Summer temperatures are right around the corner and officials are sending out safety reminders to anyone who loves spending time outdoors.
Officials say with warmer temperatures, vegetation becomes greener and water becomes more scares on the 16 Sky Island mountain ranges in the Coronado. Because of that, they say wildlife movements and patterns change.
They want visitors to be aware that thick vegetation allows many wildlife species to hide and the warming temperatures could drive wildlife to those areas as cool resting spots. Surface water could also attract birds and other animals.
Wildlife that becomes used to humans in a less natural state could lead to conflicts with humans, and problems for both. Officials say visitors should observe their surroundings, recreate safely, and "keep wildlife wild" by avoiding interaction with wild animals.
Officials want visitors to be aware of potential hazardous situations:
- Rabies: This is transmittable to humans and poses a severe health risk. Every year, rabid animals are found around Arizona. So far, there have been 51 confirmed cases of rabies in Arizona and 34 in the southeast. It is a naturally occurring disease that infect a variety of mammal species and is transmitted primarily through bites by infected animals. The most recent was a rabid fox that bit a young child in Sabino Canyon. The most common carriers are foxes, skunks, and bats.
- Rabies affects the infected animal's brain and causes erratic behavior. You should look for behavior like staggering, stumbling, aggressive movements, and excessive amounts of saliva.
- If you see an animal that may have rabies, call AZ Game and Fish: (623)-236-7201.
- Venomous Creatures: Snakes, centipedes, scorpions and other creatures will try to find shade to escape the heat during the day. Be aware of where you place your feet and hands. Avoid cracks, crevices and areas under rocks you can't see. Venomous creatures tend to be more active around dusk and during the night, but can be encountered at any time.
- Black bears: Usually, they will avoid human interaction. They will aggressively defend their young. Some things that attract black bears are human food and garbage, so make sure you maintain a clean campsite or picnic area. When you can, lock your food in a bear-proof box.
- If you are approached by a bear, back away to a safe distance.
- Bees: They will fiercely defend their hives. Africanized bees are more aggressive than other bees, but it's virtually impossible to differentiate between bees in the field. Swarming or foraging bees on the move typically won't attack you. If they are defending their hive and the queen bee, they will pursue any threat. Bee hives are built in dark places like crevices in rocks and trees, or underground holes.
- If you are attacked by bees, find shelter, cover your head and protect your airways.
- Mountain Lions: They are usually secretive and prefer to avoid people. The chances of encountering one is rare, expect for Sabino Canyon. There, mountain lions are becoming habituated to people. They are top-level predators capable of injuring humans, so make sure you do not approach them.
- If you encounter a mountain lion, do not run. Running may stimulate a lion's instinct to chase you. Stand and face the animal. Raise your arms or open your jacket to look larger, and slowly back away.
- If you see a mountain lion, report it to AZ Game and Fish: (623) 236-7201
- Prickly Plants: Be aware of your surroundings and avoid contact with them. Many of the plants in the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts have thorns or spines for protection from wildlife and weather. Cholla cactus segments can be removed with a pocket comb.
- Heat-related illness: Visitors in the lower elevations on the Forest are advised to avoid strenuous activity during heat of the day and to carry plenty of drinking water to stay hydrated. As summer approaches, daytime temperatures will rise and relative humidity levels will drop.
If you see any wildlife animals or are injured in or near Sabino Canyon and the Santa Catalina Mountains should be reported to the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center at 5700 North Sabino Canyon Road or call (520) 749-8700.
After hours reports should be made to AZ Game and Fish Department's 24-hour number (800) 352-0700.