City Hall

Coyotes on Swiss Avenue: Is It a Bad Time to Wear Fur?

For once the typical Texas shoot-first personality turns out to be a plus. We’ve been having a lot of daytime coyote sightings in my part of East Dallas lately, so I’ve been reading up.

Robert Timm, a University of California wildlife specialist, has found that coyote attacks on pets are about the same in California and Texas, but coyote attacks on people are fewer in Texas. His theory is that the people here are meaner.

"People in Texas don't have a kind of Disney attitude about animals,” Timm told National Geographic.

He says it’s only a theory, but he suspects coyote attacks on people may be higher in California than here because people in California want to be nice to the coyotes. People here have what Timm calls a "rancher mentality," and we know what that means. Blam!

In an academic paper for Purdue University,Timm outlined several warning behaviors that sound like what we’ve been seeing in East Dallas in the last couple months: an increase in coyotes seen on the streets or in yards at night, coyotes killing pets and especially daytime appearances of coyotes.

All of these events in our neighborhood, according to Timm and other experts, are indications that the coyotes are taking us less and less seriously. Oh, great. Because that’s just what we’re having. Here are some recent sample postings on the blog for my neighborhood:

“Coyote just seen at Belmont and Cecile.”

“My husband spotted a Coyote running through our yard at 1:30 am last night. This may be why our sweet kitty of 12 years has been missing for 9 months…”

“Not sure if this is news but my husband spotted a coyote walking up the 5700 block of Tremont, crossed Beacon and kept going... Haven't heard of a coyote this far from the lake so I thought I’d share. Keep your eyes on your pets, just after he saw the coyote, he saw a cat who had been ‘gotten’ by it just recently.”

“Last week when I left my house for an early morning run at 5:30am everything was calm outside my door at 5XXX Richmond Ave. Upon returning around 6:45am I found a mutilated small Siamese-looking type cat. All that was left was the head and hind legs. Please be aware that there may be coyotes on the loose. I tried to alert the City of Dallas animal control but couldn't find an option for coyotes on the Dallas City Hall website.”
I am trying to message this poor person. If you want to get their attention down at City Hall, you need to leave your message under “Beer Break.”

Not that the cops aren’t on this. I have to say, from what I can tell the Dallas Police Department is all over the coyote problem, at least on Swiss Avenue where I go to walk my dogs at night. The other night I’m out there walking my dogs about 11 p.m.; a patrol car kind of slow rolls by me with two officers inside; one of them puts the window down and says, “Sir, you need to know that a coyote has been spotted out here tonight.”

I said, “Thank you, sir.”

Ten minutes later, a second patrol car with a single officer inside stops at the curb and motions me over. He leans over from the wheel and says, “Sir, I just want you to know there’s a coyote out here tonight.”

I said, “Thank you, sir.”

But I’m looking at my two dogs. I’m thinking, “OK, you two, which one of us is the one the cops think looks like coyote bait? It sure as hell better not be me.”

Then I’m thinking what I always think when I think about muggers: my dogs will scare them off. But I realize, muggers maybe. But if a coyote comes after these two weasels, they’ll bite me and run.”

So I don’t know. What should I do? Go home? Cower in my house? I can’t walk my dogs, because the coyotes have got me scared? That seems pretty pathetic.

Stefan Hunt, a coyote expert for Texas Wildlife Services, says it takes a little bit of serious aggression on our part as humans to get the attention of coyotes who have ceased to be afraid of us under normal circumstances. He told in Austin : “Clapping and yelling and doing that sort of thing doesn’t always work very well.

“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.”

Hunt and other coyote experts say the thing you really really do not want to do is start feeding them or leaving water for them because you feel sorry for them. That’s the Disney Syndrome, where you think you’re Cinderella and if you talk to the coyotes just right they’ll help you make a dress.

When the coyotes get hungry and fearless enough, they will ramp up from brazenly walking around not looking scared to actually attacking humans — small children first —  according to patterns elsewhere in the country including the northeast.

I saw one message posted on in which someone suggested turning the area into a coyote sanctuary neighborhood. If any of my neighbors are reading this, no, it was not me. I did not put that up there. I swear. I may be a liberal, but … c’mon. Even liberals don't want to get bit.

I do worry about this, however: If this thing doesn’t get under control, I worry that my neighborhood will become a circular firing squad of myopic, front-porch, bad-aim coyote-hunters. Don’t go out there at night wearing anything with a fur fringe.

Mainly I’m stumped what to do myself. I really enjoy walking my dogs at night, but I don’t want anything bad to happen, of course. I’m thinking maybe an hour or so before walk-time I’ll just stake the dogs out in the front yard and see what happens. At this point it’s all about survival, right? I’m like The Revenant

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze