Learning To Coexist With Coyotes In Our Midst

By Camilla H. Fox
ESCONDINO, CA is not the first community to experience conflicts with Coyotes and other predators–nor will it be the last. Nevertheless, the community has an opportunity now to implement a proactive public education campaign that promotes educated coexistence and reduces wildlife conflicts.

Encounters between humans and Coyotes have become more frequent in our expanding cities and suburbs. The patchwork of green space and open areas provided by residential development offers much “edge” habitat where the Coyote can find plentiful sources of food, water and shelter.

Unfortunately, lethal control is frequently the knee-jerk response to the appearance of Coyotes and other predators in both rural and urban areas. Although killing predators allows public officials to argue they are “doing something,” wildlife biologists tell us lethal control does not offer a long-term solution to Coyote conflicts.

Nonselective killing methods often remove individual Coyotes that have no history of conflict. Dr. Stanley Gehrt, one of the nation’s foremost urban Coyote researchers, states: “Indiscriminate removal may exacerbate a conflict, if Coyotes that have a healthy fear of people are replaced by new coyotes that have little or no fear of people. Therefore, removal should be discouraged … and management should focus on public education.”

Public outreach is imperative to ensure that all residents do what they can to prevent wildlife conflicts. Most conflicts result from people providing Coyotes (and other wild animals) with food, intentionally or not. Fundamental to resolving negative encounters with wild animals is reducing wildlife attractants.

Keep pets and other domestic animals indoors at night, feed your pet indoors, walk your dog on a leash, keep refuse containers inaccessible to animals, and keep other food sources like fallen fruit and birdseed off the ground; these are easy ways to reduce conflicts. Unless people take responsibility to remove attractants to discourage unwanted wildlife, negative encounters with Coyotes and other predators will occur and animals will be destroyed.

Coyotes play a vital ecological role in keeping rodent and small-mammal populations in check. They are also efficient scavengers and offer many natural services we may not fully appreciate. In honor of the coyote’s resourcefulness, intelligence, and rightful place in the ecosystem, the Navajo called the species “God’s Dog.” Coyotes have much to offer us, not only by keeping ecosystems healthy, but by providing inspiring examples of ingenuity and adaptability in an ever-changing world. — North County Times

In this photo provided by the Animal Protection Institute, a coyote and a dog square off over the dog’s outdoor food bowl. Leaving food outside is sure to increase conflicts with wildlife.

EDITOR’S NOTES: For more information about the Animal Protection Institute’s Coexisting With Coyotes program, visit www.coexistingwithwildlife.org or call (916) 447-3085 to order API’s publications, including the “Coyotes in Our Midst” or “Coexisting With Coyotes” brochures. Camilla H. Fox is director of wildlife programs for the national Animal Protection Institute, headquartered in Sacramento.