Living in Arizona, you may have run across a little varmint here and there. Maybe it made you jump, or scared your child. It’s part of living here that Tucson home builders share with their home buyers. Yet it is possible to live peacefully with these pesky critters that share our dessert home with us if you know enough. Hopefully this article can help. Remember to always use common sense and keep an eye out to where you are stepping or reaching.
SPIDERS (black widow, Arizona brown spider, tarantula)
You can find them living in electrical power boxes, woodpiles, lawn furniture, dark closets or garages of homes. The female will have a red hourglass shape on her tummy with the rest of her being black. Her web will be crackly and messy. The venom from her bite can produce higher blood pressure, cramps, vomiting among other symptoms. The male black widow is actually smaller, brown and not poisonous. Be sure to call your physician or the Arizona Poison Control if someone does get bitten. A great way to deter this spider is by simply using a flyswatter and a flashlight and check near your potted plants and outdoor faucets. You may want to trim back the plants growing around your home or garage to minimize your encounters.
Arizona Brown Spiders:
These critters and an oblong body with spindly long legs. They like to hide in the same types of areas that black widows have a 3/8-inch bulbous body with long, spindly legs. They live in the same places as black widows do and also hide where the scorpions like to as well. Getting bitten can occur when you are putting on clothing that it’s hiding in and it feels squeezed. After begin bitten, a blister with grow and eventually look like a bull’s eye ulcer which will take several weeks to heal. Take the same precautions as you would for black widows and do see medical help if someone does get bitten.
These big furry things like to live by themselves in burrows. Fully grown tarantulas can be up to 6″ in their leg span. The male species are a bit skinnier and usually only seen during the summer when they are seeking to mate. The venom from their bite will cause a reaction similar to a bee sting. Leaving them alone is the best precaution
These little terrors are straw-colored and get about 2″ long. They have a flat belly, segmented tail with stinger and crab-like claws. Inside they prefer floor drains, sinks and cabinets. Outside they love the woodpiles, cracks in the masonry, or plant debris. New construction attract them with any moist environment and fresh plaster or concrete.
These beasties mainly will sting a person purely in defense. All scorpions like to hide in gloves, shoes, bedding or clothes – so you may want to shake out these things before using them. Reactions to venom will be different with every person, but it will surely not be pleasant. If someone does get stung, call your physician or the Arizona Poison Control (626-6016) for recommendations.
Occasionally called white ants, these crawlers are not related to ants but they breach homes and feed on cellulose and wood without stopping. Some clues that you have termites would be seeing little tubes of mud around your foundation near wood items, paper, or along your garage expansion joints. If you see little dust piles of wood falling from cabinets or ceilings, that is another sign to check for termites.
Hiring a professional pest control service for an annual inspection would be your optimal precaution.
PACK RATS (a.k.a. wood rats)
Imagine a mouse on steroids and you’ll have a pack rat: big eyes and ears, white tummy, and shiny brown fur. These critters make little mounds from sticks, cactus joints, and other small debris. This mess they made is called a midden and is their grass-lined home.
If you have an unattended area for a while, these guys may just move in. Like your laundry room, carport or even your parked vehicle. They will shred your car wiring as they construct their midden. They will destroy your plants and cactus in their efforts.
If you find any of these middens, eliminate them within 100 or more yards of your home. This is the best way to prevent trouble from pack rats.
WESTERN DIAMONDBACK RATTLESNAKES
This is the snake most common around Tucson. Their color can vary from brown to gray and they can grow up to 5 feet long. It’s the diamondback patterns they have that can make them hard to see in the dessert, and a white on black pattern rings come before the tail rattle on their body.
When you are outside playing or hiking be sure to watch where you are reaching or stepping. Keep your eye out at the pool decks, in your garage or carport, near the woodpile, or by big potted plants as these all makes homes for the Diamondback. If you run into one of these snakes, call the local fire department to have them come remove it. A bite from a rattlesnake will require immediate medical attention. Quickly take the victim to the nearest hospital or call 911.
