Ex-Coach Now Nurturing Wild Wolves

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A recent phone conversation with former Payson High School teacher and coach Bruce Sitko reveals he's highly involved in the controversial Mexican gray wolves reintroduction program going on in eastern Arizona, north of Clifton.

Now the information and education program manager at the Pinetop office of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Sitko is responsible for compiling updates on the status of the wolves.

He says he and other game department employees realize there are many in the area, mostly ranchers, who are not in favor of the program because it could "impact how they do their business."

Some there believe if the program is successful, the wolves might someday prey on cattle.

Sitko says he all-too-well understands the concerns of the local citizens, but believes the majority of the people in the state favor the reintroduction process that would restore an animal "that has been lost to our eco-system."

Some have threatened to harm the wolves, but most in the tiny community of Alpine have been very cooperative even through they might not favor the project.

The only wolf that was born in the wilds -- and thus not outfitted with a radio collar -- apparently died after its mother was shot and killed.

Currently there are only two free-ranging wolves in the project. The pair, male and female, have remained together since their release in December of 1998.

Other wolves are being kept in acclimation pens and will be released in future months.

Sitko describes his work as both intriguing and rewarding.

Kile takes 10th
Punkin Center angler Mark Kile shared $550 in prize money with partner Rob Vanderkool after finishing 10th at the AllStar Bass Team Invitational held Saturday at Roosevelt Lake. The team of Raymond Earven of Globe and Claypool's Willard Galloway won the tournament and $3,900 in prize money. Their catch, a six-fish limit, weighed in at 18.85 pounds and included the tournament's second largest fish -- a 5.46-pound large mouth.

The biggest bass, one weighing 5.79 pounds, was caught by Mart Butz of Apache Junction.

Many of those who had success in the tournament fished homemade spoons and jigs vertically in 30 to 50 feet of water near the dam.

Others pitched Berkley Power Worms to stick-ups and cranked flats in up to 12 feet of water in the area around Grapevine Point.

Rabbit Island and Windy Hill were also popular fishing locations for the contestants.

The 110 teams that participated weighed in 574 bass.

Golf
The Payson Men's Golf Association is now open to new members. The membership fee is $50 per year. Registration forms may be picked up at the Payson Golf Course.

Tennis
From 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday on the Rumsey Park courts, the Payson Tennis Club and Town of Payson Parks and Recreation Department will be sponsoring a benefit tennis social. The fray will include competitive and/or social mixed doubles. Teams will be assigned prior to play and players rotate each set.

Free racquets and lessons will be provided for aspiring players under 16 years of age. Hot dogs and drinks will be provided between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Adults will be asked for $10 donations. Children are free. All funds raised will go to purchase benches for the Rumsey Park courts.

Call Rob Ingram at 474-4849 or Diane Jackson at 474-0583 for more information.

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