Are coyotes something to be afraid of? Biologist weighs in on their role in ecosystem

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Coyotes are nocturnal but you might see them at dawn and dusk

(WKBN) – After a coyote attack in Columbus, we wondered how worried we should be about these animals.

On Friday, Columbus police released body camera video from a coyote attack along Interstate 70 Thursday night.

The officer was checking on a stranded driver when the coyote bit him.

The officer tried to Tase it but that didn’t work. When the coyote wouldn’t leave, the officer shot and killed it.

Coyotes are found in all 88 counties in Ohio. Biologist Allen Lea said you’ll see them in rural and urban areas.

Even if you don’t see coyotes, chances are, you’ll hear them.

“It’s generally just a vocalization that they use to help them establish and maintain their territory,” Lea said.

He said the animals are more afraid of us than we are of them.

Coyotes do look like some dogs, up to two feet tall and 30 to 50 pounds. They eat mice, rabbits or squirrels.

It’s highly unlikely they would go after your small dog in the backyard.

“Most animals that people have are more at danger of being bitten by their neighbor’s dog than they would be a coyote at any time,” Lea said.

Coyotes are opportunistic. They will take advantage of dog food or other scraps if you leave them out.

This is mating season — January through March — and food can be scarce, so there’s a higher chance of seeing one.

“They’re generally very reclusive animals,” Lea said. “They don’t like to be around us if they can avoid it.”

Coyotes are generally nocturnal. Our activities overlap as the sun comes up or goes down.

Lea said seeing one shouldn’t scare you.

“When I see a coyote, I’m happy to see it. That means we got a good ecosystem going, we’ve got predators in the area. That means there are plenty of other animals that are there or those coyotes wouldn’t be around.”

Coyotes are slender and similar in appearance to a medium-sized dog. They’re much smaller than wolves, which are not commonly found in Ohio.

Most coyotes are gray but some are a rusty brown or off-white color. They have bushy tails, usually tipped with black.

If you see a coyote, just make noise and that should drive it away.

If the coyote seems to be unafraid of humans or continues to be a problem, you can ask to have a trapper come out. Call the Division of Wildlife at 1-800-WILDLIFE (945-3543).

The Columbus police officer who was bitten will be fine.

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