As we continue to develop wild territory into human habitat, it is no wonder that instances of confrontation with predators are on the rise. Predators have become more accustomed to living in close proximity to humans which can be dangerous for both parties. Spring is the time of year we see an increase in attacks by coyotes and wolves on domestic pets. January through April is breeding and whelping season for these predators. They tend to be more aggressive, defensive, territorial and hungry. They aren’t picky when it comes to their prey. Fluffy bunny vs fluffy Pomeranian, squirrel or Shih Tzu; food is food.
Bears can also be dangerous this time of year. They are waking up from winter hibernation and emerging from their dens. They can be groggy, grumpy, and hungry. A dog is no match for the large, powerful claws of a bear. Given the bear’s disoriented, post-hibernation state, they may not run away but rather stand their ground. Mama bears may also have cubs to protect; never come between a mama and her cub.
Here are some tips on how to protect your pet from predator attacks:
Monitor pets when they are outside; do not leave them outside by themselves. Keep pets on a leash when walking, especially in wooded areas. Bring outdoor cats in at night. Avoid the twilight hours since predators are more active at these times. Know the area you are walking in. Check for sign such as tracks or scat.
The need for protective gear is an unfortunate reality for some situations. If you search the internet you will find multiple products available.
- Kevlar neck collar with spikes
- Puncture resistant Kevlar vest
- Spiked collars
- Dog Horn
- Ultrasonic Devices
- Pepper Spray
Having a fenced in yard can protect your pet from many dangers. Unfortunately, predators can be very determined when hungry and will climb or dig their way in. It is recommended that fences be at least 6 foot tall, buried 18 inches in the ground, and even have rollers at top.
Predators often attack in the dark. Keeping your yard well-lit can help deter predators from getting too close. Motion detecting lights are helpful to scare off unsuspecting wildlife.
Eliminate all sources of food. Do not feed deer, squirrels, and rabbits. Attracting the prey will attract the predators. Remove all garbage or keep it in animal proof containers. Cover compost piles. Do not leave out dog or cat food. Clean your grill. Remove any roadkill near your property. Remove excess fruit from fruit trees.
Remove their hiding spots by keeping your yard clean, trees and shrubs trimmed, and having an obvious barrier from woods to lawn. Cleaning up your yard and removing the pet feces will reduce the scent that can attract predators.
Females in heat
Females are especially at risk during their heat cycle. They emit scent and pheromones that draw willing males for miles. Be sure to keep a watchful eye during this time. If not planning to breed, have the female spayed to eliminate the heat cycle.
There has been much debate in the use of bells on hunting dogs. Some hunters believe that it deters predators while others argue that it acts as a “dinner bell” attracting them. Use whistles, horns, or other non-natural noise makers to let predators know that humans and not wild canines are present.
Other Important Things to Note:
- Vaccines- Keep pets up to date on vaccines. Wild animals carry preventable diseases such as Rabies, Distemper, Parvo, and Leptospirosis.
- Don’t Run- It is important that you do not try to run away. This activates the predator instinct to chase. Instead, back away slowly, yell or make loud noises, wave your arms, and throw things at it.
- Spread the Word- Share sightings and information with your friends & neighbors so they can be vigilant for their own pets and follow the deterrent recommendations as well.
- DNR- Report nuisance or strange acting animals to the Department of Natural Resources. They are responsible for keeping track of the level of conflict and managing the species. They use the data to create or change laws and regulations regarding hunting and trapping.
DNR website statement on Coyotes:
The DNR does not trap, shoot, or relocate coyotes; it is the responsibility of the landowner.https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/livingwith_wildlife/coyotes/index.html
DNR website statement on Wolves:
Wolves in Minnesota can only be killed in defense of human life. Only agents of the government are authorized to take wolves if pets or livestock are threatened, attacked or killed. Protect evidence and report depredation incidents to a DNR or conservation officer.https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/mammals/wolves/mgmt.html
DNR website statement on Bears:
Bears are common in Northeast Minnesota, but the DNR asks you to report any sighting in the South and West portions of the state to track movement (see map on website).https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/bear/index.html
To report wildlife issues please contact the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Wildlife office in Bemidji at 218-308-2339.