Wildlife in Papago Park

This is not about the party scene in Scottsdale! For quite a long time I have been trying to collect photos of the animal denizens around the neighborhood and in Papago Park. It has not been easy! First of all I am not Ansel Adams, so my picture taking ability is less even than my singing talent. Secondly, I do not usually take a camera with me when I go for walks, and last of all, even when I have a camera, by the time I get it out or move close enough to take a usable photo, the critter is gone. Even so, I am putting together this page to catalog the fauna of the Papago Park area.

In the middle of the Valley of the Sun

Papago Park is located between Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale, bordering on each of the three cities. It is exactly in the middle of the 3 million people plus Phoenix metropolitan area. In any direction the limits of urban growth extend a minimum of almost 20 miles and in some cases more than 50 miles. Even so, we have a fair range of birds, animals and reptiles - with two legs, four legs or even no legs - not only within walking distance, but even in the yard.

A Neigborhood Meeting...

click for photo In our neighborhood we have an informal association and even an email group. In 2005 an officer from the Arizona Fish and Game department came to a neighborhood meeting at a church to talk about the wildlife and what precautions concerned citizens could do to avoid trouble.

Here are parts of two emails received relating to this subject:

Email 1.
Neighbors... As much as we enjoy watching our neighborhood javalina--some of us have become concerned about the potential for problems with them as we walk, especially with our dogs, on our streets, and spend time out in our yards. They have been seen in all areas of the neighborhood and are probably an accident waiting to happen. An officer from the Game & Fish Department has agreed to meet with us to discuss this situation. Please join us at 6:30pm on this Thursday at St. Stephen's Church...June 23rd. Also, please notify your neighbors who may not be a part of our Yahoo Group and ask them to attend. If we want help with this situation, our best hope will be having strength in numbers. Hope to see you Thursday night.

Email 2.
Subject: Re: [sherwoodhts] Javalina/Game & Fish I am wondering if anyone has any of the same concerns with the fox and coyote that roam the neighborhood. I have heard several people comment how wonderful it is to live in such a neighborhood with "wild" animals. I, on the other hand, am fearful of the animals. My 2-year old son and I were just on our way out the door to put dinner on the BBQ grill and there was a fox laying under the lawn chair. He slowly trotted off and went behind the shop. I worry about my 2 small children playing out in the backyard, as we have had several encounters w/ a fox on our patio. I am hoping the officer will provide some education on all the wild animals living in the neighborhood. How much fear is it necessary to have? I know they say they won't harm people unless they feel threatened, but I don't even trust a strange family dog around my kids. Plus, I have a feeling that my 2 wild boys could possibly make the fox feel threatened as they are playing and running around the yard. Any comments that might either further educate me or ease my mind???????

I say, shoot them on site! I am talking about people that are uncomfortable with the critters, not the animals. So here we are in the very center of Metro Phoenix and we have to worry about neighbors who are afraid of wildlife. On a more cordial note, I can understand this mentality in some cases, as relates to elderly or people with children. Yes, there is a certain remote possibility of danger, but then again cars and electricity are also potentially dangerous, so we might as well get rid of them,too! The bottom line is that if having rabbits, coyotes, foxes, and even javalina in the neighborhood makes you uncomfortable, then you should move elsewhere.

click for photo Dog, my hand and cactus.

Actually the most immediate danger to people is the cacti! I don't know how many times I have pulled thorns from my hands and feet! I used to pull cholla from my jeans out in the Estrellas fifty years ago and I am still doing it now. I hate cholla! These are also known as the infamous "jumping cactus" because it is almost as if they leap at you when you are just walking by. They are the meanest cacti out there (even so I must have about 10 of them, in different sizes and species).

The pictures

Here are some pictures of the trouble-makers, taken in the Sherwood neighborhoods:

click for photoclick for photo Coyote.
This one was crossing Oak street one day, at 10 AM. The creature was not in a hurry, looking both was before crossing, then slipping under the fence and entering the military base. It was probably part of some secret Pentagon operation.

click for photo Doves and sparrows.
The most common of the winged creatures, except for the %!#$&* pigeons (aka 'flying rats'). I have a neighbor that traps birds, and lets them all go but the pigeons.

click for photo Quail and doves in the yard.
The quail are the most elegant of the animals. Somehow, seeing Mom and Pop quail with all the little ones following in a line brightens up any day.

click for photo Horned Owls.
One night I hear this terrible racket in the back yard. There were two enormous horned owls up on the light post, about 60 feet away, just going at it. This is the historical record of the event. Who says I can't take memorable photos?

