A coyote has attacked and killed at least one dog in West Boca this week, stoking obvious concerns and fear among residents of the area. The president of the Timberwalk Homeowners Association, where the dogs were attacked, has hired a trapper to catch the coyote, according to the Sun Sentinel. The trapper admits, however, that it might not be the easiest task, since coyotes are elusive and intelligent animals.
But one expert tells New Times that trapping and catching the coyotes might not work. And that there's a more humane and practical solution to the problem — something called hazing.
Lynsey White Dasher, Director, Humane Wildlife Conflict Resolution, The Humane Society of the United States, tells New Times that we're just past pup season, which typically runs in April and May, meaning the coyotes have been breeding and placing their pups in dens. The adult coyotes then spread out looking for food. They mostly feed on rats, mice, and fruit and typically stay away from areas where there are humans. Unfortunately for the dogs that were attacked near the homes in the 22500 block of Vistawood Way, the coyotes saw small prey and went for the kill.
"Coyotes mostly go out of their way to avoid people," Dasher says. "But pets that are left without a leash and unattended look like prey to a coyote. They look like a rabbit or a woodchuck."
Dasher also says that removing a coyote from an area, which is what the West Boca neighborhood has hired a trapper to do, may not work.
One problem, she points out, is that it's hard to tell if the right coyote has been caught. The other issue is that the coyote that has been taken might just be replaced with another and could lead to more breeding.
"Removing coyotes will lead to other transient coyotes moving in," she says. "It might actually encourage them to reproduce more because of the way the social structure of these animals works."
Coyotes are considered native to Florida. The animal basically migrated from the central part of the United States years ago and has spread throughout the rest of the country over time. Now, every major U.S. city has coyotes roaming the countryside, though they're hard to spot since they tend to stay away from humans.
Coyotes are important, Dasher says, because they help control the rodent population. And they rarely attack humans. On average, about ten people are attacked by a coyote in the United States every year. Compare that to the millions that are attacked by dogs.
But a coyote might stray and go into a neighborhood from time to time. And Dasher says there are simple solutions to keep that from happening.
"They're looking for food," she says. "They're looking to feed themselves and their pups. So we need to make sure our pets are secured, and we need to make sure we secure garbage cans well. For those who have fruit trees in their homes, checking to see that no fruit has fallen to the ground would also help."
As for getting rid of a coyote that's already attacked, Dasher says hazing should do the trick.
Hazing is basically making lots of noise, blowing whistles, and generally making the type of noise that'll rattle the coyote.
"It's important that the coyote isn't comfortable around humans," she says. "That's where hazing comes in. If you spot one, you wave your arms around, make yourself look big, make lots of noise. You can even blow a whistle at it."
Dasher says to do this every time you spot one. Coyotes that are perpetually hazed aggressively will go back and communicate this with the other coyotes in its family group. The coyotes will then know to stay away and look for food elsewhere.
For now, though, she says the key is make sure we're not doing anything to encourage coyotes from coming to feed near urban areas and communities.
"It's common-sense stuff. Secure your pets, or be outside with them. And make sure the area is clean and clear of food that would attract them."