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Tips for Avoiding Conflicts with Coyotes
It is natural for humans to fear what we do not understand. But too often when it comes to wildlife many people react by killing, poisoning, calling for laws to eradicate a species, or trapping and relocating an animal before first learning about the critter they have encountered.
One such animal is the coyote. In Washington, these intelligent and adaptable animals now manage to occupy almost every conceivable habitat type, from open ranch country to densely forested areas to downtown waterfront. They are very beneficial in that they help keep rabbits, deer, and raccoon populations balanced.
Coyote attacks on people are extremely rare. There have been an exceedingly small number of attacks on people in the U.S. and Canada. For comparison: 3 million children are bitten by dogs every year. Your child is more likely to be injured by a dog than by a coyote. There were no documented coyote attacks on humans in Washington State until April 2006 in Bellevue (King County) after two young children were bitten. From 1988 to 1997 in southern California, 53 coyote attacks on humans-- resulting in 21 injuries -- were documented. A study of those incidents indicated that human behavior contributed to the problem.
Humans increase the likelihood of conflicts with coyotes and other wild animals by deliberately or inadvertently feeding the animals, whether by handouts or by providing access to food sources such as garbage, pet food, or livestock carcasses. When people provide food, coyotes and other wild animals quickly lose their natural fear of humans and become increasingly aggressive.
Prevention is the best tool for minimizing conflicts with wildlife.
To prevent conflicts with coyotes, use the following management strategies around your property and encourage your neighbors to do the same:
- Don’t give wildlife access to garbage, fruit, or compost.
- Feed dogs and cats indoors - Don’t feed feral cats.
- Keep dogs and cats indoors, especially from dusk to dawn.
- Modify the landscape around children’s play areas. Shrubs and trees should be pruned several feet above ground level so animals can’t hide in them.
- Build a fence. Coyotes don’t leap fences in a single bound.
- Enclose poultry (chickens, ducks, and turkeys) in a secure outdoor pen and house.
- Consider using a guard animal - specialty breeds of dogs, donkeys, and llamas.
- Remove road-killed animals that may attract wildlife.
I ask that we all spread the word to our neighbors, coworkers, relatives, and friends – wildlife is not to be feared but to be enjoyed. Help them to understand and learn about the wild animal before they overreact with fear. Let’s share this wonderful planet with the wild creatures with which we have been blessed.