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What to do if you run into an urban coyote

They're becoming more common, and can lose their fear of people.
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Urban coyotes are being spotted more and more near the Twin Cities, and a woman says she was attacked by one this weekend.

On Friday morning, the woman was out for a jog with her husband in Apple Valley's Cedar Isle Park when she was bit by an animal she believes was a coyote, Kare 11 reports.

The couple told police that the animal was running past them when it jumped up and bit the woman in the face, the station says.

Apple Valley Police Chief Jon Rechtzigel told KSTP there's a good chance it was a coyote, which are common in the area.

"We cannot rule out it could have been a domestic dog, but it was most likely a coyote based on the behavior," Rechtzigel said.

Authorities weren't able to track down the animal, so they haven't confirmed whether or not it really was a coyote. But if it was, this incident would be the first coyote attack in Minnesota, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

And because the DNR also says populations are establishing and increasing in the Twin Cities metro area, it's important to know what to do if you come face to face with one.

Urban coyotes

In Minnesota, coyotes average 30 pounds and stand about 18 inches high at the shoulders, the DNR says.

However, they may appear much larger due to their heavy fur coats, especially in winter. They are gray or brown in color, and kind of look like small German Shepherds.

Coyotes in general are reclusive animals who avoid human contact, the Humane Society says.

Urban coyotes, on the other hand, are often a bit bolder since they're used to people and may see them as a source of food.

Since many have lost their fear of humans, urban coyotes may approach people or feel safe visiting yards even when people are present. 

But even though they're kind of cute, it's not safe to feed them or let them hang out in your yard. Attacks by urban coyotes have been reported in other states, the DNR says. Experts believe these attacks occur after a coyote has become accustomed to humans, or after being fed by humans.

"These bold coyotes should not be tolerated or enticed but instead given the clear message that they should not be so brazen," the Humane Society says.

How to confront them

It sounds silly, but officials say the best way to handle an urban coyote is to haze it.

No, we're not talking about forcing them to dress in a hotdog costume or making them carry around a chicken for a week.

Hazing in this case pretty much means harassing the coyote until it leaves. It's nothing that will hurt the animal – you're just letting him know he's not welcome.

The Humane Society offers these hazing techniques:

  • Yell and wave your arms while approaching the coyote
  • Use noisemakers (like your voice, whistles, air horns, bells, soda cans filled with pennies, pots and pans banged together, etc.)
  • Use projectiles (like sticks, small rocks, cans, tennis balls, or rubber balls)
  • Try other repellents (like hoses, water guns or spray bottles filled with vinegar water, pepper spray, bear repellent or walking sticks)

See more tips in this (pretty funny) video:

Why don't officials just remove them?

Because removing coyotes from an area doesn't necessarily help, and could actually just make things worse.

"When coyotes are removed from an area through artificial means, other coyotes quickly fill the void, with more females reproducing and also breeding larger litters. In addition, the only effective methods of coyote removal are leg-hold traps, neck snares or poison, all of which present a much larger risk to domestic animals and children than to coyotes," the City of Minnetonka explains.

The DNR doesn't trap, shoot, or relocate coyotes. However, coyotes are unprotected in Minnesota, and may be taken at any time by shooting or trapping, without a license or permit.

For information on pest control contractors or trapping techniques for coyote removal, contact your local DNR Wildlife office.

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