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July 8, 2008 

Coyotes have adapted to humans---it's our turn to adapt to them
As the days finally grow warmer around the Puget Sound, urban wildlife activity increases and so do wildlife sightings around our neighborhoods. Coyotes, in particular, have gotten recent bad press for missing pets---although cars, diseases and cruel people are just as likely to be the culprits. For wily wildlife such as coyotes, the most effective way to protect people, pets and wildlife is to make simple adjustments to your own behavior and to educate your neighbors to do the same:

  1. Remove the free meal:
    • Keep garbage and compost piles in tamper-proof, secured containers.
    • Pick up any veggies and fruit that fall to the ground.
    • Feed your pets inside---if you must feed an animal outside, pick the food up immediately after and clean the area.
    • For birdfeeders, clean up the fallen seed underneath daily---coyotes are attracted to the bird food and the many birds and rodents that visit the feeders.
  2. Keep your animals safely confined:
    • All small animals and felines should be kept safe indoors or supervised when outside, especially from dusk to dawn when coyote activity is highest.
    • Livestock (such as chickens or sheep) should be kept in pens with well-fitted doors and secure locking mechanisms. Unsecured chickens or small livestock can fall victim to many animals from owls, foxes and skunks, to feral cats.
  3. Don't leave small children or animals unattended: If a coyote ever approaches, pick up small children or pets and don't run. Try to look and sound as large, loud and mean as possible. As with any safety procedure, it's always a good idea to practice.

As urbanization rapidly continues in our state, some wild animals have learned to thrive in the shadow of humans. Those unable to find natural den sites and food sources because of human encroachment have learned that crawlspaces and attics, garbage and free-roaming pets make suitable substitutes.

A voter-approved initiative in 2000, banning the use of cruel body-crushing traps for commerce and recreation, has some believing the coyote population is going unchecked. Yet wildlife experts disagree. Bob Everitt, Region 4 Director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was quoted in the June 22 Seattle PI article titled, Wildlife grows bolder in urban habitat saying, "In the city, the trapping ban would have no effect. There's no effective way of trapping coyotes without endangering other pets." In the same article, John Shivik, a researcher for the Department of Agriculture states, "It's not possible to get rid of them altogether because they are really resilient."

Coyotes have adapted to humans because of the environment we have created around them---it's now our turn to show how flexible we can be by adapting to them.

Want more ideas on co-existing with coyotes?

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