Coyote Safety

Keeping your pets safe.
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Coyotes in Waltham

As you may or may not be aware, there are coyotes in Waltham and all the surrounding cities. They have been here all along, however increased development leading to loss of habitat have led to them being noticed more frequently.

Coyotes are not nocturnal and it is common to see them running through neighborhoods or down streets, utilizing these corridors to get from one wooded area to another. They wish to avoid people, and once your presence is detected they will leave the area. If you encounter an animal that is an immediate threat to people or acting sick or abnormal, do not hesitate to call 911 immediately so an officer can be sent to evaluate and take any necessary action. Coyotes taking pets are not considered an immediate threat to human safety, therefore ACO's and municipal police departments are not authorized to remove these wild animals.

The following information from coyote biologists and MA Wildlife is to help you understand how to prevent conflicts and keep your pets safe. I can not stress enough the importance of keeping cats indoors and dogs leashed or close to you under your direct supervision in the yard.

Preventing Conflicts with Eastern Coyotes

Coyotes are currently well established throughout the state from the Berkshires to Cape Cod. They thrive in suburban and urban areas close to people. 

Coyotes eat many different foods, including small animals, fruits, vegetables, garbage, and pet food. Remember everything a coyote does is related to a potential meal. 

Here are a few suggestions to make your property less attractive to coyotes.

Don't let coyotes intimidate you
Don't hesitate to scare or threaten coyotes with loud noises and bright lights. Don't hesitate to pick up small objects, such as a tennis ball, and throw them at the coyote. If a water hose is close at hand, spray the coyote with water in the face. Let the coyote know it is unwelcome in your area.

Secure garbage
Coyotes will raid open trash materials and compost piles. Secure your garbage in tough plastic containers with tight fitting lids and keep in secure buildings when possible. Take out trash the morning pick up is scheduled, not the previous night. Keep compost piles in containers designed to contain but vent the material.

Don't feed or try to pet coyotes
Keep wild things wild. Feeding, whether direct or indirect, can cause coyotes to act tame and over time may lead to bold behavior. Coyotes that rely on natural food items remain wild and wary of humans.

Keep your pets safe
Although free roaming pets are more likely to be killed by automobiles than by wild animals, coyotes do view cats and small dogs as potential food and larger dogs as competition. For the safety of your pets, keep them restrained at all times.

Feed pets indoors
Outdoor feeding attracts many wild animals to your door.

Keep bird feeding areas clean
Use feeders designed to keep seed off the ground as the seed attracts many small mammals that coyotes prey upon. Remove feeders if coyotes are regularly seen around your yard.

Close off crawl spaces under porches and sheds
Coyotes use such areas for resting and raising young.

Cut back brushy edges in your yard
These areas provide cover for coyotes and their prey.

Protect livestock and produce
Coyotes will prey upon livestock. Techniques, such as fencing, will protect livestock from predation. Clear fallen fruit from around fruit trees.

Educate your neighbors
Pass this information along since your efforts will be futile if neighbors are providing food or shelter for coyotes.

 

Resolving Conflicts with Eastern Coyotes

There are 3 main options for resolving a conflict with coyote. These options are tolerance, fencing and good husbandry practices, and lethal removal.

Tolerance

Most conflicts with coyotes can be resolved by implementing one of the preventative steps. The long-term solution is for the public to alter their behavior and be aware of their environment, whether they live in a rural, suburban, or urban setting. By adopting these recommendations, there may be a decrease in the frequency of seeing coyotes in the area.

Coyotes, as well as other wildlife, are adapting to the urban-suburban environments and are opportunistic in finding foods and resources available in these environments. Implementation of these steps empowers the public to be proactive, rather then reactive, in dealing with wildlife situations in their neighborhoods. MassWildlife's goal is to try to strike a balance between wildlife and people.

Fencing & Husbandry Practices

Coyotes can jump over and dig under fences that are improperly built. Coyotes don't leap fences in a single bound but, like domestic dogs, they grip the top with their front paws and kick themselves upward and over with the back legs. Their tendency to climb will depend on the individual animal and its motivation. Coyotes are also excellent diggers, therefore the type of fence you install may require barriers be built into or extending from the ground.

Eliminating the coyote's ability to grip the top of the fence is also recommended. You can do this by installing a PVC pipe that is free to spin around a tight wire. The height of the fence should be a minimum of 6 feet in height and tightly flush with the ground. If you have a lower fence, an outward overhang of fence wire may help prevent coyotes from jumping over

Removing Coyotes

If you cannot tolerate a coyote living in your area, the only solution is to have it lethally removed. It is against state law to capture and release coyotes into another area. Often people want to capture problem animals and release them someplace else. However, moving wildlife is detrimental to both people and wildlife populations and is against the law. This law has been in effect for many years, protecting both people and wildlife.

Coyotes are a legally protected fur bearer and game animal. Therefore, there are statutory laws and regulations dictating how and when a coyote can be removed. A coyote may not be removed simply because of its presence in an area, there must be damage or a threat to human safety by a specific animal.

