Bellflower Public Safety has recently received a higher volume of calls regarding coyotes in the community and would like to help educate the public on how to live in harmony. A Coyote Management and Coexistence Plan presented by the Humane Society of the United States provides a thorough understanding of coyote ecology and biology in urban settings, and the best known management practices and management tools. This plan outlines a few basic principles:
1. Human safety is a priority in managing human-coyote interactions.
2. Coyotes serve an important role in ecosystems by helping to control the population of rodents, geese, rabbits and other urban mammals.
3. Preventive practices such as reduction and removal of food attractants, habitat modification and responding appropriately when inter- acting with wildlife are key to minimizing potential interactions with coyotes.
4. Solutions for coyote conflicts must address both problematic coyote behaviors (such as aggression towards people and attacks on pets) and the problematic human behaviors (intentionally or unintentionally feeding coyotes and letting pets outside unattended) that contribute to conflicts.
5. Non-selective coyote removal programs are ineffective for reducing coyote population sizes or preventing human-coyote conflicts.
6. A community-wide program that involves residents is necessary for achieving coexistence among people, coyotes and pets.
Generally, coyotes are reclusive animals who avoid human contact. Coyotes in urban and suburban environments, however, may learn that neighborhoods provide easy sources of human-associated food while presenting few real threats. These coyotes, having lost their fear of humans, may visit yards and public areas even when people are present and may cause conflicts with people and pets. Humans have contributed to this habituation of coyotes by not reacting when they see a coyote. We have a tendency to either ignore them due to fear or to be enamored by them because they are wild and it is “cool” to see one. To coexist safely, it’s important to modify this behavior and attitude in resident coyote populations. Coyotes are drawn to urban and suburban areas for the following reasons:
1. Food: Human-associated food such as pet food, unsecured compost or trash, and fallen fruit in yards. To reduce food attractants, never hand-feed or deliberately feed a coyote, avoid feeding pets outside, never compost meat or dairy (unless the compost is fully secured), remove fallen fruit, maintain good landscaping, keep trash lids secure and be sure to bag especially attractive food wastes such as meat scraps or leftover pet food.
2. Water: During dry conditions, water can be as alluring as food (to coyotes and their prey), so remove water bowls set outside for pets and make watering cans unavailable.
3. Access to shelter: Parks, greenbelts, open spaces, golf courses, buildings, sheds, decks and crawl spaces, etc., increase the amount and variability of cover for coyotes. They allow coyotes to safely and easily remain close to people, pets, homes and businesses without detection. In the spring, when coyotes give birth, they may take advantage of available spaces under sheds or decks for use as a den, bringing them into close contact with people and pets.
4. Unattended pets: Pets are a normal part of an urban landscape. Within their territory, coyotes may consider pets as potential prey or potential competitors. The best way to minimize risk to pets is to not leave them outside unattended. Coyotes primarily eat small mammals such as mice and rats, but will also prey on slightly larger mammals such as rabbits and groundhogs, including outdoor free-roaming cats. Attacks on cats are normal coyote behavior and do not indicate a danger for people. The only way to protect cats from coyotes (and the other dangers of outdoor life such as cars, disease, dogs and other wildlife) is to keep cats indoors (or only let them outside in a secure enclosure or when accompanied by a person and under the control of a leash/harness).
People who feed feral cats are often concerned that coyotes might prey on the cats. Although there is no sure way to protect feral cats from coyotes, the following tips can be helpful:
• Feed cats only during the day and at a set time—and pick up any leftovers immediately.
• Provide escape routes for cats.
• Haze* coyotes seen on the property. Making them feel uncomfortable will encourage them to stay away.
Dogs are also vulnerable to coyote confrontations. These incidents generally involve coyotes who are accustomed or habituated to people (usually due to wildlife feeding), or coyotes who are protecting their territory and pups (usually during breeding season).
Small, unattended dogs may be seen as potential prey for coyotes. It is important to either keep dogs on a leash six feet long or shorter when outdoors or to stay within six feet of them when outside. (Coyotes may view a dog on a leash longer than six feet as an unattended pet.) Attacks on unattended, small dogs are normal coyote behavior and do not indicate a danger for people.
Although attacks on larger dogs are rarer, coyotes will sometimes go after a large dog when they feel that their territory is threatened. This generally occurs during the coyote breeding season, which takes place from January through March. During this time, it is especially important not to let dogs outside unattended and to keep them on leashes (six feet long or less) when in public areas.
*Hazing is an activity or series of activities that is conducted in an attempt to change behaviors of habituated coyotes and/or to reinstill a healthy fear of people in the local coyote population. Hazing techniques include generating loud noises, spraying water, shining bright lights, throwing objects, shouting, etc. Hazing can help maintain a coyote’s fear of humans and deter them from neighborhood spaces such as backyards, greenbelts and play spaces.