Coyote attacks on humans are rare; unfortunately, the City of Rye experienced two attacks on small children during the summer of 2010. Following those incidents, the Department assumed an aggressive posture regarding coyote control.
Whether as a result of those efforts or simply a matter of normal seasonal patterns, we have had very few sightings and no reports of unusual coyote behavior in recent months. However, as the warmer weather approaches, we can expect to see some increase in activity. In light of the 2010 attacks, we will be maintaining a proactive approach to the animals, and will monitor the situation closely for any signs of abnormal behavior.
Coyotes are active at night, but not nocturnal. They are most frequently seen in daylight during their mating season, February/March. Activity increases during those months and especially when their young are born in April/May. The young begin to wander out of the den in June/July, and during fall they are sent off to find their own territories. Coyotes eat anything: deer, mice, rats, frogs, squirrels, rabbits, birds, birdseed, pet food, fruits and vegetables, and garbage. They generally prey on smaller animals – therefore, small pets are at risk. They will eat cats, and they will attack small dogs – not as food, but as threats to their territory. They will generally not bother larger dogs (over 35 pounds).
As a rule, coyotes are timid animals; they can live close by humans, on the fringe of wooded areas or along streams, but are typically afraid of human contact. They are easily frightened by aggressive behavior. The danger arises when they lose their fear through a combination of factors:
• “Suburban coyote food” – garbage, pet food, pets – is saturated with human odor.
• Human behavior becomes non-threatening – i.e., running away into a home is behaving like prey.
• Food smells like people, people sometimes act like prey, and occasionally, people feed them – therefore, they lose their fear and can potentially become dangerous.
The primary danger posed by coyotes is to pets – cats and small dogs. For dogs, especially in March and April when they are setting up their dens and establishing territory. Attacks on humans are rare: for example, 650 people are hospitalized and one killed annually by dogs in New York State, and only a handful of coyote attacks occur nationwide. Unfortunately, the City of Rye and the Sound Shore area experienced highly abnormal behavior during the summer of 2010.
Residents are advised to take the following steps for personal safety:
• If you encounter a coyote, be aggressive. Loud noises and forceful behavior will normally scare the animal away. Wave your arms and throw sticks or stones. Boat horns and pepper spray are considered very effective.
• Do not feed coyotes.
• Do not provide food sources that may attract them, such as outdoor pet food or bird seed. They may be attracted by the birds and rodents drawn to bird feeders.
• Make garbage inaccessible.
• Do not allow pets to run free. Coyotes can see cats or small dogs as prey (coyotes’ average weight is 35 pounds; they will usually yield their territory to mid-sized or larger dogs).
• Small children should be supervised by an adult while outdoors.
• Unusual coyote behavior should be reported to the Police Department so sightings can be recorded and officers dispatched if necessary. Attacks or emergency situations should be reported via 911.
Based on current levels of activity, there are no immediate plans for hunting and trapping; however, the Department has been issued a Hazing Permit that will authorize hazing after the end of the hunting season on March 27th. Wildlife experts indicate that activities such as hunting, trapping, and hazing are necessary to restore the natural fear of human contact that has been lost by certain animals. Hazing involves making noise, throwing objects, or taking similar action to decrease the animals’ comfort level around humans. We will be tracking all reported coyote sightings and monitoring developments closely; if there is any indication of abnormal behavior that would warrant a more aggressive approach, we will seek authorization to begin trapping or hunting.
The Department has posted a “Coyote Fact Sheet” with general information on the City’s website, and distributed a poster prepared by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to appropriate institutions around the City. Copies of both are attached. We will confer with summer camps prior to the beginning of their season regarding recommended precautions.
Coyote sightings should be reported immediately by calling 911 or the Police Department’s main number, (914) 967-1234.
— Submitted by the Rye Police Department