Richard Wiese and Jim Fowler say ‘Let the coyotes be’

Wildlife experts Jim Fowler, Richard Wiese and Dr, Mark Bekoff say coyotes pose little threat to humans. — Forum file photo

Wildlife experts Jim Fowler, Richard Wiese and Dr, Mark Bekoff say coyotes pose little threat to humans. — Forum file photo

Let the coyotes be

Nature and its wildlife are under siege. We also are witnessing a new generation of children who regard the outdoors as “a place that doesn’t get wi-fi.”

When Richard Wiese moved to Fairfield County almost a decade ago, he was told by neighbors not to leave his young children outside at dusk because coyotes might eat them. At the time, this sounded amusing — who leaves their 2-year-olds alone anywhere, much less outdoors.

Fast forward to the present. Not a day goes by without someone confessing that they are afraid to go outside because of the “coyote problem.” Worse yet, some are even arming themselves just in case.

There are many threats in our lives, but coyotes should rank far behind guns, alcohol, drugs, distracted drivers, and even lawn mowers. Yes, each year, 800 children are run over by riding mowers or small tractors, and more than 20,000 are injured.

The representation of animals, especially carnivores, in the media is based on bad science or no science, which is bad for the animals. What does the available data show? Coyotes very rarely attack. To put it in perspective, more homes in Connecticut have been hit by meteorites than people have been killed by coyotes.

Research clearly shows that coyotes and other urban animals fear people. Most animals don’t associate good things happening to them around humans. Whenever possible they avoid us at all costs.

What should we fear? Or rather, be outraged by? On any given beautiful day, we have legions of children sitting on a couch hypnotized by their electronic devices. Digital crack.

We fear that we are raising a generation of children who have “nature deficit disorder “ and are totally removed from the outdoors.

Psychologist Susan Linn notes: “Time in green space is essential to children’s mental and physical health. … And the health of the planet depends on a generation of children who love and respect the natural world enough to protect it from abuse and degradation.”

We should appreciate the presence of coyotes and educate ourselves on how to coexist with them, rather than instilling fear of them. Let’s encourage the media to provide a more balanced view of coyotes (and other animals) based on what we know about them rather than irresponsible sensationalism. And for goodness sake, get your kids outside. Let them track mud into the house, have grass stains on their knees and be thoroughly exhausted from fresh air and sunshine.

We need to re-wild not only our children but also ourselves before it’s too late. 

About the authors:

Richard Wiese lives in Weston and is president emeritus of The Explorers Club and host and executive producer of Born to Explore on ABC.
Jim Fowler is a spokesperson for the Natural World and was co-host of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.
Dr. Marc Bekoff is a coyote expert at the University of Colorado.

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  • bodypuncher

    In your article you say that available data shows that coyotes very rarely attack. You need to get more current data. Check with the animal control professionals in Weston and Westport and they will tell you about the dramatic increase this year in coyote attacks on pets in our town. And at least one person was attacked. I was personally stared down at close range by a coyote in my front yard, showing no fear of me, about two weeks after coyotes attacked my pet. I realize that all three authors are animal and wildlife scholars/activists/adventurers/celebrities – so it surprises me that you would choose to ignore the most current, local data. Perhaps it would contradict your agenda.

    • MXBrando

      It seems to me that the “agenda” the authors have is to present the facts. Not alternative ones. Coyotes rarely attack humans. That is not disputable. (Citing the one known case — and it’s not “at least” one, it’s one — actually proves the point.) A coyote staring at you is not an attack. If it is, I was attacked this morning by a squirrel. Coyotes hunt for food. They don’t see a small animal —also known as “prey”— and stop to think about whether it is someone’s pet. I feel for people whose cat or dog is attacked. But seriously, if the pet was left unattended, whose fault is it really?

      • bodypuncher

        No, the “one attack” I am referring to was in Weston within the past 3 weeks. A person was bitten. The pet that was attacked was not unattended-it was on a leash with a person holding it. The data, which the authors did not check or cite, indicates numerous instances of coyotes more closely than usual following humans in Weston and neighboring towns because the coyote population greatly increased and the coyotes are losing their fear of humans. This already happened in California where more humans have been attacked. Coyote aggression toward humans in Weston and neighboring towns has risen in the past two years-this is not disputable. Your comparison of a squirrel staring at you to a coyote walking close to me and staring at me is ridiculous. The agenda of the authors is to condemn the inevitable trapping and exterminating of coyotes that the state and town officials have already approved.

        • MXBrando

          This is simply incorrect. You seem to think that the word “rarely” means “never.” It doesn’t. It means that attacks occur, but extremely un-often. One attack out of hundreds of sightings is consistent with rarity.

          The “data” indicating “numerous instances of coyotes more closely than usual following humans” does not exist. There probably are more coyotes in Weston than before. That is natural. More coyotes means more encounters. Simple. It does NOT mean that coyotes are “more closely than usual following” us, as if they are becoming crazed stalkers.

          The article you object to is absolutely correct. You are free to object to its orientation toward humane treatment of these animals. You are not free to malign Its authors, whose reputations are beyond reproach. Doing so does not contribute to the conversation.

          People are afraid of coyotes. Is that sufficient reason to reduce the population? Maybe yes, maybe no. I would prefer to have that discussion free of fear-mongering.

          • bodypuncher

            I respect the authors and your opinion, too. I would rather not argue anymore.

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