Ranking among the top five states in the nation for most native wildlife species, Arizona has an abundance of animal diversity. Native Arizonans are no strangers to the occasional coyote wandering the neighborhood.
Although it can be thrilling to see a wild animal from a distance, it can cause problems once that animal is getting too close to your pets or finding shade around or inside your home. A scattered frantic response could lead to dire consequences.
On Monday, a San Manuel homeowner came home to find a bobcat lounging on the dog bed in his home; the critter was suspected to have entered through an unlocked doggy door. The man immediately called the Arizona Game and Fish Department, got his other pets into bedrooms and closed the doors, and opened all doors leading outside so the bobcat could easily leave the home.
Mark Hart, a spokesperson for the Tucson Arizona Game and Fish Department, said this was a textbook response of how to respond to this “kind of unusual” scenario.
Before the department arrived, the bobcat had escaped through one of the open doors. The homeowner, although shaken up, was safe, as were his pets.
Wild animal in your home? Call Arizona Game and Fish Dept.
Although unusual, Hart said dangerous animals such as bobcats and bears have been reported being in or near homes before.
“If you live in any area that’s got some wildland interface by way of wash, something like that could happen,” Hart said. “You need to be aware.”
Hart recommended that, generally, if you see a wild animal in your house or your neighbor’s yard, it’s a good practice to immediately call the Arizona Game and Fish Department Dispatch number 623 236-7201 to report what you saw and get quick advice on what to do.
If you come home to a dangerous animal in your home, Hart said, “just get out and call us and we’ll respond immediately. We classify that as an immediate threat.”
If you happen to spot an animal outside of your home, deterring the animal is the best response. Hart recommended making a lot of noise by clapping hands or shaking items as most wildlife is scared off by loud noise.
Hart also mentioned the threat of animals getting too comfortable in urban spaces.
“Above all, you don’t want wildlife to get habituated to the presence of people. That becomes an increasingly risky proposition because the more comfortable they are, the closer they’re going to get and the more likely you are to be injured,” Hart said.
From a rattlesnake on your porch to a bobcat in your dog bed, here are further recommendations from The Arizona Game and Fish Department for what to do if you come face to face with an Arizona critter.
Mountain lions can be dangerous in residential areas
With a 40-foot leap and an up-to-8-foot-long tail, mountain lions are a big game animal to be aware of all throughout Arizona, especially in rocky or mountainous terrain. Mountain lions are usually shy creatures, but with urban sprawl, there is a higher potential for them to look for food, shelter and water in your neighborhood.
Mountain lions tend to avoid developed areas but are a serious danger if found in a residential area. Children, pets and livestock are most at risk, according to the department.
- Do not approach. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation.
- Maintain eye contact and slowly back away toward a building, vehicle or busy area.
- Give them a way to escape and stay calm.
- Do not run from a mountain lion. Running may stimulate a mountain lion’s instinct to chase. Stand and face the mountain lion. Speak loudly and firmly.
- Appear larger by raising your arms. Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly. The idea is to convince the mountain lion that you are not easy prey and that you may be a danger to it.
- Protect small children so they won’t panic and run.
- Fight back if attacked. Many potential victims have fought back successfully with rocks, sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools, their bare hands, and even mountain bikes. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the animal.
- Call Arizona Game and Fish Department Dispatch number 623 236-7201 to report sightings.
Bobcats can be a threat to your smaller pets
Although very similar to mountain lions, bobcats tend to be much smaller in size, only weighing up to 30 pounds. Bobcats are much less dangerous and rarely attack humans, but can be a threat to domestic birds, rabbits and other small pets. These animals, which look like big house cats, may be attracted to your home as they search for shade and water.
If you see a bobcat, there is no need to panic. Your main concern should be your small pets. If this worry doesn’t apply to you, the department says you may allow a bobcat to share your yard. However, it is always best to keep wildlife wild. If you have small pets, keep them indoors or in an enclosed area with a roof when outdoors to keep them protected.
- Scare the bobcat off with loud noises or spray with a garden hose.
- If the animal is confined, open a gate and allow it to leave on its own. If it is still confined the following day, or trapped inside a residence, contact a wildlife control business or the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
- Check for kittens in the area, and if kittens are there, then consider tolerating them for a few weeks until the kittens are large enough to leave the area with their mother.
- Report the sighting to The Arizona Game and Fish Department Dispatch number, 623 236-7201
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How to scare coyotes away: Make as much noise as possible
One of the most common wildlife sightings in urban and rural areas are coyotes who are often found at night or around sunrise. They can be napping under your backyard tree or running across a main street. The Arizona Game and Fish Department does not respond to calls to relocate or remove coyotes unless they are a public safety concern. Those needing assistance relocating wildlife should contact a licensed wildlife removal business.
Coyotes are curious, clever and adaptable, and will take advantage of any food, water or shelter source. Yards with abundant fruit on the ground, pet food, unsecured garbage cans or unattended pets such as small dogs and cats are often easy food sources for coyotes. Coyotes may consider larger or loud dogs to be a threat to their territory and can become aggressive toward them.
- Make loud noises, but do not turn and run away; the coyote may view it as an opportunity to chase.
- Keep eye contact.
- Shout and bang pots and pans or rattle an empty soda can with pebbles in it.
- Wave your hands or objects like sticks and brooms.
- Throw small stones or cans.
- Spray the coyote with a hose.
- Use a commercial repellent like mace, if necessary, on bold animals that refuse to leave.
- Move toward other people, a building, or an area with activity.
- If a coyote is approaching a person or has bitten a person, seek medical attention by calling 911. Report the sighting to the Arizona Game and Fish Department Dispatch number, 623 236-7201.
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If you see a rattlesnake, remember, it’s as scared as you are
In the Southwestern region of the U.S., there are 15 species of rattlesnakes. The most often encountered are the Western diamondback, Western, Mojave, black-tailed and sidewinder, all of which have rattles on their tails that may vibrate when nervous. Rattlesnakes are most active during daylight hours from March through October and can be commonly found in neighborhoods or on hiking trails.
If you encounter a rattlesnake, keep in mind it is as afraid as you are and will be on alert. Move slowly and deliberately when close to a rattlesnake and back away to a safe distance. Usually, the snake will either hold its ground or move away from you. The rattlesnake will not chase you. If the snake moves toward you, back away. Pets should be restrained until the snake moves on.
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If you see a rattlesnake in your yard, here is what is recommended to do:
- Watch the snake. Most likely it’s just passing through, and you will not see it again.
- Call your local fire department. Some departments remove rattlesnakes.
- Call a private enterprise. Some specialize in the removal of animals but do charge for their service. People not wishing harm to the snake should encourage removal to a short distance away from the house, or just over the fence.
What to do if a rattlesnake bite occurs:
- Remain calm and reassure the victim.
- Remove all jewelry, watches, etc. from the affected area.
- Immobilize extremities and keep them at a level below the heart.
- Decrease total body activity as much as possible.
- Move the victim to a medical facility without delay.
- Do not apply ice to the bite area, use an incision of any kind, use a constriction band or tourniquet, administer alcohol or drugs, or use electric shock treatment.