Have bold coyotes outfoxed Edina?

A plan to trap or shoot coyotes has been proposed, and an animal control expert has toured areas where they've been seen.


A photo of the coyote believed to have attacked Becky Bennet's dog in March on the pond below her Edina home.

Photo: Becky Bennet, Special to the Star Tribune

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The plans have been drafted and await city action, but for the coyotes of Edina, the message is clear: Behave.

The city's animal control officer is proposing that wildlife management professionals be allowed to trap or shoot "a small number'' of the increasingly bold predators.

A crackdown would place Edina among the few Twin Cities area communities to act to get rid of problem coyotes after reports of dogs being attacked and stalked in the city by coyotes this spring.

However, reports of coyote aggression have dissipated in recent weeks. Reported sightings have come in, but haven't always checked out.

The increase in coyote sightings in the metro area is nothing new. Problems arise when the animals grow more comfortable with their surroundings and lose their fear of humans. Concerns in Edina were palpable enough last month to have even the mayor calling for stronger measures than simply public education.

In 2006, Blaine hired a wildlife management expert to trap and kill five coyotes that trailed people as they walked dogs in Laddie Lake Park. The following spring, Coon Rapids hired the same man to catch a 55-pound coyote suspected of killing a dog in that city.

The trapper, Bryan Rocheford of OakRidge Wildlife Control in Princeton, Minn., said he plans to seek work in Edina if the City Council passes a proposed ordinance change allowing professionals to use traps and firearms within city limits. No date has been set for the discussion.

Coyotes are suspicious by nature, Rocheford said, and catching them is difficult and can take time. A foothold trap, for example, has a trigger about the size of a silver dollar, he said.

Rocheford has yet to take the role of hired gun to shoot a coyote, but he prepped for just such an assignment last year by attending a workshop on shooting in sensitive environments at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He said marksmanship is just part of the job.

"Proper decisionmaking -- that's what it's all about," Rocheford said. "Field of fire. Knowing your target. What's beyond it. And the proper projectiles," too.

Tim Hunter, the animal control officer in Edina, said that whether a specialist traps or shoots -- a decision to be made in consultation with the city -- will depend on the situation.

A California city achieved success by removing its more brazen coyotes, he said, leaving others to fall in line and behave themselves. As for how many coyotes may be targeted in Edina, he said recently: "I think that it would be fair to say there will be a small number removed to reset the clock. But it's not set in stone."

Lying low

Coyotes earned City Hall scrutiny last month after a resident relayed the story of her tiny Schipperke being snatched and injured by a coyote in Edina in April. The city's usual advice -- that people need to learn to live with the predatory creatures -- wasn't good enough, the dog's owners said.

Mayor Jim Hovland said at the time, "An education program seems to me to fall short of the mark. These are very smart animals, and very predatory."

Hunter returned to the City Council with an action plan signaling the proposed ordinance change. He also indicated that a few problem coyotes may be taken out.

Later, Hunter led Mike Tucker of Bloomington's Wildlife Removal Services on a tour of the city, showing him where coyotes had been sighted and were causing trouble. That tour revealed the complications of removing coyotes from Edina parkland, Tucker said. Too many people, he added. Tucker, it turned out, also was the wildlife expert who had recommended Rocheford for the Blaine job in 2006.

Last week Rocheford said he interviewed for that contract in a closed session of the Blaine City Council. He understood some pets had been killed but never spoke with their owners before he began trapping. The police chief, he said, "wanted it done quickly and quietly."

Rather than transfer the problems elsewhere, Rocheford recommended that the coyotes be euthanized, he said, and they were "humanely dispatched" under National Wildlife Control Operators Association euthanasia guidelines.

As of this week, the Edina City Council had yet to consider Hunter's proposed ordinance change. It must be approved before any coyotes are trapped or shot, he said. But the animals seem to have cooled their behavior.

No new attacks have been reported, Hunter said, and a coyote that had been the subject of recent multiple sightings probably was a fox. And that could mean trouble for the fox, according to Tucker. Coyotes are territorial, he said, and will kill any fox they come across.

Anthony Lonetree • 612-673-4109

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