Area Wildlife       

Area Wildlife

Arizona Coyotes

Coyotes are considered to be rather good parents; both father and mother feed the pups with regurgitated food from their hunts. After a gestation period of about sixty days, a coyote mother may give birth to a litter that may range in size from one to nineteen pups. It then takes roughly thirty-five days to completely wean them. Coyotes grow surprisingly fast and reach their full size within one year of birth. Nearly mature male pups tend to leave the pack while female pups stay behind to form the pack's nucleus.

Coyotes communicate through a series of yips, barks, and howls. While they can be heard at any time of day, it is most common to hear them around dusk when they become active. Coyotes have been known to mate with dogs, especially in states like Texas where their numbers are plentiful. Coyotes have even been known to mate with wolves, although this is a rare occurrence as wolves tend to be hostile to the smaller species.

Despite the nuisance that coyotes may pose for humans, they are a revered part of the natural landscape and figure deeply into the myths and stories of Arizona's colorful past.

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Arizona Javelina

Though some people may call them "cute", Javelinas are arguably rather ugly animals and possess a rather 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.

Javelina are most active at night and exist on a diet of flowers, berries, prickly pear cactus and plant life. Thet 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.

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According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, there are 36 species of rattlesnakes of which 13 species live in Arizona. Although most rattlesnakes inhabit the desert areas, they do exist in just about every region of Arizona including high elevation forested areas. Some types of rattlesnakes are secretive and live in remote areas far away from people. But some species, like the Western Diamondback hangout in places where humans are active such as golf courses, edges of lakes, along hiking trails and even in suburban backyards.

The best way to avoid being bitten is not getting too close to one. Although a rattlesnake will bite out of defense when suddenly surprised, rattlesnakes have a fear of people and when detected will sliver in the opposite direction. Most bites happen when people harass them. If you come across a rattlesnake, observe its beauty from a distance and let the snake go on its way. From a coiled position, a rattlesnake can strike at a distance of about about half to two-thirds of its body length, so you do not want to get too close.

Don't believe the myth that all rattlesnakes will warn you by rattling. Some will and some won't. A young rattlesnake may not yet have rattles on its tail. Some types are more aggressive than others and will immediately strike when they feel threatened or is surprised. Following are a few tips on avoiding a rattlesnake bite and safety precautions.

  • Rattlesnakes are most active in the evening and a night when they do most of their hunting. They are usually very active in the early spring after remaining inactive during the winter months.
  • It's best not to hike in wilderness areas after dark. Carry a walking stick and keep it forward to let snakes know you are approaching their area.
  • When hiking, wear hiking boots and loose-fitting pants to deflect fangs.
  • Never hike alone and have a cell phone.
  • Stay on trails. Avoid high grassy areas and dense vegetation that limits visibility.
  • Be observant. Do not step on or across logs. Do not blindly place hands between crevices in boulders or stick them inside burrows. Look closely before sitting on boulders or logs.
  • If you hear the "rattle", freeze. Look carefully to locate the rattlesnake and move slowly in the opposite direction.
  • A dead rattlesnake can still bite through reflex. Do not touch a dead snake. Even a decapitated head of a snake will still bite for a period of time after decapitation.

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Greater Roadrunner

The most famous bird in the Sonoran Desert, without a doubt, the Roadrunner is also the most fictionalized in popular imagination. Cowboys used to tell tall tales about how Roadrunners would seek out rattlesnakes to pick fights, or would find sleeping rattlers and build fences of cactus joints around them. A later generation of Americans grew up thinking that Roadrunners were purple and cried beep beep as they sped about.

Even without such stretches or inventions, the real Roadrunner is impressive. Running in the open (and not just on roads), it reaches fifteen miles per hour. It can fly, but usually doesn't. Often it seems curiously unafraid of humans. Trotting up close to peer at us, raising and lowering its mop of a shaggy crest, flipping its long tail about expressively, it looks undeniably zany. It comes as no surprise to learn that the Roadrunner is a member of the cuckoo family.

Clownlike it may appear to human eyes, but the Roadrunner is a very effective predator. Its speed on foot is not just for show: it captures not only snakes and large insects, but also fast-running lizards, rodents, and various small birds. Gambels Quail may pay scant attention to the Roadrunner at most seasons, but they react to it violently when they have small young, and with good reason: given an opportunity, the Roadrunner will streak in to grab a bite-sized baby quail.

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