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Arizona Asks Turkey Hunters to Watch Out For Wolves

April 13, 2009.

From the Arizona Game and Fish Department:

Hunters have played a significant role over the past 100 years in recovering and reestablishing wildlife populations across our country, ranging from white-tailed deer to wild turkey and Canada geese. The Arizona Game and Fish Department is asking hunters to step up once again to assist in recovering a wildlife species to its historic range in east-central Arizona.

If you are hunting this year in Units 1, 3B, 27 or surrounding areas, be aware that Mexican wolves may be present. Over the past several years, several wolves have been illegally shot, causing significant setbacks to the reintroduction project.

It’s possible that several of these shootings were cases of mistaken identity – that the shooter believed the target was a coyote. It can be difficult to distinguish wolves from coyotes, especially if the sighting is brief, the animal is far away, if it’s a juvenile wolf, or a wolf in its summer coat.

“Hunters planning on pursuing spring turkey in these units should be aware that the very nature of turkey calling can draw a predator to the source of the call,” says Bruce Sitko, department spokesman in the Pinetop Game and Fish office.

“A coyote will immediately flee once it recognizes a human is involved in making the call. A wolf, on the other hand, is naturally curious, and may stand or sit staring at the caller for a time.”

“We’re asking all sportsmen and women who potentially will be pursuing game animals in east-central Arizona to know the identification characteristics and differences between wolves and coyotes and to be familiar with the regulations regarding interactions with wolves,” continues Sitko. “Be absolutely sure of your target, because the consequences are significant.”

Mexican wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act. However, you may legally harass a wolf without injuring it, but you must report the incident within 7 days. You may not legally kill or injure a wolf just because it’s near you.

You can legally harass, injure or kill a wolf in defense of human life, but you must report it within 24 hours. Few people have had to frighten Mexican wolves away, and no one has been injured by one.

“Most people report that hearing or seeing wolves has not affected the success of their hunt and say a sighting has actually added to the quality of their outdoor experience,” notes Sitko.

Violations of these rules are subject to prosecution. Criminal penalties may be imprisonment of not more than one year and a fine of up to $50,000 and/or a civil penalty of up to $25,000.

For questions regarding Mexican wolves, regulations and the differences in characteristics between coyotes and wolves, visit the department Web site at www.azgfd.gov/wolf.

Wolves normally avoid human contact, but, like other wildlife, they could become habituated to people. This is especially true if campers feed them.

Sitko advises, “If a wolf should approach you, raise your arms and look as big as possible. Yell or throw rocks to scare it away. Back away slowly – never run.”

Some other tips are:

  • Keep a clean camp.
  • Prepare and store food and wash dishes away from sleeping areas.
  • Properly store garbage in camp and dispose of trash in predator-proof receptacle.
  • Keep pets close. Do not leave them unattended or allow to run free.
  • Never feed wildlife.

For more information contact Bruce Sitko, information and education program manager, Pinetop Region 1 at (928) 367-4281 or bsitko@azgfd.gov.


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