click for photo Hawks in Papago Park.
The are several 'families' of hawks in the area. Somewhere I have a picture of one from about six feet away refusing to even touch a hotdog I was trying to feed it. That says a lot about the meat in that food.

click for photo click for photo Found it! It was not in digital format so I scanned it in. Notice the second bird above looking down in disapproval on the events transpiring below. These birds are handsome animals - and smart. They were from a large nest on Thomas Road, in front of the Frys store. The species is probably the Harris Hawk.

click for photo click for photo Dead Hawks. It seems that I see a lot of dead hawks. The first was in an alley in the Sherwood Heights area. The second was found near Gavin Parkway. That is two in one year. On top of that, they cut down the big pine tree on Thomas Avenue in front of Frys where the birds had roosted for years.

click for photo Woody. This is a woodpecker working on my Canary palm tree on a rainy day. Another great picture by John.

click for photo Lizards. Like any dessert area, we have lizards. I have no idea of what species are present. This one fell into a bucket, so I took a picture before letting it go.

click for photo Big Lizards. I found this 12 inch fellow on Tempe Butte. Red, yellow, grey and brown with a wart on his tail. He was quite a creature!

click for photo Porky Pig 1.
In 2005, for the first time in recorded history, javalina (wild hogs) moved into the neighborhood. No they did not escape from the Zoo. They probably came down the Salt River bed and up across the park. We even had a neighborhood meeting about these animals. They are usually harmless but they can be mean - and they have sharp tusks.

click for photo Porky 2.
Now it you were a pig, which would it be: 1. Living out in the hot desert, dodging hunters, eating creasole and dried grass and drinking from hard to find muddy water holes, or 2. Living in a nice, safe neighborhood, eating fresh flowers and green grass, drinking from pools and fountains, and resting all day in the shade of fruit trees. Tough choice!

click for photo Road Runners.
Beep beep. I was sitting up on an outcropping of Papago Butte one day, near the amphitheater, and this large roadrunner came through and stopped about 10 feet below me. He jumped up on a rock and looked around like he owned the park. He probably did.

click for photo Snakes.

click for photo click for imageWabbits.
As Elmer Fidd would say, 'darn wabbits'. We have both cottontails and jackrabbits. The first are just regular bunnies - cute and timid. The jacks, on the other hand, are a much larger and wilder species, easily recognized by their long tall ears and enormous hind legs. They can really move. The rabbits, especially the cottontails, are the favorite prey for both the coyotes and foxes. If it weren't for them, half the vegetation in the area would be gone. The rabbits have eaten bark on my trees (I had to put wire mesh on a few) and even taken chunks of bites out of my cacti.

click for imageArticle in Az Rep.
As Elmer Fidd would say, 'darn wabbits'. We have both cottontails and jackrabbits. The first are just regular bunnies - cute and timid. The jacks, on the other hand, are a much larger and wilder species, easily recognized by their long tall ears and enormous hind legs. They can really move. The rabbits, especially the cottontails, are the favorite prey for both the coyotes and foxes. If it weren't for them, half the vegetation in the area would be gone. The rabbits have eaten bark on my trees (I had to put wire mesh on a few) and even taken chunks of bites out of my cacti.

The foxes...

The only large mammal that will be really hard to photograph are the darn foxes (The species is Kitt's Fox, I guess). They are the only ones I have actually tried to get pictures of. The problem is that when you see one, you have about 3 seconds to take a picture. I am too slow. I have seen them in ditches, on fences and once even on top of a roof - but even when I had a camera I could get it ready in time. Last year (2005), on 60th street, I had a fox stop next to the truck and stare at me from less than 5 yards away for about 10 seconds, around 9 PM. No camera!

The rest...

A big bug in Papago Park, click for photo A bigger beetle in Papago Park There are lots of squirrels, rats and other rodents of different species, as well as snakes and countless lizards. We also have an array of beetles, bugs, spiders and ants. I would like to mention that I currently have a feral cat problem. I don't mind it hunting the birds, but I wish it would bury the remains or leave them somewhere else. I don't really like having bird heads, torn-off wings and piles of feathers on my driveway several times a week. Oh yes, so far no sasquatch or chupacabras have been reported (except in the Sierra Estrella mountains to the south!).

I will add other pictures as I get them. Any donated photos by interested parties will be welcome.

All 'Papago Park' Pages

Here are all the pages on this site that relate to the history, development, attractions and even the future of this area: