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Coyotes, Our Misunderstood Neighbors

Coyotes are undoubtedly one of the most highly adaptable species in North America. They were historically found solely in prairies and deserts, but have easily adjusted to life in the mountains and even the big city. It is this acclimation that has become a problem for some of their human neighbors. Coyotes are omnivores, eating anything from small mammals and reptiles to fruit and human garbage. With an abundance of easily accessible trash cans, fruit trees and a variety of rodents (attracted to easy food and water sources), urban areas have been transformed into a coyotes’ “Vegas-style” all you can eat buffet. Although infrequent, outdoor cats and small dogs sometimes become easy prey for urban coyotes which makes them even more unpopular. For years, humans have been battling coyote populations with poison and fire arms; making little progress. The problem with eradication is that the removal of any natural predator only opens up that habitable territory for another searching predator to make its own. There are plenty of humane and effective ways that we can live harmoniously with these marvelous creatures and still have the separation from them that is necessary for their survival.

For starters, make sure all of your garbage cans and compost bins have secure lids. If you have any fruit trees in your yard, make sure you pick up the fallen fruit on a regular basis. Remove any standing water from your yard. If your animal is not outside, empty their water bowl. In the desert especially, standing water can be very inviting to wild neighbors (including mosquitoes!)

Being a responsible pet owner is an easy way to live harmoniously with coyotes and other wild animals that call your yard home. Do not feed your pets outside or if you must, make sure to feed them at a set time during the day and clean up their bowls when they are finished. Keep your cats and small dogs indoors unless you are outside with them, and make sure to bring them in at night, when hunting coyotes are most active. Although some people may think it sounds cruel to keep a cat “cooped up” inside, Cats actually live longer, healthier lives when they spend their lives indoors. Indoor cats are safe from disease, cars, wildlife and stray cats.

Finally, refrain from offering food to wild animals. Many people seek opportunities to feed wild animals, but this can often cause problems for those animals. Such problems include overpopulation (which leads to the spread of disease), malnutrition and habituation to people which can be deadly for the animal. If you come in contact with a coyote and it starts to approach you, it has most likely been habituated to humans and now sees them as a source of food. This can be very dangerous and create overly aggressive wild coyote populations. Should this happen to you, make loud noises to “haze” the coyote and hopefully, over time cause him to again have appropriate fear of human beings.  For other ideas of how to cooperate with your wild neighbors visit the Humane Society’s website at hsus.org, and don’t forget that a wild coyote is a safe coyote.

References

“Wild Animals Ruined, Even Killed, by People’s Carelessness!” Web. <https://www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/coyote.html>.

Cheater, Mark. When Carnivores Come Calling Homeowners Who Live in Areas Where Predators Range Can Still Have Safe, Wildlife-friendly Yards. 12 Mar. 2012. Web. <http://www.nwf.org/news-and-magazines/national-wildlife/animals/archives/2012/backyard-predators.aspx>.

Project Coyote Fostering Coexistence. Web. <http://www.projectcoyote.org/>.

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