Oujournalist’s Blog

The blog of a freelancing journalist in Arizona

Moving to Apache Junction, Arizona March 4, 2014

Filed under: green,Pinal County,Uncategorized,wildlife — Candace Hughes @ 3:52 pm
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superstitionsnow035

May 29, 2002 7 a.m. Before it gets too hot, the family of cactus wrens begins to peck at our potted plants on the back porch of our home in Apache Junction, Az. As we settle our belongings after moving from Phoenix, we see the birds lifting plants by the roots and looking for insects. We chase them away and they perch on a large prickly pear cactus farther out in our 1 1/4-acre lot of combined natural desert and scraped landscape. The house, built in 1970, likely had cactus wrens living on the property at the time of its construction, and now they call out to us to remind our three-member family who really controls the area.

Our plants survive the heat and birds until we leave for a week to attend a funeral. When returning, we find the birds are healthy and busy hopping on our porch, while we see remnants of our wilted plants on the cement.

It reminds us of letting go of what we can’t control — the lives of birds who insist on keeping their homes, and the lives of humans, who have free will to choose life or death.

Our curious cactus wrens are more reticent to come close now after one got stuck in a box and died in the heat. An insect must have tempted the bird, who unknowingly entered a human-constructed box.

We still see their feathers around and now they’re busily building nests

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Environmental assessment asks for specific results August 18, 2013

RFQ-AirportEnvironmentalPlanningServices-EA-final092612An assessment for a proposed expansion of the Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport uses a contract asking that a full environmental study be avoided.

The $650,000 environmental assessment for an east terminal at the Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport incorporates a request for proposal asking that a full environmental impact statement be avoided. The wording includes: “pursuing a Finding of No Significant Impact.”

The contract with Ricondo and Associates was approved in May.

“The FAA objectively evaluates and determines the adequacy of
Environmental Assessment documentation before we accept it and use it to
develop our environmental determination,” said Ian Gregor,
FAA Pacific division public affairs manager.

“I read the wording and it is odd as the reason for the EA is to determine the potential impact and to see if an Environmental Impacts Statement is warranted.  I think this language makes it predecisional, which is contrary to the National Environmental Policy Act,” said Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club  Grand Canyon chapter director.

“The Environmental Assessment is the process of pursuing a Finding of No Significant Impact. If through this process, it is determined a potential significant impact exists then the EA process stops and an Environment Impact Statement (a more extensive project scope conducted by the Federal Government) is needed,”  said Brian Sexton, the airport’s public information officer.

The Environmental Assessment is currently underway with an estimated completion date of December 2014, he said.

He explained: “The Finding of No Significant Impact (“FONSI”) is issued when the environmental analysis and interagency review during the EA process finds a project to have no significant impacts on the quality of the environment. A FONSI is a public decision document that briefly describes why the project will not have any significant environmental effect and will not require the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The FONSI is usually a one-page document to which the EA is attached or referenced.”

 

Writer moves to desert, learns to co-exist December 20, 2011

Filed under: Artists in Pinal County,green,Pinal County,wildlife — Candace Hughes @ 12:45 am
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Writer moves to desert, learns to co-exist

In 2002 I moved from an irrigated grass yard with grapefruit trees and rosebushes in east Phoenix to a 1 ¼ -acre piece of land with natural desert landscaping in Pinal County. It’s about 40 miles in terms of paved roads, and many more in terms of the distance to learn to live easily with the desert during a drought.

We moved some cactus and succulents, but left behind the rosebushes and soon found it was hard to keep any potted plants on our porches due to birds, rabbits, and roundtailed and antelope ground squirrels.

As with our home in Phoenix, we continue to compost and use no insecticides, herbicides, fertilizer and only biodegradable laundry detergent for our sensitive 40-year-old plumbing system and septic tank. I have help pulling weeds, thank goodness. I had no problem with the compost in east Phoenix until we went to sell the house and a Realtor criticized it on the Web site created to sell the house. My husband removed the compost, but the Realtor refused to take down her comment.

