Are you familiar with the dangerous creatures that inhabit Lake Pleasant, Arizona?
The lake is a popular spot for Phoenix-area locals and tourists alike. Boating, fishing, hiking, and RV camping are popular pastimes in this desert oasis. Plus, the arid climate makes Lake Pleasant a nearly year-round destination for recreation.
However, anyone traveling to Lake Pleasant should know that humans aren’t the only ones setting up camp. The pristine lake is home to many species of wildlife that pose real threats to visitors.
Are you ready to learn more? Let’s dive in!
About Lake Pleasant, Arizona
Lake Pleasant sits in Lake Pleasant Regional Park, about one hour north of downtown Phoenix. This human-made lake was created during the construction of the Carl Pleasant Dam. Although it was once an agricultural project, Lake Pleasant became a storage reservoir in the 1970s.
The lake spans an impressive 10,000 acres and maintains an average depth of about 70 feet. Near the dam, however, the lake bottom plunges to 260 feet!
Thanks to its size, Lake Pleasant is a popular recreation spot for residents and visitors alike. People love to bring their speed boats, kayaks, and jet skis on the water. Fishing enthusiasts come to enjoy a wide array of freshwater fish, including three kinds of bass, black crappie, and channel catfish.
Lake Pleasant is also a fun destination if you’re not into water sports. Many visitors choose to hike or cycle the land surrounding the lake. Camping is plentiful, too: according to VisitArizona.com, the park features more than 150 campsites ranging from primitive areas to RV hookups.
Despite all the great reasons to visit, there are some risks to be aware of when traveling to Lake Pleasant. The park is chock full of dangerous creatures – some venomous, some poisonous, and some downright hostile to humans.
Read on to learn the types of wildlife to avoid in this desert oasis.
Pro Tip: While in AZ, grab a drink at one of these Best Breweries in Arizona.
Dangerous Creatures in Lake Pleasant, Arizona
Like any natural area, Lake Pleasant is home to dozens of native animal species. Some are harmless and even fun to watch. ScorpionBayAZ.com notes that visitors can view birds like herons, pelicans, and gulls on the decks of the Scorpion Bay Marina. But you’ll want to steer clear of a few other animals!
Lake Pleasant is just one of many desert havens for venomous rattlesnakes in the U.S. According to an article on AZCentral.com, Arizona houses 13 different species, the highest number in any state. Phoenix Herpetological Society President Russ Johnson says snakes don’t follow a specific schedule: “Once it gets warm out, they are coming out.”
One family even saw a swimming rattlesnake on Lake Pleasant in 2017! This means visitors on both land and water should keep their eyes peeled.
The good news is that rattlesnakes aren’t especially hard to identify. AZCentral.com says hikers and boaters should watch for snakes with triangular heads and rattles on the tips of their tails. Rattlesnakes will shake their rattles and hiss when threatened.
Avoid common hiding and nesting spots such as rocks and tall grass to prevent rattlesnake bites. If you spot a snake, the safest course of action is to move far around or away from it. You should find a medical professional immediately if a snake does bite you.
The Arizona bark scorpion is another dangerous creature making its home in the Lake Pleasant area. This scorpion is the most venomous species in the U.S. Although their stings are rarely fatal, they’re painful enough to ruin anyone’s day.
These scorpions are a light orange-brown color. Adult males can grow to be just over three inches while females top out at just under three inches. Arizona bark scorpions are nocturnal and, like snakes, take shelter in cool areas like rocks, grass, and tree bark. Due to their small stature and clever hiding spots, they can be tough to spot!
Avoiding their hiding spots is the easiest way to prevent a scorpion sting. If stung, cleanse the affected area with soap and water and apply a cold compress. You can also take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for the pain (which can sometimes be intense.)
Most scorpion stings heal on their own, but small children and those who develop extreme symptoms should receive medical attention immediately.
As if creepy crawlies like scorpions and rattlesnakes weren’t enough, Lake Pleasant is also home to the javelina or collared peccary. These tenacious mammals are usually harmless when left alone. However, when threatened, javelinas are dangerous not only to humans but to pets and other animals too.
According to the Arizona Game & Fish Department, javelinas travel in packs numbering anywhere from two to 20 creatures. They can grow to be 60 pounds and are typically a salt-and-pepper color with a light ring of white around their necks. Because they feed on vegetation and bathe to stay cool, it’s not uncommon to find them near bodies of water.
Javelinas instinctively avoid humans most of the time. But in recreational areas like Lake Pleasant, garbage and food sources can attract them. The Arizona Game & Fish Department website says that most javelina bites result from humans attempting to give the animals food.
If confronted by javelinas, make a loud noise (such as banging pots and pans) to ward them off. Supervise dogs and other pets closely and remove them from the area if a javelina appears. For unknown reasons, the peccaries are more apt to attack a dog without provocation.
If a javelina bites you or your pet, seek medical attention immediately, as they sometimes carry diseases such as rabies and distemper.
Coyotes are the second kind of dangerous mammal to look out for at Lake Pleasant. Despite their fluffy dog-like appearance, these wild canines are not to be messed with. They’re omnivores who are just as content to munch on small animals as they’re on garbage.
The Arizona Game & Fish Department describes coyotes as “curious, clever, and adaptable.” They’re primarily nocturnal but can appear during daytime hours too. Coyotes are especially dangerous to dogs and domesticated animals. They’re known to “befriend” household pets before preying on them!
Unlike many of the dangerous creatures on this list, coyotes shouldn’t be ignored when spotted. According to the Arizona Game & Fish Department, ignoring a coyote can encourage more daring behavior in future encounters. You should never feed coyotes and should try to keep food sources like garbage, food scraps, and domesticated animals inside a dwelling.
If a coyote crosses your path, make loud noises with pots, pans, or any other noise-making item you can find. Yelling and waving your arms often works well. Make sure to keep eye contact with the animal, so it doesn’t try to chase you. A medical professional must treat coyote bites as soon as possible to avoid infection.
Spiders may be one of the most misunderstood insects on the planet. Most of them are beneficial since they prey on many insects we consider pests, but not all of them are our friends. And some of those dangerous spiders are native to areas such as Lake Pleasant.
The infamous black widow spider, with its jet black body and red hourglass marking, is one species that thrives in Arizona’s arid climate. Black widows aren’t outwardly aggressive but can bite when their nests or webs are disturbed.
According to PinalCentral.com, these spiders are venomous at all life stages and release a nerve toxin that results in extreme muscle pain and shortness of breath.
Arizona brown spiders are another common species found at Lake Pleasant. These have distinct, dark brown violin-shaped markings on their bodies. They will bite when provoked and their initially painless bites can cause ulcer-like sores, fever, nausea, and even allergic reactions.
Limit chances of interacting with these venomous creatures by avoiding common nesting spots like discarded wood and dead cacti. Both species are nocturnal and, therefore, a much higher risk to humans at night. If a black widow or an Arizona brown spider bites you, seek medical attention immediately.
Pro Tip: After visiting Lake Pleasant head to one of these 5 Spooky Ghost Towns in Arizona.
Be Wary While Enjoying Lake Pleasant, Arizona
Lake Pleasant and the surrounding area are sources of unmatched natural beauty. Who doesn’t love a weekend of sun, water, and hiking?
But before loading up your RV and making the trip to Arizona, make sure you’re prepared for a run-in with one or more of these dangerous creatures. Travel with a first aid kit and remain aware of your surroundings.
If you encounter wildlife, leave it alone! And make sure to protect pets and small children while remaining prepared to get medical help in an emergency.
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