Is It Just Me? Hunting and Jeeps in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Two articles  appeared in the Scottsdale Republic recently, which–taken together–illustrate a fundamental contradiction between the stated purposes of city government and its actions.

The first announced Friday that the Arizona Department of Game and Fish has determined with a single survey that large mammal populations  in Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve are stable, and reaffirmed Scottsdale city government’s position that Game and Fish has the exclusive power to permit hunting in our Preserve.

The second article on Sunday [Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve will ban Jeep tours] does not report that the City cedes similar power to Game and Fish for regulating off-highway vehicles in our Preserve. G & F would normally be the agency to regulate such activity.

It also appears that our job-friendly, business-friendly city council is likely to renege on promises by earlier councils and staff to respect the rights of jeep tour operators.

Is it just me, or is it a little silly that city government that is banning respectful tour operators who help provide access to the Preserve, and simultaneously not lifting a finger to ban hunting or even warn non-hunting users of hunting activity?

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  1. The hunting is a call by the Game and Fish rather than the City. They have the mandate to manage the wildlife. Hunting is an effective tool to manage the population. The Game and Fish should have a handle on how may acres of desert it takes maintain a deer. An over population is not healthy for the desert or the herd. I would rather see a healthy deer on the Preserve than a sickly starving deer.
    Bow hunting is a pretty safe way to manage the deer population. I’ve never heard of anyone accidentally shot by an arrow. I assume that the Game and Fish Dept. has statistics that tell them the success rate for the number of permits issued.
    I’m surprised by not allowing the Jeep concession. The Jeep operators are pretty good stewards of the desert. however, I can’t say that about all dirt bikers and ATV riders. A few bad riders can ruin it for everyone.

    1. Regulation of hunting is the purview of Game and Fish…but not whether to permit it on city-owned property. The McDowell Sonoran Preserve isn’t state land, any more than any of our city parks.

      I agree generally that hunting can be an effective game management tool, but aside from the jurisdictional issues, game management should be evidence-based. Lack of population surveys, and seemingly arbitrary bag limits don’t sound very scientific to me.

      As far as safety is concerned, Google “accidentally shot by an arrow.” You may change your mind!

      Personally, I have a lot of respect for the art of bow hunting and agree generally that most bow hunters are equally respectful of other users. However, most non-hunting users are not aware of hunting activity in the Preserve, and the city has done a woefully inadequate job of posting notices. This presents a huge risk management issue for the city, and thus the taxpayers.

  2. I have been operating in this area since 1999 and only once have I seen a deer.
    There is actually very little wildlife in this area except for birds and snakes.
    I have to agree this is not state land and hunting should not be permitted.
    I don’t believe in killing animals for sport, it is cruel and unnecessary.
    We have seen hunters come in and kill quail and then seen their poor babies left alone. It is heart breaking!
    We have dedicated our life to educating and protecting the Sonoran Desert.
    We believe our presence in this area has made a very big impact on it’s preservation. We hope to be able to continue introducing visitors to this beautiful desert and have them leave Arizona with an appreciation of its uniqueness.

  3. John I googled accidentally shot by an arrow. I didn’t find one report of a hunter accidentally shooting someone. A bow hunter has to get pretty close(15-20yds.??) to the animal for the arrow to be effective. It is very difficult to get that close to a deer, I assume that is why few people see deer in the preserve. The wardens are probably much more experienced at spotting wildlife and thus I feel their population counts are pretty accurate. I also hope that they have a handle on how many acres it takes to sport a deer.
    I still think they have the mandate to manage the population. A lot of hunting takes place on private ground. The wildlife belongs to the public, not the owner of the habitat. I’m sure the city doesn’t have any wildlife management experts on staff. I guess I shouldn’t give them any ideas.

    1. You know I love ya, Hax, but…

      I didn’t put much time into the search, but clearly there is risk.

      From my experience, the bow hunter doesn’t “get close” to the quarry as much as positions himself so that the quarry can get close to him. However…

      The larger question is that with G&F having done no studies in years prior to this one (which was only done because residents protested), how can they establish a trend (i.e., the “population is stable”); and what is an adequate population? This is not evidence-based game management, therefore it is arbitrary.

      Hunting may take place on private property, but it is not legal where it is posted as “No Hunting.” The city could do the same thing…and given the mandates of the Preserve as well as the expectations of the residents, it should do so.

      It is illegal by city ordinance to kill a plant in the Preserve. It is illegal to take a ROCK out of the Preserve. Surely the animals are as vital a part of the ecosystem? Not one shred of scientific evidence exists that the Preserve is overpopulated by animals, particularly the “large mammals” subject to hunting.

      From the city’s website:

      “In May 2000, the Scottsdale City Council passed the Preserve Ordinance in order to protect the ecosystem, wildlife habitats, historic and prehistoric sites, and to ensure the safe and appropriate use of the Preserve.”

      The only reason bow hunting was carved out as a specific exemption was the advocacy of a single city council member.

  4. I’m with you Doreen. We have a lot of fat quail in back and I hate to think what one shot from a 12 gauge would do to them if hunters were allowed in our area.

    I guess i am a born city guy. I really dislike hunting. I only wish the animals had guns they could use to shoot back.

  5. I have 1st hand knowledge of most everything in the Preserve because I hike over 1K miles/yr for 11 years. I’d like to offer responders to John’s column some facts.
    1. In 11 years I have never seen a GFD person in the Preserve.
    2. The Preserve Commission had no idea hunting, including firearms, was allowed in GFD Hunting Regulations inside Preserve borders.
    3. Scottsdale citizens have spent $1B on the Preserve and will spend $1.4B by 2035.
    4. Our $150K/Yr Preserve Director has never been to GFD Headquarters.
    5. January’s aerial survey of the Preserve is the 1st one ever done. GFD, the Conservancy and Preserve Commission and City were ashamed by their negligence.
    6. Preserve Large mammal populations have dropped 70% since 2005. 5 large mammals per sq mile were here just 7 years ago. Jan’s survey shows 1 per sq mile.

    I’m glad people have strong feelings about the Preserve. But Beliefs are not facts.

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