We have lost a cat and a dog to coyotes and a rattlesnake, and now keep one fish. I enjoy feeding the birds and giving them water, especially when it is very hot. Goldfinches and house finches, flickers, ladderback woodpeckers, bats, nighthawks, red-tailed hawks, sparrows, quail, pigeons, orioles, doves, cardinals and others grace our yard.

On occasion, we have seen migrating geese as they fly north from Mexico along the San Pedro River, to Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park where I have volunteered. The flocks have disappeared from our area during a long drought.

Here I have really learned the boom and bust patterns of the desert, and we have lost non-native trees that were in our yard before we moved here including a golden ash with beautiful yellow blooms on its top.

It is a constant struggle to determine how much hand watering to do to keep desert plants and trees alive as the water table drops due to development in the area and private wells. Our water company relies on pumped groundwater, so it’s a wash as to whether we are causing more problems.

A bobcat occasionally visits the roof at night and the yard in the early morning, and we see hoofprints from deer and javelina who wander at night and chomp on aloes and cactus. Marigold plantings haven’t helped repel the hungry creatures.

As a neighbor has put out poison, I notice the population of ground squirrels has gone down. We use a solar-powered buzzer embedded in the soil to repel the critters who dig lots of holes around cactus and eat the roots.

Mesquite beans and other natural food supply desert cottontails and jackrabbits as well as ground squirrels and rock squirrels.

I miss not being able to walk or ride a bike to the library, movies, post office, grocery store, coffee shop and park, and continue to lobby for public transit and a lower speed limit on our heavily travelled rural road so that bikes would be a safe option.

A home office has made it possible for me to work online for newspapers, magazines, Web sites and a community college. A light rail line that now is about 15 miles from our home makes it easier to visit a college and other professional activities.

The move was made so that my husband could commute one mile to the school where he teaches instead of the 80-mile roundtrip he had made for 17 years. Freeway construction made the commute untenable, but now that the roadway is open we can more easily visit friends and attend our favorite church.

A strip of Bureau of Land Management property across from our house is a lovely place to hike after infrequent storms and we are glad the fencing now helps to keep out hunters and off-road vehicles. When they do visit, police usually are cooperative in pointing out the signs and asking them to leave.

Although we thought the air pollution would not be a problem, it is actually worse here due to wind patterns that flush emissions from the Phoenix area east to the Superstition Mountains where we live. I counteract with small measures such as sweeping with a broom instead of using a blower, having our daughter use a hybrid to go to college and consolidating trips.

In addition, we adopted a section of our road where we pick up trash and recycle as much of it as we can. We have recently had curbside pickup of recyclables begin but still haul bottles and some plastic to another site when I am making other trips.

I am enjoying watching the saguaro grow arms as I learn more each day, chasing away a roadrunner who has come to eat small birds, and learning more about how all things are interconnected and how I am affecting the fragile desert.

Food production is difficult despite engineering to keep out critters who eat seedlings as soon as they sprout. After several attempts at netting over vegetables and buried in the ground as well as a raised bed, my daughter went on to other projects.

I eagerly await the blooms on our San Pedro and golden torch cactuses, which bloom one time each at night if there’s been enough rain. The blossoms are as big as my hand and attract bats.

 

Coolidge library would benefit from tax increase September 6, 2011

Filed under: travel — Candace Hughes @ 4:36 pm
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County considers small library tax rate change

By Candace S. Hughes

Editor, Pinal Ways

Please note: Historic photos of the Coolidge Library are in the summer issue of Pinal Ways available at The Coolidge Examiner for $1.50.

The Coolidge Public Library will receive an additional $8,500 in books from Pinal County if the Board of Supervisors approves a 2 cent change in the county tax rate at its meeting Wed., Aug. 15.

The proposed library tax rate increase from .057 to .077 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation will be voted on during a meeting at 9:30 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors Hearing Room, Administration Building A, 31 N. Pinal St., Florence.

If approved, the change could raise as much as $450,000 and Coolidge’s amount will grow from $11,500 to $20,000. The Coolidge library has eight employees and its overall budget for the 2005-06 year, the latest available, was $275,000.

