Right around Christmas, our dog, a Blue Heeler named Penny, went missing and was gone for two weeks. We eventually got her back but she had nasty wounds that indicated she had a run-in with a coyote. During our search for Penny, we posted countless signs in Falcon neighborhoods, and I noticed many other signs for lost pets. It made me wonder if the coyote population had grown in Falcon, and were the coyotes venturing into the neighborhoods more frequently. My veterinarian told me that she had seen coyotes trying to lure her two dogs apart, so they would be an easier target. She also said another client watched a coyote jump into her yard, snatch her dog and jump back out.
Zola Paget, a receptionist at Animal Emergency Care (where Penny had gone for initial care), said coyote attacks are seemingly on the rise. She said another client had let his Yorkshire terrier outside and saw her getting snatched by a coyote. “The man ran after the coyote yelling and it dropped the dog, which he then brought to us,” Paget said.
Michael Seraphin, a public information officer with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said coyotes go through population cycles. Seraphin wasn’t certain of the current population cycle but he said coyotes can adapt their litters for “feast or famine.” The more food they have available, the more pups they will have – and vice versa. As a long time Falcon resident, Seraphin said, “When the big developments moved in, the coyotes moved out. Now, it seems like they are coming back. They are very adaptable.”
Seraphin humorously added that if the world ended, coyotes and cockroaches would thrive because of their ability to adapt. “Fewer than 100 years ago, the only place coyotes were was the Southwest,” he said. “Today they are coast to coast, Canada through Mexico. They are in every state except Hawaii.”
There is a difference between rural coyotes and urban coyotes, Seraphin said. “A rural coyote is much different than an urban one,” he said. “Rural ones see a person and it takes off running. Suburban coyotes are not so scared. They have learned people are not a threat to them.” He said the lack of fear among coyotes could be the reason pets are disappearing. If they don’t perceive a threat from humans, coyotes aren’t afraid to enter into yards.
If a coyote is spotted in a yard, Seraphin said stay a safe distance away and either squirt the coyote with a hose or rattle a can or jar filled with pebbles to scare them off. “When people see wildlife, it’s enjoyable,” he said. “But when you see a predator – coyote, fox – do something to scare them. Throw rocks. Remind them that people are a threat.”
Colorado Parks and Wildlife used to trap coyotes with a leg snare, but those snares are now banned, Seraphin said. Ranchers can get permits to use the snares to trap coyotes, but he said they usually only use them during calving season, when the coyotes are the biggest threat. He said cage traps don’t work because the coyote is “too smart.” “They just won’t go in them, no matter what you put in there to lure them,” Seraphin said. He said it is open season 365 days for hunting coyotes, and if a coyote is in someone’s yard, a person can legally shoot it without a hunting license. However, Seraphin said people need a small game license to keep the pelt.
Rabies is not common in coyotes, but they can transmit other diseases like parvo, distemper and mange to pets, he said.
It is currently mating season for the coyotes, Seraphin said. “Coyotes might be viewing dogs as a threat for mating or for food. They want to run it (a dog) off so they can pass on their own genes,” he said. Be especially cautious about pets during coyote mating and pup season, Seraphin said.
While coyotes can physically jump a fence, they are more prone to dig under or slip under a tall fence, he said. It is important to keep fences in good condition, he added.
According to the Humane Society of the United States’ website, do not leave a pet outside unsupervised – Seraphin echoed that advice. Also, don’t leave food out because it could attract coyotes and other critters.
On another note, coyotes have their place and can be beneficial. Coyotes are omnivores and help control the rodent population by eating mice and gophers – and rabbits, he said. “They are valuable to our ecosystem,” Seraphin said. “And I would be doing them a disservice if I did not mention that.”