Prescott Valley is valued for its open space, natural beauty and its wildlife. The wildlife are survivors of the harsh desert environment and lack of vegetation and water. They have adapted to their surroundings and continue to adapt to human invasion of their homes. If we want to live with them, we have to leave them to fend for themselves. Otherwise they will learn to expect and rely on us for food, becoming a nuisance and ultimately an animal to control or kill.|
Rule #1: Don't feed the animals, it's illegal!
Mountain Lion encounters are rare in Arizona, but mountain lions are large predators that can seriously injure or kill humans. Conflicts can occur when a mountain lion becomes too accustomed to the presence of people, often near where we live or recreate, and begins preying on livestock or other domestic animals. Urban sprawl results in shrinking mountain lion habitat and increases the number of conflicts between humans and mountain lions.
Coyote (Canis Latrans)
The Coyote is a native to North America and is sometimes called the American jackal by zoologists.
The average male weighs 18 to 44 lb and the average female 15 to 40 lb. It is highly flexible in social organization, living either in a family unit or in loosely knit packs of unrelated individuals. It has a varied diet consisting primarily of animal meat, including deer, rabbits, hares, rodents, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates, though it may also eat fruits and vegetables on occasion. Humans are the coyote's greatest threat, followed by cougars and gray wolves.
The Pronghorn Antelope is considered the second-fasted land mammal in the world second only to the Cheetah. Although a Cheetah can exceed the Pronghorn's top speed of about 60 miles per hour, it can't match the speed endurance of the Pronghorn which can sustain speeds of 30 to 40 miles an hour over extended distances. The tremendous speed of the antelope is a defense against its predators which includes coyotes and bobcats.
Pronghorns have "binocular-type" eyesight and can detect movement from miles away. When alarmed, their hair stands erect and appears as a white flash that can be seen for miles. An interesting fact about the Pronghorn is their hair is hollow and can be erected at will which is one reason that they can adjust to temperature changes. They shed continuously because individual hairs are loosely attached. This trait makes their hide rather useless as rugs.
Adult males can weigh between 90 to 120 pounds with females about 20 pounds lighter. Wild antelope generally have a life span of 6 to 8 years.
Javelina are ugly animals and possess an unpleasant odor which is why some people refer to them as "musk hogs". They aren't wild pigs but are actually members of the "peccary" family that originated in South America. They have become accustomed to being in close proximity to humans and will generally ignore people. If you try and approach them. they will simply leave the area, but if provoked and threatened they've been known to defend themselves with their long, sharp tusks.
When full grown they weigh between 35 to 60 pounds with males being slightly larger than females. Javelina become sexually mature at about 10 months of age and are capable of breeding at anytime of the year and can have two litters a year. Newborn Javelina weigh about one pound and attain colorization at three months.
Javelina are most active at night and exist on a diet of flowers, berries, prickly pear cactus and plant life. They have a keen sense of smell but have very poor eyesight. Their odor comes from a scent gland on their backs and other members of the herd will rub each others scent gland to identify Javelina from different herds. Aggressive displays will be made to intruding Javelina.
Raccoons are common in the central Arizona highlands. The river, streams, and ditches of the Verde Valley make this an extremely attractive habitat. Raccoons will make dens in attics, chimneys, under houses, in abandoned structures, and woodpiles. Their opportunistic nature draws them to urban environments. Once there, they can cause extensive damage to structures, crops, and landscapes. They can also harbor and transmit various diseases to other animals and humans.
Raccoons are protected under state law in Arizona. You must contact the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) before attempting to trap or kill one. If you decide to live trap one, you still should inform the AGFD prior to setting the trap. They will provide you with an appropriate release site. Again, the best way to deal with raccoons is to remove the attractants and/or exclude them from areas where they can do damage.
Raccoons carry several diseases that are transmissible to humans and domestic animals. Among these are rabies, distemper, mange, and canine and feline parvovirus. Raccoon feces may also contain roundworm eggs. Humans, especially children, that come into contact with feces that contain eggs can become infected. Clinical symptoms vary with the number of roundworm larvae present in the body and their location. If the larvae migrate to the eyes or brain, blindness or death may result.
