√Coyotes in the News

“Get any good photos?” someone asked, seeing me with my camera. “Not really,” I answered. I never had seen the fellow before, so I asked, “And what are you up to.” He said, “I’m looking for a coyote.” I asked, “Why?” He said that there had been a report of an “aggressive” coyote — maybe one biting a dog. I let him know that this has only happened in our parks when a coyote was defending itself from a dog chasing it. There is a leash-law in our parks, but people don’t abide by the rules. I told him the coyotes here were not aggressive.

He said he knew this, that the park department liked the coyotes, and that the park department would be patrolling the area for a little while to make sure dogs in the area were leashed. Most of us want coexistence with wildlife to work, but this entails some effort from us humans — a simple effort that many are not willing to make: simply leashing our dogs in a coyote area.

Everyone should be aware that our coyotes have never approached people, they have always fled away from humans in every instance that I have seen. Coyotes are naturally wary of humans and will keep a safe distance. Humans have not caused coyotes to approach dogs or be more out and about:  In one of our parks this idea has been propagated by a very tiny but cohesive and vocal group of dog walkers who prefer not to leash their dogs. This small group represents themselves as the voice of the park when in fact, as so many other walkers with and without dogs have told me, they represent only themselves. Dog/coyote behavior is the bigger issue, a definite tripartite one which includes the dog owners themselves. Dogs react differently to coyotes, and the coyotes react differently to different dog personality types. All coyote “incidents” in the park have involved dogs.

Two “coyote alert” signs were strategically placed at the entrance to the park and on a main path. Hopefully, everyone will become a little more savvy about coexisting with coyotes. But some will soon want to dispense with their leashes and the situation may very well be repeated.

This incident could have escalated into a far bigger one — the media has traditionally printed negative news about coyotes, but seldom do we see the positive or how everyone could make coexistence work better — the media could take responsibility for helping with this. In 2007 sharpshooters were called in to eliminate an “aggressive coyote”. The public, fortunately, reacted with outrage, especially since it was learned that the dog had chased the coyotes, in a den area, and there were pups involved.

Only the side of the story that promoted fear and sensation was initially reported: that a dog had been bitten by a coyote. The other side of the story: the den, the chasing, that this dog had chased these coyotes often, the self-defense, and that the dog was unleashed, were not publicized until much later and not very prominently. Fortunately, now, everyone is becoming much more aware that there is “the other side of the story” as new incidents of this sort are reported.

Apparently, “aggressive” coyotes, are regularly reported by any number of people to the police, to the park service or to animal control. Often, when questioned about “what” the coyote was doing to be aggressive, the answer has fallen into two categories: “well, it is standing there” or “howling”. The other category is the coyote defending itself after having been chased by an unleashed dog.

Please be aware that by far, most bites to dogs are from other dogs — and few of these make the headlines. However, a coyote story involving a self-defensive bite will catch the public’s eye — simply due to latent fears that exist in our human minds. Would a raccoon bite be reported? Would a skunk spray be reported? Real aggression does need to be reported, but coyotes are not generally aggressive — they just defend themselves. Please read about coyote safety.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Coyote Careful | Save Mount Sutro Forest

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