Photo by Stephanie Nakhleh
BY STEPHANIE NAKHLEH
Today, while walking my dog, I had a coyote encounter that is becoming commonplace. Coyotes, unafraid of humans and territorial, are increasingly emboldened to scare away humans and/or lure their dogs into traps. I was herded by this pair, shown here inviting me to go away by charging at me.
While “they were here first, just stay out of their territory” is a common piece of wisdom, this photo was taken on the road between the dog park and tennis courts, and there’s a playground nearby as well. Humans are not going to retreat from human spaces. Nor do those of us who appreciate wildlife co-existence want these coyotes culled. What is the answer? How do we keep coyotes and people safe?
A friend, after I shared this encounter, pointed me to Project Coyote. It turns out, perhaps I should not have retreated, but instead faced them down and blasted an air horn at them. My retreat unfortunately may have reinforced their behavior. Live and learn. (And go buy an air horn: Metzger’s sells them.)
Coyotes that have become this brazen need to be hazed. This is advice from a Project Coyote, an organization dedicated to protecting coyotes. We need to do it together. Here are their coyote-hazing tips:
- Stand your ground. Make eye contact. Advance toward the coyote with your hazing tools if there is hesitation on the part of the coyote. Haze until the coyote retreats. Allow room for the coyote(s) to escape.
- Make sure the coyote is focused on you as the source of danger or discomfort. Do not haze from buildings or your car where the coyote can’t see you clearly. If you see more than one coyote, continue your hazing efforts; multiple animals will most likely respond to the same hazing techniques at the same time.
- Make it multisensory. Use tools that scare with sound, light & motion.
- Variety is essential. Coyotes can learn to recognize and avoid individual people, so the more often a coyote has a negative experience with various hazing tools and different people, the faster he will change his behavior to avoid human contact.
- Hazing should be exaggerated, assertive, and consistent. Communities should always maintain some level of hazing using a variety of tools so that coyotes do not return to unacceptable behavior over time.
- Coyotes have routine habits. Make note of when and where you encounter them. Ask neighbors in those areas to help you scare the coyote, or avoid those areas.
- Think prevention first! Coyote pups begin coming out of dens in the early summer and parents are very protective. Keep pets close and don’t let them roam.
Finally: share this guide! Coexistence between people & their domestic animals and coyotes is an active process that requires community involvement. https://www.projectcoyote.org/CoyoteHazingBrochureFieldGuide.pdf
Note: These hazing tips are the suggestions of experts, not my suggestions. Always exercise your own judgment.