Coyotes are mating again. Here's how you can protect your pets while they do it.
It's the time of year when coyotes start to get amorous — they're looking for mates for the purpose of breeding, and that potentially leads to considerably less friendly interactions between the wild animals and domestic dogs.
From now through early March is the most likely time that coyotes attack large dogs, according to Dave Wattles, a biologist for MassWildlife.
"Mating pairs are actively protecting their breeding locations," he said. "Coyotes will protect their territory from other coyotes and will look at other larger breed dogs the same way they look at other coyotes. This time of year has the greatest likelihood of a coyote attacking larger breed dogs — dogs as large as labs, shepherds or retrievers."
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There are several steps people can take to prevent unwanted coyote interaction, he said.
1) Eliminate food sources
The first is to eliminate food sources. Urban coyotes, Wattles said, have more access to food than rural coyotes due to the sheer number of food sources. He said people need to make sure their trash barrels are secure, as well as their composting piles and dumpsters.
2) Keep pets indoors
Also, Wattles said people should make sure to keep pets and small dogs indoors because they are seen as prey for coyotes. Outdoor feeding of animals, such as feeding feral cat communities, is also a big meal item for coyotes.
"These resources supplement the coyotes' diets, so it it allows for a higher number of coyotes," Wattles said.
3) "Haze" the coyotes
"You have to try to make sure that coyotes understand people are dominant," said Wattles. "Coyotes respond to dominance. They're used to seeing people, they're used to seeing cars. If you see a coyote in your yard, run into the yard screaming at it, banging pots, throwing things at it. Teach it that your yard, your neighborhood, is not a place they're welcome to do whatever they want."
4) Be actively be present when pets are outside
If out for a walk with a dog, keep it on a leash. He said people should also consider carrying something that makes a loud noise, such as an airhorn, or even some sort of preventative spray.
"The vast majority of attacks are dogs that are off-leash or unattended," said Wattles. "Your presence on the end of the leash should prevent the coyotes from going after your dog."
Wattles said even though the next month or so is the busiest time for coyote issues, these tips should be followed year round, as coyotes don't go away. He said during the late summer, people should expect another busy time as the pups born from the current breeding will reach maturity and go out on their own.
"It's really important to protect your pet," Wattles said. "There isn't an animal control officer who hasn't heard that the coyote came out of nowhere and took their pets."
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Norman Miller can be reached at 508-626-3823 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on MetroWest Daily News: How to protect your dog. pets from coyote attacks: It's mating season