Thursday, May 2, 2013

Coyotes, Part II

Two days ago I opened the back door to let the dog and cat out, and there were, not one, but TWO coyotes standing just a few feet away, staring at me.  By this time I had read about hazing (what to do to get them to leave), so I flapped my arms, ran at them, and shouted, even got out my grandfather's old moose horn and blew it -- and then I sent out a warning email to the neighborhood.

One enterprising neighbor had already called the wildlife rescue crew, so a bunch of us trouped down to her home for wine, grapes, chocolate chip cookies, and a surprisingly educational presentation from the amazingly well-informed (and entertaining) Director of Wildlife Services, Michael Pratt and Rehabilitation Specialist Lynne Weber.

So here are some of the more interesting facts I learned about coyotes. First important thing to know: if you kill them, the numbers will multiply.  So it's best to scare them away instead -- and not offer attractions like open garbage cans, compost piles, feeding your pets outside, etc.  Only about 1% of their diet -- at least in Washington -- is domestic animals; they're more interested in rodents, goose eggs and vegetation, though they will cull a deer herd of its sickly members and fawns.  You're MUCH more likely to lose your cat (or small dog) to an eagle.  And even MORE likely to lose it to a great horned owl.  The eagle can only lift a quarter of its body weight; a horned owl can lift 3 to four TIMES its body weight.

It turns out the reason we're seeing these two this year (we've never had coyotes here before) is because this territory has been owned for years by an older coyote who had already figured out the population on our little street was too dense to be worth the hassle.  But even after hearing the wildlife presentation last year, somebody decided to shoot that coyote.  So these two have taken over his territory, and haven't figured out yet that the sandspit is more trouble than it's worth.  We're planning to help them discover that pretty quickly: when we see them, we'll look them in the eye, walk menacingly toward them, waving arms, shouting, and throwing cans full of pennies or stones in their general direction.  They don't like loud noises, so saxophone or trombone practice and honking horns can also be an option...

Happy Honking!

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