Coyote sightings are on the rise in SLO County. Here's why — and how to stay safe

This wily coyote was seen running in the grass near Calle Joaquin in San Luis Obispo in 2011.
This wily coyote was seen running in the grass near Calle Joaquin in San Luis Obispo in 2011. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

If you've noticed more coyotes around San Luis Obispo County recently, you're not alone.

The reason? It's pupping season, according to California Fish and Wildlife biologist Bob Stafford.

"It doesn't surprise me that people are seeing them," he said. "It's pretty normal at this time of year."

Stafford said during pupping and denning season, coyotes will wander farther into urban areas to forage for food. They primarily hunt rodents and rabbits, but also will take advantage of whatever is available, including garbage, pet food and even domestic animals.

This increases the chances for run-ins with humans — and potentially problems.

Coyotes are by nature fearful of humans, according to Fish and Wildlife, but their behavior can change if given easy access to human food and garbage. And they can become unafraid of humans, which can lead to property damage, threats to pets, livestock and human safety. It could eventually lead to the animal being killed, since relocating a problem coyote is not legally allowed under California law.

Wolves have returned to Northern California, and state officials are looking for help tracking them. Use these tips to help determine if you saw a wolf, a dog or a coyote.

To help ensure both you and coyotes are protected, Fish and Wildlife offers these tips:

Never feed or attempt to tame coyotes.

Don't leave small children or pets outside unattended.

Bring pets and pet food in at night.

Install motion-sensitive lighting around the house

Trim ground level shrubbery to reduce hiding places.

If followed by a coyote, make loud noises or if that fails, throw rocks in the animal's direction.

Put garbage in tightly closed containers that cannot be tipped over

Remove sources of water

Avoid birdfeeders since they attract rodents and other coyote prey

Make sure enclosures for rabbits, poultry and other livestock are secure

Pick up fallen fruit and cover compost piles

Encourage your neighbors to follow the tips

For more information on safe interactions with wildlife, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Keep-Me-Wild/.