Coyote ~ 5 of 10 photos
Image by Urban Woodswalker
Couple days ago I had one of the biggest scares of my life. Literally.
Walking my beloved Jack Russel Snoopy, in the prairie where we have walked for years …a coyote followed us for a distance, at very close range. Statistically Jack Russel Terriers are number 3 on the list of coyote pet dog breed attacks. 3 different times I stopped on the path to snap pix, and observe the subtle actions of the coyote. The first time it just kept walking closer in a slow relaxed manner. Head was not down, ears not back- both are stalking / predation mannerisms). Still, the third time, after I turned to stand tall, and started walking a step towards the coyote (A communication of I am the boss here) it disappeared into the tall grass…allowing me to think it had left us. but a minute later and its back walking along right after us. This freaked me out, as it implies so many obvious horrible things .
You should NOT run away… when "stalked" by a coyote. As we walked back the long way to the car…..(relaxing afternoon nature walk was definitely OVER). I had such a wide mix of emotions. I wanted to run, screaming hysterically. I wanted to grab a big stick (there weren’t any in the prairie…and really, I do not want a coyote to get that close to Snoopy or myself in the first place. ) I definitely nearly soiled my panties.
However, being educated about urban wildlife…I allowed my brain to figure out this potential disaster. first, the car is 3/4 mile away. We have to walk out of this. The time of year…October…means a very low time of coyote pet predation. There is plenty to eat , and the energy spent trying to go for a dog meal would not be wise, nor the potential massive injuries involved….innately any intelligent predator knows this.
The coyote was relaxed, not sickly looking. So it could hunt effectively on rodents, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, and opossums which are its normal diet along with fruits, and seeds found in nature. Coyotes also dine on deer fawns, deer road kill, and Canada goose eggs…all of which are abundant in my region. So was I just imagining the coyote "stalking us…my Jack Russel Terrier…for dinner meal?
Perhaps the coyote was just using the path…which coyotes have been doing for years now and are entitled to use just as much as hikers, bikers, dog walkers, and horse back riders do. Their scat markings are abundant, and over the past 5 years I have seen (only) 4 coyote sitings, but hundreds of scats on the very path we walk. Was the coyote just habituated to humans so much that it did not run when it saw us walking? Why was it so diligent in following so close behind us., and even returning to follow after my back was turned 3 times…the last sneakily walking into the tall brush, only to come back out to follow again when my back was turned?
I decided to turn and face the coyote again, and by this time it was nervous enough (from the 2 other times I stood to face it) to disappear in the tall grass for good….which made me feel better and yet more scared…as now I could not see what it was up to, and maybe there was more then one….and if they were hunting us, I really had a problem. But all turned out well. I think I will buy an air horn and some predator spray. The thing is though, I need to educate the coyote not to come so close. and air horn makes more sense then a close contact spray. I want the coyote to live a long healthy life, and if it follows someone not so accepting of urban wildlife predators…..its going to lose it life after complaints are made. I feel worried, not only for my and Snoopy’s safety, but the coyote as well. Coyotes and humans CAN live peacefully together. Its only when coyotes lose their fear of humans that problems arise.
Do’s and Don’ts in Coyote Country:
1. DO chase them away and make noise (bang pots and pans) if you don’t want them in your yard.
2. DO make noise when you are outside especially if coyotes are often in your area (like a den site nearby). They will often change their course of direction when they hear people. Bring a whistle or horn to scare them away from you.
3. DO NOT feed coyotes or other animals. Even if you are feeding birds (e.g., suet) or other animals (like raccoons) coyotes will be attracted to your yard just like any other animal looking for an easy handout.
4. DO NOT feed your pets outside for the same reason as #3.
5. Just as importantly, DO NOT let your neighbors feed wildlife. Coyotes travel tremendous distances and a coyote regularly coming to your neighbor’s yard for a free handout will surely pass through your yard to get there. A habituated coyotes is a potential problem coyote.
6. Absolutely DO NOT let your cat outside if you are truly concerned with its health. Coyotes are just one of many mortality factors for outdoor cats.
7. DO leash your dogs. Although coyotes may follow a leashed dog out of curiosity (to the concern of the person), it is extremely rare for them to actually get within contact of your pet.
8. DO enjoy their presence and the fact that having this wily predator adds to the mystique of your (potentially even urban) neighborhood. Try to minimize your conflicts with these creatures by following these simple precautions.