KINGMAN - Feeding wildlife is not a game. According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, it can be a dangerous practice that can lead to encounters, property damage and injuries to pets.
Recent calls to the Kingman Game and Fish office have included areas in Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley, Cottonwood, Kingman, and the Hualapai Mountains. These calls have included problems with skunks, javelina, raccoons, coyotes, foxes and mountain lions.
"There's a reason the first four letters in wildlife spell wild," says Zen Mocarski, public information officer for the Game and Fish Kingman office. "Drawing critters into residential areas through feeding just isn't necessary.
"I don't think people feeding are thinking about their neighbors. Cats and dogs start to go missing and people contact Game and Fish expecting us to fix things. Predatory animals show up and Game and Fish gets another call. These issues can't be fixed until those feeding change their behavior. It's just an endless cycle."
Where feeding wildlife is common, critters become habituated to humans and begin to show little fear. In the meantime, they are drawn into dangerous urban settings, do not receive their proper diet, and can more easily transmit diseases.
In addition, the food chain becomes a factor.
"You can't feed just one critter," Mocarski said. "You feed rabbits; you get javelina, skunks, and raccoons. When all these animals show up, predators are likely to follow.
"The vast majority of human-wildlife conflicts are the result of feeding, and what I really find frustrating is when people claim the animals need them to feed, but then accept no responsibility when an animal is killed on the road or Game and Fish has to lethally remove one."
Two types of feeding take place; intentional, where people put out food to attract wildlife, and unintentional, such as open trash can lids and feeding pets outside.
A better method for viewing wildlife, Mocarski suggested, is to plant native.
"Talk to a local nursery about planting vegetation native to the area," he said. "This will allow wildlife to make the occasional visit, but they will continue to forage naturally and won't congregate in one area."
In addition, to protect against unwanted encounters, feed pets indoors, get your pets inside after dusk, and secure all garbage to prevent access.
As for water during a drought, Game and Fish maintains a large number of water catchments in the wild. Away from roads and population centers, these catchments minimize human-wildlife conflicts.
For additional information on the dangers of feeding wildlife, visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department Web site at www.azgfd.gov.