I’ve got a trip coming up, spending a few weeks traveling around Phoenix, Tucson, and Sedona (and surrounding areas). I’m hoping to add a bunch of lifers to my lists, and learn a lot about the animals and plants in the area. But I want to do this safely and responsibly.
I’m from the US Mid Atlantic, and I’m reasonably knowledgeable about staying safe around the things that live here and could hurt me. I don’t have that same base of knowledge about the US Southwest, so I’m going to be a lot more careful as I’m hiking around. But basically I have two questions:
1) How much can/should I interact with the environment? Around where I live some disturbing of the environment isn’t really damaging, as long as one is sensible. For example, I’ll flip over a log or a rock to find snakes or salamanders, and I’ll often pick them up if I know them to be safe to handle. It’s an absolute must to always replace the log or rock exactly as it was before I touched it, and make sure the animal is able to safely get back under it, and overall leave things as I found them. But causing that level of disturbance isn’t considered problematic, at least as I understand it (please feel free to correct me if that’s wrong). I asked a question about this approach on an Arizona hiking forum, and was politely but firmly told that I’d be seriously damaging to the environment. But that was a forum focused on hiking, not nature/wildlife/etc. I might have come across as a reckless jerk, planning on carelessly destroying things as I go past. So before I take it as gospel I wanted to ask here, since folks here are likely to be similar to me: interested in seeing as much as possible, while at the same time being very careful not to damage or disrupt nature. Will I really be causing serious damage to the environment if I carefully pick up a rock to see what’s under it, and then place it back exactly as I found it?
2) What do I need to know about staying safe? I already know about staying hydrated and dealing with the heat, and how cuddly chollas tend to be. I lived in Phoenix for a few years a long time ago (long before becoming interested in nature) so I’m familiar with the climate. Also, I’ll be there in March and April, so it’ll be hot, but not crazy summer-in-Arizona hot. I’m more worried about animal encounters, in particular Africanized bees. If I use common sense and take the time to ensure there aren’t bees coming and going from anything I’m considering looking closely at (flipping a rock, for example), will I most likely be ok? Or will just getting close to them be enough to set them off? I trust myself around snakes, scorpions, spiders, etc, and I’m not terribly worried about large mammals (should I be?). In terms of large animals, I suspect I’m more likely to be hurt by an encounter with the wrong bipedal primate than any coyote/mountain lion/javelina/etc. Any advice about staying safe around bees, or any other AZ wildlife, is appreciated.
Thanks for your thoughts, everyone!