Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Southwest critter visitors

Some new to snowbirding can find the creatures of the Southwest's deserts a puzzlement. While they may look cute, even warm and fuzzy, having coyotes and javalinas hanging around your rig can lead to danger--particularly for pets. Here are a few tips on wildlife.


Coyotes are common in rural and urban areas throughout Arizona. Coyotes tend to travel and hunt alone or in pairs, but they can form groups where food is abundant.

What Attracts Them?
  • Coyotes may visit a home if they find food, water, or shelter there.
  • Food can include unattended pets, birds or rodents attracted to bird feeders, pet food, garbage, or fallen fruit.
  • Water sources can include a pet's water bowl or a swimming pool.
  • Shelter can include a storm drain or any cave-like area beneath a shed or unused building.

What Should I Do?
If you see a coyote near your home, don't ignore it. This may cause it to lose its natural fear of people, which can eventually lead to aggressive behavior.

To discourage a coyote, immediately:

  • Make loud noises.
  • Shout and bang pots and pans or rattle empty soda cans with pebbles in it (coyote shaker).
  • Wave your hands or objects like sticks and brooms.
  • Throw small stones or cans.
  • Spray the coyote with a hose.
  • Use a commercial repellent like Mace, if necessary, on bold animals that refuse to leave.


Though some people think javelina are a type of wild pig, they are actually members of the peccary family, a group of hoofed mammals originating from South America. Javelinas are common in much of central and southern Arizona, including the outskirts of the Phoenix area, most of Tucson, and occasionally as far north as Flagstaff. Javelina form herds of two to more than 20 animals and rely on each other to defend territory, protect against predators, regulate temperature and interact socially. They use washes and areas with dense vegetation as travel corridors. Javelina are most active at night, but they may be active during the day when it is cold.

What Attracts Them?

  • Javelinas usually visit homes to find food, water or shelter.
  • Food for javelina can include lush vegetation and many flowers and succulent plants that people place around their homes. Birdseed, table scraps and garbage can also attract javelina.
  • Water can be provided through chewing on irrigation hose or by drinking from a pool or other water source around a home. Javelina will also dig and roll in moist soil during summer days to keep cool.
  • Shelter can take the form of a porch, an area under a mobile home, a crawlspace beneath a house, or any other cave-like area. Javelina will seek shade during summer days and warmth during the winter, if these areas are not properly secured.

What Should I Do?
If javelina have become a problem or have caused property damage, see the suggestions below to deal with the situation. Do your part to keep javelina healthy and wild because their removal almost always means death. Work with your neighbors to achieve a consistent solution to the problem.

To discourage a javelina, immediately:

  • Scare off animals by making loud noises (bang pots, yell, stomp on the floor, etc.); throwing small rocks in their direction; or spraying with vinegar, water from a garden hose, or large squirt gun filled with diluted household ammonia (1 part ammonia and 9 parts water). The odor of the ammonia and the nasal irritation it causes will encourage the javelina to leave. Avoid spraying ammonia in the eyes as it may cause damage even at this low concentration. Ammonia should not be used around wetlands because it is toxic to fish and amphibians.
  • If the animal is confined, open a gate, have all people leave the area, and allow it to leave on its own. If it is still there the following day, contact a wildlife control business or the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
  • If you see javelina while walking your dog, avoid going near the javelina and quickly take your dog in a different direction.
photos: coyote--R&T DeMaris; javalina--tequilamike on

Friday, November 11, 2011

Observe the heavens Nov. 19 at Alamo State Park

Alamo Lake State Park will host its "5th Annual Night Under the Stars" astronomy program on the night of the new moon on Saturday, Nov. 19. Because Alamo Lake State Park is 30 miles from the nearest small town, the park's dark skies offer some of Arizona's best unaided views of celestial objects like the Andromeda Galaxy and the Triangulum Galaxy. Activities begin at noon and continue throughout the day and evening.

Terrestial objects that are not easily seen from within the city are easy binocular targets when viewed from Alamo Lake State Park due to the dark environment. Moons, planets, galaxies, star clusters and nebula will fill up the eyepiece when seen through the telescopes set up for visitors that night. Astronomy clubs and amateur astronomers from around the state provide the telescopes to allow visitors to explore the night sky.

If you attend, bring a red flashlight and comfort items such as folding chairs, warm clothes, bottled water and snacks. The park has camping, fishing and ramadas available for RVers and tents. Primitive camping sites are offered to participating astronomy clubs and individuals who bring a telescope to the Star Party to share with visitors.

The Park Entrance fee is $7 (up to four adults) per vehicle. Primitive and full hookup camping sites are available at a fee of $13 to $25 per night depending on the type of camping site needed. Alamo Lake State Park is located 38 miles north of Wenden and US 60. Wenden is two hours west of Phoenix north of I-10. Alamo Lake State Park offers hiking, OHV trails, birdwatching, bass fishing, and is one of Arizona's largest lakes. Learn more at the Alamo State Park website. Campground reservations can now be made online.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Three thousand miles of roads to be closed in Coconino NF

Most RVers have already pulled out of the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff. At elevations over 7,000 feet where temperatures have dropped into the teens at night and only rise to the mid 30s in daytime, those who can have started their trip to warmer southern climates. Those stuck close to home have probably parked their RV for the season.

But when the snowbirds return and when the locals awaken their rigs from winter hibernation, they will find that nearly 3,000 miles of forest roads have been closed and motorized camping is restricted from nearly 1.5 million acres to 43,000 acres along 581 miles of roads in the Coconino NF.

The decision on the changes to be made to the Travel Management Plan (TMP) was announced on Thursday, November 3rd by the Forest Service and started the clock ticking on a 45-day comment period--so if you have anything to say about the closures, don't wait until you head out in the Spring for your favorite boondocking campsite only to find it closed.

In other changes made to the TMP on the November 3rd announcement, the original version allowed dispersed camping within 100 feet of any open road but was extended to within 300 feet of both sides of just 581 miles of designated road, and one side only of 32 miles of road. With the new rule, campers and day-users will also be allowed to park and/or camp along any open road, so long as they are parked within 30 feet of the roadway.

"We changed what we were going to do after going out and collecting data on over 4,000 dispersed campsites and then tried targeting our dispersed camping corridors to where they were at and where they would cause the least impact to sensitive resources," said Mike Dechter, spokesman for the forest, according to the Verde Independent that reported on the decision.

A map and a complete copy of the decision are posted on the Coconino National Forest Website. Dechter also said that the forest will be publishing an app for smart phones, where RVers can see exactly where they are on the map so they can make accurate decisions on where they can drive and where they can boondock. The Coconino NF will be the first forest in the nation to publish such an app.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Police need help identiying man found at Beaver Creek

A man's body found at Arizona's Beaver Creek Campground has authorities looking for help with identification. The popular campground is on Interstate 17 at its junction with Arizona Highway 179, about 10 miles north of Camp Verde. On August 30, hikers found the man's body, described as being a white male, aged 35 to 45 years, 6' 1" tall, weighing 252 pounds. The man is bald, and wore a goatee.

Officials say the man's first name is Phillip, possibly haling from Florida or New Mexico. He caught a cab from the Flagstaff, Arizona train station to the campground, with one stop made at Weber's IGA store at Oak Creek. When found he was wearing two shirts, one tie-dyed, the other bearing the phrase, "Widespread Panic."

The medical examiner says the man died of heart disease.

If you have any information that may shed light on the case, police ask you call the Yavapai County Sheriff's office at (928) 771-3260.