This is a video of a coyote “playing” with a family dog. Notice that the coyote keeps running into the bushes. Coyotes travel in packs and will play with a dog, luring the dog into the bushes where the rest of the pack is. Once in the bushes, the coyotes will kill and devour the dog.
by Lisa J. Lehr
Most of us living in Nevada County moved here because we like the rural environment. Rural environments include wildlife, and that, for the most part, is a plus; however, most of us also share our lives with beloved pets, and clashes between wildlife and pets often end in heartache for the pet owner.
Coyotes are a particularly ubiquitous wild critter here in Nevada County, and pets falling prey to coyotes is a far too common occurrence. The consolation—if there is any—is that, compared to a car accident, dog attack, or abduction by a person with evil intentions, death by coyote is quick and, as far as we know, relatively suffering-free. Coyotes kill to eat, and they do it efficiently.
Still, it is heartbreaking to lose a cherished pet, and it is our responsibility to take care of them.
Coyotes are difficult to eradicate. They are becoming alarmingly unafraid of humans, with daytime sightings becoming more frequent. Trapping and relocating coyotes is not as good an idea as it may sound, as any young coyotes orphaned by this process will seek easy prey—e.g., our pets.
They can be frightened, so if you see one, try shaking a noisemaker (like a can full of hardware) or throwing things at it. Fire a Super Soaker (high-powered toy water gun) filled with water or vinegar.
More often, though, we don’t see them lurking around our property, as they are naturally nocturnal. The key to keeping coyotes away from your home (and your pets, your children, and you) is to eliminate all that attracts coyotes—mainly food. Coyotes are generalists, meaning they’ll eat just about anything.
With that in mind:
- Keep your cats and small dogs indoors at night; your medium and large dogs, too. Coyotes hunting in packs can take down a fairly big animal.
- Rabbits, chickens, etc. that are kept outdoors need protection: strong fencing with a top, and/or a small enclosure inside it that they can hide in.
- Don’t let your pets’ food become coyote bait. Cats are best fed indoors, and dogs should be fed only what they will eat all at once, with no leftovers.
- Be careful with your bird feeders. Place them close to your house, and clean up spills. Do not feed squirrels, deer, or other wildlife. Any naturalist will tell you that birds are the only wild critters we should feed.
- Put garden compost in enclosed bins, and gather your ripe fruits and vegetables immediately.
- If your cats wear bells on their collars, take them off. The same bells that supposedly alert birds to your cats’ presence also betray their whereabouts to coyotes. (Once you’ve cleaned up the birdseed, you’ll have fewer birds within your cats’ reach, anyway.) One final consideration: cats who wear bells learn to be stealthier hunters, which leaves us with no reason that cats should ever wear bells.
- Besides food, coyotes are attracted to potential partners. An unneutered male dog will be attracted to a female coyote; a male coyote will be attracted to an unspayed female dog; both scenarios spell trouble. Spay and neuter your pets.
- Mothballs and ammonia around your property may repel coyotes, as will a motion-sensitive light.
- Consider a fence. The type of fencing will need to be one that deters climbing and is in accordance with the CC&Rs of your neighborhood; at least six feet tall and extending six inches below ground. Some clever person has invented a “roll fence”; it has a rolling piece at the top, which keeps your cats from climbing out, or any uninvited guests from climbing in. As they try to grasp the top bar, it rolls. Wild critters stay out, tame ones in, and you and your pets live happily ever after.
Coyotes will always be among us, but we don’t have to live in fear for our pets’ lives. Our best bet is to make them feel so unwelcome in civilization that they’ll pack up their families and move back to the wilderness.
Lisa J. Lehr is a writer and copywriter as well as animal lover living in Grass Valley. She can help you promote your business with a full range of online and offline marketing pieces. A member of Empire Toastmasters, she’s available to speak to your business or professional group. Visit her website www.justrightcopy.com for more information, opt in for a message series, and receive a free Marketing Guide.