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Coyote Sights & Sounds

Coyote sightings are on the rise in our neighborhoods at this time of year. The naked trees and bushes, plus the lack of grass and soon to be snowy white background make the animals more visible.  There is also more activity with spring’s pups getting their first taste of what life is like without Mom to take care of them. On top of all that, January marks the beginning of their mating season, with pups being born March – May.  While coyotes can present a threat to small pets that roam outside, pet owners can decrease the risk by following these simple tips.

Adult Coyote in Winter

Tips and Tools for Keeping Coyotes Wild

Project Coyote, a California-based organization that promotes peaceful coexistence with coyotes, and the Humane Society of the United States offer this advice on how to discourage coyotes from coming into urban areas:

  •  Do not feed coyotes.
  • Keep your pet on a leash.
  • Supervise small pets and children, and keep your cats indoors.
  • If you have dogs that spend time in your fenced yard, you may want to invest in a Coyote Roller, a device that is attached to the top of a fence to stop coyote paws from getting a grip. Also, adding 6 inches of wire mesh to the bottom of your fence should deter coyotes from digging underneath.
  • Keep garbage, compost and pet food out of reach. Make sure your garbage can lids are on tight, and feed your cats and dogs indoors.
  • If faced with a coyote, act big and loud—shake a can of pennies, blow a whistle, wave your arms above your head, spray a hose in their general direction, bang on anything metal and loud. Such actions will reinforce their fear of humans, which is good for us and them.
  • Ask your neighbors to follow the above tips, too.

Why are the coyotes here?

As human populations have grown and wild lands have been converted to human use, there has been increased pressure on wildlife to adapt or die.  The coyote is one of the few species that have adapted. And that, has not necessarily been a bad thing.  Their primary food source is rodents, so they’re beneficial for our cities as well as our more rural areas.

Coyotes help keep rabbit, mouse, rat, squirrel, skunk, opossum and raccoon populations under control, which, in turn, helps songbirds thrive. The problems arise when they are encouraged to venture into people’s yards and gardens. We get into trouble in urban environments when we have attractants that really shouldn’t be in our yards. The initial reaction—seeking to have them killed—isn’t the best solution for this.  We have unintentionally invited these animals into our yards or neighborhoods, and until we rescind that invitation by removing whatever attracted them to our yard and neighborhood, the coyotes shall remain.  Plus, coyotes have something called compensatory reproduction.  Normally, it’s only the alpha male and female in any family group that would reproduce, once a year.  But with coyotes, if the alpha female or male is killed, the resulting lack of hierarchy will result in the betas all having pups that year, instead of just one.  This can result in 10x the normal amount of offspring for an area which brings about starvation for the pups, lack of habitat, and habituation toward humans to find food and shelter.

Relocating coyotes to a magical place where coyotes run wild and no one minds, with no humans for miles, is also not a good option for us or the coyotes.  The result for the coyotes left behind is the same as if the ‘relocated’ coyote had died.  Plus now you have an animal that’s been relocated in someone else’s territory, doesn’t know where to find food or water. It will try to find its way back, but with all the pressures it experiences, it will probably die within two weeks.

Adult Coyote with Winter Coat

Residents often call Animal Services when they spot a coyote in their neighborhood and are concerned about its behavior. Many counties in both Missouri & Illinois no longer have animal control departments that handle any sort of wildlife calls.  Residents will also call the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) or Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IL DNR)  for help as well.  MDC’s solution to ‘problem’ coyotes “causing problems” seems to always be death, either by hunting or trapping. The staff at the Wildlife Hotline does not agree with this method, not just because we’re a humane organization, but also because it does NOT solve the original problem.  An area that has coyotes living well in it will undoubtedly have more than ONE coyote in it.  How can one make sure that they only kill or trap the ‘problem’ coyote?  What happens when you remove the one ‘problem’ and three more coyotes come in to that one’s place?  It is totally possible that you will kill the “Alpha” coyote and he was the only thing holding the other beta coyotes back from their trouble making?  Even the hunters and trappers that we know and stand by do not understand this kind of solution.  If you do not plan to eat a coyote, or sell the pelts (they’re not worth much anymore), then you shouldn’t hunt it.  Our hunter friends do not believe in teaching their children to hunt something just for sport with no real purpose other than ‘We don’t want them here’.

Sleepy Adult Coyote

MDC’s Approach to Coyote Issues

“Coyotes can be seen throughout the year, but sightings tend to increase in winter for a couple of reasons. One is that January and February is their mating season so they are more active. Also, winters that feature heavy snow and ice cover are times when pickings become slimmer for coyotes and their hunger makes them become bolder in their searches for food.”

“Studies show that rabbits, small mammals, reptiles, carrion and plant matter (fruits, seeds, etc.) make up much of a coyote’s annual diet. However, they are opportunistic predators so calves, lambs, young horses and poultry are also occasional food items.”

“When coyotes begin to cause problems, there are solutions. In Missouri, coyotes can be taken by hunting or trapping methods and pelts may be possessed, transported and sold.”

Directly Quoted From a CC Headliner article with the Missouri Department of Conservation

Illinois DNR tends to lean more towards coexistence, which we prefer here at the Wildlife Hotline.  They even offer a downloadable document to help residents know how to handle coyote sightings and potential problems.  You can download, view and print it here.

Coyote Love

Illinois DNR Tips for Coyote Conflicts:

“Recognize that coyotes are a permanent fixture in Illinois’ rural, suburban and urban areas. Seeing a coyote(s) cross a field, backyard, golf course, road, etc. does not necessarily constitute a problem or a dangerous situation for humans or domestic animals.”

“Recognize that coyote population reduction (removing some or all of the coyotes in an area) is usually unrealistic and always temporary. Removal of coyotes also requires time, effort and funding.”

“Safety procedures for dealing with coyotes are different from those for dealing with a strange dog. If a coyote approaches you, do not run. Yell, stand up straight and wave your arms (the goal is to make yourself appear larger), or throw something at the coyote to scare it away.”

Directly Quoted From the Illinois Department of Natural Resource Website

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For more information on solving conflicts with coyotes, please visit our main page on this species.

How You Can Help

If you are interested in helping your neighbors learn more about these animals, please download one of the posters/handouts that we have available here, via Project Coyote.  Download, print, and distribute to neighbors or hang up on a telephone pole or billboard near where you last spotted a coyote. Education is the key, and knowledge never hurt anyone!
Coyote Awareness Poster

Educational Brochure