Whether it’s your backyard or forest, wildlife is all around us

Photo by Wende Fath

Photo by Wende Fath

It’s springtime and perhaps local residents have noticed that certain scent that indicates skunks are out and about in greater numbers. So are other animals that hikers should be wary of.

“As we get closer into the reproductive season, animals start nesting or having babies,” said Noel Fletcher, Prescott National Forest wildlife biologist. “They get very protective – as most parents do. Be aware in the forest; you could be walking near a coyote den that you don’t know about.”

Protecting a den is one thing. Animals acting strangely or appearing unwell is another, and reason to give Arizona Game and Fish Department a call. The animal could be dangerous or exhibiting symptoms of rabies.

Fletcher said all animals and birds are becoming more active. Pronghorn are getting ready to fawn, and also deer. The human desire to help baby, orphaned or injured wildlife is an admirable trait. However, ‘helping’ or ‘rescuing’ wildlife can often have unintended consequences for the animal, including death. In most cases, the best thing a person can do for a wild animal is to leave it alone. And please don’t feed the wildlife.

Don’t feed wildlife

As people feed wildlife, the animals lose their natural fear of humans and become dependent on unnatural food sources. It also places at risk the person feeding, their neighbors, and the animals themselves. “The department does not want to be in a position where it must decide to lethally remove wildlife due to irresponsible feeding. So please help to keep wildlife wild,” AZFGD implores.

Also, food can bring mice into yards and that will attract its predators: snakes and hawks. Fletcher said homeowners could create situations where they are bringing animals in other than the ones they have invited.

For example, feeding deer can result in more mountain lions. Bird feeders are about the extent of what is appropriate to offer in backyards.

Two residents of Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek who had been feeding javelina in their backyards were attacked in February.

As a result, not only is one individual undergoing a series of rabies shots, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) had to kill 20 javelina found near the locations.

To report unusual wildlife sightings or behavior call your local Arizona Game and Fish Department office or the appropriate county community health services department. For more information, visit by www.azgfd.gov.

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