Arizona Game & Fish Department is the agency you call when you find a wounded wild animal, have a dangerous animal in your yard — or worse, in your house — or some other wildlife quandary. These wildlife managers will do their best to keep both human and wild animals safe.
They are law enforcement officers. Like police and sheriff’s departments, they enforce laws, but also try to help humans and wildlife stay safe and happy. This may mean pulling a trapped animal out from under your porch or helping get an animal that found its way into your house back out with as little fuss as possible.
But let’s face it, fuss happens. Here are a few funny or cautionary stories of wildlife managers easing the fears of humans and wildlife alike, which in the case of wildlife, often means just knowing what it is and leaving it alone.
WHAT’S THAT NOISE?
Several years ago during monsoon season, Game & Fish’s Karen Klima was working southwest of Tucson when she received a call from a Sahuarita resident who said a javelina was stuck in a culvert in a wash near her home. The resident said the culvert was only about a foot across.
Klima went looking, found the culvert but not a javelina. She called the resident, who said she still heard the crying.
Finally, Klima heard the sound but she knew it was a Colorado River toad. The resident was sure she was wrong until she looked up the sound of the toad on the computer and realized her mistake.
In another case of mistaken identity, Klima was looking forward to going home after a long day when she got a call to go to Sahuarita Lake to see about a bobcat stuck in a sewer.
By the time Klima arrived, there was quite a crowd of people. Sahuarita police officers and several homeowners were there looking at the grate. Klima heard the noise and knew it was a toad.
The funny thing was that the woman who reported the “bobcat” had tried to feed it by spooning tuna from a can through the grate, Klima said. She also had a water bottle and was pouring water into the sewer. She told Klima that she thought the bobcat was sick because it wasn’t eating any of the food.
SEND IN THE ROBOT
Wildlife manager Martin Guerena had a memorable encounter with bobcats. He was called to a home in Vail by the Sheriff’s Department where a deputy encountered a bobcat sitting on the couch. He could hear kittens crying underneath the couch.
Guerena said the bobcats had taken up residence in the house, which belonged to a winter visitor. There was feces everywhere; rabbit fur and bird feathers were all over the living room.
Guerena thought about darting the mother bobcat but didn’t want to do so in case the mother was nursing. The chemicals in the drug could affect the babies. So he opened all the doors hoping to shoo them out.
The mother ran into a side room and jumped on top of a bookshelf, so Guerena used this chance to get the kittens out. Then Guerena knew he had to get the mother out but was afraid she would jump on him if he came too close.
He grabbed a large cardboard box and cut a hole in it, then put the box on with his head through the hole. When he went into the room she was right there eye-to-eye with him. Perhaps his “robot” suit annoyed her, because she jumped down, ran through the hallway and out the back door.
Then there was the case of javelina trapped under a trailer.
When Guerena arrived, the adult javelina had gotten out, but the babies were still stuck.
Guerena was able to grab one quickly and put it in a trash can in the backyard. He told the homeowner not to touch the baby. He intended to get the other and then release them to the herd that was waiting in the bushes nearby.
Guerena went after the other baby and when he came out, the homeowner was holding a bandage on her hand, which was bleeding profusely.
“She didn’t listen to me,” he said. “She thought it was cute and stuck her hand down there to pet it.”
After releasing the javelina, his next trip was to take the homeowner to the emergency room.
Arizona Game & Fish gets lots of calls about people hand-feeding javelina and being bitten. This is even more common with tourists who don’t know how dangerous the animals can be.
The Arizona Game & Fish Department has a wealth of information about local wildlife and how best to be safe around them at azgfd.com.
The best advice? Don’t touch. Don’t feed wild animals. Leave babies where you find them. If you are concerned or have a problem, you can call Arizona Game & Fish’s Tucson office at 628-5376.