Arizona is home to more than 800 wildlife species and close to 7 million people. Based on those numbers, humans and wildlife do cross paths. The key is to remember some of the following tips:
• Do not feed wildlife, as wild animals that are fed regularly will lose their fear of humans, and adult animals teach young to be dependent on humans for food. This also encourages predators to search for prey in neighborhoods.
• Keep pets on a leash and in view at all times.
• Learn about the wildlife in the area and their habitats and keep food in tightly secured containers, not in a tent.
• Enjoy wildlife from a distance, don’t get too close, especially to females with young.
• If you see an animal that looks sick or injured, leave it alone and contact a regional Game and Fish office or local animal control.
• If a bite or exposure has occurred, seek medical attention and call the local health department or Game and Fish.
Rabies is a wildlife disease that affects mammals, including humans. It more typically occurs in bats, skunks and foxes, but there is the potential for other wildlife to carry rabies, and an outbreak can occur at any time of the year. People can get rabies from the bite of an infected animal, or if saliva from the animal gets directly into a person’s eyes, nose, mouth or any break in the skin. In Arizona, approximately 30 people are exposed to rabid animals every year. The most recent, at the beginning of January 2013, was a bite from a rabid fox near Sedona.
The last documented human rabies death in Arizona was in 1981. One way to keep the potential for rabies exposures down is to leave wildlife alone.