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Coyote discussion banishes myths

FARMINGTON HILLS — People learned about the habits of coyotes and more during an interactive segment at Heritage Park Nov. 8.

During the Understanding Coyotes program, Nature Center Supervisor Ashlie Smith spoke to an inquisitive crowd about coyotes, their behavior patterns, myths surrounding the animal and similar topics.

But before coyote myths and stereotypes were dispelled or confirmed, Smith gauged the audience’s comfort level with coyotes: More than half the attendees were comfortable with them, several were not certain about how they felt about coyotes and an even smaller number felt uncomfortable about the animal.

“Most people in the room had pretty positive feelings about coyotes,” she said during the event.

Smith then made statements about coyotes to see if attendees could guess if they were true or false.

Some statements included: coyotes are not native to Michigan, coyotes hunt in packs, coyotes will attack humans and coyotes are fierce predators. A good number of attendees gave mixed answers.

Coyotes are not native to Michigan, Smith informed the crowd.

“They didn’t make it here until the early 1900s,” she said. “They are now in every state in the United States (and) almost everywhere in North America, except for the extreme warm and extreme cold places.”

She added that coyotes were found in places out West before European settlement; they are quite adaptable.

Coyotes do not hunt in packs, either — sometimes in pairs, but typically alone.

“Usually, coyotes are very territorial. They are going to live in a family unit with a female and a male together raising young, but they won’t hunt that way,” she said.

Although there is evidence that coyotes attack people, there has not been any evidence of coyotes attacking humans in the Midwest, Smith said.

“All documented coyote attacks have occurred out in California,” she said. 

Coyotes are not typically considered fierce predators. They are opportunistic foragers in developed areas where food is most plentiful and easy to find, she said.

“If they were living in a natural area that is far from any human development and no human interaction, they would be considered more specialized predators,” Smith said.

Smith said that according to the Southeastern Michigan Coyote Research Project, coyotes are all over southeastern Michigan, including parts of Heritage Park, Detroit and surrounding cities.

“What we see more of is the evidence of coyotes,” she said. 

She said she has seen coyote fecal matter throughout the park’s trails, and there have also been reports of hearing coyote sounds.

“We hear them in the park, as well, and have seen them in the park, but not recently,” she said. “They are definitely around, but they are reclusive.”

During a coyote craft segment for children, Farmington Hills resident Bryan Wiedyk said he brought his son and daughter to the event to not only learn more about coyotes, but to bond with his family.

“It is a cheap (event) and so close; I figured, why not learn something and have a nice family get-together?” Wiedyk said.

His son Evyn said he did not know a lot about coyotes, but one thing that surprised him was that they are not native to Michigan. He added that he would like to learn more about their habits and lifestyle.

Nature Center Park Naturalist Kevin Beahon said during the craft segment that spreading the truth about coyotes is critical. 

“It is essential in helping people have a greater understanding of coyotes,” Beahon said. “Most people see coyotes as a threat and a danger to them. Truth be known, you always want to exhibit caution around coyotes, but they don’t pose as nearly a threat as the negative tones that are tied to them. Leave them be, and (they’ll) let us be.”

According to a coyote fact sheet, coyotes originate primarily from open prairies and deserts. They are savvy, can run up to 40 mph, and have a wide variety of yips, yelps and barks, in addition to howling.

According to Michigan.gov, coyotes are a member of the dog family and are found throughout Michigan.

For more information on coyotes, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

Heritage Park is located at 24915 Farmington Road, between 10 Mile and 11 Mile roads. Call the Nature Center at (248) 477-1135 or email Smith at asmith@fhgov.com for more information about upcoming Nature Center programs.