Zilker Neighborhood Gardens

Commentary by a National Wildlife Steward who helps Zilker neighbors establish native plant gardens

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Coyote in Zilker

"Coyote in the neighborhood" sign on telephone pole

Recently on the neighborhood listserv, there’s been plenty of talk about the COYOTE who has taken up residence in our ‘hood. Some thoughtful and neighborly soul posted these signs around the ‘hood to warn people that their small pets could possibly be in danger.

Coyotes are wildlife. And we have taken over the wild animal’s space through development. There was a suggestion that citizens, upon seeing the coyote, should call 311 and have the coyote picked up and relocated. This is not the best advice.

Such a relocation of the animal would not occur. The head of town lake animal center’s wildlife section provided a lot if info during my National Wildlife Federation Habitat Steward training this past fall.

The area in which an animal like a coyote is roaming is its territory. It would not be trapped and moved because that would surely kill it because it would unfamiliar with the new area. In fact, if you trap an animal and brought it in, the officers will end up bringing it back and releasing it to the same exact area where you trapped it! (if the animal is injured, that’s a different situation.)

Here’s the relevant information from Town Lake Animal Center:

Animal Protection Officers will not pick up healthy wild animals that have been trapped in private traps. If you bring a trapped, healthy wild animal to the shelter, it will not be relocated, but, in accordance with State Law, simply returned to the area where it was trapped.

Relocating a healthy wild animal only ensures that it will be an unhealthy wild animal wherever it is released, because it will not be familiar with sources of food, water or shelter. For more information on preventing problems with wildlife, call Animal Damage Control at 854-9613.

If you come upon coyotes near your house, you should yell at them, seem large, bang pots etc. in order to have the coyote associate humans with fear. Also, do not keep pet food outside. The point is to keep them afraid of humans so they do not start to equate humans with easy food. When wild animals do associate humans and houses with easy food, you’ll see your pets start getting eaten. Only at that excessive point would Townlake animal people become involved – and really that is a bummer situation for everyone involved.

Humans and wildlife living together is a balancing act. You can do your part by not being friendly to wildlife. In fact, try to scare it away and do not leave pet food or other “food” easily accessible on porches or in backyards. If you are worried about your pets (especially small ones), accompany them outside on leash.

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