By Mary Beth LaneThe Columbus Dispatch • Sunday January 15, 2017 4:49 PM
Coyotes are on the prowl across Ohio, including in its cities, putting some people on edge about letting their pets out at night to do their business. Residents in Fairfield County posted cautionary messages on the Facebook group page "Lancaster's Talk of the Town" recently, some sharing stories about coyotes attacking or attempting to attack their pets. A similar neighborhood group for Hilliard residents also featured a coyote discussion, including a photo of a coyote seen recently in Franks Park.
The coyote population is not necessarily higher than usual, but the bare winter landscape, their opportunistic feeding habits and the start of mating season make them more visible this time of year, said Karen Norris, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife. There is no official estimate on how many coyotes Ohio has statewide, but they are found in all 88 counties and are so numerous and such a nuisance to livestock farmers that state officials encourage hunters and trappers to bag them without limit year-round. A hunting license is required.
The Division of Wildlife has scheduled coyote hunting and trapping classes this month at regional offices across the state. The free classes have drawn enough interest that they are filled, and there are waiting lists, Norris said. The division likely will schedule another round of classes next year, including at its district office on Dublin Road in Columbus, she said. "It's a renewable resource that we would like to see our constituents take advantage of," Norris said. "We do need help controlling the population." The coyotes reported in Fairfield County recently were seen on the outskirts, but they have been spotted nosing around the city, too. "My husband took the trash out one evening and was startled by a coyote in our alley," said Donna Hochradel, who lives in Lancaster. "It was in our neighbor's trash. It is alarming reading all the reports about the coyotes and people's animals."
Coyotes have become so common in central Ohio that they've been spotted in recent years on the Ohio State University campus and elsewhere in Columbus and the surrounding suburbs. Coyotes don't pose a threat to people, Norris said, although they should always be treated as wild animals. "They do attack and defend their territory," she said. "They could see a dog as an adversary."
Urban coyotes are very adaptive to living in human environments and seeking out food sources, including rabbits, mice, voles and other small mammals. People who don't want coyotes visiting their yard should clear away spilled bird seed, grease-coated cooking grills, bowls of pet food and other attractions, Norris said, and should make noise and throw things if they see coyotes hanging around.
Coyote mating season from January through March — at its peak in February — makes hormone-filled males more aggressive and more defensive. Coyote attacks on large dogs are generally rare, but the chances of attacks are greater during this time of year, said Stan Gehrt, an Ohio State University professor who researches coyotes in urban environments. Coyotes looking for food potentially will attack small dogs left outside at any time of year, he added.
People should always walk their dogs on a leash, turn the lights on and keep a close eye on them when letting them outside at night, and keep the outdoors clean of any food bowls, Gehrt said. "If people walking a dog see a coyote watching them, they shouldn't run away. That stimulates chase instincts," Gehrt advised. "Pick up your dog and back away or throw something and then yell and wave your arms. Coyotes don't want to have anything to do with people."
Visit wildlife.ohiodnr.gov for hunting and trapping information.
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