Family field experiences provided by the Arizona Game and Fish Department

New Service Event: Salt Cedar Removal

Well, it is short notice, and it may not appear to be the most exciting opportunity (at least compared to baby eagles), but we do have another event for the Nature’s Classroom Homeschool Program. It will still be fun, and we could use your help.


Salt Cedar Removal


What: We will be walking the river bed (although there might not be water in it), removing large amounts of the highly invasive salt cedar. This plant outcompetes many of our native plants (like cottonwood). It grows very quickly. In addition, it is highly flammable and is much of what burned during last summer’s Ethan Fire near PIR. We want to try to control this plant as much as possible. While out in the field, you will learn a little bit about the property owned by the Arizona Game and Fish Department as well as this invasive species. In addition, the chance of seeing birds and some other wildlife is pretty good. As a bonus, we will actually be using the plants we remove. The larger branches will be cleaned and bundled and used for an art activity at the upcoming Tres Rios Nature Festival. Festival visitors will be able to make their own walking sticks out of the salt cedar that we will remove. Please be advised that we will not actually be making the walking sticks during this event, just preparing them for use at the festival.


When: Thursday, February 19, 2009 from 8:30am until noon.


Where: Robbin’s Butte Wildlife Area off Highway 85 near Buckeye, AZ


Who: All ages are welcome, young children will be the responsibility of the parents. Participants should expect to be outdoors the entire time. Terrain will be somewhat rocky desert, with all of the dangers (things that bite, sting, and poke) that come with it. Participants will be cutting down branches and carrying to the trailer, and should be capable of doing these activities to some degree.


Miscellaneous Info: Participants are asked to bring gloves and sturdy boots. In addition, if you have your own loppers to cut down branches, that is greatly preferred. Space is somewhat limited for this activity so registration does not guarantee participation. Everyone who registers will be notified prior to the event. More specific details will be provided to those accepted to participate.


Registration Information: To register for this event, complete and submit the form available at

Join Us at the Outdoor Expo

Outdoor ExpoThe annual Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Outdoor Expo will be taking place at the end of March. Like last year, we are hosting a Youth Day to take place the day before the Expo opens to the general public. All Homeschool families are encouraged to participate. Here is some additional information:

Youth Day will provide hands-on educational activities that involve outdoor recreation and environmental education. These will include live wildlife demonstrations, wilderness safety course, sportfishing catch and release tank, educational talks and demonstrations, and so much more.

Youth Day will be taking place on Friday, March 27 from 9am to 2pm. It will be held at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility, 4044 W. Black Canyon Blvd, Phoenix, AZ 85086. The admission is FREE.

In order to best accommodate all of the people who will attend, we are asking that you RSVP for the event. To register, visit

After registering, you will receive detailed directions, parking information, and suggestions for pre and post activities. For more information, please contact Kellie Tharp at 623-236-7238 or [email protected].

Turtle Trapping Registration Now CLOSED

Well, the response to the turtle trapping has been HUGE. In less than 24 hours, we have more than 50 families that have registered. Because of that fact, I am going to close registration.

It may be necessary to reopen registration in a few days or weeks. I will be spending some time putting people into positions and time frames. If I find it necessary to open it to fill some positions, then I will do so at that time.

For those of you that did register, you will hear from me in the coming weeks. I will let you know whether or not you have been accepted, what time you will be going, and what your position will be.


Turtle Trapping Registration Open

The Nature’s Classroom Homeschool Program is approaching its one-year anniversary. To celebrate, we have decided to incorporate another component into the program: service. We will be providing you, as a Homeschool community, some unique opportunities to give back to wildlife. Some of these will be specific events, while others will be tied in with the regular educational events.

Our first Service opportunity is now accepting registrations. Here are the details:

The entrance pond at the Phoenix Zoo has many turtles. Most of these are invasive species that can cause problems for our native wildlife and habitats. So, we will be assisting with an annual event in which we remove some of these invasive turtles and give them to an organization to adopt them out. This will insure that these turtles do not overpopulate the pond and attempt to establish territories in neighboring areas.

