Urban coyotes have added Columbus to their comfort zone

She was in her kitchen cooking dinner about 4:15 p.m. when she heard her miniature Dachshund, Seabiscuit, barking outside. When she stepped into her back yard to see what all the fuss was about, she saw a coyote pacing less than 30 feet from where she stood.

“It was not afraid at all,” Buce said. “It did not seem to be bothered by me or by Seabiscuit and my first concern was him. And so I walked as fast I could back into the house and put him into the house.”

It took Buce’s broom-wielding husband, Leonard Buce, several minutes to convince the stubborn coyote to split.

“He wasn’t afraid of him at all either,” Debbie Buce said. “He kind of just sat there.”

In rural areas coyotes are typically shy and avoid contact with humans, however in urban and suburban environments they adapt quickly to the human environment, said the city’s Special Enforcement Department Chief Drale Short.

“Coyotes will adapt very easily to our environment,” Short said. “They are used to us now. They are used to our buildings. They are used to our environment and they know how to maneuver around it.”

Sunday’s standoff marked Debbie Buce’s second coyote encounter in the Maple Ridge area in a month. Driving home from work one evening the recently retired elementary school teacher spotted what she thought was a stray dog standing in the middle of the street. As she slowly accelerated toward the animal it lazily moved out of the road. It wasn’t until Sunday’s incident that she knew the “dog” was actually a coyote.

Neighborhood nuisiance

Reports of coyote sightings have waned since last October. That’s when the city hired trappers to take care of the problem. Ben Billings was one of several north Columbus residents who first alerted city leaders to the animals’ presence. He said his German Shepherd, Brita, was approached last fall by three coyotes that emerged from a wooded area on his property. Soon after the city hired a company called Southeast Wildlife to capture and dispose of the animals. Deputy City Manager Lisa Goodwin said Monday the trappers are still under contract with the city.

“We thought that would have been taken care of,” Goodwin said about the Buce’s sighting, “but if they’re starting back up we certainly need to know.”

Short said there has been a decrease in sightings from October to the present and that it could likely be attributed to seasonal and breeding changes. Now that the coyotes are once again procreating they are searching for a source of food and water for themselves and their young.

Though Short has received only one phone call recently about coyote activity (made Monday by Leonard Buce) she said now is a good time to remind residents, especially those living in north Columbus, that the animals are around, they are bold, they are cunning and they will hunt small animals, including the family pet.

Coyotes can get up to 4 1 /2 feet long, 2 feet tall and 50 pounds. Like wolves and foxes, they are of the canine family. They vary in color from off-white to near black. Their ears and snouts are pointed, their canine teeth sharp and their eyes typically are yellow. They are lanky and their tails are bushy.Springing traps

Trapping wily coyotes is tricky, especially in residential areas, Short said. The problem is the coyotes are intelligent enough to distinguish a cage trap from a true meal and the city does not allow its trappers to put out coil or claw traps. Since the city hired Southeast Wildlife last year, not one coyote has been captured, Short said.

Prevention may be the only way to keep the critters at bay.

Five-year-old Seabiscuit is like a child to Debbie and Leonard Buce. Debbie Buce said she and her husband would be devastated if anything were to happen to him. Sunday’s close call has motivated her to take extra precautions to protect the beloved pooch.

“I’m afraid to let him out alone,” Buce said. “I go out with him and stay with him or I sit on the deck and watch him or I take him out front on the leash.”

The best way to keep a coyote from becoming a nuisance?

Don’t feed it.

“It makes me wonder what’s really going on,” Short said. “Are we truly taking over their land? Do they have no place to go but inland to try to find not just shelter but food? And that’s ultimately what they’re looking for, a food source.”