations, obtained from animals killed in vehicle collisions, or acquired through donations – will be put on the auction block both days. Funds generated from the auction are used to purchase equipment and technology used in the investigation of wildlife crimes and to protect the state’s wildlife resources.

Concessionaires will have food and beverages available for purchase, and many accept only cash — ATMs will be on site. There is a nominal charge for ammunition at some of the target shooting venues.

Expo hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 24, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 25. The Outdoor Expo is easy to find, located on Carefree Highway, about 1/2 mile west of I-17 in Phoenix.

See more information about the 2018 Expo.

Army Corps of Engineers looking to lower lake level at Alamo Lake

PHOENIX — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles District, has a draft Environmental Assessment for the Alamo Dam Flushing Flow Release available for public review and comment. According to a public notice issued by the Corps, it proposes to release water from Alamo Dam outside of the normal non-flood release schedule in order to facilitate required maintenance activities.

According to the public notice, the proposed release would occur as a flood pulse hydrograph designed to mimic a typical rain event in the downstream watershed released with appropriate seasonal timing. While the exact details of the release are subject to variation based on conditions at the time of release, such as water surface elevation and weather, the release will conform to the following general
parameters:
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  1. Maximum release will not exceed 5,000 cfs.
  2. Total release time, including ascending and descending limbs, would not exceed 20 days.
  3. Ascending limb of the hydrograph will be moderate.
  4. Descending limb of the hydrograph will initially drop steeply, followed by a gradual return to base flow.
  5. The peak of the hydrograph will be completed prior to March 15.

The Corps is soliciting comments from the public; federal, state, and local agencies and officials; and other interested parties in order to consider and evaluate the impacts of this proposed project and alternatives.

Comments will be accepted through February 10, 2018.

There are two ways to submit comments. Either by mail to:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Los Angeles District
ATTN: Pam Kostka, CESPL-RGN-L
915 Wilshire Blvd., 13th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90017

Or, comments can be sent electronically to: pamela.k.kostka@usace.army.mil.

Arizona state fish returns: AZGFD to resume stocking Apache trout

PHOENIX – The Apache trout, one Arizona’s two native trout, are returning to lakes and streams in the White Mountains by May. The Arizona Game and Fish Department is scheduled to stock around 55,000 Apache trout of a catchable size from its Silver Creek Hatchery from May through September.

Stockings could not occur in 2017 due to federal hatcheries having tested positive for Bacteria Kidney Disease (BKD). The state relies on federal hatcheries to supply the eggs necessary to raise Apache trout.

This year, AZGFD is expecting to receive about 200,000 Apache trout eggs. AZGFD has around 100,000 Apache trout eggs (BKD free) at its Tonto Creek Hatchery that came from Williams Creek National Fish Hatchery and are scheduled to be stocked next year.

AZGFD typically stocks Apache trout into Lee Valley Reservoir, East Fork of the Black River, West Fork of the Black River (campground), West Fork of the Little Colorado River at Sheep Crossing (below Mt. Baldy), West Fork of the Little Colorado River in Greer, and Upper Silver Creek.

Subscribe to our fishing reports and stay tuned for more stocking details. Apache trout can be caught by a variety of methods, including wet or dry flies, small lures, or natural baits, in either lakes or streams. Artificial flies produce the best results. Best natural baits tend to be worms or grasshoppers.

See more information about Apache trout.

Arizona’s “Conserving Wildlife” license plate benefits habitat, education and youth

PHOENIX — Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation’s (AZSFWC) “Conserving Wildlife” license plate ended 2017 surpassing the prior year both in license plate sales and grant awards from the proceeds.

Last year, AZSFWC, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, awarded 16 different grants totaling $170,665 in funding. Putting this into perspective, it means 10,039 Conserving Wildlife license plates were purchased or renewed to fund those projects. Since 2012, the organization has awarded 100 grants totaling more than $520,900.

Every time someone purchases or renews one of these specialty license plates through the state of Arizona, AZSFWC receives $17 of the $25 cost. These funds are placed in a dedicated account and each quarter AZSFWC assesses grant proposals from qualified organizations.

Grant money benefits conservation education efforts, youth recruitment and retention, and important habitat projects. Three notable projects were landscape-scale habitat efforts requiring significant coordination by AZSFWC member organizations with other partners, including federal and state agencies (such as the Arizona Game and Fish Department), other nongovernmental organizations, private landowners, and volunteers:

  • A National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) project continues with a multi-year landscape restoration in the Pinaleno Mountains (Mt Graham) in southeastern Arizona. The Pinaleno Ecosystem Restoration Project will reduce dense timber stands in this part of the Coronado National Forest and will directly benefit both Gould’s turkeys as well as the endangered Mount Graham red squirrel. This project began in 2013 and is projected to continue through 2020.
  • An Arizona Elk Society (AES) project is another long-term, landscape-scale habitat effort in the Coconino National Forest near Clints Well in north-central Arizona. The Long Valley Meadow Restoration Project has several partners restoring a forest meadow as well as enhancing the drainage, water table and waterway.
  • An Arizona Deer Association (ADA) project is a landscape-scale habitat project near Payson in the Tonto National Forest. The Round Valley Grassland Restoration will remove juniper and other woody plants that have taken over former grasslands. The project will begin in 2018.

