Once only found prowling on dusty, tumbleweed-strewn landscapes, urban coyotes now live among golf courses, condos and shopping malls. The Valley is their home, too. “There’s very little we can do about the coyotes except learn to live with them,” said Chief John Wintersteen of the Paradise Valley Police Department.
The wild canines have lived in this area for thousands of years. But increased sightings, spurred by the lengthy drought, are causing concern among some Valley residents.
After 10 recent reported sightings in Paradise Valley, Wintersteen last month organized a coyote awareness meeting.
“We see them almost every day or every other day,” said Bob Rempp, a Paradise Valley resident who attended. “There was one group of five or six in a pack roaming up and down the streets.”
As president of his homeowners association, Rempp said he attended the meeting because many of his neighbors were worried about safety.
“Some of our neighbors have had pet problems, with a dog being killed or a cat being killed,” he said. “(Coyotes) don’t really cause any problems to us, but then again we don’t have any pets.”
Coyote bites on people are very rare: Only eight have been reported in the last 10 years, compared to more than 5,300 dog bites a year, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s pamphlet on urban coyotes. The pamphlet also reports the number of rabid coyotes in Arizona as “extremely low.”
Most of the time, coyotes are only a risk to people once they become comfortable around humans, usually as a result of feeding, officials said.
To help prevent this, the Arizona Senate gave preliminary approval last week to a bill that would make it a misdemeanor to feed wildlife in a way that causes aggressive animals to come into neighborhoods.
“It’s to keep neighborhoods safe,” said Sen. Toni Hellon, R-Tucson, who sponsored the bill. “If people are drawing them (wildlife) down here, they are bringing that danger down into their own neighborhoods.”
Paradise Valley is the only local city with a wildlife antifeeding ordinance, enforced with a fine of up to $250.
Coyotes are plentiful in Paradise Valley because of zoning requirements that preserve large open areas.
However, officials said sightings are also common in Scottsdale and other East Valley locales. Golf courses are a favorite coyote haunt.
“We see them all the time,” said Grant Clough of Scottsdale’s Ancala Country Club. “They’re usually around real early in the morning or at night.”
He also said they are usually timid around people and don’t bother anyone.
The coyote population has flourished in the past 200 years, said Randy Babb of Arizona Game and Fish. Once primarily found in desert climates, sightings now commonly occur in Florida, New England and eastern Canada.
They are one of the few wild animals to have thrived in urban areas, Babb said.
A six-year study in the Chicago area found that coyotes living in urban areas were healthier and lived longer than their country cousins.
“Ten generations of coyotes have grown up in the urban areas,” Babb said. “They’re here to stay.”
• Can climb over fences 8 to 14 feet high.
• Are active mainly at night. Most sightings occur near sunrise and sunset.
• Diet: Rabbits, rodents, birds, amphibians, lizards, snakes, fish, fruits and grasses.
• Usually travel alone or in pairs. But during their mating season, January to March, they sometimes travel in packs.
• Average life span in the wild: 15 years.
• Can usually be scared off by yelling or making loud noises.
• In Maricopa County, eight coyote attacks on humans have been reported in the last 10 years, compared with more than 5,300 domestic dog bites per year.
Source: Arizona Game and Fish Department; Maricopa County Animal Care and Control