Bald Eagle spotted over Santa Fe Dam

Northern Arizona Gazette photo.

We went to check out Santa Fe dam, today, which is not suffering from the recent snow. It appears to have risen slightly as the snow melts off. There is a slight chance of rain today with a 40% chance of snow Friday and Saturday.

While there I was surprise by the flight of a familiar, but rare, sight around Santa Fe dam. A bald eagle flew before me. I did not have my good camera, but managed to get some fair shots with my cheap mobile phone.

Eagles tend to stop at Santa Fe dam, once in a while, to catch any fish that might remain from the fishing season.

AZGFD seeks citizen scientists to aid in American kestrel project

PHOENIX — Standing at less than 11 inches tall, the American kestrel is a mighty bird of prey, yet the future of this fierce little falcon is uncertain, as populations are on the decline nationally.

Locally, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) is enlisting the help of landowners and citizen scientists to assist biologists as part of the American Kestrel Partnership, a program designed to collect data to be used to conserve this important species for future generations. AZGFD is participating in the partnership, which is coordinated nationally by The Peregrine Fund.

“The goal of this project is to provide nesting habitat and raise awareness for kestrels in Arizona, while contributing to national efforts to assist these falcons,” said Kurt Licence, an AZGFD biologist. “This great citizen science opportunity will help us to collect data to guide management decisions that could impact the stability of kestrel populations. That data will help us to better understand why long-term studies have shown that American kestrel populations have declined 50 percent across their range in the past 40 years.”

Since joining the national program this year, the department has partnered with more than 45 Arizona land managers, including private, tribal, non-profit, governmental and non-governmental entities interested in contributing to the study. Participants assist in identifying locations to install a nest box and allow access for monitoring and maintenance.

There are more than 70 kestrel nest boxes around the state and more are being added weekly. Nest boxes can be installed in open fields, deserts, grasslands, meadows, wetlands or sparse woodland.

Participants monitor the nest boxes at least twice each season: once when there are likely eggs and again within 30 days. They will also share observations about the nest with AZGFD or enter them online and are encouraged to clean the nest box every winter.

“Our goal is to provide breeding habitat for this charismatic species and rewarding wildlife conservation opportunities for the community, while collecting valuable information to aid in future management decisions that benefit kestrels,” Licence said.

American kestrels are North America’s smallest and most colorful falcon. They eat insects, small rodents, reptiles and birds. Kestrels can be found from Alaska to South America and prefer habitats with short ground vegetation and sparse obstructions.

In Arizona, this falcon typically lays four to five eggs between March and August.

The American Kestrel Partnership consists of more than 600 partners, recording data from more than 1,400 kestrel nests from Alaska to Argentina. For more information about the program, visit www.azgfd.gov/kestrel or e-mail raptors@azgfd.gov.

Be a hero for wildlife – your donations will help the AZGFD Wildlife Center

PHOENIX — You can help sick or injured wildlife on Giving Tuesday.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Wildlife Center treats sick, injured or orphaned wildlife. Some can be released to the wild, but those that can’t require continued care, either as “wildlife ambassadors” for educational presentations at local schools and community events, or for placement in a zoo or wildlife sanctuary. The animals pictured above have all been rescued during the past year.

The department receives no Arizona tax dollars to operate, and the cost of feeding and caring for these animals often outweighs the available funding.

We’ve set a goal to raise $10,000, and there are two easy ways you can donate. Text CRITTER to 41444 or clicking on the image above will take you to the web site.

Your generous donation will help the Wildlife Center in accomplishing its mission of caring for these animals. Thank you for your consideration!

Desert bighorn sheep translocated to Goldfield Mountains

MESA — The next time you’re out hiking or just meandering in the Goldfield Mountains, take a good look around.

If you’re lucky, maybe way up high on the crags, you’ll see one or more of the area’s newest residents taking a good look at you.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department recently translocated 14 adult desert bighorn sheep – four rams and 10 ewes – from a healthy population of the animals near Saguaro Lake in Game Management Unit 24B to the Goldfield Mountains, also in Unit 24B.

All 14 of the animals were given an identification ear tag and complete health evaluation before being released. A few were fitted with a GPS tracking collar to better monitor their movements in their new locale.

“The main purpose of this project was to capture several desert bighorn sheep from within Unit 24B and establish a subpopulation within their native range,” said Dustin Darveau, terrestrial wildlife specialist. “This is important for several reasons, one of which is if there ever were to be a disease outbreak, it would not have a devastating effect on the entire population.

“We’re excited because these animals that were captured were placed in excellent habitat that also features a couple of redeveloped water catchments that will help them to easily establish a foothold in their native range.”

The translocation was no small operation. From helicopter pilots, net gunners and muggers – the ones who jump from the helicopter and safely secure the animals on the ground – to dozens of support staff and volunteers, it was a long, hard, but satisfying day in an effort to enhance and conserve Arizona’s wildlife.

The project was a cooperative effort between the department and its partners: Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, Mogollon Sporting Association, Tonto National Forest, and the Arizona State Land Department.