GIANT DESERT CENTIPEDES
Reaching up to 8 inches long, the giant desert centipede displays a flat, orange-yellow body having a dark brown or black tail and head. They can inflict quite the painful pinch which you can treat much like the sting of a wasp.
Be careful not to mistake a centipede with a millipede which is a multi-legged harmless crawler. Millipedes are a reddy-brown to black worm-like critter that can be up to 6″ long. They will curl and release a stinky liquid when they are afraid.
There are 3 main types of ground squirrels in the Tucson area:
1. Rock squirrels – sometimes mistaken for gray tree squirrels.
2. Harris’ antelope ground squirrels – they look like chipmunks.
3. Round tailed ground squirrels – they look like baby prairie dogs.
The Rock squirrels prefer living in rocky places and have a vibrating whistle they use to display their territory. You don’t want them to dig under your foundation or tear up your landscaping. Your lawn furniture and pool covers might get gnawed up by these terrors.
The Harris antelope ground squirrels are the least trouble and create few problems.
The Round tailed ground squirrels have been known to create unsightly damage by burrowing, building mounds of dirt, and devouring your landscape plantage. Plug their den entrances and fully rake down their mounds to restrain them.
No matter how cute they seem, do not feed these animals. They will bite you if they feel threatened, and there is some small risk to diseases like plague, rabies and hanta virus is you do get bitten.
You might think it’s a wild pig, but they are collared peccaries called javelina. These hard-of-sight critters can get up to 50 lbs and trot together in herds from 5 up to 30 of them. They guys use their group scent to stay close and it’s that unfavorly smell you’ll sense long before you see a javelina.
The javelina create trouble when they tear up your irrigation systems and landscaping to create their wallows. They will dumpster dive in your trash to rummage for something to eat, tipping them over and causing a mess. Make sure your trash cans have tight fitting lids. The key is to not ever feed them. They’ve got very sharp 2″ canine teeth and they will use them if they feel threatened. It’s a good idea to build a fence or barrier around the areas you wish to keep safe. It doesn’t need to be high, just 3.5 feet, but make it sturdy.
Gila, Ladder-backed, and Northern flicker woodpeckers peck into your wood trim and siding, cement block and stucco. You can blame these birds for the holes you find in saguaros, where they like to nest.
The Ladder-backed and Gila woodpeckers have a zebra back. Northern flickers display a brown back and a red crescent going from cheeks to their beak. To mark their territory, these birds also beat on metal heating and cooling units as well as rooftop ducts. They cause the most damage in the Spring when the adults are looking for mates.
If you need to fix a woodpecker dilemma, try hanging a windsock close to where it’s working or nesting. You can also dangle plastic sheeting or a half inch chicken wire over its favored area. A bad tasting product like Ropel can be applied to stucco or wood for another effective measure. Lastly, patience with the situation may prove your last defense.
You can recognize the screams, howls, yips and yaps of the coyotes. They can weigh up to 30 lbs and look similar to a husky type dog or German shepherd. Their coats can vary from reddish brown to grey with highlights in white. Coyotes hunt in packs at night and will devour practically anything. They might decide that your pet’s food or even your pet will be a great meal for them.
Keep coyotes away by never feeding them. Keep your trash in containers that they cannot breach and do not leave your pet’s food outside at nighttime.
Desert bobcats called wildcats can often be confused with a big domestic cat. They display reddish-brown fur that is striped and spotted for camouflage. The best way to recognize them is with their short bobtail which is white underneath and has a black tip.
Our Tucson suburban areas are common for wildcats. If a bobcat is spotted in your yard, be sure to leave it alone. These cats are roamers and typically will not stay for long as their territory for roaming is up to 50 miles If you sense a threat, be sure and get a hold of the Arizona Game & Fish Department (628-5376).
Tan, large and majestic, the mountain lion can weigh more than 100 lbs. They are the biggest feline predators and at times will meander from their mountain territory into residential places.
If hungry or thirsty, a lion can become quite dangerous. If a mountain lion comes into your sight and you feel it is a threat, get a hold of the Arizona Game & Fish Department (628-5376).