By Maggie Mae…with Ronni Diamondstein
Last fall I heard our neighbor Dana leave a message on our answering machine, “Please be careful when you take Maggie outside. I just saw a coyote walking on the road in front of your house.” Other neighbors had told my owner that they heard coyotes howl at night, but we had never seen one. As soon as I could, I contacted Officer James Moore, the New Castle Animal Control Officer to find out what my owner and I could do to stay safe.
Officer Moore said that the coyotes probably already knew where I lived. That really scared me, so I listened closely to his suggestions. So did my owner. He said to carry a whistle when we went out before daylight. If we saw a coyote, we should make noise and never turn our backs on them. If we ran away, the coyotes will think we were prey and go after us. He also put me in touch with Kevin Clarke, Wildlife Biologist with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. “Coyotes are part of our environment,” he said, “and we can live peacefully with them.”
Coyotes are out there, Clarke says, and people need to modify their behavior so they and their dogs, especially small ones, don’t have a bad meeting. He said to stop doing the things that attract them to our homes. Don’t feed pets or stray cats outside, don’t use bird feeders, compost food items or leave trash uncovered. If you do see a coyote, you need to make it afraid of you. Like Officer Moore, he said to make lots of noise, to throw rocks or sticks, wave your arms and make yourself look scary. Don’t let them hang around and feel comfortable. “Most coyotes around the state do exhibit a healthy fear of humans,” says Clarke, “but in more urbanized areas they are comfortable around people and become bold and curious.” He said the likelihood of coyotes attacking people is very low, but he warned us that there have been cases around the country when coyotes attacked young children.
“To keep pets safe,” he said, “keep cats inside and keep dogs on a leash or in a fenced enclosure. Invisible fences are not a good way to keep them safe as coyotes will often come into a yard to kill a dog.” He also told us that small dogs like me should stay on a leash and in closed quarters–or bulk up. Coyotes don’t usually attack dogs larger than 35 pounds.
Over the summer, while I was writing this story, I realized how important it is. A little dog was killed by a coyote right in her own backyard in our town. The scary part was that the dog was right near the house.
Clarke says to enjoy wildlife from a distance. “We can never predict the behavior of wild animals with 100% certainty.” The best advice he offers is to change our behavior so we don’t attract coyotes and make them feel comfortable around us. You can find out more about coyotes and other things you can do around your home to keep these animals away from you and your pets. Just visit the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website www.dec.ny.gov/animals/6971.html and the Westchester County website health.westchestergov.com/coyotes
Now I hear there was a Black Bear seen near the Duck Pond. I’d better find out what to do about them. Contact Maggie Mae Pup Reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org
Maggie Mae lives in Chappaqua with her adoring owner Ronni Diamondstein, who, when she isn’t walking Maggie is a freelance writer, PR consultant, award-winning photographer and a School Library Media Specialist and teacher who has worked in the US and abroad.
Photo Courtesy of New York State DEC