Tips when encountering wildlife in the city

Taken by Jasmine Doucette while driving in Acacia Crossings.

 Wildlife encounters in suburban Maricopa neighborhoods are common.

In the summer months, coyotes and snakes have been spotted a little too close to home by residents.

Jasmine Doucette has seen coyotes near her Maricopa home. The sightings have prompted her to never leave her cat and dog unattended outside for the fear they could become coyote fodder.

Predatory animal attacks in Arizona are rare, said Darren Julian, Urban Wildlife Specialist with Arizona Game and Fish.

There is an average of one coyote bite per year in the Phoenix area since 1997, Julian said, a miniscule number compared to bites from domestic dogs.

“Maricopa County Animal Care and Control reports probably around 5,000 domestic dog bites on people a year,” Julian said.

Despite the unlikelihood of a coyote attack, Julian said the small carnivore does make up the largest amount of phone calls the Game & Fish Department receives regarding encounters of wild animals.

To prevent a coyote encounter near your home and to keep pets safe, Julian recommends:

1.       Not leaving food sources outside (including pet food and pets themselves)

2.       Keeping a watchful eye on pets when they are outside

3.       Providing a sheltered dog run for pets who spend majority of their time outside unsupervised.

Though she’s cautious with her pets, coyote recent sightings don’t breed fear for Doucette’s personal safety, however.

“Honestly it doesn’t concern me. I grew up in the desert, so I’m kind of used to all of the desert animals,” she said.

There are steps to take if you encounter a wild animal behaving aggressively:

1.       Don’t run from it. “You’re not going to outrun a coyote,” Julian said. Coyotes can run 40 mph for up to 5 minutes.

2.       Make yourself appear large. Stand tall. Make eye contact. “You want to let them know you are a potential threat to them,” Julian said.

3.       Fight back, don’t play dead.

4.       Make low, loud tones. “High pitched tones can also invoke that wounded prey sound and can get their instincts even more heightened,” Julian said.

5.       Get to a safe location.

6.       If hurt, call 911. If not an emergency, call Arizona Game and Fish Dispatch at 623-236-7201.

Julian said although coyote attacks are rare, human death as a result of one is even less likely.

“There has never been a fatal coyote attack in Arizona,” he said, adding there have only been about two human deaths caused by coyotes nationwide.

Warm blooded predators are not the only animals witnessed in residential areas; snakes are also an issue.

One evening last week, Hector Amaro was walking in Acacia Crossings with his children and friends when they came across a rattlesnake slithering near a sidewalk.

Taken by Hector Amaro in Acacia Crossings.

“The weird thing is the snake never even rattled,” Amaro said. “It didn’t even tell us that it was there.”

Amaro warned his children to back away, and the group left unharmed.

Julian said there could be a few reasons the snake did not sound its alarm, including injury or digestion, when snakes often slow down after feeding.

However, Julian said it could also be something more evolutionary.

“I think at some level we are changing the animal’s behavior. We may be looking at natural selection right before our eyes because when rattlesnakes rattle, we kill them,” Julian said. “The ones who don’t rattle, survive and are able to pass down that behavior onto their offspring.”

Julian said this time of year snakes are more likely to be spotted near homes, absorbing the sun-soaked concrete in the morning and evening hours.

“Rattlesnakes don’t want to kill you, they only strike as a last result, but they eat a lot of the problem animals that you don’t want around your house anyway,” Julian said.