Coyote sightings common in Portage
What at one time was simply an iconic animal of the west is becoming familiar to area residents.
“Coyotes in Portage County are really very common,” said Jamey Emmert, wildlife communications specialist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s District 3 office in Akron.
Emmert said the District 3 office does not track how many calls it receives, but she knows the office has received calls from all 19 counties that make up the district, including Portage. Most of the calls, she said, concern sightings, questions or concerns.
Bob Lange, natural area steward with the Portage Park District, said he has seen evidence of coyotes over the last decade or more that he has been out in the field, including tracks, scat or droppings, and even the animals themselves at a distance. He said he has never personally witnessed or experience aggressive behavior from coyotes.
“I can say I’ve definitely seen coyote activity in all of the park properties,” Lange said.
Dave McIntyre, Portage County’s chief dog warden, said he recalls his office receiving a lot of calls from people reporting coyotes last summer.
“A lot of people think we can do something about it,” said McIntyre. “They think it’s like a dog and we can trap it. They’re pretty smart. Yeah, they’re not going to go into our traps.”
Munroe Falls residents Jason and Shauna Alstrom were surprised to see a juvenile coyote in their neighborhood recently.
“A little surprising to see four houses down from your house, running on the sidewalk,” Jason Alstrom said.
Portage County Sheriff David Doak said he is aware of the presence of coyotes in the county.
“I know [coyotes] are more plentiful from being out hunting and stuff, but I haven’t had any bad encounters with any of them,” said Doak, adding he has also not heard of any reports of attacks on pets.
“Typically, I know about these things if its occurring. It usually comes to my attention,” said Doak.
Emmert said residents concerned about coyotes in their neighborhoods can do something as simple as putting quarters or rocks into a metal can and shaking it to create a “loud, obnoxious sound that is not comfortable to wildlife.” Banging pots and pans together, using an air horn or, in the warmer months, spraying water at the animal are also options, she said.
“Somebody sees a coyote one time, they may not think much of it,” she said. “Maybe over so many days, that coyote passes through their back yard and it’s kind of exciting, it’s kind of neat to see that, to take pictures. But as that coyote continues to become more and more comfortable with that property, they’ll become more comfortable with the activity of human beings around and the coyote will learn this routine. So making that coyote feel uncomfortable will help it stay wild.”
Emmert also said that not leaving anything outside that might attract coyotes, such as food or garbage, is also important, especially in the winter.
“This time of year, coyotes are more active because they are breeding,” she said.
Emmert said coyote populations have grown just about everywhere in the nation over the last few decades and they are “tolerant of human activity.”
“This is an animal that is very, very well adapted to a wide variety of environments. So when we talk about animals that suffer from urban sprawl, coyotes do not fall into that category,” she said.
Coyotes are naturally nocturnal, but can be active during the day if an opportunity for food presents itself. As an example, she said, if a coyote learns that someone regularly puts out food for cats, it may go after the food itself.
“If they can sneak up on somebody’s porch and get a free meal, they will definitely do it,” she said.
Emmert said that coyotes will “occasionally” go after small pets, but this is sometimes the coyote protecting itself or its territory.
“I own a small Jack Russell terrier mix and I can tell you she is a very spirited animal,” said Emmert. “If I let her outside, off leash or out of the fenced-in back yard, she sees a coyote, she will tear off after that coyote. Some coyotes will stand their ground and protect themselves. Others will run. It just depends on the circumstances. Regardless, a coyote will hand my little Jack Russell her tail very quickly. So containing our pets or keeping our pets leashed or cabled, especially during the nighttime hours when coyotes are hunting, will help reduce those problems.”
Lange said it is also a good idea for people taking their dogs to the park to keep them on leashes and not let them go off trail, especially around April when coyotes are nursing their pups.
“Just as a human does, they do want to protect their young,” he said.
Emmert said it is difficult to confirm that a coyote is responsible for an attack, unless it is actually witnessed or the wounds can be examined by an expert but she said attacks on humans, including children, are extremely rare, at least in Ohio.
“It’s been documented. Here in Ohio only once and that was in Cleveland Metroparks over a decade ago,” she said, adding the coyote was sick, was threatened by an aggressive dog and ended up attacking a man riding by on a bicycle.
Alstrom said that since seeing the coyote, he and his wife have been very careful when they let their small pug Otis outside.
“He’s an older dog, probably wouldn’t put up much of a fight against a full-grown coyote or a cub even,” Alstrom said.
Originally posted on January 26, 2018 by JEFF SAUNDERS – Reporter at Record-Courier
Photo Courtesy of Ohio Division of Wildlife