“No help needed, we’re good!” You can imagine my look of amazement when I heard this. On further conversation with several of her neighbors on subsequent days, I was told that a few people were routinely walking in that farm field specifically for the purpose of letting their domestic dogs “play” with the coyotes. This involves a variety of dogs.
I felt some education was called for and tried to explain to these people why this is NOT a good idea, the potential dangers involved, and the disservice they are doing to these wild animals in encouraging them to be comfortable around people. Wildlife is unpredictable, no matter how “tame” they may appear. You just don’t know when or if a wild animal’s natural instinct will surface. And, by the way, should their dog be bit and taken to a vet, they will hear the words “rabies” and “quarantine” in the same sentence.
In 2006, the Arizona Legislature passed a law making it illegal to feed wildlife (except birds and tree squirrels) in Maricopa and Pima counties. This law was passed because many people mistakenly think that feeding wildlife is a nice thing to do, either out of a belief they are helping them or because they like to see wild animals spend time around their homes. What really happens is that the animals can become habituated to people and conditioned to receiving food from them, increasing the chance for human-wildlife conflicts.
My neighbors are not feeding the coyotes (unless you count the temptation of that small terrier just within snapping reach), but in essence they are producing the same end result of making these animals unafraid and comfortable with people. They should not forget that it isn’t just how that animal impacts the one individual, but the surrounding neighbors and pets.
For more information on the law and hazards of feeding wildlife, go to http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/urban_coyote.shtml and http://www.azgfd.net/wildlife/educational-news/feeding-wildlife-continues-to-create-problems-game-and-fish-reminds-public-of-dangers/2009/03/30/
If you are going to feed wild birds, please do so responsibly. Find out about proper food, location of feeders, and healthy maintenance. The internet abounds with information to help you.
If you are going to feed waterfowl, do a little necessary research first at: http://duckrescuenetwork.org/duck_care.html and http://birding.about.com/od/birdfeeders/a/feedingducksbread.htm
MAKE IT PERSONAL AND BE PART OF THE SOLUTION!