Wild things: What to do if you encounter local wildlife


As the weather moderates in Maricopa and Pinal County, the wild animals are sure to become more active. Here’s a look at some animals that are common around the city and what to do if you encounter them:

While javelinas look like wild pigs, they are members of the peccary family, a group of hoofed mammals originating from South America. Javelinas are common in much of central and southern Arizona. While javelinas can be somewhat aggressive and damage vegetation, the biggest danger they pose are the other animals they can attract, including wild dogs, coyotes and even mountain lions, as those are animals that prey on javelinas.

WHAT TO DO: If you find yourself near javelinas, you should never feed them. This will cause them to return and to lose their fear of humans. Javelina have poor eyesight and sometimes bite humans who feed them. While the danger is minimal, you should avoid all contact.

Coyotes are common in rural and urban areas statewide. They are clever and will take advantage of any food source. Yards with fruit on the ground, pet food and unsecured garbage cans and even pets can attract these wild animals. Coyotes may see larger or loud dogs as a threat to their territory and may lure and attack dogs that are off leash.

WHAT TO DO: If you see a coyote, take notice. Make loud noises. Keep eye contact. Shout and bang pots and pans or rattle empty soda cans with pebbles in them. Do not turn and run away. They may chase you down. Be aggressive. Wave your hands or objects like sticks and brooms. Throw small stones, or if you have it on hand, use mace if you come across a bold animal that refuses to leave.


There are two main varieties of rattlesnakes you are likely to encounter in and around Maricopa. The Western Diamond Backed Rattlesnake and the Sonoran Coral Snake. The Western Diamond Backed snake can get aggressive if angered enough. The Sonoran Coral Snake is very shy but is still highly venomous. Both snakes are attracted by shelter, water and a supply of rodents.

WHAT TO DO: Move away slowly and deliberately when you find yourself near a rattlesnake. Back away until you get to a safe distance. Usually, the snake will hold its ground or back away from you at the same time. A rattlesnake isn’t likely to chase you. If it moves toward you, it’s looking for a safe spot that’s in your direction. Pets should be restrained until the snake has moved on.

According to the Arizona Poison and Drug Center, there are 30 different species of scorpions in Arizona and only one, the bark scorpion is considered deadly. At full maturity, it’s only an inch and half in length. It’s small but climbs well. Scorpions are dormant during the day. During the warm months most stings reported to the poison center occur at night.

WHAT TO DO: If you come across a scorpion inside your home, it’s time to contact an exterminator and get on a routine maintenance plan. In order to keep them away, make sure your grass is cut short, and keep any trash or debris away from your home. In the off chance you are stung, clean the site with soap and water, and use a cold compress while you position the affected limb into a comfortable position. Most bites can be medicated with an over-the-counter pain reliever.

Gila Monster
The Gila Monster is the largest lizard in the United States, weighing in about 2 pounds and sometimes reaching a length of 20 inches, including its tail. It moves slow and spends most of its time underground. They are most active in the spring. They burrow into the ground during the hottest months of the year but emerge during the rainy season in late July and August.

WHAT TO DO: If you encounter a Gila Monster, stay out of its path and give it room, and it will likely move along. If you encounter one in the yard, move away, alert anyone in the vicinity, and restrain pets. If a Gila Monster is left alone for a couple of hours, it will likely move on. If it does not leave after several hours or even after a day, you can contact your local Game and Fish Department office for advice. This reptile is venomous, but very few people have been bitten by a Gila Monster.