Killing coyotes does not solve the population problem


Caroline Lou

Staff Writer Lili Torres writes that coyotes should not be killed to control the population, but rather humans should adapt to learn to live besides them.

Lili Torres, Staff Writer

Coyotes have been called a nuisance for a while now. They have lived alongside humans since the 1950s, and now we’re seeing more coyotes than ever. Almost every town in Massachusetts has coyotes living in it, but some areas have more problems than others and are turning to hunting to control them. Coyotes, however, aren’t the villains in this story and shouldn’t be punished for living. 

Coyotes (Canis latrans) are medium-sized canines, usually a gray/brown color, weighing from 25-35 pounds; they can look almost like German Shepherds. They are predators as well as scavengers, eating a range of nutrients varying from small rodents to trash (given the opportunity and depending on the region). Due to habitat loss and the growth of urban areas, many animals, including coyotes, have been forced to live closer to humans. Because of this, seeing a coyote is becoming a common occurrence in Massachusetts. Currently, there is an estimated population of 11,500 coyotes in Massachusetts, but the population is not growing. 

The growing human population destroys the grasslands and forests that animals like coyotes typically live in by replacing them with cities. With lesser natural habitats to live in, coyotes must readapt to live in urban areas or die. Coyotes have learned to live alongside us, even showing behaviors such as looking both ways before crossing the street. However, coyotes haven’t chosen to live closer to us humans have put them in this situation. Humans have to adjust to live besides coyotes, as they have learned to live with us. 

We’re inadvertently rewarding coyotes for living even closer to us. When people intentionally or unintentionally feed coyotes (for example, through bird feeders and open trash cans), coyotes are encouraged to return to the area. Who doesn’t like free food? Feeding any wildlife can always be risky because they become more comfortable around humans. In the coyotes’ case, this could potentially be dangerous. A field observation of a coyote (tagged #434) in Illinois by Urban Coyote Research documents this transition. The young coyote lived with her pack near humans, but never got too close. Once she separated from her pack, she traveled to a neighborhood that had food out for squirrels and soon people were complaining about her showing up in their backyards. 

In the case of coyote 434, she had only become a nuisance. However, some cases turn out worse, with coyotes becoming a threat. Though not the largest canid, coyotes can attack a human or pet if they wanted; attacks on small dogs, cats and kids could be fatal. Killing one coyote would certainly stop it from coming too close to Fido or the family cat, but there’s not just one coyote out there. 

Instead of killing coyotes, we can protect our pets by using a short leash with small dogs and watching them when they’re outside, as well as not keeping cats as outdoor pets (who face many other dangers besides coyotes). While a coyote attacking a kid is rare, it can still happen, especially with small children. There are ways to protect children as well, like keeping an eye on them outside and making sure they don’t wander too far. Another method of protection is hazing coyotes. Yelling and clanging objects at these wild animals is effective in creating boundaries as well as instilling a healthy fear of humans back into wildlife, and a much better solution than killing them.

Furthermore, hunting coyotes has had little effect on the coyote population. Humans have hunted coyotes since we’ve started to live alongside these predators, and never have their numbers dropped enough to have an effect. According to Project Coyote, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting conservation and coexistence with wildlife, increased hunting could even lead to a population rise, as it disrupts their social structure and encourages more breeding and migration.

Coyotes can be a danger to humans, but eliminating the danger doesn’t have to involve killing. The best solution would be to give coyotes back their habitat, though that is not probable, so instead we must learn to live beside them. We can encourage them to stay away and fear us by hazing and not feeding them. It is a long-term solution because once a coyote is afraid of humans, it’s more likely to stay away and raise pups away from humans. Changing the behavior of ourselves and how we treat coyotes is our best bet.