A few media outlets recently reported that it’s illegal to leave pumpkins outside your house in Maricopa County.
But that isn’t entirely accurate.
Nathan Gonzalez, a spokesman with Arizona Game and Fish, told The Arizona Republic that a law prohibits people in Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties from intentionally feeding wildlife.
But leaving a pumpkin — whether it’s carved into jack-o’-lantern or not — out for decoration isn’t likely to earn you a fine.
“If you’re putting food out for wildlife to specifically feed them, then yes, you can definitely be cited for that,” Gonzalez said. “But if you’re putting a decoration out just to decorate your house during the holiday, you most likely wouldn’t get fined for something like that.”
He noted that pumpkins can attract wildlife such as javelinas — which treat pumpkins like candy — along with coyotes, deer and even bears.
Gonzalez recommended putting a pumpkin or jack-o’-lantern on an elevated surface or inside by a window if wildlife is a common sight in a neighborhood.
“We encourage people to kind of use common sense if you know you have wildlife coming through your neighborhood,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez warned against feeding wildlife in any situation as it can place people in harm’s way. He cited a case where a Tucson woman was bitten by a javelina after feeding them for 30 years.
“That’s the kind of stuff that we’re trying to deter because the wildlife are wild,” Gonzalez said. “They can turn on you and harm you because they can be unpredictable.”
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Should a wild animal injure someone, Gonzalez recommended they seek medical attention immediately. He added that most wildlife tend to avoid humans and animals that aren’t afraid of human contact could be infected with rabies.
Gonzalez recommended people visit Arizona Game and Fish’s Living With Wildlife page to learn more about enjoying wildlife without unintentionally causing problems.
Those who wish to report someone habitually feeding wildlife on purpose can report the incidents anonymously to Arizona Game and Fish’s Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-352-0700.
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