By Hent Shriber

June 22, 2002

Q. - I walk my 11-year-old German shepherd and a younger black lab in the fields around our farm in Sharon a couple of times a day. Lately when we go on the walks, we have run into two or three coyotes that are acting aggressively toward the dogs. The black lab got a small bite on his face from a coyote several weeks ago. The coyotes seem unafraid of the dogs. I always figured large dogs (one is 50 pounds and the other is 70) would be okay but am concerned they might get hurt if two or three coyotes gang up on one of the dogs. The coyotes are not afraid of me at all. I have managed to scare them off a few times with a blow horn (the propane type used on boats), but they come back. I'm afraid the older dog may run over a hill when I walk the dogs and get attacked by the coyotes. She has arthritis and is not as strong as she used to be. I don't want to hurt the coyotes, but I want to scare them enough to stay away when we go on the walks. After all, they get to roam around the farm undisturbed all the rest of the time. I think they may have a den on our neighbor's property as they are often lying in the grass on the hill there watching us, about an eighth of a mile away. I like the coyotes and would like to solve the problem so we can all live here peacefully! Any suggestions?

A. Not being sure what to advise, I passed the question on to Dr. Mark Shroader at the University of Connecticut Housatonic River Ecology Laboratory. He says, "Unfortunately, there isn't really an easy answer to your problem and the difficulties you've experienced are becoming more common here in the Northeast. Many people have told me that coyotes are shy and skittish of humans; this may very well be true for coyotes in the western United States. However, in my experience in the Northeast, many coyotes are bold and unafraid of humans. And, as you noted, they have been known to attack people's dogs...and in rare cases children. If the coyotes are being aggressive, they may have a den of pups nearby. If so, the problem might go away in early fall when the pups have grown a little more and start following the adults around. They will all be free then to find other locations away from dogs. Hopefully, this is what will happen in your case. So for the next month or two you should continue staying with the dogs when you walk them in this area, especially since they are a bit older and arthritic. If nothing else you'll get an idea if the problem seems to be going away on its own or if its going to be a continuing problem that requires more drastic measures.

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