Alder Tierney’s Updates
Notes from the meeting re: Urban Coyotes
Informational meeting re: coyotes in Madison
October 21, 2015
Presenters:?Dr. David Drake, UW Madison Urban Canid Project
?Andy Paulios, Wildlife Biologist, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
?John Hausbeck, Program Manager, Animal Services Unit, PHMDC
There will always be coyotes in Madison. Whether you know it or not, a coyote probably walked through your yard this year. They are integral to a healthy ecosystem. We need to learn about and appreciate what coyotes are doing in the city, what we can/should tolerate and how to manage our expectations. Understanding coyote habits and behavior is crucial to preventing problems.
Seeing a coyote in your neighborhood can be alarming, but they are generally more afraid of you than you are of them. They are naturally secretive, and if you see them in your yard or neighborhood, they are there because they've been habituated, a situation we need to reverse in order to reduce conflict.
Why are coyotes in the city?
Coyotes originally moved into and colonized urban areas because there was no or little competition from other coyotes for space, mates, food, etc. Most urban areas have sizeable coyote populations with mostly peaceful coexistence with humans. Most of the time, we don't know they're there, and they cause no problems.
Where are coyotes likely to be?
The UW Urban Canid Project's preliminary results have found that coyotes primarily stick to green spaces (i.e, parks, preserves, etc.) in the urban environment. They will and do move outside of urban green spaces, including residential neighborhoods, but if your property backs up to green space or a park, be extra vigilant, especially when coyote attacks on pets have occurred or are occurring.
What is peak time for coyotes?
Urban coyotes tend to be more nocturnal than their rural counterparts, with peak activity from 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., although they are occasionally sighted during the day.
What is the danger to humans?
Coyote attacks on humans are exceptionally rare, there are very few on record. Most human vs. coyote interactions have happened in the western United States. If you see or are approached by a coyote, the best course of action is to scare it off: make noise, wave a stick, throw something, turn on lights.
What is the danger to pets?
On average, there are one to two dog fatalities due to coyotes per year in Madison. There have been four or five this year, clustered on the Eastside, an unusual spike but still rare overall. About 90% of dog vs. coyote interactions involve unsupervised/unleashed dogs. Generally speaking, smaller dogs are probably at a greater risk of being attacked than relatively larger dogs simply because of size. However, regardless of the size of your pet, keeping your pets indoors and on a leash or under your supervision when outside will minimizethe likelihood of an interaction.
How do I avoid conflict?
Coyotes are versatile and adaptable predators that feed mainly on small rodents and rabbits, making them an important part of the food chain. They are also scavengers and omnivores and will eat almost anything they can find including fruits, vegetables and insects. If food sources are available in your neighborhood, coyotes may be attracted to them. Coyotes are also territorial and may see pet dogs as a threat to their food sources, dens and young. Strategies to avoid food- or territory-related conflict include:
• Don't store pet food or feed your pets outside, and don't hang birdfeeders. Small mammals are attracted to these food sources, and they are natural prey for coyotes.
• In general, don't feed wildlife. Coyotes become "trained" about where to find food.
• Trash and compost should be secured in containers with tight-fitting lids.
• Pick up fruit from under trees.
• When you see a coyote, reinforce its natural fear of humans by turning on outside lights, making loud noises (shaking a can filled with rocks, air horn, etc.), throwing tennis balls, spraying it with the hose, and so forth. Be assertive, eventually the coyote will leave.
• Provide secure shelter with a covered top for animals kept outside.
• Don't allow your pets to run free. Keep your cats indoors, don't leave your dog outside unattended, and walk your dogs on a leash, especially at night.
• Keep your yard clear of brush/wood piles and undergrowth that coyotes could use for cover.
• Use motion sensitive lights.
• Share this information with your neighbors. A concerted community effort will be more effective in reducing conflict.
What about fences?
It's difficult to fence out coyotes, but if you want to try, the fence should be 6'-7' high with 1' buried underground to discourage digging. A better strategy is to make your yard uninteresting: remove brush and plantings that could be used for cover, remove any potential food sources, don't leave small pets outside unattended, etc.
What about relocation of coyotes?
The DNR does not recommend relocating coyotes because:
• They may return to the original territory.
• They die because they're not in their own territory.
• If a coyote is a problem, it will continue to be a problem in the new location.
• Relocation is costly.
For additional information, go to www.dnr.wi.gov and search "urban wildlife" or "nuisance wildlife."
Can I shoot a coyote?
There is a no discharge law in Madison, meaning no one can discharge a firearm or shoot a bow within the city limits of Madison. This law makes it illegal for a member of the public to shoot a coyote.
Can we get rid of all coyotes?
• Many communities have tried, they've instituted year-round open season on coyotes and the coyote population in those areas continues to exist..
• Eradication efforts don't work. If the entire pack is removed, the void will be filled in by another pack.
• In many cities, there are ordinances prohibiting shooting.
• Live trapping and removal are the main options, and the success rate is variable.
How can we find out which animals are the problems so we can remove them?
It's likely that there are only one or two coyotes engaging in attacks, and the rest of the pack is not displaying the same aggressive behavior. Unfortunately, there are no unique identifiers to help us know which coyotes are the problem individuals, and if we remove the entire pack, another pack will simply move in to fill the void. There is high turnover in coyote populations, though, it's rare for them to live beyond three years in urban environments. Mortality from vehicle collisions and disease are the primary forms of mortality in urban areas. The problem coyotes are eventually eliminated and, if we've adopted strategies to reduce habituation, chances are greater that future conflict can be avoided.
Can we get a map depicting the location of coyote sightings and attacks?
Dr. Drake says he will produce a map.
What is the role of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR)?
• Educate the community so as to make the best decision for the situation.
• Provide constituents with guidance and support.
• Advise about relevant state and municipal regulations.
• Help manage "bad" coyote behavior.
What is the role of Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC)?
Animal Services responds to hundreds of wildlife calls every year. It may be that the animal is injured or confused or that there is a human health risk from potential exposure to disease such as rabies. In the case of coyote activity, the concern tends to be focused on the small companion animals in our families. When a coyote becomes a problem, PHMDC will take action to address pet and human safety by helping to identify the options available.
• www.dnr.wi.gov: Search for "urban wildlife" and "nuisance wildlife," find species-specific information.
• uwurbancanidproject.weebly.com: Learn about Dr. David Drake's project to live-trap canids in our urban environment and fit them with ear tags to monitor behavior.
• https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/uw-urban-canid-project: Record, share and discuss your observations of the natural world.
• Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
• UW Urban Canid Project
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