Pet owners may want to keep a closer eye on the family dog in the coming months as coyote sightings in Geneva may become even more common.
February through April is the typical period for coyote mating and area municipalities have issued warnings to residents to take precautions.
"Coyotes are opportunistic and will go for easy prey, such as an unattended pet," according to the notice.
Although coyotes prefer to be far away from humans, they still test their limits and could become aggressive toward domestic dogs.
"Each encounter teaches a coyote something new, and without negative reinforcements, a coyote can develop aggressive habits," according to the forest preserve. "A coyote may start to regularly move through residential areas or around parks or schools; walk down streets or sidewalks; bask in yards or parks; decrease the distance between itself and humans or pets; or chase or attack pets during the day, even those on leashes or near their owners."
Here are some tips when encountering coyotes:
- Exhibit caution, but be confident and bold. Make loud noises and make yourself look larger by raising your hands above your head or flaring clothing; this type of reaction may help to re-instill a fear of humans.
- Do not be submissive, turn your back, or run.
- If a coyote follows you it’s likely you are walking through its territory and it is merely escorting or “shadowing” you to make sure you are not a threat.
- Although unlikely, if you encounter aggressive behavior, throw clods of earth or sticks near the ground by the coyote first, and then, if necessary, toward its body – never at its head.
Pet owners need to be wary. Coyotes are territorial and their survival instincts are strong. They are known to kill foxes to remove competition, and individual coyotes may view a dog in a similar manner.
Pet owners should consider taking the following precautions:
- Walk dogs on a leash. Small dogs may be viewed as potential prey while large dogs may be perceived by coyotes as a threat to themselves or their pups.
- Never leave dogs unattended in the yard and always keep them inside at night.
- Keep your yard well-illuminated when outdoors at night with your pet.
- Keep cats indoors.
More tips to help residents protect themselves and their pets:
- Do not encourage coyotes by feeding them; coyotes that are fed can lose their fear of people.
- Keep pet food and water dishes inside.
- Keep grills and barbecues clean.
- If possible, do not keep garbage cans outside.
- Clear all bushes and dense weeds near the home where coyotes might go for cover.