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.
Along with increased sightings, concerns start to rise over the feeding of wildlife, particularly coyotes or foxes. Although this activity may seem harmless as people enjoy watching foxes, the problem is that coyotes and foxes are attracted to the same food. If feeding is taking place, the coyotes will associate humans with food and chances increase that a coyote/human conflict will occur.
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 especially with their pets. If you know of someone deliberately feeding coyotes, foxes, raccoons or other larger wildlife, call the KCRMA 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
■ They 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. From Downtown Denver to the smallest suburb, coyotes are not new to residential communities.
Coyotes are opportunistic mammals. Up to 70 percent of a coyote’s diet consists of small mammals (mice, rabbits, rats, squirrels, voles, etc.). 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. Coyotes have taken pets from backyards, open spaces and even right off the leash. Keep your pet current on vaccinations. 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 in the city 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. (Deterrents can include rocks, pots and pans, vinegar in a water gun, paintballs, air horns or a repellent spray.) Contact local authorities to ensure that you are using a legal method.
■ 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
Can we make them leave?
Coyotes have adapted to neighborhoods because our environment supports them. Populations may fluctuate, but coyotes probably won’t leave. Eradication programs in North American cities have proven to be expensive failures. When coyotes have adapted to our presence and have lost their natural fear of us, it is imperative that communities work together to instill the healthy and natural fear of humans back into the coyotes — for their health and safety and ours. Coyotes are quick learners, and consistent negative experiences can teach them to avoid people.
For more wildlife information or to report the feeding of coyotes, or their aggressive behavior toward humans, please contact 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 www.wildlife.state.co.us.