The Eastern Coyote presents a dilemma for many property owners. For some, their presence is a cause for celebration about our native wildlife and the animals should be protected and enjoyed. For others, the coyotes represent a clear and growing menace and should be destroyed. In between, there are dozens of other viewpoints.
Where the animals originated is unknown until further research is complete. For some, they are a cross between the smaller western coyote and wolves. Recent DNA studies indicate the eastern coyote does have wolf genes, while a few seem to be hybrids between canines. The question remains, when did this happen?
For others, the eastern coyotes were what the early colonists dubbed wolves; they have been around the eastern forests for a long time. As the early settlers approached, the coyotes went deeper into the wilderness. Perhaps, we’ll never know for sure.
What appears apparent, is they became more plentiful in the 1930’s and 40’s in eastern states such as Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania and in the Canadian Province of Ontario and other adjacent regions. The number of sightings grew and, while there are no firm estimates today, it is generally believed the population is significant in both rural, suburban and urban areas. They are common sights in all of these areas.
The Eastern Coyote is larger than it’s western counterpart. An adult generally can weigh fifty pounds or more. They are secretive and generally shy away from human contact. They are mainly nocturnal. They are opportunistic scavengers; and will eat anything from small animals, such as rabbits, groundhogs and mice; they are also known to eat fruit, berries, nuts and discarded human garbage.
Coyotes will also prey on small household pets, such as cats and smaller dogs, on the other hand, there are those who claim the household pet is more likely to get hit by a vehicle than eaten by a coyote. Some smaller farm animals such as sheep and goats have also fallen prey to the coyotes.
Most hunters are not fond of coyotes. It is widely accepted they will attack and kill new born whitetail deer fawns and adult deer. Wildlife officials agree, they will attack fawns, however, they also claim, the coyotes don’t pose a serious threat to the deer herds. Wildlife officials also indicate, the adult deer taken by the coyotes are the old, sick or injured deer, not healthy deer. In coyote prone areas, it is a lively debate.
Coyotes have also been known to attack humans and there have been fatalities. The attacks have been rare and uncommon, according to state officials in many of the states with a growing coyote populations. Dog bites are more prevalent. Others question, as coyotes become more familiar with humans, will they become more aggressive?
There are actions which can be taken now to protect pets and people. First and foremost, never feed them; feeding is a fast food recipe for big trouble. Yard cleanliness is important; clean up under the bird feeder, the seeds (and the suet feeders) attract smaller animals which attract the coyotes; secure and cover all garbage waste as well as compost bins. Thin or eliminate heavy brush areas in the yard, coyotes are secretive and like to hide. Crawl spaces under buildings should be sealed; coyotes will hide or make a den under the out buildings.
Supervise pets and don’t let them roam free at night, particularly if the coyotes have been in the area. Feed all household pets indoors and do not let food remain outside. Never leave the dog outside on a chain unsupervised. When walking the dog, use or carry a leash along with something like a whistle or air horn; the noise will generally fend off an attack. Cell phones are also good to carry along. Never, run from a coyote, make noises and threatening motions with a stick. If the coyote shows aggressive behavior, contact wildlife officials immediately as well as neighbors.
Coyotes usually have their young in the spring, April through June. This is the time to be more aware since the adults will be searching for additional food for the pups.
Ethical coyote hunting is also an option in managing the coyotes, although some strongly disagree. However, firearms are generally allowed in more rural areas, not urban and suburban locations. Check with the local regulations and at all times practice safety.
A few simple precautions, and basic common sense, can avoid an unnecessary and serious conflict. Some enjoy the mysterious howls of the coyotes, some enjoy the hunt, while others express the fears of the unknown. More research needs to be completed; but learn more about what we know today. The coyotes are likely here to stay and we all need to adapt.