Maligning Coyotes

In one of our parks recently — a wilderness area — someone put up a notice that their “cat had been taken from their porch by a coyote”. They conjured up fear and danger to all pets, and especially to all children living in the immediate vicinity and to groups of children who come to the park as summer campers. Then they gave an email address if anyone might be interested in “relocating” the resident coyotes. What is sad here is that the posting was made solely “on the belief” that a coyote had caused this mishap. No one saw it happen.
When there are coyotes in an area, there are some people who will blame them for any crimes and any possible crimes that they themselves can think of. This is due not only to fears regarding coyotes, but also to misconceptions about them. Education at all levels and following a few simple rules may aid coexistence, so that people will know what to expect from coyotes, and they will know what is expected of themselves.
First of all, it is too bad and very sad that a cat was either killed or lost: pets are members of our families. Coyotes are often made the culprits for these tragedies, simply because they are in the area. However, many possibilities exist, so we shouldn’t be so fast to just point at the coyotes. Not only do we have raccoons in the area, but cats often “move on” or leave their homes of their own accord, they are killed by cars, or they leave the premises to die peacefully away from their homes. Yes, coyotes can take cats: this becomes a possibility especially if cat food is left out — this is what attracts coyotes to backyards. The logic is, that if you live in an area that has coyotes, it is your responsibility to keep your pet safe. It everyone’s responsibility not to leave out food which will attract animals. Our park service will tell you: “I’m sorry, but take better care of your pet.”  This is common sense.
It is interesting that it is often people without children who seem to malign the coyotes regarding children’s safety. However, I don’t hear actual parents doing so. Those who have children or are in charge of them, parents and camp counselors: we do keep a careful watch on our children, yet we also know the joy and excitement of seeing wildlife, and of teaching responsibility and respect for wild animals.  Coyotes never have bitten or hurt any person in our parks here. Our coyotes are not aggressive. We all need to continue to follow the rule: never, ever feed a coyote. Feeding is the one human behavior that MAY cause a coyote to become aggressive — this is because what a coyote is “offered” may eventually become “demanded” by the coyote. By not feeding a coyote in the first place, ever, this sequence of events can be prevented.
Of course, coyotes will defend themselves from dogs, and sometimes will taunt dogs which have come after them or antagonized them in some manner. Remember that dogs and coyotes do communicate on a subtle level that we humans rarely pick up on: body language and visual cues are readily communicated. Keep your dog leashed and close to yourself in a coyote area to prevent problems. This is common sense too.
Lastly, everyone should know that it is illegal to relocate wild animals. This is because of the cruelty involved to the animal. The resident coyotes in the new relocated area are established and often kill incoming coyotes. Also, IF the coyote tends to be a problem coyote — one who possibly has become aggressive from being fed — the problem behavior would be transferred to the new location.
It is extremely easy and safe to coexist with coyotes: don’t approach them so that they feel intruded upon, keep your dogs leashed and next to you in a coyote area, never let your dog chase a coyote, and never feed a coyote — even unintentionally by leaving out pet food.

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