Tis the season for animal attacks. But while an incident involving a bear suspected of injuring two campers near Aspen -- it was tracked and killed on Sunday morning -- has gotten the most attention from the media, there have been a pair of recent coyote-versus-children encounters in a Broomfield neighborhood as well.
A state spokeswoman isn't surprised in the slightest.
"The thing with our metro-area coyotes is, they have no reason to be afraid of people," notes Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Jennifer Churchill. "Historically, in agricultural communities and rural areas, they're shot at on a regular basis. But not in the city."
According to the Boulder Daily Camera, the first incident took place on July 18, when a coyote knocked over a two-year-old boy walking with his dad in Broomfield's Anthem neighborhood before biting him on the butt and lower back.
The child is reportedly fine after receiving a rabies shot, but perhaps not the coyote. CPW staffers killed an animal they believe was responsible, although Churchill says "we don't necessarily have DNA or CSI-style evidence that points to this particular coyote." As such, she concedes that authorities can't be 100 percent certain the same perpetrator didn't also go after a six-year-old strolling in the vicinity of Anthem last week. The child was toppled by a coyote that had been hiding in some high grass; doctors later found puncture wounds on the boy's behind.
If two coyotes are involved, however, they might be siblings. "This is behavior that can be learned in family groups," Churchill reveals. "If coyotes are being fed, intentionally or unintentionally, a group may learn to feed together and see that certain types of behaviors are rewarded, or at least not punished. And that can be transferred to the entire family."
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What are the options for people in Anthem, as well as those whose residences are close to greenbelts, drainage areas or open spaces that tend to attract coyotes? "Don't feed them," Churchill says. "And that includes not leaving bird seed on the ground, ripe berries on bushes, food falling off trees, pet food left outside, or even pets that are untended in yards. Coyotes are smart. They will actually case neighborhoods, and wait for people to put their pets out. So if you're leaving them outside, put them in a fully enclosed kennel -- because coyotes will hop fences for an easy meal."
In addition, Churchill encourages people to "protect your pets. Coyotes are attracted to dogs, especially. They will eat cats, too, as do foxes -- but foxes probably eat more cats in the metro area. So when you're walking your dog, make sure it's on a leash, and don't let them sniff in an area where coyotes might be raising their young. And if you see a coyote on a path in a greenbelt, pick up your dog and yell at the coyote.
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Finally, Churchill recommends "hazing these coyotes -- which means yelling at them, throwing little rocks or sticks, using an air horn, banging pots and pans if you're near your home, spraying them with a hose from your yard. You need to up the ante -- yell and be aggressive to these animals, so they understand that they shouldn't be coming so close to people.
"The coyotes aren't going anywhere," she adds. "People need to understand that we provide a fantastic habitat for them. We provide food, water, shelter and space -- and they don't need a lot of space to live in. We're not going to eradicate them, and that's not our goal. But we need to mitigate their behavior."
Especially when they're sinking their choppers into little kids.
More from our Media archive: "Amid coyote fever, mountain lions ask: What about us?"