There will be no increase in taxes due to the change, if it is approved as part of the special library district, said Denise Keller, county library district director.

The 2006-2007 county library district budget would increase from $783,000 to $1.2 million with the money to be used for books, Internet and database services, self-check machines and replacement of computers, furniture and copiers, according to documents provided to the county Board of Supervisors in a study meeting June 27.

The presentation also included information that $230,000 would be used to improve technological access to library patrons in rural communities and $228,000 to improve customer service

Library taxes are part of a special district or secondary tax rate and, if approved, the small increase for library services would not increase the overall tax rate for homeowners and businesses, said Keller.

The library tax rate has not increased during her nine-year tenure and she did not know when the last library tax rate change had been made.

For a house assessed at $150,000, the taxpayer currently pays about $8 yearly for the library district, and that would increase to about $11, however because the overall tax rate is going down Pinal County homeowners won’t be paying any additional fees for libraries.

County considers small library tax rate change

By Candace S. Hughes

Editor, Pinal Ways

Please note: Historic photos of the Coolidge Library are in the summer issue of Pinal Ways available at The Coolidge Examiner for $1.50.

The Coolidge Public Library will receive an additional $8,500 in books from Pinal County if the Board of Supervisors approves a 2 cent change in the county tax rate at its meeting Wed., Aug. 15.

The proposed library tax rate increase from .057 to .077 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation will be voted on during a meeting at 9:30 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors Hearing Room, Administration Building A, 31 N. Pinal St., Florence.

If approved, the change could raise as much as $450,000 and Coolidge’s amount will grow from $11,500 to $20,000. The Coolidge library has eight employees and its overall budget for the 2005-06 year, the latest available, was $275,000.

There will be no increase in taxes due to the change, if it is approved as part of the special library district, said Denise Keller, county library district director.

The 2006-2007 county library district budget would increase from $783,000 to $1.2 million with the money to be used for books, Internet and database services, self-check machines and replacement of computers, furniture and copiers, according to documents provided to the county Board of Supervisors in a study meeting June 27.

The presentation also included information that $230,000 would be used to improve technological access to library patrons in rural communities and $228,000 to improve customer service

Library taxes are part of a special district or secondary tax rate and, if approved, the small increase for library services would not increase the overall tax rate for homeowners and businesses, said Keller.

The library tax rate has not increased during her nine-year tenure and she did not know when the last library tax rate change had been made.

For a house assessed at $150,000, the taxpayer currently pays about $8 yearly for the library district, and that would increase to about $11, however because the overall tax rate is going down Pinal County homeowners won’t be paying any additional fees for libraries.

 

Apache Junction artist mentors students August 29, 2011

Filed under: green — Candace Hughes @ 4:24 pm
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Apache Junction artist mentors students

 

By Candace S. Hughes

From the permanent collection of the Scottsdale Center for the Arts to the Phippen Museum of Western Art outside of Prescott to the Larsen Gallery in Scottsdale, Anne Coe’s paintings of landscapes and animals intrigue and inspire.

And in addition to pursuing her own career, she encourages painting and drawing students at the Superstition Mountain campus of Central Arizona College where she has taught for seven years.

Some of her students’ most recent projects include a series of murals on the interior of the campus. A Wall of Fame mural for awards in the Central Arizona Lifelong Learning program office, a large work just outside that area and now a mural by the student lounge have kept students staying after class and coming in at night and on non-class days.

“They’ve done a great job,” said Vera Walters, program coordinator for the Central Arizona Lifelong Learners program.

One night just before the holidays three students appeared to project an image of a windmill on the wall so that an accurate portrayal of the structure could be made. They also show up for class during spring break and stay after their usual 10 a.m.-1 p.m. class time.

“It’s really important to us that it turns out well. We have a lot invested in this,” said Lori Berry, 50, who has taken Coe’s classes since 1999 and has expanded her painting into glass art now shown at the Crystal Garden in Apache Junction.

An advanced painting student, she also will be showing at the Gold Canyon Arts Festival Jan. 27 at Gold Canyon Elementary School.

