Conservation and Trapping Science

Coyotes are now heard and seen more this drought year
Jun 17, 2021 08:39 ET

[Reprinted from original]

Lake County has an abundance of wildlife and it includes bears, deer, possums, racoons and coyotes. This year, because of the drought, they are showing up in backyards all around the county and actually becoming pests in many areas. One animal that is heard more than seen is the coyote. Coyotes mostly prowl around at night and you can often hear them howl.

What many people don’t know is that a large number of coyotes have taken up residence next to homes. The coyote is mostly a nocturnal animal and rarely seen. I live just outside the city limits of Lakeport and there has been a family of coyotes in my area for years.

Whereas most coyotes are shy and will avoid contacts with humans they have been known to attack people. A study done by scientists of the University of California Hopland Research Station showed there were 41 recorded coyote attacks on humans from 1998 to 2003 in California. Most of the attacks took place in Southern California and involved bites and scratches. Of the 41 attacks, 22 were on children younger than age 8. A coyote killed one child, a 3-year-old from Glendale, in 1981. There is a record of coyotes even pulling infants from strollers and tried to drag them into the brush. Fortunately, the parents drove them off. There have been no recorded attacks on humans in Lake County

According to the experts, the reason coyotes have moved into the suburban areas is because of the constant food and water source. There is an abundance of dog and cat food as well as cats and small dogs. A few years ago, the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) released a study done on stomach contents taken from mountain lions and coyotes that had to be put down because they posed a threat to local residents. In 90 percent of the stomachs studied there were traces of either domestic cat or dog hair.

I have had my own experience with coyotes. It was after dark and I let out my little 10-pound dog to do her business. She disappeared into the darkness and within a few minutes I heard a sharp yelp and my little dog came running to me and leapt into my arms. Right on her heels was a large coyote. He didn’t see me until the last moment and then skidded to a stop just a few feet away.

Coyotes can weigh up to 50 pounds, the average is about 30 pounds, and the largest on record weighed 80 pounds and was taken by a hunter in Missouri in 2012. They normally hunt in pairs or small packs. In the wild they will eat just about anything from insects to deer. Young fawns are easy prey for a coyote. According to biologists at the Hopland Field Station, they can tell when the fawns are being born in the spring because the coyotes stop preying on the domestic sheep. As soon as the fawns grow big enough to escape the coyotes the predation on the sheep continues.

Coyotes are classed as a “varmint or nongame” by the DFW and can be legally hunted year around and there is no daily limit. In fact, there are even coyote shooting contests in some areas. Hunters often use special calls that imitate the call of a rabbit in distress. When the coyote comes within range they shoot it. Several times I have had a coyote approach me when I have been hunting wild turkeys and making a call. At one time ranchers controlled the coyote population by either trapping them or using poison guns. A bait would be attached to the end of the gun and when the coyote licked the bait it would set off the gun, which fired a burst of the poison into the coyote’s face. Death was nearly instantaneous. Thirty-five years ago the state outlawed all leg hold traps and poison guns. The result is that the coyote population has exploded in many areas.

Scientists say that the coyote is considered to be the smartest of all the members of canine family, including dogs. They can thrive in suburban areas and have even been seen in major cities. In fact, a few years ago a coyote family lived in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. In Chicago, coyotes were found to be living in the city busses in the yard where the busses were parked when not in use.

Most of the experts say coyotes are nearly impossible to exterminate and, as one biologist remarked, “In all likelihood the last two critters to survive on earth will be the cockroach and the coyote.”