How to Protect Dogs and Small Pets In the Arizona Desert from Coyotes and Other Predators

Snakes don't usually eat small pets, but their bites can be deadly to a curious dog or cat. Snake training classes are available in some areas of the desert southwest to prevent snakebites in dogs. Check your local vet or newspaper for details.
Snakes don't usually eat small pets, but their bites can be deadly to a curious dog or cat. Snake training classes are available in some areas of the desert southwest to prevent snakebites in dogs. Check your local vet or newspaper for details. | Source
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Don't Put Your Pets At Risk

Most homeowners who allow their pets to become prey in the Sonoran desert do so unwittingly. The sunbelt states often draw retirees from other areas of the country. Retirees and others often find their pets provide special companionship. Many of the family pets who accompany retirees have been in their families for many years. So when the pet goes missing, the situation is particularly heartbreaking. If you are a pet owner new to the desert southwest, you need to know about the animals that pose a risk to your pets and follow some simple guidelines to help prevent them from becoming prey to these common predators.

More than anything else, make sure your pet has a microchip implanted. Microchips help to locate lost pets quickly. Please read on for more information.

Coyotes hunt nocturnally in packs but can attack anytime.
Coyotes hunt nocturnally in packs but can attack anytime.
Great Horned owls eat their prey whole. Keep your pet guinea pigs and rabbits indoors, if possible.
Great Horned owls eat their prey whole. Keep your pet guinea pigs and rabbits indoors, if possible.

Common Desert Predators

Coyotes

Coyotes hunt nocturnally in packs. Usually one coyote baits the prey by acting injured. Usually the bait coyote howls and whines in a convincing way that causes the prey to let its guard down. When the prey goes to investigate, the other coyotes attack. I have lain awake at night on many occasions listening to coyotes making a kill. Usually coyotes eat small desert animals like rabbits, which are abundant where I live. But coyotes will also eat small pets and are notorious for attacking cats and small, leashed dogs, so don't put your small pet in a vulnerable position, such as leashed in the back yard at night.

Birds of Prey

Red tailed hawks, eagles, and great-horned owls are all birds of prey that eat small rodents. Usually vultures eat carrion (dead flesh) so they don't attack live animals as a general rule. These birds of prey pose the greatest threat to caged rodents like rabbits, hamsters, and gerbils. Think 4-H. If you or someone in your family is caring for pedigreed rabbits or other small animals, don't keep the cages outside, especially at night. Owls are, of course, nocturnal, and hawks can usually be seen circling the sky during the day.

Snakes

18 different species of rattlesnake, all venomous, inhabit the state of Arizona, but poisonous snakes are common in many other southwestern states. Snakes don't hunt and eat small pets as a general rule, since they can find abundant food sources in wild desert places. However, snakes often venture onto a back porch or under a parked car, and naturally inhabit brushy areas in the desert itself. A rattlesnake bite can be lethal to a small, curious dog. To avoid a painful and untimely pet death, keep your dogs on a leash during walks in the desert and send your dogs to snake training clinics available in many Southwestern towns. Snake clinics teach your dog to avoid snakes and thus prevent bites

Mountain Lions and Bobcats

Mountain lions are cats, and have all the strength and agility you would expect of a large feline. If you live in an area inhabited by mountain lions, keep your yard fenced but don't expect the fence to keep out a mountain lion. Watch your pets AND your small children carefully.



How to Protect Your Pets from Predators

In the desert you can follow some common-sense guidelines to protect your small pets.

  • Don't leave small pets outside alone, ever.
  • Enclose your pet area with fencing, but don't see this as a fail-safe.
  • Have your pets wear tags and collars with identification, including the pet's name, contact phone number, and address.
  • Don't feed the wild animals. Giving wild animals a food source isn't a good idea.
  • Have your veterinarian put a microchip for identification so if your pet is lost you can find them quickly.
  • Don't let your pets wander around by themselves. Some homeowners let their pets wander off their property while they are away. Don't do this. Pets can be preyed upon during the day, too.
  • Keep pets on a leash when you go for walks in the desert.
  • Send dogs to snake-training clinics to help dogs learn a healthy fear of rattlesnakes.
  • Don't suddenly decide to allow a house-trained cat to be put outside overnight. House-cats who haven't learned nocturnal survival skills may have a fatal learning experience.
  • Don't put a declawed cat outside for extended periods.
  • Don' leave your pets outside while you are away for the weekend or gone for the day. During winter months the weather is often so nice, people think they will save some money on boarding their pets. If you want to see your pet when you return, board your pet instead.

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Comments 19 comments

Ryan Hupfer profile image

Ryan Hupfer 7 years ago from San Francisco, CA

I hope that I'm safe from desert predators...none of those look really fun to me. Thanks for joining the HubMob!


wannabwestern profile image

wannabwestern 7 years ago from The Land of Tractors Author

Ryan, you are surely safe, but your little friend Toto isn't. Thanks for starting HubMob. It's a lotta fun.


born to be free profile image

born to be free 7 years ago

Hello wannabwestern, nice Hub

The Desert is a wild place, I was just stranded out there in Arizona for a month this past Summer. I love the Desert and all its' critters, a small price to pay for peace and quiet, solitude. One thing about the Desert life is there are not many two legged Rattlesnakes around. I'm trying to figure out a way to return some day, I sure miss it.


wannabwestern profile image

wannabwestern 7 years ago from The Land of Tractors Author

Thank you. It's been a long time since I looked at this. The information is sound. Hope it helps someone new to the desert southwest. We lost a precious family pet this way. No one wants to tell their young children that their pet has been eaten by a wild animal. Hope you get to return to the desert. We have been on an Odyssey this year and have moved to the city. It is so strange that the city dwellers in the Phoenix metro area are so out of touch with life in the desert. Most Phoenecians have never seen a rattlesnake!


