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As the spring weather warms up and animals such as coyotes and javelina become more active, Arizona Game and Fish Department officials remind everyone to avoid the temptation to feed wildlife.
Feeding wildlife is a bad practice that can lead to nuisance problems or potentially dangerous encounters between animals and humans. Recent calls to Game and Fish offices around the state have included people having problems with coyotes, skunks, javelina, raccoons, foxes, bobcats and mountain lions.
“Many people mistakenly think that feeding wildlife is a nice thing to do, either out of a belief they are helping them, or because they like to see rabbits or javelina spend time around their homes,” says Darren Julian, urban wildlife specialist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Mesa region.
“But what really happens is that the animals can become habituated to people and conditioned to receiving food from them, increasing the chance for human-wildlife conflicts. Feeding smaller animals can attract larger, predatory ones, such as coyotes and mountain lions, which can cause property damage, eat pets, and become aggressive toward people.”
Two types of feeding take place: intentional, where people put out food to attract wildlife, and unintentional, such as leaving trash accessible or feeding pets outside.
In 2006, the Arizona Legislature passed a law making it illegal to feed wildlife (except birds and tree squirrels) in Maricopa and Pima counties.
To reduce the chance of unwanted wildlife encounters, people should avoid feeding wildlife, feed pets indoors (and not leave small pets unattended outside), and make sure all garbage is secured. If you feed birds, keep the seed in an appropriate bird feeder rather than scattering it in your yard. The seed can attract rodents and snakes, which in turn can attract larger predators.
People can also look at the vegetation on their property to see if there are attractants that can be eliminated. Talk to a local nursery about planting vegetation native to the area. This will allow wildlife to make the occasional visit, but they will continue to forage naturally and won’t congregate in one area.
All wildlife, regardless of the “cuteness” factor, can be dangerous and are best enjoyed from a distance.
Julian cautions people that if an animal is considered a public safety threat, it is usually lethally removed.
“People can help prevent situations like that through a community effort,” he says. “You and your neighbors can help keep wildlife wild by not feeding them or providing them easy access to food and water sources around your house. Don’t be the person responsible for creating a situation that’s bad for wildlife and bad for people.”
For additional information on the dangers of feeding wildlife and tips on living with urban wildlife, visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department Web site at www.azgfd.gov/urbanwildlife.