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Heads Up When In The Outdoors: Coyote, Moose, and Cougar All Part Of Local Landscape

Dave cushing

Coyote, moose, and cougar encounters are a part of the outdoor experience when living in the Wasatch Back. The experts at the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources offered tips for interacting with wildlife.

Sunny days and changing colors in the mountains attract people and pets to spend time on the trails and backroads. The fall season also brings changes in animal behavior – which can present risks to both humans and pets.

Some locals recently reported encounters with coyotes on Round Valley trails, where dogs may be off-leash.

Utah Department of Wildlife Resources Game Mammals Coordinator Darren DeBloois said coyotes are on the same evolutionary tree as dogs and will interact with them at times. Coyotes are canids, and speak the same language as dogs.

"Usually, with big dogs, coyotes are trying to potentially lure them away from areas they don't want them to be. It would be a little unusual in the fall for them to try to get them away from a den, but it's potentially possible. Sometimes, it's just curiosity. They definitely will interact.  I guess the risk there is that you just don't know how those interactions will end. And sometimes, they'll exhibit behavior familiar with dogs. You know, sort of the crouching, submissive behavior saying, hey, I'm not a threat. Come and play with me. Don't be lured in by that behavior. That's the message that they're delivering. But you don't want your dogs to interact with wild animals.  Smaller dogs are targets as prey. And we've had pets taken out of back yards, and even in some cases, pets taken right off the leash as they're being walked. So, be aware of your surroundings, don't put the headset on and not pay attention to what's going on."

He said pet owners should know their dogs - if a dog isn’t well-trained to obey verbal commands, then it may need to remain on leash when wildlife is especially active.
The DWR does not manage coyotes, and they are not legally protected. In Utah, they can be hunted anytime, anywhere due to them threatening livestock and other wildlife.

"Coyotes can have some impacts on fawns early in the year when fawns are born. In some cases, we have concerns about coyotes eating too many of those. And so, we do have some programs in the division to encourage coyote hunting in particular areas and throughout the state. They're pretty resilient, though. We've tried to get rid of them in the west for 100 plus years, and they're survivors."

DeBloois said dogs can get bitten, and coyotes can carry parasites, so owners must be sure they are up to date on their shots, especially rabies vaccines.

DeBloois said moose and elk are in rutting season and can be aggressive this time of year. He said females could be dangerous too if they have young nearby.

“Personally, as a biologist that has worked in the field for 20 years, I'm more nervous about moose than I am about bears and mountain lions. The males are breeding and will have that rutting, that aggressive behavior towards each other."

He said moose are often indifferent to people but will charge if they feel threatened or if dogs charge them.

“You can tell by body language if they seem calm and their ears are up, and they're alert; that's probably fine. If those ears go back and they start to lower their head, that's sort of a message saying back off."

Mountain lions, also called cougars, can be a threat to small pets, but they generally avoid humans. Recently DWR officers euthanized a mountain lion living in a Deer Valley neighborhood. DeBloois explained that decision.

"It had shown some aggressive behavior to the officers when they got there. We are hesitant when that sort of potential exists to move an animal that's potentially aggressive somewhere else and have a tragedy occur. So, animals that are just sort of in the wrong place at the wrong time will try to relocate, or in the case of bears like orphaned bear cubs, we will rehab and then release later."

You can find the complete interview  here.

Go to wildawareutah.org if you have questions about interacting with wildlife.

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