Holly Vaughn, a wildlife communications coordinator from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, discusses the unique features of coyotes.

Holly Vaughn, a wildlife communications coordinator from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, discusses the unique features of coyotes.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


Coyotes no cause for alarm, DNR says

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published October 15, 2019

 An audience gathers for a presentation about coyotes at the Sterling Heights Nature Center Oct. 9.

An audience gathers for a presentation about coyotes at the Sterling Heights Nature Center Oct. 9.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

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STERLING HEIGHTS — Coyotes are in Sterling Heights, and like their Roadrunner-hunting cartoon counterpart, sometimes they fall on the wrong side of technology in a modern world.

“We just had one killed here on Dequindre, north of 14 Mile Road, in the middle of Dequindre,” Sterling Heights Police Chief Dale Dwojakowski said. “So to say, ‘Oh, you have to live by the woods’ — that’s not really true either. They are everywhere. They are in every single county in Michigan.”

The police, city officials, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources discussed how to deal with coyotes in the suburbs Oct. 9 at the Sterling Heights Nature Center. The seminar was aimed at fostering coexistence with the wild animals, as well as how people can keep kids and pets safe.

Dwojakowski said police often get tips from residents about coyote sightings from social media. The chief added that sometimes, coyotes are responsible for attacks on pets.

“We get this all the time. We had a small dog that was killed near the area of 17 (Mile Road) and Utica Road,” the chief said. “We had another dog attacked right near the Nature Center right here. So we’re aware of those incidents.”

Attendees also learned about coyotes and their behavior. The DNR says that coyotes are seen more often in suburban areas because of expanding development.

Holly Vaughn, wildlife communications director for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said coyotes typically weigh 20-46 pounds and are about as big as a medium-sized dog. They typically have a bushy, “bottle-shaped” tail that hangs downward.

The DNR says coyotes lurk most often around dusk and dawn, though they can be seen just about any hour of the day. The fall season is when young coyotes stake out their territory, and the animals usually breed between January and March. They tend to like streets, rivers and power line corridors, Vaughn said.

Vaughn said she wants to assure the public that “you are safe,” emphasizing that coyotes historically have almost never hurt humans. Only 142 attack incidents occurred in the U.S. between 1960 and 2006, she said.

“There has never been a human attack in Michigan,” she said. “They are not going to eat your children. They are likely not going to attack your pets, as long as you’re smart about when you let them out.”

While Vaughn said coyotes can attack small animals and pets, it isn’t as common as many people think.

“It can happen, but it doesn’t happen often,” she said. “A lot of times when you see attacks on pets, it’s more a territory thing than a coyote trying to kill a pet.”

She added that coyotes generally are not a nuisance, a villain or a pest to the area. She said they are even beneficial to the local ecosystem because they eat lots of rabbits, rodents and carrion.

During the meeting, Vaughn talked about how homeowners can reduce their risk of encountering a coyote around their property. Removing trash, bird feeders and pet food from a property is one way, she said. People also shouldn’t approach or feed a coyote if they see one.

“Don’t let them get too comfortable,” she said. “Make lots of noise.”

Pet owners should supervise or leash their dogs and cats when they go outside, she explained. She also suggested keeping pets indoors at night and not feeding them outside.

As the presentation concluded, City Manager Mark Vanderpool asked Vaughn whether hundreds of coyotes are living in Sterling Heights. Vaughn couldn’t say for sure and explained that upticks in reported activity sometimes mean that people are seeing the same coyotes on different occasions.

“I would easily say that there are hundreds in southeast Michigan,” she said. “Are there hundreds of coyotes in Sterling Heights? Maybe, but maybe not.”

Find out more about the Sterling Heights Nature Center by visiting www.myshpr.net or by calling (586) 446-2710. Learn more about the Michigan Department of Natural Resources by visiting www.michigan.gov/dnr or by calling (734) 953-0241.

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