Please Don’t Feed The Coyotes!

2016-10-08

[Situation report and photo by Nathan & Yvonne]

This coyote on Rodeo Beach has been wandering around trying to get food from people. Folks are blaming this behavior on the belief that the coyote has become used to people. But “getting used to people” — known as “habituation” — does not cause coyotes to approach people for food, or to approach people at all.  Coyotes actually are naturally wary of people and, habituated or not, will do their best to avoid us. What causes coyotes to approach people for food is the act of feeding them in the first place. It’s called food-conditioning. Feed them once, and they’ll start coming back for more.

“Habituation” and “food-conditioning” are totally different things. Coyotes in all urban centers get used to people and this is not necessarily a bad thing for people, pets or  coyotes. However, food-conditioning is what makes coyotes approach people and it causes problems. Such coyotes hang around in the wrong places. They could become belligerent in their demands for food. And if hand fed, they could end up biting the hand that feeds them.

Many people think they should “scare” coyotes whenever they see them to keep them fearful of people. This is not so. In fact, coyotes often get used to being scared off by people and learn to ignore the tactic. It’s a technique which should be used sparingly if at all. We counsel everyone, especially dog owners, to leash and walk the other way the minute they see a coyote. Keeping the distance between your dog and the coyote is your best insurance against incidents. Incidents really don’t happen all that often — proximity is what sets them off.

And please don’t feed coyotes. By doing so, you are creating the potential for injury to yourself, and the possibility of death for the coyote: “A fed coyote is a dead coyote”. People often want to “eliminate” coyotes who approach people or appear bold.

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