Two recent cases of suspected wildlife feeding, one of which involved a woman reportedly being bitten by a javelina, has led to the Arizona Game and Fish Department warning residents of Pima and Pinal counties that it’s dangerous and illegal to do so by state law.
“Javelina are common in urban areas, often near a wash or other natural desert. We encourage watching wildlife from a safe distance, but javelina should never be fed by humans,” said Tucson Regional Supervisor Raul Vega. “Javelina occasionally bite people, and such incidents are almost always associated with people providing the javelina with food. They can inflict a serious wound.”
Defensive javelina behavior may include charging, teeth clacking, or a barking, growling sound.
Javelina may act defensively when cornered, to protect their young, or when they hear or smell a dog. Coyotes are natural predators of javelina, and javelina do not distinguish between coyotes and dogs. If allowed to interact, dogs and javelina can seriously hurt or kill each other. Javelina around your home may also inadvertently attract mountain lions, because mountain lions prey on javelina.
“Most people who intentionally feed wildlife are initially under the impression that they are doing something positive for wildlife,” Vega said. “However, habituating wildlife to a human food source inevitably leads to conflicts with people and can result in serious harm in some cases. Furthermore, feeding wildlife can cause problems such as obesity and malnutrition, and promote the spread of disease.”
A Tucson resident in 2011 became the first person to be prosecuted in Pima County under a new state law (A.R.S. 13-2927), which makes it illegal to feed wildlife in Pima, Maricopa and more recently Pinal County, with the exception of birds as well as tree squirrels, which are rare at lower elevations. Game and Fish cited the person following repeated requests by wildlife officers that she stop feeding javelina. That person was sentenced in Pima County Justice Court, and ordered to stop placing food for wildlife on the ground.
“There are responsible ways to feed birds without allowing other wildlife to access the seed,” Vega said. “Birds can be fed in an enclosed yard, preferably in a bird feeder. A tray can be attached beneath a feeder to catch spillover seed. Seed blocks should be placed in an enclosed area or on a secure raised platform.“
For tips on living with urban wildlife, visit www.azgfd.gov/urbanwildlife. To report apparent wildlife violations contact Operation Game Thief at 1-800-372-0500, anonymously if need be.