Wildlife experts discuss coyote control

One man wanted to know how to protect his puppy, after a coyote killed the family pet last year.

Another man sees coyote tracks regularly, and found a possible den on his property that the animals could hide in.

More than 90 Johnson County residents packed into the Greenwood Public Library to find out what to do if coyotes are in their neighborhood.

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The Indiana Department of Natural Resources receives calls daily about coyotes in urban areas, and set up informational seminars in communities with the most calls. Greenwood was one of the four stops across the state, due to the number of calls about urban coyotes that come from the area, state officials said.

The state does not have enough staff to respond to every call, so officials wanted to educate the public through informational meetings. Five experts from the state discussed coyotes’ habits, when they typically are seen in Johnson County and what to do if coyotes are aggressive.

Coyotes can be found in every county in Indiana, and have adapted to live in populated areas, said Shawn Rossler, a biologist with the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife. Residents have reported more and more coyote sightings in recent years.

The Greenwood Police Department started a website last year to track coyote sightings in the area, and the city council discussed fining residents who leave dog food on their porch or throw food outside that coyotes could eat, but ultimately didn’t approve the proposal.

“We don’t have a fence, but we don’t have any pets either that are outside,” Greenwood resident Gail Munger said. “But we can hear them.”

Residents can shout, make loud noises or throw rocks or sticks at coyotes in their yards, which is usually enough to scare them away, officials said.

But a coyote typically stays within one to seven square miles, so if one is found in your backyard, it’s possible that it’s staying close by, Rossler said.

Officials want to keep the aggressive animals away from residents, but do not want to get rid of the overall population of coyotes.

The animals typically only become nuisances if they attack smaller animals, like dogs, cats or rodents, or if they become sick with rabies.

The majority of health concerns would harm animals, not humans, said Shannon Winks, a biologist with the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife. The main health concerns that a coyote could cause include rabies, canine parvovirus, canine distemper virus and mange, which could lead to hair loss in animals, Winks said.

If a coyote is acting sick or odd, including their body shifting in an unnatural way or swaying when they step, residents can report it, Rossler said.

“If it’s not acting normal, you can call animal control, or your local police. If they say ‘there’s nothing we can do,’ then I’d call nuisance wildlife control,” said Warren Gartner, the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife Conservation education supervisor.

“If it’s acting like it’s sick, then often animal control will deal with it.”

Homeowners can trap coyotes using rubber traps, but they have to be handed over to a professional within 24 hours, according to the Indiana Division of Law Enforcement.

Landowners living outside of city limits are also allowed to hunt coyotes on their land year-round, officials said.

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Here are some tips about coyotes:

Some hints that coyotes could be in the area:

  • Hearing howling.
  • Finding coyote droppings.
  • Tracks that look like paw prints, but are about 2 1/2 inches long. More space is between the four paw prints of a coyote than a typical dog.

What to do if you see a coyote:

  • Scare the coyote away by shouting.
  • Make loud noises.
  • Throw rocks to discourage them from staying near your house.
  • Never corner a coyote, which could make them aggressive or defensive

How to make sure there’s nothing attracting coyotes to your yard:

  • Whenever possible, feed pets indoors.
  • Pick up any leftover food from porches and backyards.
  • Do not leave water bowls or other sources of water outside.
  • Position bird feeders high so coyotes cannot get to the food.
  • Keep garbage containers securely closed.
  • Do not allow pets to run free, even in the backyard.