It is that time of year when residents begin to see coyote activity in open space and along greenbelts. Coyotes are currently establishing territories and den sites. Coyotes breed during February and March and give birth in April and May. Park Rangers will answer any questions and explain biology and behavior including hazing tactics to deter coyotes and encourage residents to be alert while recreating in open space. For more information, call the Park Rangers at 303-979-1876, ext. 170.
The following information is taken from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife brochure, Your Guide to Avoiding Human Coyote Conflicts.
What do coyotes look like?
■ Brownish-gray with a light gray to reddish cream-colored belly
■ Slender muzzle
■ Bushy tail
■ Typically weigh between 20 to 50 pounds
■ Often appear heavier due to a thick, double coat of fur
What attracts coyotes to your neighborhood?
While coyotes are found throughout the west, they are extremely adaptable and can thrive in urban areas. Up to 70 percent of a coyote’s diet consists of small mammals, and the remaining 30 percent is a combination of fruits, vegetables, insects, fish, birds, eggs and other available items. In urban areas, coyotes also prey on rats, squirrels, garbage, fallen fruit/berries from trees and small pets. The following list illustrates some of the attractants that draw coyotes close to people. Remove these attractants to discourage coyotes from visiting your property:
■ Outdoor pet food or water
■ Birdseed or food sources that attract small mammals
■ Accessible garbage or compost
■ Fallen fruit or berries from trees or shrubs
■ Shrubs, woodpiles, decks or any other structure that can provide cover or be used as a den.
How can you protect your pet?
It can be difficult to accept, but pets can be seen as a food source to coyotes, and large dogs can be seen as a threat or possible mate. Reduce the risk to your pet by following these guidelines:
The only way to guarantee your cat’s safety is to keep it indoors. Outdoor cats also face potential death from cars, diseases, foxes, parasites, raccoons, dogs and birds of prey such as owls.
■ Always supervise your pet outside, especially at dawn and dusk.
■ Keep your dog on a short leash while recreating; avoid retractable leashes.
■ Do not allow your dog to play or interact with a coyote.
■ If possible, pick up your dog when coyotes are visible.
■ Avoid known or potential den sites and thick vegetation.
■ Like domestic dogs, coyotes will defend their territory and their young.
■ If you must leave your dog outside, secure it in a fully enclosed kennel.
When are coyotes a risk to you?
Although naturally curious, coyotes are usually timid animals and normally run away if confronted. Coyote attacks on humans are rare. In many cases these attacks occur as a result of people feeding coyotes. Coyotes have adequate food supplies and are capable of surviving without our help. A coyote that associates humans with food may become demanding and aggressive. A coyote that bites a person must be destroyed. By feeding coyotes, you put yourself, the neighborhood and coyotes at risk. It is unlawful to feed or intentionally attract coyotes in most urban areas.
Do what you can to discourage a coyote’s approach.
■ Be as big and loud as possible.
■ Wave your arms, clap and throw objects at the coyote.
■ Shout in a loud and authoritative voice.
■ Do not run or turn your back on the coyote.
■ Face the coyote and back away slowly.
Teach your children
■ Never approach wild animals or dogs you don’t know!
■ If a coyote approaches you, wave your arms, stomp your feet and tell it loudly to go away!
■ Call for help.
■ If the animal doesn’t leave, walk out of the area, keeping the animal in your sight.
For more wildlife information or to report the feeding of coyotes or their aggressive behavior toward humans, please contact the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., by calling 303-291-7227. After hours, call Colorado State Patrol at 303-239-4501. Information is also available at http://cpw.state.co.us/.