Thursday, July 18, 2019

Be nicer to coyotes?

September 19, 2014  

by Tony Tucci

Consider the poor coyote. He’s on the losing end of every encounter with the Roadrunner. He’s labeled a shoot-on-sight varmint by every hunter in Texas. And he’s hated and even feared as a “cat-napper” who preys on family pets in the dark of night.

But wait. There is a voice of reform that is starting to be heard in the land calling for a more humane treatment of coyotes. And it may result in new policies being considered by the Austin City Council in the next few months.

It started with a complaint from Travis Heights residents who had spotted coyotes in the Blunn Creek watershed. The residents feared for their safety and the safety of school children who use a nearby park.

Several City Council members referred the matter to the Austin Animal Advisory Commission, said David Lungstedt, commission chair. Last December, the Humane Society of the United States sent a representative to Austin to meet with the commission, and a new plan for the treatment of coyotes began to take shape.

The national representative, Lynsey White Dasher, director of Humane Wildlife Conflict Resolution, said the plan calls for Austin to stop trapping, poisoning and otherwise trying to eliminate the coyote—efforts that have not worked—and replace them with measures that will encourage the coyote to move to a more natural habitat. This means residents would have to keep their cats and dogs indoors at night, and remove sources of food such as open garbage cans and animal food bowls.

Dasher said “hazing” of coyotes by residents also would be recommended. Residents would use loud noises, shouts, whistles and water pistols to frighten the coyotes and encourage them to go elsewhere.

“We want to retrain coyotes to fear people,” said Lungstedt. “We’ll have to change human behavior as much as coyote behavior.”

He said the plan should go to the City Council at its Sept. 25 meeting. While this type of reform is not yet widespread, similar plans have been adopted by other cities. These include Riverside and Wheaton, Ill; Long Beach and Calabasas, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; and Centennial, Broomfield, and Aurora, Colo.

Like the cartoon character Wile E, Coyote, coyotes get little or no respect in Texas, said Jonah Evans, mammalogist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Like the mountain lion, another animal that is considered a nuisance, coyotes are ranked in the lowest classification of nongame, unprotected animals, along with frogs, porcupines and prairie dogs. They could be listed as a fur-bearing animal, which would give them more protection, “These classifications are as much politics as anything else,” Evans said. The only real restriction on coyotes is that people can’t possess a live one.

Lungstedt said that in Travis County both the city and county contract with Texas Wildlife Services to trap coyotes, using padded leg-hold traps. He said the animals are then destroyed. “We just want to raise the bar a little bit.”

He said under the new plan only humane box traps would be used and the coyotes then could be released unharmed into the wild. A coyote would be killed only if it attacked a human or pet.

Jacob Hetzel, wildlife biologist with Texas Wildlife Services, said the number of coyotes destroyed is very small. He said Wildlife Services recommends some of the same practices as outlined in the city plan.

Richard McRae, a Legend Oaks resident who lost a cat to coyotes recently, said his immediate response is to shoot coyotes, but he doesn’t want them treated cruelly.

“We’re still grieving,” he said. “We’d let her out every morning,” McCrae said. The cat would come home in about an hour, and spend the rest of the day indoors along with two other cats.

When the cat didn’t return one morning, he went looking and found her remains—one paw and a little fur—in the greenbelt nearby.

Still, McRae said he would not oppose a humane plan for treating coyotes.

“I’m not for the senseless slaying of animals,” he said. “My cats have always gone out, but not anymore.” He expressed doubts about hazing, because coyotes keep their distance.

So the next time you see a coyote, think kind(er) thoughts—unless, of course, he’s carrying a box of Acme explosives.




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  1. By zipidi7, September 22, 2014

    Please correct my previous comment by posting this one:

    The current City coyote policy is working and does NOT need to be changed. Less than 10 coyotes are trapped per year in Austin. Rubber jaw traps are used that are humane and don’t harm coyotes or capture other animals. Coyotes are not poisoned or shot. Hazing coyotes does not work for all. Linsey from the Humane Society recognizes that a lethal option must be kept for the most aggressive coyotes that don’t fear humans. Linsey also recognizes that although rare, coyotes can injure and kill children. It is a serious safety issue for the Citizens of Austin to outlaw trapping because that will allow the aggressive coyotes to teach other coyotes, increasing the number of problem coyotes that will be roaming our streets in the presence of children and adults like they do in Los Angeles where coyote attacks are 10X than in other cities that trap the most aggressive coyotes. The cities that have tried hazing have serious problems with coyotes now, like Denver. The Park Ranger from Denver who also work for Project Coyote (that promotes no trapping) says that hazing is not working but they will continue trying. In the mean time, pets and children are getting hurt. What is needed is a proactive educational program that includes hazing. How is hazing going to work if the City does not teach it proactively? Hazing can help prevent some coyotes from become aggressive, thereby reducing the number of coyotes that need to be trapped. In most cities that outlaw trapping, a couple of years later there was a child hurt and then the cities overreacted and killed all the coyotes. Outlawing trapping is not helping coyotes or humans. It is only helping the coalition of Predator Defense, Animal League Defense Fund, Project Coyote and the Humane Society expand their agenda at the cost of the safety, welfare and health of the citizens of Austin. This coalition wants to eliminate the massive shooting of coyotes in rural areas, but that has nothing to do with trapping the 10 most aggressive coyotes in Austin per year, after an experienced wildlife biologist confirms that they are aggressive and the City approves the selective trapping.

  2. By Craig Nazor, November 26, 2014

    I was on the working group of the AAC that made these recommendations. Some of the above statements are misleading, and some are incorrect, and much of this is based on an unreasoned fear of coyotes. For the factual stuff: Many of the statements relating to the HSUS coyote expert Lynsey White Dasher are misleading, at best. The statements about leghold traps being humane and somehow able to avoid trapping non-target animals are not true: I have removed a trapped and suffering non-target animal from one of these devices. I don’t know of anyone who has ever done so who would call such traps humane. In the entire history of Texas, including all Native American lore and legend, not one human being has ever been killed in our state by a coyote. Not one man, woman, or child. None. And there have only been four certifiable, so-called “unprovoked” attacks on humans on record. These attacks happened because of an open dumpster at a park from which coyotes had become used to feeding, and the bites were all minor. This was a trash disposal problem, not a coyote problem. Despite this, coyotes are assumed to be a danger to children. There is no credible evidence that coyotes are a danger to our children. In fact, statistics clearly show that our own cats and dogs pose a much greater danger to our children than coyotes do. Coyotes are also accused of being a danger to our pets. Scientific studies show that less than one percent of urban coyote stomach contents includes human pets. Once again, statistics clearly show that uncontrolled human pets are a much greater danger to other human pets than are coyotes. The subspecies of coyote that lives in Texas weighs 25 to 30 pounds. Coyotes are known to be smart. Unlike some dogs bred by humans, nowhere on this planet does an intelligent, 30-pound predator view humans as suitable prey. On the other hand, Austin neighborhoods with ESTABLISHED coyote populations (as opposed to those that have had coyotes removed in the past 10 years) have much fewer problems with deer, because coyotes change the behavior of deer. By keeping rodent, snake, and small predator populations down, coyotes also increase songbird populations. So why should Austin be setting nondiscriminant leghold traps in our parks and wild areas for a danger that, despite all this fearful hype, statistically DOES NOT EXIST? The new policy will enable those of us WHO CARE about our wildlife to better monitor what is going on in our parks and wild areas out of our sight, but with our tax dollars. That sounds like an improvement to me.


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