Either coyote populations or people’s fish stories about them are increasing. I’m not sure which, but I know I’ve received more warnings and heard more far-fetched recounts of coyote encounters than any other year I can remember.
Over the weekend I was sitting in the waiting room of the facility where my daughter receives pitching lessons and I overheard a whopper. One dad exclaimed to another dad, “They’ve been terrible this year. My neighbor has already killed two of them and one was as big as he is!”
I tried to mind my own business, I promise. But sitting on the other side of the room, reading the same paragraph in my book three times in a row, I couldn’t ignore the exuberant responses to the man’s claims. Everyone was so excited to get onboard with his story and perpetuate the likely unnecessary fear of coyotes that’s been going around.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources hasn’t released data on changes in coyote populations since 2015 when they recorded an average of 14.7 coyote sightings across the state of Ohio during a time period of 1,000 hours. When that data was released the 26-year average was 12.1 reported sightings over the same time period, which is equal to more than 41 days. Furthermore, coyotes could be found living in a variety of habitats — wooded forests, farmlands, residential neighborhoods and cities — in all 88 counties in Ohio in 2015 and were (and still are) considered common throughout the state.
On their website, the ODNR reports “the statewide population trend appears to be leveling off after increases were observed during the 1990s.”
I don’t know how coyote populations have fluctuated from 2015-2020, but given the fact that populations saw a decrease from 2010-2015 and only a slight increase from 2005-2015, I’m going to guess the change in population isn’t responsible for all the hype.
And their size isn’t responsible either. Coyotes are slender, about the same size as a medium-sized dog. They can reach up 2 feet tall at their shoulder and grow to about 4 feet long. Depending on its stature, a coyote can weigh between 20 and 50 pounds.
Coyotes are much smaller than wolves, despite being mistaken for them from time to time (it’s important to note there are no wild wolves living in Ohio). Like wolves, coyotes have narrow faces with large pointed ears. They can also have similar fur patterns, containing rusty brown, gray, off-white or any combination of these colors. However, coyotes have a distinctive bushy tail, which is usually tipped in black.
Coyotes are most active during breeding season from January to March and during the fall when pups become old enough to survive on their own. You’re most likely to spot a coyote during dusk or dawn; however, coyotes have been spotted hunting during daylight hours as well. If you see a coyote, there’s no need to report sightings to wildlife officials unless the animal appears sick, hurt or habituated to humans.
Coyotes are usually shy and timid towards people and will often flee when they see a person — more than likely if you see a coyote it will be scared off if you do nothing. On the other hand, if you believe you have a coyote lurking around your house or want to ensure you don’t attract any coyotes, follow these tips from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources:
- Remove attractants. Get rid of anything that could attract a coyote to your property — trash that was put out overnight for pickup, pet food, fruit that has fallen from a tree or bush. Coyotes are omnivores, which means they eat both plant and animal-based foods.
- Keep rodent populations under control. Coyotes prey on small animals like mice, rabbits, moles, voles and shrews. Keeping populations of these prey animals under control limits the potential for food sources around your home.
- Small dogs and cats should be kept indoors. Because coyotes prey on small mammals, there’s a possibility your smaller pets could be targeted.
- Keep larger dogs on a leash. It’s also important to keep larger dogs on a leash when taking them out at night when coyotes are active to prevent confrontations. Coyotes will attack larger dogs in defense of themselves or their territory.
- Clap your hands, shout, be loud. If you find a coyote lingering around your property, make noise, clap your hands, shout and be loud to scare it off. Most coyotes will leave at this point, but if you find the animal is still lingering, ODNR suggests banging pots and pans together, using an air horn, throwing a tennis ball at it or spraying it with a water hose.
- Get a hunting license. Coyotes in rural areas can be controlled through legal hunting and trapping methods, but you must obtain a hunting license to participate and follow ODNR’s guidelines. Consult the yearly Ohio Hunting and Trapping Regulations booklet for more information.
- Contact ODNR. If a coyote is not responding to harassment techniques, contact a nuisance trapper by calling 1-800-WILDLIFE.
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