On April 17, we will be trapping turtles in the front pond at the Phoenix Zoo and we need your help. This opportunity is available to anyone 6 years old and above. Participants will be placed in one of four positions based on age and need. These four positions are:

  • Boats – places traps in the water from the boat. Navigates the boat with oars. Must be 18 years old or 16 with a parent in the boat as well.
  • Identification – helps at the turtle processing station with identification, weighing, measuring, marking, and placing the turtles in appropriate bins. Ages 6 and older.
  • Runner – bring turtles and materials back and forth between the boats and the processing station. May fill in other positions as needed. Ages 6 and older.
  • Outreach – approaches the public as they are on the bridge. Talk about what we are doing and why. Ages 6 and older.

When you register, you will be asked to select the positions you would not feel comfortable assisting with and which would be your preferred choices. I cannot guarantee your preferences. We will fill the positions as space permits. We have LOTS of room for outreach so your best chance of participating is to at least be willing to assist with this part.

There are three different times available to participate in this event. You can sign up for one, two, or all three. The times for the trapping programs will be 8-10am, 12-2pm, and 4-6pm. Please be advised that the start times for these are certain. It is possible that the ending times could be extended if lots of turtles were being trapped.

All participants of the turtle trapping, are required to attend an orientation session at the Arizona Game and Fish Headquarters in north Phoenix on Wednesday, April 1, from 9am until 11am.

Although the main purpose of this event is to provide a service for the wildlife, we are still including a special reward for your efforts. All participants will be able to receive free admission to the Phoenix Zoo for that day. In addition, you will have the opportunity to get an up close and personal tour of the Galapagos tortoise exhibit at the zoo. This tour will only be available at set times (most likely around noon and around 2pm). Again, this tour will only be available to those who participate.

To register for this event, click here. Please be advised that registering does not guarantee participation. It will be based on a first-come, first-serve basis as positions are filled.

Turkey Release Postponed – Registration Open Again

So it goes with wildlife, there has been a slight complication with the turkey release that was going to take place this weekend: the turkeys aren’t there any more!

Apparently, they have stopped visiting the bait site. Therefore, we cannot catch and release turkeys this weekend. Biologists will be setting up a couple more bait sites, in new locations, to plan for a catch in mid-February.

So what does this mean for you?

Well, if you already submitted a registration for the release this weekend, you will remain in the system. You do not need to do anything additional at this time. If you did not submit a registration because you could not make it this weekend but are still interested in participating, you can register now. I will continue taking registrations for the next few weeks or until the projected spots are filled. Once a date is determined, those people that have registered will be provided more information. At that time, if the day does not work for you, we can substitute other people on the waiting list.

This will probably be the last turkey release program offered for a while. We tend to trap them in the winter and I don’t think any more are planned after this.

Click here to register.

Nature’s Classroom Highlighted in Magazine

The Nature’s Classroom Homeschool Program was recently featured in an article in the January/February issue of the Arizona Wildlife Views, the Department’s full-color magazine. Limited copies of this issue are being distributed at some of the Nature’s Classroom events. For more information about subscribing to this magazine, click here. It is cheap (only like $8 for the year). It has great articles. They even allow me to put an education section in the back.

REGISTRATION OPEN – Turkey Release Sunday Morning

I know it is not the best day. However, when you deal with wildlife, you often don’t have a choice. So, I will offer this and hopefully we will see some of you out there.

Here are the details as I know them:

  • Weather-permitting, on Saturday, biologists will be trapping turkeys in eastern Arizona. If they are successful, those turkeys will be brought to Mingus Mountain, near Prescott to be released Sunday morning.
  • So, Sunday morning, we are allowing registered Homeschool families to come out and join us for the release. We will likely be meeting in the Prescott area (most likely Chino Valley) around 8am. If all goes well, we should be completed between 10am and 11am. Some flexibility will be required, however. Delays and changes often occur.
  • You will have the opportunity to see the turkeys up close and talk to the biologists about turkey natural history and the release program. You should also have the chance to “lift the gate” and release one of the turkeys.
  • All ages are welcome to attend. If any participant needs special travel accommodations (i.e., car seats, etc.), you will need to plan to use your own vehicle. It is likely that high-clearance (and maybe even 4-wheel drive) vehicles will be required for part of the journey. So, if you have one of these and would be willing to drive (and maybe take some others along with you), that would be great.
  • A certain amount of waling may be required.
  • Space for this event is somewhat limited and registration is required. After registering, you will receive additional information about meeting location, as well as some further educational resources.

