Get That Nature Out of My Yard!

It’s safe to say I’m an animal person.

Eight laying hens, a spoiled tortoise, and a little mutt dog live in my backyard. A betta fish lives in a luxury condo fish tank on my dresser.

At 3:30 AM, however, I do not love all animals. I love MY animals. I want to wreak terrible, territorial vengeance on the animals that I have not invited to live with me – even when they’re a completely natural part of the region I live in.

At 3:30 AM, my 8 month old puppy (sleeping in a dog house outside) sounded the alarm with panicked barking.

I don’t remember crossing the pitch-dark house to get to the door. I don’t remember opening the door.

I do remember the long-legged creature loping off my porch and across my lawn, leaping over the 6 ft cinder block fence like it was nothing.

I remember my panicked puppy dashing inside the house and peeing all over the floor in terror.

I remember wanting to find the BB gun we joke we keep around for stray cats, but what I wanted to do with it wasn’t a joke.

Coyotes are no joke.

At 3:30 AM, I am not an understanding person.

By 5:30 AM, I am a desperately curious (and wary) person.

 

We had an attack on our hens several months before, and we’d secured their coop, locking them up every night for their own safety. It took one dead and two wounded birds to realize things had changed. We had never had coyotes around before then.

I got to thinking about what may have happened. I never want to believe an animal is malicious or any less a living thing than the ones I raise. So this activity had to have a reason.

Coyotes are one of the top predators of the Sonoran Desert, and are far more common than bobcats, especially in urban areas.

They’re intelligent, omnivorous, and agile, and can run as fast as 40 miles an hour.

All they want is food, water, shelter, and their own territory.

Turns out, they had all that behind my house.

The park back there is large, with a pond, wild rabbits and birds, and is next to a canal running straight through town. That canal is empty all night, which makes it a wildlife super highway from sunset to sunrise. The canal also connects directly to a natural reserve three miles south – everything a coyote would want.

Just before the first attack on my hens, the city drained the pond and brought in heavy machinery for a major park renovation. Estimated to take a full year, the work quickly ran off the prey and tore up den sites.

This most recent attack happened during whelping season – April and May. I realized (on research and reflection) this was more than likely a female looking for food and water in order to feed pups.

 

Was I still mad? Of course! They’re a threat to my animals, and I’m going to defend my home and the animals that live in it.

But I do get the coyote’s view.

Coyotes are found throughout the United States, Mexico, and much of Canada, and there are excellent resources out there to help keep the peace without exterminating the creatures just going about their lives.

Check out your regional Game and Fish departments for recommendations on dealing with coyotes. Look for the numbers to call if an aggressive individual is spotted, if coyotes have damaged your property, and if you find yourself in possession of one of these wild animals. If you’re trapping for a pest around your property, or attempting to spay/neuter a cat colony, those traps will take anything that goes in them. It pays to be prepared if you catch something more than you expected. Also, Game and Fish should tell you the laws regarding guns as a deterrent or self-defense measure – or at least direct you to where you can find those.

Coyotes are no different than most wild predator species. The two main suggestions for deterring any predatory pest:

  1. Remove anything that may attract predators. This includes covering or removing water/prey sources and clearing any brush or debris that could serve as a den or shelter. Also, make sure outbuildings are secure, especially in rough weather when animals are looking for easy shelter.
  2. Do not make humans a pleasant experience. Make noise. Flash lights. Spray them with a hose. Throw small stones or cans. Make yourself as threatening as possible so they won’t want to come back. Coyotes who have grown accustom to humans are more likely to be killed because of aggressive behavior, so this is doing them a favor. A human fearing coyote is a safer coyote.

Know what to do in an emergency. An aggressive animal is more likely to bite, attack humans/pets. Aggression is also a possible sign of rabies and other diseases. Follow and exaggerate the instructions above (the “me scary human!” ones), but also KEEP EYE CONTACT. Do NOT turn away and run, as this will likely initiate a chase. Move toward safety: mainly other people, a building you can get into, or somewhere there’s activity that will deter the animal.

If you have a pet, do not leave it unsupervised. This is especially important with small animals (less than 25lbs/12kg). If they’re outside at night, it should be in a fully secured enclosure with a roof. If you encounter a coyote on a walk, get control of your pet and pick up small ones. Get away (backing up and keeping eye contact as stated above). Larger pets are still a concern, as a territorial coyote may take them for a threat.

I’m all about tools, and I have a feeling I won’t be done with coyotes for quite some time. Even after the park renovation is finished, it’ll take a while for the prey species to build back up. Also, I’ve got to do something more than just bring my Lucy (and her water) inside at night – my hens are still out there!

I’m opting for the “coyote shaker”, recommended by my Game and Fish department.

Check it out!

It’s plenty loud.

I really hope I won’t have to use it.

 

Links/Resources:

http://www.desertusa.com/animals/coyote.html

https://www.azgfd.com/wildlife/livingwith/coyotes/

https://www.azgfd.com/PortalImages/files/wildlife/livingwith/Coyote_Brochure_v7_final.pdf

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/c/coyote/

 

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