Warm weather and fresh air have led to a warning in Connecticut that predatory wildlife such as coyotes are out.
Melissa Ruszczyk, an official at the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection says pet owners should be concerned about encounters with the coyote population.
Contrary to popular belief, Ruszczyk says that fisher cats, a rodent-like mammal native to North America and popular in that area, are not as commonly found along the Shoreline as the Eastern coyotes and when fishers are around they are not as dangerous as many people have come to believe.
Coyotes are drawn to Shoreline residential areas for a variety of reasons including the existence of swampy areas and tall Phragmites, in addition to household trash and small animals.
You have that mix of wildlife feeding on domestic and unnatural food sources and also their own natural food sources that live, also, amongst residential areas,” Ruszczyk adds in an article in the Shoreline Times.
Fishers, on the other hand, “do better in larger tracts of forest where they have an ample food supply of squirrels and small rodents that they can get to.”
In addition, Ruszczyk stresses that the fisher cats are not nearly as ferocious as people have been led to believe.
They might occasionally kill a cat, but killing a dog would be really rare because they are so much bigger than a fisher,” Ruszczyk says.
“They’re in the weasel family,” she adds. ‘They’re larger than an actual weasel, but they’re small relative to some other predators we have like bobcats and coyotes.”
The size of the fisher makes smaller prey items, including squirrels and rodents, more desirable. Coyotes, on the other hand, will hunt for squirrels, rodents, addition to rabbits, cats and woodchucks.
“You don’t want to discount that a fisher could, like any wild animal, could be a threats to pets,” she adds, “but I would say there are more coyotes and coyotes are more apt to look at something like a cat as a prey item versus a fisher.”
Whether it is letting your cat or dog out in the yard to roam freely or walking with them, on leash, Shoreline pet owners should be ever vigilant about protecting their cats and dogs.
Ruszczyk urges pet owners to keep their pets on leashes and always within sight.
Always watch your animals outside,” she says. “It’s always good just to keep any eye on your own animals like you would your kids. You don’t want them to be completely on their own.
“Watch your pets at all times,” she stresses.
Pet owners can take some very specific precautions to protect themselves and their pets against conflicts with predators.
It you’re really concerned, maybe, don’t walk your dogs in the crepuscular hours, which would be dusk and dawn, that’s when coyotes are most active,” she says.
When walking or even watching a pet roam freely in a yard, the wildlife expert suggests having an air horn, a large stick or a small ball handy. This includes pets that have free roam within an area enclosed by an invisible fence.
In addition, Ruszczyk adds, while outside with your pets it is very important to pay attention and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
“If you’re in an area where you know that there are coyotes living and you’re concerned, then maybe don’t walk while you’re on your cell phone so you’re more alert to what’s going on around you,” she says. “Pay attention to your animal’s actions because if there’s an animal around they probably know before you do.
“So just paying attention to how your animal is behaving,” she adds. “If they’re slowing down or they look a little bit timid maybe there’s something out there that you don’t see or smell that they’re responding to.”