Coyotes creep into our communities | SierraSun.com

Coyotes creep into our communities

Joanna Hartman
Sierra Sun
01.15.07 Coyote at Tahoe City Golf Course
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They are nocturnal, but you see them during the day. They eat rodents and small animals, but they may consume an unattended pet.

They roam the open spaces, but you’ll see them on roads, lurking around homes or in Dumpsters.

Coyotes are one of the most adaptable and clever of wild mammals. And today, more than ever, you are likely to run into one of these urbanized or suburbanized creatures in Truckee and North Tahoe. And they are causing some problems.

“They’re lethal killers,” said Anne Bryant, executive director of the BEAR League. “They’re capable of planning, scheming, working as a unit and taking down very large animals.”

Bryant recalled numerous stories about coyotes taking or killing cats, dogs and even a bear in the area, as well as instances of coyote packs stalking unsupervised toddlers.

Originally relegated to the Great Plains, coyotes are now found from Central America to the Arctic regions, and in every state except Hawaii, according to the Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Service.

Because coyote territory has changed dramatically, they are often found foraging for garbage or stalking small animals in populated areas.

Truckee-Tahoe homeowners should take similar precautions with coyotes as they do with bears to keep the animals from becoming emboldened, authorities say.

“When fed by people, coyotes become unnaturally bold and the result is conflict between coyotes and people, which too often ends in serious harm,” according to the California Department of Fish and Game literature on the animals.

Once coyotes lose their fear of humans they can become aggressive in their search for food.

Californians report seeing more coyotes now than in years past, causing an increasing number of problems in urban areas, said Steve Martarano, spokesperson for the California Department of Fish and Game.

The department doesn’t have numbers on coyote populations in the region, but Martarano said as coyotes get more comfortable being around people they become increasingly insolent.

Because of this, residents notice the animals much more often.

“If there is food around, they’ll stick around and cause problems,” Martarano said.

Placer County sheriff’s dispatch rarely receives calls about coyotes, but Lt. John Addoms agrees the creatures around Truckee-Tahoe are brave.

“They seem to be very brazen up here,” Addoms said. “Much more than in the foothills where I live.”

Placer County Animal Control Officer Peter Krengel said in his eight years with the department he has never seen a coyote bite, but recognizes it as a slim possibility. He does, however, receive calls about missing pets and would contribute a number to coyote attacks.

Both animal control and Fish and Game only become involved with coyotes once they pose a threat to public safety. The state’s role is primarily animal education such as the State’s “Keep ’em Wild” campaign.

“Attacking pets is not considered public safety, for the most part,” Martarano said.

But coyotes have been known to occasionally attack humans. A coyote in San Diego County reportedly bit a child who was playing in a park, and almost 20 coyote bites have been reported in other Southern California communities, Martarano said.

Other wildlife such as mountain lions are also receiving media attention spurred by an attack in Northern California last month.

People who see coyotes should make them feel unwelcome and “shoo” them away from populated areas, Bryant said. Feeding the animal not only invites them back but is illegal and punishable by fine or jail time, she said.

“They’re born predators so we don’t have to feel sorry for them or feed them,” said Bryant.