Oz: Wildlife encounters will happen living so close to nature

Coyote attacks of pets are starting to become more and more common.

Just recently I had to rush to the hospital to treat Winston, one of my regular patients, who got attacked by a coyote in his own backyard in front of his owner.

What makes Kelowna so wonderful in my eyes, is being the perfect combination of both urban and country at the same time.

Living with that proximity to nature, brings some undesirable encounters with wildlife.

The wild animals are getting more used to humans.

Bears and coyotes are not scared of people as they used to be, so many of us get these unwanted guests in our own backyards.

Coyotes are considered carnivores but more often as omnivores (eating everything) coyotes are opportunistic, versatile feeders. They eat small mammals such as squirrels, mice, birds, snakes, lizards, deer and livestock, as well as insects and other invertebrates.

The coyote will also target any species of bird that nests on the ground.

Fruits and vegetables can form a significant part of the coyote’s diet in the summer and autumn. Part of the coyote’s success as a species is its dietary adaptability.

As such, coyotes have been known to eat human rubbish and domestic pets.

Coyotes increasingly rely on households pets as their source of nutrition.

Cats and small dogs are in particular risk. Pets are more commonly attacked during the winter months than during the spring and summer.

This corresponds to the breeding season of the coyote.

Though coyotes have been observed to travel in large groups, they primarily hunt in pairs.

Coyotes are often attracted to dog food and animals that are small enough to appear as prey.

Items such as garbage, pet food and sometimes feeding stations for birds and squirrels will attract coyotes into backyards.

Coyote attacks are usually fatal in cats and small dogs.

If the animal gets away or is saved by the owner, it can sustain significant damages that require surgical repair and antibiotics for the potential infections caused by bite wounds.

Typically, the actual tissue damage of the bite wounds is much larger in the deeper tissues compared to the visible external wounds. This is attributed to the tendency of the predator to stick its teeth in the prey’s flesh and shake its body.

Externally, one may only see the teeth marks; however, the animal is usually suffering from a much more significant injury.

Hence, every bite wound, even if seemingly minor, requires a vet’s attention, let alone every serious bite wound.

If we cannot get rid of coyotes, we have to learn to live with them.

The best way is to try to avoid any contact with coyotes. Fences can help to keep coyotes out of your yard, but coyotes have been known to jump over them. The best fences for keeping out coyotes are at least six feet tall, solid walls that are not see-through and have a roll bar on top.

If you are aware of coyotes in your neighbourhood, try to avoid leaving your dog alone outdoors (especially if it is a small breed).

Some coyotes will attempt to attack a dog on a leash. Avoid using a retractable leash to reduce the chances of that happening.

If you encounter a coyote, try to scare it away. Scream, wave your arms, throw objects at it.

Do not run away as running will elicit an attack. Any injury sustained by your pet requires immediate veterinary care.

Most importantly, keep your house environment free of potential attractions for wildlife.

Make sure you don’t leave food outside, including pet foods and make sure the garbage is stored in sealed containers.

Feeding stations for birds can also attract coyotes. You better rethink having those in your backyard if you live in an area frequented by coyotes.

As for cats. For their safety, I strongly recommend to keep them strictly indoors.

Cats that were never exposed to the outdoors, will not “crave” going outside. A cat’s encounter with a coyote is most probably equal to a death sentence.

The outside world is just too dangerous for cats. Between the coyotes or other wild predators, the neighbours dogs and vehicles, cats are just better to stay indoors.

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