Coyote. Illustration by Jynnette Neal.

The City of Dallas is working to educate residents about coyotes and is considering a no-feeding ordinance.

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Dallas Animal Services and the city’s urban biologist briefed the Quality of Life, Arts and Culture Committee on Monday about its coyote management plan.

Right now, DAS is working on an interactive mapping tool to document where coyote sightings are happening.

Over the past few months, community meetings have been held in City Council Districts 10, 12 and 14. District 9 City Council member Paula Blackmon, who sits on the committee, asked for a meeting to be held in the Ridgewood neighborhood, where coyotes are often seen.

Once the mapping tool is complete, the plan is to set up a system that will streamline the documentation process. The city staffer who takes a 311 call will fill out a service request that will automatically upload to the DAS database.

Four coyotes have been euthanized, and all four tested negative for rabies, says Paul Ramon, the interim assistant director of Dallas Animal Services. In general, urban biologists do not see non-selective wildlife removal or relocation as an effective solution to wildlife management.

DAS has already set up an online form to submit sightings, in addition to the coyote hotline, which has received more than 800 calls since it was created. Temporary informational signs have also been placed around the city, and permanent signs will be added in locations determined by the coyote hotline.

At Monday’s meeting, Blackmon asked the wildlife specialists to consider placing the signs in areas where people congregate, rather than just where coyote incidents are most likely to occur.

One reason why we’re noticing more coyotes this year is because of the drought, says Brett Johnson, an urban biologist in Dallas. During the summer months, when Dallas wasn’t getting much rain, irrigation systems were still running, keeping water in streams and ponds.

As leaves start falling in coming months, coyotes will be even easier to see, and people will start noticing them more, Johnson says.

The City Attorney’s Office is currently reviewing an anti-feeding ordinance that imposes a fine for feeding or making food available for animals in a way that: threatens public health or safety; destroys public or private property; causes more than 10 animals to congregate in one place at the same time; or attracts, habituates or socializes wildlife to humans.

“While they may look a certain way, you may want to take a selfie or you may want to provide food, some of those things that we’re doing to habituate some of these animals may be part of the issue or the process that’s causing the problems,” Ramon says. “It’s unintentional, though, we know.”

Intentional or unintentional feeding is part of every escalated coyote case that has happened since the Lake Highlands attack, the wildlife experts say.

District 7 City Council member Adam Bazaldua took issue with the no-feeding language in the ordinance, calling it “heavy handed.”

“Until we get serious as a city about educating our residents about not feeding coyotes, about the existence of coyotes in human space, we can’t think that the answer is going to put something on the books to give us an option to enforce,” Bazaldua says.

Johnson pointed out that signs detailing the negative effects of feeding wildlife have been in place for years, but some people continue to ignore them, and park rangers are unable to stop it because there is no enforcement tool.

Here are the guiding principles of the coyote management plan:

  • Human safety is a priority.
  • Coyotes serve a vital role in the ecosystem.
  • Prevention is critical.
  • Solutions must address problematic human and coyote behaviors.
  • Non-selective coyote removal plans are ineffective.
  • A community-wide program is necessary.

See the full presentation here, and watch a recording of the briefing here.

Further neighborhood input regarding the ordinance and coyote management will be gathered before the ordinance is presented to the full city council.