The students learn from each other and the lead artist on the current mural is Linda McDonald, 57, a Pinal County resident in the Apache Junction area. Their homework included sketching the mural and getting it approved by Bob Salmon, the Superstition Mountain campus dean, she said.

Strolling around the campus during lunchtime in December, Salmon stopped to admire the students’ progress.

Painting incorporates community vistas

“We are the community’s college, not just a community college,” said Salmon, who said he was glad that the mural reflects the Superstition Mountain and the old West. He requested a water theme for this mural and the students incorporated a windmill that will blend with a fountain to be placed in the courtyard.

Coe also supervises and recommends shading and more effort to incorporate a realistic three-dimensional effect.

Phil Lansing, 24, an Apache Junction resident working on an associate’s degree in business, is a Painting I student and has taken art classes for several years. He was involved in drawing the sketches and getting the dean’s approval before the work on the most recent mural began in September. The students plan to finish by May.

Lansing, whose family owns Saguaro Family Fitness in Apache Junction, painted a mural inside that building to enhance the business’s interior.

McDonald, also a Painting I student, said she liked art as a child and in high school, but got married and had kids and “things like art went by the wayside.” When her husband suggested she pick up art again a year ago, she began in Coe’s drawing classes.

She now has painted murals at her home and is developing this skill into a business.

A huge positive response from the community about the students’ first mural, which Berry directed, led the way for a second effort.

“The dean called our instructor during the summer and said he wanted another mural. There’s a new student lounge and he suggested a mural outside that area. We began formulating ideas during the summer vacation,” she explained.

The students didn’t want the cute kind of cartoonish mural, and did preliminary drawings that incorporated all their ideas. “We submitted it to the dean and he said to go with it. We also have been given carte blanche on any wall in the school,” she said proudly.

The painting, which was sketched in charcoal and chalk that could be rinsed off with water, allows the work to evolve and gives the students flexibility if they see a particular idea isn’t working.

Guest artists such as Dawn Nehls have stopped by to paint ringtails, and Berry’s 24-year-old son, George, helps with painting the sky and background.

Coe nurtures students to success

 

The instructor’s realm of influence extends beyond the CAC campus.

Coe is a co-founder of the Superstition Area Land Trust, a community-based land conservancy, and she solicited signatures for the State Trust Land Initiative at her Apache Junction home and studio during the Art for Land’s Sake Tour in 2005.

During that tour she greeted visitors with an outstretched hand: “I’m Anne Coe. Who are you? Do you live out here?” Then she invited them to sign her mailing list and showed them a copy of “Apacheland Burning” available for $150 and asked them to sign the petition.

Apacheland was a Gold Canyon movie studio with gift shops and a restaurant that burned several years ago.

As part of Coe’s efforts to encourage students, she has allowed Berry to show her fused-glass art during several of the tours. “These are the students whose work is professional enough that it can be bought and they have things to sell,” Coe said. “Not every student is ready for that. They must consistently produce art.”

Berry took a heavy three-layered glass piece out of the kiln at midnight before the tour began.

“I’ve used stuff I’ve learned from Anne. She keeps us excited about art.”

The price of the heavy piece is $700, but Berry said it’s really not for sale. Fish appear to be swimming in the distance in the piece, and more color can be seen in a close-up view.

“She (Coe) helps with color and composition,” Berry said. “She helps get a feeling of depth in your piece.”

“Finding Anne’s class really helped me a lot,” Berry said. “Before I was interested in art, but now I’m really doing it and when I’m stuck she helps me.”

Although some attending the CAC classes are traditional college students, many have life experiences to include in their work. Some are pursuing art for pleasure, and others are accumulating pieces to apply to art school or start a business.

Vicki Averill, of Apache Junction, a painting and drawing student, has been working toward a degree in art. “I’m slightly different than some of the students. It’s nice she can with the various needs of the students so I can get a portfolio together to get into art school,” she said during her visit to Coe’s home.

The Painting I and II and Drawing I and II classes are complemented by individual studies students who bring in work for Coe to critique during the two mornings a week that she teaches at the college. “I’ve learned so much,” Averill said.

