Phoenix, AZ – The Arizona Game and Fish Commission on Dec. 2 approved rules and commission orders to implement new short-term strategic tools that will allow hunters to help reduce predator numbers to aid struggling pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep populations in specific game management units.
Both votes were passed by a 3-1 margin with one commissioner absent. Arizona now joins 41 other states that allow night hunting of predators.
The commission approved rulemaking to allow the use of artificial lights at night for taking coyotes and mountain lions, as allowed by new laws enacted by the legislature last session.
“The rules will enable implementation of these new management tools within game management units or smaller portions thereof,” explained Game Chief Brian Wakeling. “In order to help struggling pronghorn antelope populations, we will use night hunting using white light for coyotes in specific hunt units at critical times of year during the spring fawning period (typically April, May and June).”
“Research studies and our own survey data demonstrate that if we can strategically reduce coyote predation during the critical spring fawning period, especially during the first six weeks of life when the fawns are most vulnerable, then we can increase fawn survivability and pronghorn population size. Carefully timed coyote removal on the fawning grounds has proven effective at reducing predation,” Wakeling said.
The orders that the commission approved will allow shotguns shooting shot for coyotes as a safety measure, with limited range firearms.
The commission adopted short-term night hunting seasons for coyotes in hunt management units 4A, 10, 13A and 35A to augment the department’s ongoing enhancement efforts, and in units 2A, 17A, 17B, 31, 32, 34B, 35B and 36B to assist pronghorn where recruitment is less than 15 fawns per 100 does. “It only makes sense to use one of our most viable and valuable wildlife management tools, the hunter, to help us achieve increased fawn survivability,” Wakeling said.
The rules and orders adopted will allow a similar approach for achieving temporary, local mountain lion population reductions to help struggling desert bighorn sheep populations. Mountain lions have expanded their range and populations are currently robust and increasing in Arizona.
“With mountain lions, strategic night hunting is now a tool to be used only in those hunt management units where we have instituted multiple bag limits for mountain lions in an effort to assist struggling desert bighorn sheep populations,” Wakeling said.
Wakeling added that since the implementation of sound scientific wildlife management back in the 1940s, hunting has been one of the most effective wildlife management tools available to biologists and to the Game and Fish Commission.
“Keep in mind that through the decades, hunters have not only been instrumental in wildlife management, but they have also paid for most wildlife conservation efforts in Arizona and nationwide,” Wakeling said. “The support and contributions by hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts have funded conservation efforts that benefit not just hunted species, but all wildlife species that Arizonans enjoy.