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Jeff Ward: How to Keep Coyotes Honest

I love our adaptable canine interlopers, but let's keep them scared of humans.

Considering the most recent and the plethora of readers who waded in on the subject, I figured it was time to set the record straight. Warner Brothers got it wrong! Wile E. Coyote should never have been portrayed as the sap they made him out to be. You see, in the real world, that crafty creature would’ve made mincemeat out of the roadrunner in short order.

Not only are these magnificent beasts incredibly intelligent, but they’ve taken our best blow and bounced back with a vengeance. If our fading downtown could muster just one-tenth of a coyote’s amazing adaptability, those merchants would’ve already brought the Internet to its knees.

If you doubt me, look no further than that aforementioned poll, where a massive 42 percent of respondents reported seeing a coyote within the past week. That’s the kind of number we psychology majors like to call “statistically significant.”

And I have to say I’m really proud of all of you! Unlike so many other west suburban dwellers, you neither swooned nor developed a case of the vapors when confronted with the mere though of an encounter with one of those shaggy creatures.

The particular commentary theme that struck me (beyond the fox vs. coyote conversation) was the number of you who were astonished at how bold and tame our formerly feral neighbors have become.

But who’s fault is that? Like most husbands, animals are eminently trainable, and these local coyotes are behaving exactly as we’ve conditioned them to, because we’ve failed to assert our dominance. We’ve allowed them get used to us and as a result, if you leave her outside unattended, that could mean the end of little Fifi.

Now, before you go all NRA on me, we’re not talking about pulling out the double-barreled shotgun and given ‘em what for. I’m guessing the would likely frown on that kind of thing.

What I’m talking about is reclaiming your territory. That’s a language that even coyotes understand.

For example, despite running through my entire subdivision five times a week, I haven’t seen a coyote in the populated portions in the last year. And I’m convinced the reason for that absence is because, previous to that, every time I’ve seen a coyote I’ve lit after it like a Republican chasing down a teacher’s pension.

Think about it! If you saw a 6-foot-tall, 178-pound balding male bearing down on you at a 13-second 100-meter dash speed in bright-colored running garb while emitting a rebel yell, you’d probably run, too.

There have been times my longsuffering Australian cattle dog gazed up at me mid chase with a look that certainly said, “Are you sure this is a good idea?” But the canny critters flee every time, because I never corner them, and that’s exactly what instinct tells them to do.

After about five separate pursuits, given their vast territorial and somewhat solitary nature, I haven’t seen one of our furry friends in the daytime for the aforementioned year.

I know what you’re thinking, “But Jeff! Given my sedentary nature, should I be silly enough to take off after a coyote I could end up on the bad heart attack end of that bargain. Not to fear, dear reader! There’s more than one famous Burns in Geneva!

And the Burns to whom I’m referring this time is none other than Trish Burns, our sage Peck Farm Park Manager and wildlife expert extraordinaire. When we discussed this topic a few years ago, she said if you do see a coyote near your domicile, hoot, clap or bang some garbage can lids.

The point of all that noise is to ensure they stay afraid of humans. It’s too bad we can't just make them to watch Fox News. That’d make ‘em head for the hills.

I also asked Burns if marking your territory—the old fashioned way—might be an effective deterrent and, while it wouldn’t be her first choice, she did think it could work. 

Though it could confuse your family dog, simply down a few Hienekins, head out to the back yard under the cover of darkness, and set your property line, as it were! Repeat as necessary—especially the Hieneken part. Who said interacting with nature (or in this case the call of nature) can’t be fun?

Because while I’m certainly fond of our eminently adaptive and here-to-stay coyote companions, or “Eatibus Anythinus” per the famous cartoon, our best bet is to do our best to be sure their fear of humans doesn’t fade.

Who knows? Maybe coyote chasing will spell an end to our obesity epidemic.

Colin C. June 11, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Jeff, As I mentioned, that's what I did the last time a coyote came into our yard, it left. and we haven't seen it since. Here's a little trick that I learned from a Native American many years ago that might help those who aren't so sure that a coyote or fox won't run from them. He told me that as a child he hunted small animals in the "old way" with a "rabbit stick"; a piece of tree limb 1" to 1 1/2" in diameter and 18" to 24" long. He taught me to stand facing the target, to throw the stick with a full, side arm motion but turning the body as little as possible, and with no arm follow through; the throwing hand should end up pointing at the target. I got pretty accurate in a very short time. He could take a flying bird at 25-30 feet. If the stick has some weight the forward velocity plus the spin make for a deadly weapon. It can easily kill a small animal or break a man's leg. I quit hunting, fishing, etc. years ago when I finally figured out that they have as much right to live as I do. But, since my yard is fenced and a predator might think itself trapped, I have two rabbit sticks sitting by the back door.
Jeff Ward June 11, 2012 at 01:28 PM
Colin, Yes! But have you tried marking your territory? Jeff
Colin C. June 11, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Yeah, I did. I put up signs saying "Coyotes and Foxes NOT WELCOME!!!" but they didn't seem to work very well.

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