Experts shed light on urban coyote behavior in North Oaks

Dr. Nick McCann of the University of Minnesota, Scott Noland with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Animal Control Officer Mario Lee with the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department gathered at the Community Room at 100 Village Center Drive on March 14 to discuss urban coyotes.

A panel of experts discussed coyote habitat, behavior and trends for residents of North Oaks on March 14 in the Community Room at 100 Village Center Drive. The informational meeting was arranged by City Council and the Natural Resources Commission to provide education about urban coyotes, which are prevalent in certain areas of the City. 

Dr. Nick McCann of the University of Minnesota gave an overview of coyote statistics. Coyotes, whose name means “barking dog” is Aztec, have been present in North America for over 10,000 years. Adults breed from December to March, with only one pair usually breeding in a pack at a time. Their diverse diet includes small mammals, trash, fruit, plants and insects. More active at night, urban coyotes try to avoid humans unless they are habituated through food opportunities, such as unsecured garbage bins and bird feeders.

Scott Noland, a wildlife manager for the Forest Lake area, presented data showing an overall uptick in coyote numbers in the Metro and surrounding areas, while a decline of coyotes has been documented in the more forested northern portion of the state. This may be due to factors such as the successful population of wolves up north, which dominate territory otherwise used by coyotes and foxes. 

Small pets may be perceived by coyotes as prey or a threat to their territory, so keep all pets under supervision whether in your yard or on a walk. If you come across a coyote, hazing is the best method to employ: make yourself appear large (either by opening your coat or raising your arms over your head) and be noisy: speaking loudly or shaking a bottle of pennies will usually be enough to send a coyote running in the opposite direction. 

Noland reminded the crowd of approximately 12 residents in attendance that simply seeing a coyote in a backyard is not a sign of coyote aggression; if a coyote does not back away if it is approached, that behavior could be construed as dominance or aggression.

Ramsey County Animal Control Officer Mario Lee would like residents to contact him if they encounter a coyote (or any other wild animal, for that matter) behaving strangely. 

The main takeaways from the presentation are that urban coyotes are a sign of a healthy and varied ecosystem, and that people can co-exist with coyotes by taking steps to protect their small animals and remove or eliminate potential elements that habituate coyotes to humans.  

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