One of the main attractions of a visit to beautiful Northeast Iowa is wildlife spotting in its glorious scenic countryside. But if you’re a townie or a tourist and not familiar with the ways of the wild, take heed of the warnings given earlier this year by the Winneshiek County Sherriff’s Department.
Hikers were warned to be aware of their surroundings and proceed with caution after a man walking his dog reported an encounter with an “overly aggressive adult coyote” on Rocky Road Trail in Decorah’s Van Peenen Park. It appears that the coyote shadowed the walker and his two dogs along the trail for a several hundred yards and although it didn’t directly approach either the man or his pets, he was understandably concerned.
So is such behaviour normal? According to a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, all wild animals including predators are usually wary of humans and will avoid contact with them. He advised anyone who encountered a wild animal to remain calm and not to try to touch it or approach it. If it appeared to be sick or injured, the best course of action would be to report the sighting to the local Sherriff’s department who would then arrange for the appropriate law enforcement agency to attend and remove or deal with it as necessary. It is also advisable to take a fully charged mobile phone with you if you are intending to visit remote areas on foot or on horseback and to let relatives and friends know where you are going and when you expect to be home.
Coyotes are widespread and resourceful members of the dog family and have even successfully colonised urban areas in some parts of the United States. It’s pretty likely that you’ll see one as their numbers are currently thought to be at an all-time high.
Coyotes are primarily carnivorous but will eat virtually anything including fruit, carrion, insects and snakes. More usually they are hunters; small rodents, rabbits even deer are on the menu as are farm livestock and pets which makes them unpopular within the farming and ranching community. With a keen sense of smell, good vision and the ability to run at up to 40 miles an hour they are formidable hunters, especially when operating as a pack which they do during the autumn and winter months.
Coyotes are smaller than wolves, around the size of a German Shepherd dog and communicate with a distinctive call. They generally avoid direct contact with humans although they can be curious and have been known to observe people walking their dogs in urban parks for some considerable time.