Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Coyote Ugly

I'm a bit freaked out- we had a large coyote in our backyard about 9pm last night. It howled a really weird howl and was about 20 feet from the house right by our outdoor playset. Don't have a picture- Todd turned on the lights and banged on the windows and he eventually jumped the chain link fence across the back of our lot, back into the woods near Purgatory Creek. He wasn't in a huge hurry either.

We purposely bought in our neighborhood because it was one that allowed fences to be built on the lots. We like our privacy and we had a large dog who wasn't very friendly to strangers. We had to put him to sleep 3 months after we moved in when he bit a good friend of mine. It was the most awful thing, but it had to be done.

We have lots of wildlife- ducks, muskrats, owls, etc- that have come into the yard- we even had a large buck trot right down the middle of our street a couple of years ago- but this is a first and it really scares me. We have a pretty steep lot down to the creek (unusable land for us, but provides a lot of tree coverage)....it took some effort to climb up that slope and jump a fence- he must have been chasing something.

A neighbor in an adjacent neighborhood had a coyote in their yard last summer in the early evening and Todd saw one crossing the street on Sunnybrook Road about a year ago, another friend saw one crossing Franlo Road recently-- seems obvious that we have a problem. I enjoy Minnesota wildlife (well except Canadian Geese) but when they're bold enough to jump fences-- it needs to be addressed. Also- these coyotes are new to the area- we didn't move to their territory- they're moving to ours.

A resident wrote a letter to the editor last year in the EP News about this problem when somebody saw a coyote jump her fence (she has two small dogs).

According to my research around the web and a phone call to the DNR- it's up to local law enforcement agencies to deal with the problem- leaving a wide variety of solutions depending on where you live. They are not a protected animal- so it's legal to have them killed.

In Red Wing, MN- the City voted a couple years ago to immediately trap and kill 10-20 coyotes that were in residential neighborhoods.

In Blaine- the City paid $1,500 to have five coyotes removed from a park.

In Minnetonka- the City Police department is keeping track of sightings and encounters. They encourage residents to call 911 if they encounter an aggressive coyote.

In Plymouth- they receive 6 calls a week from residents about coyotes in their yards.

In Madison, WI they're calling in the feds for Madison neighborhoods being affected by coyotes.

In Eagan- two coyotes attacked a small dog (who had been attacked twice previously by coyotes), that had to be euthanized this March. One of their Animal Control officers said this about the incident:

“Coyotes have become well adapted to suburban living, and are a sign that Eagan has a healthy ecosystem that can easily support all types of animals,” she wrote.

Oh, that's nice. The suburbs of the Twin Cities are not the natural habitat of these predators- according to a WCCO article from March-

Wildlife experts said the number of coyotes has increased in the suburbs because their comfort level has increased. As humans continue to build in their habitat, coyotes are coming to us for food.

The City of EP seems to take a laid-back approach- per it's website:

Typically, coyotes are opportunistic hunters and will take advantage of the easiest and most available food sources. This includes many different types of food ranging from garbage to small mammals and birds. Unfortunately, theymay infrequently also prey on domestic cats or small dogs so it’s always a good idea to monitor your pet while it's outside, even if you aren’t aware of anything in your area.

Although coyotes can be a threat to domestic pets, they are not a threat to humans. In fact, according to the
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), there has never been a documented coyote attack on a human in Minnesota. Statistics from around the country show people are far more likely to be bitten by a domestic dog than to be bitten by a coyote.

Well- that's comforting. Of course coyotes have attacked people in other parts of the country where they are overpopulated. Just a year ago in residential areas of California- coyotes attacked three toddlers in three separate incidences including dragging children from their yards and a local playground.

I decided to call the City today. I left a message and quickly got a call back from a gentleman in Animal Control this morning- he tells me that they get these coyote sighting calls, but they don't do anything with the information. There's no plan by the city to address the problem. I ask if I can shoot the coyote if it's on my property- "No"- Can I shoot him with a bee-bee gun? "No, you can't shoot a gun in Eden Prairie"-- "I can't shoot a gun in Eden Prairie? Sure I can."-- "Not without a permit"- "Oh, a permit to shoot the coyote?"- "Yes, and you won't get one- you need like 80 acres of land". (Actually it's 40 acres).

I ask about how many calls they get a month- he guesses about 12. For a full year- that's a lot of sightings- and let's assume that many other people don't even call.

The guy tries to compare the coyotes to rattlesnakes, etc- I cut him off "A snake is not the same as a coyote and I see that your website says they haven't attacked humans in MN- but that doesn't mean they haven't in other states"-- the guy concurs and gives me another name of somebody to call at City Hall. Okay....I left that person a message this afternoon and I'll keep you posted on what he says.

An interesting exercise so far- I've learned that the City of Eden Prairie has 1989 Ordinance and a permit process to discharge a firearm, but isn't that negated by this last provision?

Subd. 6. Lawful Defense of Person, Property or Family. Nothing herein shall be construed to prohibit any firing of a gun, pistol or other weapon when done in lawful defense of person, property or family or by law enforcement personnel executing their official duties.

Oh- that pesky 2nd Amendment. I have no intention of sitting on my back deck with a double-barrel shotgun looking for critters to shoot- but if one of these predators comes in my backyard again when my kids are outside, I'd like to know my recourse-- besides hanging my Marc Jacobs coyote trimmed winter coat along my back fenceline....

Seems to me that the DNR needs to step in with an overall plan to control the growing coyote population in the suburbs and knock-off the P.C. attitude that these predators aren't a problem.


Jim said...

In spite of your counter-examples, I tend to think they avoid humans and would run away if you yelled at them (or wouldn't approach in the first place if they saw you before you saw them). CA might be more of a desert climate where they go after the odd person once in a while when they can't find anything else to eat. Or there are so many people living in the "inland empire" now that the odd rabid coyote runs across humans more often.

The somewhat scary part of your encounter was that this was in a fenced area. If the coyote got in and then felt cornered and unable to get out, it might attack someone. In an open yard, he'd probably just run away before any person got close.

Assuming nothing will change, perhaps you need a higher fence, or if your fence is already a decent height, perhaps something like this would help. You saw it go over your fence,so you can judge if such a device would help.

Or maybe no fence is better if you don't intend to have another dog. Then again, perhaps you want to keep the toddlers contained so you need the fence.

In the grand scheme of things, you're probably more likely to be hurt in a car accident, mugging, etc. Some concern is warranted, but I wouldn't be overly concerned. Probably just telling your kids the basic advice on what do to when they see one is enough to prepare for the rare event.

Sheila said...

That Coyote roller product may solve the problem! Thanks- Our fence is lower in the back (maybe 4feet because of the creek), but they have to climb from a steep grade.

Know the chances of an attack are incredibly slim- would just like to know if there's any plan to deal with them.

liz said...

We've had two coyote sightings in our back yard - and both just walked right up out of the "marsh" area, sauntered through are yard and up through both of our neighbors' yards. I, too, was concerned about this, as this is where our kids play all the time. When my husband called the city (both times), they said they'd log the sighting but that it was not a concern. A plan to curb coyotes comfort in the suburbs would be most welcome!