We experienced another first this weekend at the Ant Farm. We’ve been camping on the weekends in our motor home, and this weekend we invited the neighbors to join us for a campfire. The children roasted hot dogs, ate smores, and we all exchanged stories about our lives. It was the kind of campfire experience you might expect… right up until the howling began.
I’ve heard wild coyotes howling before, but never like this. It began north of our property with a handful of animals, and after a few minutes, another group joined in to the west of us. At first we weren’t sure of what was happening, but we quickly figured it out. As if the coyotes weren’t enough, a crazy bird we affectionately call “the cuckoo bird” joined in the chorus. Add the donkey braying and the hoot owl that joined in, and it was a disturbing cacophony worthy of a high-dollar horror flick.
The neighbor’s kids bailed on us, but I was pretty proud of our young ants. While they initially showed a little concern, Edie and Roark both seemed satisfied that they were safe once I explained that coyotes were afraid of fire and humans. Of course, I knew I’d heard that somewhere, but to be honest, I was probably a little less sure than I sounded in the moment. I did spend the rest of the evening engaging in periodic flashlight sweeps of the perimeter just in case…
Will a coyote attack a human?
When we got home I did a little research on the subject, and it turns out that wild coyotes in Alabama aren’t as much of a threat to humans as I would have guessed. While there is no short supply of them, they’re still quite scared of humans and will typically do everything in their power to vacate the premises when they’re approached. However, coyote sightings have become more common in recent years, and they do still present a significant threat to small pets and livestock if not managed properly.
After looking around a little, I discovered that there have only been two known human deaths attributable to coyote attacks. One was in 1981 when a small child was abducted in California, and the other was, of all things, a Canadian singer who was attacked in 2009 while hiking a trail in Nova Scotia. From 1976-2006 there were a total of 160 coyote attacks in the US, and the vast majority of them were in California.
I found it interesting that coyotes tend to hunt as individuals and not in packs, which probably explains their tendency to avoid humans when possible. Apparently, many of the reported coyote attacks are attributable to people feeding them, sometimes without even realizing it. Coyotes are opportunity feeders that consume pretty much what any dog will eat. By leaving trash cans uncovered and food opportunities around, the coyotes become braver and less concerned with the presence of humans. That’s when things can get dangerous.
How to deter coyotes?
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System offers these recommendations for discouraging wild coyotes from hanging around:
- Secure pet food (including bird feeders).
- Keep small pets indoors or in some kind of enclosure at night.
- Make sure trashcans are inaccessible.
- Keep the BBQ grill clean.
- NEVER feed a coyote
Hunting coyotes in Alabama
In Alabama, coyotes have become a significant enough problem that it’s pretty much open season on them all of the time. In fact, by filling out a few forms with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources they can be hunted at night. You can even hunt them directly over bait, which is not legal for most wild game in our state.
The bottom line on coyotes
Later on in the evening, after the kids were sound asleep, Leigh mentioned that she thought it was kind of neat hearing the coyotes howling in the distance. It was just another reminder of how alive our little patch of heaven really is.
Like with most aspects of living in the country, a little awareness goes a long way. I don’t make a habit of walking around the property without my pistol, and that behavior was definitely re-enforced Friday night.
“Will a coyote attack a human?”
Not on my watch.