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6:51 PM Tue, Oct. 23rd

Input sought on feral pig hunts at Havasu refuge

Feral pigs of the same kind can be found in the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge. (NASA/Courtesy)

Feral pigs of the same kind can be found in the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge. (NASA/Courtesy)

It is no secret that many sportsmen are not happy with the management of the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge in the past under the direction of Linda Miller, the manager of the huge refuge that takes in the area locally known as the Topock Marsh.

In years past, there have been issues that concerned a group of avid waterfowl hunters who utilize the refuge.

Mohave Valley resident Jim Rich named a few, including:

• Not planting fields that are used by migrating geese.

• Water issues in the slough.

• Seed donated by a waterfowl group to the refuge to plant was not used.

Henry Aguilar is a local taxidermist who is also an avid waterfowler. Aguilar has hunted on the marsh off and on for over 30 years and has some concerns about the management on the marsh.

"Management or mismanagement?" Aguilar said.

But it is not just the waterfowl hunters who are upset with what is going on at the marsh.

For years, as the government liaison for the Mohave Sportsman Club, I tried to get the refuge to allow sportsmen to hunt feral pigs there.

Feral pigs are a huge problem in the refuge, as these destructive animals destroy a lot of native birds and animals.

I have attended at least two meetings in the past with members of the Arizona Game and Fish Department from Region 3 with Linda Miller, the refuge manager. Each time, we were rebuffed by Miller, who claimed that hunts couldn't be done due to staff shortages. Even when I offered to intervene with our congressional delegation to find a way to get her money for additional staffing, she just wasn't interested.

I was told that at one time another federal agency was called in at a reported cost of over $30,000 to find and shoot pigs on the marsh, where photos and blood samples were taken from the pigs and then the animals were left to rot.

Refuges have guidelines as to what uses are allowed. Hunting is one of the allowed activities and they are supposed to be coordinating with state agencies on the management of wildlife.

Apparently that is not happening.

The last time the Game and Fish Commission met in Kingman, I asked them why more wasn't being done by Game and Fish to push for feral pigs hunts.

Now it seems that more is going to be done and it is going to start with a meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the fire station in Mohave Valley. The address is 1451 Willow Drive.

Personnel from Region 3 will be on hand. According to Jeff Pebworth, Region 3 Wildlife Program Manager, "The department would like to solicit input from hunters on what opportunities they would like to see maintained or implemented on the refuge."

Pebworth noted that the refuge is in the process of revising its hunt plan and that, based upon comments submitted by sportsmen, Game and Fish will be submitting comments to the refuge.

If you are interested in hunting on the refuge, whether it is for waterfowl, feral pigs or predators, then it is imperative that you be at this meeting.

I'll be going down to this meeting. If anyone needs a ride, let me know and you can go with me. Call me at (928) 303-9481.

The refuge sent out a short announcement about starting the process of updating the hunt plan, but you have only until Friday to submit comments.

Comments can be submitted by mail at Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, ATTN: Refuge Hunt Plans, 317 Mesquite Ave., Needles, CA 92363.

You can also send your comments to Refuge Manager Linda Miller via email at linda_I_miller@fws.gov.

She can also be contacted by phone at (760) 326-3853.

This is an opportunity for sportsmen to work with Game and Fish to implement some much-needed change at the Refuge.

Pebworth noted, "Hunters play a vital role in influencing public policy and will be encouraged to provide comments of their own so that their hunting needs are being captured and met during the development of the plan."