Breaking News
More () »

Mind the Jack-o-Lantern: Leaving a pumpkin in your yard could get you fined

Under certain conditions, leaving pumpkins in your yard can be considered "unlawfully feeding the wildlife," officials say.
Credit: 12News

PHOENIX — Editor's note: The above video is from a 2019 broadcast.

With their glowing grins and spooky vibes, Jack-o-Lanterns are a Halloween staple! Everyone loves them, Including our local wildlife who think these pumpkins are a tasty treat.

And that, unfortunately, means that leaving pumpkins in your yard can be considered "unlawfully feeding the wildlife." With javelina common in our area, that can be a big problem.

According to the legislature, a person commits unlawful feeding of wildlife by intentionally, knowingly or recklessly feeding, attracting or otherwise enticing wildlife into an area.

That could mean fines or other penalties for people found to be feeding the wildlife.

We spoke with Amy Burnett, Information and Education Program Manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), about what that actually means for people celebrating Halloween.

>> Download the 12News app for the latest local breaking news straight to your phone.

"While feeding wildlife (except for birds and tree squirrels) in Maricopa County is illegal, the enforcement of the law is up to the attending officer," Burnett said.

"[...] It comes down to intent. If the responding officer believed that an individual was leaving out pumpkins with the sole purpose of feeding javelina, then that would be considered enforceable."

Although it comes down to a case-by-case basis, AZGFD recommends that residents put outdoor pumpkins out of reach of wildlife, or bring their pumpkins in at night.

Burnett stressed that residents should throw their pumpkins away instead of leaving them in the yard for wildlife to eat. But if you don't want to waste these Halloween treats, there are ways you can give them back to our local critters! 

Many groups like the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center offer pumpkin 'recycling' programs that use unpainted pumpkins as food and enrichment for their animals.

They're happy to take any whole, uncarved pumpkins. You can drop those pumpkins off at the wildlife sanctuary in Scottsdale.

Likewise, Better Piggies Rescue holds a yearly blanket and pumpkin drive to provide treats and bedding for the pigs and cows they're looking after.

These groups don't accept pumpkins that are moldy or painted, so check your Jack-o-Lanterns to make sure they're up to snuff.

But if you're all good to go, give them a call and you can make sure your Halloween pumpkins aren't going to waste!



Before You Leave, Check This Out