Eastern coyotes are being seen more frequently throughout our towns as residents and these animals learn to coexist peacefully. Milford’s Open Space and Natural Resource Agent Steve Johnson and CT DEEP Master Wildlife Conservationist and Biologist Chris Vann hosted a presentation sharing essential tips on how to do just that.

During the well-attended presentation held at the Milford Public Library, Johnson and Vann explained the ins and outs of coexisting with coyotes, which included information on their natural history, habitat, breeding habits, diet and importantly, how to avoid “coyote conflicts.”

With coyote encounters on the rise and Eastern Coyotes becoming more mainstream among Connecticut’s natural wildlife members and residents in the area, educating the public in an effort to avoid conflict becomes essential. Eastern Coyotes were first documented in Connecticut in the 1950’s and have since expanded their range. As coyotes have become more common among us, so too has the public’s concern.

The smart and beautiful Eastern Coyote is a wild North American canine of mixed coyote-wolf and dog parentage and is present in New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. This hybridization likely first occurred in the Great Lakes region as Western Coyotes moved East. Eastern Coyotes tend not to reach sexual maturity until the late age of two years.

Coyotes resemble a small, lanky German Shepard dog, but have wide, pointed ears, a long muzzle, yellow eyes and an uncurled bushy tail. Their weight averages between 30-50 pounds. A coyote’s diet consists mainly of mice, woodchucks, squirrels, rabbits, turkeys, and some fruits. Coyotes have been known of late to prey on small livestock, poultry and unsupervised pets (cats and small dogs weighing less than 25 lbs.). The risk of a coyote attacking a person is extremely low.

Johnson said, “The goal of the presentation was to share the information and tips that DEEP provides and to help people understand the difference between healthy, normal coyote behavior and behavior that becomes threatening and aggressive heightening the concern, triggering a management resource needed to deal with those. The DEEP and local police have very specific guidance on how they handle those situations. The mere presence of a coyote in a particular area doesn’t warrant that that coyote needs to be removed.”

By following suggested tips offered by the CT DEEP, enhanced safety measures and respectful coexistence can be largely attained. “Do NOT allow pets to run free, particularly at night. NEVER feed the coyotes, secure compost and trash in animal-proof containers. Always walk dogs on a leash, if approached by a coyote while walking your dog - keep the dog under control, calmly leave the area without running or turning your back to the coyote. Attempt to frighten the coyotes away by making loud noises (shouting, air horn) and by acting aggressively (waving arms, throwing sticks). Be aware of any coyote behaving abnormally or exhibiting unusually bold behavior (stalking, attacking leashed pets) and report to proper authorities if so. Be aware of and report of any coyotes that may be exhibiting behavior indicative of rabies (staggering, seizures, extreme lethargy). Daytime activity is not uncommon and does not necessarily indicate rabies. Teach children to recognize a coyote and to walk (do not run) into the house.”

“Also, close off crawl spaces beneath porches and sheds and educate your neighbors to follow these same tips. Regulated hunting/trapping may be used to remove problem coyotes in areas where it is safe and legal to do so.”

“We do get areas in the state that seem to become notable for their coyote conflicts and certainly Milford was on the radar this year,” said Vann. “People in Connecticut are perhaps becoming more coyote aware. In my opinion, the coyote is primarily a pet safety problem. The coyote conflict is one of the more serious wildlife conflicts that our state residents face. We manage wildlife and that includes controlling coyote populations when necessary or when damages are severe. Most of the coyote control is prevention, preventing attacks on pets.”

When asked of ways residents can coexist and follow proper prevention methods Vann suggested, “Of course being aware is important. People continue to put their pets in danger letting them out at night unsupervised. They’re putting their pets at great risk. Pet safety is number one. Hazing coyotes coming into the yard is part of our recommended control methods to try to break the pattern and chase them away. And the third thing is you do not want to be irresponsible and feed coyotes. A fed coyote is a dead coyote - because it becomes aggressive and has been documented across the country - they’ll then try to steal food from camp grounds and inhabited areas, they become food conditioned.”

“There is a never ending demand for space,” continued Vann. “Coyotes are looking to find space where they can survive. The data suggests the coyote complaints were increasing through the 90’s and early 2000’s but have leveled off. People aren’t complaining as much. Their numbers have increased over the years, we are harvesting and tagging about 200-250 animals per year - some of those are hunted, the majority are trapped.”

Vann added, “They are a game animal; they are a fur bearer and are managed as a valuable sustainable resource, like deer, fox, mink, beaver and many other species. In the late 1950’s when coyotes were first identified in Connecticut, they were listed as an unprotected species meaning they could be harvested at any time. The state did establish a hunting season way back, but that was changed and right now you can hunt coyotes 12 months of the year. Trapping is in effect from early November through mid-March.”

Contact the DEP Wildlife Division for more information by calling 860.424.3011 or by visiting www.ct.gov/dep/wildlife.