Rural Fallbrook living means coyote sightings
Last updated 4/19/2007 at Noon
On a crisp, early, Sunday morning, I was taking my client’s dog for a walk in the Morro Hills area of Fallbrook. I glanced down the street and noticed a loose German Shepherd headed my way. After a double take, I noticed two more German Shepherds loping behind the dog in the lead. How odd, I thought to myself. I blinked my eyes and squinted, and immediately realized that my forty-something-eyes were playing tricks on me. Those were a pack of coyotes and they were headed right towards us.
As the coyotes approached me, their lope downshifted to a slow creep-like walk. Our encounter by no means escalated to a dramatic jaw-snapping scene. Nevertheless, my heart pounded faster and I was growing quite uneasy being the center of the packs’ attention. Instinctively, I stomped my feet and yelled, “Get out of here!”
Two of the coyotes appeared to be unmoved by my grand gesture, as if to say, “Is that all you’ve got?”
By a stroke of good luck, my brazen display did affect the smaller coyote of the pack. As it fled the scene, the two followed close behind. While I expelled a breath of relief, I noticed how the pack stopped every few feet, turned back and gazed in my direction. Eventually, they headed over a hillside, making frequent stops to bury their noses in gopher holes.
On my way back to my client’s home, I confessed to myself that I am a true blue city slicker. I have no “country sense” when it comes to coyotes. I then pondered if I was the only who was unaware of coyote behavior. This revelation spurred me to interview Julie Bank, Executive Director of the North County Humane Society and SPCA. I am hopeful that my fellow city slickers may find the following question and answer dialogue might be helpful.
Q: Should we be afraid of coyotes?
A: No, you should not be scared if you see a coyote. Coyotes live in our community. As long as we keep encroaching into more open space areas, like building more houses in areas where wildlife live, whether it’s coyotes or other animals, we will start seeing more of this wildlife. A lot of times people want the beautiful trees and beautiful environment, but they don’t want the wildlife that comes with it; or they only want certain wildlife. We have to recognize that these animals do share our world. And the key word is share. The more we infringe on their world, the more we will see them. They are looking for food sources. We have to be prepared for that.
Q: What should we do if we encounter a coyote?
A: You should keep your distance and stay as far away as possible. Do not try to touch them. Do not try to get close to them. Do not try to befriend them. Just stay away and admire from a distance. You also do not want to run or scream. Those are actions that can cause coyotes to do something different than they would normally do. Another thing you don’t want to do is feed them.
Q: What should parents teach their children to do if they see a coyote?
A: Parents should teach their children the above safety guidelines. Also, it is very common for a child to want to touch an animal, but these animals are wild animals and they need to be left wild. Coyotes need to be left alone.
Q: What should we do if we encounter a pack of coyotes?
A: Coyotes actions are bolder when they are in a pack. If you are walking a dog, they are looking at your dog as prey. You want to be careful, because it could be a dangerous situation. First, don’t run away or scream. If you do, you could be viewed as prey. Do not stare them in the eye. If possible, turn to the side, rather than glaring at them head-on. Slowly, get away from the situation.
Making a loud noise, like banging the ground with your feet and yelling a startling noise can sometimes startle them. Changing the tone of your voice in a calm and authoritative way can sometimes provide you with an opportunity to get away. Don’t wave a stick at them. This can antagonize them.
Q: What kinds of domestic animals do coyotes usually see as prey?
A: Cats and small dogs. You need to be careful of your pet, and the best way to do this is to keep your pet(s) indoors.
Q: There are horror stories out there about coyotes attacking people. How common is this in North San Diego County?
A: It is not common for a yote to go out of its way to attack a person. The only time a coyote will do that is if it feels threatened, if they are trying to protect their young, or have a disease, like rabies. In most cases, if there is an animal/human bite situation, it is because that animal feels threatened. In some cases, humans get hurt when getting in the middle of protecting their family pet from a coyote preying on it. You have to be careful.
Q: What should we do if a coyote is in the act of attacking our pet?
A: Use techniques to save your animal without getting yourself harmed in the process. This happens a lot, where owners get in the middle and they get bit. People need to be careful. They can make noises, turn lights on, turn on the water hose and spray them with water. Whatever you do, don’t put yourself in a situation where you will get harmed, too.
Q: What is the best way to safeguard your home and property from coyotes?
A: It’s all about prevention. For example, don’t feed your animals outdoors. If you feed your animals outdoors, then the coyotes will come and eat it, too.
Q: Any other words of wisdom?
A: I just think it’s important to recognize that we can prevent problems. We can learn to live in harmony and learn to appreciate coyotes at the same time.
Editor’s Note: Christina Macone-Green is a freelance writer for the Village News. She co-owns Bow Wow Services with her husband, David.
Helpful tips to discourage coyotes
• Make sure your area is free of debris and garbage. If you have coyotes in your area, you might want to consider putting a lock on your garbage. Try to keep your garbage containers from overflowing, because this gives coyotes something attractive to rummage through.
• Consider installing motion-sensor lights. If a light suddenly goes on, this might frighten the animal [coyote] away from the premises.