Coyotes in our Neighborhood – How to Protect your Pets
Coyote sightings have increased this year up and down the west coast in densely populated areas. We can live in harmony with coyotes — we just need to know how. I attended a Coyote Workshop in Torrance, California, where I learned about these fascinating dogs, we call coyotes, and how we can all get along.
Coyotes come to our neighborhoods looking for food. Courtney Fern, California State Director of the Humane Society, attributes the increased sightings to the long drought and the spread of human population to rural communities, which forces coyotes to relocate.
The drought has decreased their food supply. Wild plants are barely surviving, let alone producing tasty berries for coyotes. Vegetation that supports small wildlife has diminished. The food chain has been disrupted by the long drought and the coyotes are forced to search for a different food source. And they find it — in our yards. Food for the taking.
People leave dog food and cat food outdoors. Fruit is not harvested. Yes, coyotes eat fruit. Vegetable gardens contain yummy morsels. Garbage cans and compost piles are easy targets. Wiley Coyote takes advantage of the generous food supply we unwittingly leave outside. Once the coyote has entered your backyard, dogs and cats are an easy target as well. A Torrance resident asked why the coyotes do not hunt raccoons. Coyotes are intelligent and will avoid fighting a shrewd raccoon.
Coyotes are amazing — they self-regulate their own population. According to the Humane Society studies show where humans have tried to eliminate a coyote population by killing it, the coyotes will breed at a younger age and have larger litters. One study even found that killing 75% of the coyote population every year for 50 years would still not exterminate the population. If we let them be, they will maintain a population that can be sustained by the resources that are available. So the key is to live and let live.
So how do we accomplish living side by side with coyotes. Here is what was recommended:
- Never feed wildlife. People want to watch wildlife so they put out food to draw the wildlife to them. Or they believe they are helping the animals, but they are not. The real trouble begins when a coyote no longer fears human interaction and looks to humans for food.
- Do not leave pet food outside. If you feed your pets outside, feed them and then pick up the bowls. Do not leave any food outside. If you are feeding a feral cat population, start them on a feeding schedule. Put out food once a day at the same time and then pick it up again after a short time. The cats will figure out the routine and know when to show up to eat.
- Pick up any fruit that is on the ground or within a coyote’s reach. If you can reach it without a ladder, they probably can too. Coyotes are good jumpers.
- Enclose your vegetable garden.
- Pick up any bird feed that has fallen on the ground. Perhaps stop feeding the birds entirely.
- Secure your trash cans and compost pile. Do not put the trash cans out on collection day until that morning. Never include meat scraps in your compost.
- Accompany your small to medium dogs outside. Do not leave them outside unattended. This advice was the most controversial. People are used to letting their dogs roam freely in their yards day or night and they do not like the inconvenience when they can no longer do so safely. Rebecca Dmytryk, Owner of Humane Wildlife Control, also spoke at the workshop. She is an expert wildlife control technician, who can make your yard safe from intrusion by coyotes. There are things you can try, such as predator eyes, wind chimes, leaving lights on, kites, and wind socks. Male urine around the perimeter of the yard will deter a coyote. Keep in mind, that these deterrents may only work temporarily; as the coyotes acclimate they will realize it is not an actual threat. You can put rollers on the top of your fences so the coyote cannot gain purchase to climb over and take steps to make sure a coyote cannot dig under the fence. Hire an expert like Rebecca, to come to your yard to make sure it is safe.
- When outside, your cats should be kept in enclosures, such as a catio.
- If you see a coyote, stand your ground! Do NOT run. Do not be afraid. Make a lot of noise. Make yourself big; wave your arms. If the coyote runs and then stops and turns around to look at you, move towards it until it runs away from you and out of sight. They suggest you carry a noisemaker, such as a can with coins in it to shake. Throw rocks or bean bags at the coyote. I prefer you not hurt the coyote by actually hitting him/her. Just throwing in their direction should suffice. If I was walking my dogs, I probably wouldn’t throw anything, because my dogs may think I have suddenly decided to play fetch. However, if you are walking your dog, encourage your dog to bark. If the coyote gets too close, carry pepper spray to scare them away. The goal is for the coyote to fear human interaction. Remember you are doing this for the coyote’s own good.
- Spread the word. Share this information around with family, friends, neighbors, and around the water cooler at work to keep our pets safe.
Sadly, Torrance’s city council, after a long and heated debate, has hired trappers to kill coyotes. Trapping is inhumane. The trappers use neck snares or leghold traps. The coyotes could be held captive for up to 24 hours before they are put down. It is a cruel and pointless ending to the life of an animal, who is simply seeking to survive. Follow the tips above to save the coyotes and keep our pets safe. Through education and working together we can coexist.