Recently a number of residents around Payson have had unwanted visits by bears and javelina.
The Payson Pines area has had a number of bear sightings in the morning hours. Janet Wright was visited by one on the morning of June 18. She said a neighbor had a mother bear and cub in their yard.
Most of the properties in the Payson Pines area with bear visitors, back up to the national forest.
Javelina are a frequent problem in Payson through most of the year. As reported in the June 19 Living feature on the Community Garden Project, all seven, 100-square-foot plots lost plants to a recent invasion by javelina.
Darren Julian with the Mesa regional office of the Arizona Game and Fish Department said the visits by the bears could be due to a number of different reasons. He said bears have an enhanced sense of smell, so they could be attracted to: pet food, bird feeders, garbage and the scent of a barbecue. They could also be drawn to the smell of ripening fruits and vegetables in home gardens.
Bears may be forced into residential areas near the forests due to drought, wildfire and development in search of new food sources. Julian said with the moisture the area has had this year, he did not think a search for water was a factor.
Young bears sometimes travel long distances in search of an area not already occupied by another bear.
Julian suggested making a lot of noise when a bear comes into a residential area: shout at it, bang pots and pans together or use an air-horn. However, this should be done from a protected area, preferably from inside the home.
He said if a resident cannot get the bear to leave, they should call the Game and Fish dispatcher at (623) 236-7201. The Payson Police Department cannot remove a bear from a residential area; it would have to call in Game and Fish as well.
According to the Game and Fish Web site, to prevent further problems:
• Don’t feed or give water to black bears. Be aware that human behaviors, such as feeding other animals, can attract black bears.
• Feed your pets inside or remove uneaten pet food between feedings.
• Remove garbage regularly or keep in secure buildings.
• Remove other enticing food sources, such as birdseed, hummingbird feed (sweet liquid), fruit from trees or shrubs located near buildings.
• Remove brush and cover around homes and corrals, creating a 50-yard barrier.
• Fences, lighting and dogs have not been found to be effective, long-term deterrents. Bears are good climbers, so to reduce a bear’s ability to get over a fence, it should be at least 6 feet tall and constructed of non-climbable material.
• Look for products that can be used as helpful animal deterrents.
Living with javelina
Though some people think javelina are a type of wild pig, they are actually members of the peccary family, a group of hoofed mammals originating from South America. They form herds of two to more than 20 animals and rely on each other to defend territory, protect against predators, regulate temperature and interact socially. They use washes and areas with dense vegetation as travel corridors. Javelina are most active at night, but may be active during the day when it’s cold.
Javelina usually cause only minor problems for people by surprising them or eating a few plants. However, people should never feed javelina; this can cause them to become regular visitors and lose their fear of people, creating problems for the neighborhood and often leading to the death of the javelina.
Javelina occasionally bite humans, but almost always when people were providing the javelina with food. Javelina can inflict serious wounds. Defensive javelina behavior may include charging, teeth clacking, or a barking, growling sound. Javelina may act defensively when cornered, to protect their young, or when they hear or smell a dog. Dogs and coyotes are natural predators of javelina, and they can seriously hurt or kill each other. Javelina around your home may inadvertently attract mountain lions as well, because javelina are mountain lion prey.
Javelina usually visit homes to find food, water or shelter.
• Food for javelina can include lush vegetation and many flowers and succulent plants that people place around their homes. Birdseed, table scraps and garbage cans also attract javelina.
• Water can be provided through chewing on an irrigation hose or by drinking from a pool or other water source around a home. Javelina will also dig and roll in moist soil during summer days to keep cool.
• Shelter can take the form of a porch, an area under a mobile home, a crawlspace beneath a house, or any other cave-like area. Javelina will seek shade during summer days and warmth during the winter, if these areas are not properly secured.
If javelina have become a problem or have caused property damage, a number of things can be done to deal with the situation.
To discourage a javelina, immediately:
• Scare off animals by making loud noises (bang pots, yell, stomp on the floor, etc.), throwing small rocks in their direction, or spraying with water from a garden hose or large squirt gun filled with diluted ammonia (10 percent ammonia and 90 percent water).
• If the animal is confined, open a gate, have all people leave the area, and allow it to leave on its own. If it is still there the following day, contact a wildlife control business or the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
• If you see javelina while walking your dog, avoid going near the javelina and quickly take your dog in a different direction.
In an emergency — If a javelina is acting in an aggressive manner toward people, is contained and cannot leave on its own or be let out easily, or is in human possession, call the Arizona Game and Fish Department regional office during weekday business hours. The regional office for Payson is in Mesa, (480) 981-9400. After hours and weekends, call the Arizona Game and Fish Department radio dispatcher at (623) 236-7201.