Wild Animal and Pests in the White Mountains of Arizona

Serving Pinetop-Lakeside, Show Low, Heber-Overgaard, Snowflake-Taylor, Springerville, Vernon, and surrounding areas.


Common Animals and Bugs in the White Mountains

Bears

While direct encounters with bears are infrequent in this area, they do happen.  Generally, they happen when a bear is foraging for food and learns that a human neighborhood is a good place to find it.

Bear

  • Avoid leaving garbage where a bear can get to it.  Keep dumpsters or trash cans in an enclosed area whenever possible.
  • Don't let your pets roam loose unattended, and don't leave pet food outdoors.
  • If you see a bear in or near your neighborhood, contact the Arizona Game & Fish Pinetop office at 928-367-4281 to report it immediately.
  • The bears in our area are black bears, not grizzlies; it's much rarer for them to actually attack a human.  If they do, don't attempt to play dead; instead, make yourself look as large as possible, and fight back aggressively and loudly.
  • For more information, see this brochure.
Cougars/Mountain Lions

  • Mountain lions are generally shy of humans, and it's rare to see one.  If you do, report it to the AZ Game & Fish Pinetop office at 928-367-4281.
  • Do not attempt to run from a mountain lion, as this can trigger their hunting instincts.  Make eye contact with them, speak loudly, and back away slowly.  If they try to run away, let them!
  • If the mountain lion does attack, they will generally try to bite at the head or neck.  Protect your throat, try to stay on your feet, and fight back aggressively; many potential mountain lion victims do manage to fight them off successfully.
  • Although extremely rare, cougars can carry the rabies virus.  Anyone bitten by a cougar should be vaccinated as soon as possible.
  • For more information, see this brochure.
Coyotes

It's extremely rare for coyotes to confront humans, but they can be dangerous to pets and small livestock and are much more likely to attack humans if they've become comfortable around them.

  • Coyotes can also carry the rabies virus; people or pets who have been bitten by a coyote should be treated by a doctor or vet as soon as possible.
  • If you see a coyote in or near your yard, chase them off immediately; loud noises and bright lights are both good deterrents.
  • For more information, see this brochure.
Elk

While elk are almost never aggressive towards humans unless they feel threatened, they can pose a significant hazard to drivers, particularly around dawn or dusk.

  • Pay close attention to the road; use your headlights, even if it's not yet full dark.
  • If you see one or more elk near the road you're driving on, slow down; they can move unpredictably and quickly.
  • Adult elk generally weigh between 500 - 700 lbs.; even aside from the injury to the animal, hitting one is usually enough to do significant damage to a vehicle and its occupants.  Always use caution when driving through elk country!
Javelina/Peccary

  • Javelina are not predators, but they can be very aggressive in defending themselves, and are potentially dangerous to both humans and pets (particularly dogs, which they view as a threat).  They are also considered garden pests, as they will frequently dig up plants to eat.
  • If you see a javelina acting aggressively, particularly towards humans, report it to the AZ Game & Fish Pinetop office at 928-367-4281.
  • For more information, see this brochure.
Raccoons

Raccoon

  • Raccoons are clever and opportunistic and can be annoying pests unless precautions are taken.
    • It's rare to see them since they're nocturnal, but it's very common to wake up in the morning to a yard covered in garbage and raccoon tracks.  To prevent this, keep trash indoors, or in other areas they can't reach.
    • Don't feed pets outdoors; they will help themselves to your cat or dog's food.
    • Loud noises and bright lights will usually scare them off.
  • Raccoons can also carry several diseases that are dangerous to humans and pets, such as rabies, and both the canine and feline forms of parvo.  Any people or pets that are bitten or scratched by a raccoon should be treated by a doctor or vet as soon as possible.
    • If you suspect a raccoon may be rabid, report it to AZ Game & Fish Pinetop office at 928-367-4281.  Also, note that it is illegal to trap or kill raccoons yourself; if one needs to be removed, contact Game & Fish.
  • For more information, see this page.
Rodents

rodent

  • Rodents can carry numerous diseases, many of them fatal to humans or their pets.  Some of the more serious ones known to be found among rodents in our region are:
  • Any humans or pets who are bitten or scratched by a wild rodent should see a doctor or vet as soon as possible.
  • Use extreme caution when cleaning up after wild rodents, as hantavirus spreads most easily through contact with their urine or feces.
  • Never approach a wild rodent, including squirrels and chipmunks; although they may look fluffy and cute, they are still wild animals, and will defend themselves if they feel threatened.
Skunks

