Nearly every winter, Hamilton County residents come out howling about dangerous coyotes roaming the suburbs.
Some shrug it off as a bunch of hysterics who exaggerate the threat instead of choosing to live peacefully with the creatures. Others say they have witnessed an attack and that short-staffed authorities are ignoring the problem.
To prevent future issues, Hamilton County Parks and the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife gave a presentation on these wild canines to a packed crowd of more than a hundred people.
The goal was to provide information so neighbors can know what they do to prevent any dangerous encounters.
Shawn Rossler, fur bearer biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, spoke about all of different animals that can be found in the area, many of which could be mistaken for coyotes. Red foxes and gray foxes are smaller than coyotes and do live in the area. Gray wolves are not found in Indiana, but Rossler said they often get calls.
“There can be confusion about the general size of an animal,” he said. “When you actually compare a wolf and a coyote it’s pretty amazing.”
Coyotes generally weigh 20 to 35 pounds with a length of four to five feet with a tail that’s a foot and a half. They have 42 teeth and their fur is tawny gray with black-tipped hairs. They might resemble certain domestic dog breeds, but coyotes will have more pointed features, such as their ears and muzzle.
There’s no count of coyotes down by Indiana DNR, but archery hunters are often asked to keep track of animals they see during their long, patient hunts. As a result, DNR is convinced that sightings have definitely increased over the last 20 or so years.
Coyotes are generally secretive and hunt solitary or as a group. Their home range is about one to seven miles and coyotes will defend this territory from other coyotes.
Breeding season usually takes place in January and February and that’s when authorities receive the most reports of coyote attacks.
Due to the frequency of complaints, DNR can’t provide assistance to remove nuisance animals, but Rossler said the existence of a coyote shouldn’t itself be a concern.
“Just because you see a coyote, doesn’t mean there is a conflict,” he said. “I understand it’s a concern, but we’ve had coyotes in Indiana for a long time. It might have already have been living near you with no problem.”
HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM
If you want to rid your neighborhood of coyotes, the best method might be to hire a licensed Indiana nuisance wildlife control officer. Tim Julien, who works in that field, spoke to the crowd about exactly the services he provides.
Julien said the only coyotes he really deals with are those that have “lost that fear of humans” because they’ve been fed by people.
“Coyote already knows how to be wild, leave them that way,” he said.
Julien said a coyote that doesn’t fear people might tear through a screened-in porch to attack a pet.
Julien recently set up coyote traps at 106th Street and Gray Road and caught six coyotes within four nights
In Indiana, it is legal to hunt coyotes, but it’s illegal to discharge a firearm within city limits, which means that trapping is the best method.
The sharp metal bear traps you see in movies aren’t what we are talking about though. Experts recommend the best way is to use a “soft trap” with rubber sides that won’t injure an animal. There are also wire traps and snares that will only trap canines – not cats – and will allow a trapped animal to breathe until someone can safely set it free or euthanize it.
Julien said he has camera on his traps and he checks them every 12 hours so an animal doesn’t struggle in the trap for a long time.
Homeowners are allowed to set up their own traps, but only on their own property.
If you do see a coyote in your yard, Rossler said the best thing to do isn’t to run away or grab a weapon. You should make lots of loud noises to scare the animal away.
Tips for Prevention:
- Feed pets indoors whenever possible
- Position bird feeders in a way to not attract small animals
- Secure garbage container
- Don’t allow pets to run free
- Install motion sensor lights
- If you do see a coyote, yell or bang on something to create negative reinforcement so the coyote doesn’t want to come back.
How to identify:
Rope-like scat with bone or hair in it and poorly digested food such as nuts and berries.
About 2.75 inches long with four toe paths with nail marks. Coyote tracks are more oval than a domestic dog track. Dogs might wander, but coyotes walk in a straight line and don’t explore or play.
Coyotes are typically 20 to 35 pounds and measure 40 to 50 inches in length with pointed ears and muzzle. They have comparatively long legs and tawny gray fur with black-tipped hairs.
- Breeding season is January to early February
- Breeding increases the defense of a territory
- About 1 to 12 pups are born and raised in a den
- Dens are usually found in a bank or hillside and the parents will bring food back to the pups in the den and regurgitate it to the young coyotes
- Breeding season often results in an increase in urban coyote conflicts with domestic pets
- 15 to March 15 is hunting and trapping season
- Nuisance animals can be removed throughout the year on your own property, but it has to be your property. Otherwise, you need a nuisance wildlife control operator license
Interactions and conflict
- Habitation is a problem when people feed coyotes and they no longer fear people
- Attacks or death of pets do increase during breeding season
- Attacks on humans are almost unheard of
Feb March April – Den site selection
April May – Birthing
May Jun July – Raiding pups
July Aug Sept Oct – expanding home territories
Oct through January – Dispersal, breeding, denning
Here are some examples of safe coyote traps and snares: