Spring is in the air! The bees are buzzing, the birds are singing, and the coyotes? Well, the coyotes are increasing! Yes, April is breeding month for coyotes. Look out pet owners, because from now through August, coyote parents will be more protective of their young.
Have you seen any coyotes in your neighborhood? My neighbor encountered the coyote pictured above when she was biking around Lake Baldwin. Like many urban areas, Orlando has seen an increase of coyotes in the past few years. Habitat encroachment forces them to migrate to cities in search of food. These animals have adapted to city life so well they are known as “urban coyotes.” Their population continues to thrive because efforts to relocate them fail to work. Coyotes are smart and quite successful in finding their way back. In fact, coyotes are so established in Florida they’ve become naturalized—meaning they are part of the ecosystem.
Should you be concerned? Yes. As part of the ecosystem, coyotes will prey upon whatever they can find. And although their diet mainly consists of rodents, rabbits, fruit, and insects, they might eat a smaller domestic pet (under twenty-five pounds) if they have an opportunity. Fortunately, the frequency of a coyote eating a dog is rare.
If a dog is eaten by a coyote, it is usually due to risky behavior on the part of the owner. Coyotes are more active at night. When a pet owner leaves their dog outside unattended in the evening, trouble could arise. It’s also not a good idea to walk your dog at night using a retractable leash. A six foot leash is much safer. Remember to carry a flashlight with you after dark.
Did you know dogs are attracted to coyotes? Since they are genetically similar, sometimes dogs become excited by the presence of a coyote and chase after it. If a tragedy ensues, the coyote is always to blame, even though the dog initiated the encounter. Coyotes can carry rabies. If your dog or cat gets bit by a coyote, take your pet to the vet immediately.
Coyote management is largely about people management. Coyotes are here to stay, but there are many things people can do to help manage the dangers. Our pets can be better protected if we do not feed ferrel cats outside. We are basically asking the coyotes to keep coming around.
I’m excited about the release of my new children’s book, Truckload of Trouble, on June 7 from Elk Lake Publishing. Buddy the beagle escapes under the backyard fence in search of Jack, a stray dog who decides he’s better off living on the street. When the two dogs encounter a coyote, Jack puffs out his chest and lets out a fierce growl that scares the coyote away.
Coyotes are usually afraid of people. If you encounter a coyote, do what Jack does. Stand tall and maintain eye contact. Make loud noises and back up until you and your pet are a safe distance away.
Hopefully my post has increased your awareness of the dangers of coyotes. As a nature lover, I value wildlife. But I also value my pet, and want to help other pet owners protect their fur-babies. I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment!