Officials warn Arizonans to “think twice” before luring wildlife with food
NORTH VALLEY – A nuisance bear is being sought after repeatedly showing up at the Pioneer Pass campground in the Tonto National Forest. A sub-adult male bear was captured in Parks, Ariz. and had to be relocated. A mountain lion is suspected of killing a Mesa family pet. Javelinas attacked a Fountain Hills resident and her dogs. It’s the time of year when wildlife are on the move, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department is cautioning people to take steps to reduce wildlife interactions with humans.
“In spring, many wildlife species venture out of the hills looking for new home territories, water and food, and that often brings them into town. People who love wildlife should understand that feeding wild animals puts them in danger,” said Jay Cook, regional supervisor at the AZGFD Mesa office. “When wildlife learn to view humans as a food source, they lose their fear of people, and that can lead to attacks that end badly for both humans and wildlife.”
The problem of wandering wildlife is not confined to Arizona’s rural communities because even Arizona’s biggest cities are surrounded by deserts, forests and riparian areas. Smaller prey animals like ground squirrels, rabbits, mice, and birds are also abundant in urban areas, and their presence will attract predators, too. While feeding birds and tree squirrels is legal, some counties have ordinances against feeding other wildlife because of the dangers it can pose to both people and wildlife.
Predators like mountain lions, coyotes, and bears are common and abundant in Arizona, and though they are elusive and not always seen, they know that human habitation often signals available food. Arizona Game and Fish advises homeowners to discourage migrating wildlife from staying by eliminating temptations such as outdoor pet food and water dishes, over-full bird feeders that attract rodents, open trash containers, and even small pets left outdoors.
It’s equally important to discourage or “haze” predators such as coyotes and mountain lions by making loud noises, waving your arms and throwing things to scare them away. Cook says anything that makes wild animals uncomfortable around humans will help teach them to stay clear.
“It’s a selfish act to put food out to attract wildlife into town for your viewing pleasure,” said Cook. “We want people to think twice before luring wildlife into trouble by feeding them.”
For more tips on living with wildlife and how you can help keep wildlife wild, visit www.azgfd.com/Wildlife/LivingWith.