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SCENIC CROSSING
Even after dry winter, wildlife around Flagstaff don't need human help, officials say

Two Sedona residents who had been feeding herds of wild javelina were bitten by the boar-like animals in separate incidents last month.

The two cases have led state officials to again urge the public to never feed wildlife.

Even though the relatively dry fall and winter have affected natural watering holes and vegetation, conditions aren’t such that animals like javelina are in dire need of human food or water, experts said.

“We're not seeing really desperate wildlife coming into residential areas like we've seen in really bad drought,” said Janie Agyagos, a Forest Service wildlife biologist based in Sedona.

There are still some natural pools of water available while many manmade earthen tanks across the forest have been filled by either precipitation or volunteers who haul water there, said Shelly Shepherd, spokeswoman with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

“Even though we have dry conditions, wildlife are moving to find those (water) sources, and even with the small amount of precipitation we've had, there are still locations where things are going to be greening up soon,” Shepherd said.

People who do feed wildlife are “hurting more than helping,” she said.

In both Sedona cases, for example, Arizona Game and Fish’s policy required the lethal removal of nearby javelina because the animals bit and attacked people, Shepherd said.

Emery Cowan / NPS 

Javelina

In the first incident last month, a 79-year-old woman was bitten by a javelina at her west Sedona home as she tried to stop the javelina from attacking her dogs. She had previously been feeding the animals at her home. In the second case an elderly man was bitten by a javelina as he was feeding a herd of the animals in his backyard in Oak Creek Village.

Between the two incidents, about 20 javelina living within one quarter mile of the residences had to be removed and killed by the Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, Shepherd said. Asked why the department wouldn’t instead move the animals somewhere else away from people, Shepherd said it is getting harder and harder to find appropriate places to put problem animals and it takes many staff hours to capture and transport them.

There also was a rabies concern because a javelina in the area tested positive for rabies about eight months ago, she said.

The city of Flagstaff is one of several cities and counties in the state that have ordinances addressing the feeding of wildlife, Shepherd said. Flagstaff’s ordinance prohibits the feeding of wildlife with exceptions for birds and squirrels.

Feeding animals causes them to lose their natural fear of humans and become dependent on non-natural food sources, which generally don’t provide the nutrients animals need, Shepherd said.

“The practice puts the person and their neighbors and other wildlife at risk,” Game and Fish wrote in a release.

Arizona Game and Fish hasn’t seen any increase in reports of wild animal sightings around Flagstaff this winter, though staff have gotten calls about javelina feeding in areas near Williams, Shepherd said. She said wildlife will naturally be moving around more this year because food and water resources are harder to find.

With bears, for example, there is a good chance they have been moving in and out of their dens this winter seeking more food sources because they didn’t get enough in the fall, Shepherd said.

“Conditions are dry. Of course. But wildlife have instincts and can find food and water sources,” she said.


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Williams council fires city manager after three months

The City of Williams will soon begin the search for its third city manager in two years after the council voted unanimously last week to terminate the contract of City Manager Bill Lee.

The decision came just three months after Lee started the job.

Mayor John Moore said the council decided Mr. Lee’s performance was not satisfactory but declined to provide any specific examples, only saying the issues were “minor.”

“I just think that we basically had different directions to go. Mr. Lee seemed to tend to want to go a little different direction than the city,” Moore said.

A formal letter from the city’s lawyer categorized the termination as “without cause.”

Lee will receive a 90-day severance, equal to about $24,500, upon signing a release and waiver. His annual base salary was $98,000, according to a copy of his employment contract. A copy of the release and waiver was not available because Lee hasn’t signed it yet, according to the city clerk.

Over the past two and a half months, the city of Flagstaff and Coconino County have also lost their managers. Coconino County Manager Cynthia Seelhammer resigned in early January and Flagstaff City Manager Josh Copley resigned about a month later. Both came with controversies about the reasons and terms of their departure.

Before Lee was hired, the city of Williams was without a city manager for nearly five months. Previous manager Skylor Miller resigned in July 2017 after a year in the position. Moore said he didn’t remember the reason Miller gave for leaving.

The mayor said sometimes managers from larger cities have a hard time adjusting to Williams because the job there requires much more hands-on, day-to-day work with city department heads and employees. Lee was previously the city administrator for Somerton, a city of about 15,000 southwest of Yuma. Williams has a population of about 3,000.

Several people contacted at area businesses and organizations said they didn’t know much about Lee and had seen him only a handful of times. Sean Casey, CEO of Bearizona said Lee seemed like a "very professional and pleasant person," but said he hadn't had a chance to work with Lee before he left. 

One longtime resident questioned whether city council should shoulder some of the blame for Lee’s departure. James Perkins, who owns a logging business in town, said he has been frustrated by council decisions that have complicated his operations, including a determination that he couldn’t haul cut logs through town.

"I understand how they could tie the hands of a city manager if they're tying loggers hands,” Perkins said.

But Casey had a different view of the elected body's work. The council has been great in helping Bearizona develop over the past eight years, he wrote in an email. 

"They have always held up their end of the bargain and I appreciate the working relationship we have had with them as a group," he wrote.