Increased Coyote Sightings

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In response to an increasing number of calls from people who have sighted coyotes and are concerned about them, the Department of Environmental Management's Division of Fish and Wildlife advises Rhode Islanders that it is not unusual at this time of year to see coyotes active during daylight hours. Coyotes inhabit all communities in Rhode Island, except Block Island.

According to Lori Gibson, principal wildlife biologist for DEM's Division of Fish and Wildlife, from now through early March, during breeding season, young coyotes, recently driven off by their parents, are attempting to establish their own territory or find a mate. "Late winter is also a time when natural food resources are low," Gibson says, "and finding enough food requires greater effort. Coyotes will eat a wide variety of animals, particularly small mammals such as mice, squirrels, and rabbits, as well as wild and domestic fruits and berries such as apples and grapes.

Coyotes, she notes, are opportunistic predators who will hunt all mammals without distinguishing between domestic pets and wild animals. They sometimes prey on cats, and to a lesser extent on small dogs. To minimize the possibility of encounters between pets and coyotes or other wildlife, Gibson says, "Avoid feeding your pets outdoors if possible. If you do feed outside, remove food dishes after your pet has eaten, do not put bread or other table scraps out for birds or squirrels and avoid putting meat or other potential coyote food sources in compost piles. Always secure trash, and try to put it out in the morning of pickup days rather than the night before.

"Keeping cats and small dogs indoors is the best possible way to protect them from encounters with coyotes or other wildlife," she says.

Coyotes that find abundant food sources around neighborhoods may become bold, but they are rarely aggressive towards people. They can - and should - be frightened away by loud noises such as whistles, shouting, or banging on a pot.