As stated earlier, coyotes are naturally afraid of people and their presence alone is not a cause for concern, though depending on human-related sources of food, coyotes can become habituated.

  • A habituated coyote may exhibit an escalation in bold behavior around people. The coyote has lost its fear of people when it exhibits one or more of the following behaviors. The coyote:
  • Does not run off when harassed or chased
  • Approaches pets on a leash
  • Approaches and follows people

When wildlife exhibit these behaviors, corrective measures can be taken.

Immediate Threat

If an immediate threat exists to human life and limb, public safety officials including ACOs, police departments, and the Massachusetts Environmental Police , have the authority to respond to and dispatch the animal as stipulated in the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR) 2.14 that pertain to handling problem animals . This includes animals exhibiting clear signs of rabies. 

If possible, MassWildlife should first be contacted to authorize the lethal taking of a coyote.

Coyotes taking pets are not considered an immediate threat to human safety, therefore ACO's and municipal police departments are not authorized to remove these wild animals.

(Information provided from materials on the MA Department of Fisheries & Wildlife.  http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dfw/fish-wildlife-plants/mammals/ea...)

How to avoid interactions from occurring:

1. Do not let dogs (especially small breeds) outdoors loose without constant supervision.  Fences should be at least 5 feet tall and there should not be any places where coyotes can crawl underneath. While a fence does not guarantee total protection, it is a good deterrent to coyotes or humans who would snatch or harm pets left outside alone.

2. Dogs taken outdoors by their owners should always be leashed unless in a fenced yard, where they should still be supervised and checked regularly.

3. Dogs should not be tied outdoors unfenced and unsupervised in coyote-prevalent areas. Accidents have happened.

4. Cats should be kept indoors unless trained to remain at home.

5. Dogs and cats should not be left outside for any period of time unsupervised, especially at night, even in a fenced enclosure.

6. Invisible fences do not protect your pets from predators. While they may keep your pet in your yard, they don’t keep predators or other animals out of your yard.

 

Do’s and Don’ts in Coyote Country:

1. DO chase them away and make noise (bang pots and pans) if you don’t want them in your yard. Of course, if you don’t mind them then watch them from a window quietly as to not scare them away.

2. DO make noise when you are outside especially if coyotes are often in your area (like a den site nearby). They will often change their course of direction when they hear people. Bring a whistle or horn to scare them away from you.

3. DO NOT feed coyotes or other animals.  Even if you are feeding birds (e.g., suet) or other animals (like raccoons) coyotes will be attracted to your yard just like any other animal looking for an easy handout.

4. DO NOT feed your pets outside for the same reason as #3.

5. Just as importantly, DO NOT let your neighbors feed wildlife. Coyotes travel tremendous distances and a coyote regularly coming to your neighbor’s yard for a free handout will surely pass through your yard to get there. A habituated coyotes is a potential problem coyote.

6. Absolutely DO NOT let your cat outside if you are truly concerned with its health. Coyotes are just one of many mortality factors for outdoor cats.

7. DO leash your dogs. Although coyotes may follow a leashed dog out of curiosity (to the concern of the person), it is extremely rare for them to actually get within contact of your pet.

8. DO enjoy their presence and the fact that having this wily predator adds to the mystique of your (potentially even urban) neighborhood. Try to minimize your conflicts with these creatures by following these simple precautions.

(Information provided by http://www.easterncoyoteresearch.com/livingwithcoyotes/)

More about Eastern Coyotes

Habits

coyote1

Coyotes are usually shy and elusive, but are frequently seen individually, in pairs, or in small groups where food is commonly found. A family group, more commonly known as a pack, consists of the parents, their pups, and, occasionally, the previous year's pups. Thus, the size of the family can vary widely. 

Male and female coyotes pair up, establish a territory, and breed in February or March. 4 to 8 pups are born in April or May. 

Activity is variable; they can be active night or day, and sightings at dawn or dusk are common. They remain active all year-round and do not hibernate. Once a coyote has established itself into an area, it will actively maintain a territory that may vary in size from 2 to 30 square miles. One family of coyotes often encompasses one or more residential suburban areas or towns. 

Coyotes are highly territorial and actively keep non-family members outside their territory, both individual coyotes and other family groups.

It defends its territory through howling, scent marking, body displays, and confrontation with the trespassing coyote.

A Coyote's Howl

When one hears a family of coyotes howling, it is easy to get the impression that the area is overflowing with coyotes. In reality, there are usually just 2-6 coyotes, including the pups. Howling is the main way for coyotes to communicate with others. 

Although some people find it unnerving, this howl serves many purposes, none of which are malicious:

  • Coyotes are telling non-family members to stay out of their territory.
  • Family members howl as a means to locate each other within their territory.
  • Pups practice howling and can be very vocal in late summer as they attempt to mimic their parents.
  • When there is a potential threat towards the pups, the older coyotes will scatter throughout the area and howl in order to distract the threat away from the den site.

Counting coyotes by listening to their howls can be quite difficult, even to a trained ear. Usually it takes a trained researcher, familiar with the vocalizations of the pack, to differentiate the howls of individuals; two coyotes howling with their pups can often sound like many more.