Living with coyotes as neighbors

Despite the increasing probability of coyotes attacking pets and children, there are still ways to decrease the chances of that ever directly affecting your household.

Conservation Commission member Teresa Gallagher attributed many encounters with coyotes to people’s own fault.

“Most people are also not aware that the root of most problems with wildlife is that people are feeding them, on purpose or inadvertently,” said Gallagher. “Humans train wildlife to come to them for food as if they’re pets, and then kill them when the animals become aggressive because they’re wild animals, not pets.”

Gallagher said there are, in fact, ways to create and maintain distance between humans and wildlife. One example she notes is called “hazing.”

HumanSociety.org defines hazing as a method that makes use of deterrents to move an animal out of an area or discourage an undesirable behavior or activity. The website adds that hazing can help maintain a coyote’s fear of humans and deter it from back yards and play spaces.

Methods of hazing include yelling and waving your arms while approaching the coyote, noisemakers (whistles, air horns, bells, “shaker” cans full of marbles or pennies, and pots, lids or pie pans banged together), projectiles (sticks, small rocks, cans, tennis balls, or rubber balls), and spray bottles with vinegar water, pepper spray or bear repellent.

According to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, coyotes will attack and kill pets, especially cats and small dogs (under 25 pounds). The best way to protect pets is to not allow them to run free. Cats should be kept indoors, particularly at night, and small dogs should be on a leash and under close supervision at all times.

The DEEP says a typical coyote “resembles a small, lanky German shepherd” but tends to be more slender and have wide, pointed ears, a long, tapered muzzle, yellow eyes, slender legs, small feet, and a straight, bushy tail that is carried low to the ground.

The fur is usually a grizzled-gray color with a cream-colored or white underside, but coloration is variable, with individuals having blond, reddish, and charcoal coat colors, according to the DEEP. Coat color does not vary between the sexes. Most coyotes have dark hairs over the back and a black-tipped tail, which has a black spot near its base covering a distinctive scent gland. However, not all coyotes have the black markings.

The eastern coyote is larger than its western counterpart. Most adults are about 48 to 60 inches long from nose to tail and weigh between 30 and 50 pounds, with males typically weighing more than females.

To report coyote problems and for control information, call the DEEP Wildlife Division at 860-424-3011.

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