TUCSON, AZ (TNN) – The number of big game hunting permits next Fall rides on the decisions the Arizona Game and Fish Department makes in the next few months. And now the public can see if game numbers are up or down in Arizona.
"Everything's been fairly stable," said regional game specialist Jim Heffelfinger at the meeting Thursday night. "The deer populations have been going up probably ten to fifteen percent in the last six or seven years. So, things are going okay. What we witnessed tonight was just the public process where the public has a say and the public's involved in how the game and fish department manages wildlife."
While deer populations in southern Arizona appear to be doing well, AZGFD will likely be recounting bighorn sheep in some areas because of fluctuations in those populations. And the system for mountain lions permits could continue.
Heffelfinger said that the mountain lion population appears to be doing well. The department might want a third year of having a multiple bag limit in one specific area, Aravaipa Canyon, which is northeast of Oracle. Heffelfinger said that a third year provides consistency to help evaluate if the multiple bag limit has any influence on the mountain lion population. That system is part of their effort to try and protect the bighorn sheep population there.
In an area with a multiple bag limit, a hunter who gets a mountain lion in that area can get another tag to hunt another one in the shorter time period used.
Out of the eight people at Thursday night's meeting, there were still different points of view on how to manage mountain lions.
"This multiple bag limit for 20 lions in the Aravaipa region is too much," said Aravaipa Canyon resident and conservation biologist Phil Hedrick. "A lot of the lion's diet is deer. Very seldom do they take bighorn sheep."
"You don't just manage your prey species. You need to manage you predator species, too," said Tucson resident and life-long hunter Brian Dolan. "Arizona's got some of the most diverse wildlife in the country, and in my mind, both prey and predators need to be managed."
The Department won't make a final decision on hunting permits until April 13th. In the weeks before then, what they will consider will be available to the public. Comments can be submitted at AZgamebranch@azgfd.gov .
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