City completes plan to manage urban coyotes

Posted 1/29/09

Centennial has a plan. After months of fielding complaints, meeting with wildlife experts and some considerable chin scratching, the city has …

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City completes plan to manage urban coyotes


Centennial has a plan.

After months of fielding complaints, meeting with wildlife experts and some considerable chin scratching, the city has developed a basic course of action to deal with the perceived problem of urban coyotes.

City manager Jacque Wedding-Scott presented an official coyote management plan to the city council Jan. 21 and the council reached consensus that Centennial should move forward with the proposed mix of educational outreach, coyote monitoring and restrained mitigation.

The educational component includes encouraging residents to remove pet food, fallen fruit and other such items from their lawns, to install 6-foot privacy fences, and above all, to never intentionally feed a coyote, among other advisories.

The council may also consider ordinances to allow higher fences and to legally prohibit the feeding of wildlife.

The program includes elements of “coexistence” with coyotes and use of so-called “hazing” methods to instill fear of humans in the urbanized animal.

According to figures provided by the city, it would cost the city $100,000 to implement the program. The annual figure includes $25,000 to $35,000 for a part-time wildlife ecologist, $25,000 in other part-time staff support and about $20,000 in educational materials and postage.

In the case of killing coyotes that have become habitual problems, the city would expect to spend about $1,000 to identify each aggressive coyote, $8,000 to hire a trapper and $1,500 for a shooter.

The city has already begun efforts to educate the public about coyotes by distributing brochures and reaching out to neighborhoods and school districts. A prominently displayed coyote incident report system also has been added to the city Web site.

The emphasis on coyote monitoring and education was the result of widespread anecdotes of coyotes in the city and positive feedback to a Dec. 8 council meeting at which representatives from the Colorado Division of Wildlife and others made a detailed presentation to the council and public.

Ashley Delaup, a wildlife ecologist for the City and County of Denver, told the council that killing coyotes often results in even larger coyote populations in the future because the animal tends to overcompensate for its losses.

Further, according to Jack Murphy, director of Denver-based Urban Wildlife Rescue, when mating alpha males are killed or otherwise removed from the population, it can wreak havoc, causing young coyotes who would not normally mate to do so.

Although last month’s presentation — which favored co-existence with coyotes over lethal measures — did anything but simplify the issue for a council seeking clear solutions, many in the audience later complimented the council for helping to disseminate little-known information about coyote behavior.

“We’re talking to schools. We’re talking to residents,” Wedding-Scott said of Centennial’s educational outreach. “When we know we have a [problem] in a particular area, we target that area with literature and educational materials.”

For example, city staff recently visited a local elementary school that had reported coyote activity and found such things as underbrush and uncovered trash lids, both of which are attractive to the animals.

The city will continue to use the Web-based incident reporting system to learn where the coyotes are showing up in Centennial. Councilmembers asked that citizens be asked to report such details as the physical description of the coyote — and if a coyote attacks a pet, what time of day the attack occurred and if the attacked pet was on a leash at the time.

Many cities have similar reporting systems, and according to Wedding-Scott, Centennial should consider sharing its data with surrounding municipalities.

The city uses four general classifications for coyote interactions:

Observation —The act of noticing or taking note of coyote tracks, scat or vocalizations

Sighting — A visual observation of a coyote

Encounter — An unexpected direct meeting between a human and a coyote without incident

Incident —A conflict between a human and a coyote where a coyote exhibits behavior that creates an unsafe situation for the human

Some on council would like to see Centennial amend its official classifications, even though such a move would potentially complicate sharing data with other governments and agencies.

District 3 Councilmember Rebecca McClellan suggested that the state’s classifications carry too high of a burden to be tenable among her constituents who have complained of interactions with aggressive coyotes.

“The department of wildlife’s definitions are something I would not find acceptable,” she said. “It’s my understanding it’s not an attack [under the state Division of Wildlife system] unless the skin is broken or if the coyote literally bites someone.”

All the talk about education and reporting procedure caused District 3’s Patrick Anderson to wonder if citizens might get the wrong idea about the city’s priorities.

“One of the complaints we’ve gotten in the past is somebody’s pet gets attacked and they get a brochure saying you’ve got to live with coyotes,” he said. “I want to make sure our citizens understand that it isn’t just an educational program.”

Targeted killing of specific problem coyotes appears to be a more popular scenario than a sweeping extermination policy.

It is illegal to relocate coyotes in Colorado.


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