What Every CFE Homeowner Should Know About Living With Wildlife
By Earl (Mac) McGill, 35-plus year resident of Coronado Foothills Estates
For a great many of us, the main attraction for living in Coronado Foothills Estates is the abundance and diversity of wildlife. This abundance has been encouraged and maintained by our preservation of native growth, proximity to Coronado National Forest, lack of gates and fences, and the fact that our subdivision is made up of single-family dwellings on one-acre lots. Unfortunately, wildlife, in general, has been on the decline—especially when it comes to diversity. Part of the decline can be attributed to misunderstandings we all share regarding various species and how we should deal with them. Hopefully, the information contained on these pages will help clear up some of those misunderstandings and halt the decline of wildlife in our beautiful neighborhoods.
Arizona Revised Statute 13-2927 says:
A person commits unlawful feeding of wildlife by intentionally, knowingly or recklessly feeding, attracting or otherwise enticing wildlife into an area except for:....Tree squirrels or birds..... Keep even bird food off the ground. Keep our wildlife wild. Any animals attracted to people become nuisance animals and may have to be removed or killed.
For more on birds, click this link to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
If you should happen to see a large kitty checking out your bird feeder, look and think twice before embracing the cuddly-looking creature. If he has a short, bobbed tail, this is no house cat. Despite its pussycat appearance, bobcats come equipped to kill animals as large as deer. Scientific studies, however, prove they prefer small critters such as rabbits, pack rats, and quail. Since we have plenty of all three, sooner or later a bobcat will pay you an unexpected visit. The one in the photos below, made himself at home on our back deck one evening in February ’05.
In spite of our presence (inside, of course), he became so bold as to scratch at the sliding glass door. Two weeks later, a bobcat kitten dropped by to indulge in a little “birding.”
Been bitten by an insect while you slept? If so, the bite was probably not from mosquito or a spider, but a bug you may never have heard of. This one inch devil goes by a variety of names: Kissing bug, cone-nosed beetle, Mexican bed bug, assassin bug, and more. Whatever the name, if you are bitten you might be inclined to refer to this bug by a name that would be bleeped on TV.
Like vampires, they are bloodsuckers. Unlike vampires, they are real.
Kissing bugs are attracted to the carbon dioxide we mammals exhale. They can enter your home through even a tiny gap in an open door or a tear in a screen. May 15-June 15 and in the cooler fall months are generally the worst periods. Their bite is painless but can make a person very sick, and while some people can be bitten and not even know it, others will tell you that a kissing bug's bite is worse than a scorpion's.
In the Catalina Foothills, kissing bugs are almost exclusively nocturnal, and feed off of a sleeping person's exposed parts. The good news is that kissing bugs usually show up alone inside homes and are generally found in and around bedding or under cushions. You can tell you got the right bad guy if the little beast is full of blood when you squish him.
Javelinas roam our neighborhood in packs or families. They know how to topple garbage cans and empty out the contents, creating quite a mess. They also have been known to bite or attack people, mainly with young ones or when cornered. Several dogs have been bitten when off their leashes. Again, just leave them alone and do not leave out any kind of food.
One of the larger, more interesting, and beneficial lizards in our neighborhood is the spiny. Our favorite is a dude we named "Spike." Like a lot of lizards, Spike is capable of something called metachromatism, the ability to change colors. Spike's colors are much lighter when it's hot. Darker colors increase the amount of heat absorbed from the sun and lighter colors reflect solar radiation. Spike's favorite pastime is to park on the wall, eat ants, and look tough. Even though Spike camps out in the same spot year after year, we are probably enjoying a series of "Spikes" rather than a single lizard. Learn more about Spike and other Sonora Desert critters by clicking on this link to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Gila Monsters are brightly colored, slow moving, venomous lizards. If they bite, they clamp down and don't let go. Observe from a distance and don't bother them.
There was a mountain lion spotted on our property and that was back in 1970. Like most mountain lions, this one vanished in a flash. Since then and even in 2015 there have been more sightings. Although not nearly the threat your neighbor's SUV presents, mountain lions at the Desert Museum have been observed to stare at small children with an ardor that is clearly not sparked by love.
