Gila County bans feeding wildlife, cites public health and safety concerns

Elk playing in the Payson, Arizona snow.
Elk playing in the Payson, Arizona snow.(Teresa Purdy)
Published: Feb. 27, 2023 at 1:08 PM MST
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GLOBE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Gila County officials formally banned all wildlife feeding, citing public health and safety concerns and the need for wildlife protection.

Feeding is defined in the ordinance as placing edible materials in a location that entices wildlife to eat it, including food byproducts, refuse, or garbage. The ordinance applies to all areas in any Federal, State, or National Park Lands in Gila County. It does not apply to any normal agricultural needs for livestock and farming; any seeds, nectar, or material for birds or tree squirrels that are out of reach for other wildlife; water fountains, ponds, or birdbaths; or any parts of plants or trees that might have fallen on the ground that are often eaten by wildlife.

The ordinance also repeals the 2001 Bear Contact ordinance which was issued as an emergency due to a rise in human-bear interactions in the county at the time. At a hearing held in early February by the board of supervisors, Josh Beck, part of the Emergency Management Program, said, “We worked with Game and Fish to mimic what were the good and the bad with other ordinances in the state.” One meeting attendee said that she is emphatically opposed to the ordinance.

“Our elk are followed on social media sites daily and have become mascots of Payson,” she said. “We live in their woods. It’s a well-known fact that the elk herd in our area is one of the most well-fed, and new regulations will not fix stupid.” Another attendee in the meeting said he also opposed the regulations. “How enforceable is this? Are they going to be able to prove it? It seems it could be pretty tough to enforce,” he said. “I think the expense and responsibility should be pushed...toward Game and Fish of Arizona instead of us in the county.”

Any animal control officer or peace officer can hand out a citation of up to $500 if a violation is witnessed. The ordinance also provides for a hearing officer who would oversee violations and the payment of citations in the county. You can read the full ordinance below and watch the hearing here.