Coyotes in the Neighborhood

Officer Moore answers Maggie Mae's questions about staying safe from coyotes.

Officer Moore answers Maggie Mae’s questions about staying safe from coyotes.                                      Photo by Ronni Diamondstein

People are very concerned about coyotes. Three years ago I wrote a column about it in the Inside Chappaqua Magazine September/October 2012 issue. Here it is with information that can still help dogs stay safe.

Last fall I heard our neighbor Dana leave a message on our answering machine, “Please be careful when you take Maggie outside. I just saw a coyote walking on the road in front of your house.” Other neighbors had told my owner that they heard coyotes howl at night, but we had never seen one. As soon as I could, I contacted Officer James Moore, the New Castle Animal Control Officer to find out what my owner and I could do to stay safe.

Officer Moore said that the coyotes probably already knew where I lived. He had some great suggestions for what we could do when we go out in the early morning when it is dark and see a coyote: carry a whistle, make noise and never turn your back on them. If you run away, they will think you are prey and go after you. He also put me in touch with Kevin Clarke, Wildlife Biologist with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. “Coyotes are part of our environment, “ he said “and we can peacefully co-exist with them.”

Knowing that coyotes are out there, Clarke says, people need to modify their behavior so people and dogs, especially small ones, don’t have a negative interaction. He said to stop doing the things that attract them to our homes such as feeding pets or stray cats outside, using bird feeders, composting food items and not covering your trash. Then when you do see a coyote you need to make it afraid of you. He also said to make lots of noise and to throw rocks or sticks, wave your arms and make yourself look scary. Don’t let them just hang around and feel comfortable. “Most coyotes around the state do exhibit a healthy fear of humans,” says Clarke, “but in more urbanized areas they are comfortable around people and become more bold and curious in their behavior.” He says the likelihood of an attack on a human is very low. “However, recorded incidences from around the country have involved young children.”

“To keep pets safe, keep cats inside and keep dogs on a leash or in a fenced enclosure. Invisible fences are not a good way to keep them safe as coyotes will often come into a yard to kill a dog,” Clarke says. He also told me that small dogs like me should stay on a leash and in closed quarters—or bulk up. Coyotes don’t usually attack larger dogs (35-45 pounds.)

Over the summer, while I was writing this story, I was very upset to hear that a little dog was killed by a coyote right in her own backyard in our town. The scary part was that the dog was right near the house.

Clarke says to enjoy wildlife from a distance. “We can never predict the behavior of wild animals with 100% certainty.” The best advice he offers is to change our behavior so we don’t attract coyotes and make them comfortable around us. You can find out more about coyotes and other things you can do around your home to keep them away from you and your pets by visiting the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/6971.html and the Westchester County website http://health.westchestergov.com/coyotes

Now I hear there was a Black Bear in right near the Duck Pond. I’d better find out what to do about them.

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Posted in A Day in the Life of Maggie Mae, Maggie Mae's Pet Peeves, Maggie Mae’s Scoop, One Day in the Life of Maggie Mae

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