Sunday, October 17, 2010

Kinnelon Critter File: Coyotes

Kinnelon Critter File: Coyotes
Coyotes have been in the news lately, particularly in Kinnelon where a coyote attacked and killed a Smoke Rise resident's dog in early October 2010. [In Rye, NY, they attacked a young girl in June and in July.] Notices of caution have started circulating which indicates that it's time for a Kinnelon Critter File on Coyotes!

Coyotes are not unique to our area; they have successfully established themselves throughout the Unites States, including suburbia and even Central Park NYC.  A search on 'coyotes' will bring up web pages on Living With Coyotes in Massachusetts, Montgomery, AL, Southwest Desert USA and more.

[From New Jersey's Great Northwest Skylands, read Coyotes in New Jersey: The Life of Wiley.]

Per MassWildlife:

"Coyotes are the size of a medium-size dog, but with longer, thicker fur. Coyotes have a long, bushy, black-tipped tail that is usually carried pointing down. A coyote is typically 4-5 feet in length, from snout to tip of tail. Their snout is long and slender, and their ears are pointed and erect. The pelts of coyotes in Massachusetts range from grayish-black to blondes, light tan, dark tan, red or even all black. Females weigh an average of 33-40 lbs and males are slightly larger (average 34-47 lbs)."

"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..."

They will eat carrion, but prefer fresh meat. They are valuable in controlling rats, squirrels, and woodchucks. In addition to small animals, they eat fruit and vegetables, pet food and GARBAGE!

[By the way, now I know what role T. Llama plays with the sheep at Four Corners: he guards them against coyotes... although probably not against bears.]

Interestingly, many of the recommendations for protecting oneself from coyotes are the same as for bears. Here is what NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife suggests on how to deal with coyotes:

  • Never feed a coyote. Deliberately feeding coyotes puts pets and other residents in the neighborhood at risk [this seems like a no brainer to me; then again some people try to feed bears].

  • Feeding pet cats and/or feral (wild) cats outdoors can attract coyotes. The coyotes feed on the pet food and also prey upon the cats.

  • Put garbage in tightly closed containers that cannot be tipped over.

  • Remove sources of water, especially in dry climates.

  • Bring pets in at night. Coyotes view cats and small dogs as food and larger dogs as competition [remember, coyotes and dogs are related and can breed].

  • Put away bird feeders at night to avoid attracting rodents and other coyote prey.

  • Provide secure enclosures for rabbits, poultry, and other farm animals.

  • Pick up fallen fruit and cover compost piles.

  • Although extremely rare, coyotes have been known to attack humans. Parents should monitor their children, even in familiar surroundings, such as backyards.

  • Install motion-sensitive lighting around the house.

  • Clear brush and dense weeds from around dwellings - this reduces protective cover for coyotes and makes the area less attractive to rodents and rabbits. Coyotes, as well as other predators, are attracted to areas where rodents are concentrated, such as in woodpiles.

  • If coyotes are present, make sure they know they're not welcome. Make loud noises, blast a canned air siren, throw rocks, or spray them with a garden hose.  Per MassWildlife: "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."

  • Finally, if you observe coyotes in the daytime that show no fear of humans or if a coyote attacks a person, immediately contact your local police and the Division of Fish and Wildlife at 908-735-8793; outside of normal business hours call the DEP Hotline at 877-WARN-DEP.

    The Smoke Rise Newsletter recently issued the following guidelines:

    Be aware of where your children are when outside. Never leave them unattended.

    Do not let your dog outside day or evening without supervision or on a leash. Small dogs are particularly vulnerable to predators, but a predator can attack a larger dog just as easily if circumstances allow. Invisible fencing does not stop an animal from coming onto your property. 

    Cats are very vulnerable to predators. Many cats have been reported missing in Smoke Rise alone this summer and coyotes are assumed to have been the reason. PLEASE do not let your cat outside. In addition to the chance of being bitten by any number of wild animals, your cat may expose your household to disease. 

    If you see a coyote, call the Kinnelon Police [and Smoke Rise Security if you live in Smoke Rise] stating date and time of day.

    Here are links to a few other coyote resources:

    Coyote FAQs from DesertUSA
    Wikipedia entry on Coyotes
    From the New York Times, Mysteries That Howl and Hunt

    If you know of other resources or recommendations for dealing with coyotes, please let me know or add them in the comments section.

    Be safe!

    Coyote Image courtesy of Coyotes in Montgomery.

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