A river otter
River otters will return in 2008
—NEW MEXICO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME
A native New Mexican, once found in streams and rivers throughout
the state, will have to wait one more year before returning to New
Mexico’s rivers. This fall, the New Mexico Department of Game
and Fish, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and the New Mexico
Friends of River Otters—a coalition of citizens, agencies,
and conservation organizations dedicated to restoring otters to
the state—had been working with the state of Oregon to obtain
otters for release in New Mexico. Unfortunately, efforts to trap
otters in Oregon were unsuccessful, and the reintroduction has been
postponed until next year.
River otters are highly social, playful, semi-aquatic members
of the weasel family. They are believed to have once inhabited the
Gila, upper and middle Rio Grande, Mora, San Juan, and Canadian
river systems and occasionally were mentioned in the journals of
early settlers. There have been no confirmed sightings of river
otters in the state since 1953. Decades of trapping and habitat
loss are believed to be two factors in their disappearance.
Current regulations require trappers to release any otters caught
in traps. Twenty states, including Arizona, Colorado, and Utah have
successfully reintroduced river otters. River otters and other predators
play important roles in keeping communities of native species robust
The State Game Commission directed the Department of Game and
Fish in 2006 to initiate efforts to restore otters to state waters.
A department study identified several rivers as suitable restoration
sites, including the Upper Rio Grande, White Rock Canyon, and Middle
Rio Chama in the Rio Grande Basin; and the Upper Gila, Lower Gila,
and Lower San Francisco Rivers in the Gila River Basin. Next year’s
efforts will be focused on reintroducing otters in the Upper Rio
Grande and Gila river systems.
Funding for the reintroduction effort is being provided by the
generous contributions of many New Mexican citizens, agencies and
foundations, including the Thaw Trust and Earth Friends Wildlife
Competitive birding at Bernardo
—NM DEPARTMENT OF GAME AND FISH
On November 17, the 1,573-acre Bernardo Waterfowl Management Area,
a snow goose and sandhill crane wintering area south of Belen, was
the featured location for an experimental “Big Day”
bird count, reports the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
Big Day bird counts are friendly birding competitions offering
prizes for the participants who log the most bird species during
a period of time. The top prize was a Gaining Access Into Nature
(GAIN) adventure offered by the Department of Game and Fish. Past
GAIN trips included tracking Mexican wolves in the Gila National
Forest, and observing bugling elk during the rut on the Sargent
Wildlife Management Area near Chama.
Each November, cranes, ducks, and geese arrive by the thousands
to spend the winter in New Mexico. They leave in the spring to return
to more northerly locations to breed. Bernardo is one of four State
Game Commission-owned waterfowl management areas used by the birds
and stretching from Belen to La Joya. They are known collectively
as the Ladd S. Gordon Waterfowl Complex. Bernardo is easily accessible
The Department of Game and Fish, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
and the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service of the U.S. Department
of Agriculture cooperatively manage the wintering waterfowl habitat
throughout the Rio Grande Valley. Their efforts, formalized in the
Middle Rio Grande Waterfowl Management Plan, reduce the impact that
geese and cranes have while feeding on adjacent private properties,
reduce the threat of avian diseases that develop when the birds
are confined in large groups, and provide opportunities for hunting
A tremendous amount of habitat work has been done at Bernardo
using money provided by the New Mexico Legislature.
Mike Gustin, lands manager for the Department of Game and Fish,
says several hundred acres of salt cedar have been cleared and treated
to restore native vegetation at Bernardo. An auto tour loop, picnic
tables, and a birding trail have been developed.
For more information about Bernardo’s Big Day or the Ladd
S. Gordon Waterfowl Management Area, call the Department of Game
and Fish at (505) 476-8000 in Santa Fe.
Salmon snagging season opens
—NM DEPARTMENT OF GAME AND FISH
Snagging season for kokanee salmon at Heron Lake opened November
9 and ends December 31. The season opens later at Heron Lake than
other northern New Mexico lakes to allow the Department of Game
and Fish to gather and fertilize salmon eggs for future stocking.
Every fall, anglers congregate around lakes in northern New Mexico
in hopes of snagging a few four-year-old kokanee, which form giant
schools, spawn, and then die. Snagging is a technique for harvesting
the soon-to-die salmon. The bag limit is twelve salmon per day and
twenty-four in possession.
Snagging season is October 1 through December 31 for Abiquiu Lake,
the Chama River from El Vado Lake to the west boundary of the Rio
Chama wildlife and fishing area, El Vado Lake, Navajo Lake, and
Eagle Nest Lake.
The 2007-2008 New Mexico Fishing Rules and Information Booklet
lists two dates as the start of the snagging season at Heron Lake,
Willow Creek, and the Pine River. The correct season opening date
is Friday, November 9.
For more information about this or any other Department-related
matter, please contact the Department of Game and Fish at (505)