ARIZONA —It is best not to feed wildlife.
“There is an Arizona state law that prohibits feeding wildlife in counties with over 280,000 residents. So, that includes Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties,” said AZGFD Public Information Officer, Diane Tilton, last summer.
Local municipalities, including the City of Show Low, the Town of Pinetop-Lakeside, and Navajo County have local ordinances against attracting bears, coyotes, or javelinas that can result in a criminal citation.
“Feeding wildlife in Navajo County is not against the law, however, we do not recommend it,” said Tilton.
In addition, Navajo County enacted Ordinance No. 04-10 in May 2010 which addresses “remedial actions to avoid contact between humans and bears, coyotes or javelinas.”
Although the ordinance does not specifically ban feeding wildlife, AZGFD strong discourages it.
“People often feed wildlife because they think they are helping the animal,” said Field Supervisor Bob Birkland for the AZGFD Pinetop Regional Office. “Most times these animals will become a nuisance to others in the community and will need to be removed, including lethal methods.”
Feeding wildlife, especially prey species like birds, squirrels and deer attract predators such as coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions into populated areas.
“Never intentionally feed wildlife” is the long-standing advice of the AZGFD. Doing so can result in wildlife being concentrated at feeding areas, making them more susceptible to disease transmission and more vulnerable to predators.
“People should NEVER feed javelina,” said AZGFD officials. “This can cause them to become regular visitors and lose their fear of people, creating problems for the neighborhood and often leading to the death of the javelina.”
Javelina occasionally bite humans, but incidents of bites are almost always associated with people providing the javelina with food.
What about bears?
“Almost all of these calls we get about bears had one common theme — bird feeders and trash,” says Public Affairs Community Liaison Jackie Follmuth. “One of the greatest causes of wildlife becoming a nuisance is animals becoming habituated to human food sources and garbage.”
Follmuth said that bears, in particular, are also attracted to human-generated food sources like garbage, bird seed, hummingbird feeders, pet food and fruit trees.
The AZGFD spends considerable time and resources removing or relocating habituated bears to minimize the risk to people.
“However, removing a bear does not solve the problem,” she said. “If the original bear attractant is not removed, another bear will likely move into the area or the original bear may return.”
Approximately half of all bears that are removed travel great distances and return to the same area where it was captured.
What you can do to prevent interactions with nuisance wildlife:
- Keep all trash inside a secured area until collection day. If that’s not possible, keep food waste in a bag in the freezer and place those in the trash as close to collection time as possible.
- If you’ll be out of town or are a weekend visitor, ask a neighbor to place your trash out on collection day.
- Take bird feeders down at night.
- Keep pet food inside or remove all uneaten food.
To report nuisance wildlife such as bears, please call the nearest Arizona Game and Fish Department regional office during weekday business hours. The Pinetop Regional Office’s phone number is (928) 367-4281.
During non-business hours, call the Arizona Game and Fish Department radio dispatcher at (623) 236-7201.
For more information, visit the AZGFD website at www.azgfd.com/Wildlife/LivingWith.
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