Suburban Coyote Spotted At Detroit Zoo

A coyote was spotted on the grounds of the Detroit Zoo on Monday morning, just before school field trips were about to get under way, prompting park officials to close the zoo temporarily while staff tried to search for the coyote.

As of 10:20 a.m., the coyote had not been caught or seen, but the zoo reopened for business and zoo officials stressed the public is not at risk for any harm, noting the coyote is more of a risk to the smaller animals at the zoo.

“Every now and then, these things happen,” said Detroit Zoo spokeswoman Patricia Janeway. “We will shelter animals that might be at risk.”

According to Janeway, animals that might be at risk include the flamingos, storks and other birds. She said this isn’t a new problem for the zoo, noting unwanted visitors like skunks, foxes and raccoons have showed up in the past, prompting closures. Last year, she said, a deer caused a temporary shutdown.

But nobody has been hurt. And zoo officials weren’t expecting any trouble this time, either.

According to the Humane Society, coyote attacks on people are very rare. More people are killed by errant golf balls and flying champagne corks each year than are bitten by coyotes, the organization states on its website.

“Often, coyote attacks are preventable by modifying human behavior and educating people about ways to prevent habituation. In many human attack incidents, it turns out that the offending coyote was being fed by people. In many other instances, people were bitten while trying to rescue their free-roaming pet from a coyote attack. Less often, people are bitten by cornered coyotes, or even more rarely, rabid coyotes.”There have only been two recorded incidences in the U.S. and Canada of humans being killed by coyotes. One involved a child in Southern California in the 1980s and the other a 19-year old woman in Nova Scotia in 2009.

Coyotes are generally nocturnal and seldom seen. You may catch a glimpse of a coyote, however, as it moves from one part of its territory to another in search of prey, usually small mammals such as mice or voles.

Observing a coyote in this manner (even during the daytime) does not mean that the coyote is sick or aggressive. If the coyote is scared away by your presence, it is exhibiting natural behavior and this should not be cause for concern.

According to CoyoteSmarts.org, coyotes are naturally timid animals and will usually flee at the sight of a human. If they linger or approach, here on some tips on what to do:

  • Be as big and loud as possible. Do not run or turn your back.
  • Wave your arms, clap your hands and shout in an authoritative voice.
  • Make noise by banging pots and pans or using an air horn or whistle.
  • Throw small stones, sticks, tennis balls or anything else you can lay your hands on. Remember, the intent is to scare and not to injure.
  • Spray with a hose, if available, or a squirt gun filled with water and vinegar.
  • Shake or throw a “coyote shaker” — a pop can filled with pennies or pebbles and sealed with duct tape.

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