Pest Profile: Coyotes, Part 1
Mark Twain once wrote, “The coyote is a long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton…He has a general slinking expression all over. The coyote is a living, breathing allegory of Want.” That existence of always wanting is what has made the coyote’s range expand dramatically over the past several decades. It has brought them into our states, our suburbs, and our backyards—and now that they’re here, they’re not leaving.
Coyotes are dog-like creatures, distinguishable from dogs by their sharply pointed ears and snout, their mottled, reddish-brown to grey fur and their bushy tails. They are natural predators who normally hunt small animals like rats, birds and rabbits for survival. Coyotes are naturally shy animals who try to avoid human and other predator contact when they have the option. They usually live in small packs which consist mostly of family members. Due to human pressure, coyotes are now mostly nocturnal, but they can be seen during the day on occasion.
Why They’re Pests
In much of the US, coyotes have expanded their territories to fill a gap left by the red wolf. As their territories expanded, so did coyote populations, until they’ve been left with little choice but to start living in our ever expanding suburban areas. Because prey can be scarce in suburbs, coyotes have taken to eating garbage and pets. Cats are particularly in danger, as few survive a coyote encounter, but dogs are also at risk.
Are They Dangerous?
Yes and no. Because of their skittish nature, coyotes rarely attack humans. On average, there are 14 coyote attacks on humans in a year, and those are mostly directed at unattended children under 5 years of age, and there has only been 1 death in over 50 years from a coyote attacking a human. Domestic dogs attack and kill more people in a year than coyotes have in the past several decades. Still, you should keep a close eye on your children if coyotes have been spotted in the area.
However, coyotes are extremely dangerous to your PETS. Cats and small dogs are a favorite coyote snack. If you let your dog or cat roam freely outside, you are putting them at risk of being killed by a coyote. Aggressive or desperate coyotes have even been known to snatch pets while on leashes, so be cautious if there have been coyote sightings in your neighborhood. Keep pets either indoors or behind tall fences if they must be kept outside. Nighttime is especially dangerous for pets as this is when coyotes hunt, so it is very important to keep pets inside at night.