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Stay Off My Lawn: Tips for Keeping Wildlife at Bay

Wanting deer to stay off your lawn is one thing, but using a BB gun for emphasis may be standing on dangerous ground.

Amy Burnett, information and program manager with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, says that using either a BB gun or an air rifle is not a good practice to deter wildlife from your property.

“In some cases, depending on the species, it could be lethal and potentially a violation,” she said. 

While using BB guns or air rifles on larger species, such as elk, might not be lethal, it could still cause injury, infections or other issues for the animal, Burnett said.

There have been recent reports of area residents shooting BB guns at deer.

With the real reasons unknown, it leaves AZGFD officials to speculate that residents may be trying to haze deer away from their properties. 

AZGFD Public Information Officer Dale Hajek said that homeowners do have a legal right to use all reasonable measures to protect their property from damage by wildlife. However, since big-game animals are protected by state law, those measures cannot include capturing, injuring or unlawful killing, he said.

To keep deer away from gardens, etc., Hajek suggests either removing or blocking access to whatever attracts them to the property in the first place.

With the attractants removed, deer may no longer find the area desirable and move on, he said.

“Our actions have a direct impact on wildlife,” Burnett said.

She wants both area residents and visitors to know that their actions do have a direct impact on local wildlife.

“It is your responsibility to act ethically for the safety of wildlife and for people,” Burnett said.

She explains that some elk and deer have become habituated and lose their natural fear of humans. 

Often, habituation can be traced directly to residents or visitors either deliberately or inadvertently feeding wildlife, which encourages them to associate humans with meeting their basic needs, Burnett said.

“The danger of losing this ‘wildness’ is that interactions between animals and people and/or our pets occur more frequently, often with negative consequences,” she said. “From destroying vegetable gardens to aggressively chasing after homeowners, human-habituated animals can be a danger to humans and, ultimately, to themselves.”

Burnett said that AZGFD regularly receives reports of elk and deer tangled in man-made items such as clotheslines, ropes, tire swings, livestock buckets and even toilet seats, leading to a slow death for the animal. 

Feeding wildlife can also be a losing proposition for animals, as store-bought feeds and rich human foods can wreak havoc on the complex digestive system of an elk or deer, causing bloat and other painful and life-threatening illnesses, she said.

AZGFD asks that area residents help by making wildlife uncomfortable around people.

AZGFD offers the following tips:

Do not feed wildlife.

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

Discourage wildlife from landscaping and gardens by hanging scented deterrents, such as bars of Irish Spring soap, around plants.

Hazing:

If wildlife enters the yard and/or approaches, discourage the behavior by hazing them: 

Make loud noises and make yourself appear bigger than you are.

Using a SuperSoaker or a paint gun, spray them with a 10% ammonia solution.

Shout, bang pans, blast an air horn or rattle empty soda cans filled with coins.

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

Those with questions or concerns may call Amy Burnett at AZGFD’s Mesa office at 480-324-3548 or the Operation Game Thief 24/7 hotline at 1-800-352-0700.

The general number for the Mesa office, the nearest state office for Globe-Miami, is 480-981-9400.

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