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In Arizona, Weather Conditions Look Terrific For Wildlife

February 29, 2008.

From Arizona Game and Fish:

All the winter precipitation, snowpack, runoff and associated green-up are combining to create a favorable outlook for Arizona’s wildlife this year – especially small game.

Small game, such as quail and rabbits, are expected to respond accordingly, but this also brightens the picture for larger game animals as well, such as deer.

Photo: Arizona Game and Fish

Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists said that the routine storms blasting across Arizona at timely intervals throughout the winter is resulting in one of the best green-ups this state has experienced in years, which in turn should equate to a decent Gambel’s quail hatch this year.

“We need at least back-to-back years of good winter and spring precipitation to produce what we call a ‘bumper crop’ of Gambel’s quail. Last year throughout much of Arizona, we had a record dry winter. But right now there is abundant and thick green feed growing on the ground, so we are definitely expecting at least average quail reproduction this year,” said Ron Day, the department’s small game specialist.

The jury is still out on scaled and Mearns’ quail.

“Scaled quail will likely benefit from all this green-up, but Mearns’ reproduction is primarily keyed to summer rainfall. We just experienced the best Mearns’ quail hunting in probably 30 years. If we have good rainfall again this summer in southeastern Arizona, we could have unparalleled Mearns’ reproduction. We’ll just have to wait and see,” Day said.

Day explained that the luxuriant green-up doesn’t just mean food for the quail, but an abundance of Vitamin A. “Vitamin A is a key for quail and other animals, especially small game, to have fully developed and functioning sexual organs. It’s nature’s way of ensuring a lot of young aren’t produced when the vegetative resources aren’t available to support the newborn animals.”

Yet times are good, not just for quail, but other animals as well. “There is no doubt we will see a cottontail explosion this year. Cottontail populations have actually been looking favorable for the past several years, especially in central Arizona. This green-up means rabbit production will be excellent,” Day said.

Day added that hunters will want to get out and reap this good small game production. “This is a great year to introduce youngsters and others to the joy of small game hunting in our deserts. Plus, cottontails provide great eating – much better than chicken. Quail also provide what may be considered gourmet table fare.”

The abundant precipitation should also help Arizona’s big game animals as well. “We may have turned the corner on declining mule deer populations, which drought had in part influenced. The good snowpack, rainfall and expected improvements in browse conditions this spring and summer is excellent news for our recovering mule deer populations,” said Big Game Supervisor Brian Wakeling.

Elk, which are extremely adaptable and weren’t hit as hard by drought, should also benefit from the improved vegetative food base this year.

If that isn’t all, fishery biologists are also predicting the best fishing in 25 years or so thanks to the filling of the lakes in general this year, but also the expected first time for the new enlarged lake at Roosevelt filling and spilling.

“This is shaping up to be the year of the combo – you’ll want a hunting and fishing license to reap all the quality outdoor fun and adventure,” said Assistant Game and Fish Director Ty Gray. “This is the perfect time to take the next step and take a friend, neighbor or relative out hunting and fishing this year.”


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