With the Lamorinda rogue coyote (who has attacked at least two people this year) likely still on the loose, many residents of Contra Costa County are wondering what they can do to help deter coyote attacks--and to keep themselves and their community safe.
If you see a coyote, what can you do to stop yourself from becoming a victim, and to deter the coyote from attacking others in the future? Many people likely assume that you should leave the coyote alone--especially if they're far away from you, and don't appear to be approaching you or causing issues.
That makes sense, because we're usually taught to leave wildlife alone--to not distrurb bird habitats, to throw back fish we've caught, and to otherwise let nature do its own thing. Most people probably assume the same rules about interacting with wildfire applies to coyotes. We're the "unnatural" presence in their ranges, after all. Shouldn't we be nice, quiet neighbors?
The Humane Society of the United States, though, says that's the wrong approach. The problem is that over time, if coyotes see humans as a benign presence (or even a source of food, either through handouts, litter or unsecured garbage cans), they can feel embolded to approach humans in the future.
This can lead to attacks, especially if a coyote approachs a person for food, feels threatened, and bites. That, in turn, can lead to culling of coyotes, in which many innocent animals can potentially be killed by authorities who seek to protect local people.
Instead of leaving coyotes alone, the Human Society says that if you see one, you should actively "haze" it. This involves taking steps to make yourself seem scary to the coyote, so they'll see humans as a fearful presence and avoid approaching other humans in the future. This keeps your neighbors and the coyote safer, and also helps to protect you from an attack in the short term.
How do you haze a coyote? The Humane Society has a few suggestions:
- Yell and wave your arms while approaching the coyote. Other guides recommending picking up your dog or placing kids on your shoulders to keep them safe and to appear larger and scarier to the coyote.
- Using noisemakers (your voice, a whistle, airhorn, bell, soda can filled with pennies, or pots and pans banged together if you're at home) to frighten the coyote off.
- Throwing small projectiles (sticks, rocks, a tennis ball, etc.) towards the coyote.
- Using other repellents, like spraying them with a garden hose, or pepper spray if they get very close.
In general, the Human Society says you want to appear as big and loud as possible. Scream, flare out your jacket, pick up other objects, and do anything you can to look as scary as possible. You can scream "GO AWAY COYOTE" as you perform the other hazing steps. The coyote may not fully leave at first, but it's important to continue to haze until they've fully left.
Make sure they can see you, too--the Humane Society says that hazing is most effective when coyotes directly associate humans with the scary sounds, flying objects, etc. The Society also says you should never run away from a coyote.
If you see coyotes in a pack, haze the entire pack. One dominant coyote will usually respond, and once they get the message, the other pack members will follow.
These techniques can seem cruel, and most people are reluctant to scare wildlife--even a coyote. But the Humane Society reminds you that hazing is not just about keeping yourself safe--it's also good for coyotes.
When coyotes start to approach humans too readily, they're often killed to avoid attacks. So teaching coyotes that humans are scary through harmless hazing could avoid a future attack, which could lead to a neighbor being hurt or a coyote being killed.
The one exception to hazing is with a coyote that appears sick or injured. In that case, the Humane Society recommends calling local authorities.
A coyote doesn't need to approach you for you to help by hazing it. If you see a coyote at all (even across a field or in the distance), do anything you can to appear scary and apply the hazing techniques above, to lessen the chances that it will approach you or another human in the future.
The Humane Society says that "hazing is most effective when an individual coyote is hazed by a variety of people using a variety of tools and techniques", so make sure to share this story with neighbors so everyone can apply hazing techniques if they encounter coyotes in Lamorinda.
You can follow me here on News Break for more coverage of the Lamorinda rogure coyote.