Our latest radar is on human, pet and coyote interactions.
As humans, along with our domestic pets, continue to expand into the natural habitat of wildlife, wild animals, including coyotes, have had to adapt to life in the city. In urban environments, food sources and shelter are plentiful and natural predators are limited, so it can be an environment to thrive in.
Wildlife has as much right to survival on this planet as we do, and they are part of the ecosystem, so we need to educate ourselves on how we can share the environment with wildlife yet ensure our children and pets remain safe.
Coyotes are typically non-confrontational by nature, shy as a rule and prefer to avoid people. However, any wildlife can demonstrate lack of fear of humans if either habituated to humans, or seriously ill.
Keeping your family and pets safe:
Coyotes have adjusted well to living in close proximity to humans. They are shy and prefer to avoid confrontations. In fact, although they range during the daytime or at night, they usually prefer to come out at night in order to avoid humans. Make sure you teach your children about animal safety and what to do if they should encounter various types of wildlife.
Here are 10 ways to safeguard your pets and minimize the risk of encountering a coyote:
Do not feed wildlife. Coyotes are attracted to deer feed stations and bird feeders. Over time they lose their natural fear of people and become accustomed to being near houses and humans.
Secure chicken houses.
Secure garbage and recycling bins. This avoids attracting not only coyotes but also the prey animals they hunt.
Do not leave dog or cat food out.
Secure pet doors.
Cover your grill or keep it in the garage.
Spay or neuter your dogs.
Be vigilant and accompany your dogs when they are outdoors - especially at night. Never leave them alone in the yard at night.
If you encounter a coyote, do not run. Clap, yell and throw things at it.
Report coyote sightings and confrontations to your local Animal Control or MNR officer (check our "Links" page for OSPCA and MNR contact info)
While the threat of coyotes cannot be eliminated altogether, following these tips will help ensure a distant coyote howl does not mean imminent danger for your four-legged friend.
If you walk in a park with coyote activity, take note of the following safety tips:
Carry a personal audible alarm (i.e. small air horn or you can even get key chain alarms) - it will deter a coyote and bring attention to yourself in case you need help
Carry a bright flashlight (bright light has been known to deter coyotes)
Keep your pet leashed
Keep an umbrella in close reach (the action of opening/closing will deter a coyote)
If you are approached by a coyote:
Make yourself appear larger and shout and/or clap your hands together
Stay calm, hold your ground
How do you know if the animal you have encountered is a coyote?
How to Recognize
Fur - includes shades of brown, tan, and grey and blends well into the landscape, making them stealthy and effective hunters.
Tail - coyotes carry their tails down (wolves and dogs normally carry their tails level).
Tracks - coyote paw prints are more oval (elongated) in shape and their two front toes will be closer together and point straight forward compared to those of dogs and wolves, which are rounder and their toes are more evenly spaced. Coyote and wolf track patterns will be a straight line, domestic dog tracks will meander and zig zag.
Size - coyotes stand 1.5 to 2 feet tall, 41 to 53 inches long, and weigh from 20 to 50 pounds, the males being larger.
They usually have 3 to 12 pups in their spring and summer litters.
Their social structure typically consists of nuclear families (with one male, one female and several offspring) or loose-knit groups of pairings and pups.
They are most active from dawn to dusk but are often nocturnal to avoid human contact.
Their jaws can exert 300 pounds of pressure and they can run 40 miles per hour. Their usual gait is a ground-eating trot.
Listen for differences:
Wolves howl in long and low tones and seldom bark, but they do practice “bark howling” when they become alarmed. Howling wolf pups can sound similar to coyotes.
Coyote howls are generally mixed with yips, yelps, and barks that are higher pitched than those of wolves.
The howls of large dog breeds are sometimes difficult to distinguish from the howls of wolves.
WOLVES VS COYOTES
(excerpt from Western Wildlife Outreach):
Distinguishing a wolf from a domestic hybrid (wolf-dog) can be difficult unless the animal has characteristics of a domestic breed such as a curly tail or floppy ears. Wolf-dog hybrids are more difficult and may be misclassified even with sophisticated measurements.
Wolves come in a variety of colors, many with a grizzled gray coat or an additional reddish-orange hue, and light underside, legs and muzzle. Wolves can also be black, or even white (rare in our region) and all variations in-between. In contrast, coyotes are more consistent in their color, with typical variations of grizzled brown, gray, and reddish hues. With the exception of black or white wolves, do not rely on color to distinguish between these two species.
Wolves adapted to a life of hunting large animals, have a broader snout and larger nose pad than coyotes. Coyotes don’t handle large prey as consistently as wolves do. They have a snout that is narrow and less robust in appearance, and their nose pad is less than one inch (2.5 cm) wide.
Ears and Eyes
Wolves’ ears, roughly two inches long, are shorter relative to their head size, and more rounded at their tips when compared to coyotes’ ears, which appear longer and more pointed. The eyes of a wolf are yellow and at night their eye shine is a greenish gold.
Wolves have moderately long legs and relatively large feet which are efficient for travel on snow. Coyotes’ feet appear smaller relative to their body size.
Hearing a wolf howl in the wild can be a thrilling experience, especially since wolves may be heard more often than they are seen. However, differentiating between a wolf howl and the howl of a coyote or domestic dog can be difficult.