Striped Skunk

  • Skunks are mostly seen as a nuisance animal, but they have also been known to carry rabies.  Any humans or pets who are bitten by a skunk should be treated by a doctor or vet as soon as possible.
  • Skunks generally have little fear of humans, probably thanks to their extremely potent, foul-smelling spray, but it's not wise to make one nervous.  Never corner, threaten, or attempt to trap a skunk; if you see one, move slowly and non-threateningly, and attempt to back away.  If it wants to leave, let it!
    • If you suspect a skunk has moved into or under your home or garage, wait until it has gone outside to look for food, and then block whatever opening it's using to get inside.  Take care not to trap the skunk; if one sprays inside or underneath your home, it can permanently damage belongings like carpet, drapes, and bedding.  If that happens, you may want to consider contacting a professional cleaning service.
    • If a skunk has sprayed near your home, you can try to combat the smell by placing several open bowls of white vinegar in each affected room.  Air purifiers, baking soda, and deodorant sprays may also help, although they are usually not enough to get rid of the smell on their own.  Once the smell has dissipated outside, open doors and windows to help ventilate the affected area.
  • Skunk spray isn't usually directly harmful as long as it doesn't get in the eyes, but it can be extremely unpleasant if it gets on you or your pets, and the smell can cause nausea (or even vomiting).  Those with sensitive skin may also notice skin irritation if they are sprayed directly.  Flush any affected areas with copious amounts of water (particularly the eyes), and if necessary, seek medical attention.
  • Unfortunately, tomato juice doesn't actually take away the smell of a skunk's spray.  Repeated washings of humans, pets, and clothing with soap and water will likely be necessary; clothing that was sprayed directly may not be salvageable.  Baking soda and peroxide mixtures may help neutralize the smell, and soap will help remove the oils present in the spray, which are what make it linger so long.
Snakes

rattlesnake

  • There are fewer venomous snakes in this part of Arizona than in many of the desert regions, but they are still present.  Any humans who are bitten by a snake should be treated in an emergency room; pets should be taken to the vet as soon as possible (make sure to let your vet know your pet was bitten by a snake when you contact them).
  • Generally, snakes are seen in the spring and summer months, as they prefer the warmer weather and increased sunshine; one of a snake's favorite activities is usually basking in the sun on top of a warm rock.  It's rare to encounter one in the late fall or winter.
  • Most of the venomous snakes in our area are rattlers, which will usually give you warning when you wander into their space.  Try to avoid the snake while you wander right back out of it.
  • For more information, see this brochure.
Spiders

Most spiders aren't considered a danger to humans, although their bites can still be painful (hello, tarantulas!).  However, some have venom in their bites that can be extremely harmful, or even fatal.

black-widow

  • In our area, the two most common potentially deadly spiders are the Black Widow and the Brown Recluse.
    • Black Widows are small, black spiders with stubby bodies and legs; females often have a red mark on their abdomens, usually shaped like an hourglass.
      • They are common in wooded areas and will occasionally move into homes, but are fairly shy.  Be careful when turning over rocks or fallen trees, as they like to live under them.
      • If you are bitten by one, seek medical attention immediately.  Children and the elderly in particular may want to consider a visit to the emergency room.
    • Brown Recluses are small brown spiders, and move very quickly.  They are rare in areas with a lot of foot traffic, but will move into places like sheds and outdoor storage areas that don't see a lot of human activity.
      • Brown Recluse venom is particularly vicious, and anyone who has been bitten by one should go to the emergency room immediately.  Even a small bite can lead to permanent skin and nerve damage, loss of a limb, or death if left untreated.
Ticks

Tick

  • Ticks can carry a host of illnesses that are harmful to humans, including Lyme disease.  Their bites can also be painful and annoying to both humans and their pets.
    • Different ticks can be found across the United States, but not all types of ticks carry all diseases; it's unlikely that a tick bite you receive here in Pinetop-Lakeside could result in Lyme disease, but not impossible.  And it's still a good idea to see your doctor if you do have a tick bite so that you can be checked for other conditions, particularly if you develop a rash or fever.
    • Ticks like to live in tall grasses, wooded areas, and on animals.  They're also active year-round, although you're more likely to come into contact with them during the warmer months.
      • If you're going out into the woods or meadows in our area, especially in the summer, it's a good idea to treat your gear (including clothing, boots, tents, and other camping gear) with a tick repellent; the CDC recommends using products containing 0.5% permethrin, which will keep protecting you through several washings.
      • You can also use insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone to protect your skin directly.
        • Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.
        • Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.
    • If you do get bitten by a tick, it should be removed as soon as possible to reduce the risk of disease.
      • Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick, since this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin.
      • If it does break off and you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
      • After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with soap and water.
  • For more information, see this site.
Woodpeckers

Woodpeckers aren't dangerous to humans, but they are sometimes considered a nuisance or damaging pest when they attack wooden buildings, pecking holes with their beaks in search of insects.

woodpecker

  • Woodpeckers are federally protected, so any prevention or woodpecker control/management is subject to compliance with federal law. Please keep this in mind when considering how to get rid of woodpeckers.
    • Also, woodpeckers like to eat bark beetles, which are one of the biggest threats to our forests.  When they're not damaging your home, woodpeckers are your friends!
  • Because woodpeckers can be very persistent and are not easily driven from selected pecking sites, any woodpecker control effort should be started as soon as the problem begins.
    • To prevent further damage to wood beneath the eaves, a professional can install plastic bird netting from the gutter angled back to the siding below the damaged area.
    • Metal sheeting like aluminum painted to match the siding can also be installed over the area being attacked.
    • Permits are required for the use of traps, so it’s advised to contact a licensed pest control professional if a woodpecker issue is suspected. A professional will ensure all woodpecker management methods of control are compliant with federal law.
    • Serious damage is more likely to occur to summer or vacation homes that are often vacant, since the attack can persist for long periods of time before being discovered.
  • Some birdwatchers like to attract woodpeckers to their neighborhoods; for the sake of the birds, your neighbors' homes, and the forest itself, please don't!  If you want to see woodpeckers, it's best to seek them out in the woods, in their natural habitat.