Students evaluate each other

In addition to Coe’s instruction, the students critique and praise each other. “They’re so special,” Averill said as she gazed at Berry’s latest offerings during the art tour. “That’s a good price,” she added, as she looked over the $250 global warming piece which included bubbles to convey the effect of rising temperatures. “I’ll be back,” Averill said.

Students aren’t afraid to discuss their mistakes with their friends and fellow artists. “This is what it looks like when you forget to turn off the kiln,” said Berry, showing a tile with flat black paint.

Coe said she also listened to her students who critiqued her “Liar Liar Pants on Fire,” a work for her exhibition “Mood Swings” at the Larsen Gallery. In the painting a monkey sits in a Washington, D.C. background and bananas are dropping from the sky.

“I thought about missiles, but decided against that,” said Coe, who listens to National Public Radio as she works. “I’ve been teaching since 1998 and I didn’t really want to, but they asked me because I have an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) from ASU. I fell in love with it. It’s worked out really well. I’ve learned a lot from the students,” she quipped.

Students look at art in different ways

Coe’s love of the land is reflected in her activities related to painting and teaching.

Her non-traditional work includes “Urban Buckarette.” It depicts a woman astride a bronco in downtown Prescott and has been shown at the Phippen Museum of Western Art north of Prescott.

While the Cowboy Artists of America show at the Phoenix Art Museum each year has a mythological view of the West, Coe said her work portrays and nurtures other views of art.

She recently has produced a series titled “Mood Swings” that has been shown at the Larsen Gallery in Scottsdale. Her painting of a bulldozer making a wide path through the desert is in the permanent collection at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts.

“I’m giving students another point of view,” she said, showing a traditional still life she painted, and then still life paintings of fruit and animals including bears.

“You must paint a bear reading a book for me,” said Elly VanGelderen, an ASU English professor who lives in Gold Canyon and visited Coe’s studio during the tour.

“Elly takes these classes because they are the opposite of what she does – teaching linguistics – and she does these drawings, watercolors and pastels wonderfully,” Coe said.

The professor has painted a portrait of Berry and her husband, Richard. As Berry recognized Gelderen, she directed her over to her art. “This is the direction I’m taking now,” she said as she showed her the glass bowl she recently created. “This is the first concentric circle I’ve cut,” she said, pointing to a $75 bowl.

In addition, students work out their reactions to life’s experiences as Coe has done in her series ”Life Examined” painted as her husband was dying of leukemia in the late 1990s.

Gold Canyon resident B.J. Ludwig, 63, who helps care for her aging mother, displayed a painting depicting her mother’s confused thinking process caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

“I’ve already bought from you,” Coe said to Berry, but I haven’t bought from you,” she said to Ludwig, a retired teacher who began a career as a mixed-media artist six years ago.

Ludwig also sells books of collage work “expressing what I feel inside. I charged $50 because there is so much time and effort that goes into these,” she added. “I just go crazy. I add things that hang down such as beads and things you can pull out and I do it for fun,” she added.

“I started with Anne doing acrylics and every year she exposes us to new media. One year ago there was a collage and another time she exposed us to monoprinting, said Ludwig, who began to work in both types of media. “She keeps you growing.”

Following Coe’s example, Berry and Ludwig nurture each other.

While waiting for additional customers during the tour, Ludwig discussed her annual Christmas card and Berry added, “I have to do my Christmas card. “That’s a really nice card,” she said of Ludwig’s collage. “I suppose I’ll get one in the mail and it’s frameable.”

Moving around Ludwig’s display, Berry said, “I like this one, and this one, too. That’s really cool,” she said of Ludwig’s use of monoprinting entitled “Civilization.”

“Some lasting friendships have come from the classes,” Coe said, pointing out that she had solicited a former student, Barbara Washburn of Apache Junction, to help her with the signatures.

Berry agreed. “I enjoyed doing nursing and I was a good nurse,” but now all my friends are artists.”

If you go

Anne Coe’s paintings may be seen through Jan. 31 at the Larsen Gallery, 3705 N Bishop Lane, Scottsdale. Telephone 480-941-0900 or visit www.larsengallery.com.

