Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   


From the Pen of Robert L. Cook

January 2005. I have to get used to writing that year: 2005. It’ll take me a couple of months, but I’ll get there. Then, when I’m getting ready to write one of these articles I always ask myself, “OK. What is ‘At Issue’? What are folks concerned about?” This time it involves me being “flabbergasted.” I’m not even sure that “flabbergasted” is a real word, but we all know what it means.

I heard the man on TV the other day warning people in the cities of Texas to be on the alert for coyotes! He said that coyotes were coming into cities more and more these days and that folks needed to watch out for them and be careful around them. Then he said that coyotes were a serious threat to human safety, especially children. I was “flabbergasted.”

It is a fact that there are more coyotes in Texas today than probably in the last 125 years. It is a fact that there have been a handful of incidents in which a coyote became aggressive and bit a person, and, in one case, a 3-year-old child in California was tragically killed by a coyote. However, such “attacks” are incredibly rare. The last data that I recall seeing stated that a person is 300 times more likely to be attacked and bitten by somebody’s pet dog than by a coyote.

Why would a coyote (or almost any other wild critter in Texas) lose its natural fear of humans and become aggressive toward people? The answer is frequently pretty simple. It is because we feed them. Not only do we feed them…we feed them right on our back porch! We provide them a steady supply of easy-to-get food. We feed our pet cats and dogs outside and we leave the pet bowl half full of smelly, high-protein food. We do not place our food scraps and other edible garbage in lock-tight garbage containers; you see them turned over and garbage scattered on the street or driveway on almost every garbage pickup day. We throw food scraps across the back fence into the vacant lot or into the compost pile. Restaurants and grocery stores that throw food and food scraps into open dumpsters are part of the problem. Guess what….Mr. Wiley Coyote (or the “cute” raccoon, or the “harmless” ole ’possum) figured all that out decades ago. They are fat and happy. They are accustomed to humans providing their evening meal. They have lost their fear of humans and, in fact, associate humans with their food supply.

A couple of days later I read in the paper that one of the cities was planning to capture the guilty coyotes and “re-locate” them out of town. Again … “Flabbergasted!” We urban-dwelling humans have created a problem. Because we were not aware or because of our carelessness, we have trained wild animals to expect to get their food from humans; they no longer fear humans, and they want to be fed. So, where are we going to release this wild animal that has no fear of humans, who associates his food supply with humans, and who may not even know how to get food naturally? Believe me when I say that none of our “rural” neighbors — folks who live in the country — want the problem that we have created. We urban folks need to stop providing a food source for these wild animals.

How’s that for a New Year’s Resolution? Plus, it keeps me from getting “flabbergasted.”

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