At a recent forum hosted by the Green Valley Council on Living with Urban Wildlife, experts from various departments shared invaluable insights on coexisting with desert critters. Let’s delve into the key takeaways and recommendations provided by Conor Eldridge, an environmental educator from Pima County’s Natural Resources, Parks & Recreation department, along with Rachael Spencer and Andrea Mannell, communicable disease investigators from the county health department.
Understanding Wildlife Behavior
Conor Eldridge emphasized the importance of recognizing that wildlife, including mammals, reptiles, and insects, have inhabited these regions for thousands of years. With human expansion, these creatures are adapting to survive, often taking advantage of resources unintentionally provided by humans. Eldridge urged attendees to refrain from feeding or interacting with wildlife, as this disrupts their natural behaviors and could lead to them becoming nuisances or even pose safety risks.
Responsible Feeding Practices
Feeding birds is a popular pastime for many, but it’s essential to understand the consequences. Eldridge pointed out that bird feeding can inadvertently attract rodents, which, in turn, attract snakes. Instead, he suggested opting for elevated feeders and incorporating native plants that provide natural food sources for birds, such as sunflower seeds and hackberry bushes.
Wildlife Deterrence Techniques
To discourage larger animals like bobcats and coyotes from encroaching on residential areas, Eldridge recommended planting prickly plants like agave and prickly pear along fences. He advised against using barbed wire or electric fences, which could harm animals. Additionally, Eldridge provided strategies for encountering javelinas, including making noise and appearing large to deter them from approaching.
Preventing Rabies Exposure
Spencer and Mannell discussed the prevalence of rabies in Arizona, primarily transmitted through bats, skunks, and foxes. They emphasized the importance of avoiding direct contact with bats and promptly reporting any encounters to the relevant authorities. In case of exposure to a potentially rabid animal, seeking immediate medical attention is crucial. Post-exposure prophylaxis, including a series of shots, may be necessary to prevent the onset of rabies symptoms.
In conclusion, responsible interaction with desert wildlife is paramount to ensuring the safety and well-being of both humans and animals. By refraining from feeding wildlife, implementing deterrent measures, and promptly addressing potential health risks like rabies exposure, individuals can contribute to the harmonious coexistence of urban development and natural habitats in desert environments.