APRIL 22, 2011

Urban wildlife is more active this time of year

Human-wildlife conflicts can occur

PHOENIX — You may be more likely to see a coyote or bobcat in your neighborhood these days, but that is not unusual for this time of year, say biologists with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Warming spring temperatures and the tail end of the breeding season for many wildlife species make them more active and likely to be seen.

“If you see an animal such as a coyote, bobcat or javelina near your home, there’s no need to panic, but it’s a good idea to keep your distance and be observant of the animal’s behavior,” says Darren Julian, urban wildlife specialist with Game and Fish.

Wildlife aggression and attacks on humans aren’t common, but they can happen.

A two-year-old girl was nipped by a coyote in Cave Creek Park in Phoenix last Friday evening as she was sitting in a sandy area of the playground with several other children.
The parents and other nearby adults chased the coyote away. The girl was not seriously hurt, but she did undergo precautionary shots for potential rabies exposure.

Game and Fish removed six coyotes from the nearby area and submitted them for rabies testing. Test results are pending.

“When wild animals come into neighborhoods, they are usually looking for food, water or shelter,” says Julian. “If you make it hard for the animals to find these things, they are less likely to hang around your house or neighborhood.”

Coyotes in particular are very resilient and adaptable, and they can become used to being around areas of human activity, particularly neighborhoods near urban-wildland interfaces, or even parks and golf courses.

“Keep in mind that these are wild animals, and their behavior can be unpredictable,” says Julian. “They typically don’t show aggression toward humans, but if you feed them or make them feel welcome in your area, that can raise the chance of a human-wildlife conflict.”

Here are some things you can do to lessen the chance of a wildlife encounter on your property:
Do not feed wildlife under any circumstances. (In Maricopa and Pima counties, it is against the law to feed wildlife other than birds and tree squirrels)
Remove wildlife attractants, such as dog food and water bowls, from around your home.
Make possible den sites or shelters unavailable by blocking them with fencing or other devices.
Keep small household pets indoors.
Let the animal know it’s not welcome by making it uncomfortable. You can do this by shouting at the animal, banging pots and pans together, spraying it with a hose from a distance, or by illuminating the area at night.

Rabies is another reason wildlife may show aggression toward humans. The disease is rarely seen in Maricopa County, but can occur in any mammal. Signs of rabies include staggering, foaming at the mouth, and lethargic or hyperactive behavior.

If a wild animal will not leave your property after you repeatedly try to frighten it away, or if it is showing signs of aggressive or unusual behavior, call the Arizona Game and Fish Department at (602) 942-3000. 

For more information on living with urban wildlife, visit the Game and Fish Department website at www.azgfd.gov/urbanwildlife.