A couple of weeks ago, as we were driving in our South Nashville neighborhood in broad daylight, we spied a coyote. Now this coyote wasn’t lurking at the edge of a thicket, or even taking furtive advantage of an overturned garbage can. It was sunbathing in the middle of the road! As our vehicle approached, it grudgingly arose and loped past us, only to return to the middle of the road once we’d passed.
Several others in our neighborhood have reported similar daytime sightings of coyotes – and bobcats – recently. And, deer, wild turkey and other wildlife sightings have become so commonplace that we rarely remark on them anymore.
Development of Nashville’s suburbs is leading to increasing frequency of wildlife sightings and interactions. (Of course, Nashville is not alone in this regard!) I’ve been studying “the right way” to handle wildlife interactions, and offer this summary for others who wonder what is encouraged, and what is discouraged – when it comes to wildlife in your neighborhood.
Coyotes – They’ve been hanging around here for a while, but coyotes are generally nocturnal animals whose diets consist of berries, snakes, insects and small mammals. When humans – intentionally or unintentionally – provide other access to food (such as pet food or unsecured garbage), the coyotes begin to lose their fear of humans, and become emboldened. The proper way to respond to a coyote sighting is to reinstill fear in the coyote through “hazing” – essentially using your larger size and loud, stern voice to scare off the coyote. This video is an excellent and entertaining look at the proper ways to scare off a coyote. In our neighborhood, we often hear coyotes in the early evening – an unpleasant din of yipping and yelping that upsets our dog. I plan to create a homemade noisemaker, or walk the perimeter of our yard with a noisy leafblower to chase them off.
Bobcats – Bobcats are generally even shyer than coyotes, but should you encounter one that doesn’t immediately run off, it’s also best to scare if off. Do not run away, or you will be encouraging the bobcat to chase you. In general, adult bobcats are about 30 lbs., so they don’t pose a real threat to larger pets unless cornered. See the hazing guidelines above.
Wild Turkeys – I admit that, when it comes to turkey and deer in the neighborhood, I am guilty of trying NOT to scare them off. This is wrong, and I will start taking steps to ensure that the wild turkeys that wander through my yard remain fearful of humans (or at l
east fearful of me). I found this website from the state of Massachusetts that discusses wild turkey behaviors in a little more detail. The big no-no, of course, is feeding wild turkeys. Don’t do it! Turkeys generally are not territorial, so if you have an aggressive turkey on your hands you may want to report it to the wildlife officials.
Deer – Let’s just say I have a love/hate relationship with the neighborhood deer. I love looking out the window to see deer in my yard. But I hate that they come so close to the house to eat my landscaping! It’s frustratingly difficult to teach deer to avoid certain areas. They’ll quickly become accustomed to any noisemakers or other scare devices – so you’re left with no choice but to fence your landscaping – which can be a nuisance and also can be unattractive. I’m not a hunter, but I understand that using hunting to control deer population is often ineffective, because hunters primarily want bucks – and the remaining bucks can easily impregnate all the does left in their territory. Anyway, who hunts in the suburbs? (Hopefully, no one I know!) Be extra careful from dusk to dawn when driving the suburban streets – if you see one deer, it’s likely hanging out with its buddies – so GO SLOW and they’re less likely to get that confused, “deer in the headlights” look!