Coyotes rattle nerves in St. Joseph Township subdivision

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH — Several coyote sightings in a St. Joseph Township neighborhood this month have put residents there on edge.

Amy Young, who has lived in the area for 15 years, said coyote activity has increased in her neighborhood where Washington Avenue crosses Hickory Creek.

The subdivision of Hillview Manor – comprised of Manor Drive and Hillview Lane – is surrounded by the Hickory Creek ravine on one side. Young said she and her neighbors get a lot of wildlife, as it’s not unusual to see wild turkeys and foxes.

However, Young came across other visitors two weeks ago. She was walking her dog near an old vineyard down at the end of her street one evening when two coyotes emerged from the foliage and began to follow her home.

“I yelled and waved at them to make them back up a bit, but they kept following,” Young said. “I turned around and yelled, but they didn’t scatter until a car came by. I got really worried when they split up. I was worried not for myself, but for my dog.”

Her dog is a soft-pitted wheaten and terrier.

“There was nobody at home I could call to come pick me up,” Young said. “The one coming down the street behind me was getting pretty close. My heart was pounding; it was pretty upsetting. Every time I would look back they would be closer.”

Young said she walks her dog before dark now, but still worries. She has also begun carrying stuff that makes noise and is looking at downloading a noisemaking app on her phone.

After her run-in with the coyotes, Young checked the Internet and looked up ways to uncondition them to humans.

“I felt like I needed to know how to deal with them. If they get a consistent negative feedback in the area, they will go back to where they came from,” she said. “If you wave your arms and yell at them, they will end up getting used to that.”

The coyote

Jordyn Richardson, wildlife outreach technician with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said people are most likely to see coyotes during their breeding season, which occurs from January through March. During the fall, their pups begin dispersing from their den area and become more visible leading up to breeding season.

Richardson said coyotes are scavengers that eat rodents, already dead animals, trash and pet food that has been left outside. Small mammals such as rabbits, mice and chipmunks are also on their radar.

“Yell or clap. Just make loud noises to try to scare it away,” Richardson said. “Most coyotes are naturally afraid of people and will leave if you frighten them. They should be treated with respect because they are wild animals.”

She said residents in an urban area can call animal control if the problem persists, but only if they become aggressive and begin damaging property. In that case, Richardson said they are taken away and released elsewhere.

Among her tips of scaring coyotes away, Richardson recommends turning on lights.

“Coyotes are active day and night, but their peaks in activity are sunrise and sunset,” she said. “Coyotes are adaptable animals and can survive in any environment, including urban areas.”

What they call home

In urban areas, the average home range is 2 to 5 square miles for coyotes. In rural areas, the average home range jumps to 8 to 10 square miles, depending on food and cover. While it is unusual for coyotes to attack humans, Richardson said they have been known to go after small dogs. The DNR official said if homeowners are worried about pets, they should be kept on a leash and never be left alone when outside.

Another St. Joseph Township woman, who lives in the same subdivision as Young, said she has seen coyotes in her backyard and when she goes on walks.

While she hasn’t seen a coyote in the past six months, she said it seems they have moved over to the other side of the subdivision.

“They were hanging out in our backyard for about a year,” said the woman, who did not want to be identified. “They are getting braver and have made it as far as my backyard. One time I came about 10 feet within one. I walked around a corner and they were right there.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 22, 2015)

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