About one month ago, I took my two Shih Tzus, Mochie and Meatball, for their evening walk up Green End Avenue, a routine that is rivaled only by a trip to the bank (which comes a cookie). Although our regular path cuts through the baseball field behind the Middletown Senior Center, one animal had a different plan for our evening.
Throughout the summer, I had witnessed glimpses of the creature; the shadow of his tail as he ran across the street, a flash of fur as he jumped into the brush. This time, as if to formally introduce himself, the coyote stood his ground, in the middle of the sidewalk.
I knew he was not curious to meet me; but rather my two, over-trusting, well padded companions. I clapped my hands and yelled. The coyote slowly retreated into the brush, but his leisurely pace seemed to call my bluff; a human ruckus is a threat only to the the peace and quiet of the neighborhood.
I pulled Mochie and Meatball close and retreated towards home. The coyote, never far behind, followed us until we arrived back at the entrance of the Whitehall Farm Development, where we live.
The next evening, we saw him again, but he was where he left us the night before, at the entrance of the development. Every night after that, he lingered at the entrance. Not the heroes - in this particular story at least - we now drive to the beaches for our nightly walks.
Was the coyote stalking us?
According to Middletown Animal Control Officer Joseph Nunes, the answer is a surprising, yes.
“They are highly intelligent animals,” said ACO Nunes. “People don’t believe it, but they will follow you home.” He said once a coyote knows where dogs live, he will wait for his opportunity to hunt.
As if characters in The Grey - it was if we were trapped by merciless wolves. Hollywood drama aside, Nunes said coyotes are actually quite shy, but they are curious. They have increasingly become more accustomed to humans because they are fed, both directly and indirectly through trash.
He said coyote sightings have been reported this summer, but there haven't been any pet related incidents since last winter. In Middletown, there has never been an attack on a human or a dog on an attended leash.
To give the animal a more effective scare in the future, Nunes suggested to walk with something that makes noise like a can.
Although coyotes live in packs of 10 to 12, they will hunt in pairs or alone, said the officer. They will jump over fences and go into yards for food, even if a pet owner is nearby.
“They are like a dog, that has been highly trained by the wild for generations.”
Despite comforts like Starbucks coffee and Patch newsletters, there is an animal kingdom in our backyards. Through the domestication of dogs and other animals, we have entered their kingdom, and we don’t always set the rules.
Tips for co-existing with coyotes
- If you are walking small dogs, you can walk with something that makes noise to scare off a coyote.
- Do not leave small dogs on leash outside unintended.
- Keep dogs on a leash at night at all times. Coyotes are fast and will take a pet even with an owner nearby.
- Never feed coyotes. This is teaches the animals to not fear humans.
- Do not leave out food or feed pets outside.
- Secure trash; the population will regulate itself when food supplies become scarce. When the population grows in residential neighborhoods, it is typically because they have plenty of food.
- Keep cats indoors at all times. Bring small dogs inside at night, and accompany them in areas with coyote sightings.
- If a coyote is staring at or following you, he probably has had previous contact with humans and thinks you are going to feed him.