TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Please don't feed the wildlife. That is what the Arizona Game and Fish Department is reminding the public about after residents in Sedona were bitten by javelina in two separate attacks in February.
"The Game and Fish department strongly discourages feeding wildlife other than birds and tree squirrels," said Scott Poppenberger, Arizona Game and Fish Department Flagstaff regional supervisor, in a recent news release. "Wildlife feeding frequently creates dangerous situations for both wildlife and people, often setting the stage for attacks."
According to AZGFD the attacks were the result of the residents feeding the javelina at their homes.
The first incident happened on Feb. 5, when a 79-year-old woman was bitten by a javelina in a neighborhood southwest of Sedona, around 4 p.m. She received severe bite wounds to her leg, as she tried to stop the javelina from attacking her dogs.
A wildlife officer with AZGFD confirmed that the woman had been feeding a herd of javelina at her home. She was treated for the bites and was released.
A second incident happened on Feb. 25, when an elderly man was bitten by a javelina in Oak Creek Village. He had been feeding a herd of javelina in his backyard. According to AZGFD when the food wasn't given out quick enough one of the javelina became aggressive and bit the man on the leg. The man's leg was treated at an emergency room in Sedona, he was then released and has been undergoing a series of preventative rabies shots.
AZGFD was placed in a difficult position, where they had to act immediately and working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services to conduct lethal removal of the javelina within a quarter-mile radius of both the victim's residences.
The decision to lethally remove the animals was based on the attacks, an imminent public safety threat created by intentional feeding, the habituation and loss of fear to humans by the javelina, and a concern for possible rabies. A javelina tested positive for rabies in Sedona approximately eight months ago.
As wildlife are fed by people, they lose their natural fear of humans and become dependent on unnatural food sources. Feeding places the person feeding, their neighbors and the wildlife at risk.
The department is tasked with managing all wildlife in Arizona and working to ensure public safety. The department does not want to be in a position where it must decide to lethally remove wildlife due to irresponsible feeding so please help to keep wildlife wild.
Animals removed by USDA Wildlife Services have been sent to a laboratory for rabies testing. To date, test results received have been negative, some results are still pending.
To report unusual wildlife sightings or behavior call the local Arizona Game and Fish Department office or the appropriate county community health services department. For more information, visit www.azgfd.gov.