Following several coyote attacks, wildlife expert says they are simply misunderstood

Are coyotes getting a bad rap?

Wildlife officials say the animals are simply misunderstood.

Earlier this year, there were four incidents of small dogs being bitten by coyotes at Lakewood Park. In June, a Lakewood woman's dog was even killed by a coyote.

But Pamela Barnes with Cuyahoga Valley National Park says coyotes are not usually aggressive, unless they are provoked. She says coyotes are wrongfully associated with wolves and other aggressive animals that travel in packs.

“They’re shy and they don't travel in packs," Barnes said. “They travel alone. They really don't want to see you, and they don't want to interact with you.”

While Barnes is not pointing the blame on the dogs being attacked, she does say dogs, even domesticated dogs, are territorial.

“Probably, the dog might initiate some kind of aggression, and the coyote is just fighting back,” said Barnes.

The City of Lakewood hired a trapper to catch the coyotes. Barnes says she is not against the trapping, but notes the coyotes are important to our ecosystem.

“They eat some deer, so that kind of helps with the deer population,” she said. “Mice, chipmunks, anything that might be considered a nuisance in your lawn or your home, they also eat those too. They eat a lot of small rodents.”

Luckily, Barnes says there's a way homeowners can prevent their neighborhood from being habituated by coyotes.

“Make some noise or spray your hose at them,” she said, “Throw something, so they associate a human with someplace where they don't want to be.”

Another tip - don't leave food out.

“Things like pet food,” said Barnes. “Clean your grill, don't leave any particles of meat that smell really good.”

This goes for any wildlife that may be lurking nearby, not just coyotes. And while the safety of homeowners are the first priority, Barnes says there is a way to peacefully co-exist with coyotes, deer and other wildlife in the city.

The Lakewood Public Library is hosting a forum, ‘Wildlife in Northeast Ohio: Why can't we just all get along?’ on Monday at 6:30 p.m.

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