Flagstaff's City Council will consider making it illegal to feed local wildlife -- an outgrowth of complaints by homeowners to Arizona Game and Fish officers, particularly in one neighborhood dispute.
The seven-member Flagstaff City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday night to weigh an ordinance stating people in Flagstaff -- and possibly Coconino County too, if county supervisors agree -- cannot feed deer or elk.
"I think it's a compelling case," Councilmember Scott Overton said after hearing testimony from locals.
Overton and Councilmembers Celia Barotz and Karla Brewster and Mayor Jerry Nabours voted to move forward with consideration of a measure; Councilmember Jeff Oravits voted against it.
Councilmembers Coral Evans and Mark Woodson were absent Tuesday night.
The city is weighing whether education, volunteerism or fines of $500 and more might be fitting for people who feed wildlife.
PROBLEMS IN COUNTRY CLUB
The small audience was split on the question.
Country Club resident Jake McCarthy's neighbor, Joe Farnsworth, has been feeding elk and deer with 5-gallon buckets of food, drawing in masses of them, McCarthy said.
"I find Mr. Farnsworth to be a nice neighbor. I think he's considerate. But I also find him to be completely belligerent on this matter of feeding the deer," McCarthy told the City Council.
Attorney Lou Diesel lives in Continental.
He has had all kinds of wildlife in his yards, and never had any problem until recently.
"About 5-7 years ago, two neighbors across my one vacant lot started feeding the elk and the deer," Diesel told the City Council.
That's when things started to change.
"In the last few years, we've had a serious problem. They've charged me. They've charged my wife. They've attacked the dogs -- and I love wildlife," he said.
Diesel's nearly on a first-name basis with local Game and Fish officers, he's called so often.
He's tried rubber bullets and high-pitched noise-making devices.
Elk and deer are euthanized when found to be a nuisance in a neighborhood, rather than risk spreading an infectious disease called chronic wasting disease back to a wild herd, said Game and Fish's Larry Phoenix.
State law bans the feeding of most wildlife in Maricopa and Pima counties. The agency has issued only one citation in Arizona for feeding wildlife, Phoenix told the council.
"This ordinance is going to be based on complaints. Our officers are not going to be driving around the Flagstaff area, looking for people feeding animals," he said.
On the other side of the issue were Oravits, animal lover Diane Jarvis, and Farnsworth.
Oravits was skeptical of a provision that would penalize homeowners for fruit trees dropping fruit, if they drew deer and elk.
"Fruit falls. Apples fall. How are you going to regulate that aspect of it?" Oravits asked Game and Fish.
He asked about the number of people involved.
"What's the estimate of the number of people who feed animals in Flagstaff?" he asked.
Game and Fish didn't have an estimate.
Farnsworth was opposed.
"Regardless of my issue with the HOA, a wildlife ordinance is no more than a solution looking for a problem. Flagstaff has never needed a wildlife-feeding ordinance, and it doesn't need one now," he told the Council.
And animal lover Diane Jarvis questioned the need for the rules.
"It's all aimed at one guy. I think we have to ask ourselves: Do we need more ordinances or city laws aimed at one guy?" she asked.
Brewster voted to consider an ordinance.
"I think we need to look into it further and I think it's also a good idea to look at it beyond the city boundaries," she said, alluding to Coconino County.
Barotz compared the measure to a ban on texting while driving -- each rule is an attempt to influence human behavior, she said.
Barotz voted to move the measure forward so that others could vote on it.
"I don't know that I'll support it if we actually vote on it," she said.
She was clearly displeased that a recent bid to ban texting while driving never made it far enough to reach a City Council vote.
"I see cars as lethal weapons," she said. "... Here we have an animal that is a lethal weapon. And when you interact inappropriately with a lethal weapon it has lethal consequences."
Although local Game and Fish officers presented data on wildlife collisions with vehicles that involved fatalities, they could not recall a person feeding wildlife in or near Flagstaff being killed.
Cyndy Cole can be reached at email@example.com or at 913-8607.