It is night, peaceful and quiet. You are watching television in urban America. Suddenly, you hear a howl as if you were camping in the great outdoors, the evening lit by a fire, the moon, and millions of stars. What could it be? It is not the neighbor’s dog. It sounds like a coyote. No, you say to yourself in disbelief, it’s not possible, when in fact, it’s absolutely possible and very likely.
“Urban coyotes are secretive,” says Lynsey White Dasher, Humane Society of the United States Urban Wildlife Specialist. “People don’t know that they’re there.”
Coyotes in urban areas are common; however, contrary to popular belief, urban coyotes rarely attack pets and humans. Among other myths, coyotes, while susceptible to rabies, are much more likely to contract and perish from mange, shootings, and malnutrition.
“Some people think coyotes will run out of food in their natural habitat,” Lynsey adds. “They have plenty of food to eat.”
Coyote aggressiveness and confrontations with humans are not unheard of, but are extremely few and far between. “Coyotes have become more nocturnal to avoid humans and human activity,” Lynsey states.
The actual problem is exacerbated by inappropriate human behavior when trash, food waste, and other attractants such as pet food and fruit from fruit-bearing trees on the ground are readily available. Lynsey confirms, “Coyotes learn that they can come in and take advantage of these food resources.”
Identifying the one percent of nuisance coyotes is difficult, would require diligent reconnaissance, and is costly. “Relocating coyotes is not a humane solution,” Lynsey adds. “It doesn’t work. Coyotes will do what they can to get back home.”
In a lot of cases, coyotes are classified as vermin. In Virginia, coyotes and a list of other wild animals are considered Nuisance and Problematic Species. According to Virginia state law, “these species can be killed at any time and in any manner that is legal under state and local laws.”
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has openly encouraged the shooting of coyotes and continues to support inhumane hunting and trapping by allowing Virginia counties to establish their own coyote bounty systems. Virginia’s laissez-faire attitude toward coyotes is most likely a blessing for those who use cruel trapping devices, participate in the trapping and fur trade industry, and engage in the bloodsports of Fox and Coyote Penning and Coyote Calling Contests.
“Trapping and killing doesn’t work,” Lynsey states emphatically. “It actually increases populations.” Coyote killing programs increase reproductive rates by breeding at an earlier age.
“The solution is to alter their behavior and encourage coyotes to avoid us and abide by our rules without trapping and killing.” Coyote Hazing, Lynsey says, in regard to cruelty-free and non-lethal methods used to condition urban coyotes adapted from the successful Denver, Colorado Coyote Management Plan, is the most effective means of conditioning coyotes and establishing peaceful coexistence in metropolitan landscapes.
It is Lynsey’s mission to involve, educate, and train law enforcement, animal control officers, and community residents about coyote behavior, providing effective and cruelty-free solutions toward peaceful coexistence with coyotes in urban areas.
Whether your community is experiencing conflicts with coyotes or interested in proactive public education and prevention, Lynsey says, “It’s important for everyone in the community to be involved.”
Schedule a Cruelty-free Coyote Hazing Training Workshop in your community. Email Humane Society of the United States, Urban Wildlife and Coyote Specialist, Lynsey White Dasher