CONCERNS ARE ON THE INCREASE
by Whit Gibbons
June 30, 2003
coyotes are becoming more common in many parts of the eastern United
States, questions about them are becoming more frequent. Strong attitudes
can also be expected any time another species begins to affect human
property, health, or other aspects of our lives. The following are among
recent queries I have received about coyotes.
We live in the "country" and at night can hear the coyotes
howling (especially if there is a full moon). I've heard this is called
ululation, and supposedly they do this only when they're killing or
mating. We have a dog and she can hear them before we do. Are they dangerous?
Should we be concerned when the grandchildren come visit? Any information
would be appreciated.
Ululation means howling or wailing, which indeed is what coyotes do.
I'm not aware that howling is restricted to certain activities; more
likely, coyote howling is a territorial statement or a response to another
coyote or other animal. Or maybe some do it simply because ululation
dog has much keener hearing than do humans and can also hear frequencies
we cannot. So the dog's being aware of coyote howling before you is
understandable. Dogs also have a remarkably keen sense of smell and
may become aware of a coyote in the neighborhood through olfactory cues
before any noises are made.
will attack cats and even dogs on occasion, but I am unaware of one
attacking a human, although I suppose the exceptional case may be out
there somewhere, possibly with rabid animals. The coyotes I have encountered
have seemed greatly intimidated by or at least shy around adult humans.
I have two young grandchildren and would not be at all concerned about
coyotes as long as a grownup were nearby. Of course I wouldn't leave
the children unattended even if no coyotes were around.
You once stated in a wildlife column, "Why would someone want to
catch a coyote?" Well, let me give you one reason--to eliminate
it. Last winter, my dog (who was like a son to me) was taken out of
his own backyard by a coyote. The only evidence left behind was a teaspoonful
of blood on the leaves next to the fence. For two days, my remaining
dog kept going to this location, and I finally figured out what had
happened. I replaced the lost dog with another, and two weeks later,
that coyote attacked him right in my backyard while I was STANDING THERE.
I screamed, startled the coyote, and saved the dog. Although his tail
was bleeding a little he otherwise is okay. I confirmed that the perpetrator
was a coyote when I saw him waiting in the shadows on my deck. He has
to be eliminated. My dogs are not safe in their own yard. I am in the
process of increasing all the fence heights, but this individual killer
needs to be eliminated.
You certainly have a valid concern, and the following answer from a
previous column may be useful.
Q. What is the best way to catch a coyote so that it can be removed
from a suburban area?
A. Not knowing the answer myself, I turned to an expert, Dr. Julie Weston,
who studies large mammals: "My initial response is give it up and
leave it to a professional. Do not put your health and safety at risk
dealing with a coyote except in an emergency.
coyotes does not require a permit in some states, but in a suburban
area, discharging firearms may be illegal in itself. Trapping usually
requires a permit, as other animals are likely to be trapped as well.
An inexperienced trapper will capture many raccoons, opossums, and maybe
a fox or two before the first coyote. Your most likely capture in many
suburban areas will be your neighbor's dog.
for professionals, catching a coyote can take patience and be a major
effort. For someone untrained in dealing with wildlife, the feat is
not impossible but is definitely difficult and could be illegal."
out what to do, or not do, about coyotes could become more and more
important as their numbers increase in suburban America.
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