Coyote sightings spark awareness efforts

West Bloomfield resident said there are coyote paw prints ‘all over’ her subdivision

By: Mark Vest | C&G Newspapers | Published January 20, 2022

 Coyotes are closely related to dogs and wolves and are about 20-30 pounds. Other characteristics include tall, pointed ears, a narrow snout, yellowish or gray/brown fur, and a bushy, black-tipped tail, according to the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Department.

Coyotes are closely related to dogs and wolves and are about 20-30 pounds. Other characteristics include tall, pointed ears, a narrow snout, yellowish or gray/brown fur, and a bushy, black-tipped tail, according to the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Department.

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WEST BLOOMFIELD/FARMINGTON — West Bloomfield resident Carrie Candela recently said that there are paw prints all over the subdivision she lives in.

She lives near Maple and Halstead roads, in the Chelsea Park subdivision, and the kind of paw prints she is referring to are not those of domesticated animals roaming the neighborhood, but those of coyotes.

Aside from observing the prints, Candela said, she recently looked out her window and saw three coyotes in her yard.

“This was 5 in the morning,” she said. “I just watched them to see where they were going — from my backyard, up the side of the house, across the street. … I have my granddaughter come here (at) 6 o’clock in the morning every day. They keep coming on my deck, and I’m afraid for her. She’s just a little girl.”

Candela said she called the West Bloomfield Police Department.

“The police say coyotes won’t bother people, but she’s just a little girl and it’s a pack; that’s what I’m afraid of,” she said. “When I talked to the police I’m like, ‘Oh, you gotta wait until they attack a kid before you can do anything.’”

West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission Park Naturalist Supervisor Lauren Azoury is aware of the fear that exists about coyotes.

“We try to expel that fear,” Azoury said. “We are coexisting in a habitat with them, and there really isn’t a danger. There’s no history of coyote attacks on humans in Michigan at all.”

However, Azoury believes that coyotes can pose a threat to cats and dogs.

“They can, if the cat or dog is not accompanied by a human,” she said. “If you follow the rules on trails in the park systems, where you keep your dog on a leash and the dog is with you — a bigger, larger, adult human — then the coyote would be deterred from that.”

Azoury pointed out something else that can also help keep coyotes at bay.

“If you do see coyotes coming to your yard or coming to you while you’re walking your dog, the best thing to do is to make loud noises — clap your hands, things like that, so they don’t approach. And it helps them also become less humanized,” she said. “We don’t want them to feel comfortable approaching humans. Those coyotes are the ones that the DNR has to be called, or animal control has to be called, and they are removed.”

While that may seem like a good solution for some, Azoury shared her rationale as to why having coyotes removed may not be such a good idea.

“We don’t want that to happen; we actually need coyotes,” she said. “We need them for rodent control in our area. … If you see them, the best thing to do is just make loud noises to deter them.”

Farmington Hills Nature Center Supervisor Ashlie Smith has a similar perspective as that of Azoury. She shared some thoughts about coyotes via a city of Farmington Hills YouTube video that was posted.

“If you see a coyote coming up to your backyard, it’s important to do what’s called coyote hazing,” Smith said. “A lot of times, coyotes need to maintain a healthy fear of humans. So if you make loud noises — bang pots and pans together — the coyotes will maintain their fear of humans and keep their distance. … If you’re getting a coyote that doesn’t seem to have any fear of humans and continues to come up to your backyard, it’s important to call Oakland County Animal Control.”

According to information on the Oakland County Parks and Recreation website, coyotes are closely related to dogs and wolves and are about 20-30 pounds.

Other characteristics include tall pointed ears, a narrow snout, yellowish or gray/brown fur, and a bushy, black-tipped tail.

West Bloomfield Police Department Deputy Chief Curt Lawson said the department did a lot of research on coyotes about six years ago, when a family of them were living on the Police Department’s property.

“We were seeing them in late fall, early winter, and we know (from) doing research that their mating season is between January and March, and that’s when they’re most active,” he said. “Our staff — we’re a 24/7 operation — would always see them at nighttime. They would literally lay on our driveway. … We would have officers pulling up to the station, (and) there would be coyotes sitting there, so it was a little bit eerie at times.”

