The Coyote Conundrum by Troy Alexander Thompson
Published Date: 10-09-2015
As you make your way along the ever-winding Bluebird Canyon Drive, two yellow signs bring your attention to matters concerning nature and wildlife. One sign displays a deer crossing the road, a gentle warning to be mindful of these docile creatures who roam freely throughout the canyon. The other sign is a warning of another kind — “COYOTE ALERT,” it states, in bold, capital letters. It’s there not to invoke fear, but to suggest that neighbors be watchful.
Occupying a biological niche between its smaller and larger cousins, the fox and the wolf, Coyotes are a member of the Canidae family a lineage that includes wolves, foxes, jackals, domesticated dogs and other dog-like mammals. Commonly perceived by many as a nuisance and threat, Coyotes actually play an important role in promoting ecological balance by keeping disease carrying rodent populations in check. They are predators by nature, however, their “prey” most commonly takes the form of vegetation, small insects and of course rodents. They are, however, opportunistic, which makes accounting for your small domestic companions imperative.
The opportunistic nature of their feeding patterns allow Coyotes to survive in various settings, this puts them at odds with humans, especially in densely urbanized areas. Contrary to popular belief, Coyotes are very wary of humans and will avoid confrontation. This does not, however, diminish their predatory instincts; and increased urbanization of their original range has put them in the cross-hairs for more frequent confrontations with humans and their pets. Despite this, it is far more likely to be struck by lightning in California than to be attacked by a Coyote.
Coyotes are extremely intelligent and adaptive to their surroundings, however they aren’t able to differentiate their natural habitat from densely populated, urban areas. The most widely held belief is humans can regulate the Coyote populations by trapping and relocating them. However, this often backfires, as relocated animals when separated from their familial packs become stressed and may become more aggressive in their effort to survive while alone in their new range. In many cases relocation efforts are not entirely effective as we live in one of the largest metropolitan regions on earth and it is difficult to trap and relocate Coyotes out of one territory without “kicking the can down the road” and displacing them into someone else’s neighborhood.
If you happen to find yourself in a Coyote’s path, here are a few tips:
– Never attempt to feed a Coyote.
– Avoid direct eye contact with the animal.
– Never run from a Coyote
– If uncomfortable walk away and leave the area as calmly as possible.
– If followed by a Coyote, turn to face it, make yourself big and make loud noises
– Remember – keep yourself between the Coyote and small children.
Above all we must not lose sight of the fact that we are part of nature and occupy the same biome as the Coyote. Rather than rant about endlessly and condemn them for simply being Coyotes, it is more productive and makes more sense to understand the habits and traits of these fascinating creatures. They are, of course, bound by their instincts but we humans, with our large cranial mass, can use reason to make simple changes and adjust our lifestyles to prevent potentially destructive behavior of our canine cousins. By taking certain practical steps and exercising minimal precautions we can learn to live with these beneficial animals with whom we share a common home.
Here are a list of some simple actions to consider for living with Coyotes:
– Secure trashcans and return them to the curb for collection the morning of trash pickup rather than the night before.
– Dispose of food items such as cheese, meat and eggs by adding a small amount of ammonia to the bag to deter Coyotes
– Pick up backyard fruit since Coyotes are especially fond of fruit.
– Clear your yard of dense bushes and weeds.
– Outdoor lighting fixtures triggered by motion sensors will deter Coyotes from approaching your home at night.
– Keep domesticated animals, especially small dogs and cats, indoors whenever possible, especially at night.
– Fence your property or yard with at least a six-foot fencing solution.
– Don’t leave your pet food outside.
– Spay or neuter your pets. Animals with reproductive capacities can attract both male and female Coyotes.
There’s an old saying we used to say in the Boy Scouts, “The more we work together, the happier we’ll be,” and I think the sentiment applies well to the Coyote population among us. Yes, in a word, they are predators – oftentimes invoking a sense of fear and intimidation among us however, they play an important ecological role even in highly urbanized or suburbanized environment which deserves respect. Like them or not, Coyotes are not going anywhere anytime soon and the best way to deal with this reality is by doing our part, exercising caution and making provision to coexist with them.