For human, animal safety, don't feed wildlife
April 12, 2011
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. -- Wildlife and Fort Huachuca residents have coexisted since the installation was established in 1877. Buildings, landscaping and other facilities that allow people to work, live and play on post tend to attract wildlife and provide more abundant shelter, food and water than nearby, undeveloped land. If people attract prey animals by making food available to them intentionally or not, they provide a reliable place for predatory animals to come to hunt.
People and animals can co-exist peacefully if humans keep food and wildlife apart. Examine work areas, homes or garages for human or pet food not securely stored away. Mice can get into very small spaces, and packrats are good at gnawing their way into buildings or storage areas.
Outdoors, look for fruit on shrubs or trees that might attract animals. Shake the trees, and remove unwanted fruit from the ground. While outside, look around foundations and other areas for den holes or potential nesting places and fill them in.
Store all refuse in a garbage can in a secure, hard-sided and roofed building until trash pick-up day. Place cans outside only on the day of pick-up, and if at all feasible, after sunrise to deter nocturnal animals from visiting.
Feed and water pets indoors, if feasible. If not, offer food for a limited time, then remove uneaten and spilled food and water. Pick up pet droppings outdoors and put them in the garbage; the droppings can attract coyotes or other carnivores.
To be effective, these routines should be a community effort and standard. If a neighbor's action draws in skunks, javelina or a bear, they might go past others' children or pets on the way to or from the house with an available food source. Animals might also visit homes for a nap, rest stop or drink of water.
Those motivated to install a seed feeder for birds should maintain it properly. Clean up spilled seeds from the ground, or have a catch basin below the feeder that will let seeds fall through a coarse screen, but will keep out rodents and deer snouts. Deer, wild turkey and cougars quickly learn where seed is reliably available.
Bears and cougars can enter the cantonment area, especially when there is an available food source, if their natural foods are in short supply. Bears can detect the aroma of processed, high fat and high calorie human foods from several miles away.
Cougars, also called mountain lions and pumas, sometimes pass through the cantonment area, and occasionally come to water at the old Officer Club pond or kill a deer to eat. Wooded stretches of Huachuca Creek and around Reservoir Hill seems to be preferred travel routes, and prey species such as deer, javelina and turkeys also use those places. To avoid an unwanted surprise people should travel in groups and stay clear of vegetation dense enough to hide a large dog when out walking, running or recreating outdoors. This practice is most important for pets and children.
Responsible adults should oversee children in picnic areas, along creek bottoms, and near brushy wooded areas. Keep youth inside from dusk to dawn. Be especially vigilant when youth are playing, yelling, running and crawling. Adults should provide the same degree of supervision they would for children at a mall in a large urban area.
For wildlife-related questions, call Sheridan Stone, 533.7083 or go to the Arizona Game and Fish Department website, http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/urban_wildlife.shtml.
For immediate problems, call the Military Police Station, 533-3000.