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Coyotes on the prowl in area

Experts say animals not a serious issue

Staff photo / Allie Vugrincic Mosquito Lake State Park naturalist Mike Mainhart holds a coyote pelt he uses when teaching children about the animal, which is not native to Ohio. While the Ohio Department of Natural Resources classifies coyotes as a “nuisance species,” Mainhart says he does not believe the animals are a big problem.

BAZETTA — In the last week of July, two of Cynthia Gaitanis St. John’s chickens were killed by coyotes, she said.

“I’ve heard them howl at night since we moved in June 2020, but this is the first time they’ve come onto my property,” St. John said.

She said she saw the coyotes around 10:30 p.m. on her Durst Clagg Road property.

To other chicken owners in the area, she suggested, “Make sure you have your hardware cloth buried deep, and make sure you close the gate to the run before it gets dark. We’ve been waiting until it was dark to close up the run, but dark is too late in the summer. You gotta go at dusk instead.”

Although the Ohio Department of Natural Resources categorizes the nonnative coyote as a “nuisance species,” Mike Mainhart, naturalist at Mosquito Creek Lake State Park, said he believes coyotes are not a serious problem.

“People get big misconceptions about them. They hear them howling and they get frightened over the sound or seeing them,” Mainhart said.

Mainhart does a program on bobcats and coyotes in order to dispel myths about the animals.

He said while people often believe they are hearing howling coyotes killing deer, the animals more likely are trying to communicate.

“They’ll wake up in the late afternoon, and they’ll start yipping and howling. They’re trying to locate each other. If you’re a predator, the last thing you want to do is make a lot of howling and yipping noises (while hunting),” Mainhart said.

Mainhart said local hunters often tell stories about coyotes dragging multiple deer into their den in a week, but those stories almost definitely are false.

Coyotes are omnivores, which means they eat both meat and vegetables. They eat small mammals like voles, shrews and rabbits, as well as vegetables and nuts. Mainhart said in his experience, the stomach content of trapped coyotes has revealed their main diet locally is actually mice, suggesting they help curb rodent populations — although coyotes still will go after a fawn if they stumble upon one or livestock, like St. John’s chickens.

People also tend to think coyotes go after cats, and while they occasionally might, Mainhart said cats are smart and well equipped to deal with a coyote. Plus, coyotes prefer an easier meal.

While coyotes are not native to Ohio, they can be found in all 88 counties. A close relative of the coyote, the wolf, is native to Ohio but cannot be found in the state.

Most adult eastern coyotes weigh about 30 to 35 pounds, although their full coats can make them appear larger, according to information from the Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension. The medium-sized members of the coyote family resemble German shepherds or collies.

They are nocturnal animals and active hunters, according to Mainhart’s presentation. Coyotes breed from January to March, and birth litters of one to 12 pups. At 8 to 12 weeks, the pups are taught to hunt. By mid-fall, the adults kick out the adolescents, which go on to develop their own territories.

If a coyote comes onto your property, ODNR recommends removing all “attractants” — substances that may attract animals — to deter the coyote from returning. Keep small cats and dogs inside.

Coyotes generally are fearful of humans and can sometimes be scared off with clapping or shouting.

If a coyote continues to present a conflict, you can contact a nuisance trapper.

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