“If you see it on the Internet, it has to be true.” That was a common misconception when the Internet was new. That feeling has almost reversed itself, it seems, these days. Internet scams are so prevalent, I don’t believe much of the information I find there.
At least, I look to see the source of the information I find online to better judge its authenticity and reliability. Usually, the information I get from the DNR is pretty good, especially the wildlife information from the DNR’s Division of Wildlife. Much of that information is gathered by field biologists who not only have a science based perspective of various wildlife species but often have had personal experience with the wild animals in the news to season their science with common sense.
A recent news blurb from the DNR advised citizens to be mostly unconcerned about seeing coyotes at this time of year.They pointed out, it’s winter; cover is sparse; there’s apt to be snow on the ground. It’s easier to spot a coyote, near or far.
They also pointed out coyotes are predators and survive by being able to find and eat enough calories to offset the energy it takes for them to hunt their food and keep warm in the cold winter weather. Winter is the “scarce” time of the year. Animal populations dwindle, food becomes harder to find, coyotes are likely to spend more time hunting, you are more likely to see them. That all makes sense to me.
Consider too, early winter is also when the family groups split up. During the summer and fall the female coyotes nurture and train their pups, readying them for life on their own. At this time of year people are apt to see more coyotes, particularly young, inexperienced ones, since they are learning to make a go of it on their own and either hunting more or just making foolish mistakes.
Also consider — and the DNR’s news release mentioned it — January is the breeding season and coyotes, both young and old, are seeking mates. As they seek, they are on the move and apt to be spotted more frequently. It’s both science and common sense.
Then apparently, the DNR’s news writer seemed to start relying on Internet sources. “Where people are, coyotes follow,” read the essay.
I’m not so sure about the coyotes actually seeking out people. Other than the very odd, very confused coyote, they don’t seek out people. They seek out places where they find food easily and reliably. Sometimes, that happens to be around people, but they are not following them. If they were following people, there would be more coyotes downtown than in the suburbs. Maybe the DNR news writer just didn’t get the message across perfectly.
They are right that coyotes do occur in urban areas — at least occasionally — and so the news release concluded with tips about discouraging coyotes and how to act if a coyote is encountered. The first part was sensible from a very common point of view.
Coyotes only hang around in urban areas because of readily available food and they are opportunistic feeders. The DNR expert explained, “Don’t feed them accidentally or on purpose. Keep garbage containers secure. Clean up fallen fruit from apple trees. Don’t feed your pets outside.”
I’m adding, “Don’t let your pets outside unattended. Coyotes would rather eat a cat or small dog than a frozen apple.”
The final tips were assuredly something they read on the Internet. They said, “If you see a coyote and want it to go away, try make it uncomfortable. Yell at it!”
(Will that make a coyote uncomfortable?)
“Run into the house,” I say, “while you are running go ahead and scream at uncomfortable levels.” It may not cause the coyote discomfort, but you’ll feel better.
“Wave your arms at them,” reads the report. For what? To get their attention?
Their next tip is, “Spray it with a hose.”
If a coyote shows up while I’m washing the car (in the winter), I’ll squirt it. Otherwise, by the time I get the hose from where it’s stored for the winter, hooked up, uncoiled, the hydrant turned on and I get a stream of water heading it’s way, I could have run indoors, waving and screaming.
It gets better. They suggest, “Throw tennis balls or small stones at it, but don’t throw anything that could be food, like apples.”
Get real! If I’m holding an apple, I’m going to throw it first. Maybe the coyote will go for the apple and give me time to search for rocks or tennis balls to throw next.
Finally, they say — and this one they had to find on the Internet — “Carry a jar of coins to shake or a small air horn to make noise.” If I have so many coyote encounters that I purposely carry a jar of coins or an air horn, I’m calling someone with a trap or a gun.