MAY 26, 2010
Snakes, scorpions and javelina – Oh My! It's that time of year
Loving life in the desert, for most residents, is innate. The majestic scenery and flood of everlasting sunshine make this corner of our state conducive to a variety of outdoor activities.
However, all this beauty is not without its dangers. Every environment has potential pitfalls and the desert is certainly not exception. We’ve moved into the neighborhood of a considerable number and variety of predators: rattlesnakes, hawks, owls, coyotes, javelina, mountain lions, and a bobcat or two.
With their food sources compromised they find themselves challenged in finding sources of food, so these desert dwellers watch from the outskirts of human habitation and follow us on our walks, methodically stalking our pets.
Local residents often insist on feeding the wildlife. Over time, this leads to the decrease of their fear of humans. Our homes and yards become sanctuaries for them, providing a continual source of food. What began with wild animals attacking and eating smaller dogs and cats has now escalated to an all-out pet alert. We have seen a seventy pound Labrador fall victim to a coyote attack. Owls and hawks can reportedly carry off dogs up to 30 pounds and certainly, no cat is safe from these raptors.
One of the most threatening and feared dangers in the desert is the rattlesnake. Bites are typically more frequent in spring and fall, but can occur throughout the entire year. Snakes attempt to avoid confrontation whenever possible, but if a dog should push its luck or become too curious, snake are never afraid to take care of business. The bites generally are not fatal if treated appropriately; however, the aftermath of the venom can cause significant discomfort.
The summer monsoon rains bring out yet another of our desert dwellers – the bufo, or Colorado River toads. These toads live in the soil and have poison glands behind their ears. Within thirty minutes of ingesting this toxin, dogs can exhibit such signs as hyper salivation, disorientation, and even death.
The desert is also home to Gila monsters, black widows, tarantulas, cone-nose bugs, and scorpions, each of which can pose a threat to our pet population.
Encounters with our local wildlife may be unavoidable; however, there are preventive measures pet owners should take to help keep their family members safe. Having your dogs snake-trained, not feeding indigenous predators and not leaving a pet unattended outside are a few measures that should be taken.
To read more about desert dangers and view pictures of pet bites visit www.ahsvet.com and search bite club.