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Anthony Mirelez came to Edina City Hall this week to learn about hazing coyotes, but he wasn't in much of a learning mood.
A couple of weeks earlier, he heard frantic yelping and saw a coyote trotting away with his son's little dog in its jaws.
Mirelez sprinted after the coyote, yelling. It dropped the Pomeranian named Punto and slipped away between some houses.
The dog is recovering. But Mirelez was still hot when he arrived Thursday night for a coyote hazing presentation by Tim Hunter, an Edina animal control officer. "I don't think we should coexist with them," said Mirelez, who told Hunter he thinks coyotes should be shot. "We're a first-tier suburb."
The city is holding the sessions to try to teach residents how to safely live with predators that last spring had residents up in arms over attacks on small dogs.
To a coyote, a cat or small dog wandering around the back yard looks much the same as a rabbit: it's fuzzy food. Even bigger dogs may not be safe if several coyotes join in an attack, Hunter said.
For 90 minutes, Hunter built the case for hazing, which has been used in Denver and other cities that have permanent coyote populations. Coyotes have been reported throughout the Twin Cities area.
He had some surprising advice: Run straight at a coyote, waving your hands and shouting. Shake a noisemaker; blow a whistle. Run at them until they disappear.
"Hazing is the only thing that has long-range results for coyote management," he said.
Hunter estimates that up to a couple dozen coyotes are living in and near Edina. They're adaptable and thriving, lacking such predators as bears and wolves. They like Edina's plentiful ponds and creeks, can scale 6-foot fences and run 40 to 45 miles per hour.
Coyotes eat garbage, bugs, fallen fruit, squirrels and mice that are drawn to bird feeders, even material from compost bins. They live in families, pairs or alone.
Somes are actually foxes
About half of the reported coyote sightings in Edina are actually foxes, Hunter said. Coyotes are bigger, standing about knee-high on the average person. Their furry coats make them look bigger than their 35 to 40 pounds. They build dens in brush piles, culverts and under decks -- anywhere there's shelter.
It's mating season now, and they're noisy, with a doglike bark that ends in yips and sometimes a short howl. When pups arrive this spring, the adults will go quiet and stick nearer their dens.
In Edina, coyotes have been reported sunning on slopes within view of traffic, running through a bank parking lot near 50th and France and shadowing a dog walker. The point of hazing, Hunter said, is to teach coyotes that people and the places they frequent should be avoided.
Hunter said there has never been a reported coyote attack on a hazing human. Hazing should be avoided if a coyote has no escape route -- the animal could feel it has no choice but to defend itself -- and it's best to back away from a coyote that appears ill, injured or lies on the ground and doesn't move when approached. Call 911, Hunter said.
Hazing can be done by anyone, it's free, and it doesn't carry the risk that trapping or shooting does in a crowded suburb, he said.
"Hazing isn't going to make coyotes leave the city," he said. "But it will make them change their behavior."
The classes are taking place just as legislation is being sponsored in the Legislature to allow Minnesotans to hunt coyotes from aircraft and snowmobiles as part of a new proposal designed to curb animal populations.
"The coyote population seems to be exploding," said state Rep. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, a sponsor of the bill. It does not specify where the hunting could take place, leaving it up to the Department of Natural Resources commissioner to determine boundaries.
Back at coyote class, some in the audience were skeptical. At least five of the 17 attendees had experienced a dog-coyote conflict, including one that ended in the death of a Shih Tzu in Minnetonka last year. "I'm happy they're educating people," the dog's owner said. "But I don't feel safe at all."
For Nancy Haley of Edina, the presentation was reassuring. Last Sunday morning, she walked onto her Edina deck in bare feet and robe to find her lab mix barking wildly as a coyote walked slowly past on the other side of an invisible fence, not even looking at the dog.
Lean to coexist
Hunter's information "gives me peace of mind," she said. "I can take actionable steps. I'm going to get that lattice under my deck [to prevent coyotes from hiding there]. "We have to learn to coexist."
Mirelez said he will accompany his dogs outside, and he'll throw rocks at the next coyote he sees. He has a new tie-out for Punto, who has a tendency to disappear in search of squirrels.
Hunter's presentation was "a good thing to start out with," he said. "But I really believe. ... they're a menace. I don't know if I want to start a new norm coexisting with them."
Staff writer Baird Helgeson contributed to this report. Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380 Twitter: @smetan