Ringtail Cat (Bassariscus astutus)
Ringtail Cat, sometimes called the miner's cat, is actually a member of the raccoon family. The small, squirrel-sized ringtail is Arizona's state mammal. Though fairly common at Saguaro National Park, they are secretive and rarely show themselves. They live in rocky canyons and den in caves, rocky crevices, hollow trees, and sometimes buildings. They are great leapers and climbers and use their long, banded tails for balance. They also have semi-retractable claws and can climb headfirst down cliffs and trees.
Wild Turkey are hunted as a big game species in Arizona and these hunts are regulated by the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD). Wild turkey management is often done in partnership with AGFD working in partnerships with locally-based conservation groups such as the National Wild Turkey Federation along with land management agencies.
We often see skunks in the summer months and they can negatively impact humans, pets, and poultry. Skunks are Mustelids (members of the weasel family) and well adapted to both wild and civilized settings. All have scent glands which secrete musk giving them a highly effective defense mechanism. The largest and most common Arizona skunk species is the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis). Striped skunks always have a thin white stripe on the face and the striping pattern can vary between individuals and populations. Striped skunks live almost everywhere but the most extreme deserts. Striped skunks prefer riparian habitats, are active throughout the year and do not hibernate even in northern Arizona; the males instead form communal dens with several females.
Skunks are more or less omnivorous and nocturnal. They feed on grasshoppers and other insects, grubs, worms, mice, young rabbits, lizards, bulbs, carrion, and garbage. Some individuals even take to raiding hen houses, taking not only the eggs, but chickens as well. However, they do not normally climb fences. All skunks produce from two to four young in April or May and the offspring are on their own by early fall. Few skunks live more than a year or two.
Skunks can become a nuisance in urban and suburban areas. The best long-term solution to managing skunk problems is prevention. Areas that are kept clean are less attractive to skunks. Remove all sources of debris from the yard where skunks could find shelter or food (rocks, junk, stacked lumber, brush piles, etc.). Pet food should not be left outside. It is best stored in a container that excludes rodents and insects. Seal holes in building foundations with hardware cloth. Where skunk activity is extreme, hardware cloth should be buried 12 to 18 inches underground.
Skunks are wild animals and, under most circumstances, should be left to themselves. Occasionally, they can become a nuisance warranting management action. Nuisance skunks are most often live trapped and relocated or euthanized. This is most often done by a Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator. Homeowners can also live trap skunks, but they may get more than they bargained for. Before taking any action, it is best for private citizens to consult their local Animal Control Officer.
Skunks are also highly susceptible to rabies infection. Early stages of a rabies infection may not have observable symptoms. However, in the final stages of the disease, skunks may seem tame or listless, show signs of excessive salivation, become unusually aggressive or nervous, wander about during the daytime, and show little fear of humans. People should avoid skunks that are displaying these symptoms and report them to local animal control or other law enforcement authorities.
When encountered, give skunks a wide berth. Fresh skunk scent is very unpleasant and difficult to remove.
Desert Cottontail Rabbit
The Desert Cottontail mainly eats forbs and grass, which constitutes 80% of its diet. It also eats many other plants, even including cacti. They also feed on the leaves and peas of mesquite, barks, fallen fruit, the juicy pads of prickly pear and twigs of shrubs. It rarely needs to drink, getting its water mostly from the plants it eats or from dew. Due to seasonality and changes in moisture conditions of their habitat, cottontails adjust their diets based on many influential factors that impact the seasonal changes of vegetation (i.e. moisture content, abundance, nutrition value, etc.). Like most lagomorphs, it is coprophagic, re-ingesting and chewing its own feces to extract the nutrients as effectively as possible.
The desert cottontail, like all cottontails, eats on all fours. It can only use its nose to move and adjust the position of the food that it places directly in front of its front paws on the ground. The cottontail turns the food with its nose to find the cleanest part of the vegetation (free of sand and inedible parts) to begin its meal. The only time a cottontail uses its front paws to enable eating is when vegetation is above its head on a living plant. The cottontail then lifts a paw to bend the branch and bring the food within reach.
Many desert animals prey on cottontails, including birds of prey, mustelids, the coyote, the bobcat, the lynx, wolves, mountain lions, snakes, weasels, humans, and even squirrels, should a cottontail be injured or docile from illness.