Dame Scribe profile image

Dame Scribe 6 years ago from Canada

I have to watch for predatory animals up here in Canada too, lol. Great info!


wannabwestern profile image

wannabwestern 6 years ago from The Land of Tractors Author

Hi Dame Scribe, yes, this information is a heads up for anyone moving from the city to a rural area or a place where wildlife still roams free. Thanks!


shannel 6 years ago

thank u for the nice facts but for the kids add more picture


wannabwestern profile image

wannabwestern 6 years ago from The Land of Tractors Author

LOL I don't know what to say.


dnewman profile image

dnewman 5 years ago

I used to live in Montery, California, but here in Florida we deal with red tail fox, black bears, and of course, gators! We set up a privacy fence and the cats (and dogs) don't want to go beyond it, but I have found traces of an animal trying to dig into the back yard. I fixed that by putting stones all along the outside of it. Scary things if we aren't careful with our pets. Great article.


wannabwestern profile image

wannabwestern 5 years ago from The Land of Tractors Author

Thanks a bunch. I never thought about having to protect pets from gators. I'd hate to learn the hard way. It sounds like you put a lot of effort into making your home safe for your pets!


jrsearam profile image

jrsearam 5 years ago from San Juan, PR

How fascinating to live so close to nature that you must take these precautions. I enjoyed imagining what it would be like. Thanks, JR


wannabwestern profile image

wannabwestern 5 years ago from The Land of Tractors Author

Thanks jr. I am now right in the middle of suburban Iowa, but I loved every moment we lived in the desert. Coyotes are even in big cities in the northeast and in the DC areas, but here in Iowa we mostly are watching out for the attack of the killer ladybugs! :)


jrsearam profile image

jrsearam 5 years ago from San Juan, PR

It's funny you mention that. I actually wrote a hub about encountering a coyote in NYC's Central Park and although it may seem like self promotion, I invite you to check it out. Blessings, JR http://hubpages.com/literature/Coyote-in-Central-P


wannabwestern profile image

wannabwestern 5 years ago from The Land of Tractors Author

I will!


Groovy Grooming profile image

Groovy Grooming 5 years ago from 8937 rt 15 Wayland, New York 14572

Coyotes are here, brought in the help cut down the deer population. Small dogs & cats are at risk. Please be careful. Watch you dog while outside doing its thing. Lots of people have electronic fences. That's no protection against these predators.


Cathy 5 years ago

You forgot to mention the Colorado River Toads in the AZ southwest desert. They are extremely poisonous and are fatal to little dogs. My little dog got ahold of one that had gotten into our back yard. He bit into the poison sack and died in my arms within 15 minutes. I never knew about this danger until it was too late.


wannabwestern profile image

wannabwestern 5 years ago from The Land of Tractors Author

Cathy, I am sorry to hear of this experience, and appreciate your sharing this information with everyone. That is one danger I was unaware of.


luckyfelix profile image

luckyfelix 4 years ago

This post is a bit long, but worth it!! 4 Days ago we were visiting friends who are like family in Yucca Valley, CA and left our 8 pound, 1 1/2 year old Jack Russell Terrier/Chihuahua mix in their care (indoors) to go to town for about a half hour. We'd never been to their house before and I usually wouldn't leave him, but it seemed like he'd be fine and I asked that they leave all doors shut until we returned. Unfortunately while we were gone, Felix decided he would come looking for us and somehow snuck out the back door. With the help of neighbors we called and searched for him for 4 hours until it became dark. My last attempt running the roads and the rocky, desert backyard ravines of homes took me face to face with 3 wandering Coyotes. At this point I'm assuming that he had been eaten or is about to be. They live in a very hilly, rocky terrain that provides many hiding areas and calling for him was probably echoing off all of the rocky hills. Not to mention that the temp was to drop to 28 degrees overnight. We tried having hope that he made his way to town and would be found by someone who'd return him to us (he's chipped). The next day we hung fliers and used every possible resource to find him alive or not alive. We even had a tip that he was seen the next morning at the "Jelly Donut" in town, but I kept in mind that it could have been another dog. Time was running out in our search and we were forced to head back to LA in a rental car as our car broke down and had to leave it there till we could get it fixed or towed home this coming weekend. Monday night we left Yucca Valley, snow was in the forecast. Night two back at home was horrible but praying that someone found him and trying not to think he'd been eaten or froze to death. Their local shelter had been closed for 2 days and was to open at noon on Tuesday. I still had some hope, but there was no sign of him when I called at 12:00 on the dot... They said that if he wasn't found by anyone his chances of survival were extremely low. Then an hour later, I was shocked to received a phone call from our friend that Felix had just walked up to the back door and bolted back into the house! I couldn't believe it and couldn't get there any quicker to be reunited with my baby!!! He was in really good condition and seemed to have a story in his eyes. I couldn't believe he survived and thought I'd probably never see him again. Then out of the back window I noticed about 6 Rabbits just hanging around wandering really close to the house. I didn't think too much of it then, but when I got him home he was burrowing in everything and kind of hopping around as if he were a Rabbit. I wish he had a little camera on him, because I can't help but think that he had made friends with these Rabbits who may have shared their "homes" in holes, protecting him from the freezing weather and predators! I am so thankful to have him cuddling next to me right now and feel extremely lucky!!! I know he used his instincts, but is it possible that he befriended these Rabbits that helped saved his life?


wannabwestern profile image

wannabwestern 4 years ago from The Land of Tractors Author

Its wonderful that you got your precious little Felix back, safe and sound. I have never heard of this kind of group behavior in rabbits, but I believe anything is possible. I am so happy to hear that you got your little guy back. The terrain out there sounds very similar to Wickenburg where I lived. Regards!

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