By Elizabeth Bublitz Owner of Pawfriendly Landscapes
I'm baffled! In Colorado - and perhaps in your state - coyotes have been in the news for numerous reasons. Namely, it has been reported that they've been stalking and harming humans, especially children and dog walkers. For decades I have always "shared" my dog walks with coyotes and have never experienced any problems. Never!
I was born in Denver, not a rural city, so I never knew much about coyotes except that they left me alone. In fact, I looked at them in awe and admired their bushy tails, various sizes and interesting markings. I wanted to determine why they left me alone, but suddenly were "harming and stalking" others: what could I have been doing right (or wrong) not to attract them? Upon researching coyotes I have found some very interesting facts. Only now, do I really understand why they couldn't care less that I was "sharing" their habitat; and I want you to know my secrets, so you and your dog will never be "harmed or stalked."
Coyotes belong to the canine family, so they have acute hearing and night vision, are highly intelligent and follow their noses for food supply. They do not hibernate, but rather create dens for their young and for a place to sleep. They hunt during the day or night and can easily scale eight-foot fences or tunnel under fences to escape harm or attack their prey.
Their lifespan is usually 15 years and they have pups when their food supply is at its highest, in April and May. They will roam in packs when they prey upon larger animals, such as sheep, deer or goats, but roam alone to prey upon smaller animals, such as squirrels, rabbits and mice - they usually stalk their prey for about 30 minutes and then pounce.
The coyote is one of the most adaptable species; they survive by being secretive, evasive and rarely seen. Their awareness is heightened in areas where humans try to control or exterminate them. It has been documented in California, when coyote traps were set, that coyotes were seen dropping pieces of wood on the traps to figure them out. Coyotes can actually change their breeding habits based on survival; for instance, they will breed when they have an ample food supply (usually January-March), however, they do not breed if their food supply is scarce.
So why are these highly intelligent animals acting so aggressive toward people and family pets? Unfortunately many people are inadvertently inviting them into their backyards by supplying food or not having fences. Some homeowners leave cat/dog food out and coyotes will enter the yard for it; others let their cats roam outside and coyotes kill them. Dogs that are left unattended during the day and night are also prey for coyotes and unattended children can also be attacked"”to date, there has been one fatality, a 3-year-old child in California. Dog owners who use shock collars have returned home to mauled or injured dogs because their dogs were too afraid to run from their yard. When coyotes have abundant food resources, their population will rise. We are contributing to their increase by attracting them with food and water, yet we punish them by trapping and killing them.
If coyotes are in your neighborhood, they do not need to be killed or trapped - there are many other solutions. Bring all your pet food inside, including rawhides, bones, water bowls, etc. Also, keep your cats indoors and monitor your dog in his yard at all times. If you have a 5'' fence, you can invest in a coyote roller; if you do not have a 5' fence, you can extend your fence by securing vinyl lattice or mesh wire on top of it. If coyotes are digging under your fence, pounding vinyl lattice along the fence (about 3' down) will deter them. Installing chicken wire against the fence will also prevent them from entering (and deter your dog from escaping). Sinking chain link or mesh wire along your fence will prevent the coyotes from tunneling"”just lay it flat and bury it about two feet below the surface, then secure it with landscape fabric or edging pins. Before digging, have your underground utilities located.
To prevent dogs from being attacked in open space, keep them on a leash! Leashes are lifesavers. Coyotes will not approach or terrorize dogs if they are leashed or tethered to their owner - leashes also prevent dogs from falling through ice or being hit by a car! If dog owners feel the need to let their dogs roam off leash, use a dog park. Unfortunately my dog has been attacked numerous times by unleashed dogs. I actually fear "at large" domestic dogs more than coyotes. I don't think there's anything worse than hearing a dog owner in the distance yelling, "Don't worry, my dog is nice." Well, my dog isn't, which is why I only go to "leash law" parks.
To deter any kind of attack on your dog, carry bear mace, a carriage whip or a stick to ward off loose canines. Your dog could be attacked while off leash, so keep him on a leash, even if you're simply going out to the mailbox or playing in an open space. It's best to respect coyotes and other dog owners.
Taxpayers have paid more than $30 million to have coyotes killed to prevent them from harming livestock and humans. If certain procedures are followed and coyotes' habitats are respected, they will not be seen as our enemy.