ST. JOHNS — Arizona Game and Fish Department officials said they started filling more than 3,000 water tanks and catchments statewide in November. It has been about 20 years since Arizona Game and Fish had to start supplementing water in November.

They are still filling them.

During a normal year, they go through about 400,000 gallons. Because of the severe drought plaguing our state this year, Game and Fish crews are expected to bring in 1.5 million gallons (or more) to meet the needs of wildlife who are having a hard time finding water.

Arizona Game and Fish Wildlife Manager for the 4B and 3C West areas, Barry Austin, said wildlife in those districts are doing well in spite of the drought and recent wildfires like the 377 Fire between Snowflake and Heber-Overgaard.

“We have 33 catchments, well five are actually called potholes, which are (manmade) rock formations that hold water, and we have so far hauled more than 210,000 gallons of water to them,” Austin said of ongoing efforts to keep water catchments and tanks filled.

The water used to fill catchments and tanks comes mostly from the Black Mesa District in Heber-Overgaard.

Austin said the motto among himself and the countless volunteers and Game and Fish employees who haul water daily to the catchments is that ‘no tank will go dry.’

“The area where we are filling the tanks is kind of a triangle around the Heber-Overgaard, Show Low and Snowflake areas,” Austin said.

He said catchments that hold around 2,000 gallons or more need to be filled about every two weeks while the smaller ones need filling more often.

Even with the dry conditions, Austin said he was surprised recently to see velvet on elk antlers doing well. He said it is a good sign that his and other wildlife manager’s efforts are paying off.

“I think what we’re doing is working. Velvet growth among elk is incredible right now. And rabbits are thriving,” Austin said.

He said wildlife is staying close to the water catchments and tanks.

Because there has been so little rainfall lately, ranchers, well-meaning citizens, and Game and Fish officials have also been placing and filling donated steel stock tanks to help wildlife and wild horses find water without coming into town.

Anyone who wants to volunteer to help Game and Fish haul water to wildlife catchments should contact them at 602-942-3000 in Phoenix and 928-367-4281 in Pinetop.

‘Ladders’ keep small

animals from drowning

It would probably be safe to guess that most people don’t often think about wildlife drownings.

When it comes to water tanks and catchments, wildlife, especially smaller wildlife, can and do drown sometimes if they can’t get out when they go in for a drink. The same goes for waterholes that start drying out and get deep mud at their shores. Ranchers have reported cattle getting stuck.

To help wildlife, a group of welding students at Northland Pioneer College in St. Johns built 88 metal ramps that will provide wildlife — smaller animals — an escape route.

Springerville Ranger District Wildlife Biologist Valerie Horncastle worked with the students to build them, while Stratford Estates Girls group out of Mesa painted them to prevent rust. Local volunteers along with ranchers and National Forest employees will place them in the tanks.

The ramps are in essence ladders for two and four legged animals, as well as other essential forest life. Because they will reduce the number of animal drownings in water tanks, the ramps will also help improve water quality.

“The ladders will play a critical role in helping wildlife species such as birds, bats, animals and even insects escape if they become trapped while trying to take a drink of water,” a press release from Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests stated.

Reach the reporter at mleiby@wmicentral.com

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