Coyotes are a definitely a presence in our area, so to better acquaint the community with these canine carnivores who populate our savannahs and groves, the Fallbrook Land Conservancy conducted a Coyote Forum.
The panel discussion was facilitated by Dana Zenko of the North County Humane Society. The rest of the panel included Ro Rozinko, senior volunteer with the California Department of Fish and Game; Patrick Valentino from the California Wolf Center in Julian; Eric MacPherson, a humane officer with North County Humane Society; and Dana Morin, a graduate student at San Diego State University.
Morin shared some information from her university thesis entitled “The Effects of Urbanization on the Activities of Coyotes in San Diego.” Since new housing developments fragment the coyote habitat, they have had to adapt to the changing environment. Coyotes are omnivores, which means that their diet consists of both plant and animal material; because of this, they more easily adapt to a changing environment.
A coyote’s diet consists of rodents, rabbits, birds and reptiles, but they also feast on a wide variety of vegetation. The coyotes are useful in regulating the rodent population and are considered a “top predator,” as no other animals consider them prey. Coyotes are mostly nocturnal but are also considered crepuscular, which means their activity increases at dawn and dusk. However, some in our area have been known to roam during the day.
Humans inadvertently attract coyotes by leaving seed out for birds or leaving cat or dog food out in the yard, Morin mentioned. The seed will attract birds, which the coyotes consider prey. The coyotes are also known to eat dog or cat food that has been left out. She told the audience to make sure that all garbage cans have secure lids because the garbage attracts small mammals, which are also prey for coyotes.
Patrick Valentino of the California Wolf Center in Julian mentioned that coyotes have thrived in this area. He shared some coyote deterrent ideas that local residents have implemented in order to protect their pets and farm animals from coyote attacks. Lamb sheds have been used protect the sheep, and guard dogs and llamas have been used to scare away coyotes.
The California Department of Fish and Game’s local office receives five to ten calls a day regarding coyotes, said Ro Rozinko, senior volunteer. Because the department is understaffed, “there is no way to respond to all of them,” he said. Rozinko mentioned that calling with old information won’t get a response, but if you call with an immediate problem the department would be more likely to respond. He also stressed that if an animal touches a person it should generate a response.
He cautioned the audience against leaving their dogs and cats out at night and said that the Fish and Game Department cannot act if a coyote takes a pet because the coyotes are just acting on their instinct. If a resident lives in an area populated by coyotes it is prudent for them to bring their animals in at night. He also cautioned the audience against walking small dogs early in the morning, when coyotes are active.
Rozinko said that some people believe that placing mothballs or human hair around the perimeter of their property will help keep coyotes out, but “it doesn’t help,” he said. Picking up fallen fruit will discourage the coyote activity, Rozinko mentioned, because the coyotes like to eat fruit, especially avocados. “Don’t feed them,” he said. “It just encourages them to eat in your yard.”
Eric MacPherson, a humane officer with North County Humane Society, mentioned that lights activated by motion are a good deterrent. He also told the audience that the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department does not deal with coyote issues, but the North County Humane Society does.
“[Coyotes] are free roaming animals and can be where they want,” stressed MacPherson. He also warned that coyotes can carry rabies and because a rabies vaccination is not foolproof, any animal that comes in contact with a coyote must be quarantined.
MacPherson commented, “It is legal to shoot a coyote if it is bothering you, but don’t chase it down the street shooting.” However, he did caution the audience to check on laws regarding the discharge of firearms in their specific areas. Those laws could supersede any laws regarding coyote elimination.
Possible Coyote Deterrents
● Refrain from feeding coyotes
● Bring small pets in at night
● Don’t leave pet food out at night
● Build fences higher than six feet
● Blow an air horn
● Blow a referee whistle
● Throw a can full of marbles
● Gather fallen fruit
● Don’t walk small animals at dawn or dusk
● Secure lids on trash cans
● Build sheds for lambs
● Own a guard dog
● Install motion-activated lights
● Lifespan is about the same as a dog
● Average weight is 31 pounds
● Can run up to 40 mph
● Have well-developed sense of smell and hearing
● Have ability to vocalize 11 different sounds
● Live in a variety of different habitats
● Found in 49 states (none found in Hawaii)
● Home range is around 2.2 square miles