As coyotes become more visible in a search for food and mates the question has become: To kill or not to kill?
By Adam Aasen
On a quiet March evening in the Cheswick Place neighborhood in Carmel, Vickie Sporle decided to take her three dogs out for a walk. She said she remembers holding the leash in her hand when out of the shadows a creature pounced up to one of her dogs.
The leash tore apart as her 8-year-old bichon named Zipp was snatched and carried away in the mouth of a wild carnivore. She was only 10 feet from her porch when a coyote grabbed her beloved pet and took it behind Smokey Row Elementary.
“I am a very calm person and I freaked out,” she said. “I just knew he was dead.”
Luckily, loud noises and a quick flash of an iPhone scared away the predator.
Zipp survived the puncture wounds, but Sporle said she is still afraid to this day to walk her dogs at night.
Nearly a year later, the prevalence of coyotes is an ongoing issue in Carmel, with numerous sightings prompting outrage and fear among many residents.
The city council recently took up the issue at their Feb. 17 meeting, and many officials – including Mayor Jim Brainard – have promised to hire trappers to resolve the problem.
While many residents are happy with that response, others want more aggressive action to combat the coyotes.
And another vocal group that describes themselves as “pro-coyote” are disappointed with what they are calling a mob mentality against what they see as beautiful creatures. They said they want to find ways for residents to co-exist with coyotes instead of just trapping and killing them.
The existence and prevalence of coyotes isn’t debated by most people. Residents agree they hunt in packs in neighborhoods such as Brookshire, which recently addressed the issue at its homeowner meeting.
The question is: How aggressive are the coyotes currently?
City Councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider said he spoke with numerous people and that the brash behavior by the coyotes warrants action.
“When the coyotes are right at your front door, that’s too aggressive,” Rider said.
‘Doing the worst possible thing’
One Brookshire resident, Suzan Davis, has made it her mission to study the creatures to determine if there’s a serious threat to neighbors. Davis, who holds degrees in zoology and biology, said too many neighbors are feeding the coyotes, which causes the creatures to no longer fear humans. It doesn’t turn them into domesticated pets, but rather encourages them to hunt right in people’s yards. It also increases the likelihood that coyotes will breed more than usual.
“Once you feed a wild animal, you have changed it and not for the better,” she said.
One of Davis’ neighbors, Vince Mercuri, thinks the city should pass an ordinance to make it illegal to feed coyotes.
“These people think they are helping, but they are doing the worst possible thing you can do to deal with the problem,” he said.
Although the city hasn’t hired professional trappers yet, Brainard said in a news release that the city would examine ways to relocate the coyotes humanely if possible. He made no mention of euthanizing the animals but many local trappers have gone on the record to say that does commonly occur.
Lt. Joe Bickel, of the Carmel Police Department, said residents shouldn’t be in a panic about the situation. There’s no need for people to go out with firearms to try to eliminate the coyotes themselves, he said, it’s best for residents to leave the issue to the authorities, especially since many breeds of dogs could be mistaken for coyotes.
Bickel said he hasn’t received any recent reports of coyote attacks and if owners keep their dogs on a leash and take precautions then there is no need to worry.
Coyote problem or problem coyotes
Kathy Stetler, who lives at 116th Street and Spring Mill Road, said she’s still afraid even if her dog is on a leash. Back in 2011, her dog Hilo was attacked by a coyote in her backyard, necessitating serious medical attention.
She said it concerns her that this issue hasn’t been dealt with earlier than now.
At the same time, many residents feel that most of these reports of coyote attacks are exaggerated and can result in people trying to fix the problems themselves, using poisons or personal firearms.
Judith Campbell, a Brookshire resident and board member for Friends of Hamilton County Parks, said people should take the time to educate themselves about coyote behavior before they get into an uproar.
“Everyone is saying there is a ‘coyote problem,’ but I think there might be just one or two ‘problem coyotes,’” she said.
Campbell said there are ways that people and coyotes can safely coexist if people would stop feeding the animals and take proper precautions.
Camila Fox, executive director of Project Coyote, a national organization dedicated to spreading awareness of the creatures, said people should promote education before jumping to trapping or killing the animals.
“Some people very much appreciate the presence of native wild life,” she said.
But residents like Mercuri believe that the pro-coyote advocates are the ones that need to be educated.
“I’m not out to kill animals, but they aren’t anything more than predators,” he said. “They’re dangerous.”
She said, “I don’t see how we can co-exist if coyotes are attacking your loved ones.”
Here is some advice for dealing with coyotes:
● Feed pets indoors whenever possible.
● Eliminate water bowls and other artificial water sources.
● Do not discard edible garbage and secure garbage containers.
● Do not allow pets to run free.
● If you start seeing coyotes around your home, discourage them by shouting, making loud noises or throwing rocks.
● Never corner a coyote and always give the coyote a free escape route.
● Position bird feeders in a location that is less likely to attract small animals or bring the feeders in at night.