The security lights outside the elementary school had popped on a few minutes earlier as I pushed my son on the playground’s swing. Soon afterward, light poured from the school gym as someone opened the door—a signal that basketball practice was about to start.
My first-grader jumped off the swing then stopped at the mournful sound coming from the nearby field. “Listen, Daddy,” he said. “Do you hear the coyotes?”
Coyotes were mythical creatures in the days of my own childhood; they were animals that only inhabited the scary stories told around a campfire. Now we were hearing the real thing at the edge of a large subdivision.
These dog-like animals are relatively new inhabitants to Kentucky, having spread from their original range of the prairies of the central United States to both coasts.
Since the 1970s, coyotes have spread to every county in Kentucky. It’s not unusual for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources to receive calls from frightened residents wanting a coyote eliminated from the neighborhood.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife does not remove nuisance animals, however. That is the realm of licensed nuisance animal control providers. Although coyotes can be hunted year-round during daylight hours in Kentucky, city ordinances may restrict hunting within corporate limits.
There are several things neighbors can do to help prevent problem coyotes. Start by eliminating what attracts coyotes in the first place: an easy meal. Coyotes are drawn to unsecured garbage and pet food left on porches. Residents should not feed pets outside—especially at night. If that’s not practical, only leave bowls outside for a short time.
Since a coyote will eat a housecat or small dog, residents should keep their cats inside instead of letting them roam freely in the neighborhood. Small dogs shouldn’t be left tied in the yard at night if coyotes are around.
Although a coyote may look huge, males typically do not exceed 35 pounds. In Kentucky, rabies is not known to be a problem in coyotes and attacks on humans are rare. So if you see a coyote, find a way to scare it off from a safe distance: Yell. Wave your arms above your head. Throw something at it.
That night on the playground, we took a powerful flashlight out of my truck and shined it around the bordering field. The howling stopped immediately. “Remember,” I told my son, “the coyotes are more afraid of you than you are of them.”
The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service’s booklet Managing Coyote Problems in Kentucky is an excellent source of information for rural residents. Download the publication online at www.ca.uky.edu by searching the title, or call Kentucky Fish and Wildlife at (800) 858-1549 for more information.
DAVE BAKER is editor of Kentucky Afield magazine, with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Visit www.kyafield.com or call (800) 858- 1549 for more information.