Originally Published: May 5, 2016 6 a.m.
PRESCOTT – By early June, it will be illegal in Prescott to “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” feed the wild javelina, deer, coyotes, mountain lions, and bears in the area.
In a 5-2 vote Tuesday, May 3, the Prescott City Council approved an ordinance banning the feeding of wildlife.
And that reportedly will give the Arizona Game and Fish Department the authority it needs to go after the people who put out food and water with the purpose of attracting the area’s large wild animals.
City Attorney Jon Paladini told the council that the version of the ordinance under consideration this week had been adjusted in a number of areas. For instance, he said, the ordinance “makes it more specific to the types of wildlife that would prohibited (for feeding).”
The ordinance defines wildlife as “bears, javelina, deer, coyotes, or/and mountain lions,” but eliminates the words, “wild mammals and/or birds.”
Councilwoman Jean Wilcox called the changes “a big improvement,” because they focus the ordinance “on the type of animals that can be a nuisance,” and eliminate the concern about feeding and watering birds.
Earlier, the wording of the ordinance had caused worries among residents who use bird feeders and birdbaths – worries that prompted some of the ordinance changes.
The ordinance revisions appeared to have allayed the concerns; no audience members commented Tuesday, either for or against the ordinance, prior to the vote.
Still, Councilman Greg Lazzell suggested that the ordinance could be changed even further. “Why can’t we have an ordinance that just says that we, as a City Council, allow Game and Fish to enforce Game and Fish laws in the City of Prescott?” he asked. “Are we able legally to make it that simple?”
Paladini responded, “No,” adding that “As we heard from the Game and Fish officers last time, they (Game and Fish) need this type of ordinance to enforce this type of law; they can’t simply enforce an ordinance that by law isn’t enforceable in Yavapai County.”
State statute allows Game and Fish to enforce wildlife feeding bans in counties with populations of 280,000 or more, Paladini said, “and we just aren’t there yet.”
Two Game and Fish officials appeared before the City Council April 19 in support of the city ordinance. They told the council that irresponsible feeding of wildlife had led to herds of javelinas moving through the community, and had also attracted other wild animals such as mountain lions.
As revised, Paladini said, “The ordinance is really very simple.”
Councilwoman Billie Orr pointed out that while the new ordinance would help Game and Fish to deal with the nuisances created by feeding of wildlife, it also would help to protect the animals.
“One thing we’ve not really talked a lot about is how harmful the feeding is for the animals,” Orr said. “They become dependent, and then they aren’t able to survive in the wild. So this is a public safety issue, but also the right thing to do for the animals.”
Lazzell and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Lamerson voted against the ordinance, while Mayor Harry Oberg, Orr, Wilcox, and Councilmen Steve Blair and Steve Sischka voted for it.
The ordinance will become effective 30 days from the May 3 council approval.