By: Jim deVos, Director of Conservation Affairs
Arizona –-(Ammoland.com)- It is summer and the weather is hot and dry. So dry in fact that many wildlife species are stressed by the aridity and lack of available water.
Many species like deer, elk, and pronghorn are all pregnant and need lots of water when the young are born to help make enough milk to support their young babies.
Also, water is critical to digestion in these species. Humans depend on stomach acids to break down food items into short-chain proteins that can be absorbed in the small intestine to keep us going.
Most big game species have a complex digestive system consisting on multiple stomach parts, with a “soup” of micro-organisms that break complex proteins into simple proteins that can be absorbed easily to support life. When water is lacking, being able to survive is a challenge.
Not only does big game depend on water, but many non-game species do as well. Studies on wildlife use of waters in northern Arizona have documented extensive use of available free water by bats that are also working hard to support young at this time of year. In studies in southwestern Arizona, visitation rates by non-game species exceeded that of game species.
The bottomline is that water is important to wildlife when the weather is hot and dry as it is now.
As budgets for resource agencies such as the Forest Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department have declined, Wildlife Conservation Organizations have stepped in to help make sure that water is available to wildlife when they need it. The Arizona Elk Society (AES) has been a leader in this arena. So far, most of the efforts have been in proximity to Flagstaff, but the demand for water hauling and repair of facilities is not limited to this area. So far this year, the AES has hauled water to dozens of dry or nearly so water sites in the area. Further, the organization has done repairs ranging from repairing fences to replacing troughs where wildlife drink on these dry days. As word of what the AES does has spread, so too has interest from resource professionals who have too much to do and too few resources to do their job.
The AES is there to lend a hand to these folks and help make sure that the wildlife in the region are able to get water when needed.
At this time, there is considerable interest from other sections of the state for AES to help both in water hauling but more so in repair of debilitated water sources. The AES is working with a group of volunteer from Payson who have interest in what we do in their region. We also have a new set of volunteers from Flagstaff who are willing to brave the elements at this time of year and receive training on how to make water available for wildlife.
One of the problems is that the demand is so great at this time of year that we work doubletime to get as much done as we can to eliminate this ecological bottleneck for wildlife. As temperatures rocket over a hundred in the woods and relative humidity is near single digits, wildlife need water and they need it now. We scramble to do what we can, but the demand is great. One of the goals of the AES is to build a more functional program each year. Working closely with the resource agencies, we have a full slate of projects to work on and with more volunteers and more money, we could better help the agencies make water available for wildlife. Next time you go to the faucet for water, think about donating a few bucks to help the bulls in the field make it through the summer.
To learn more about the AES and the programs that we do, visit www.arizonaelksociety.org. That said, it is time to get to the woods and make more water available for not only elk, but all wildlife that need a helping hand at this time of year.