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Posted: 02/09/11

MORE FREQUENT SIGHTINGS. Coyotes and a number of birds of prey are being spotted more frequently in southeastern Michigan as they are growing in numbers and spreading out in search of food. This bald eagle has been hanging around the 34 Mile and McKay area for the past couple of weeks. Bald eagles, hawks and owls are federally protected. Refer to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website, for tips on deterring nuisance birds from your yard or where to report the abuse of federally protected wildlife.

(Photo courtesty of Linda Staelgraeve)

More and more coyotes
finding their way into area

Observer Special Writer
      Denise Kappa watched in awe as a deer stood gracefully in the backyard of her Armada home. Kappa's admiration soon turned to horror as a coyote sent the deer scrambling for safety.
       Kappa's experience is becoming more common in the area as coyotes are moving closer to the more populated areas of southeastern Michigan.
       Hannah Schauer, a wildlife technician for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said the increase in the number of coyotes in areas such as Armada, Bruce and Washington townships doesn't surprise her.
       "It is no longer unusual to see coyotes in a residential area because people create such a good habitat for them," Schauer said. "They are a very adaptable species and really thrive in human populated areas."
       Schauer said the increase in coyote sightings could be attributed to a number of things, including the fact that humans are actually attracting them to their yards and neighborhoods.
       "Anyone who feeds any type of animal outdoors, whether that be their pet, stray cats or birds, is actually attracting other animals, some who are unwelcome, to their yards as well," Schauer said.
       In addition to pesky raccoons and opossum, Schauer said coyotes are finding people's backyards to be good feeding grounds.
       "Besides pet dishes, open garbage cans are a good source of food, as well as the smaller animals who are feeding out of them," she said.
       In addition to other wild animals, coyotes are also preying on pets which is becoming a huge concern for owners of smaller dogs and indoor-outdoor cats. Schauer said that although coyotes do not typically prey on animals bigger than themselves, incidents such as Kappa's are not unusual, nor would it be atypical for a coyote to attack a larger dog.
       "They are wild animals and all wild animals are unpredictable," Schauer said. "Especially wild animals who are looking for food."
       For those who own pets of any size, Schauer's advice to keep them safe is simple: Make sure there are no open food sources in your yard.
       Schauer also suggests owners of smaller pets accompany them outside. In addition, keeping an outdoor light on at night will usually deter coyotes from settling in near a residence.
       "Use common sense," Schauer said. "Never purposely put food out to attract wild animals to your yard. Besides it being illegal, you could possibly end up with a nuisance that is hard to get rid of."
       Schauer said that although there have not been any reports of coyote-human attacks at this point, the DNR has gotten calls for advice on how to keep themselves and their children safe.
       "Typically, coyotes are afraid of humans unless they start to relate humans to food. If there is a coyote nearby and it doesn't appear to be afraid, clap your hands and act as `big' and scary as possible," she said. "And never attempt to approach them."
       In most cases, coyotes are moving to wooded residential areas simply due to an increase in population and the natural way that they live. Coyotes are not pack animals, therefore, as the population grows their need to spread out and into more human populated areas for hunting and territorial purposes is growing as well. Schauer said due to this expansion, it is not unusual to see nocturnal animals, such as fox, raccoons and coyotes themselves, during daytime hours.
       "Seeing a nocturnal animal during the day doesn't necessarily mean it is sick or rabid," she said. "Animals, such as a fox for instance, may have to change their behavior in order to compete in hunting areas if a coyote has moved in."
       Michigan has a coyote hunting and trapping season, which runs from mid-October to March 1 in state approved areas. Schauer said a nuisance coyote doing damage on private property where hunting is allowed can be taken out at any time.
       "Anyone with questions or concerns should contact their municipal office or the DNR first," she said.
       In addition to coyotes, Schauer said bald eagles, bear and a number of hawk species are moving southward from upper Michigan.

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