Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ramblin' Coyotes

Fall is here, and many of the animals born in the spring are now juveniles or adults, and are starting to fend for themselves. Coyotes are born generally from March to May, are weaned in about 6 weeks, and are self-sufficient juveniles after 5 to 6 months. Some juvenile coyotes stay with their family as a pack, but others may become solitary, dispersing away to find their own territory. Reasons why an individual will disperse away from a pack are generally due to the availability of food resources or the density of coyotes in the area. Although dispersal can happen at any time of year, approximately half of them occur in the fall. Being young and na├»ve, these juveniles may sometimes wander into inhospitable habitats, such as residential neighborhoods with busy roads and other hazards. Coyotes will often travel along habitat “edges” or pathways, such as roads, powerline easements, railroad tracks, and drainage courses. Some juveniles may have been raised in urban areas, taught by their parents to eat human-related food. Urban areas are tempting for coyotes, as they provide abundant food sources for the omnivorous and adaptable coyote. Although most coyote diets consist of small mammals (such as rodents and rabbits) and vegetation (such as fruit), approximately ¼ of the urban coyote’s diet comes from human-related food. This can include fallen fruit from trees and gardens, trash, pet food, and even sometimes pets themselves; however, recent studies have shown that pets, especially domestic cats, are generally a very small proportion of coyotes’ diets, ranging anywhere from one to six percent. Sometimes people even intentionally feed coyotes. But if food sources are deliberately, or even accidentally, provided by people these young coyote learn to associate human neighborhoods with food and may develop a reliance on these unnatural food sources, increasing their interactions with humans and reducing their natural fear of humans. The best way to avoid human-coyote interactions is to prevent them by keeping coyotes wild – here’s how:

• Fence your backyard. Fences that are 6 feet high and 6 inches underground are an effective means of keeping wildlife out, especially coyotes. More information about a specialized coyote proof fence can be found at http://coyoteroller.com/Products/features.htm
• Secure garbage cans.
• Do not intentionally provide food or water for wildlife.
• If you have fruit trees, pick ripe fruit from the tree on a regular basis, and pick up fallen fruit from the ground.
• Do not leave dog or cat food outside.
• Keep pets indoors, especially at night.
• Keep chickens, turkeys and goats in covered pens.
• Clear away bushes and dense weeds near your home where coyotes find cover and smaller prey to feed on.
• Eliminate water sources that may attract wildlife.
• Install outdoor lights triggered by motion sensors to frighten away wildlife at night.

Please visit the following links for more information on coexisting with wildlife:

• California Department of Fish and Game website for more information on coexisting with wildlife: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/education/living.html
• CA Department of Fish and Game’s Keep Me Wild Campaign: http://keepmewild.org/
• CA Department of Fish and Game's brochure about coyotes: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/docs/coyotebrochure.pdf
• Project Coyote: www.projectcoyote.org