To see a list of past grant recipients and funded projects, visit http://azsfwc.org/license-plate-fund-projects/.

Arizona residents can purchase a Conserving Wildlife license plate at http://servicearizona.com/.

Double your outdoor fun: Buy a hunt/fish combo license!

PHOENIX — With the approaching elk and pronghorn hunt application deadline, this is a time when many hunters buy their license.

If you’re someone who typically buys only a hunting license (or an angler who only buys a fishing license), you’re missing out on one of the BEST DEALS around. Consider buying a hunt/fish COMBO LICENSE this year and double your outdoor fun!

A combo license costs Arizona residents $57—only $20 more than buying just a hunting or fishing license. It includes all the privileges of a general hunting license as well as fishing privileges for state waters and Community Fishing Program waters, and privileges for trout, two-pole and Colorado River fishing. Nonresidents can buy their Arizona hunt/fish combo license for only $160.

During the next month, there should be some hot fishing for yellow bass and crappie – both are excellent table fare. Hot spots for yellow bass in Arizona are Apache, Saguaro, and Canyon lakes in the Tonto National Forest. Prime waters for crappie are Roosevelt, Bartlett and Alamo lakes.

If you haven’t already purchased your license, you can conveniently buy it online 24/7 or when you are submitting your elk/pronghorn draw application.

So make it a COMBO LICENSE this year and be ready for your upcoming hunting and fishing adventures!

Online applications for 2018 elk/pronghorn hunt draw are due by February 13

PHOENIX — Although the deadline to submit paper applications for the elk and pronghorn antelope hunt draw has passed, you can still apply online. The deadline to submit online applications is 11:59 p.m. (Arizona time), Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.

To apply online, visit https://draw.azgfd.gov and scroll down to “Apply for a Draw.” For an overview of the online application service, including license requirements, applying for bonus points and payment information, see Page 10 of the “2018 Pronghorn Antelope and Elk Hunt Draw Information” booklet. Printed booklets also are available at all Game and Fish offices and license dealers statewide.

The department encourages all applicants to sign up for a free AZGFD portal account. The portal allows customers to create a secure account where they can manage and view their draw applications, license history, bonus points, gain access to their “I Support Wildlife” membership and more, in the “My AZGFD Dashboard” section. A portal account also provides convenient access to the online license purchase and draw application systems.

It’s easy to create an account. Just click on “My Account” in the upper right-hand corner of the AZGFD home page and then select the “Register” option, filling in the requested information. A portal account is mobile-friendly, so customers can view their information on their smartphones.

AZGFD is dedicated to assisting applicants with the online process. All department offices are equipped with customer computers that can be accessed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Customer service representatives can be reached by calling (602) 942-3000. As a reminder, customer service representatives will be available to provide assistance only until 8 p.m. February 13. (deadline day).

A valid hunting license (or combination hunting and fishing license) is required to hunt wildlife in Arizona. No one under 14 may hunt big game without having completed a Hunter Education course. While it is not necessary for anyone 10 to 13 to complete a Hunter Education course before applying for a hunt permit-tag, these courses fill quickly. Consider registering now by visiting www.azgfd.gov/huntered or calling 623-236-7239.

Arizona elk heading east to West Virginia

FLAGSTAFF — In late February, dozens of elk from Arizona will be establishing a permanent change of residency more than 2,000 miles away.

The healthy, strapping animals were captured earlier this week through a partnership between the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. The Arizona Game and Fish Commission approved the capture and transport as part of West Virginia’s ongoing restoration project at its August meeting.

“We’re pleased to assist the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources in its efforts to restore elk to their native range,” said Jim Ammons, commission chairman. “Helping restore wildlife populations is in keeping with the vision of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, using science-based principles to manage wildlife in the public trust.”

The roughly 50 cows and 10 bulls, captured east of Flagstaff, will be quarantined for a minimum of 33 days before being loaded on livestock trailers and transported to the 24,245-acre Tomblin Wildlife Management Area in southwest West Virginia, where they will join nearly two dozen elk received in 2016 from Kentucky.

The elk were captured from a robust population in the northern portion of Game Management Unit (GMU) 5B, which is designated as part of the Winter-Range Elk Management Zone. The department’s recent population surveys and modeling indicate an increasing trend in elk numbers within the capture area. The removal of the elk contributes to maintaining a stable population and will not change the number of hunt permit-tags available to hunters in this area.

The project was an immense undertaking involving staff and volunteers from both state wildlife agencies, representatives from the Arizona Elk Society and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), and capture crew from Quicksilver Air Inc. The department also coordinated with three major private landowners and the Hopi Tribe in advance of the capture.

