Arizona’s Rim Country is well-known for its plentiful wildlife and the opportunity to view this wildlife up close.

Whether you are a resident or a visitor to the region, the Arizona Game and Fish Department reminds you that your actions have a direct impact on the local wildlife.

It is your responsibility to act ethically for the safety of wildlife and for people.

In certain areas, sightings of elk and deer have become common, and some animals have lost their natural fear of humans and become habituated.

We can often trace this habituation directly back to residents or visitors who are deliberately or inadvertently feeding wildlife.

Feeding wildlife encourages animals to associate us with meeting their basic needs, and they become more and more comfortable around us. The danger of losing this “wildness” is that interactions between animals and people and/or our pets occur more frequently, often with negative consequences.

From destroying vegetable gardens to aggressively chasing after homeowners, human-habituated animals can be a danger to humans and ultimately, to themselves.

AZGFD regularly gets reports of elk and deer tangled in objects such as clotheslines, ropes, tire swings, livestock buckets, and even toilet seats. These man-made objects can lead to a slow death of the animal.

An elk that recently found itself stuck with a bucket around its neck was lucky — AZGFD wildlife managers freed it from the bucket that someone had intentionally filled with feed.

Feeding wildlife is already a losing situation for the animal as store-bought feeds and rich human foods can wreak havoc on the elk or deer’s complex digestive system, causing bloat and other painful and life-threatening illnesses.

When encountering wildlife, AZGFD asks that you help by making them uncomfortable around people.

Here are some tips to help keep elk and deer wild in Rim Country:

1. Do not feed wildlife.

2. Exclude wildlife with a high barrier or a low-voltage wire fence.

3. Discourage them from your landscaping/gardens by stringing up scented deterrents like bars of Irish Spring soap around your plants:

Sometimes wildlife turns aggressive or damages property and it’s necessary to discourage the unwanted behavior. In these cases we recommend putting as much distance as possible between you and the animal(s), making loud noises like shouting, banging pots and pans, blasting an air horn, or rattling an empty soda can with coins in it. Wave your arms above your head so you appear bigger than you are. Remember to stay a safe distance from wildlife at all times. For questions, call Operation Game Thief’s 24/7 hotline at 800-352-0700.

Have a conversation with your neighbors and encourage them all to pledge to discourage wildlife from getting too comfortable in our communities. We have a responsibility to keep wildlife wild ... for our sake, and for theirs.

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