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Coyote mating season presents possible dangers to small dogs and lesser threat to humans

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A coyote walked around and another sat in a tree inside an enclosed area at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert.

The animals drew spectators, prompting one to talk about coyotes she recently saw in Desert Hot Springs.

"We saw some huge coyotes come across the road. They were really nice and fat and healthy looking They were totally unafraid of the car and we had to stop for them," said zoo visitor Doreen Davies.

The number of coyotes living in and around the valley is estimated as high as 10,000, according to Dr. James Danoff-Burg.

He is the Conservation Director at the Living Desert.

In fact, he says the animals travel through just about every neighborhood in the desert.

"Coyotes are some of the most fascinating creatures we have in the valley. They are dogs in the same genus as our domesticated dogs. So the things you love about your dog coyotes do the same things," said Danoff-Burg.

While coyote attacks are rare, they do happen, especially during mating season.

The conservationist says the animals can go after smaller dogs which coyotes see as potential competitors or possibly predators to their own offspring.

Dr. Danoff-Burg says the coyote mating season begins in December and typically runs through February.

The most recent local reports of coyotes attacking dogs happened in 2019.

One dog survived an attack in Palm Springs, but another dog died after being attacked in Yucca Valley.

Danoff-Burg says the most likely time you might encounter a coyote is at dawn and possibly at dusk.

"Most of the time when you see a coyote out in the wild if you make yourself big by waving or yelling they'll run away. If they don' run away you are probably near the den," he said.

If that's the case, keep facing the animal and gradually back away.

Other protective measures include bringing pets inside at night and not leaving pet food and water outside.

Also keep dogs on short non-retractable leashes during walks and don't walk near the edge of brushy areas.

Besides being beautiful to look at, Danoff-Burg says coyotes also help control the rodent population and even eat insects, including cockroaches.

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Tom Tucker

Tom Tucker is a veteran broadcast journalist with nearly 20 years of experience. Learn more about Tom here.

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