Why are those two massive dogs running down the sidewalk off-leash, without an owner in sight? Wait a minute, those aren’t dogs …
Hardly a week goes by anymore that we don’t encounter coyotes in our neighborhood. We spot them on walks after dark, watching us with gleaming eyes. We hear their eerie howls as we try to fall asleep. And we come across the evidence of their late-night meals in our yard, in the form of leftover rabbit parts.
Doug Nielsen, regional education supervisor for the Nevada Department of Wildlife, says that to his knowledge, the Valley’s coyote population hasn’t increased significantly. But like any wild animals, they migrate toward areas with more plentiful food supplies, aka rabbits, squirrels and other small-prey species. “Coyotes are like 14-year-old boys, who come into your house and go straight for your refrigerator—they’re always looking for food. If a food source in one area gets hit too hard, they’ll move to another spot.”
Should we be worried? No, and yes, Nielsen says. Coyotes rarely attack humans—“As a general rule they want nothing to do with us,” he explains, citing a comforting statistic: two reported coyote bites in Southern Nevada dating back more than 15 years—but they will go after pets, especially cats and small dogs.
What can we do to protect our furry family members? 1. Don’t let cats run free outdoors, and keep dogs on leashes. 2. If you encounter coyotes, be loud, wave your arms and make yourself look as large as you can. 3. And above all, never feed them, intentionally or by leaving out things that might inadvertently attract them. “We don’t want these animals feeling comfortable with us,” Nielsen says. “Make it clear they’re not welcome.”