“We have heard so many comments about the professionalism and smooth implementation of this project,” Darveau said. “We can only take credit in the fact that everyone involved at every stage of this project made it so successful.”

AZGFD treats orphaned 8-week-old mountain lion cub

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department is caring for an approximately eight-week-old mountain lion cub found in the Cornville area.

The cub was spotted by Cornville residents and reported to AZGFD on three separate occasions. Each time, the reporting residents did the right thing, leaving the animal alone, because the mother of a young animal is typically nearby. In this case, the mother never returned after two weeks and AZGFD biologists determined that in this situation, it was best to intervene.

The female cub was picked up from a nearby licensed wildlife rehabilitator and transferred to AZGFD on Friday, Nov. 3. To determine the overall health and condition of the cub, it was given a full examination by veterinarians at the Arizona Exotic Animal Hospital. The veterinarians found the cub to be in poor-to-fair health.

“Mountain lions are truly resilient animals, but this one likely would not have made it without human intervention and specialized care at the Wildlife Center,” said Mike Demlong, AZGFD Wildlife Education program manager. “When we received the cub, it was lethargic, severely dehydrated and emaciated. She needed help immediately. We’re currently doing everything possible to improve the health of this cub and give her the strongest chance for survival.”

Providing a fighting chance for wildlife needing a helping hand isn’t anything new for the AZGFD Wildlife Center, but such a rescue can often be costly.

To provide better care for sick, injured, orphaned and confiscated wildlife, AZGFD is planning to build a new wildlife center at the department’s headquarters in north Phoenix. With limited funding available for the project, the department is seeking the public’s help.

The public can donate to AZGFD’s ongoing “Be a Hero for Wildlife” donation campaign and assist many different species of wildlife in need by texting CRITTER to 41444 from any smartphone or visit www.azgfd.gov/WildlifeCenter.

“Helping injured wildlife — and especially baby wildlife — is the best part of my job,” said Demlong. “In regards to this mountain lion cub, I know I’ve made a difference. It’s rewarding knowing that we’ve taken an animal that was nearly dead and with time, good nutrition and care we’re able to turn it into a rambunctious, playful mountain lion cub.”

The cub will remain with AZGFD until a permanent wildlife sanctuary, wildlife park or zoo can be found to give it a forever home. Unfortunately, because it was orphaned it cannot be returned to the wild. Mountain lion cubs spend a year or more with their mom learning critical survival skills. This cub will not have that opportunity.

In addition to donations, the public can also help keep wildlife wild by leaving baby wildlife alone. The situation with this cub is an exception, but in general baby wildlife is rarely orphaned or abandoned. One or both of its parents is likely nearby searching for food and will return.

For more information on Arizona’s diverse wildlife or the Wildlife Center, visit www.azgfd.gov.​​​​​​​

Halloween decorations may attract wildlife

PHOENIX — Halloween is on the horizon and soon those carefully carved pumpkins sitting outside may be attracting some unwanted trick-or-treaters: hungry wildlife looking for an easy meal.

As such, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) reminds area residents to be aware that Halloween pumpkins and other fall decorations, such as gourds or squash, can attract wildlife when displayed outdoors.

AZGFD recommends that jack-o-lanterns, uncarved pumpkins and cornucopias be displayed indoors on window sills so they can be seen from outside if desired, and discarded securely to help prevent encounters with foraging wildlife.

“Pumpkins and other edible decorations are easy meals for wildlife and often attract javelina, coyotes, deer and even bears,” said Mike Demlong, AZGFD Wildlife Education program manager. “Habituating wildlife to human food sources can lead to conflicts, resulting in potentially serious injuries to people or pets and even property damage. That is why it is important to help keep wildlife wild.”

Additionally, unintentional or intentional feeding can cause problems for wildlife, such as obesity and malnutrition, and promote the spread of disease.

The public is reminded that it is illegal under state law (A.R.S. 13-2927) to feed wildlife in Pima, Maricopa and Pinal counties, with the exception of birds as well as tree squirrels, which are rare at lower elevations.

Other wildlife may eat bird seed, so birds are best fed only in an enclosed yard, preferably from a bird feeder. A tray can be attached beneath a feeder to catch spillover seed. Seed blocks should be placed in an enclosed area or on a secure raised platform.

For tips on minimizing conflicts with wildlife, see www.azgfd.gov/urbanwildlife.

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’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.​​​​​​​

Text-donation campaign asks public to ‘Be a Hero for Wildlife’

The Arizona Game and Fish Department took in this four-week-old otter that was found last week abandoned at the bottom of a drying Valley canal. It’s just one of the animals that AZGFD regularly works to rehabilitate. Those wanting to help fund the care it and other animals at that AZGFD Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center receive can text “CRITTER” to 41444.

PHOENIX — A three-week-old bobcat kitten snatched from the wild.

An abandoned baby otter found hungry and dehydrated in an East Valley canal. A malnourished, sickly “kidnapped” deer fawn. It’s not another day at the local zoo. It’s a typical day at the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center, where wildlife experts work daily to rehabilitate and save some of the state’s 800-plus native wildlife species. It’s often a thankful, albeit costly, job.

To help defray rising costs of caring for Arizona’s wildlife, AZGFD recently began its “Be a Hero for Wildlife” donation campaign to give the public an opportunity to support its efforts to treat sick, injured, orphaned and confiscated wildlife by texting CRITTER to 41444 from any smartphone.

“All this dedication and care comes at a great cost,” said Mike Demlong, who manages AZGFD’s Wildlife Center and Wildlife Education programs. “Many of the animals that come to us require extensive medical treatments, X-rays, monitoring and specialized care, and those expenses are considerable. It’s rewarding work, especially when it comes to helping some of our younger more vulnerable wildlife.”

On Friday, April 14, it was a three-week-old bobcat kitten turned in by a member of the public, who intended to raise it as pet. The individual ultimately turned it over at the urging of a family member, who saw a Valley TV news story earlier that evening of a deer fawn that was kidnapped from the wild and being raised as a pet.

In both cases, each of the animals required extensive care, attention and resources just to keep them alive. The malnourished deer fawn alone continues to require a specialized diet, vitamin supplements and injections, and daily monitoring to make it healthy enough to eventually live out its days in a zoo.

Nearly one month later, the department has spent about $4,500 and counting to rehabilitate the kidnapped deer fawn. A six-day stay for the bobcat kitten cost the department $3,000.

“Unfortunately, the department does not receive state general fund dollars. That’s what makes donations that much more important,” Demlong said.

Funding raised through the “Be a hero for Wildlife” text-campaign will be used to care for the sick, injured, orphaned and confiscated animals housed at the Wildlife Center, in addition to the many animal ambassadors – such as a great-horned owl, golden eagle, desert tortoises and prairie dogs – that are used in educational outreach statewide.

In addition to donations, the public can also help keep wildlife wild by leaving baby wildlife alone. Young wildlife is rarely abandoned so there is often little reason to “rescue it.” One or both of its parents is likely nearby searching for food and will return.

Baby birds are the most common wildlife species encountered removed from the wild by the public. Young birds that have fallen from the nest can be placed back in the nest or as close as possible. Baby birds that are partially flighted should be left alone or moved nearby out of harm’s way.

Those with questions about a specific situation should contact one of the wildlife rehabilitators listed on the department’s website at: www.azgfd.com/wildlife/urbanrehab/ or contact your local Game and Fish office.

Feeding wildlife a threat to people and pets in Rim Country


PINE, Ariz. — People who feed wild animals are creating a public safety problem in Arizona’s Rim Country. Incidents of wildlife endangering people and their pets in this region have increased over the past few months, including:

  • An elk regularly fed by Pine residents reportedly charged several individuals in separate instances. One woman was forced to take refuge in a greenhouse on her property to escape.
  • Also in Pine, a young male elk entered a resident’s yard through an open gate and began stomping on her dog. The dog later died from its injuries.
  • A Pine resident freed an elk that had its antlers entangled in a tire swing (pictured). But the elk returned the next day because residents continued to set out food.
  • In Strawberry, herds of increasingly aggressive javelina have rushed local residents. One man who was charged by a javelina killed it in self-defense.
  • More than a dozen elk and deer deaths have been reported to AZGFD in this region. In each case, residents were intentionally or inadvertently feeding the animals.

Aggressive behavior toward people by elk and javelina is unusual, but feeding increases the frequency of these conflicts. Wildlife that become comfortable around humans lose their natural fear and can become bold and aggressive. In these recent reports to AZGFD, the aggressive behavior by wildlife appears unprovoked. Habituated animals often must be euthanized when they become a threat to human safety.

“The feeding and resulting habituation often causes these bold and increasingly aggressive behaviors, and can lead to animal deaths,” said Arizona Game and Fish Department Wildlife Manager Joseph Sayer. “When you feed wildlife, you’re not doing animals any favors. In fact, you may attracting them to their deaths.”

According to AZGFD Veterinarian and Wildlife Health Program Supervisor Anne Justice-Allen, the inappropriate foods people give to wildlife also can kill them.

“Wildlife are adapted to survive on native vegetation,” said Justice-Allen. “When deer, elk, and javelina eat grain or snack foods such as potato chips or kitchen scraps, they can develop conditions such as bloat, diarrhea, and bacterial infections, all of which can lead to death.”

“Habituated wildlife also attract unwanted attention from both predators and people. When you attract prey animals, you’ll also attract their natural predators and human hunters. We’ve seen an increase in disputes between neighbors when one wants to feed the wildlife, another considers it a nuisance, and still another wants to hunt it,” added Officer Sayer. “When you feed wildlife you change its behavior, putting it, your neighbors and yourself at risk. Please help us keep wildlife wild.”

When encountering wildlife, keep a safe distance and discourage interaction with them. AZGFD urges Rim Country residents to refrain from feeding wild animals to keep wildlife wild. Report aggressive or unusual animal behavior to the Arizona Game and Fish Department at (623) 236-7201 at any time, day or night.