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DeKalb County reports of coyote sightings are up; residents should heed experts advice

No, it’s not the big bad wolf roaming around creating a stir, and while residents across DeKalb County are reporting what they believe to be higher-than-average coyote sightings, staff at Oaken Acres Wildlife Center said the animals shouldn’t be cause for alarm.

“Please don’t fall into the false narrative that they are a danger to everyone and any pet,” Kathy Stelford wrote in an email to the Daily Chronicle. “They aren’t. They are usually more visible because of habitat destruction, not because they’re interested in being around people.”

In posts across social media and phones calls to Oaken Acres, and law enforcement agencies around the area, residents said they have been noticing the animals roaming more freely in neighborhoods, in backyards and approaching highly populated areas or not fleeing when they see people. Sycamore Deputy Police Chief Steve Cook said he’s been getting calls about the animals for years, and coyotes can often be lured by people who leave food out for stray cats, or who let their pets roam.

Cook said the department has received a number of calls reporting sightings in the past 30 days.

“These people may be seeing the same one or two,” Cook said. “Somebody’s feeding it. People all the time leave food out for stray cats which is a terrible idea, because that just attracts everything, raccoons, possums, everything. The stray cats will attract them, too.”

Coyotes are in the canine family native to North America, according to the National Wildlife Refuge. They vary in size and have red, tan and gray coats, and can weigh up to 50 pounds, resembling a smaller German shepherd. Physical features include yellow or amber eyes, wide, pointed ears, a slender muzzle and black nose, with long, lean legs and a bushy tail that looks like a feather duster, according to the refuge.

Although they often hunt in groups, they also are lone predators. Howling is a frequent occurrence with coyotes, especially mother coyotes who use their call to signal to their pups that danger (or food) is nearby. When you hear a coyote howl, it might seem like many animals because of the variation in vocal pitches, according to the refuge. In reality, it only may be two coyotes.

Sandy Woltman, director of operations at Oaken Acres (which over the summer rehabilitated a number of coyote pups), said residents should be smart, not be afraid of coyotes and learn to live in harmony with the animal, which faces ongoing habitat destruction, although populations are on the rise across the continent, and aren’t on the endangered species list.

“With continued development, including in DeKalb County, coyotes are being forced to den and search for food closer to people,” Woltman wrote in a letter to the editor. “They are extremely adaptable.”

If you see a coyote in your backyard, while you’re walking your dog or anywhere near you, here’s what Cook and Woltman recommend – do not approach the coyote, make loud noises with pots and pans to try to scare it away, don’t leave food outside for wild or stray animals, change your route when you go for a dog walk and don’t let your pets roam outside.

Woltman wrote coyotes have internal clocks, and if you let your dog outside every day at the same time, the wild animals will figure it out and befriend your dog.

Try to stagger the times your dogs goes outside, she said.

Cook said there have been no reports of aggressive coyotes or attacks in the area and encouraged people to call Oaken Acres if they do encounter an injured animal.

“As rehabilitators, we need to focus the public on coexisting with these animals,” Woltman wrote. “They are not going anywhere. They’re part of our world.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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