Residents of East Verde Estates have some new neighbors, and some of them aren't too happy about the addition. After a weekend meeting of the residents, a squabble over the newcomers is no closer to resolution than before.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department called the meeting after a herd of javelinas became "very comfortable" living amongst the residents in this small community four miles north of Payson off Highway 87. While some 30 residents attended, they were not the ones Game and Fish most wanted to meet with, according to Urban Wildlife Specialist Joe Yarchin.
"We called the meeting to discuss the pros and cons and dos and don'ts of having wildlife around," Yarchin said. "But apparently none of the people who are feeding them or who are having problems with them were among those who showed up."
Ruth Hudson, one of the residents who did attend the meeting, agrees that the people who needed to be there weren't, including one neighbor who feeds them by hand.
"The javelinas don't bother me," she said. "It's mostly the new people who moved here from the city who are upset. But feeding them by hand is a no-no."
It's not unusual, Yarchin says, for the "instigators" to stay away because they are embarrassed
"The issue here is a little different from the one we are used to dealing with," he said. "I drove around prior to the meeting and most of the yards are fenced. Usually the problem is that they're tearing up lawns and getting into trash, but the problem in East Verde Estates is that they've become so used to humans that they are just walking around. They're less likely than normal to be scared off."
And that has some residents scared.
"Those who are upset are worried that because of their attitude, the potential exists for more serious conflicts," Yarchin said.
Javelina, he emphasized, are not aggressive by nature.
"The only time people might get bit is when they are hand-feeding, or when the animal feels cornered," he said. "Then it might bite trying to get out. But any time you have a wild animal that is comfortable in human residential areas, you have the potential for conflict. When the animal becomes comfortable, he is more likely to approach people thinking he is going to get food."
It's a problem that could affect other Rim country communities if the area doesn't get some significant precipitation soon.
Residents need to be aware as well. First and foremost, he told those who did attend the meeting in East Verde Estates, the feeding needs to stop.
"Feeding doesn't do the animals any favors," he said. "If a negative interaction occurs as a result, it is the animal that generally pays."
But just as important, residents need to actively reinstate a fear of humans in the herd.
"Their behavior will continue once the feeding stops," Yarchin said. "Only through constant harassment will the animals know they are not welcome."
Ways this can be accomplished include:
Spraying them with water.
Throwing small rocks and pebbles at them.
Making a "shake can" by filling a soda can with pennies, washers or small rocks and taping it off.
"People don't want to be cruel to the animals, but the bottom line is not to let them get comfortable. When you see them walking down the street, you need to let them know they're not welcome."