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Sun, Jan. 26

Feeding wildlife can lead to dangerous situations

Thinkstock<br>When wild animals become too comfortable in human-occupied areas, dangerous interactions occur.

Thinkstock<br>When wild animals become too comfortable in human-occupied areas, dangerous interactions occur.

Don't be surprised if you see more wild animals around town in the next few months. Drought conditions may cause creatures like elk, deer, bobcats, foxes, coyotes and even bears to wander further into town than normal, as they seek sources of food and water.

"Animals may go into search mode," says Larry Phoenix, field supervisor with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. "If they can't find food and water in the forests, mountains and areas where they normally live, then they head to places where these essentials can be found."

If you see wild animals in your neighborhood, you should not try to help by feeding them. That can actually wind up doing more harm than good.

"You should never provide food, cover or water for wildlife," said Phoenix. "Animals that receive help from people become habituated to human-occupied areas and can feel too comfortable around humans. That's how many human-wildlife conflicts begin, as some animals become aggressive. Often, the animals that wind up biting or attacking people were previously human-fed. This type of aggressive behavior also puts the animal's life in danger."

Here are some tips for discouraging wild animals from taking up residence in your neighborhood:

• Don't feed wildlife. Remove pet food, water bowls, garbage and other attractants from around your home.

• Make possible den sites or shelters unavailable, including the crawl spaces under homes, by blocking them with fencing or other devices.

• Don't let wild animals get comfortable in your neighborhood. Discourage them by spraying with a hose, lighting up the area at night, playing loud music, shaking a can filled with pennies or even just banging pots and pans.

Also, if you see an animal that appears to be injured or orphaned, think twice about picking it up. If you handle an animal and get it used to human presence, you may doom it from being able to survive in the wild in the future. If you find a baby animal, don't assume it's orphaned and in need of your help.

"Usually, the parents are not far away," says Phoenix. "They may be out gathering food or taking a short break from their young, and if you remove the baby, you're actually creating a problem. Also, this time of year, baby birds can be found on the ground. This is typically just a normal part of learning to fly. If you do find a baby bird, just place it back in the nest and give the parents a chance to come back and take care of their young."

This is also the time of year when waterfowl are nesting, so dogs should be kept on their leashes and kept out of Kachina Wetlands, Pumphouse Wash and local wetlands and marshes. Pets off leash are a danger to nesting birds and other wildlife.

For more tips on dealing with urban wildlife this summer, visit

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