As the weather continues to get colder and many parts of the country are in the teeth of winter, it becomes increasingly important to be aware of your local wildlife and how they might interact with and affect your pets. Food is harder to find during this time of the year for many wild animals, and the presence of humans can sometimes signal an easy meal.
Coyotes, in particular, are increasingly active during this time of year and can enter neighborhoods looking for food. In one town in southeast Michigan, a couple reported to a local television station that their Jack Russell terrier had been killed by a coyote in their own back yard. A few years earlier, another man’s bichon frise was also killed in a yard that wasn’t fenced in. In both cases, the pets had been left out for just a short time to use the bathroom.
Coyotes are sometimes difficult to distinguish from domestic dogs when seen from a distance. Their physical shape resembles a German shepherd, but they are smaller and carry their tails below their back when they are running. They are more common in rural areas, but are opportunistic hunters and are drawn into urban spaces by the smell of garbage, gardens or pet food. This can bring them in close proximity to cats and small dogs, and they will prey on them given the chance. They are instinctively afraid of humans, however, and will rarely attack.
Experts urge pet owners to follow a few simple rules to avoid issues with coyotes:
1. Never approach or try to touch a wild animal.
2. Do not feed them intentionally.
3. Remove outside food sources, particularly pet food.
4. Do not leave garbage out more than a few hours before pickup.
5. Keep wood and brush piles clear. They are a natural habitat for small animals and rodents, which can be a food source for coyotes.
6. Do not leave pets unattended outside, especially if coyotes have been seen in the area.
While coyotes can be a treat to small domestic animals, they are not a direct threat to humans and should not be aggressively pursued if seen in the area. For more information about the incidents reported in southeast Michigan, please refer to the following article.
For nuisance animals in your area, make sure you contact your local animal control or law enforcement agency!