As she unloaded her car one day, her Papillion, Sophia, went down the driveway and was taken by a coyote.
It didn’t take the Watermans long to realize they would need to provide protection for their pets with strong fences and locks on coops.
“You just can’t make mistakes because (the coyotes) know it,” Waterman said. “Leaving my gates open, I can’t make that mistake. You just have to be careful and lock up the coop doors just so you don’t tempt them.”
Coyotes, though considered by many to be an important part of the circle of life, are still predators. Homeowners, therefore, are advised by groups like Project Coyote and Trail Safe to take precautions with their pets to discourage the curious creatures from feeding on smaller animals, garbage or any other lures that may bring them closer to residences.
“My number one suggestion is do not feed the coyotes intentionally or unintentionally,” said Trish Swain, head of local grassroots group Trail Safe. “You have to make sure there’s no food, no pet food, around your dwelling.”
That includes ensuring there’s no low-hanging fruit off tree branches that coyotes might want to eat and that garbage cans are secure enough to keep coyotes from knocking them over or getting into the waste.
According to Camilla Fox of Project Coyote, who recently gave a presentation at the Nevada Humane Society about how to co-exist with the predator, urban residents are encouraging coyotes to linger around their homes when they don’t keep their garbage picked up because coyotes will get into composts and trash cans.
“Pick up your fallen fruit and keep up your property well-lit at night,” Fox advised.
She also recommended not leaving pet water bowls out, which is the biggest attraction for a coyote, especially during the summertime.
Chicken coops and other fences that keep domestic or farm animals in is another important deterrent.
On her ranch, Waterman has sheep, goats, pigs and birds in addition to her dogs. She keeps separate birthing shelters to keep her animals safe when they have their babies.
With coyotes coming around her home at least once a week, Waterman said she’s very cautious.
“I made a mistake by allowing two of my turkeys to roost on top of the chicken coop,” she said, adding that an owl got to them and when they fell to the floor, a coyote slaughtered them. She said it was an opportunity for the coyotes, though normally they would never approach her protective fences or home.
“I think they’re a little timid,” she said. “I really don’t have any problems. I had a baby coyote come in once and I yelled at it and it went away.”
For pets, however, they can be a predator if owners are not careful. Pets should be kept on a leash when walking and animals should be locked indoors at night. Electric fencing is another option for deterring coyotes from entering a yard, she said.
Sabine McCowen of Spanish Springs keeps her pets locked in a kennel at night for added protection.
“At least they’re sheltered,” she said. “I know a neighbor who has chickens and ducks and some coyotes came and took out the whole chicken population.”
McCowen, who has a border collie mix named Oscar and an Australian shepherd mix named Sydney, takes her dogs with her when she goes bike riding and says she feels safe having them around.
“In 10 1/2 years, I have never lost a dog to coyotes,” she said.
However, overcoming fear of coyotes and understanding their way of life is important.
Swain, who said she used to be a romantic about coyotes because she enjoyed having them approach her with curiosity, now understands there should be set boundaries between coyotes and humans.
“I know I need to scare it away and make sure it keeps its distance,” she said.
McCowen also had such an experience while she was out riding one time.
“I turned around to check behind us and a mother coyote with her young pup were sneaking away into the safety of the bushes,” McCowen said. “The pack obviously made sure we were busy looking at them so mom and baby could get away to safety. As soon as she was out of our sight, the rest of the pack disappeared into the afternoon sun. It was one of those moments that made my hair stand up. The intelligence of the pack and the protection they offer for their young was so amazing to witness firsthand.”
Jan Alaksa, a staff member at Animal Ark sanctuary north of Reno, said her personal mission is to dispel the lies and myths surrounding coyotes, especially the one in which many people think coyotes are out to hunt them down and eat them.
Animal Ark has four orphaned coyotes — Cody, Wylie, Sadie and Amelia — through which Alaksa said she can help educate the public.
“So many people are scared of them and that makes me sad because they’re a beautifully created creature,” Alaksa said. “They have an important part in our environment: They’re rodent control.”
Swain called encounters with coyotes “a magical and rare occurrence.”
“It’s common sense to get along with coyotes,” Swain said.