By Dave Cagle AAF Board Member / AGFD Wildlife Program Manager/Projects
A third fence project was completed by 73 volunteers east and west of the Rudd Knoll campsite near Big Lake on June 8th in Game Management Unit 1. We modified 4 miles of existing four strand fence in three separate work parties by removing the bottom strand and replacing it with the smooth bottom strand set at 18 inches. Another work party also inspected and repaired three fences surrounding important high elevation shallow reservoirs, which will protect quality wetland habitat by excluding cattle during the summer grazing season.
This 3rd project was an integral part of what is known as the Big Lake Pronghorn Initiative lead by the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Pinetop Region in partnership with the AAF. It began in 2013, with the collaring of eight pronghorn on the 9,000-foot elevation grasslands surrounding the Big Lake summer range. The collars permitted daily monitoring and two full years of pronghorn movement data from summer range, where they fawn and breed to winter range and back again through 2015. The 2 key objectives of the collar data were to determine seasonal habitat use and to identify potential bottlenecks on their 20-30mile trek from summer range to winter range and back again. The collar data revealed a key corridor utilized by pronghorn to seasonally go from 9,000-foot elevation summer range near Big Lake to 7,000-foot elevation winter range to the north of HWY 260. In this narrow corridor area, pronghorn must traverse forested areas, cross the Little Colorado River and cross a highway to continue to winter range to the north and again repeat the pattern in reverse in the spring.
This was the 3rd of five planned annual prioritized volunteer summer fence modification projects that will be used to remove obstacles in the migration corridor and modify key fences on the Big Lake plains for summering pronghorn.
All activities and coordination were supervised by District Wildlife Manager Jason Capps and yours truly.
Meals fit for a king and/or queen were provided on Friday and Saturday nights and Saturday and Sunday mornings by Bill and Mary Keebler. Mary’s secret brisket recipe topped off with Bill’s homemade sauce were a Saturday night highlight! Project photos were taken by Betty Dickens, thanks Betty!
Thanks as well go out to several groups of folks and the many individuals that contributed to the success of this project;
-Representing the AAF Board: Ken Meadors, Brian George, Joe Bill Pickrell, Dave Laird, Connie Taylor, Al Sue, Gary Boyer, Robert Velasco and Dave Cagle.
-Representing the AGFD: Dave Cagle, Roger Thompson, Jason Capps and Troy Christensen
-Representing the Apache Sitgreaves Forest: Forest Supervisor, Steve Best; Biologists Valerie Horncastle and Mandy Scott.
-Other AAF members and volunteers: Bill/Mary Keebler, Mike Anderson, Jason Angell, Franklin Armor, Cameron Becker, David Breeden, Robert and Connor Bueche, Cheryl Cagle, Bradley Caylor, Ken and Kathy Cook, Dave Cruce, Betty Dickens, Steven Damm, Mike Ebright, Terry Faley, Eric and Sandra Friend, John and Marilyn Grena, Clair Harris, Johnny Johnson, Art Jordon, Gerald Keller, Bob Krogh, Jay and Connie Leadabrand, Caroline Long, Brad Lough, Ed Marcarelli, Jeff and Gail Marcroft, David McCasland, Bill McClendon, John Millican, Suzanne Moeller, Clifford and Lynn Nystrom, Alan Sandoval, Robert and Susan Seils, Steve Tritz, Mark Vale, Thomas, Jamie, Alexander and Deana Watkins, Darrel Wood, Sadie Lee Thompson, Vilma Vale, Jim Long, Zion Johnson, Westley and Ally Curry, Savannah Thompson, Riley and Keagan Thompson.
Project highlights including increasing the mobility of pronghorn by modifying four miles of fence was witnessing the birth of a pronghorn fawn right outside our camp on Saturday evening! The little guy was up and running around mother within two minutes after birth.
Thanks everyone for your efforts!
Photos by Betty Dickens