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There have been a number of reports lately in and around Denver, Colorado, about coyote attacks. Most notable are some recent attacks on children in Broomfield, and several attacks over the past few years on dogs and people in Greenwood Village. All along the Front Range, there have been reports of close calls with coyotes in back yards and open space walking trails.
A number of tactics for dealing with coyotes have been tested over the years, the most significant being shooting, trapping and hazing. Despite much effort at controlling the coyote population, the Colorado Division of Wildlife believes there probably are more coyotes in Colorado today than when the first Europeans settled here.
Part of the reason for this could be Colorado's open season on coyotes; they can be hunted year-round with no bag limit. Many coyote researchers believe when coyotes are hunted and pack leaders are killed, packs splinter and younger males are given opportunities to breed. Thus, the population actually increases instead of decreasing. More packs and more coyotes need more space and more food, so they are forced to expand into human-inhabited territory.
Once coyotes find their way into our territory, they are remarkably adaptable. Just as with domesticated dogs, the desire for food often overcomes coyotes' natural fears. So coyotes quickly gain the courage to raid garbage cans and snatch cats from backyards or dogs from leashes. It is indeed tragic to loose a beloved pet to a wild animal, but we understandably become panicked when humans (especially children) are attacked.
But to put things in perspective, while there have been dozens of reports of attacks on humans by coyotes, there have only been (as best as I can find) two deaths in recorded history from coyote attacks in North America (one in Glendale, California, and one in Nova Scotia). So your chances of being attacked or killed by a coyote are, statistically, zero. Compare that to the number of humans attacked and/or killed by domesticated dogs in the United States -- approximately 800,000 people receive some level of medical attention for dog bites annually, and there were 212 deaths between 2005 and 2011 caused by dog attacks.
Personally, I have a great appreciation and respect for coyotes, and I spend as much time with my dogs as I can in Colorado's open space and mountains. Not only are coyotes beautiful creatures and skilled predators, but they also perform a valuable service for the ecosystems they inhabit: they hunt, kill and eat large quantities of rodents (particularly mice, rats and rabbits). But the fact is, we have always lived among coyotes, and we will be living among them for the foreseeable future. So understanding how to live alongside of them safely is very important.
Here are several tips to help you do that:
Hopefully coyote researchers and the Colorado Division of Wildlife will continue developing better methods of keeping coyote populations in check and discouraging them from coming too close to residential areas. (And maybe more people will train, socialize and manage their dogs correctly.) But in the meantime, educate yourself and your neighbors about how to safely live alongside of them.