Non-lethal, Non-invasive Practices for Managing Human
Encounters with Coyotes in Colorado
In pioneer days, coyotes (Canis latrans) were restricted primarily to the sagebrush lands, brushy mountains, and open prairies of the American West. Today, coyotes have taken advantage of human presence to expand their ranges into urban and suburban communities. The very open spaces that make Colorado communities so livable also provide coyotes habitat and shelter, while the near-by neighborhoods provide opportunities for food and water. As a result, human-coyote encounters do occur. Communities throughout Colorado are seeking to find ways to better manage these encounters, recognizing that coyotes and humans need to co-exist. The purpose of this brochure is to provide local government one very important management tool: information.
COYOTES PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN OUR ECOSYSTEM, BUT OUR LAWS DO NOT REFLECT THIS
Predation is an essential component of biodiversity, which is the “variety and variability among living organisms and the ecological complexes in which they occur.” As predators, coyotes serve a valuable function in keeping prey populations, such as rodents, in check and keeping local ecosystems healthy. Yet despite their fundamental biological role in the ecosystem, both federal and state governments continue to support laws that deem coyotes nothing more than mere “varmints” or “pests.”
At the federal level, Congress passed the Animal Damage Control Act in 1931 so as to clarify the federal government’s authority surrounding predator management and control. The Act’s implicit purpose is for all “injurious” species to “be destroyed.” Although informed members of the public and many Congress members see that this legislation is outdated and counterproductive to effectively managing human and predator conflicts, Congress has failed to change the 1931 law.
At the state level, the majority of states are fairly flexible in the manner in which they allow individuals to legally kill coyotes. For example, Colorado law authorizes the state to “use whatever proper means are available to effectively minimize depredation to livestock by coyotes . . . .” Colo. Rev. Stat. s 33 -3 -103(1)(a) (1993). Additionally, Colo. Rev. Stat. s 33 -3 -106(4) (1993) allows for the killing coyotes without permit.
From early American history, “[t]his pattern of unrestrained economic exploitation evidenced a traditional belief that wildlife is an inexhaustible resource valued only for its economic utility to the individual who succeeds in reducing it to possession.” It is time for local governments to rethink coyote management and to take an ethical approach on predator control by integrating principles of biodiversity.
THE FIRST AND ULTIMATELY BEST ELEMENT OF THE PROGRAM IS AN EDUCATION AND AWARENESS PLAN
Prevention is the best strategy for minimizing encounters and conflicts with coyotes as well as with other forms of wildlife. To prevent conflicts with coyotes, use the following management strategies around your homes and encourage others to do the same.
- Treat Coyotes as Wild Animals, Not as Potential Pets. Although coyotes aregenerally timid and will run away if challenged. They understandably will, however, become aggressive so as to protect itself or its pups it feels threatened.
- Never Feed Coyotes. Coyotes that are fed either directly or indirectly by people often become accustomed and habituated to the presence of humans and increasingly lose their instinctual fear of humans. Additionally, the availability of an unnatural food source could lead coyotes to develop territorial inclinations that may in turn cause the coyote to demonstrate bold and aggressive behavior.
- Don’t Give Coyotes Access To Garbage. Keep garbage can lids on tight by securing them with rope, chain, bungee cords, or weights; utilize garbage cans with clamps or other mechanisms that hold lids on tight; and/or keep your cans in a shed or a garage.
- Remove Sources of Water. It is important to remove or cover artificial sources of water (fish ponds, pools, etc.) to prevent the coyotes from looking to these as water sources.
- Frightening Devices. Install motion-sensitive lighting or, in rural areas, electronic devices like the Electronic Guard or the Radio Activated Guard alarm (that produces noise and light based coyote behavior) around your property.
- Prevent Access To Fruit And Compost. Keep fruit trees fenced, or pick up fruit that falls to the ground. Keep compost piles within a fenced area or securely covered. Cover new compost material with soil or lime to prevent it from smelling.
- Feed Your Pets Indoors. Your dog and/or cat’s pet food will attract coyotes. If you must feed your pets outside, do so in the morning or at midday, and pick up food, water bowls, leftovers, and spilled food well before dark every day.
- Keep Areas Around Bird Feeders Clean. Prevent the buildup of food surrounding feeders as coyotes will eat bird food and are attracted to the many birds and rodents that come to the feeders.
- Keep Your Landscape Well-Manicured. Prevent coyotes from using your property for resting and raising their pups by trimming trees and shrubs above ground level and clearing out weedy and shrubby areas. Additionally, the buildup of backyard debris, wood piles, and weedy areas can attract prey animals that coyotes rely upon for food.
- Protect Your Pets. You should keep your cats and dogs indoors, especially between the hours from dusk to dawn when coyotes generally hunt. Coyotes are opportunistic feeders, both as hunters and as scavengers, and coyotes view your small to mid-size dog or cat as easy prey. If pets are left outside at night in an unprotected area, cats and dogs may be killed by coyotes. Once a coyote finds easy prey it will continually hunt in that area.
- Build a Coyote-Proof Fence. A 5-foot woven-wire fence with extenders facing outward at the top of each post should prevent coyotes from climbing over the fence. Coyotes are also excellent diggers, and an effective fence needs to extend at least 8 inches below the surface, or have a galvanized-wire apron that extends out from the fence at least 15 inches.
- Educate Others! Notify your friends, neighbors, and family (if it is a serious situation, contact your local police or wildlife control center) of any encounters you have had with coyotes so that they can be on alert for the safety of themselves, their children, and their pets.
Non-lethal, non-invasive practices have greater long-term, effective results than lethal control tactics. Countless studies have demonstrated that lethal methods have actually produced counterproductive results. Killing or having a coyote trapped and removed is a short-term solution as coyotes are transient creature so removing one means that new coyotes are likely to replace the previous animal by moving into the area. Comparatively, implementing methods like those listed above have been shown to help shape coyote behavior and lessen risks of conflict.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Friends of Animals
Wildlife Law Program
P.O. Box 102041
Denver, CO 80250-2041