Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Coyotes not that dangerous, experts contend

An interesting article appears with attempts to dismiss some of the fears and myths that coyotes present in our communities. Since coyotes are part of the canine kingdom one is left to wonder whether these feral dogs will be held accountable for any howling under the new proposed Gwinnett barking ordiances.

With an ever shrinking green space (thank you developers) in which to survive it's becoming more common to hear their howls in the early evening hours, a howl that is often followed by a chorus of howls from neighborhood dogs as well. Is this some sort of communication between the two groups of dogs? One would assume that with a dog's inherent characteristic of protecting their pack and their territory that the noise generated from this ritual is harmless but who should be held accountable under the county's view of what constitutes "nuisance barking".

One could argue that a pet owner who has a dog that lives or spends time outdoors would be criminally responsible each and every time their dogs barks for five times for thirty seconds. Yet, if you listen to the communication between the coyotes and neighborhood dogs this would be all part of a "normal commication dialog.

The real question is who is responsible for the noise generated from the coyotes? Common sense would say (which this proposed law seriously lacks) the owner of the property where the barking originates should be responsible. Does that mean that the county will find themselves in violation of their own ordinance? Or will the county offer up some feeble explanation that barking sounds generated from the wild are exempt while the reply barking from our family dogs is not?

Unlike the feral cat population which our animal control seems willing to trap and kill there seems to be no public policy that involves county animal control's irresponsibility in tracking down these canine hardened and lifetime criminals. After all, a reasonable mind would understand that not only do coyotes routinely violate the nuisance barking laws but are allowed to violate the restraint laws, the laws requiring vaccination and reasonable vet care, and perhaps borderline cases of not complying with dangerous dog provisions.

Coyotes not that dangerous, experts contend

Saturday, January 31, 2009 5:30 AM EST
By Pamela McLoughlin, Register Staff

BETHANY — After receiving a flurry of panicked calls in response to what was described by some media as a “coyote attack” on a 17-year-old girl in her yard Tuesday, wildlife experts have this message for residents: Relax and let your kids go outside again.

First, according to police, the girl was never bitten or attacked but was apparently scared and injured from an encounter with pricker bushes.

Second, wildlife experts say coyotes get a bum rap in general and are often the first to be blamed for missing cats when indeed cars pose a much greater danger to pets.

The wildlife hotline at the Humane Society of the United States’ office in Woodbridge has been ringing off the hook since news broke of the alleged coyote attack. “This is scaring people and they’re afraid to let their children out of the houses, which is really uncalled for,” said Laura Simon, field director for the Urban Wildlife Program for the Humane Society of the United States.

“It’s a fairy tale: Here’s the big bad wolf coming to take their children away,” she said.

State Trooper David Merriam said the teen was in a yard on a farm on Litchfield Turnpike — not walking on Litchfield Turnpike as originally reported — when something came out from behind a structure that she thought was a coyote. She ran or fell into pricker bushes and received scratches from those on her upper thighs, he said. At first she said she had been bitten by a coyote, then said she was not, Merriam said.

Emergency responders couldn’t find any puncture marks on the girl and so she was not transported by them to the hospital.

Merriam said there haven’t been any other reports of coyote attacks in Bethany that he can recall.

Simon said the lack of bite mark evidence speaks for itself. “If you were bitten by a coyote there would be no doubt,” she said. She said in just about all the cases of a person being nipped or bitten by a coyote, the animal either was being fed by humans and was used to being near people, or was rabid.

Simon noted a case last year in which a woman was nipped in the knee by a coyote, but as it turns out, that animal had become brazen because employees at a Branford McDonald’s were feeding it. At that time, Paul Rego, a state Department of Environmental Protection wildlife biologist, said it was the first time in his 20 years on the job that he’s ever heard of a coyote injuring a human being.

Simon said some people make the mistake of leaving cat or dog food out for coyotes to eat, and the animals then become used to people.

She said people can reverse the feeling of comfort coyotes can gain around humans by chasing them or making loud noises by banging pot tops together.

Often the howling of a family of coyotes scares people who interpret it as a battle cry, she said, but usually it’s just communication because the animals are social with each other.

She said the state estimates there are 2,000 coyotes in Connecticut and they are more noticed or seen when they appear in the suburbs because they are more visible than in the woods.

Simon said a call to wildlife experts often goes like this:

“There’s a coyote in my yard and he’s menacing,” the caller might say.

“What’s he doing?” the wildlife expert will ask.

“He’s in my yard,” comes the response.

“But what’s he doing?” is the next question.

“Laying their sunning himself,” the caller will report.

But, said Simon, “Just because they see a coyote, it’s not menacing.”

“This is not a new threat. We just have to be smart,” she said.

Pamela McLoughlin can be reached at

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