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Friday, July 30, 2004


Coyotes raise hackles in city

Predators attracted to SV by food that’s available

Express Staff Writer

In the verdant open spaces in and around Sun Valley, the deer and the antelope really do play.

Coyotes are common throughout Idaho and the Mountain West. Their populations are cyclical, typically following in line with populations of rabbits and mice, on which they feed. Express photo by Ken Retallic

And, to the dismay of some residents, so do the coyotes.

"There’s a lot of foxes and coyotes roaming the town," Sun Valley Police Chief Cam Daggett said this week.

In particular, Daggett said, residents in recent weeks have been seeing two coyotes that have—in what he called a "bad outcome" of people feeding wildlife—become accustomed to life in suburbia.

"They eat people’s cat food and construction workers throw them sandwiches," Daggett said.

Surviving in part on "cat food here, a sandwich there," the two coyotes have made somewhat of a home in the Elkhorn area, Daggett said.

City Councilman Lud Renick, an Elkhorn resident, expressed concern this week to fellow city officials about coyotes venturing into his yard and harassing his family dog, Rowdy.

His wife, Shirley, said Thursday that Rowdy, an Australian shepherd-border collie mix, approximately two weeks ago became involved in an extended chase with a pair of "tall and lean" coyotes.

"She was chasing a coyote across the (Elkhorn) golf course and there was another coyote running behind her," she said. "It really frightened me."

After disappearing for about 15 minutes, Rowdy returned uninjured, Renick said.

Since the incident, a single coyote has continued to roam the neighborhood, she said, taking a wide berth around the property unless Rowdy is outside.

"We’ve had one (coyote) out here most of the summer," Renick said.

Daggett said the coyotes seen in the city limits are seemingly unafraid of people but are not tame and should not be approached.

"It’s a bad outcome of people feeding wild animals," Daggett said. "It’s not just coyotes, it’s deer, it’s elk, and other animals.

"They start out as good intentions. But it often ends with a bad result."

The bad result typically comes to the wild animals, which are often controlled—or killed—by authorities if they cross a certain threshold of bad behavior or comfort around humans.

Daggett said he would certainly "frown upon" any Sun Valley resident shooting coyotes in the city and has not yet deemed it necessary to take measures to scare or dispose of the carnivores.

The police chief said he would likely take action against the resident coyotes—possibly using rubber bullets to frighten them or a trap to catch and remove them—if they caused property damage or personal injury.

"We have not yet had the need to that," he said.

The coyote, Canis latrans, is a member of the dog family that ranges throughout North America. Mountain-dwelling coyotes can weigh up to 50 pounds.

Dave Parrish, Idaho Fish and Game regional supervisor, said the state does not actively manage coyotes in the Wood River Valley area.

Fish and Game will on occasion assist local law enforcement agencies in removing so-called "problem animals," usually using lethal methods, he said.

Parrish said he is not aware of any incidents in recent years in which a coyote in the Sun Valley area harmed a human.

"Coyotes are very, very common throughout Idaho," Parrish noted. "Usually they will come into inhabited areas when people put out food or bait … Once they become habituated, they will lose their fear of humans."

In the Wood River Valley, Parrish said, some residents use food to bait coyotes and other wild animals into coming into areas where they can be easily observed.

The practice, he said, is strongly discouraged, largely because it can result in the harm of the animal or a family pet.

Of coyotes, Parrish said: "As long as they’ve got easy food, they’ll hang around."

Living With Wildlife

In the Wood River Valley, where wildlife abounds, the Idaho Fish and Game Department recommends residents take the following measures:

  • Don’t leave any food, including pet food, outside your house.

  • Don’t leave your garbage outside overnight.

  • Don’t ever feed wild animals.


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