Coyotes are back—or always seem to be—in the news. One tried to run off with a small dog out near the Sisters Airport a while back, but the owner's big dog changed the coyote's mind and it dropped the little dog.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) has, over the years, really tried to look at coyotes as an integral part of Oregon's wildlife ecosystem. Scientifically, coyotes are a very important part of the Central Oregon wildlife community, in just about every way anyone cares to look at them. The fact that they'll eat just about any game animal they can catch is enough to make that statement true.
Here's what ODFW says when dealing with coyotes: "Most of the time, coyotes are considered to be more of a nuisance than actually a threat. Prevention is always the best medicine when it comes to avoiding, minimizing or correcting problems with coyotes."
Coyote behavior makes it tough to love them, understand them, or live near them, but ODFW has made a wonderful attempt to advise the residents of Oregon about how to get along with our native relative of the wolf.
According to ODFW, the greatest number of conflicts between humans and coyotes are those in which the animal has become habituated to a residential area by the behavior of human beings. Fortunately, most of these situations are easily prevented or corrected by removing food sources and access to shelter. Indeed, the behavior of human beings does play a huge role in the relationship between wildlife and humans; feeding deer is one prime example. Another is allowing a little dog to run loose where coyotes come to play. Even feeding birds, if overdone, can attract predators.
Here are ODFW's suggestions for wise human behavior to prevent unwanted wildlife interactions:
1. Do not leave small children unattended outdoors if coyotes have been frequenting the area.
2. Feed pets indoors and do not leave pet food or water bowls outside
3. Supervise pets when they are outside; if possible, keep them leashed. Do not leave cats or small dogs out after dark
4. Secure garbage and garbage cans in an area inaccessible to wild animals (use bleach to remove odors that could attract coyotes)
5. Harvest fruits and vegetables as they become ripe and do not allow them to accumulate
6. Never leave food or water out for feral animals or wildlife
7. Bring livestock and fowl into barns, sheds or coyote-proof enclosures at night
8. Trim and clear vegetation that provides cover for coyotes or their prey.
9. Remove bird feeders. Coyotes are attracted to them.
10. Secure compost piles
11. Clean barbecues regularly
12. Build a coyote-proof perimeter fence
When taking a pet dog for a walk in wild places, keep it close (on a leash preferably), and don't let it go exploring on its own in unknown places
There has been a lot of science put into trying to understand and rectify the coyote's increasingly negative role in agriculture, wildlife management and domestic disturbances. Killing them has been an unfortunate "solution," but the coyote's response indicates that this is not the best approach. There are more coyotes living around us today, and they've migrated into areas no one ever thought they could, or would, such as downtown Los Angeles, Chicago and as far East as Boston and Bangor, Maine. In the East, they've even cross-bred with the wolf and domestic dog to create a hybrid that's causing more havoc.
In any event, please take ODFW's suggestions to heart when near places where wild animals live. For serious problems with coyotes, it's important not to take action on one's own; ask for help from a professional by calling ODFW at 541-388-6363.