Town and Country Canines Can Coexist
October 6, 2016 by Rose Nemunaitis

In many Native American legends, the coyote symbolizes a trickster and a possible explanation for when cunning intellect achieves coexistence.

“The coyote (Canis latrans) has certainly been one of the most successful animals at adapting to human altered landscapes over the last 100 years,” said Paul Pira, Geauga Park District biologist, during the “Howling with Coyotes” program Sept. 24 at Frohring Meadows in Bainbridge Township.

“Over this time period, this medium-sized member of the dog family (which includes wolves and foxes) has doubled its range and is now widely distributed throughout virtually all of North and Central America.”

People gathered under Saturday’s starry skies for the program, which included a PowerPoint presentation and short hikes to survey points.

“Thank you for coming out,” said Linda Gilbert, park district naturalist and program leader, inside Katydid Shelter prior to the hikes. “Coyotes are in the area and here to stay.”

The park’s namesake, Paul Frohring, donated 176 acres that surrounded his Bainbridge farmhouse to the park district in 1996. A few years later, the park district entered into a 50-year lease with Chagrin Falls for 122 acres adjacent to the Frohring property with a mission to expand trails and connect the community to their parks. Frohring Meadows was opened to the public in 2007.

“Our family loves the outdoors and the beautiful scenery of Geauga County parks,” said Bainbridge Township’s Lori Scheeringa. “The county parks are the perfect venue for exploring and enjoying nature.”

As the night fell, audience-members learned about habitat, reproduction and coexistence tips on the yellow-eyed, bushy-tailed canines, sometimes mistaken for stray dogs.

“Although coyotes have been in Ohio since 1919, their numbers have exponentially grown recently as they have easily adapted to a life both in urban/suburban and rural environments,” Pira said. “These animals migrated naturally here to Ohio and are now ‘naturalized’ within all 88 counties. Experts now consider coyotes to be a normal part of Ohio’s native wildlife community and fill an important role as a much needed predator.”

Gilbert said they feed mostly on voles, shrews, rabbits, mice, vegetables, nuts, carrion and goose eggs.

“At Orchard Hills, I noticed apple peels in some coyote scat,” Gilbert added.

Occasionally, coyotes visit Auburn Township’s Dennis and Ann Marn’s 5-acre property, which spurred their interest in the program.

“You have to be vigilant if you’re a pet owner,” Gilbert said. “Make it very undesirable for them to hang out at your place.”

According to the Ohio Division of Wildlife, “If you do have a coyote on your property, remove all ‘attractants’ to possibly deter the coyote from returning” including removing garbage and pet food prior to nightfall, cleaning up around the grill, and keeping small dogs and cats inside, especially at night when coyotes are most active.

“In general, coyotes will avoid people,” Pira said. “In the rare occasion that a coyote does approach you directly, appears to be intentionally entering your line of travel or begins to follow you, do not turn and run or walk away with your back to the animal. This may trigger an aggressive response.”

Pira added, “Try to frighten it away by shouting in a deep voice, waving your arms, throwing objects at the animal. Walk slowly backward so that you do not turn your back to the coyote.”

Gilbert soon explained protocol as flashlight-toting families journeyed to the first survey point. Gilbert played a bark recording from her caller, then waited five minutes.

“We thought we heard a response way off in the distance, but weren’t really sure, so we played the group howl recording and waited another five minutes,” Gilbert said.

Then, as everyone began to head to the final survey location, it happened.

“A single coyote started barking and howling not far down from the power lines from where we were all standing,” Gilbert said. “Folks thought that it was pretty awesome and I, of course, was thrilled that 54 people got to share it.”

Scheeringa said she found it interesting the response came later than she would have thought.

“It is not immediate,” Scheeringa said. “So patience, continued quiet and listening paid off.”

Although a nocturnal animal, coyotes are also spotted during daylight.

“They are a natural part of our landscape,” said Jamey Emmert, communication spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Wildlife. “They’re here to stay.”

Jenny Cowen gathered with family for the event.

“Geauga does a great job with these programs,” Cowen said. “We see them (coyotes) in our neighborhood.”

Pira said complaints of occasional encounters with coyotes have been reported in the past from several of Geauga Park District parks and most encounters are with male coyotes or paired coyotes protecting and defending a den with pups inside. He encouraged people to report any incidents of aggressive coyotes to local authorities, including Geauga Park District.

“I spend a lot of time in the field and my experience with coyotes is usually that they are highly skittish,” Pira said. “They always try to avoid me and when encountered, they head in the opposite direction very quickly. Coyotes are far more common than most people realize and usually coexist harmoniously and completely undetected by humans.