A coyote’s long bushy tail, fluffy coat and perky ears might make it resemble a dog, but — to be clear — it is not a pet.
It’s not uncommon for people to feed coyotes and other wild animals, said Mike Porras, public information officer with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. But once people feed a coyote, the animal will come to expect it, and it can become more aggressive in the pursuit of future meals.
“We have heard many examples of people purposely feeding coyotes,” Porras said. “They don’t realize what a risk they’re taking feeding wildlife.”
People who feed coyotes are breaking the law — and putting themselves, their pets and the coyote in danger.
“If you see a coyote, it’s a pretty neat wildlife viewing experience. But if it’s made a home in your neighborhood, we certainly don’t think that’s a good situation,” Porras said.
The Breckenridge Police Department reported a recent increase in coyote encounters. Officials are asking residents to follow trash rules, refrain from feeding wild animals and understand the best way to handle encounters with wildlife.
“This year has been less of an issue than it has been in past years, but we have had problems with coyotes in the Wellington neighborhood,” said Breckenridge Police Chief Shannon Haynes. “We are trying to address that issue with education and officer patrols.”
Coyotes are intelligent predators that have adapted to living in close proximity to humans.
“A lot of predators are opportunists and will make a living wherever they can,” Porras said. “They are looking for an easy meal, and if they are rewarded with an easy meal they will come back. That’s part of the reason why they live in populated areas.”
Coyotes also aren’t afraid to prey on dogs and cats.
“Coyotes are very intelligent and can appear to lure a pet to play, then turn on it and make it a meal,” Porras said.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife have also had reports of coyotes attacking people.
“If you encounter a coyote, make it feel unwelcome. Don’t run away. Be as big and bold and as loud as possible — and if you are attacked fight back aggressively,” Porras said.
People who come in contact with coyotes are encouraged to haze them with loud noises, shouting or banging pots and pans, or by standing up, yelling and waving arms or clothing to frighten them away.
Because Colorado Parks and Wildlife view human safety as the No. 1 priority, human-coyote encounters often end with the animal being put down, Porras said, and that’s not something they like to see happen.
Haynes said the town of Breckenridge has had a long history of urban coyotes, but they have not had encounters with coyotes acting in an aggressive manner.
“In the past, coyotes have attacked small domestic animals. They have been seen on trails and in yards, and we have had coyote sightings near bus stops,” Haynes said. “When there are encounters with coyotes, we follow the department of wildlife’s recommendations and haze the animals to deter them from human contact.”
In order to avoid problems with coyotes, the Breck police are encouraging residents to take the time to understand how to live alongside wildlife. They’ve included a section on the department website with information about living with bears, coyotes and moose. Parks and Wildlife also has information about avoiding coyote encounters.
“Coyotes are very intelligent and can appear to lure a pet to play, then turn on it and make it a meal.”
Public information officer with Colorado Parks and Wildlife