Between January and March, Travis County residents called in more than 260 coyote incidents. Some of these were just sightings, but others called in because their pets had been attacked.
In November, the Austin City Council adopted its first-ever plan to handle coyotes. The main thrust of the plan? Handling them humanely.
But what does handling them humanely mean, exactly?
Jack Mayberry lives in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood.
“I started seeing all the pet missing signs in the neighborhood,” he says. So, he followed these signs to neighbors’ houses, where people told him they’d seen coyotes.
Prior to November, residents spotting coyotes might not have known what to do. But last year, Austin’s Animal Advisory Commission collaborated with city staff to form a coyote management policy. Central to it is this idea of “hazing” coyotes, something anyone can do at home. The city describes it as clapping, blowing a whistle — making any kind of noise to drive the animals away.
But Stefan Hunt, who works for Texas Wildlife Services, says the city’s policy may not be that effective.
“Clapping and yelling and doing that sort of thing doesn’t always work very well,” he says.
Hunt responds to calls about coyotes all over the county. He says the ones we see in Austin are urban coyotes, and they're accustomed to the sounds of cars and nightlife. Hazing has to be a bit more severe to be effective.
“Usually you have to do something physically aggressive towards them, like try to hit them with a rock, try to hit them with a stick. I tell people all the time, if you’re in your yard and you see them, squirt them with a water hose,” he says.
Hunt says the best way to protect your pets is to keep them indoors at night. And don’t leave any food outside – coyotes will eat it and come back for more. Wildlife Services usually only responds to calls reporting coyotes behaving aggressively, not just sightings. So, if you see a coyote, call 3-1-1 or use the 3-1-1 app to report it.