No need to fear coyotes

Because of the rapid expansion of house and condo construction, wildlife is displaced and finds urban areas attractive. The coyote (Canis latrans) is no exception, using urban settings as his home to live, mate and raise families.

Because most of us have limited knowledge of the coyote, we fear him unnecessarily.

Between 30 to 40 pounds and resembling a German shepherd, our eastern coyote is slightly larger than ones in the Southwest. With a gray coloration on their back, sides and neck, they are unlike dogs, which are more uniform in color.

Tracks in snow can be identified. Coyote tracks usually follow a straight path and dogs tend to meander around.

Males are larger than females and mate between January and March. After about 60 days, a litter of approximately six pups are born. By one month, the pups leave the den and are taught to hunt prey.

Males will leave the family unit and females remain to hunt in packs until they are mature and able to raise their own family.

The majority of their movements are crepuscular, hunting during dusk and dawn, including nighttime. As omnivores, they will eat any food source available, including mice and other rodents, fruit, rabbits, birds and even insects. When the opportunity arises, a coyote will attack cats and small dogs, which is where problems surface between humans and wildlife.

A research partnership between Cleveland MetroParks and The Ohio State University has studied coyote in northeast Ohio. Coyotes have been caught and fitted with a GPS collar and released. Also, infrared motion activated cameras provide clues as to their activities. These cameras are scattered throughout wooded areas to learn and understand their habits.

If you see coyote in your area, preventing conflicts is the best practice. Avoid feeding pets outside and remove any fallen fruit on the ground under trees and bushes. Rake and discard dropped seeds under bird feeders and use tightly fitted lids on trash cans.

Do not allow cats and dogs to roam the neighborhood unsupervised and unleashed. The coyote is not looking at your companion as a loved pet but as a source of food. If possible, fenced yards are safer, but the coyote has been known to climb up or dig under fences for access.

Conflicts will not arise if there is no source of food and the coyote will become discouraged and move on to another area.

Playing a major role in our ecosystem, the coyote keeps the rodent population under control, as well as many other unwanted wildlife in our area, which is one of many reasons to value his presence. If neighborhoods would follow the above practices, we should be able to live peacefully with the coyote.

For more on coyotes, go to: http://go.osu.edu/coyote.

For more on urban conflict with coyotes, go to: http://go.osu.edu/coyotoes.

Kane Shipka is an Ohio-certified volunteer naturalist with the Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension.


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