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Lions, and Tigers, and…

Posted November 19, 2012 in Community Blogs, Johnston

A coyote attended the public meeting hosted by the Johnston Police Department and Johnston Schools.     Credit for Photo: Ashlee Kieler

Coyotes.  No we don’t have lions and tigers in Johnston, but we do have coyotes and have had for a very long time.  Coyotes are native to our area.  What is different now than before is that we are seeing them in our backyards and along the streets and trails in our community.   What we are learning is that Johnston is not unique among urban areas in having a presence of coyotes.  Coyotes exist in many major cities including Chicago, Denver and New York City.

Up until two weeks ago, I was not aware that we had coyotes in Johnston.  A mother of two small children emailed and told me she saw a coyote in her backyard that Sunday afternoon.  Had it not been for the fact that it was cold and rainy out, she said her children would have been playing in the backyard.   This mother was concerned and wanted to know what the city was doing to respond to this “new” sighting of coyotes in our community.

Since that initial email, I have learned a lot more about our coyotes from both Johnston residents and coyote experts.  What I have been told by Johnston residents is that coyotes are not new to Johnston and have lived in the area around Camp Dodge for many, many years.  So why are they now showing up in more unwanted places, like our backyards and parks?  Jeff Swearingin, conservation officer with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, attended a public meeting last week and suggested a couple of responses to this question.  The first, and perhaps most obvious, answer is that as we continue to grow as a community we are moving more and more into the space that coyotes once knew as their territory.  The second is that we are in the season that coyote pups are kicked out of their mother’s den and are in search of a place they can call their own.  This is where we all step in – we need to let these young pups know that they are not welcome in our backyards.

It’s hard to believe but some people actually think it’s a good thing to feed coyotes.  No matter how well-intentioned, this is simply the wrong thing to do.  We should also not be leaving pet food and trash outside for them to feed on.  When food is provided to coyotes, they lose their natural fear of humans and they become dependent on what people provide as an easy food source.  When this happens, coyotes become dangerous, according to the experts.  They become very territorial and more aggressive in their behavior.

Besides not feeding them, what else can we all do to make sure coyotes know they’re not welcome in our neighborhoods?  Hazing has proven to be the best technique to drive coyotes out of an area.  Hazing involves activities, like yelling, making loud noises, and throwing objects  – anything that reinstills the natural fear that coyotes have of humans.  Hazing has proven to be very effective in other communities in driving coyotes away from their populated areas.

As a city, our primary concern is in protecting our residents.  If you feel threatened in any way due to the presence of a coyote in your neighborhood, please call the Johnston Police Department at 515.278.2345. Our officers are well-trained and prepared to deal with situations involving aggressive or threatening behavior by coyotes.  If you have further questions or concerns regarding Johnston’s response to coyotes, please feel free to email me at or call me on my cell phone at 515.490.8023.

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