Surveillance cameras are now being set up across Fort Huachuca to monitor the illegal feeding of wildlife on post.
Recently an officer in the Grierson Housing Area found a feeding station hidden behind a large pine tree. The food included fresh apples, oranges and grapefruit. The officer saw signs of javelina and deer at the station, indicating this was attracting wildlife.
Feeding wildlife is not only dangerous, but it is also illegal. A feeding station will draw in mice, rats, deer, javelina and bears. This will, in turn, draw in predators such as skunks, bobcats, coyotes and mountain lions.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is working with the environmental office on the fort as well as the Department of Emergency Services regarding the wildlife issue. Trail cams are being placed at undisclosed areas on post to find out who is feeding animals.
â€œThey (cameras) will be monitored and moved at random,â€ said Al Tomlinson, USDA wildlife specialist.
The USDA is expecting a very bad summer regarding foraging wildlife this year due to last yearâ€™s wildfires in the Huachuca Mountains. There are little-to-no food sources in the mountains, according to Tomlinson. Therefore, wildlife will begin searching elsewhere â€” including on Fort Huachuca â€” especially if people on post are feeding the animals.
Tomlinson said they are very serious about this issue and especially concerned about bears.
The USDA will make every effort to discourage wildlife from interacting with humans by using non-lethal methods at their disposal.
â€œWe do not want anyone to get hurt because of a close encounter with wildlife species. We do not want to have to euthanize some wildlife as a last resort because of some peopleâ€™s poor choices,â€ he added.
Bears are out of hibernation now. Officials ask residents to keep trash containers in secured, hard-sided storage places, such as a garage, until the morning of pick-up. If residents leave their trash out overnight, javelina or bears are likely to knock over containers that have food odors. Animals are even more likely to overturn containers if food or food containers are inside.
If a bear gets a tasty reward, it will be worthwhile for them to visit again every day for a couple of weeks. Food odors alone will draw them back, especially if a reliable source of food is around.
For wildlife, one unsecured garbage container is like our grocery store, according to wildlife management officials. A row of garbage on a block becomes their super mart. Once garbage is removed, return the container to a hard-sided, roofed, secure place.
â€œRemind your neighbors, too, especially newcomers,â€ said Sheridan Stone, Fort Huachuca wildlife biologist. He explained that large animals such as bears and javelina can quickly get used to being around inhabited homes and become a community issue.
â€œJust one unsecured garbage container on a block can affect the whole neighborhood, whether it is trash spread onto your yard, dogs barking loudly in the night, or damage to personal property when a scared animal goes right through and over things in their way,â€ Stone said.
There is zero tolerance for anyone caught feeding wildlife in violation of Fort Huachucaâ€™s Wildlife Feeding Policy.
â€œIf people are caught, the Arizona Game and Fish Department will prosecute them,â€ Tomlinson stated. AGFD game rangers do not patrol on the fort unless the fort requests them, and then the military police are likely to be the citing officers.