The recent cold and lean months are responsible for an increased coyote presence within Lawrence city limits, local ecology officials say. However, Lawrencians need not be afraid of the more active canines.
Lawrence Police Sgt. Trent McKinley said Animal Control officers regularly hear of coyotes in the area. Most recently, one was reported around Naismith Park, just east of Iowa Street.
Kansas University professor of ecology Robert Timm said there probably hasn't been an increase in the local coyote population, nor have the creatures been displaced by construction. Most likely, he said, the animals are more active simply because of the season.
“We see coyotes right now because they're more active during the day, because they're hungry,” Timm said. “We've had a pretty cold winter, and there aren't that many rabbits down here, or mice, so the coyotes are actively foraging.”
Timm said it's not uncommon for large cities like Chicago to see a coyote population living within city limits. The coyote interlopers usually are looking for an alternative food source to their usual diet of fruit, insects, mice and rabbits, he said.
“Many of those aren't available right now,” he said. “And in town, they're going to be eating roadkills.”
McKinley said authorities have not received any reports of coyotes acting aggressively or sickly. Rather, the coyote reportedly living in the Naismith Park area appears to be afraid of humans, he said.
Timm agreed, adding that coyotes are skittish by nature and would likely avoid contact with humans, rather than attack them.
Coyotes are also much smaller than most people assume, Timm said. On average, they weight about 25 pounds.
“They look larger than they are because they're long-legged, and this time of year they've got a thick winter coat,” he said. “But it's an animal that is smaller than most of our dogs.”
McKinley said if residents see sick or aggressive animals they should call Animal Control at 785-832-7590. All other calls should be directed to a private pest control company.
Sick and aggressive coyotes are rare, Timm said, but an opportunistic coyote might prey on small pets left outside to roam after dark.
“There's not really a rabies danger. That's in general exaggerated,” Timm said. “But folks who have very small dogs or cats should be careful with them at night.”
Those who suspect a coyote may be living in their neighborhood shouldn't feed the animals, Timm said. Otherwise, the coyotes should keep to themselves, he said.
“So if you do see a coyote just enjoy that we live in a community that's green and has wildlife,” Timm said.