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

Updated on August 30, 2011
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

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 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.


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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