Showings at her Apache Junction home are done by appointment. Call 480-982-0473 or visit www.annecoe.com.

Central Arizona College Superstition Mountain campus students will be painting most Tuesdays and Thursdays 10 a.m.-1 p.m. when the spring semester starts Jan. 16 near the student lounge on the interior of the campus at 273 Old West Highway near Winchester Road, Apache Junction.

Lori Berry’s fused-glass pendants may be purchased at Crystal Garden, 320 W. Superstition Blvd., #115, Apache Junction. 480-671-5951.

B.J. Ludwig may be reached at 480-982-0485 or ludwigcalcat@aol.com

 

Gila River child advocates assist community August 18, 2011

Filed under: Pinal County — Candace Hughes @ 5:30 pm
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Gila River child-advocate grant

helps recruit more volunteers

By Candace S. Hughes

A $25,000 grant from the Gila River Indian Community to the Court Appointed Special Advocate program for children will help recruit more volunteers, a much-needed resource to help children in foster care.

And those volunteers are making important differences in children’s lives.

“Just yesterday we spent some time together and when I first met her she wouldn’t have thought about going to college or even graduating from high school,” said Shannon Watson, a 33-year-old Arizona State University senior.

“I needed to go to the library so we walked around the campus and I showed her everything and got some information on different degree programs. Six months ago this would not have been an idea she would have entertained,” said Watson, an organizational-studies major.

“We’ve talked about rights and privileges and now she sees education as a right and she doesn’t say this isn’t for her any more. She now thinks that college is in her future,” added Watson, who plans to go on for her master’s in business administration and juris doctorate degrees.

Watson said the 15-year-old Native American girl has been an inspiration to her. “She’s not allowing her circumstances to define her and she’s geared toward living a normal life and being able to have her own family.” Watson is an African American who grew up on the south side of Chicago.

“At this point in my life I’m not young and idealistic, but in the course of our interactions I’ve watched her grow and I get more out of it than she does,” said Watson, who doesn’t have children and isn’t married.

The Superior Court program is funded with $450,000 annually from the state Legislature and this money is used for 11 employees who assist the volunteers with court paperwork, said Justine Grabowsky, community outreach specialist.

“We are grateful to the Gila River Indian Community for their deep commitment to helping change the lives of our vulnerable children” said Laurie Laughlin, Maricopa County CASA program manager.

“These funds will go a long way toward providing support to our CASA volunteers in serving abused, neglected and abandoned children, and increase advocacy and volunteer recruitment efforts on behalf of abused and neglected children in Maricopa county,” she added.

“The $25,000 grant will be used for marketing because we have no budget for any type of promotional materials or advertising to recruit new volunteers,” Grabowsky emphasized.

While there are about 350 volunteers now for 600 children in foster care, there are at least 5,000 Maricopa County kids in foster care, Grabowsky said. “We’d like to have enough volunteers to serve at least 2,000,” she added.

“CASA volunteers are assigned by judges, but we don’t have enough. We’d like to provide a CASA for every child who doesn’t have anyone to advocate for them,” she explained.

The 21-year-old program recruits, screens and trains volunteers to work with children and they are the “child’s voice in court.”

CASA’s volunteers performed 15,141 hours of service and drove 143,873 miles in 2005.

Juvenile Court judges appoint CASA volunteers to work with children face to face so that a trusting relationship is built. They assist the court by providing objective information about the child’s best interests as the family works to correct problems that brought the children in to Child Protective Services care.

Qiana Shaw, a 29-year-old Honeywell engineer, serves as a CASA for a 12-year-old girl of Native American and African American ancestry, and said she has advocated for her assigned child to have a more structured environment. While it took more time than she would have liked to find an appropriate home, Shaw, who also is African-American, is happy that the change eventually was made.

During her two years as a CASA volunteer she has accompanied the pre-teen on walks and visits to Castles and Coasters. “I’m another person she can talk to, but I can’t promise that what we discuss will be confidential. After I leave, I take notes on what we talked about,” said Shaw.

Reports by CASA volunteers are used by judges in making decisions on the child’s behalf and she occasionally appears in court or her reports are used.

