MINNEAPOLIS – It doesn't matter whether you consider them a neighbor or a nuisance, coyotes are increasingly among us in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
"We'll probably see it in the metro area – [a] coyote population that's either increasing slightly or, at least, stable. The bottom line is, we're not seeing any fewer coyotes," said Jason Abraham, a furbearer and season setting specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The DNR – and other wildlife specialists – are not able to specifically estimate the coyote population in urban areas, given that they typically estimate the number by following the animals' tracks. In the Minneapolis, St. Paul and surrounding communities, there's simply too much other traffic to distinguish the tracks of a coyote.
But experts say based on other signs and their population throughout the state, they're here. And if you haven't heard them yourself, your neighbor or friend likely has.
A recent Facebook posting received several coyote comments and stories from KARE 11 friends – from Cottage Grove to Lino Lakes, Savage to Eagan. City websites throughout the metro also provide a virtual pawprint – pinpoints of coyote sightings.
THE BLOOMINGTON BOOM
"I've seen a lot more recently than I had before," said David Lee of Bloomington.
When several coyotes gathered around a deer carcass in Lee's backyard, he grabbed his phone and started recording.
Soon other neighbors and the city also took note.
"We've learned that the more people are educated about the population, the better people handle it. So we put it on our city website – some information. We sent out a mailing," said Vic Poyer, the Deputy Chief of the Bloomington Police Department.
ONE FAMILY'S STORY
"Their territory is wherever they decide it to be, and I know a lot of friends that have had encounters on their properties as well," said Joe Woehrle of Lakeville.
The Woehrle family of four has watched a coyote roam their Lakeville yard for several months, at times even coming close to their house and children, Charlie and Maria.
"I looked close… and then it spiked up and it scared me," said 8-year-old Maria about her encounter with the lone coyote.
But just as it did in that case, the Woehrles say the coyote usually runs away.
"Typically the coyote's more afraid of you than you are of it," Joe said.
COYOTES AFRAID OF PEOPLE
And the Woehrle family's experience is consistent with what experts say about the behavior of coyotes.
"Coyote attacks on humans are extremely rare. And in fact, have never happened in the state," Abraham said, adding that while coyotes have never attacked people, they have attacked and killed family cats and dogs.
"The best thing that you can do in those situations is make sure that your dogs and cats, especially, are near the house. Or with cats, in the house," he said.
But what's drawing the wild dogs to the Twin Cities in the first place?
THE TWIN CITIES ATTRACTION
For starters, experts say the Twin Cities terrain is ideal for coyotes.
"The Mississippi River runs right through Minneapolis and St. Paul, so there's lots and lots of wooded ravines and areas for coyotes to be and make a living," Abraham said.
Couple that with the lack of competition – they're literally the top dog – no wolves and bears. Urban sprawl – that is, our development into Greater Minnesota areas – also plays a part, along with trash that attracts rodents.
"Rodents are a big, big food sources for coyotes, and that's something they're here for," Abraham said.
Despite their growth and presence, experts urge people to not overreact to coyotes. In fact, they say there's no reason coyotes can't peacefully coexist with people.
"Usually the vast majority of coyotes are never seen by people," said Lynsey White Dasher, the Director of Humane Wildlife Conflict Resolution for the Humane Society of the United States.
White Dasher has helped several Minnesota communities – including Edina, Eagan, Bloomington and St. Louis Park – manage their coyote cohabitation.
White Dasher, along with other experts, rejects the idea of trapping and killing coyotes, saying it's an option that has proven ineffective.
"We have found, time and time again, that when you remove coyotes from a population, what happens is that the remaining populations of coyotes that are there will expand. They will have more pups. Coyotes live in family groups, like wolves, where only one female is breeding. But if you kill that female – and you disrupt their family group structure – what happens is that all the rest of the females will start breeding," White Dasher said.
Her recommendation for people: learn to live with them.
KEEP COYOTES AFRAID OF PEOPLE
Abraham and White Dasher – along with local community leaders now well-versed in coyote behavior – all recommend that people concerned with coyotes should simply keep the wild animals on their toes. And you do that, they say, by "hazing" the animals.
"If you see a coyote, you should look big and loud. You should yell. Put your arms over your head and yell, 'go away, coyote!" White Dasher said.
"Blow a whistle, use an air horn, use a water gun. Do whatever you can to make them feel uncomfortable in our urban areas," she said, adding, "For the most part, they're really not a threat, but we don't want them to feel too comfortable coming into our yards, which could put our pets at risk."
For more information on how to haze coyotes and keep them far from your home, just go to: http://www.humanesociety.org/news/news/2011/07/people_coyotes_070111.html