LIVING AMONGST WILDLIFE: Safely Navigating Encounters in and Around Estrella

Living at Estrella in Goodyear means the opportunity to be nestled amidst the iconic Sierra Estrella Mountains with miles of meandering trails and scenic views. Along with beauty, the desert mountains bring a plethora of wildlife, many of which may interact with hikers, bikers and exporters. These encounters only increase in the spring and summer as temperatures heat up and wildlife awakens and increases activity.

Darren Julian from the Arizona Game and Fish Department says the wildlife that seems to get the most attention this time of year are snakes. He said all snakes, including rattlesnakes, are most active during the daytime when it’s nice outside. “They’re looking for areas that hold warmth. Unfortunately, that often means the middle of a trail or on concrete.”

If you do come across a rattlesnake, whether in your yard or on the trail, he said be sure to give it space. “The best thing is to give it a wide berth. Don’t poke it literally or figuratively. Don’t try to grab it or scare it away. It’s there for a reason and that’s to stay warm or get warm. They aren’t looking for a fight.” He said it’s okay to take a few steps off the trail to get around them but if that’s not an option, just turn around and go back the way you came.”

As the temperatures get even warmer, they’ll move into shaded areas like porches or shrubs. “Most snakebites we see are on hands. Golfers tend to retrieve a lost ball and get bit.” He also said to be mindful when walking with your pets, especially the curious breeds like Labradors. “Keep them on a leash and keep them back close to you as much as possible. If you can, snake train your dog to recognize the sight, smell, and sounds of a venomous snake.”


Javelina are also common in the Sonoran Desert, but Julian says they’re not as aggressive as many believe. “They are the most misunderstood animal we have here in Arizona. They’re active at dawn and dusk but can be out and about when the weather is nice during the day.” He said all the stories about aggressive attacks are probably provoked. “The truth is javelina have very poor eyesight, but they see movement really well, so most instances where someone is charged, it’s at night and usually involves medium and large sized dogs who are perceived as a threat to them or their young.” Julian’s advice is to stomp your feet, clap your hands and scare them off. “They’re good at protecting themselves or the herd. They may go on the offensive to push the threat away from the herd, but this most often happens when they’ve lost their fear of humans,” he said. “Typically, they will hear or smell us long before we see them, and they’ll run or hide away. Again, they are not looking for a fight.”


A more opportunistic predator, coyotes display similar behavior, but they’ll go after the easiest meal they can find, including small pets in an urban environment. “It’s not very common for them to be aggressive toward people and when that does happen, it’s when people were feeding them in the area.” So, he says be sure you aren’t providing additional food sources intentionally or accidentally. Keep dog food inside, dispose of fallen citrus and limit the amount of birdseed you have in your yard. If they become pests, Julian said you need to be active at hazing them. “A simple 10-20 percent ammonia and water solution in a super soaker should do the trick. Household ammonia is an irritant and they don’t like the smell. If you haze them and let them know they aren’t welcome, they’ll find someplace else to go.”

Mountain Lions and Bobcats

Several big cats such as mountain lions and bobcats are also desert dwellers, although encountering a mountain lion is much more uncommon. Julian said May and June are the months where they tend to have the most mountain lion sightings in and around Phoenix because the weather is at its driest and hottest and the animals come into town to find water. “They’ll seek out water anywhere they can get it, a pool, a water fountain, golf course ponds, you name it.” He continued, “Bobcats, though, they’re here. Much like coyotes, years ago they figured out where people are and where the food is. The biggest difference is, while coyotes will eat just about anything, bobcats typically only eat what they kill so it’s harder to habituate them to people, but they do get comfortable if we aren’t pushing back. They don’t like to be wet, so if you see one, turn the hose on them and they’ll figure it out.”

Living within the serenity of the desert and Sonoran mountains on the outskirts of the city means at some point you’ll likely come across these critters, but there’s room for everyone to have their own space he explained. “Enjoy wildlife when you see it, but enjoy them at a distance. Use your zoom to see a closer shot. Keep your distance, don’t try to entice them.” High pitched sounds emulate wounded or injured animals which could alert others to come check it out. Those low, loud tones are key, he said. “Be aggressive, appear big, even pepper them with rocks if you can. Carrying pepper spray is also a good idea.”

“If you are approached, stand your ground. Whatever you do, don’t run from a mountain lion or coyote. If you are attacked, fight back, don’t play dead. We don’t look like prey so always stay upright, look them in the eye and stay dominant. Speak or yell in low loud tones.”

If you have concerns about wildlife in your area, view the “living with wildlife” webpage at For aggressive wildlife behaviors or if you have a dangerous encounter, report it to The Arizona Game and Fish Department at their 24-hour wildlife hotline 623-236-7201.

Find your new home at and discover why 7,600 families already call this diverse, welcoming West Valley master-planned community home. Located in Goodyear, Arizona amongst pristine mountains and a dramatic desert landscape, Estrella amenities include multiple Residents’ Clubs, resort-style pools and a waterpark, 72 acres of lakes, 65-plus miles of paths and trails, the Yacht Club of Estrella, the award-winning Nicklaus Design course at the Golf Club of Estrella, community welcome center, and more than 50 neighborhood parks.