“It’s benefiting me because I love children and I don’t have any of my own,” she added.

Volunteers receive mileage reimbursement, but there is no salary.

Pinal County seeks advocates

Of the more than 600 Pinal County children in foster care, only 37 have Court Appointed Special Advocates to give them a voice in court.

Twenty-eight volunteers help the 37 children by providing information not supplied by attorneys, natural or foster parents, or the court or school system.

Potential volunteers may call the Pinal County CASA Program at 520-866-7077 for Florence and Apache Junction and 520-866-7710 for Casa Grande.

 

Fear drives people batty June 21, 2011

Filed under: wildlife — Candace Hughes @ 10:48 pm
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Fear drives people batty

People who dislike bats because of the possibility of rabies also may be unhappy with the mammal due to the technology used in the speed radar vans now parked alongside roadways, said Bill Burger, a wildlife specialist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Despite the high-tech uses of bats’ ability to “echolocate” or send sounds unable to be heard by most humans, residents should thank the bats for the large number of mosquitoes eaten without the use of pesticides, he pointed out.

During a “Batty over Bats” presentation as part of the Central Arizona College Lifelong Learner program at the Superstition Mountain campus, Burger outlined the laws making it illegal to damage caves or kill bats and discussed the incidents of rabies caused by bats.

Burger also spoke recently at San Tan Mountain Regional Park in northern Pinal County where gates have been put over caves and abandoned mines to keep humans out of the hazardous areas and to protect roosts of the California leaf-nosed bats that frequent central Arizona.

As a non-game specialist, Burger has advised a Casa Grande business under renovation to conduct their work during the cooler months when bats have migrated from the structure.

“Bats were roosting under some facing on their building and I suggested they schedule the work when the bats were away,” he explained. It is illegal to kill or injure bats, Burger emphasized.

In addition, he pointed out that area Native American tribes have been recording bats’ use of the Mammon Mine south of Casa Grande, a habitat for the endangered lesser long-nosed bat. The small yellow-brown or gray mammal pollinates saguaros and organ pipe cactus and the Mexican long-tongued bat primarily feeds on agave flowers.

“The mine is on tribal lands and access is closed except by special permission,” said Burger, who added that he tells people never to enter caves or abandoned mines for the safety of humans and welfare of bats that may leave if disturbed.

Education about the flying mammals and vaccination of pets against rabies lessens fear of bats, Burger said.

While few people are infected with rabies by bats, it’s best to be cautious and never try to kill, pick up, chase or handle bats or any wildlife.

The state Department of Health Services tests bats and other mammals suspected of having rabies.

“Many rabies exposures involve kids playing with bats,” said Elisabeth Lawaczeck, state public health veterinarian. “Most of these exposures are preventable through education. That’s why we’re encouraging school children across Arizona to become more aware about rabies and to respect wildlife from a distance.”

Many counties vaccinate pets for rabies at open clinics.

If bats are found, whether in a home or outside a structure, animal control should be called immediately and pets and people should stay away, said Linda Ericson, Casa Grande animal control supervisor.

“Bats are one of the highest carriers of rabies and we should be called if one is found,” she emphasized.

Ruth Stalter, director of Pinal County Animal Care and Control, agreed that prevention is the best way to deal with rabies and the possibility of exposure from bats or other wildlife. Animals and humans will die of rabies if they are bitten and if they aren’t vaccinated or don’t receive the shots, she said.

“If bats are found, do not try to kill or catch them. Leave them alone and call us,” said Stalter. “We have officers who know how to handle them. People think they’ll get a broom and get them down, and then the bat falls on them and they’re exposed.”

Bats or other nocturnal animals such as skunks with unusual behavior such as being active in the daytime should be reported, she added.

Pinal County’s animal control officers have the series of rabies shots, which are no longer the painful injections used in the past, she said.

“It’s always best to rule on the side of caution because bats have very small teeth and a lot of times people don’t realize they are bitten and don’t know that their pets have been bitten,” Stalter said.

Burger of the Arizona Game and Fish Department agreed that education is the key to erasing fear of bats.

