Several sightings of coyotes have been reported lately, prompting a big concern.
Coyotes are a permanent fixture in rural, suburban and urban areas. A coyote reminds me of a small German shepherd dog. Coyotes weigh between 20 and 45 pounds, have a bushy tail with a black tip, and a yellowish gray and whitish throat and belly. Their ears are prominent, and their tail is held below their back while running.
Seeing a coyote cross a field, backyard, road or golf course does not necessarily constitute a problem or dangerous situation, either for humans or domestic animals. Coyotes will be more active and more visible in late-winter/early spring during their breeding seasons. Most coyotes are harmless; their goal is to eat more natural food – such as mice and rabbits but they will also eat birds, snakes, insects, fish, fruit and vegetables.
However, coyotes are opportunistic hunters. If coyotes see easy food – such as open garbage – and aren’t afraid, they may take advantage. That puts them in direct line for a confrontation with pets. Coyotes are not interested in eating pets. These are territorial disputes. Coyotes are capable of taking a small dog or cat, but they rarely take supervised pets. Studies have shown that attempts at eliminating all coyotes are not practical, economical or workable. When coyotes are removed others quickly move in.
Overpopulation of Canadian geese and deer in urban and suburban areas has provided coyotes with plenty of food sources. My husband actually saw a coyote run after a flock of Geese in a field in Willowbrook last week, and the coyote actually got one. Coyotes also have been known to take fawns or diseased adult deer.
Most people reporting coyotes present are concerned that there is a threat to their children or pets. The Illinois Department of Resources (IDNR) records indicate only 16 coyote attacks on humans in the past 30 years. The majority of cases occurred when people tried to hand-feed the animal.
Coyotes live in prairies, bushy areas and wooded edges, however, not in heavily wooded areas. They prefer suburban areas with broken forests. Coyotes like to travel along trails/paths or ridges and waterways. They are most active at night, but they are seen during the day, especially in the summer when their young are more active.
Here are some ways to address common issues with coyotes in and around your home. Coyotes prefer to be as far from humans as possible, but as with other species, a loss of habitat has left them few choices. To prevent problems in your yard, you must eliminate two main attractants: food and shelter.
- Do not encourage coyotes by feeding them. The majority of cases of bold and aggressive coyotes occur when people feed wildlife.
- Keep pet food and water dishes inside.
- Do not allow spills to accumulate below bird feeders.
- Keep grills and barbecues clean. Even small food scraps may attract animals
- If possible, do not keep garbage cans outside.
- Use enclosed compost bins, not exposed piles.
- Keep ground clear of fruit from trees.
- Protect vegetable gardens with fences.
- Use welded wire to prevent animals from accessing openings under decks, elevated sheds, concrete slabs and porches.
- Keep your yard well-lit when outdoors at night with your pet.
- Keep cats indoors.
- Coyotes are creatures of habit. If you encounter one at the same place and time while walking your pet, change your route or the time that you walk.
- If you encounter a coyote, be confident and bold. Make loud noises, and make yourself look larger by raising your hands above your head or flaring your jacket wide open to let the coyote know you are “top dog.”
- Do not be submissive. Turn your back or run.
- If you are uncomfortable, leave the area calmly, facing the coyote as you leave.
- If walking on trails frequented by coyotes, carry a deterrent, such as an air horn, whistle, walking stick or cane.
- Always keep yourself between a coyote and children or pets.
- If you are followed by a coyote, you are likely walking through its territory, and it is “shadowing” you to make sure you are not a threat.