Residents in the northwest suburbs are likely seeing more coyotes outside than usual; February and March are the months when coyotes make their dens and begin to breed.
With an increase in activity throughout the next several weeks, Department of Natural Resource wildlife biologist Dianne Robinson — who is the "resident expert" on coyotes in her department — sets the record straight.
Misconception 1: The best way to get rid of a coyote on your property is to remove it.
Robinson emphasized the importance of viewing coyote dens in terms of the broader territory than just as a standard home, so if you remove a coyote, another will likely come back within a few years; that's because Waukesha County provides coyotes with a great habitat and food source to establish territories.
She discussed the act of lethal removal as a last resort for dealing with a coyote on your property.
"If you have an animal that is obviously aggressive, if you approach it or try and scare it away and it growls at you, that’s a situation where we suggest a removal might be an option," Robinson said. "You can legally trap or hunt coyotes on your property, but in Menomonee Falls you cannot shoot a firearm, so you’re more or less limited to trapping. I also really like to emphasize to people that lethal removal is an option if you have an aggressive animal, but if it’s just moving to the area, lethal removal is just a waste of money. You’re going to basically remove one, two, three animals off your property and in a few years, you’ll have coyotes right back in that area. It’s going to be most effective is removing a single animal that is causing a potential problem.”
Not to mention, Robinson said lethal removal is very expensive, around $500-$800 per animal.
"If you know someone who traps coyotes, you can see if they can do it free, or if you’re a trapper, you can do it yourself, but I would not suggest trying to trap coyotes unless you are an avid coyote trapper because it is a particular process and to be perfectly honest, you are probably going to be wasting your time," Robinson said. “Lethal removal is an option — it’s expensive and time consuming — which is why we normally suggest using it only under specific situations because it is not an efficient control method.”
Trapping and relocating the coyote is also not recommend by the DNR because it could create big problems in the animal world.
"If you were going to trap an animal, we would suggest lethal removal because coyotes are territorial, so if you trap that animal and relocate it somewhere else, there’s a really good chance that you would be placing it in another coyote’s territory, and you’re going to end up creating a territorial situation between coyotes and one of them is going to die," Robinson said.
If you do not want a coyote on your property for any reason, the best way to get it to move on is to use hazing tactics, according to Robinson.
“Hazing tactics in every other situation that I’ve seen 99 percent of the time is going to reduce the problem that you’re having. As long as the coyote walks or moves away, that is a positive hazing experience," Robinson said.
Robinson recommended watching this video for helpful hazing tactics:
Misconception 2: The number of coyotes has grown in the area during the last couple of years.
While it may seem like there are more coyotes than ever before, the truth is, the DNR does not know.
“One of the misconceptions out there is we’ve seen an increase in coyotes in the last couple of years," Robinson said. "I don’t necessarily think that’s the case, but we don’t really have numbers to back up an increase, decrease or stabilization. I think it’s more common that people are aware of coyotes, and they’re more concerned about the presence of coyotes because there has been a lot of information in the news."
It is true, though, according to Robinson, that coyotes are more active and territorial this time of year because they are making their dens and breeding.
Misconception 3: Coyotes are aggressive to humans.
Robinson debunked this misconception with one heavy-hitting fact.
"We have never seen a situation anywhere in the Midwest where a coyote attacked a human," Robinson said.
While coyotes are sometimes considered to be large, especially compared to the family dog, they are actually 30 pounds on average.
"They’re really fluffy, but also really skinny; they have a really narrow body structure," Robinson said. "It might be taller than your dog, but it’s much less fed than your dog as well. That’s something important to keep in mind; you are much more than 30 pounds. You can always remember that you are bigger and scarier than a coyote. Coyotes are not necessarily something we need to be concerned about it regards to being harmful towards people.”
Misconception 4: Coyotes have one den throughout the year.
Coyotes switch up their dens throughout the year due to a variety of reasons.
"They only use their den when their pups are probably in the first four to six weeks of life," Robinson said. "They find a den in February and March and stay there until late June, then they’re not using that den site anymore. They are still in the area and they still have a territory that they’re using, but they’re not using that specific home in the ground. If there’s a lot of activity in an area, or if you, for example, have a den on your property and you don’t want them there anymore, you can scare them away from that den and they will just pick their pups up and move elsewhere, still within their territory or general area, but it’s not necessarily going to be right up against your shed.”
Misconception 5: You should call law enforcement for help in dealing with coyotes.
While it is appropriate to call the non-emergency line for local law enforcement if the coyote is sick or injured, there is no need to call the emergency line simply because a coyote is spotted, Robinson said.
"Just seeing a coyote in and of itself is not cause for concern," Robinson said. "We have coyotes all over the county. They do very well here; they have food and habitat available."
If a coyote is sick or injured, often the DNR will tell you to leave it alone, Robinson said.
"We suggest just leaving that animal alone," Robinson said. "Sometimes they will get better when you give it space and it will generally move on in a couple of hours. We do not suggest using hazing tactics on sick or injured animals because they will be a little more defensive.”
For more information on coyotes in your area, visit the Wisconsin DNR's urban wildlife page online at dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifeHabitat/urban.html.