Much of what makes life in this Valley appealing is the state’s rugged desert feel. The landscape is rough hereabouts, all scrub growth and cactus that can tear flesh.
The temperature for many months of the year is too much for weaker beings.
And then there’s Arizona’s wildlife, the rattlesnakes, scorpions, javelina and coyotes who have called this place home since long before man moved out West and staked a claim.
Life in the Valley isn’t for everyone. I was reminded of that after watching a story on KTVK Channel 3 about a Nov. 6 neighborhood meeting between scores of angry Scottsdale residents and officials from the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
The subject of the gathering? A rash of homicidal urban coyotes who have killed six dogs and a cat since September in the area around Scottsdale and Bell roads.
Said one lady neighbor while jabbing a manicured fingernail at Game and Fish officials: “I’ve been here since 1974, and it’s never been the case (of) this many coyotes. And I can tell you it better not start being the case because if I get hurt, I’m gonna sue somebody. I’m gonna say you should’ve been protecting me and you weren’t.”
I’ll note for the record that coyote attacks against human beings – manicured or otherwise – are exceedingly rare in Arizona (and non-existent in this TV story).
Coyotes mostly eat fruit and garbage and roadkill.
They occasionally switch things up by grabbing small dogs and cats who almost exclusively have been left off-leash or allowed to roam the backyard unaccompanied after leaving the house through the doggie door.
The chances of a coyote or a coyote pack cornering and attacking you or snatching your pet while you’re nearby standing sentinel?
It’s pretty much zero based on my quarter-century living here.
Confronted by humans – and I’ve seen my share of coyotes while hiking and golfing – desert dogs are typically timid, ready to flee the moment you act unafraid and dominant.
As for the risk of a coyote killing a small pet that’s off the leash, my response may sound heartless, but here it is: That’s life in the desert. It happens. That’s the life we all chose when we came here.
In cities, the greatest danger to pets is a lifetime of confinement and avenue traffic. Here, the desert has predators who kill.
The less you account for that and the less vigilant you are as a desert pet owner, the more likely your pet will end up a victim.
Again, I don’t mean to belittle the grief of pet owners who loses a dog or cat. That would be devastating.
Still, such losses do not represent blood on the hands of Game and Fish. That department has always been very clear about its role in the Arizona ecosystem: Game and Fish does not remove or relocate “nuisance wildlife” to protect pets. They take action only when human lives are at risk.
The metropolitan Phoenix desert remains a place with rough edges, risks and discomforts. That’s part of what makes the Valley unique.
We don’t live in desert owned by Disney, with a chorus of smiling coyotes singing “Hakuna Matata.” Here, owning small dogs and cats comes with certain risks and responsibilities.
If that’s not what you signed up for, I totally understand.
But the proper response isn’t to call the government to demand protection or to call in a SWAT team of lawyers. Perhaps you should consider calling a real estate agent instead?
David Leibowitz has called the Valley home since 1995. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org