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    Coyote caught on car dash camera

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    How to keep coyotes away from family and pets

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    Scottsdale police free coyote from fireplace

Many Phoenix-area residents are likely familiar with the yips and yowls of a certain mangy-looking mutt.

Coyotes are a part of urban desert living, but in areas from Chandler to Scottsdale, people say they’re seeing them more of late.

There are a few reasons for this, such as a wet winter and continued urban sprawl, according to the Arizona Department of Game and Fish.

Plus, late winter to early spring is mating season for coyotes and a lot of other critters. So expect to start seeing pups along with their parents this spring.

Coyotes have played a part in shaping the cultural identity of the Southwest from Native American folklore to hockey teams, but there are precautions to take.

A healthy and robust population 

April Howard knows coyotes better than just about anyone. She is the predator, fur bearer and large carnivore biologist at Arizona Game and Fish.

“One of the most interesting things about coyotes is how adaptable they are,” Howard said. “They can eat just about anything.”

Coyotes typically feed on small mammals, birds, small reptiles and occasional vegetation, Howard said. Those that live near humans also will eat trash left along the road or from tipped-over trash bins.

There are no official population counts or estimates because coyotes in Arizona are so numerous, Howard said.

Coyotes have a lifespan of five to eight years and can call any part of Arizona home. However, if you live on the outskirts of the city you’re more likely to run into one, Howard said.

“It’s neat we live in a place where we can see wildlife so frequently,” Howard said.

But there is a downside.

Coyote close encounters

Chandler resident ?Megan Craghead still remembers going to her mother’s place to find her 25 chickens killed by what they assume was a coyote or coyotes.

“Feathers and remains were all over her backyard,” Craghead said. “It was a terrible sight.”

Longtime Arizona residents know this type of story all too well. Coyotes have been known to snatch up small pets when they’re unattended; however, they usually are not a coyote’s first choice, Howard said.

Most interactions between people and coyotes are not as dramatic, she said.

Since 1997, there have been approximately 20 reported instances in the Valley in which a coyote has bitten or scratched a human, according to Arizona Game and Fish. By comparison, incidents between people and domesticated dogs reach approximately 5,000 incidents annually in Maricopa County.

Coyote sightings have been reported in Scottsdale, Gilbert and Peoria, Howard said.

“Most sightings and interactions are non-threatening,” Howard said.

Nicole Herrera, who lives near Chandler Heights Road and Arizona Avenue in Chandler, said she’s heard them in fields across the street.

“One time I woke up and I heard them yipping, but it was coming from inside our neighborhood. That was a little unsettling,” Herrera said. “But overall, I love the sounds of coyotes.”

James Braidic had a similar experience while backyard camping with his kids near Alma School and Ryan roads in Chandler.

Braidic and his kids “heard a bunch of them howling and yipping around 3 a.m. or so. Very cool sound.”

One reason for the increased sightings is simply more people moving to the Valley, Howard said.

“As the human population increases and expands, there will likely be more interactions,” Howard said. Certain populations of coyotes may have already existed in some areas but are just now being seen, she said.

Coyote-proof your neighborhood 

There are things you can do to make sure coyotes don’t stick around in a neighborhood if residents are worried, Howard said.

“It’s always more responsible to respect wildlife,” Howard said, adding that you should always be “wary” if you see one nearby.

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“The best thing to do is to not feed cats or dogs outdoors,” Howard said.

Other ways to discourage coyotes from sticking around a neighborhood include:

  • Installing good outdoor lighting, which acts as a deterrent.
  • Keeping bushes trimmed so coyotes can’t burrow underneath to hide.
  • Securing trash cans.

“It needs to be a community effort,” Howard said. One person who may leave dog food out or not secure their trash could draw all the coyotes in, she said.

Even leaving bird seed on the ground can bring coyotes in because the seed on the ground will often attract small rodents, an ideal snack for a coyote.

It is against the law in Maricopa and Pima counties to feed coyotes, and getting caught comes with a $300 fine.

Coyotes can carry diseases such as rabies but the rate at which it is seen is “very low among the population,” Howard said.

If you encounter a coyote, Arizona Game and Fish recommends:

  • Never approach it.
  • Always walk your pets on a leash. 
  • Never run away from a coyote. Stand your ground, be loud and make yourself bigger and they’ll likely run away.
  • If out jogging, fill up an empty soda can with coins or pebbles. Rattle this to scare them off. Air horns also work well, although neighbors may not like it. 

If you encounter an overly aggressive coyote, maintain eye contact, move toward other people and call a local Arizona Game and Fish Department office.

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