Can cooperation among cities curb coyotes?

  • Article by: MARY JANE SMETANKA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 2, 2012 - 11:18 AM

Edina police chief suggests six west metro cities develop a unified approach.

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A coyote in Eagan.

As coyotes become a fixture in the Twin Cities, Edina Police Chief Jeff Long is figuring that managing the animals might be easier if six west metro cities work together instead of alone.

Long is proposing a Coyote Control Consortium and is talking with officials in Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Hopkins, Minnetonka and St. Louis Park about cooperative efforts to manage coyotes.

"Coyotes travel," Long said. "The coyotes we're seeing in Edina aren't just here. They're most likely in St. Louis Park, and Hopkins, and Bloomington."

While coyotes have long been present in the west metro, conflict between the animals and people and pets has recently escalated. Small dogs and cats have been killed by coyotes that boldly trot into suburban yards, and people have even reported seeing the animals sunning in their backyards.

Edina has probably been most aggressive among cities in trying to educate residents about dealing with coyotes. While other cities have held occasional education sessions or posted information on websites, Edina has held many meetings that teach residents how to haze coyotes, to frighten them off. Long said research validates hazing as the most effective way to handle coyotes in suburban settings.

But that approach -- which means that residents are supposed to yell, wave their hands and run at a coyote as soon as they spot it -- requires widespread use to be effective.

"It doesn't do any good if we're hazing coyotes and others aren't," Long said. "I want us all on the same page."

The six cities have agreed to have their animal control officers meet and discuss the possibilities of a unified approach, Long said.

St. Louis Park Police Chief John Luse said in an e-mail that he's willing to consider a consortium.

"Like our neighbors, we are seeing an increase in coyote activity," he said. "So, we're interested in being at the table with our neighbors in discussing this issue.

"It is important to emphasize that right now this collaboration is just in its infancy."

The cities have different approaches now, with some taking a hands-off approach as others like Edina have sometimes intense discussions about how to handle the animals.

Some residents have been vocal about wanting coyotes killed. Long said conversations with experts, including other states with high coyote populations, federal officials and the state Department of Natural Resources, indicate that consistent hazing can work if it becomes a community-wide technique.

"People tend to be scared of them, but their behavior is predictable, and we've seen this in the rest of the country," Long said. "If we can get everyone on the same page and everyone hazing, they may get their natural fear of humans back."

He said studies indicate that when coyotes are killed or removed, population generally increases, especially if alpha males are removed. Other males that normally would not have the ranking to mate would move in, and there's some evidence that litter size increases when adults are removed, Long said.

While he said shooting coyotes in a suburban setting also is too dangerous, Long said that one of the issues a consortium could address is a single removal policy for clearly aggressive or nuisance coyotes.

"If coyotes are attacking dogs, maybe we need to kill them," he said. "But my goal would be to relocate the animal rather than killing it."

Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380 Twitter: @smetan

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