Imagine you’re a guy who lives in a house that backs up against woods. Let’s say you have a 4-year-old little boy who’s more the size of a 3 year old. Plus you have a dog about the size of a raccoon.

Then imagine you receive an email from your homeowner’s association that has the following passage:

“On another note, we wanted to address the fact that there have been multiple coyote sightings in the neighborhood, even on backyard porches. Although coyotes do reside in the area, it is unusual for them to come in such close proximity to dwellings.”

So that guy is me. I’ve heard them before; that eerie yipping howl. Once getting out of our SUV my son and I saw two glowing eyes tracking us from deep in the woods. My son’s eyes being better than my middle-aged ones said he could make out the rough shape of a coyote. All I could see were those eyes. A bit disconcerting that these usually elusive creatures are now aggressive enough to be showing up right against people’s back doors.

Then I read on and found out why. It seems some of my neighbors have apparently been keeping backyard chickens when they may not have enough land by ordinance to do so. The working theory is it’s attracting these coyotes and making them lose their fear of humans. A good food source will do that they say.

Grrrreat.

Now coyotes will usually never bother people. But I don’t want to be outside with our little dog and have a coyote try making a snack out of him and put me in that unenviable position. That position of choosing between saving the dog or not doing battle with a coyote.

How prevalent are coyotes in New Jersey? Very. Here are some random coyote facts.

The kind of coyote we have here is called an eastern coyote and its DNA contains parts coyote, wolf and dog.

Eastern coyotes arrived in New Jersey as recently as a bit over 80 years ago.

The first sighting happened in Hunterdon County in 1939 and the very first verified report was in Cape May County in 1948.

Coyotes have been spotted in 453 New Jersey towns. Those towns represent 96% of New Jersey’s land area. We even took a call from a woman who saw a coyote standing by an exit off the highway by Newark Liberty International Airport.

Just how many are there? No one knows. Coyotes are extremely smart and very elusive. The ones stalking my neighborhood notwithstanding most coyotes will shy away quickly from humans.

Scientists believe there are thousands of coyotes in New Jersey and the numbers are increasing. They know from vehicle strikes, sightings and game numbers. Basically just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there, seeing you, sizing you up and slowly losing their fear of you.

Although extremely rare, what to do if a coyote sets in on you? Some is the same advice as bears; make yourself as big as possible, arms overhead, and make a lot of loud noise. One major difference though is they say to look a coyote dead in the eyes.

If it still won’t go away try ‘hazing’ the animal by throwing sticks, rocks, whatever is nearby to convince it to leave.

Aren’t you glad we got through it without a single Acme anvil or tunnel-painted-onto-the-side-of-a-mountain reference?

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.

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