Lawson also shared a note of caution for pet owners.

“Coyotes eat mice, rabbits, dead animals, berries (and) insects,” he said. “There have been occasions when homeowners let their dogs roam free or their cats have free rein. The coyotes will, if they’re hungry, take the opportunity to hunt small dogs and animals, so we certainly encourage our residents to be careful.”

Candela, who has two cats, said there are signs up in her neighborhood about missing dogs, and she thinks there may be a connection between that and the spotting of the coyotes.

“I would be totally devastated if it happened to any of my pets, and I would feel for the people if it happened to their pet,” she said. “Pets are like our children. I’m really close to my pets.”

Lawson said there were two complaints about coyotes from residents last year, and five apiece in 2019 and 2020.

He said there are coyotes in almost every community in Michigan. What some people may want to do if they see a coyote is the very thing Lawson encourages them not to do.

“You never wanna run away from the coyote,” he said. “In most circumstances, they’re more scared of us, and they really want nothing to do with us.”

Lawson offered some tips to help avoid potential problems.

“We encourage our residents to cover their trash bins. We certainly would never want them to feed coyotes,” he said. “Accompanying your pets outside when they’re going out to either take a walk, go to the bathroom — you should be out there with your animal, especially if they’re under 25 pounds.”

Smith also shared some suggestions.

“A couple things to do to keep coyotes from coming into your backyard is, one, make sure you secure any type of food source that coyotes might be interested in; for example, if you have trash cans outside, you wanna make sure they’re secure or put in an indoor area where coyotes aren’t attracted to them,” she said. “If you feed your pet outdoors, it’s important to bring their food back in after they eat. Pet food can attract coyotes.”

Smith also recommended keeping pets that go outside in a fenced-in area, with supervision.

Azoury is also a proponent of eliminating potential food sources as a way of deterring coyotes from coming onto a property.

“In the summer months and spring months, if you have any kind of fruit trees, you don’t wanna have all that rotten food on the ground. The smell will bring them to your property,” she said. “If you put food out for any of your pets — cat food, dog food, anything that’s aeromatic, they’re gonna be attracted to. … the scent will draw them there.”

The Oakland County Parks and Recreation Department encourages people to never approach or touch coyotes, to not allow a dog to challenge them, and to not allow dogs off leashes except within securely fenced dog parks.

The Oakland County Parks site also offers advice, should anyone be attacked by a coyote.

“In the unlikely event of an attack, hit it, kick it or throw something — remember, you’re much larger than a coyote,” the site reads.

Smith discussed the kind of environment that attracts coyotes.

“Coyotes like to live in edge habitats, so habitats where the wood ends and a large grassy area opens up,” she said. “So, a lot of folks in Farmington Hills have that as their backyard. That’s why we’re seeing a lot of coyotes in those types of environments.”

West Bloomfield also has features that can attract coyotes.

“Their natural habitat is usually on the edge of a forest and a field,” Azoury said. “They like that edge habitat, but they are easily adaptable, so it is common to find them in West Bloomfield. We’re very fortunate in West Bloomfield that we do have a lot of natural land. We have a lot of lakes and parks, so they are able to find suitable habitats.”

Lawson relayed a message for West Bloomfield residents.

“There is no hunting here in West Bloomfield,” he said. “You can, statewide, hunt coyotes if they’re doing damage to your private property. We would encourage individuals that, if you have a coyote that has caused damage or is frequenting your property and has become a nuisance coyote, you’ll have to get a hold of a trapper or a company that will remove the animal that’s permitted by the state.”

From Lawson’s perspective, coyotes have a place in West Bloomfield.

“Coyotes are part of the nature that we have here in West Bloomfield — a very robust number of animals, plants and trees here in West Bloomfield,” he said. “That’s what makes this community so special, and coyotes play a part in the ecosystem here.”

Smith said those with questions or concerns can call the Farmington Hills Nature Center at (248) 477-1135.

Aggressive or sick coyotes should be reported to Oakland County Animal Control at (248) 858-1090.

For more information on coyotes, visit michigan.gov/dnr.

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