By Tim Peeler
Anyone who has lived in the Valley long enough has probably seen our beloved NHL team’s namesake prowling around streets, parks, or even in their own neighborhoods. Coyotes are one of the most adaptable mammals on the planet, evidenced by their large-scale residency in many major North American metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and many others. It should come as no surprise that Phoenix also finds itself on the list of major metro areas with a sizable coyote population. With its plentiful undeveloped, wide-open spaces, and plethora of city parks even in the most urban areas, Phoenix is a coyote’s paradise.
I moved down to Phoenix a few years ago, and as a wildlife enthusiast, I was pleasantly surprised by how frequently I saw the versatile canids. But I understand that not all residents share my same enthusiasm for the animal.
Not too long ago, a coyote jumped a fence and snatched a dog from a backyard just a few blocks from my home. The dog’s owners were able to scare the coyote off, but not before the beloved pup sustained injuries that proved to be fatal. In this case and other ones like it, people’s first reactions often included complaining to wildlife officials that the coyotes need to go. Whether it be by relocation or extermination, they just know that they want the critters gone.
As a dog owner, I’m sympathetic to their situation, but I think we as a society need to change the way we think about our relationship to nature, and specifically wild animals. Humans as a whole have never been as disconnected from the natural world as we are today, and I don’t see that trend changing direction anytime soon. Couple this with urban/suburban sprawl, and the result is a situation where people are often living close to potentially dangerous animals that they don’t understand or respect.
Wild animals are opportunistic and when our roads, homes, and businesses encroach on them and their food sources; why does it surprise us that they then turn to human-sourced food such as garbage or pets? Blaming wildlife for being opportunistic makes about as much sense as blaming water for being wet. There’s an easy solution if you happen to live a quarter of a mile or more away from any occupied resident or building and have a hunting license: you can just shoot ‘em. Coyotes in Arizona can be hunted year-round with no limit. But if you’re like most of us and have neighbors, then you’ll have to seek out other solutions.
As I mentioned earlier, many coyote objectionists think that having wildlife officials relocate or exterminate the animals would be a good solution. Let’s compare these proposed solutions to my proposed solution. Relocation and extermination both require taxpayer dollars and aren’t reliable solutions by any means. Taxpayer dollars + an unreliable solution = a waste of money. The issue with relocation is that the problem then just gets passed to another neighborhood, and nothing is stopping the same pack or a new pack from moving back into the original area they were removed from. The issue with extermination is that coyotes’ litter size fluctuates based on population density (as well as food abundance, etc.). As the state kills more coyotes, the coyotes that are left will begin to produce larger litters, resulting in little change to the overall coyote population.
My solution costs taxpayers absolutely nothing, and effectively combats any real issues that coyotes might present. Here it is… if you have small children or small dogs, take your lazy ass outside and supervise them. It really is that simple. As I referenced earlier, it’s this disconnect between people and the natural world that makes them irrationally think that they have the right, or deserve to live in a place with zero wildlife interaction. Unfortunately for them, that’s not the case. Whether you’re an animal lover, or just plain practical, my solution is the clear winner.