West Virginia’s agency, in cooperation with RMEF, covered the costs associated with the capturing and processing of the elk. All costs incurred were paid for with wildlife restoration funds, which are generated by sportsmen who support conservation through their purchase of hunting, fishing and other outdoor equipment, or by donations to RMEF.

From first light until late afternoon, the capture process was repeated several times over the course of two days. A fixed-wing aircraft and three teams of spotters with binoculars would locate groups of elk — preferably within a five-mile radius of the staging area at Raymond Wildlife Area – and provide coordinates to the helicopter capture crew.

After a short pursuit, a hand-held net gun would be fired to entangle the desired elk, then two crew members (or “muggers”) would step off the helicopter, blindfold the elk and administer a mild sedative to keep it calm, immobilize it with hobbles to facilitate handling and transport, and remove the net.

“We minimize chase time so that the helicopter is only pursuing animals for three to five minutes,” said Amber Munig, the department’s big game management supervisor. “If they start to exceed that, they pull off and let those animals go so we’re not stressing them out too much.”

Once secured in a transport bag, the elk would be flown from a sling below the helicopter to the staging area, where several wildlife managers, biologists, veterinarians and others would evaluate the health of the animal, administer antibiotics and attach an identification tag and GPS tracking collar. The crew then would remove the blindfold and hobbles – and stand back and watch the elk bound into a holding pen with other quarantined animals.

This week’s historic conservation project marks only the second time Arizona has provided elk to another state. In 2000, Kentucky’s elk restoration project received a boost with 26 animals that were captured near Raymond Wildlife Area. At the time, Kentucky hoped to build a statewide herd of between 7,200 and 8,200 elk. Today, officials estimate there are between 10,000 and 15,000 elk in the Blue Grass State.

“One of the reasons we chose Arizona is because it’s one of the few states that has never had a documented case of Chronic Wasting Disease (a neurodegenerative wildlife disease that is fatal to deer and elk), said Stephen McDaniel, director of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. While West Virginia’s long-term plans include offering managed hunts, McDaniel added: “The thing we’re most excited about is elk-viewing opportunities.”

Arizona benefitted from the same kind of out-of-state generosity back in February 1913. In an effort to restablish an elk population, sportsmen released 83 elk from Yellowstone National Park into Cabin Draw near Chevelon Creek in GMU 4A, just east of where this week’s capture took place.

Two other transplants of elk from Yellowstone – one south of Alpine and another north of Williams – were considered successes, as Arizona’s elk population today numbers about 45,000 post-hunt adults.

SunZia Funds Arizona Wildlife/Natural Resource Efforts

PHOENIX – The SunZia Southwest Transmission Project (SunZia) presented a $300,000 check today to the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) to help fund watering stations for wildlife in remote areas, including locations within Pinal County.

The funds are part of a broad joint conservation effort by SunZia and AZGFD to help enhance wildlife habitat in southeastern Arizona. The effort was the result of a comprehensive wildlife preservation agreement executed by the parties in January 2016.

“SunZia is proud to be part of this dynamic public-private partnership,” said Tom Wray, project manager for SunZia. “We look forward to continuing these conservation efforts with the Game and Fish Department to ensure that Arizona’s critical wildlife habitats are preserved.”

“Today’s focus on the importance of strengthening water catchments is just the tip of a revolutionary partnership between a private energy project developer and Arizona government,” said Ty Gray, director of the Arizona Game & Fish Department. “The partnership includes a wide range of protective measures that provide one of the most progressive plans for mitigating and conserving Arizona’s wildlife resources and the habitat on which they depend.”

“Pinal County is excited to join with SunZia and Game and Fish in this important effort,” said Supervisor Steve Miller, chairman of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors. “Wildlife domains are critical to Pinal County’s quality of life, and materially contribute to outdoor recreation and our tourism industries. Today those habitats have been strengthened thanks to the hard work of SunZia and Arizona Game and Fish. Because of the cooperation of Game and Fish and SunZia’s donation, additional water catchments will be installed to assist wildlife during our drought periods.”

Pattern Energy is a windpower developer and will ship windpower over SunZia’s transmission line. Adam Cernea Clark, manager of Environmental & Natural Resources for Pattern stated “Pattern Energy joins with SunZia, Game and Fish and Pinal County elected officials in taking this important step towards the preservation of Arizona’s important wildlife habitat. Combining renewable energy resources with an historic wildlife preservation agreement will ensure that SunZia becomes a model for energy delivery in the Desert Southwest.”

The agreement specified funding for renovation of multiple watering stations, called catchments, used by wildlife, especially in times of drought. Several of the catchment locations are located within Pinal County. The SunZia/AGFD comprehensive mitigation agreement includes a total of 49 measures that include protection plans for migratory birds, the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Sonoran Desert Tortoise, Black-tailed Prairie Dogs, Gila Monsters, Burrowing Owls, Kit Foxes, as well as extensive activities including monitoring, revegetation and habitat restoration. A copy of the agreement can be found here: www.SunZia.net/AGFD