Originally printed in The Lance (2014 12 03)
In the last two decades, coyotes have become common in many large cities. Encountering one of these “ghosts of the plain” can be a magical experience.
Coyotes are naturally wary of people. Weighing about 20 kilograms, they are bigger than foxes but smaller than wolves. According to Dr. Stanley Gehrt (Ohio State University), their size makes them an ideal predator. They are small enough to meet their energy needs by feeding mainly on small rodents and rabbits – supplemented with insects, fruit, garbage, and carrion. If necessary, they are large enough to work together to kill a deer.
Here are some tips for living with coyotes.
When you are outdoors enjoying the trails, do not let your dog chase, harass, or corner a coyote. Keep your dog on a leash. To a coyote, a small dog is a potential meal and a large dog is either a possible mate or a threat. Pick up dog waste to dispose in the garbage. Dog droppings that are left behind will attract other dogs – including coyotes. Don’t toss food scraps beside the trail. They will attract animals that coyotes hunt.
Discourage coyotes from visiting your yard. Clean up spilled food around birdfeeders. Put food scraps in garbage cans or “digesting” composters. Don’t leave pet food outdoors. Pick up fruit from under trees. These items can attract rodents which attract coyotes. Do not feed the deer. Coyotes will track deer to regular feeding stations. Keep cats, dogs, and children indoors at night when coyotes are most active.
Never approach a coyote, its den, or its pups. Coyotes will protect their homes and families. Never feed coyotes. Doing so teaches them to approach other people. This unnatural behaviour is seen as an indication of illness or aggression. It never ends well for the coyote.
Teach your family what to do if a coyote gets too close for comfort. Make yourself look bigger by waving your arms above your head. Yell “GO AWAY” and slowly back away. Don’t turn your back or run. Use “hazing” techniques to encourage the coyote to run away. Rattle your keys. Snap open an umbrella. Bang pot lids. Spray the coyote’s hind end with a hose. Or throw something toward – not at – the coyote. The idea is to startle the coyote without hurting it or making it angry.
Most importantly, respect and admire these adaptable and intelligent predators from a safe distance.
Michele Kading is a community correspondent for St. Vital and the executive director for Save Our Seine (www.saveourseine.com).