Indianapolis, Ind - As suburban areas continue to expand in central Indiana, wildlife experts say coyotes are getting bolder and more comfortable with coming into human territories to hunt for food.
Megan Dillon, a Wildlife Biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, says many people have the misconception that expanding neighborhoods are squeezing coyotes out of their territories. In fact, she says, the opposite is happening.
“Every time we go through and clear areas like these, whether we’re removing trees or draining the wetlands or just clearing the area to make room for subdivisions, we’re actually creating really great, open coyote habitat,” Dillon said.
Most suburbs expand out to an open field, which eventually ends at a wooded tree line. That, Dillon says, is a perfect hunting ground for coyotes. And the wild animals are actually starting to move toward these areas, rather than retreat to other parts of the state.
“It just so happens to be that people and coyotes enjoy the same sorts of habitats, which are these kind of low lying grasslands that are bordered by forests and other edges that provide cover,” Dillon said. “So you can’t blame them for wanting to come in as well.”
Studies have shown that Indiana’s coyote population has been increasing since the 1990s. There are several theories about why that is. One idea is that Animal Control agencies have become more proficient at controlling stray dog populations, which eliminates competition for the coyotes.
Studies have also shown that the coyote’s favorite prey is rodents, like field mice, voles, and rats.
Carmel resident Raju Chinthala recently had his own close encounter with a coyote that was likely digging for rodents in his front yard. One night, back in February, Raju’s son through he head a dog digging and sniffing around outside their front door. But when Raju watched the video his son shot on his phone, he realized a coyote had been just a few feet from his front steps, digging next to a bush in his front yard.
Raju’s first thought was for the safety of his small dog, “Snowball.”
“My dog spends half of the time in the backyard and when I read about coyotes, they attack on dogs,” Raju said.
Now that Raju knows his neighborhood near 106th Street and Shelbourne Road is a hunting ground for coyotes, little Snowball isn’t allowed out in the back yard without an escort.
Aside from tracking and hunting for rodents, coyotes often venture into human territory because they are following their noses. Dillon says there are plenty of things in neighborhoods that smell delicious to a hungry coyote, especially the smell of rotting meat. Dillon says coyotes are much more likely to attack decaying animals than a family pet.
“Let’s say that our neighbor was to have a cookout and forget to burn off their grill completely,” Dillon said. “Now all of the houses in that surrounding area are subject to a coyote that might be attracted to their homes or their back yards.”
Dillon says burning off and cleaning grills thoroughly is one way to reduce coyote attractants. People should also avoid setting garbage out overnight, and feeding pets outside.
Even though coyotes in some areas are getting more comfortable around humans, Dillon says they are still naturally skittish animals. Motion-activated lights will normally startle a curious coyote away. And if you do see one in your neighborhood, Dillon says you should try to scare it off.
“Yell, clap, throw something,” Dillon said. “Don’t make that a friendly or benign encounter. Make is something that is startling so that we’ve used that experience to actually teach the animal that people are scary.”
Since coyotes seem to love hunting and digging for rodents, it’s a good idea to keep rodents out of your yard. That could mean calling in a pest control service.