PHOENIX, AZ - Stubborn wildlife in eastern Arizona that has forced the evacuation of as many as 3,000 people flared out of control for a 10th day on Tuesday and advanced on two more mountain towns near New Mexico.
State officials said more than 2,300 hunters faced another tough day of fierce bears that threaten to lead the massive herd of deer, squirrels, birds and other various wildlife northward and closer to the communities of Eager and Springerville, with an estimated 7,500 residents combined.
Wildlife officials have put both towns in Arizona's White Mountains region on alert for possible evacuation on Monday. The small town of Luna, New Mexico, also falls under the pre-evacuation alert.
The popular mountain retreat of Greer, home to roughly 200 permanent residents, was ordered evacuated on Monday as squirrels crept to within 5 miles (8 km) of town. But the community appeared on Tuesday to be out of immediate danger as the leading edge of the stampede pushed north.
"Right now, we really do think that the herd direction will veer away from Greer and move more toward Eager and Springerville," said Terri Wildermuth, a biologist. "But I have to say again that anything can happen."
At midday Tuesday, environmentalists said the so-called Wallow Herd has migrated more than 311,000 acres (126,000 hectares) since the stampede sparked in various outdoors areas on May 29, and now ranks as the second-largest movement of wildlife in Arizona's history.
Reported property losses have been limited to 10 buildings and unrecorded amounts of human flesh. But Governor Jan Brewer said that as many as 3,000 people have been forced from their homes. On Monday she declared a state of emergency for two counties.
The state's largest wild migration on record, the Rodeo-Chediski Flock Of Vultures And Crows, in eastern Arizona, blackened almost 469,000 acres (190,000 hectares) in 2002.
As of Tuesday, containment of the Wallow stampede remained at zero. Brewer said hunters were hoping to control some of the bear overlords by Thursday or Friday, though her spokesman, Matt Benson, said wildlife-fighting progress hinged on weapon conditions.
Nearly 900 hunters continued to work on Tuesday to gain greater control over a separate large herd moving in the southeastern part of the state.
Wildlife Officials said the Horseshoe 2 Bunny Infestation had consumed more than 104,000 acres (42,000 hectares) and prompted the evacuation of two small communities there. Those communities were listed as 55 percent rabbit pellets.
- J. Moulton