THE WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY
It happens every summer: sensational news reports vilify coyotes in Oakland County. The media transforms Canis latrans into something as foreign as an alien spacecraft landing. That style of reporting (in print and on television) creates bias by being short on facts and using such words as predatory and lurking.
Coyotes are predatory but the word predatory when placed before the word coyote creates fear. Frogs, salamanders, hawks, robins and the beautiful eastern bluebird are also predatory. A phrase such as “The coyote was seen lurking in the woods” is often included in news reports. Lurking equates with sinister intent; you will never read, “A predatory bluebird was lurking at the edge of the woods,” in the newspaper.
Coyotes are highly intelligent animals, and are adapting to our way of life far more quickly then we are learning about theirs. A few days ago, I received an inquiry asking what can be done to rid the county of “vermin”. And by vermin the complainant referred to a coyote that might have killed a fawn not far from the Paint Creek Trail. The individual was upset that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources was not going to trap the coyote – they wanted warnings posted that a coyote was seen in the area. I do not see anyone asking the County to rid us of automobiles because they kill deer. I suspect a bit of the “Bambi Syndrome” came into play – with the fawn being cute and coyotes having an undeserved image of being a bad guy.
Coyotes are very much part of the natural environment in every county in Michigan; they help to keep geese in check by eating the eggs and the geese still in their flightless stage. They also feast on mice, rats, groundhogs, rabbits and just about any small creature. They are also a natural predator on fawns. That is the way of the coyote.
The way of humans should be to keep coyotes wild. Coyotes are an important role in the ecosystem and by their very nature are curious of their surroundings and cautious of humans. But if they are given access to garbage and human food, their behavior changes and they become bold and begin to lose caution and fear. With sensational newspaper articles provoking public paranoia, it’s time for a few facts about how to co-exist with coyotes.
- NEVER feed coyotes.
- Do not leave pet food or water bowls out overnight.
- Keep small pets indoors at night.
- Always keep dogs leashed on trails.
- If you see a coyote around your home or on a trail, never run away. Create noise and commotion to scare it away.
Arm yourself with knowledge, not fear. An excellent on-line resource on co-existing with coyotes and other wildlife can be found on the website link of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Keep Me Wild program: www.KeepMeWild.org