Apparently, deer are not the only wildlife who have heard that Wallingford is a pretty great neighborhood to visit or take up residence. There is also a coyote (or coyotes) lurking around the streets, as reported by a few people in the forums. Thank you to neighbor/reader Andy for sharing his photo of the wily wanderer from early this week.
This is not a new thing. Coyotes have been spotted in the neighborhood in the past, according to some older forum threads and this post from Jordan in 2014.
People seem to be both fascinated and concerned about the presence of coyotes, especially when they are in our urban neighborhoods, a little too close for comfort, and I can understand why. The first time I encountered a coyote in the wild, in New Mexico, was both thrilling and terrifying. In a quintessential southwest scene of sagebrush, mountains, and mesas in varying shades of red, orange, and brown, I first heard the howl from the other side of the field. I froze briefly when I realized Wile E. was using the same narrow dirt trail that I was and running straight toward me! I stepped aside just in time, giving him the right of way and just enough room to continue past me, not interested at all in who I was or why I was there.
After my heart stopped pounding, I reflected on how lucky I was to have that experience. But I was on his turf, in a wildlife refuge, so I was obviously there for the purpose of viewing wildlife. When we’re in our own homes, in the middle of the city, we’re not always expecting or hoping for wildlife encounters. So the sight of a seemingly out-of-place critter may cause some people to feel threatened or unsafe. So I thought it would be a good idea to post some information about coyotes, specifically, and living with wildlife in the city, in general.
Wallingford is not the only neighborhood to have coyote “problems,” and it won’t be the last. According to this Seattle Times article, which has a lot of great coyote facts and history, by Erik Lacitis, West Seattle is another urban neighborhood that has been learning to live with Canis latrans. “For years, the West Seattle Blog has had a continuing series in which readers send in their sightings, sometimes accompanied by photos, of coyotes. It’s now at 191 postings.”
I’m not sure when coyote sightings started in Wallingford, but I’d guess long before the existence of Wallyhood.org. Also according to Lacitis and Dan Flores (author of the book, Coyote America), coyotes have been in America for five million years, and they’re not going away anytime soon. They seem to be as adaptable and acclimated to living among city-dwelling humans as cockroaches, crows, and raccoons. “They’re the ultimate survivors, finding a meal in mice, rats, rabbits, snakes, grasshoppers and even berries, cherries, plums and those apples fallen in your backyard.” Even when wildlife agents try to control coyote populations with lethal means (poison or expanded hunting), the coyotes respond by having larger litters. There are even stories of city coyotes learning to wait for the “walk” sign at crosswalks, like this one in Chicago, captured on video.
If you peruse the internet, you can find countless coyotes-in-the-city stories, all across the country. So, now that we can accept that these critters are here to stay, what is the best way to deal with them, and, as many people are wondering, what about the cats?
Although coyotes have been known to eat some pets, and even livestock, cats are not a typical part of a coyote’s diet. But, the simplest, most obvious solution is: Keep your cats indoors! At the very least, bring them inside before dark, according to this informative list and downloadable fact sheet from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. You might also find helpful (or at least, slightly amusing) this article from The Stranger: “I Didn’t Kill Your Stupid Cat, and I Am Insulted by the Insinuation” by Phillip the Coyote.
Oh, and if you’re worried about the children, too, the Fish & Wildlife site has these detailed instructions for preparing for children/coyote encounters: “Don’t leave small children unattended where coyotes are frequently seen or heard [emphasis theirs]. If there are coyote sightings in your area, prepare your children for a possible encounter. Explain the reasons why coyotes live there (habitat/food source/ species adaptability) and what they should do if one approaches them (don’t run, be as big, mean, and loud as possible). By shouting a set phrase such as “go away coyote” when they encounter one, children will inform nearby adults of the coyote’s presence as opposed to a general scream. Demonstrate and rehearse encounter behavior with the children.”
It’s important to remember not to feed or approach wildlife! Here are a few other online resources for learning more about coyotes and tips for living with wildlife in urban areas:
- Urban Coyote Research: Avoiding Conflicts with Coyotes
- PAWS Wildlife Rehabilitation Center: Living with Coyotes
- Project Coyote: Fostering Coexistence (downloadable resources)
- Animal Zone: 10 Facts You Did Not Know About Coyotes
- HSUS: What to Do about Coyotes
- How the Most Hated Animal in America Outwitted Us All
- Indoor Cats vs. Outdoor Cats
As long as everyone is respectful and alert and acts with common sense—following all the guidelines of preventive measures—coexisting with coyotes needn’t be a “problem.” Now, if we start having roadrunner sightings in the neighborhood, as well, that’s another type of problem altogether.