Coyotes, steeped tea hued, strut down the middle of the street and through our backyards. Squirrels, rabbits or mice become their prey. Social media posts announce “Coyote sighting on our street. Watch your pets!”
Despite the hysteria, domestic animals are not their usual diet. Opportunistic, these scavengers feast on small mammals, insects, snakes and other bite sized creatures. Reduced habitat force these predators from prairie and savannah to backyards and Main Street. As our homes sprawl farther out from cities into suburbia, these wily coyotes adapt to the new realities. Gone are acres of open lands for coyotes to dig their dens, raise their pups and hunt for breakfast.
Coyotes were rarely seen in my community when we moved to Algonquin in 1996. Over winter, these quadrupeds roam leaving single file paw prints in the snow. Year round, scat reminiscent of winter cocoa mixed with felted fur dots my property. Our half acre lot includes our house, lawn and native garden vignettes. In summer my yard looks like spinach salad doused in pureed rainbows as wildflowers burst forth greeting walkers as they pass by. Joining the eight deer who visit each morning and again at at dusk are butterflies, rabbits, raccoon, skunks, possum and a variety of birds. So far no large scale attacks on deer have occurred in my garden.
About 10 years ago, the Village of Algonquin converted a two acre grassy detention area across from our house to native plantings. Their goal is to create a network of wildlife habitat flourishing with flora and fauna. Better for the environment, these areas cost less to maintain. No mowing, fertilizer or herbicides are needed. Once established, maintenance is on a three year cycle. Prescribed burn, manual and chemical invasive control then leave fallow.
Since the restoration, the sky is full of bats, Red Tailed hawks and ebony jewelwing damselflies. Toads skip and garter snakes slink away from my feet. We are surprise as bold raccoons join us on the deck on balmy summer evenings. Coyote scat is everywhere. As the ecological health of our neighborhood improves, the critters thrive. Coyotes found shelter in the nearby couple of acres of restored land and happily settled in.
At night we listen as the collective “yip, yip, yip” rings out over the prairie. The howling is music to our ears. Not as pleasant are the screams of their prey as coyotes successfully hunt late at night.
In my yard and the larger village owned park, coyotes and other creatures settle in and make homes. It is time to think of coyotes not as dangerous wild animals but part of our community. Here are things you can do to learn to coexist with these new neighbors.
- Do not encourage coyotes to visit your property by leaving dog and cat food outdoors.
- Keep an eye on your pets, even with fenced in yards.
- If a coyote approaches you, yell loudly, wave your arms wildly and throw rocks or sticks in the direction of, not at, the animal.
- Do not run away.
We can cohabitate with coyotes in our neighborhood. By understanding their habits and needs, we can adapt our behavior to minimize negative interactions with these fascinating creatures.