Community & Culture

Published on March 13th, 2009 | by Michael Ratliff

Who's At Fault for Coyote Attacks: People or Animals?

5 coyotes shot by Colorado Division of Wildlife last week following a coyote attack

Coyote attacks are on the rise in the Denver area this winter.  Unfortunately, the simple solution that people have come up with is to shoot coyotes.

Living in Colorado, I witness the conflict between wildlife and encroaching human sprawl each day on my commute.  I have become almost jaded to sight of dead elk on the side of I-70.  The million dollar ‘elk fence’ installed over the past summer seemed to only agonize the problem by trapping elk on the highway’s thin grassy median.  This ‘solution’, although flawed, seems to be a much better alternative to what is being done in Denver to control coyote attacks.

There have been 5 coyote attacks in the Denver area this winter.  This number is high considering the state wide average is one attack per year.  Some think the rise is due to an increase of prey from the past two mild winters. Others think the attacks have to do with the approaching breeding season and thus more aggressive behavior.  I have somewhat of a different theory: human irresponsibility.

One of the attacks occurred on a golf course where patrons are known to feed coyotes.  Two other attacks involved people playing fetch with dogs in areas with leash restrictions. In one incident, an unleashed dog approached a coyote, provoking a second coyote to attack the pet’s owner.  The Colorado Department of Wildlife still vows to kill any coyote that is aggressive towards people, regardless of who is at fault for the attack.  The urban coyotes typically weigh 20-40 pounds, no bigger than a medium sized dog.

I wonder how people would feel if every aggressive dog was shot.  After all, there were over 429 reported dog bites in Denver in 2007.  People need to realize that the coyotes are not in fault and that we are encroaching on their territory.

Image Credit:  lostinfog at Flickr under a Creative Commons liscense


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About the Author

Michael Ratliff has been writing for years though he is relatively new to journalism. His interest in journalism stems from a love of science, nature and all things outdoors. Michael is currently employed by Vail Resorts as a children's snowboard instructor. In his spare time he enjoys reading, longboarding and surfing.



  • Sam

    I don't know Deb, about 2 years ago me and my uncle and his friend were approached by a coyote. We shot it but it (mostly) seemed to have no rabies. Plus, this was in a completely rural environment (KY), meaning it has most likely never met a human, thus meaning they are not scared even when encountered for the 1st time.

  • Deb

    JP and Kandis – you are both ignorant. Should we shoot and kill all aggressive humans. Human animals are far more dangerous and destructive than any other animal on this planet.

  • JP

    Yes, the agressive dogs should be shot, too.

  • Michael Ratliff

    Kandis

    I was approached by a mountain lion while jogging on a dirt road in Eagle. I was smart enough to make myself appear larger than the lion, and making a lot of noise. It ran away.

    I was making the point that if people followed the rules of parks, i.e., use a bear bag, no dogs, leave no trace, etc. etc., that contact with wildlife would be minimized.

    I was mainly writing this article for those who move to Denver and think they are ‘rugged and outdoorsy’ because they live in Colorado, then go to arms when someone they know is the unfortunate victim of a coyote attack because they were doing something stupid (or against the law).

  • Kandis

    Did you realize that due to the number of attacks int eh Denver area in 2009 that the Division of wildlife is “tracking the number of attacks” by Coyotes.
    I lived in Colorado all my life and I love Wildlife – but I beleive you are being ridiculous in stating that it is an individuals fault within a state park when they are attacked by Wildlife – probably EASY for you to say beings one of your love ones have never been approached while out on a morning jog, or a walk through the park in thier own neighborhood. How would you feel about it then watching then go through the pain of puncture wounds and series of rabie shots?

  • In the Tomball, TX area (NW Houston), expansion of massive subdivisions has started to push alot of the wildlife out of their natural habitat(s), as well. For the first time in years, my neighbors and I have heard coyotes calling at night. Numerous complaints have been issued by residents, asking the local authorities to ‘get rid of’ the coyotes…

    …its interesting that when the developers were cutting down the pine trees that have been in this area since before Texas was a state nobody complained about that…but now, a few coyotes who have been evicted from their homes start making noise at night and people get upset.

    We’ve had no attacks on peoples’ pets or anything…but already they’re calling for blood.

    I guess where I’m going with this is that I can see exactly what the author is talking about happening in my ‘backyard’ as well.

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