By Betty Phillips, Wildlife BiologistAugust 9, 2011
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. -- As human populations continue to increase and urban sprawl encroaches on wildlife habitat, human-wildlife interactions are becoming more frequent.
If you are concerned about wildlife hanging around your work or home area, there are several ways to discourage this behavior. The main thing is to remove attractants. All wildlife need the same things to survive: food, shelter, and water. If you provide these things, either intentionally or by accident, you will attract wildlife of all kinds.
Food is a natural attractant. Supplemental feeding creates unnatural situations that can lead to trouble by concentrating large numbers of animals in one area which in turn can attract predators. Many times we unknowingly provide wildlife with food: leaving our trash unsecured, leaving pets outside, feeding our pets outside, or planting attractive non-native vegetation in our landscapes. Remember it is against state law and Fort Huachuca Garrison policy to feed any wildlife except birds. You may continue to feed birds but do it in a way that doesn’t become enticing for other animals. You can do this by keeping the bird feeder off the ground, making sure you aren’t overfeeding, and by responsibly removing the feeder when unwanted guests are noticed in the area.
Desert animals love niches or crevices to stay cool during the summer, warm in the winter, out of the sun, or away from predators. Fort Huachuca has many older buildings that have small holes that allow wildlife to get in. According to Fort Huachuca Regulation 420-6, maintenance to buildings should be done whenever possible to exclude wildlife. This maintenance helps to establish protective barriers to prevent wildlife from entering and damaging property, such as crawl spaces and attics. In addition, periodically monitor buildings and grounds for recurring problems, taking appropriate, immediate attention to control and prevent damage.
While water features are beautiful, they will attract animals. Especially in times of drought, many animals will seek out the water in your yard during the day. Drip irrigation and sprinklers create cool, moist resting places for animals. A preventative method would be to water in the morning instead of at night and make sure you are not overwatering. Remember that water sources, like food, concentrates wildlife, which means that predators are sure to follow.
The best solution to wild animals not becoming nuisance animals is conscientious people " you and I " making sure that our actions don't cause wild animals to change their behaviors. The key is in knowing how to live with them: feed pets indoors, tightly cover garbage cans and other unnatural food sources, seal-up potential denning sites within your home or office, and never approach or do anything to tame down a wild animal.
Remember, removal is never the best option, and many times results in the death of the animal, the orphaning of young, or the increased potential for disease transmissions. It also opens up the area for neighboring animals to move in, especially if the attractant is not removed. Keep in mind that once a trap has been set either by the Fort Huachuca Environmental Division or USDA Wildlife Services, it is a federal offense to tamper with these devices or the animals captured in them, and can result in federal prosecution. If there is a concern for safety, contact me during normal business hours at 533.8763 or call the Military Police desk at 533.2181 after hours and weekends.