Friday, January 31, 2020

Preventing close encounters with coyotes

In recent weeks, stories made national news in which people had to fend off coyote attacks. You may also have seen photos on social media showing coyotes calmly wandering around urban locales. In unison with this, conservation commissions of various states have issued warnings.

As a high-level predator and Man share the same habitats I suppose there is always need for some caution. You can avoid conflicts with these common (yet rarely seen) canines by playing by the rules.
First and foremost is making sure they aren’t fed. Unintentional food sources attract coyotes. Wildlife officials suggest that you should not feed pets outside and you should make garbage and compost inaccessible to coyotes. All of that certainly makes sense, not only for keeping coyotes out of your yard, but other pesky animals as well, such as opossums and raccoons.

Coyotes are fearless when it comes to dining near the confines of Man. If you can catch online the 2014 episode of PBS’s “Nature” about the Eastern coyote you’ll be amazed at the overnight footage filmed with night vision in residential Toronto. Stealthy and otherwise undetected, the animals eat out of dog and cat dishes on front steps and sniff around garbage cans and bags.

That’s happening not only in the Big City but also out here in the rural landscape where those wild dogs are much more abundant. If I have a dusting of snow at home it shows that coyotes of various sizes traverse my lawn most every night.

Game officers also will also say you should not allow coyotes to approach you and you should appreciate them from a distance. If you see a coyote in your yard or on the trail, be aggressive in your behavior - stand tall, and hold arms out to look large. If a coyote lingers for too long, make loud noises, wave your arms, throw sticks and stones. It’s pretty much the same set of rules told to us regarding bear encounters.

I can attest to the DEC’s statements about movement and aggressiveness. A few years ago I was turkey hunting in Allegany County when a coyote zeroed in on my calling and thought I was a hen. It quickly and quietly appeared of nowhere, navigating the series of rises on the ridge behind me. I didn’t see or hear him until he was less than 10 feet away, coming in to get what he thought was an easy meal. He moved fast and was just a couple feet away by time I could react. I raised my arm to protect my neck and face and that was more than enough to deter him as he immediately bolted upon figuring out I was person.

But, being a loud, large and angry human doesn’t always work (although it does most of the time), as coyotes can have rabies, both from being a social animal and from feeding on common carriers of rabies. A few years back, a fearless coyote was seen a few times in the city of North Tonawanda. One morning, when I arrived at work, the coyote was in our driveway and couldn’t care less about my truck being alongside him. I purposely parked next to him and he never ran off. Two days and a few blocks later, the coyote bit a man who went to pet him thinking it was a small shepherd -- the third coyote bite in that city in 3 weeks. When police finally caught up with the coyote, it attempted to climb their cruiser before being shot. Of course, it tested positive for rabies.

Related to this, it is critical you spend some time online familiarizing your family with what a coyote looks like. You need to learn the difference between them and a “police dog” or German shepherd. But, don’t fall into the trap of thinking larger canines are not coyotes – many websites will say that coyotes top out at 45 pounds. They do out west where they are purebred. But, the coyotes here have wolf genes and can be large, anywhere from 50 to 80 pounds.

It’s also important to supervise all pets, especially outdoor ones, to keep them safe from coyotes and other wildlife, especially at night.

Small cats are especially vulnerable. That is something I know too well. In high school one of our favorite cats was out at night when a coyote killed her, only for the sake of killing her. The coyote didn’t eat the cat, it only eliminated a threat: Coyotes don’t want to co-exist with other carnivores that might be pursuing some of their favorite foods like mice.

Small dogs are also at risk of being harmed or killed when coyotes are being territorial during denning and pup-rearing. The DEC says small dogs should not be left unattended in backyards at night and should remain supervised.

There’s a lot to digest here and it’s certainly worthwhile to ponder as coyotes become more numerous and more brazen. Some people think that coyotes are moving into our domains, but one could argue that it was theirs to begin with. So, we need to understand these canine neighbors and approach these animals with respect – and a little common sense.

From the 03 February 2020 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News

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