By Kristin Schuman
If you’ve heard howling around Mt. Tabor in the evenings lately, you may not be imagining things and you’re not overhearing a free screening of the Twilight movie.
Several recent sightings of coyotes have dog owners wary of walking their pooches around Mt. Tabor, but as long as pets are contained on leashes or kept inside, they should remain safe.
While it is unknown how many coyotes reside there, several people have spotted them. One dog-walker claimed she was chased by a particularly aggressive coyote she was certain wanted to eat her dog.
This form of aggression from coyotes is rare among the species, which is typically wary of humans and prefer to feed on rats, birds, insects and other small free-ranging animals.
The Audubon Society recommends that neighbors living in proximity to a known coyote habitat refrain from leaving food outdoors, including fruit from fallen trees and pet food in small bowls; and tightly secure garbage and compost bins.
Other ways to deter coyotes include motion-sensitive lighting systems, removing unnecessary brush, and installing a coyote-proof fence that is at least six feet tall, extends flush to the ground and an opening no larger than four inches.
While coyotes are most active at night, they can be spotted during daylight hours but, like all wildlife, are unlikely to harass humans or their leashed pets if unprovoked.
The Audubon Society’s Living with Urban Wildlife brochure also advises, “Never deliberately approach a coyote and teach children to respect all wildlife from a distance.”
As a highly adaptive species, coyotes commonly make their home in deep urban interiors, particularly parks that offer brambles, thick clusters of trees, and culverts conducive to coyote dens. Experts believe their range has expanded greatly in the past 50 years and that they are spreading across the continent southward from Canada rather than westward from the East. The range of a single coyote is generally 5 miles.
The dense fur of coyotes can make them look larger than they actually are, but typically coyotes in Oregon are no larger than 30 pounds. Often mistaken for red foxes, coyotes are distinguished by tails that are dark and run down, while foxes have white tails that point up.
While menacing in appearance, only one person has been killed by a coyote in the United States – a small child in the 1970s who was attacked by a coyote habitually hand-fed by one of the child’s parents. That story illustrates the dangers of habituating wild animals to human handouts.