Vampire bats that drink blood are only found in tropical regions, and are not among the 28 species found in Arizona, said Burger, who spends most of his time doing education and visiting caves and abandoned mines.

He’s currently working with Tonto National Forest and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to see which mines should have gates installed so that bats will not be disturbed.

Some Arizona bats hibernate and if disturbed in the winter when there are fewer insects, large populations could die. The Western pipistrille is the small species humans often see at dusk diving after Pinal County’s mosquitoes, but bats also eat moths and other insects that harm crops, Burger said.

Bats pollinate agaves, so tequila lovers need to thank the flying mammal for its ability to hover by the plant, he added.

It’s also important not to bother pregnant and nursing bats, which is why part of Karchner Caverns is closed at times, he explained.

Simply entering a cave with a flashlight can disturb bats, which have seen numbers decrease rapidly recently, he added. “They have the slowest reproductive rate on earth for an animal their size and don’t reach sexual maturity for several years, so if the population declines it takes a long time to build it up again,” he said.

Babies can’t fly until they are three-four weeks old and are vulnerable, he explained.

Violators of the Arizona Cave Protection Act may be found guilty of a class II misdemeanor requiring community service and a fine paid to the Arizona Department of Fish and Game to help with protecting non-game species, Burger said.

Money from the Heritage Fund raised by sales of lottery tickets supports Burger’s efforts, and no tax dollars are spent for his program.

Halloween night marauders are cautioned against searching for bats. “Your cell phone isn’t going to work in a cave so you’re basically screwed,” said Regina Whitman of Desert Cry, the only certified wildlife rehabilitation specialist in Pinal County.

A member of Friends of the San Tans, she bemoaned an incident in which thieves crashed a stolen car into an abandoned mine in the San Tan mountains. “Old abandoned mines have been taken over by bats and owls and people should stay out. Mines and caves aren’t mapped and there are no trails. They are not tourist attractions,” she said.

“If you want to go spelunking, go to a state park where this is allowed,” said Whitman, who has received a rabid bat and turned it over to Liberty Wildlife and reported the names of people who had touched the animal.

“If they’re found, not just bats or any wild animal, do not try to care for it or keep it. It’s against the law to keep a wild animal without a permit and it’s against nature,” she explained.

“They’re not pets. They have very special wants and needs and shouldn’t be kept in captivity. They won’t make good pets and you shouldn’t try to raise them as pets because you can’t raise a wild animal. They’ll grow to trust pets and people and if released then they’re dead,” she said.

“People often try to care for them and then realize they’ve made a mistake when the animal’s not doing well and it’s too late. If they’ve had the wrong food or care, it’s hard to reverse that,” said Whitman, who carries food and medicine for some, but not all wild creatures found in the county.

More information

If you find an injured or sick bat, call Adobe Mountain Wildlife Rescue at 623-582-9806, but do not pick up the bat. Liberty Wildlife also has veterinarians to assist with bats by calling 480-998-5550. The Arizona Health Department will test the animal for rabies. If bitten, seek medical treatment immediately. Only one person in the United States died of rabies last year, and most people who contract rabies are bitten by dogs and cats.

Desert Cry Wildlife, an all-volunteer organization in the Queen Creek area of Pinal County, acts as a way station for many injured or sick animals, but does not treat bats. Telephone: 480-987-3544 or visit. http://www.welcome.to/desertcry.

Rabies prevention

The best way to prevent rabies is to have all cats and dogs vaccinated.

Report incidents of bat injuries

To report people entering caves or mines to injure bats, call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-352-0700. More information on non-game (or animals that aren’t hunted) is available at the Arizona Game and Fish Web site azgfd.gov. The Mesa office may be reached at 480-942-3000. It is illegal to enter caves or abandoned mines and it’s illegal to injure or kill bats.

Other helpful telephone numbers

Arizona Department of Health Services for rabies testing may be contacted at 602-542-1000 or visit the Web site at: http://www.azdhs.gov. Address: 150 N. 18th Ave., Phoenix. Citizens are advised to never pick up and transport bats, but call animal control.