Coyotes Roaming Through Your Yard? Get Used to It, It’s Their Land Too
Collin County is becoming the epicenter of wild life encounters in Texas. Given the forecast for population growth in Collin County, the Texas State Demographer tells us that the current population of almost precisely one million residents may swell to more than three million in the next twenty years, encounters of the wild kind will only increase. Even if this forecast is overstated, and there is no reason to think it is, what is clear is that many residents of Collin County need to learn how to live in harmony with coyotes and other wild animals. The fact is that humans moving to heretofore largely rural Collin County are encroaching into wild animal’s habitats.
Recent news accounts of aggressive coyotes attacking runners in Frisco, for example, is evidence of what happens when people invade the turf of wild animals. Aggressive coyotes must be relocated to prevent continuing attacks. However, research discloses that widespread relocation efforts are unsuccessful because habitat that has been depleted of coyotes will soon be claimed by more coyotes in search of abundant food sources. In other words, relocation is not a solution. According to a Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Warden Trent Marker, the Frisco coyotes apparently patterned their aggressive behavior towards humans from an alpha male in their pack and it is very uncharacteristic behavior.
Recently there has been a spate of incidents reported from Lucas and Fairview involving coyotes, feral hogs, and according to some, red wolves. First, let’s dispense with the red wolf sightings because all credible sources say Texas is no longer home to any species of wolf. There have been isolated instances, however, in which what were at first reported as wolves actually turned out to be coyote-domestic dog hybrids based upon DNA analyses.
R’Achelle Phillips, whose home is located in Saddlebrook Estates, Lucas posted a message and surveillance video showing four coyotes running through her property at 7:15 a.m. on Feb. 12. She says it was the first time that coyotes have been seen along her property line but Phillips, her family and her dogs have long heard the howling of coyotes in the area. Chances are good that the Phillips are now seeing coyotes that have been forced to adjust their hunting grounds due to encroachment by new housing sub-divisions.
By all credible accounts, coyotes are exceedingly crafty and frequently hunt or scavenge for food alone or in pairs. Reports of coyote packs are often inaccurate, but they are known to hunt in packs when tracking deer or other larger animals. The behavior of coyotes in urban/suburban areas also differs substantially from that of coyotes in isolated rural areas of the state because they are extremely adaptable to changing circumstances like explosive population growth. Typically, a coyote will stake out a small tract, maybe a square mile or so, as its territory and generally operates within it exclusively. However, If the food sources are depleted, the animal will expand its turf to ensure that a sufficient supply of food is available. Coyotes living in or near populated areas, for example, will often seek dens in cemeteries, golf courses, and even small parks to provide both food and shelter from humans.
Coyotes are often forced to scavenge for food in suburban areas which inevitably brings them into contact with humans and their domestic animals. This is often when trouble occurs because coyotes, in addition to being very smart are unusually opportunistic. Studies of coyote behavior reveals that they actually prefer to avoid contact with humans and will do so only reluctantly if the need to find food exists or if their dens are threatened. Coyotes’ diets consist largely of fruits, seeds, and small animals such as rodents, snakes, rabbits and deer. The fact is that just like snakes, coyotes are very efficient at pest control. Some say it’s better to deal with some coyotes than to be overrun by rats.
If you have outside pets and you feed them outdoors, chances are you will attract wild life including coyotes. In fact, the notion of keeping dogs outside might be revisited entirely because their presence is likely to attract curious coyotes looking for new food sources. Needless to say, a coyote that is hungry or trying to feed a new litter of pups will be much more motivated to grab a meal even if your dog has other ideas. The pack of coyotes comes into play when large dogs are present. A Lucas homeowner, for example, reports that his Rottweiler was attacked by a pack of four coyotes but was able to defend itself losing only one tooth in the encounter. Despite such incidents, however, coyotes do not covet your pets as a food source. They may attack a dog in order to gain access to its food supply though. While a Rottweiler or other large dog might hold its own against a marauding coyote(s) small dogs don’t stand a chance and should never be left unattended outdoors.
Several residents complain that when they call the Sherriff’s office or Collin County Animal Control to complain about coyotes nothing happens. Collin County Animal Control contracts with both Lucas and Fairview to provide animal control services. Tim Wyatt of Collin County Animal Control says, “The six officers of Collin County Animal Control are responsible for patrolling 886 square miles, or about 147 square miles each. Our principal responsibility is to snare stray pets and to try an reunite them with their owners. Chasing after coyotes is an exercise in futility. By the time an officer is able to respond the coyote is long gone.” The Collin County Sherriff’s office will dispatch an officer if the issue involves livestock being threatened or attacked by coyotes. The reality, however, is that in almost every instance, unless someone has been attacked, something that rarely happens, residents are on their own to properly deal with coyote incursions. The fact is, that you can materially reduce unwanted visits by coyotes and other wild animals by taking proper preventative measures.
Here are some simple ways to ensure that you, your family and pets can live in harmony with these creatures:
· Never feed or leave food or water for a coyote or any other wild animal.
· Coyotes, as well as other wild life such as bobcats, skunks, raccoons, and feral cats and hogs are often frightened by bright light. Installing motion detection flood lights around the perimeter of your home often works well to deter incursions.
· If you really must leave a dog outside, consider building a kennel and fencing to protect it especially at night.
· Never leave small pets outside unsupervised. Coyotes are able to leap over an eight-foot high fence.
· If you feed your pet outside, retrieve the dish as soon as the dog has finished with it.
· Always leash your dog when walking it.
· If you come across a coyote that appears not to be frightened or is acting aggressively by your presence, move slowly and deliberately away, make alot of noise but do not turn and run. That may trigger the predatory instincts of the animal.
· Call the Collin County Sherriff’s office ((972) 547-5100) if coyotes are threatening your livestock.