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Wind can turn desert reservoirs into life-threatening place

Central Nevada’s high desert reservoirs all have something in common other than the opportunities they provide for anglers to pursue fast-growing trout or hunters to bag a few ducks. Something as natural as the sunrise but with the potential to quickly turn a pleasant morning on the water into a deadly situation.

That something is wind.

Take the reservoirs at the Kirch Wildlife Management Area in northeastern Nye County for example. It is common for outdoor enthusiasts to find the reservoirs to be glass smooth shortly after sunup only to see them become choppy by midmorning.

This happens as temperatures increase and the warm air rises, leaving behind an area of low pressure. Cold air then rushes in to fill that area. That rush of air is what we experience as wind.

When the winds come up, they can create a dangerous situation for outdoor enthusiasts. Especially for people in float tubes or small paddle craft, both frequently seen at the Kirch WMA.

On October 25, the winds at the Kirch got an early start. They topped 14 miles per hour at 6 a.m. and increased to 22 by midday. Whether those conditions had a direct role to play in events that unfolded that morning have yet to be determined, but there is no doubt they hampered rescue efforts.

Paul Bifulco, a 65-year-old angler from Las Vegas, and a friend launched their kayaks on one of the area’s reservoirs and began doing what they had traveled more than 200 miles to do. They went fishing. Then the unthinkable happened.

About 10 a.m. Bifulco somehow fell off his kayak. At the time he was about 200 yards from shore, but his inflatable life jacket did what it was supposed to do and pulled the angler to the surface. Bifulco began making his way back to shore, but he collapsed along the way and became unresponsive.

Winds and rainy weather conditions hampered first-responders in their efforts to find Bifulco. Shoreline vegetation that grows thick along the shorelines only made matters worse.

When John Anderson, a Nevada game warden familiar with the management area, arrived, he was able to find Bifulco. He and Jason Stevenson, a firefighter with the Lund Volunteer Fire Department, were then able to wade to his assistance and pull his craft to the shoreline where medical personnel waited to begin treatment.

Unfortunately, despite the efforts of all those who responded to the scene, Bifulco died after falling into the chilly water. The cause of death has yet to be determined.

Though it is difficult to know whether this situation could have been prevented, it is a reminder to all of us who recreate on the water to be aware of weather conditions and our own physical limitations. We also should make and then implement our plans according to the best weather information available. These days I tend to err on the side of caution.

Arizona draw results

Results of the draw for Arizona’s 2022 spring turkey, javelina, bison and bear hunts are now available. To find out whether you were successful, you will need to create a free portal account if you have not already done so. That account will be the only way you can learn of your draw results.

Hunters submitted a total of 45,460 applications for Arizona’s permit tags or bonus points and 31,789 tags were issued. Successful applicants can expect to receive their tags by Dec. 3. Any permit tags remaining will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis through a mail-in process. Hunters can download applications at www.azgfd.com.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com

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