Coyotes are everywhere and very active in January
La PORTE – Except for maybe downtown La Porte or downtown Michigan City, you can go just about anywhere in La Porte County after dark this time of year, and eventually you will hear a loud piercing howl, often followed by several others. Pause. Repeat. Pause. Repeat.
They’re coyotes, and winter is a busy time for the animals easily mistaken for large dogs. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources biologists say you can expect to see more of them in the coming months.
“Most young coyotes leave their parents to start looking for new homes during winter,” Megan Dillion, DNR south region urban biologist, said. “In addition, coyote breeding season starts in January, and coyotes may be more mobile during that time as well.
Coyotes are common to Indiana, including areas where people gather, according to the DNR. It’s normal for them to show up not only in rural environments, but also in urban areas. So maybe you will hear them downtown.
“Coyotes thrive near people because they like to eat the rodents and rabbits that thrive near people,” according to Geriann Albers, DNR furbearer biologist. “Seeing them in urban areas happens pretty regularly and is not unusual.”
Coyotes are an important part of the state’s environment, helping control rodent populations and cleaning up dead animals, biologists say. Their main diet consists of rodents and rabbits, but they will eat almost anything, including fruit, insects, pet food and garbage.
That’s why it’s important to keep garbage secure, according to DNR; make sure pet food is not left outside; and make sure fruit that’s fallen from trees is picked up.
“Coyotes may be attracted to bird feeders because mice and squirrels will hang around bird feeders,” said Jessica Merkling, DNR north region urban biologist. “If you start seeing a coyote and you have bird feeders up, taking them down for a few weeks may encourage a coyote to move on.”
Biologists agree humans generally have little to fear from the animals, but we should still play it safe. The animal are elusive and normally avoid humans.
“Many coyotes live around people, pets and livestock and never have negative interactions with them,” Merkling said. “But when coyotes become habituated to people, problems can occur, and those animals may need to be removed.” When coyotes begin to prey upon livestock, those animals may also need to be removed.
Coyotes have also been known to attack small pets, however, so officials say keep cats indoors, and keep an eye on dogs when they’re outdoors. The only pets that should be left unattended are those in a kennel with a covered top.
“If you see a coyote and want it to go away, try to make it uncomfortable,” Merkling said. “Yell, wave your arms, spray it with a hose, or throw tennis balls or small stones — but don’t throw anything that it may construe as food.”
Noisemakers such as a jar of coins or a small air horns can also scare away coyotes and are therefore good to carry when venturing out.
And while they rarely attack humans, biologists warn that you should never corner or chase a coyote; and make sure they always have a clear path to get away from you.
— From staff reports
Dog or coyote?
While a coyote closely resembles a German shepherd in height and shape, it carries its tail below the level of its back instead of curved upward, and is generally only about half the weight of a German shepherd.
Coyotes have a long slender snout and large, pointed ears. The upper body is a grizzled gray or buff, with a reddish brown or gray muzzle and legs. The belly is white, cream-colored or reddish yellow, with a bushy tail.
Coyotes average 25 pounds, but can reach 50 pounds, and measure 40 to 50 inches from nose to tail tip.
They can be active day or night, but are typically most active at dawn and dusk. That’s when you can hear them communicating with barks, yips and howls.