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If you see a coyote, try to scare it away

donnell collins/staff photographer Jeff Ward.

donnell collins/staff photographer Jeff Ward.

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Updated: November 22, 2012 6:21AM

If you haven’t already, I’d enthusiastically encourage you to read reporter Dave Gathman’s excellent Oct. 10 report on peaceful existence with coyotes. The reason I liked this particular piece so much is because it touches on something I’ve been try to tell you all for years.

Since urban coyotes ain’t going anywhere, it’s up to us to incite and preserve their natural fear of humans.

That stuff about not leaving little Fifi out unsupervised, not feeding your pet outside, avoiding the birdfeeders that attract the rodents coyotes like to snack on, and keeping a well lit back yard (coyotes are nocturnal), are all well and good, but they don’t address the real issue.

Coyotes are no longer afraid of us.

Gathman specifically referred to two recent Wheaton attacks on unattended dogs, leaving one dead and the other injured, as well as an earlier northeast Elgin incident in which an evening dog walker was surrounded by the wily creatures.

Instead of running, which is exactly the wrong thing to do, our intrepid Elginian called for help. When a neighbor arrived with his headlights and horn blazing, the disappointed coyotes quickly fled.

According to Dr. Stanley Gehrt, head of the urban coyote study based at the McGraw Wildlife Foundation in East Dundee, displaying fear and/or running away triggers a coyote’s prey instinct.

He noted that you’re much more likely to be bitten by a territorial dog if you show fear and run.

“Our job is to keep them scared of us, not us scared of them,” DuPage County Forest Preserve naturalist Jack MacRae said. “Confronting them with loud noises, banging things and so forth makes them less likely to be bold…”

While that’s certainly great advice, it doesn’t go far enough.

Our nomadic plains ancestors worked diligently to climb up to the top of the food chain, but it’s going to take a continued and concerted effort to stay there. So whenever I see one of those scurrilous creatures within the boundaries of my 800-home subdivision, I take off after it like Ann Coulter descending on a married gay liberal Democrat.

And they always flee.

If you saw a six-foot-tall, 180-pound, balding opinion columnist bearing down on you full bore adorned in highlighter green running garb, you’d probably think twice before standing your ground too.

Please understand, I have no intention of catching or cornering the canny critter. My sole purpose is to remind them that they’re the prey and I’m not.

The most memorable chase came a couple of years ago when a coyote with a huge rabbit it its mouth casually strolled directly towards me during my early morning dog walk. Despite my Australian cattle dog’s obvious reservations, given the weight of his quarry, I was actually gaining on the beast when my hat and cell phone flew off ending the pursuit.

Fast forward to spring 2011 — the last time I’ve seen a subdivision coyote — when two of the local pack saw me standing at the end of a dirt trail, they took off before I could even make a move.

So now I rarely see distinctive dark and seed strewn feces sitting right in the middle of our asphalt trails. Trish Burns, manager of Geneva’s Peck Farm Park, told me that’s how coyotes mark their territory. And it used be everywhere — even on the sidewalks.

Taking a cue from their playbook, I also asked Trish, per the movie Never Cry Wolf, would marking our territory do the trick. She thought about if for a second and replied that it just might.

So here’s my thought! While you’re watching the Bears tomorrow night, drink at least a couple of Bud Lights. That ought to go right through you. Then, under the cover of darkness, head out to the backyard and let those coyotes know who’s boss.

Word of caution! This endeavor is best left up to the man of the house.

“Out west, if a coyote sees your car a mile away, he will break into a run,” Rob Erickson, owner of the Cortland-based On Target wildlife removal service said. “Come up to one in downtown suburbia, and he’ll pose for a photo.”

And whose fault is that?

You folks have no problem acting like wild animals when it comes to the political process so you should be able to call upon the primitive portion of your brain and scare the bejesus out of a hapless coyote that’s gotten a bit too familiar.

Just pretend it’s Charlie Sheen coming to date your daughter.

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