Quantcast

Coyotes unfairly blamed for disappearance of pets

Mike Leggett

Published: Thursday, May 3 2012 1:43 p.m. MDT

AUSTIN, Texas -- It seems that the confluence of trends toward "eating local" and animal husbandry -- raising your own vegetables, chickens and even pigs -- has some long tentacles.

Cities all over the country are writing new, and rewriting old, laws to deal with things like noise pollution and animal proliferation.

Austin, for instance, says an owner or handler may not keep "an animal that makes frequent or long, continued noise that is disturbing to a person of normal sensibilities." That could, I guess, be applied to our neighbors' donkeys (there is more than one), but I find their braying kind of comforting sometimes.

Now Chicago has an ordinance that seems contradictory. They allow for an unlimited number of chickens for personal use but they forbid slaughtering those chickens. Love them until they lay an egg, then love the egg. But keep the chicken upright.

It's encouraging that people are willing to take a more enlightened view of where their food comes from.

It's a return, of sorts, to the lifestyle our grandparents experienced, even if there are limits and even if it's happening within the walls of a gated community.

But there are at least two instances in the news recently that leave me with a bit of a queasy feeling when it comes to how animals live around humans and how humans do, or don't, adjust.

The first news item came from the vicinity of Driggs, Idaho. Driggs is home to the Teton Bakery and the Spun Drive In. It's on the other side of the Tetons from Jackson Hole, Wyo.

That would be the country side of Teton Pass.

It was near Driggs that a 3-year-old grizzly sow had to be put down, because she was fond of wandering in from the forest to dine on chickens, pigs and honey.

She also was fond of chewing on foam rubber products like hot tub covers and car seats.

The bear had been trapped once before, relocated and released. But she returned and local officials had no choice but to trap and euthanize her.

It's not safe to have a grizzly bear stomping around the suburbs or what passes for them in rural Idaho.

But there's still a ripple effect of loss that runs through North America when a bear has to be killed because it's just being a bear in human territory.

Which brings me to news item two: a recent decision by West Lake Hills, Texas, officials to deal with a growing coyote problem and the disappearance of pets.

''I'm tired of everyone wondering where their pet is. Where's Buffy?" Councilman Earl Broussard was quoted as saying. "Well I know where Buffy is. Let's go ahead and take care of these coyotes. Kill them all."

Well, OK, but there are a couple of things to mention here. First, coyotes aren't the slavering giants they're made out to be.

They're just animals responding to an increased and ample food supply -- garbage cans, outdoor pets, chickens, etc.

The food attracts them and encourages reproduction. Take away the food, and it's likely they will move away.

Coyotes are master survivors. They survive on food.

During testimony at the West Lake Hills meeting, coyotes were vilified by some as monsters.

One person said they saw a 60-pound coyote running through the neighborhood. Although it's possible, it's really unlikely.

A giant coyote in Texas might weigh 40-50 pounds. I think the big fluffy tail and winter coat tend to make them appear larger than they are.

I also think coyotes get blamed for missing pets and slaughtered sheep and goats when the villains are more likely feral dogs, or out of control domestic dogs creating mischief where there was none

Mike Leggett writes for the Austin American-Statesman. E-mail: mleggett(at)statesman.com.

Story Filed By Cox Newspapers

For Use By Clients of the New York Times News Service

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS