Turns out, hazing can be a good thing -- when it comes to coyotes, that is.
Urban wildlife expert Lynsey White Dasher, from the Humane Society, spoke to more than two dozen people Tuesday concerned about coyotes that appear to be getting more aggressive in town. At least six pets in Fairfield have been attacked and killed by coyotes. The forum was sponsored by the town's Animal Control Department in response to a series of recent coyote sightings and attacks on pets.
Toni Carr's beagle was killed June 6, just a little after 4:30 a.m., as the sun was beginning to rise. "We don't let our dogs loose anymore in our neighborhood," said Carr, who has two other beagles. "We used to let them run all over the place."
She said coyotes in her Mountain Laurel neighborhood recently have "literally been at our front step."
And it's that aggressive behavior, Dasher said, that needs to be changed through hazing the predatory creatures, which has been found to be an effective measure when employed in places like the Denver area.
"Coyotes run away when faced with a threat," she said, and those that have become used to coming into backyards to find food need to regain their fear of humans.
When a coyote is spotted, she advised the audience, the animal should not be ignored. A person who sees a coyote should face it, raise their arms and start waving and yelling at the animal. Blow a whistle or an air horn, bang on a pan, she added. If necessary, take some steps toward the coyote while continuing to make noise and keep making noise until the animal runs out of sight, Dasher said. Never run away from a coyote, she said.
A person cannot effectively haze a coyote by hiding behind a tree or sitting in a car or the house, she said. The coyote must see the person and know that it is the target of the hazing.
"Coyotes are very smart," Dasher said, and will communicate among themselves that a neighborhood is no longer a comfortable to look for food. She said, however, that it could take several "hazing" incidents before coyotes stop returning.
Coyotes will still likely inhabit parts of Fairfield, Dasher said, but will once again learn to avoid humans. That human factor is an important reason why cats and small dogs should not be left outside alone, she said. Without humans nearby, those pets look like another food source to coyotes.
Police Chief Gary MacNamara said the department has exploring other options to control aggressive coyotes, including an unsuccessful attempt to trap a coyote on a private property.
A key factor in helping control coyotes, MacNamara said, is community involvement.
"We don't want the coyotes here, and we're going to make it uncomfortable for them to be here," he said.
Dasher urged residents to take an active role and try the hazing approach. "I guarantee you guys it's worth trying," she said. The more people who haze coyotes, the more effective it is in changing the animals' behavior, she said.
For information and tips on keeping coyotes out of residential areas, visit www.humanesociety.org/animals/coyotes
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