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Where the wild things are: Coyote populations are on the rise in the Twin Cities
Recent sightings of at least one coyote wandering the St. Anthony Park neighborhood and possible sightings in Como Park have prompted discussion about how many may be out there, and what to do about them.
A Bugle reader wrote to report she had seen a coyote in College Park back in March.
“I am very concerned about the many small dogs in our neighborhood,” Mary Baker wrote.
Having seen that letter, Laura Sewell reported a sighting in her alley around the same time.
“He was crossing Raymond Avenue between Doswell and Buford avenues around 9:00 at night,” Sewell wrote in an email to the Bugle. “Like Mary, I was flabbergasted by what I saw, but I was absolutely certain that it was neither a fox nor a dog.”
An online newsletter for the University Grove neighborhood, just north of St. Anthony Park, notes a coyote sighting in February. And an anonymous caller from the Como Park neighborhood left a message confirming she had also sighted a coyote and a bobcat in the city.
Coyote populations have been gradually on the rise for about the past 10 years, said Bill Stephenson, head of St. Paul Animal Control.
The city has been conferring with others in the Twin Cities over what to do about it, he said, and the preferred tactic is “hazing,” or harassing them until they abandon whatever it is that drew them to a yard or park.
Coyotes will kill cats and small dogs and should be dealt with if they get close, Stephenson said. “Be a bigger pain to them than they are to you.”
An injured coyote will also bite people, so it important not to approach them.
Experts say coyotes normally avoid people and domestic animals. They only become dangerous when they lose their fear, which happens when people provide them with food.
This might be in the form of pet food left outside, or something less obvious such as a poorly covered trash can. A compost pile can also attract coyotes, especially if it has bits of meat or fish in it.
If a coyote approaches your yard, Stephenson said, you can spray it with a garden hose, make a lot of noise, and make yourself look big and scary by waving your arms and yelling.
The idea is to remind coyotes that have gotten too cozy with people that they are supposed to fear us. “Keep them wild” is the mantra of the new urban coyote campaign, Stephenson said.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website has an “urban coyotes” page with more information about keeping pets safe and coyotes at a distance.
The DNR site also notes that coyotes are not protected by state game laws, so it is legal to kill them or relocate them within the state without a license.
However, Stephenson said, using firearms and lethal traps are not good solutions for an urban area.
Coyotes are reclusive animals that can live among people for a long time without being spotted. Literature from the Humane Society, which Stephenson received at a metropolitan area meeting about the problem, states that killing a few coyotes does not solve the problem.
“We’re not going to get rid of them,” Stephenson said.
The Humane Society website, www.humanesociety.org, has detailed information on how to avoid attracting them, how to respond to particular coyote behaviors and what to teach children about them.
St. Anthony Police Chief John Ohl, whose force serves Falcon Heights and Lauderdale, said he gets occasional reports of coyote sightings but has not noticed any changes in the rate of such sightings in recent years. “It’s not something to be overly concerned about,” he said. In fact, he has had a pair of them living in his back yard in Bloomington.
In an interview, Sewell noted that she has seen fewer rabbits than she expected this spring and that predators such as hawks and coyotes could account for that. Considering the damage to gardens caused by rabbits, she said, “it’s not an awful thing” to have nature’s balance restored.
Sewell is mainly worried about letting her dogs out at night. “Coyotes are nocturnal hunters,” she wrote. “Neighbors should be very aware of leaving dogs unattended in yards, as well as letting cats outside to roam.”
© 2012 Park Bugle