This week on Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet: When Coyotes Attack, wildlife becomes a challenge for several pet owners, including Dr. Oakley’s family. Living in the Yukon means finding ways to live with wild animals, even the predators that are in your own backyard. This isn’t just a challenge for those who live in remote areas, however. Coyotes are one of the most common predators that may attack pets. And coyotes are found in cities as well as in remote areas.
The Versatile Coyote
The coyote is a member of the genus Canis along with jackals, the gray wolf, the red wolf, and domestic dogs. While coyotes once lived only in prairies and deserts of the western United States and in Mexico, they can now be found across North America. They are an incredibly adaptable species and have been able to extend their range, especially around human habitation.
Coyotes have a varied palate and can survive on a wide variety of food. Mice, voles, rabbits, lizards, fruits, berries, and even insects are acceptable food. Coyotes, when hunting in packs, will also hunt and kill lambs, calves, or other livestock, as well as pets. They aren’t just equal opportunity eaters either; the coyote can adjust its breeding habits and social dynamics in order to survive in a wide variety of habitats.
Coyotes weigh between 20 and 50 pounds (9 to 23 kg). Their keen vision and strong sense of smell makes they formidable hunters. They can also run up to 40 miles (64 kilometers) an hour. In the fall and winter, they form packs for more effective hunting. Biologists believe that the coyote population might be at an all-time high. So it’s important to take steps to protect pets from coyotes if you live in their habitat.
While coyotes can be dangerous and troublesome to domestic animals, they are simply trying to survive as well. Wild animals are opportunists, so if you live in coyote habitat the first precaution should be to remove any potential food from your yard. Don’t leave food outside for pets and make sure your trashcan lids are secure and that coyotes do not have access to them. If coyotes do not have a reason to enter your yard, they may be less likely to wander in and tussle with your pets.
If you know there are coyotes in your area, keep your cats inside. Coyotes are known for predating on housecats and a cat has very little chance against a pack. If you have small dogs, be sure to supervise them when they are outside, especially at night. Make sure all your animals are secure. As Portia’s owner discovered on Dr. Oakley, coyotes will bait a dog, bowing and pretending to want to play, while its packmates remain hidden, waiting to attack.
Securing your yard from coyotes is an excellent idea if you live in an area where coyotes are common. An 8-foot-fence made of material that coyotes can’t climb is best.
Dr. Oakley understands that making peace with predators is a part of living in the wilderness. Unlike in the suburbs and cities, it isn’t always possible to protect the family pets. Nothing brings this home more than finding the family goat, Kate, in critical condition with wounds from a coyote attack. Every day in the Yukon offers new challenges, but also offers triumphs and new life.