Portal Safety

Field emergencies

Remember the golden rule: the safety of people first. the safety of rodents second. the safety of the data is a distant third.


The site has cell phone coverage and you can call 9-1-1. Give them this information: Your Name Your county (Cochise if at the site, in the mountains, or at Portal town. Hidalgo if you are in New Mexico) What is your emergency.

(From the Friends of Cave Creek Canyon website “Portal and Rodeo both have excellent EMT, ambulance and search and rescue capabilities. Dialing 911 from a cell phone will connect you to the Hidalgo County, NM, emergency center. If you are in Arizona, ask them to transfer the call to Cochise County, AZ.”

Non-Emergency Medical Services:

(From the Friends of Cave Creek Canyon website “There is a medical clinic in Portal staffed by a Nurse Practitioner on Tuesday mornings and Thursday and Friday afternoons. There is a walk-in urgent care facility in Douglas, about 60 minutes south on Route 80. (520-364-7659). The closest hospitals are in Willcox, about 90 minutes northwest by car and in Bisbee, about 90 minutes southwest by car. Portal and Rodeo both have excellent EMT, ambulance and search and rescue capabilities.”

Urgent Care

Copper Queen Community Hospital Douglas Rural Health Clinic: There is an “Emergency Department” which is open 24-hours a day, including weekends and holidays. It describes itself as “urgent care on steroids”. Anything serious (i.e. potentially life threatening, should be a 9-1-1 call. If you get really sick or experience a non-life threatening injury, then this is probably where you want to go. Address: 100 E. Fifth Street Douglas, AZ 85607 520-805-6800 https://cqch.org/cqch-clinics/copper-queen-douglas-rhc/

Emergency Room

While Bisbee is equally close, if you are at the site and this isn’t a call 9-1-1 emergency but you think you need an emergency room, then Willcox is probably where you want to go. Wilcox is more straight forward to drive to (on the interstate) than Bisbee (up in the mountains). But if you are already in Douglas, or if you are someplace where Bisbee is closer than Wilcox, then go there!

Wilcox: Northern Cochise Community Hospital. 901 W. Rex Allen Dr., Willcox, AZ 85643 Hospital Telephone: 520-384-3541 or Toll Free: 1-844-696-3541 website: http://www.ncch.net/

Bisbee: Copper Queen Community Hospital. 101 Cole Ave., Bisbee, AZ 85603 Tel: 520.432.5383 https://cqch.org/

WFR/First Aid/CPR

Support is available to get WFR or first aid/CPR certified/re-certified. Let us know if you are interested or need to be reimbursed. There is a first aid kit in the field truck. Feel free to add to it and charge to the project.

Potential Hazards


If someone gets bitten by a rattlesnake, call 911. This will connect you to the NM dispatcher who will then connect you to the Cochise dispatcher. You will need a helicopter to Tucson, because nearby hospitals don’t carry antivenom.


To the best of our collective knowledge, nobody has ever contracted a disease because of fieldwork with the Portal rodents. Possible diseases that could be contracted through contact with rodents are:

Hantavirus: contracted through inhalation of dried feces/urine, usually in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation. It is carried by Murid rodents. This is a severe disease with a high fatality rate but there is little evidence that mammalogists contract this disease from handling rodents in open-air conditions. Don’t disturb the woodrat midden, and avoid kicking up rodent-y dust. American society of mammalogist suggestions can be found here: https://academic.oup.com/jmammal/article/91/6/1524/892462

Rabies: This is theoretically a risk from fieldwork at the site but transmission by squirrel-sized or smaller rodents is extremely rare. More likely (though still extremely rare) would be an attack from a larger mammal such as a coyote, fox, skunk, or raccoon. If one of these species is observed behaving strangely or aggressively, care should be taken as they can and do transmit rabies. A bite from one of these animals should be reported immediately to a nearby medical facility.

Bubonic Plague or other ectoparasite carried diseases: There are no incidents of bubonic plague in humans near our field site (https://www.cdc.gov/plague/maps/index.html) so this is considered a very unlikely event. However, our animals do have ectoparasites. We have seen no evidence of these ectoparasites jumping to humans (no one becomes flea infested or has found themselves with ticks), but people should inspect themselves after being in the field.


Alan’s dogs notice anyone traveling on the road to the site off of Desert Willow.

There are pepper spray guns in the driver and passenger door wells of the truck.

If you feel unsafe sleeping at the site, there are other places to camp. RAs have used Rusty’s RV Ranch, and there are campsites up the canyon past Portal. Sunny Flat and Stewart are open year-round and cost $20 a night each; make sure you have cash. They are about 3 miles up the canyon past the Portal store. The lodge is an option in a pinch. It closes for check in at 6.

There is a heavy Border Patrol presence in the area. There have not been any negative interactions between Border Patrol and project personnel and the state vehicle provides some protections as it shows you are affiliated with governmental organizations. But everyone should be aware that at a national level there are a number of reported incidents of US citizens and legal immigrants being detained. We recommend traveling with identification and potentially your passport. We will also provide a letter on UF letterhead with the names of the project personnel as an added protection. If you would like a letter that also mentions your volunteer, contact Glenda or Morgan and they can provide one.