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Once Prairie Roamers, Coyotes Now Equally At Home Among Subdivisions And Highways

Andy Simonds

According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the number of urban coyotes has increased 15-fold since the turn of the century.

People used to country living have long been accustomed to the “ar-ar-arooo” howl of the coyote, but city dwellers in Indiana are getting used to it, too. The DNR says thanks to urban expansion, coyote encounters with people are more common than ever before.

Indiana DNR wildlife biologist Megan Dillon says coyotes, for the most part, aren’t anything to worry about, even though may boast a not-so-nice-reputation

She says compared with other synanthropes (animals that thrive around humans), such as deer or raccoons, “coyotes are perceived as a nuisance for fairly different reasons. It’s not necessarily because we have way too many of them or because they’re causing an extraordinary amount of damage, it’s more so because of the public perception.” She says because of that reputation, just a coyote sighting might trigger a call to Animal Control or the DNR.

Dillon says if, indeed, a coyote is perceived to be a nuisance (for example, it’s eaten a chicken, or proved it’s getting too friendly with people), a landowner is allowed to shoot and kill the creature, although whether that’s allowed depends on local firearm ordinances. If the animal isn’t shot during fur-trapping season, though, the pelt must be handed over within a few days.

However, she says not many coyotes are shot in Indiana.

“There’s a lot of pride in this state for the wildlife, so we don’t see a lot of gratuitous taking of nuisance animals,” Dillon says.

Law enforcement officials have seen increased reports of coyote attacks on family pets. The DNR urges pet owners to fence their pets, secure their garbage lids and never leave pet food out overnight. Experts emphasize to never, ever feed a coyote, lest they become more comfortable around people.

(The "Indiana Bear" is an example of such behavior proving hazardous. As the black bear became more brave, it attempted to break into houses and steal food, leading wildlife officials to deem the bear a danger. The bear was subsequently shot.)

Unlike wolves, whose numbers decreased greatly as a result of urbanization, coyotes have proven to be incredibly adaptive to human environments, even though, according to the DNR, most maintain their wild diet and remain afraid of humans.

Dillon says in contrast to their predatory reputation, studies have proved it’s rare for coyotes to eat garbage or family pets, and they can help control urban ecosystems by eating feral cats and rodents.

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