The Arizona Senate is now considering a bill that would make it a petty offense to feed wildlife in a way that causes nuisance, aggressive animals to come into a neighborhood and pose a danger to people. The move comes in the wake of aggressive coyote reports in both Sun City West and Paradise Valley.
"Many people think that feeding wildlife is a nice thing to do, that they're encouraging rabbits or deer to spend time around their homes," says Rod Lucas, the Arizona Game and Fish Department's Phoenix/Mesa regional supervisor. "What really happens is that those animals attract larger, predatory animals to their neighborhoods, too. That's when you have coyotes, bobcats and other animals that can become aggressive toward people and even eat pets."
A task force was recently formed to deal with urban coyote issues emerging in Sun City West. A coyote awareness meeting was held last week in Paradise Valley. It was hosted by Chief John Wintersteen of the Paradise Valley Police Department.
"Paradise Valley is already working to stop urban wildlife problems and to be proactive about educating citizens not to feed wildlife," says Wintersteen. "Right now, Paradise Valley is the only local city with a wildlife-feeding ordinance. If you're convicted of feeding wild coyotes, for example, you could pay a fine of up to $250."
About 40 Phoenix, Scottsdale and Paradise Valley residents attended last week's coyote awareness meeting and talked about problems they're having with coyotes in their neighborhoods. The participants heard a Game and Fish presentation on ways to discourage coyotes from getting comfortable near their homes. They also heard from a representative of the Arizona Humane Society about how to protect their pets. In a survey filled out by those attending, 100 percent of the respondents say they would support a law to prohibit feeding coyotes.
The wildlife-feeding bill would only affect the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas. The bill, Senate Bill 1438, "Unlawful Feeding of Wildlife," would not affect people just feeding birds or squirrels, or anyone carrying out normal livestock or agricultural operations. It would only stop those who are intentionally, knowingly or recklessly feeding wildlife.
Problems associated with wildlife feeding include coyote attacks on eight child victims in areas of Maricopa County, two recent Phoenix-area incidents where javelina bit humans who were hand-feeding them, and several human-mountain lion encounters in 2004 in Sabino Canyon and near an elementary school in the Tucson area.