Coyotes: How to Protect Your Pet
Problems often arise when a predator enters a suburban/urban area- people fear for themselves, their children,and their pets. In order to protect your family it is important to understand the predator. The coyote, Canis latrans, is a species native to Michigan. Coyotes are about the size of a domestic,medium sized dog (think German Shepherd), and their coat is a yellowish-gray. One way to distinguish a coyote from a domestic dog is by the ears; coyote ears are pointed and stand erect, as opposed to the ears of a domestic dog, which usually droop. Coyotes, though they can be active day or night, are most active at dawn and dusk. Keep in mind, too, that most coyotes feed at night. The diet of the coyote consists of small mammals, such as mice and rabbits, as well as insects and fruits. Coyotes will also eat carrion, especially in areas with large deer populations. They have also been known to catch and eat small pets.
Coyotes are usually very timid creatures,but they can lose their fear of people (or become habituated), especially in urban areas. Habituated coyotes are bolder and therefore more dangerous to both the human and pet populations. Habituation usually occurs in predators when people feed them, either intentionally or unintentionally. You can take several actions to avoid feeding coyotes. Clearing the property of anything the coyote might consider food is one important step. This includes securing garbage cans (and NOT leaving the garbage out over night!), as well as clearing any debris piles in the yard where rodents might live. Another unintentional source of food for coyotes is outdoor pet bowls and bird feeders. Most importantly,never leave your pet outside unattended, especially overnight!
Other measures can be taken to ensure the coyote does not become habituated. If you come into contact with a coyote, DO NOT RUN! Running teaches the coyote that humans areafraid of them. Instead, make a ruckus! Make a lot of noise and throwobjects at the coyote- show them you are a threat (even if you don't intend to hurt the coyote). Investing in motion-activated lights and alarms can also prevent coyotes from coming onto your property (although they may not endear you to your neighbors!).
Several simple lifestyle changes can greatly reduce your chance of habituating coyotes, and therefore keep your two- and four-footed family members safe. For more information about coyotes, please visit www.michigan.gov/dnr.