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Captain’s Log: Living Among Urban Coyotes

Taking precautions can help lower the chance of a neighborhood encounter

The likelihood of encountering a coyote is likely to increase considerably during the next few months as coyotes nurture young pups and, at the same time, people enjoy warmer weather outdoors.

Capt. David Bacon
Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)

It’s not even necessary to venture into the wild to find them. An encounter can easily occur in your own neighborhood. Not quite sure how to recognize a coyote? It resembles a small and gaunt German shepherd with the exception of the long snout and bushy, black-tipped tail.

Coyotes bear litters during April and May, with females delivering three to nine pups. Adult coyotes caring for young will need to forage more regularly than usual, and they need to be particular about what they bring home to feed to the kids. This can lead to increased aggressiveness and ranging into normally uncomfortable surroundings in the search for food.

Coyotes are extremely adaptable and resourceful, and can survive on whatever food is available. They prey on rabbits, mice, birds and numerous other small animals, as well as young deer and sheep. In urban areas, coyotes have attacked people’s small pets — cats and dogs included — and have attacked small children as well. The wily canines also will eat fruits, vegetables, pet food and trash.

One time I watched a coyote at the base of a brushy hill right at the edge of a deserted beach. It was pacing impatiently back and forth and intently watching California sea lions hauled up on the beach. There was a very young sea lion in the group, but the adults had it surrounded and protected. Coyotes are persistent, but wise enough to know when patience isn’t going to pay off and it’s time to look elsewhere. So, off that critter raced down the beach toward a flock of shore birds. With no good cover and only its speed to work with, I’m guessing the critter finally gave up on the beach and went back to the hills, where ground squirrels and such like are easier to catch. I wish I could have taught the coyote how to dig up sand crabs.

To avoid problem encounters (or losses) with coyotes, follow these guidelines from the California Department of Fish & Game:

» Never feed a coyote. Deliberately feeding coyotes puts pets and other residents in the neighborhood at risk. In addition, people can inadvertently feed coyotes by leaving pet food or garbage where they can get it. Feed pets indoors or promptly remove outdoor dishes, bring bird feeders in at night, store bags of pet food indoors and use trashcans with lids that clamp shut.

» Clear brush and dense weeds from around dwellings. Reduce protective cover for coyotes and make the area less attractive to rodents. Coyotes, as well as other predators, are attracted to areas where rodents are concentrated, such as woodpiles and seed storage areas.

» Protect children. Although rare, coyotes have been known to seriously injure young children. Never leave children unattended in areas known to be frequented by coyotes, even in familiar surroundings, such as a backyard.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.

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