Board takes action to control coyote population at April 20, 2011 Special Board meeting and public forum

The District has received several complaints concerning coyotes in the greenbelts and in close proximity to homes and the District's Board took action at a public forum on April 20 to help control the coyote population. At the meeting, citizens heard a report from Mr. Randy Farrar, who is a Wildlife Management Biologist with Texas Wildlife Services. Mr. Farrar talked extensively about the coyote habitat and stressed that in order for efforts to be effective, he needed reliable current information of location of sightings and the type of coyote bahavior being witnessed. Any reports need to be made by dialing 311. After hearing comments from several citizens in attendance, the Board took action on the coyote issue in two steps:

1) The District will initiate an education program to steer citizens to the 311 system to report sightings and behavior.

2) When adequate current infomation is collected through the 311 system traps will be set in strategic locations.

During the forum, it was discussed that the success of the program will depend on current information reported by dialing 311. The information will be funneled through 311 to Mr. Farrar to develop a strategy. The District will refer calls to 311, place informational signs in the medians asking citizens to report coyote sightings to 311. Current information of sightings in essential to assist in preparing a strategy for trap placement. Mr. Farrar will work in close coordination with the District’s General Manager and Board of Directors to coordinate placing traps and closing sections of trail in order to protect the public.

The majority of encounters with humans are harmless and the coyotes are simply looking for an easy meal so concerned citizens are urged to protect their pets as they see fit by keeping them indoors or keeping a watchful eye on them when outside. Also, the majority of human injures have been where a person is bitten while attempting to protect a pet from a coyote attack, so carrying a cane or golf club is important when walking a pet if you are concerned. Other precautions include picking up un-eaten pet food, etc.

We hope the educational and trapping program has an effect on the coyote population and will make citizens feel safer in the community and we encourage citizens to contact us with any questions.

Listed below is additional information about coyotes and their habitat.

Urban Coyotes

Species Info • The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department provides expertise and advice on urban wildlife issues, but does not implement nuisance coyote control.

• Texas Wildlife Services, in partnership with local governments, does provide nuisance coyote control services in some urban areas. In some cities, such as Austin, Texas Cooperative Extension assists with coordinating nuisance coyote control and public education. Call the main Texas Wildlife Services office in San Antonio at (210) 472-5451 to get the number of the local office nearest you.

• Urban and suburban coyotes, like urban deer, are symptoms of a broader issue. People continue to expand housing subdivisions and other human development into what used to be open range wildlife habitat, especially on the expanding fringes of large metropolitan areas. This is increasing the potential for encounters and conflicts between people and wildlife.

• Trapping and similar nuisance control actions cannot eliminate urban coyote problems, although this can be part of the solution in some situations.

• The real solution and the greater need facing Texans right now is public education. We need to inform and empower people to take steps to coexist with coyotes and other urban wildlife.

• There are some common sense precautions people can take to manage coyotes: o Do not feed coyotes! Keep pet food and water inside. Keep garbage securely stored, especially if it has to be put on the curb for collection; use tight-locking or bungee-cord-wrapped trashcans that are not easily opened. o Keep compost piles securely covered; correct composting never includes animal matter like bones or fat, which can draw coyotes even more quickly that decomposing vegetable matter. o Keep pets inside, confined securely in a kennel or covered exercise yard, or within the close presence of an adult. o Walk pets on a leash and accompany them outside, especially at night. o Do not feed wildlife on the ground; keep wild bird seed in feeders designed for birds elevated or hanging above ground, and clean up spilled seed from the ground; coyotes can either be drawn directly to the seed, or to the rodents drawn to the seed. o Keep fruit trees fenced or pick up fruit that falls to the ground. o Do not feed feral cats (domestics gone wild); this can encourage coyotes to prey on cats, as well as feed on cat food left out for them. o Minimize clusters of shrubs, trees and other cover and food plants near buildings and children's play areas to avoid attracting rodents and small mammals that will in turn attract coyotes o Use noise making and other scaring devices when coyotes are seen. Check with local authorities regarding noise and firearms ordinances. Portable air horns, motor vehicle horns, propane cannons, starter pistols, low-powered pellet guns, slingshots, and thrown rocks can be effective.

• Coyote (Canis latrans) • • TPWD © Bill Reaves • DESCRIPTION • The Coyote is very similar in size to a small German Shepherd and weighs an average of 25 to 40 pounds. It has long, slender legs, a bushy tail with a black tip, and large ears that are held erect. The Coyote's coat can vary, but it is usually gray or buff-colored. From a close vantage point, there is no mistaking the yellow eyes and black, round pupils. The Coyote is a strong swimmer. It characteristically runs with its tail down instead of horizontally like foxes, or up like wolves and dogs.

• LIFE HISTORY • The Coyote is an extremely intelligent animal with keen senses of hearing, sight and smell. It primarily is nocturnal and very opportunistic. Coyotes will eat just about anything. They feed primarily on rabbits, rodents and insects, but they also eat carrion, lizards, snakes, fruit, vegetable matter and even fish. This adaptability also is evident in their use of cover. The Coyote requires minimal shelter to survive, but it will use a den for the birth and care of its young. Coyotes usually prefer to take use an abandoned badger den or natural cavities rather than dig their own den; however, they will make the necessary renovations by excavating multiple escape tunnels linked to the surface.

Coyotes are considered monogamous, with pairs remaining together for several years, although not necessarily for life. They breed from mid-January to early March. After a gestation period of 63 to 65 days, a litter of five to seven pups is born. During the weeks following the birth, the male will bring food to the family, but the female will not allow him inside the den. Coyotes normally may live from 10 to 12 years.

• HABITAT • The adaptability of the Coyote and its acute sense of survival make it difficult to identify preferred habitat, although they most typically are associated with open plains in the West and brushy areas in the East. Their opportunistic nature has provided them the full advantage of surviving in a rapidly changing environment.

• DISTRIBUTION • Coyotes have an extensive range across the United States. They have slowly filled the void left by the declining population of wolves throughout the country. In Texas, they range throughout the state. • • TPWD © Bill Reaves

posted: Wednesday, April 13, 2011