Numerous coyotes have invaded the main cantonment area of White Sands Missile Range alarming residents and employees who have encountered coyotes that aren’t scared of humans and some which have acted aggressive and growled. The post held a town hall Jan. 6 to address the problem.
“We’re in their backyard and they’re in ours,” said Doug Burkett, senior ecologist at Eco Inc. who is contracted by the WSMR’s Environmental Stewardship Branch to assist with wildlife research and nuisance wildlife issues. “I love the animals, but they are wild animals and we have a problem on main post. There are a few coyotes that are no longer afraid of humans and this behavior could turn into an attack on a person or pet.”
Cristina Rodden, a wildlife biologist with the Environmental Stewardship Branch, said that there have been reports of two cats and two dogs missing in the housing area on post. One of the missing dogs was confirmed to be a coyote attack.
Burkett said the most important thing for people at WSMR to do when they see a coyote is to clap, stomp and yell to scare it away. This hazing technique, which keeps coyotes away by reinforcing their natural wariness of humans, shows coyotes they are not welcome in the area and should leave.
“The hazing technique is very effective to get rid of coyotes, but there are a handful of coyotes who can no longer be scared,” Burkett said. “These are the coyotes that we need to catch and remove from the post.”
The WSMR Environmental Office explained their plan to use tranquilizer dart-guns to remove problem coyotes within the main cantonment area. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, who is contracted by the Environmental Office, will be using hazing techniques along the perimeter of the cantonment area to try and discourage the incoming coyote population. Leg-hold traps will only be used if the dart-gun is unsuccessful within the cantonment. The leg-hold traps, which are offset and padded, don’t break the skin of the coyote. These traps will be set in the evening and checked in the morning when human presence is minimal, and the traps will be monitored by a USDA representative. Traps will not be set for longer than a 12-hour period, said Rodden.
One of the main reasons we have a problem on post with coyotes is because people are either directly feeding the animals or not securing their trash to ensure animals cannot access it, said the Environmental Office.
“Feeding these animals, leaving out pet food, or keeping a baby pool of water in your backyard for these animals is the worst thing you can do,” said Burkett. “You have lured the animals into the main cantonment area and now they are becoming accustomed to approaching people. At the end of the day, they are still wild animals and they can become aggressive and attack or spread disease.”
The Environmental Office will be going door to door the week of Jan. 18 through WSMR’s housing area with wildlife educational brochures to ensure that post residents are aware of the coyote problem and how to deal with the situation. The Environmental Office, along with the assistance of Balfour Beatty, will be setting up quarterly training sessions to educate residents and the workforce about the wildlife that surrounds WSMR and how to deal with specific situations.
“We need everyone on WSMR to help these animals,” said Burkett. “We don’t want to catch and remove coyotes, but we have to do it to keep everyone safe. If you all help by not feeding the coyotes and haze them out of the main cantonment area, we don’t have to worry about a new batch of coyotes making main post their home.”
“As folks begin complying with our coyote hazing protocol, I believe we can teach those new coyotes that try to seek refuge on post, that it is no longer a desirable place to live,” said Rodden. “Until we see a change in human behavior, we will unfortunately be required to remove those specific animals that pose an immediate threat to children, residents and the workforce. The coyote management operation will begin the week of Jan. 25.”
Tips on Hazing
- Act big and loud by yelling or banging on something that produces noise
- Maintain eye contact
- Wave your arms, a stick or your jacket
- Jump up and down
- Keep hazing, even if there is more than one coyote, until the coyote(s) leaves the area
Do not Haze if:
- The coyote appears to be sick or injured (call the WSMR Department of Emergency Services Game Warden immediately at (575) 678-1234, and notify the Environmental Office at (575) 678-2225.
- The coyote has pups with her and the den may be nearby. In this case, leave the area calmly and do not run.
- The coyote is cornered or has no clear escape route. When cornered, the coyote could become defensive and attack in order to protect itself.