Mexican wolf population survey flight operations begin January 22

PINETOP — Residents of Alpine, Arizona, Reserve, NM and surrounding areas may notice a low-flying helicopter in the region between January 22 and February 3, as biologists conduct their annual Mexican wolf population survey and capture.

The flights are part of the Mexican wolf Reintroduction Project, a multi-agency cooperative effort among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Service Inspection Service – Wildlife Services and the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

The aerial operation is scheduled to run January 22 to February 3, weather permitting. Survey flights will occur on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation; the Apache-Sitgreaves, Gila and Cibola National Forests in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico; and possibly some locations immediately outside forest boundaries.

“Data collected during this annual survey and capture operation is critical to help us to determine and evaluate the overall population status of Mexican wolves,” said Paul Greer, AZGFD Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team leader. “The survey helps to chart progress in documenting the Mexican wolf population in the Southwest, and it helps us know how these animals are using local habitat.”

As part of the operation, biologists will attempt to capture selected wolves born in 2017 that have not yet been fitted with a radio telemetry collar, in addition to those with collars that need a battery replacement or any wolf appearing to be sick or injured. Wolves are captured after being darted with an anesthetizing drug from a helicopter containing trained personnel.

After being immobilized, the wolf is then brought by air to a staging area for processing and any necessary veterinary care. The wolf is then returned to the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA) and released on public land.

The field team is contacting private landowners to gain permission to property to capture a wolf, if necessary, and will be coordinating with land management agencies and county sheriff offices on survey operation details.

There were a minimum of 113 wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico at the end of 2016, according to a survey by the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team. The survey found that there were 63 wolves in Arizona and 50 in New Mexico.

The 2016 total represented a more than doubling of the population since 2009.
Results of the survey will be made available to the public in March. For more information on the Mexican wolf reintroduction program, visit http://www.azgfd.gov/wolf or https://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/.

Two mule deer does poached near Nelson Reservoir

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department is investigating the poaching of two mule deer does.

On Saturday morning, December 23, 2017, the does were illegally killed on Forest Road 8058, west of Highway 191 and south of Nelson Reservoir. One doe was taken from the field and the other was mostly left to waste.

Investigators are seeking information about a maroon or red truck with a silver or gray stripe along the lower frame of the truck, which is believed to be associated with this crime.

“We need assistance from the public to find the individuals responsible,” said AZGFD law specialist Nancy Huser. “This is the action of a criminal, who stole wildlife assets and resources from the people of Arizona and must be brought to justice.”

There was a lawful, open cow elk hunt going on at the time of the poaching. Investigators hope hunters and recreationists who were in the area may have valuable information about the crime.

Anyone with information about this case can call the department’s Operation Game Thief hotline at (800) 352-0700 or visit www.azgfd.gov/ogt and refer to case #17-004986.

Callers may be eligible for a reward of up to $2,000 in this case. An additional $500 reward is being offered by the Mule Deer Foundation upon arrest and conviction of the poachers. All caller identities will remain confidential upon request.

Information sought about cow elk poached in Alpine Valley closure area

PINETOP, Arizona — The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) is seeking information about a cow elk poached near Alpine in the early morning on Thursday, October 26. The elk was shot in the Alpine Valley closure, south of Luna Lake. There was a legal hunt for cow elk open during this time.

AZGFD officers believe that other hunters in the area may have seen the violation occur.

“Anyone who saw or heard anything that might be related to this unlawful act should call in,” said Officer Aaron Hartzell, an AZGFD field supervisor. “This isn’t the action of a sportsman; it’s a criminal act of stealing wildlife resources from the people of Arizona.”

The department’s Operation Game Thief program encourages anyone with information about such cases or the illegal take of wildlife in Arizona to call its 24/7 hotline at (800) 352-0700 or visit www.azgfd.gov/ogt.

Anyone reporting information about this case can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward of up to $500. Reward funding comes from donations, court fines and civil restitution by violators who commit wildlife crimes.

Anyone with information about the elk poaching should refer to case #17-4152.

Three bull elk poached near Joseph City

operation_game_thief_footerPINETOP — The Arizona Game and Fish Department is asking for the public’s help in finding those responsible for the illegal killing of a three bull elk on the morning of November 7. The bull elk were killed in an agriculture field located south of I-40 off Hunt Road. This is just east of Joseph City.

All three bull elk were untouched and were left to waste.

“The poacher left these animals to waste, and we need assistance from the public to find the individual(s) responsible. This is a senseless act and not the actions of a hunter,” said Officer Ken Clay, an AZGFD wildlife manager. “What makes this act so appalling is this particular area is open to elk hunting year round to anyone who purchases a non-permit elk tag over the counter at one of our offices.”

Anyone with information about this case can call the Department’s Operation Game Thief hotline at (800) 352-0700 or visit www.azgfd.gov/thief and refer to case #16-003848. Callers who have information leading to the arrest of the suspect(s) will be eligible for a $2,500.00 reward in this case. All calls may remain confidential upon request.

Tiger trout to be stocked in Rim Lakes for Memorial Day weekend

PINETOP — The Arizona Game and Fish Department will be stocking a hybrid trout new to Arizona, in two Arizona Rim Country lakes this week, just in time for Memorial Day weekend. Willow Springs Lake and Woods Canyon Lake will each be stocked with catchable size (8-10 inch) tiger trout the week of May 23.

The tiger trout is a brown-brook trout hybrid. As a result of this hybridization, the tiger trout will be sterile, or unable to reproduce. As tiger trout grow, their worm-like pattern becomes more distinct.

Last summer, the AZGFD obtained around 18,000 tiger trout fingerlings (3-6 inches) from Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. The trout were raised at the Tonto Creek Hatchery near Payson until they grew to a catchable (at least 8 inch) size.

In addition to Woods Canyon and Willow Springs Lake being stocked with tiger trout, Becker Lake and Carnero Lake were stocked with tiger trout earlier in May. In all of these lakes, tiger trout are being stocked in addition to rainbow trout.

At Woods Canyon Lake and Willow Springs Lake, the standard bag limit of six trout in any combination applies.

At Becker Lake and Carnero Lake, special regulations apply. Becker Lake is catch-and-release only, artificial fly and lure only, and a single barbless hook. At Carnero Lake, there is a two trout daily bag limit, in any combination, and only artificial fly and lure only can be used.

“People typically fly fish for tiger trout,” said Mike Lopez, AZGFD aquatics program manager. “They’re probably more like a brown trout, so lures and flies should work well, because they actively look for prey.”

Lopez also suggests that fishing in the early morning or late in the day will be the most successful because the tiger trout will be most active at those times.

These four lakes were chosen because they are currently managed for rainbow trout sport fishing. Adding tiger trout to the lakes will add diversity and expanded opportunities to the Arizona fishing experience. Because the tiger trout are sterile, the fish won’t establish downstream and potentially impact native fish.

See more information about fishing in Arizona.