Amy Burnett is the information and education program manager for Arizona Game & Fish. On Tuesday, Feb. 12, she will offer a presentation on javelina and other local wildlive beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Center, Ballroom 4. This event will be open to the public.
Bobcats, coyotes and javelinas are common visitors to Fountain Hills backyards and have been since the town was founded. Recently becoming more common are stories of residents’ pet dogs and cats being stalked and even eaten by desert predators, and coyotes and bobcats seemingly unafraid of people.
You might be surprised at the real reason that this is happening. And if you turn a blind eye, you may be part of the problem.
Every week in Arizona, Game and Fish gets calls from distraught people around the Valley who have lost pets when a bobcat or coyote found their small dog or outdoor cat to be easy prey. In recent years, the majority of calls in the Fountain Hills community have been directly linked to nearby residents who were feeding wildlife.
Feeding wildlife encourages animals to associate us with meeting their basic needs, and they become more and more comfortable around us and our pets, which they see as just an extension of the free buffet.
If you see a bobcat or coyote frequenting your yard, chances are that a neighbor has been feeding it; either on purpose or inadvertently.
Although you may enjoy seeing a bobcat from a distance, when you feed wildlife, you send mixed messages.
If we turn a blind eye to others’ feeding, we are not being part of the solution. Are you doing everything you can to discourage coyotes from your backyard, while your neighbor throws table scraps over the fence?
Is your spouse putting out dishes of food for the neighborhood cats, and javelinas and raccoons are attracted to the leftovers after dark?
An eight-foot wall is no obstacle for a bobcat or coyote. Even if you love seeing wildlife in your yard, if you are not making it uncomfortable to be there, you are inadvertently sending a message of welcome.
A bobcat or coyote that becomes used to humans may be a welcome sight to you, but a problem animal in your neighborhood, and eventually may need to be unceremoniously removed.
Habituated animals may become aggressive toward pets or people. Arizona Game and Fish generally does not remove animals unless it is a human (not pet) health or safety issue.
Licensed private companies will trap animals at homeowners’ expense — fees run in the hundreds of dollars per animal. After removal, the animal may be euthanized, as it has been labeled a “nuisance,” or it may die after not adapting to its new territory.
As you can see, this can quickly become a costly and unfortunate no-win situation for both people and the wildlife we enjoy keeping “wild.”
But, you say, my neighbor regularly feeds wildlife. What can I do?
First, talk to your neighbor. Explain your concern and work toward a solution together. Feeding wildlife (other than birds) is not only a bad idea, it is illegal in Maricopa County.
If your neighbor insists on continuing to feed, you may report the violation to Arizona Game and Fish’s confidential Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-352-0700.
How else can you be part of the solution? If you see a coyote in your yard, don’t condone this behavior by ignoring it. This may cause it to lose its natural fear of people, which can eventually lead to aggressive behavior or it to become considered a nuisance animal.
Arizona Game and Fish recommends that you:
*Make loud noises.
*Shout and bang pots and pans or rattle empty soda cans with pennies in it.
*Wave your hands or objects like sticks and brooms.
*Throw small stones.
*Spray the animal with a hose or a Super Soaker loaded with a 10 percent household ammonia solution on bold animals that refuse to leave.
Start the conversation with your neighbors and come up with a plan that you can all agree on. Keeping wildlife wild is a community issue. And when we keep wildlife wild, everyone wins.
If you have further questions, please feel free to call me at the Mesa office of Arizona Game and Fish at 480-324-3548.