Katie Hughes let her small dog out in her fenced backyard one evening about two weeks ago. It disappeared. A neighbor later informed Hughes that she saw a coyote carrying the same type of dog in its mouth.
“I would really like us to acknowledge …
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“I would really like us to acknowledge that yes, the coyotes were here first, but these are our yards,” said Hughes. “Everybody is talking about respecting coyotes, but I think coyotes need to respect us."
Shari Person has a different outlook.
“People need to be more sensible,” said Person, “and make more of an effort to interact responsibly.”
The residents' mixed views reflect the growing challenge of living in suburbia with wildlife, such as coyotes, also living in the open spaces and wandering into the streets and backyards of Highlands Ranch.
While some coyote encounters may be troublesome for residents, the animal is common in Colorado and in communities across the Front Range, including Highlands Ranch. Weighing 20 to 50 pounds, coyotes typically eat rodents, rabbits and fruit, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. But, as opportunistic hunters, they will eat what is available, including small pets.
“That is certainly and sadly very common because of the way Colorado was built,” said Jennifer Churchill, a spokeswoman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, referring to the plethora of green belts and open spaces in communities.
Some coyotes have adapted to urban and suburban environments and lost their fear of humans, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Highlands Ranch residents often use social media to document their run-ins with coyotes, some of which have been too close for comfort.
Cindy Ortiz-Malcolm, who owns a pet sitting and dog walking company, sees two or three coyotes a week while out walking along paths and in neighborhoods near the Backcountry Wilderness Area and Wildcat Reserve Parkway. So she wears a whistle around her neck and carries a light. A coyote used to frequent her backyard, so her husband installed a motion-activated light. It worked — she hasn't seen one in her backyard in five years, she said.
“I think people have to be smarter and more aware,” Ortiz-Malcolm said. “You have to protect yourself and your animals.”
Other ways residents can protect themselves and their pets include hazing — what Churchill describes as “being as obnoxious as possible” — investing in a motion-activated sprinkler, keeping small pets in a kennel when in the backyard, carrying something that makes a loud noise, like a box of pennies or an air horn, and always using a leash.
It has to be a community effort, Churchill said.
“Depending on how comfortable they are with people, some of these things might not work,” she said. “The community needs to make sure they are working together to make these animals unwelcome and uncomfortable.”
The Highlands Ranch Metro District offers a free service for those concerned about coyotes. Residents can call 720-240-5919 to request an audit and a park ranger will check the home for coyote attractants, such as shelter, bird feeder, garbage or dog water bowls.
“Most people think that that's not an attractant, but it is,” Nelson said. “If there is fresh water in the backyard, they are going to go to that.”
Wildlife experts agree that wildlife is best when kept at a distance. Residents should never feed coyotes and should take precautions to protect their property and animals.
“Wildlife is successful,” Churchill said, “when they stay away from people.”
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