|Arizona wildlife officials are targeting elk that reside year round on winter range, resulting in a record number of tags being recommended this year.
The recommended elk tag level which is nearly 30,000 comes before the Arizona Game and Fish Commission on April 21 for approval when it adopts the 2001-2002 Arizona Hunt Regulations. The Commission is meeting at the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 2 on 19th Avenue just south of Thunderbird Road (on the east side of the road) starting at 8 a.m.
By April 25, the hunt regulations will be posted on the Arizona Game and Fish Department's Internet Home Page at www.azgfd.com. Hunters can also download a copy of the application form, and even purchase a hunting license on-line through the Internet site.
Keep in mind when purchasing a license over the Internet, you will be given a "temporary" license number that temporary number CANNOT be used on the application form for big game tags. You must wait until you have your actual license in hand and use that license number when applying for them.
The Commission will also be setting the tag levels for all big game species, such as deer, turkey, antelope, desert bighorn sheep. The spring hunts are set at the Commission's August meeting, which will be in Flagstaff this year.
The Game and Fish Commission was told recently that five percent of Arizona's elk population receives a disproportionate amount of the wildlife management attention because of conflicts with other land uses.
Short-term management strategies developed by Game and Fish Department biologists entail increasing hunt-permit tags in "Limited Elk Population Areas" this year to address private land issues, potential conflicts with other wildlife species, or to direct harvest at resident elk residing year round on winter range.
The "Limited Elk Population Hunts," if adopted by the Commission on April 21, will be identified as such in this year's hunt proclamation and regulations to aid hunters in identifying these hunts while filling out their elk permit-tag applications.
The Department's elk strategies team defined "Limited Range Populations" as those in areas where the presence of elk is not essential to the long-term maintenance of elk populations, or where management of other species is a higher priority.
Game Branch Chief Tice Supplee said this year's alternative elk management strategy increases elk permits by approximately 1,500 in new "Limited Elk Population Hunt" areas over what was originally proposed in this year's hunt package. Overall increases to elk permits will total more than 4,000 from last year.
Limited Elk Population Hunts can be challenging and lower hunter success is expected. "These will not be our typical quality hunts. That is why we recommend excepting these hunts from consideration as juniors-only hunting possibilities, and from the formula for allocating hunt-permit tags by weapon type," explained Assistant Director Mike Senn.
The Commission also approved the Department to continue refining through an open public process a proposed statewide elk management strategy whereby all areas occupied by elk would be analyzed under standard criteria and classified into one of three separate management zones. These elk management zones include:
1. Standard Population Management. These areas comprise most of the elk habitat. These are areas where the presence of elk is desired for the long-term maintenance of elk populations. The management objective is to maintain elk populations at levels that provide diverse recreational opportunities while avoiding adverse impacts to the species, its habitat, or the habitat of other wildlife, and with "minimal substantiated depredation complaints."
2. Winter Range Population Management. These are winter range areas within standard population management where the presence of spring, summer, and fall elk populations result in unacceptable levels of conflict with other public or private resources. These zones will be managed for winter elk use only. The management objective is to "substantially reduce or eliminate" spring through fall elk populations to enhance habitat quality for wintering elk and reduce other conflicts.
3. Limited Range Population Management. These are areas (5 percent of the total Arizona elk habitat) where the presence of elk is not essential to the long-term maintenance of elk populations, or where management of other species is a higher priority. Elk populations within limited population management zones will be managed for "minimum levels of conflict" with other public or private sources. This can result in maintaining low population densities, or eliminating populations as deemed appropriate.
"The three zones also have specific goals regarding private land and conflict resolution, along with proposed action alternatives that may be selected to address conflicts," advised Pinetop Regional Supervisor Richard Remington.
However, he added, to completely implement the new guidelines will take some regulatory changes or modifications. The public hearing process for changing or modifying regulations can take a year or more to accomplish.
The "Elk Harvest Management Strategy Team Report" is being posted on the Arizona Game and Fish Department's Internet Home Page at www.azgfd.com.
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