Although your neighbor may be well-intentioned, she is actually being very selfish. She’s hurting the wildlife and her neighbors by encouraging wild animals to get too comfortable around humans. When animals concentrate around food they are more likely to spread diseases to each other and to domestic pets. When wild animals lose their natural fear of humans they can become very aggressive. Coyotes, in particular, are well-known for eating small pets because they do not differentiate between the food you leave for them and other prey items, like dogs and cats.
People often think they are just feeding cute, furry critters, like squirrels and raccoons. If they were to put a surveillance camera out, they would likely be surprised to find out what’s actually eating the food at night. They would probably be appalled to discover animals fighting over the food, and that they’re actually keeping the neighborhood rats fat and happy.
In addition, there may be a local ordinance that bans feeding of some wild animals. Los Angeles County, for example, has an ordinance that prohibits feeding non-domesticated mammalian predators, including but not limited to, coyotes, raccoons, foxes and opossums.
Regarding deer, there is a statewide ban on feeding big game, which includes deer, bear, elk, antelope and bighorn sheep (California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 251.3). You may want to contact a local game warden to report your well-meaning but stubborn and misguided neighbor. Her actions may cause her to be guilty of a misdemeanor, which may carry fines or even jail time.
For more tips on preventing wildlife-human conflicts, visit www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/.