It’s that time of year when we’ll start to see more and more mammals scurrying about around the city. Mammals like foxes, squirrels and, yes, maybe even some coyotes.
In the past 15 years, coyote populations in Midwestern urban and suburban areas have been increasing -- including in the Kansas City area.
“A lot of folks don’t realize that we have them around the state, they don’t realize that they’re inside the cities. So when they see one they get all concerned,” says Andy Friesen, a wildlife damage biologist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife.
When people have a problem with a wild animal, Friesen is often the guy they call.
There have been coyote sightings in Lenexa, Overland Park, Shawnee, near Kansas City International Airport in Missouri, and they are commonly heard and seen around Lawrence, Kan.
Friesen says people often react initially by being scared -- they worry about the safety of their children, and pets. But he wants people to know a few things before they react:
- There have been no attacks on children in our area; coyote attacks on humans are highly unlikely in general.
- Coyote-related dog and animal deaths are more about coyotes protecting territory then about being hungry. These deaths can be avoided if people use best practices like fencing animals, and bringing animals in at night.
- Also coyotes around our area only weigh about 25 pounds, the size of a small- to medium-size dog. So they’re not that all that big and scary.
Friesen says the continued blurred line between urban, rural and suburbia can make managing wild animals a challenge.
“The bottom line is that there are a bunch of critters out there. They don’t know where the city boundaries start and stop or the rural areas start and stop,” he says.
In rural areas, coyotes causing problems can be shot under the wildlife code. Here are the different Kansas, and Missouri coyote regulations. But coyotes causing problems inside city limits have to be solved through trapping and proper education.
“The critters that are here inside the city have acclimated themselves to human activities. They aren’t the same type of coyote that are out in central and western Kansas that have been pursued aggressively by trappers and hunters,” says Friesen.
That’s why he advocates for instilling a little more fear in urban coyotes. He says, within your comfort zone, try to scare them off by making loud noises, use a whistle, squirt water or bang pots and pans.
But it has to be a whole neighborhood effort. One person can be working hard to to deter a mammal, while someone else is doing something to attract them. Friesen says more and more his job feels like it’s about managing people.
“It’s kind of trying to figure out the social acceptable number of critters,” he says. “You know one person that has a deer eating one of their hostas in their backyard may think they have way too many deer. And the person next door, they may have a feeder out there and want 10 more. So what’s the magic number?”
As winter wraps up and spring begins, Friesen expects to get a lot more mammal nuisance calls. His advice: figure out how to live with the animals while avoiding behaviors that attract them, like leaving out cat and dog food, and putting out trash too early. And know that even bird feeders can attract unwanted mammal activity.