by Blake Herzog
Sadly, this summer has given Prescott some reminders of the danger that wild animals can pose to pets and people, with four mountain lions put down after killing multiple dogs in May and the tragic, fatal bear attack of a man outside his isolated Groom Creek cabin in June.
These incidents, especially the unprovoked bear attack, are rare, but pet owners should keep a watchful eye over their pets and can take safety measures to protect their animals, as well as themselves, against potentially harmful wildlife including bears, mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats and snakes.
Know the signs
Familiarize yourself with the appearance of tracks or scat of wild animals known to be in the area and keep them in mind as you explore the outdoors. For example, it can be difficult to tell the difference between dog and coyote prints, but a coyote’s footprint is narrower and more oval-shaped with sharper nails.
Talk to your friends and neighbors if you see any larger wildlife species or evidence of them.
Protect your pets
• When walking them outside, use a nonretractable leash 6 feet or shorter.
• It’s a good idea to carry a horn or other noisemaker and a deterrent spray during a walk to scare off a coyote or other predator that appears to be eyeing your pet. Bear spray will work to repel any mammal.
• Keep them out of brushy or heavily wooded areas where it would be difficult to see an approaching animal.
• If you live in an area where predator sightings are common, coyote-resistant vests are available in many sizes.
• Cats and small dogs are vulnerable to birds of prey, so when you’re outside with them remember to scan the skies periodically and be ready to grab them if you see one circling.
• Keep their vaccinations up to date; the rabies shot is the most important protection against wildlife. Rattlesnake vaccines are available for dogs but do not eliminate the need for immediate medical treatment if they’ve been bitten by one.
Protect them on your property
• Don’t leave pets unattended, particularly between dusk and dawn when predators are most active.
• Consider a coyote-proof wall or fence at least 6- to 8-feet high that extends at least 12 inches underground, if that’s feasible.
• Don’t feed pets or wildlife outside, including birds — any type of animal can attract larger predators.
• Don’t allow pets to pick up or touch wild or unfamiliar animals found in your yard.
• Keep all trash inside or in a secured container outside.
• Install motion-sensor lighting to scare predators away.
• You can install an alarm that emits a high-pitched frequency that repels animals, but they may have the same effect on your pets, so keep them inside when you use it.