Eliot, the Coyote

By Alexis  Warwick

Some of you may be aware of the population of predatory wildlife, including Coyotes. They commute through our parks and greenways on a daily basis. This may seem like a somewhat new and exciting phenomena but they have been politely traveling our streets and parks for many years now.  In fact, they were here long before we were!

Unsurprisingly there are some unfortunate opinions of our four-legged neighbors which can hinder our mutual interactions. Primarily is the “rescuer’s” idea that they are either hungry or displaced by urban expansion. Wildlife is often displaced by human expansion but many of these animals have adapted to our lifestyle. Orderly sidewalks make travel much easier and efficient, working populations leave neighborhoods quiet during daytime and nighttime hours for hunting and we provide an abundance of food.

This is where concern is warranted.  Food is an important part of any territory and our neighborhood is an excellent territory for any wild animal. Most of us have gardens and garbage and outdoor-fed pets. Delicious, for scavengers such as rodents, but before you leap to the wrong conclusion, not so much for coyotes.  Why would a crafty hunter settle for leftovers when they can eat the animals that eat the leftovers?

In rural areas the coyote diet is nearly exclusively squirrels, rats and smaller rodents. In an urban environment this persists.  They prefer to eat the rats and mice attracted to humans, although other small animals will do including cats and small dogs.  Most wildlife prefers to not be seen by larger predators (humans) and there are many more individual animals; coyotes, raccoons, skunks and opossums than any of us are aware of, making lives for themselves in our yards and parks. That is really neat. The concern is just if they decide to get brazen enough to pose a threat to our homes and families (pets included).

Basic prevention and good manners are enough to generally prevent problems.  Simple steps such as confining your property to your property (pets included), securing vulnerable animals (chickens in coops, rabbits in hutches, etc.) not leaving out hazardous or attractive materials and avoiding contact with animals you don’t know should be standard operating procedure.  Reducing attractive nuisances such as unsecured garbage, limiting food to just your outdoor pets (no open bowls of kibble), and keeping up with any composting to ensure swift decomposition will not only keep neighbors happy it will also reduce opportunistic feeders, those rodents coyotes find so tasty.  If you encounter unfamiliar or aggressive animals of any species you should take steps to defend yourself and report the sighting to local authorities.  Otherwise, live and let live.

Alexis Warwick is a former Animal Control Officer.

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