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Pet Safety Articles

Living with "Urban" Coyotes

Recently, many residents have expressed concern about coyote sightings and the consequences of predator animals within the urban environment. Several residents have lost their pets to these skilled hunters because many are unaware of recent coyote activity near their home. Coyotes are found throughout Orange County. Contrary to popular belief, theses animals do not require open space or “wild areas” to survive. In fact, most coyotes within the urban setting are the offspring of generations of coyotes who survived and flourished in the urban areas. In California, coyotes breed mainly during January, February, and March. The gestation period is about 60-63 days. The young are born between March and May, with litter sizes averaging 5-6 pups. Coyotes produce one litter per year. During the time of year when adult coyotes are caring for their young (May through September), they can be very aggressive when their young are threatened. Domestic dogs are especially vulnerable to an attack during this time. If a den site has been identified in an urban setting, caution should be taken, and dogs should be kept out of this area. Coyote dens are found in steep banks, rock crevices, and underbrush. Coyotes are most active at night and during the early morning and late evening hours. However, young coyotes tend to be more active during daylight hours than adults. Though these animals are far from domesticated, they are very comfortable living in close proximity to human beings. They have little fear of man and are frequently seen trotting along within a few feet of joggers and walkers. While not normally a danger to human beings, coyotes will display defensive behaviors if threatened or cornered. Therefore, it is important to leave a comfortable distance between you and a coyote. Small pets can easily become coyote prey. Cats and small dogs should not be allowed outside alone, even in a fenced yard. It’s highly recommended that small pets always be accompanied by their owner. Though coyotes generally hunt between sunset and sunrise, they can be observed at all hours of the day and will not pass up the opportunity for an easy meal. A dog or cat left in a backyard can be snatched in a matter of moments. It is not unusual for a coyote to “stalk” a residence for several days observing the routine of their prey before attacking. Many steps can be taken to protect you and your property from nuisance animals like coyotes and other wildlife. Listed below are some of the steps you can take to minimize encounters and potential conflicts between coyotes and other wildlife including bobcats, raccoons, skunks and mountain lions. Remember, no matter where you reside in Orange County you may encounter some of these animals. • Fence off animal enclosures (fully enclose if possible). • Keep cats and small dogs indoors or in the close presence of an adult. • Keep your dog close to you on walks, use a short (6 ft.) leash not a retractable leash • Carry a large stick when walking your small animals during the early morning hours and at dusk • Keep yards free from potential shelter such as overgrown shrubs, brush and weeds. • Eliminate food and water sources, such as fallen fruit, standing water • Feed pet indoors – do not leave pet food outside • DO NOT feed Coyotes or any wildlife If you do encounter an aggressive coyote, it is likely you have probably gotten too close to its prey or its family. Increase the “comfort zone” between you and the coyote. If you feel threatened throw a rock or stick at the coyote. A coyote behaves in a similar way as domestic dogs that are defending their territory and family. Even a fully fenced yard will not keep out a hungry, athletic coyote. These animals are extremely agile and can easily scale any residential fence. All children should be taught from a very early age to avoid strange animals, whether domestic or non-domestic. When older children are walking through trails or parks, they should be instructed on coyote safety.