How to Register:

  • Complete the online registration form at: Turkey Release Registration  
  • Registration will be  open until Thursday at noon unless all spots have been filled.

Please note: There is a possibility that this event will NOT take place. If the turkeys do not cooperate and cannot be captured, then we will have no birds to release. Therefore, all accepted participants will be notified by phone sometime Saturday. Therefore, it is best to provide numbers that I can reach you at in the afternoon and evening of Saturday.

REGISTRATION OPEN – Wednesday morning turkey release

Well, the stars have aligned…not only did the Cardinals win, but we are able to open up registration for a last minute Nature’s Classroom Program.

So, here are the details:

  • Department biologists will be attempting to capture turkeys near Heber on Tuesday. If they are successful, then we will be bringing a few Homeschool families out to the release site along the Verde River Wednesday morning.
  • We will be meeting in Chino Valley (somewhat near Prescott) at 8am on Wednesday morning. If you are accepted to participate more specific details will follow. It will likely last about two hours, including driving time from the meeting location to the release location. However, plan some flexibility in this time because of the nature of the event.
  • All ages are welcome to attend. If any participant needs special travel accomodations (i.e., car seats, etc.), you will need to plan to use your own vehicle.
  • There are approximately 10 spaces available. Registration information is below. I will contact people as soon as I can. A small waiting list will be created as well, for last minute cancellations.
  • Although I will try to arrange vehicle travel, at this late notice, that might be difficult. So, if you have a high-clearance vehicle and don’t mind using it for this event, that would be great.

How to Register:

Please note: There is a possibility that this event will NOT take place. If the turkeys do not cooperate and cannot be captured, then we will have no birds to release. Therefore, all accepted participants will be notified by phone sometime Tuesday. Therefore, it is best to provide numbers that I can reach you at in the afternoon and evening of Tuesday. If you are on the waiting list, there is a possibility that a call could come later Tuesday evening or early Wednesday morning. Therefore, it is important to be specific on the times you are comfortable receiving a phone call.

Event Updates

Well, I received an email earlier today that seems to indicate that the turkey release may actually take place on Tuesday or Wednesday. Much of it is weather dependent in the area where the turkeys are being captured. I cannot provide any more information right now. I am waiting to get a few more details. I expect to hear some more by the middle of tomorrow. Hopefully, I will be able to post some more information at that time.

In the meantime, I have updated the calendar with some a few of the upcoming programs. Most of these are still in the planning phases so the dates are tentative. I basically provided a range of dates that the events would take place. That way, you could get an idea if the event would even work with your schedule. This is a sneak peek and only those who check the blog will know about this right now.

If you want to check out what is going to be happening, click on the Events tab at the top of this page and check out the calendar. There is new stuff posted in January, February, and March.

FYI…these are not all of the events I am working on. There are at least two more, but I am not confident on the dates yet so I didn’t want to post them. It looks, however, that it is going to be an exciting few months.

Just a reminder that I still have some spots available for the Pronghorn capture on February 11. I understand that the age restriction of 18 or older significantly reduces the number of people that can participate. However, if you know any kids in college or maybe even some seniors in high school, it may be an option for them. For more information, check out the post from a couple of days ago about the pronghorn capture or select the tag to the right labeled “pronghorn”.

Stay tuned for more information.

Turkey Update

Many of you should have received the email yesterday afternoon stating that I had heard of a possible last minute opportunity that might take place next week involving a turkey relocation.

I just wanted to update you very quickly. As of right now, there has been no word about the event yet. If I had to guess, I would think that it will NOT be taking place. However, if I hear something else in the next day or so, this will be the first place I will post it, since I won’t be back in the office until Tuesday to deal with emails.

Even if the event does not go this week, don’t worry. I am currently working with the same turkey biologists to do an event at the end of January or the beginning of February. Details should come on that event very shortly.

Thanks for your patience and your interest in participating.