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Mon, Jan. 20

Issue with wildlife? Alert the ones who are trained to deal with it

There were about 25 people at a meeting on living with wildlife last Thursday evening at the Pinion Pines Fire Department, but there should have been at least 100 more.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department organized the session, which was scheduled to talk with residents of the Hualapai Mountains about how to properly deal with wildlife issues in their community.

One of the topics, of course, concerned the large bull elk that had been wandering about in the foothill communities that had a lot of wire wrapped in its magnificent set of 7x6 antlers.

Here is the rest of the story.

I learned that initially the Pinion Pines Fire Department, not the Arizona Game and Fish Department, received a call about the bull elk.

According to Chief Joe Jackson, "This department received four or five calls about this bull."

His department responded, he said, and removed a lot of smooth wire from the bull's antlers.

But there was still more wire left in its antlers, and a couple in the area, who asked not to be identified, enticed the bull over to a fence with carrots while the husband removed a long strand of wire that the bull was dragging.

But there was still more wire in the in the bull's antlers, and it was obvious that the bull was injured. Game and Fish wanted to catch, treat and relocate the bull to another location.

That proved difficult because they weren't getting many calls from area residents, and when they did get a call, they couldn't find the bull, which was moving around a lot. But Game and Fish had officers in the area morning and night looking for the bull.

One area resident even posted on Facebook that he was going to tranquilize the huge animal to take the remaining wire off of his rack. Even though he is a licensed veterinarian with good intentions, it would have been illegal for him to do that, according to Velma Holt, a supervisor with the department.

In the end, the elk was located, tranquilized and treated. It had developed a severe infection and needed antibiotics to save its life. It was moved to an undisclosed location, where it was released back into the wild.

This situation ended well this time, and it appears the bull will survive - but the situation wasn't handled properly.

First of all, the Arizona Game and Fish Department is the agency responsible for wildlife in Arizona.

Residents with good intentions called the local fire department and they responded. Though these great guys and gals can do just about anything, they are not trained to deal with wildlife, especially if the animal is injured or in distress.

The calls should have gone directly to Game and Fish, as they are trained to handle these situations.

I thought Game and Fish offered an outstanding presentation to residents and explained in detail what they should do when they have issues with wildlife.

And this is everything from birds to mountain lions and bears.

Zen Mocarski, the information and program manager for Region 3, and Jeff Pebworth, the Region 3 wildlife program manager, explained how the agency deals with problem wildlife calls.

When people feed deer and elk, they are creating a food chain for large predators, Pebworth said.

"If you are attracting deer and elk, you are attracting mountain lions as well," he said.

Some of the questions at the meeting dealt with the large cats. One resident explained that while on a morning walk a week or so ago, and just after a rain, she saw two sets of lion tracks near the intersection of Lazy Y U and Hualapai Mountain Road.

There is a concentration of the big cats in the area of Hualapai Mountain Park and communities on the west side of the Hualapais, Pebworth noted: "That's because residents are feeding the deer and elk there."

When people feed wildlife, the animals become habituated to humans and lose their fear of people, Mocarski said.

While there have been no reported attacks on humans by lions in the Hualapais, that can't be said for all of Arizona.

There have been mountain lion attacks on humans in Arizona, and there have also been 10 bear attacks on humans in Arizona since 1994.

And while residents should be concerned about the large carnivores, small predators such as bobcats, foxes and coyotes can also be problematic.

"There have been two fatal attacks on humans by coyotes in America," Pebworth said.

The Region 3 office handles between 12,000 and 15,000 calls per year.

If you have a wildlife issue, and it is Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., call the Region 3 office at (928) 692-7700.

After hours, call the department at (623) 236-7201.

The meeting seemed to allay many fears and even mistrust about the department and the way that residents should deal with wildlife issues.

It's just a shame that more residents weren't there to hear what the proper response is to wildlife related issues are.

Good job, Game and Fish Region 3. You did the right thing.

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