Arizona's Venomous Snakes
In spite of its reputation, the tarantula is a relatively docile creature. Some find them beautiful and fascinating spiders and even make them pets. Others are frozen with fear at the mere sight of one. You would really have to harass a tarantula to provoke it to bite. Its venom is weak making its bite harmless to people. So there is not much to fear of this hairy arachnid.
Worldwide, there are hundreds of tarantula species and some can have some pretty potent, deadly venom, but the Arizona tarantula which is also known as the "desert tarantula", "western tarantula" and "Arizona blonde tarantula", is mostly harmless to humans. Now if you were a scorpion or a cockroach, you may have reason for concern because its venomous bite will overcome most insects and some small rodents.
Arizona Bark Scorpion
Arizona bark scorpions have a gestation period of several months, are born live, and are gently guided onto their mother's back. The female usually gives birth to anywhere from 25 to 35 young. These remain with their mother until their first molt, which can be up to 3 weeks after birth. Arizona bark scorpions may live up to 6 years.
While nearly all scorpions are solitary, the Arizona bark scorpion is a rare exception: during winter, packs of 20 to 30 scorpions can congregate.
Bark scorpions, like most other scorpions, are incredibly resilient. During US nuclear testing, scorpions, along with cockroaches and lizards, were found near ground zero with no recorded adverse effects.
The bark scorpion is particularly well adapted to the desert: layers of wax on its exoskeleton make it resistant to water loss. Nevertheless, bark scorpions hide during the heat of the day, typically under rocks, wood piles, or tree bark. Bark scorpions do not burrow, and are commonly found in homes, requiring only 1/16 of an inch for entry.
Arizona bark scorpions prefer riparian areas with mesquite, cottonwood, and sycamore groves, all of which have sufficient moisture and humidity to support insects and other prey species. The popularity of irrigated lawns, and other systems which increase environmental humidity in residential areas, has led to a massive increase in the number of these animals in some areas.
Centruroides scorpions are unusual in that they are the only genus in the southwest that can climb walls, trees, and other objects with a sufficiently rough surface. Bark scorpions practice negative geotaxis, preferring an upside down orientation, which often results in people being stung due to the scorpion being on the underside of an object.
The bark scorpion is the most venomous scorpion in North America, and its venom can cause severe pain (coupled with numbness, tingling, and vomiting) in adult humans, typically lasting between 24 and 72 hours. Temporary dysfunction in the area stung is common; e.g. a hand or possibly arm can be immobilized or experience convulsions. It also may cause loss of breath for a short time. Due to the extreme pain induced, many victims describe sensations of electrical jolts after envenomation.
Fatalities from scorpion envenomation in the USA are rare and are limited to small animals (including small pets), small children, the elderly, and adults with compromised immune systems. Extreme reaction to the venom is indicated by numbness, frothing at the mouth, paralysis, and a neuromotor syndrome that may be confused with a seizure and that may make breathing difficult, particularly for small children. Two recorded fatalities have occurred in the state of Arizona since 1968; the number of victims stung each year in Arizona is estimated to be in the thousands. In Mexico, more than 100,000 people are stung annually, and during a peak period in the 1980s, the bark scorpion claimed up to 800 lives there.
Giant Desert Centipede (Scolopendra heros)
Giant Desert Centipede can grow up to 8 inches long. The body is usually orange to yellowish-tan, often with alternating black, and the head and tail segments are black. The common desert centipede (Scolopendra polymorpha) is 4 to 5 inches long, and brown to tan. Centipedes have a flattened, segmented body with one pair of legs per segment. If the centipede is not moving, it can be hard to distinguish the back end from the front end because both have antenna-like appendages. But, just under the head are powerful pincers (gnathopods) which can deliver a very painful pinch and venom. The venom is not harmful to humans, but don't try to pick up a centipede.
Centipedes are fast-moving predators that feed upon any small animal they can catch, primarily insects, but they are known to take other arthropods, lizards, and also small rodents. Centipedes usually hunt at night, but may be out in the daytime during the rainy season. Female centipedes will guard their eggs until they hatch. The centipede usually prefers slightly damp micro-habitats beneath rocks or in debris such as dead saguaros. Despite the name "centipede" Scolopendra usually have 42 legs. The number of legs depends on the species.