Mountain Lion Safety Tips:
Do not hike alone
Keep Children Close to You
Stop (do not run)
Do all you can to appear larger
Do not approach the lion
Fight Back if Attacked.
To learn more about mountain lions and other Sonora Desert cats, click this link to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
If you've ever had a pack rat devour your auto ignition, you probably called them something else; however, the correct name for this pest is "white-throated woodrat." Although they have Mickey Mouse ears and look cuddly, these hombres are not very good neighbors. For starters, their elaborate nests are breeding grounds for kissing bugs (above). Even worse, pack rats harbor fleas, which have been proven to carry bubonic plague (definitely unfriendly). On the plus side, white-throated woodrats are a primary food source for several animal species--many of them on the decline in our neighborhood.
For more about our desert rats, click this link to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
Palmetto bugs (aka Roaches)
Picture this, you are watching TV when something flies across your line of vision that looks like an Airbus. You blink and wonder, "What the dickens was that?" A little later you go to the kitchen for a late night snack and when you move the toaster, a bug roughly the size of a VW bus scurries across the counter, scaring the beeswax out of you. This scenario, more common in summer than winter, can also cause embarrassment, especially if you have a houseful of relatives. Don't be--embarrassed, that is. We don't like to advertise the fact, but we all have them (roaches, not relatives, thank goodness). Contrary to those who say otherwise, most roaches enter your house via the sewer (ucky-yucky!). A few fly in (such as the Airbus cited above) but most come up through the drains at night; therefore the most effective method of controlling them is to keep your drains plugged and a kitchen light on. For Pima County's complete prevention plan, click here.
Although several quail species inhabit Arizona, those that are so abundant in your back lot are the Gambel's variety. For more on Gambel's quail, click this link to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
For more on rabbits, click this link to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
For more information, click this link to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
Except for rattlesnakes, these little buggers probably get more bad press than all of our other critters combined. When CFE lots were still being developed, scorpions were frequent visitors inside homes. They were usually found trapped in sinks, bathtubs, or showers, but could be found on any surface, even ceilings. Although several family members were stung by scorpions, none resulted in pain or swelling as bad as those inflicted by hornets, bees or kissing bugs (see above)--however, it can be assumed that these stings were not inflicted by bark scorpions. For more on scorpions and other critters, click this link to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
Do not leave small pets outside unattended. Local coyotes and bobcats have developed a taste for domestic animals. Although your small pet may survive for a time, it is surely doomed even if kept in a fenced area. Bobcats (above) love to climb and coyotes (above) have been seen jumping high fences.
Real estate folks might not tell you that this area was once a haven for rattlesnakes. Although the numbers have diminished almost to none, a few (like our friend Clyde) still prowl the area in search of pack rats and other nuisance rodents. So you should be aware that the buzzing you hear may not be your cell phone (as one handyman thought while working near our front porch). A few precautions: Shine a flashlight in front of you when walking in the dark, and wear protective foot cover. The only bite I know of in 38 years was on the foot of a nightwalker wearing sandals. Above all, do not kill any snakes you see. Instead, disengage--or if a rattler has taken up residence in your favorite flowerpot, call Rural Metro. They will capture and release the snake in a less traveled location. Remember, snakes love pack rats and pack rat nests breed kissing bugs, which can be a serious menace to you home and health. Here in the Foothills, snakes may be our best neighbors. For more on snakes, click this link to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
Contrary to old Hollywood horror films, these eight-eyed, overgrown spiders are harmless to humans and have even been trained as pets (although, like any critter, they can inflict painful bites if provoked). When CFE was mostly undeveloped desert, you could drive around the area at night, especially after heavy monsoon rains, and see literally dozens of them out and about on the roads. They can still be spotted, usually near the round entrances to their earthen burrows. Although the female has a nasty habit of eating her husband after they mate, a tarantula should not be killed or persecuted. If its presence is not desired, it can be contained and taken to where it can continue to live its useful life unmolested. For more on tarantulas, click this link to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.