Native Dallasite is the city’s own coyote whisperer.
You should know that photographing a coyote can lead to conflict, and the coyote won’t be too happy either.
Coyotes are creeping around residential neighborhoods throughout Dallas and cities across the country. The Canis latrans is showing up around Turtle Creek and Park Cities neighborhoods, and residents don’t know how to stay safe when they spot them. To help prevent situations or as known in the trade, conflicts, you need accurate information about the animals and proven, effective solutions from professionals.
Bonnie Bradshaw is Dallas’ own coyote whisperer, and she wants us to know how to be safe while avoiding coyote conflicts. Dallas Animal Services and Bradshaw’s 911 Wildlife (911) recently held a free program on preventing coyote conflicts.
The presentation covered basic coyote ecology and behavior; findings from current coyote research; types and causes of human-coyote conflicts; methods of coyote management; examples from the field and coyote conflict scenarios. Lynsey White Dasher, director of Humane Wildlife Conflict Resolution for The Humane Society of the U.S., led the presentation.
According to Bradshaw, 911 has a different approach to wildlife and animal removal problems than others in the industry. They don’t use traps or poisons. Bradshaw says they’re here to treat wild animals in urban areas humanely, to keep them out of harm’s way and then to return them to their natural environment.
Bradshaw frequently does presentations for neighborhood groups, homeowners associations, property owners and other community organizations, with topics ranging from armadillos, opossums, raccoons, squirrels and any wildlife with which people in cities often have conflict.
“Wild animals wander throughout urban areas, with old neighborhoods, with lots of trees having the largest population of wildlife,” Bradshaw explained.
The entrepreneur earned a degree in journalism from the University of North Texas before working for a Denver newspaper and then the Dallas Morning News. “I reverted back to my childhood and worked in public relations for environmental groups,” she said. She also volunteered as a wildlife rehabilitator. She saw too many orphaned animals whose parents had been caught by traps. “It was very rewarding to get animals that were injured and ill, and then release them after getting them healthy,” she added.
“Making people aware there’s another option to trapping and killing wildlife is our biggest hurdle,” she said.
Bradshaw has permits from Texas Parks and Wildlife and the City of Plano. Her business keeps animals in large enclosures until they are ready to be released. At any given time, she may have ten raccoons in an outside cage. But 911 has a whole network of volunteers, with permits, licensed by Texas Parks and Wildlife, who keep animals indoors in small pet carriers. “Most can sit in the palm of your hand,” Bradshaw said.
The animals eat formula dedicated to each type, like squirrels. They are fed with syringes with nipples. Once they’re weaned to solid foods, they are moved to an outside enclosure until they are about six months old and then ready to be released to survive on their own.
“We are always looking for new release sites, and we love to hear from private property owners. We usually find sites through word of mouth,” Bradshaw said.
A Wylie resident with five heavily-wooded acres allows squirrels to be released on his property. Raccoons are usually welcomed on private ranches. If there is livestock, then water is available to squirrels year-round making it an ideal release spot.
Bradshaw explained, “My goal is to prevent the animals from being orphaned in the first place.” She said she started 911 out of frustration when she couldn’t get other groups and companies to change their way of dealing with wildlife. The entrepreneur gets around 700 calls a week about orphaned and injured animals and from people with conflicts. “I am totally immersed in this. I found my niche!”
As a coyote whisperer, Bradshaw gives some tips. “Most people want to take pictures when they see a coyote. Wrong! The best thing to do is clap your hands, and they will run off. They [coyotes] become habituated to people because there are no consequences. If you take a picture and then just stand there, that endorses their thinking, ‘I’m safe. People are no threat.’ That’s a problem because they begin to see people as a source for food, and that’s how people get bitten.” She continued, “You want to keep them skittish for their safely and ours.”
She cautioned against inadvertently feeding them by leaving dog or cat food out overnight or having an overflowing bird feeder. Bradshaw added that the seed in bird feeders also attracts rats.
Bradshaw said she gets a lot of questions with concern that coyotes feast on cats. “They occasionally will take a cat, but the bulk of their diet is rats, squirrels and rabbits. Cats are in greater danger of being hit by car statistically. Cats aren’t a steady part of their diet. They rather go after food that doesn’t bite back,” the specialist said. She highly recommends keeping cats in at night.
Bradshaw has 10 employees and eight trucks in the DFW area. She employs four and has three trucks in Houston. That’s major growth since 2006 when she had one tech and herself.
Today, a number of pest control companies refer customers to her when they’re called on wildlife issues, according to Bradshaw’s husband, Kevin, and she’s also called by the Humane Society of the U.S. for consultation. “No matter what’s put in front of her, she keeps working at it, because she doesn’t want animals to be trapped. She’s passionate about it,” he remarked.
In 2012, Green Source DFW named Bradshaw “Entrepreneur of the Year.” According to the organization, 911 Wildlife had saved more than 21,000 native animals in its first six years.
For additional information, visit 911wildlife.com or call 972-743-7737. Reach Bonnie Bradshaw at email@example.com.
Dallas Morning News – 27 November 2014
Learn to Live with Coyotes
When wildlife officials asked a standing-room-only crowd at a White Rock Lake reception hall this month who had seen coyotes in Dallas, nearly every hand went up.
Event organizers expected about 30 people, but 124 showed up. That’s promising for the city’s relatively new educational approach to dealing with wild animals.
Over the last two years, Dallas has altered its response to the presence of beavers, coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, foxes and the like. The city ended a contract for wildlife trapping services and instead last year sought proposals for “humane wildlife management strategies that support co-existence of the human and wildlife population.”
Those strategies include teaching people to scare away coyotes, effectively training the animals to rely on their natural fear of humans. The educational message is emphasized at this time of year, when calls about coyotes rise.
Cold weather makes the animals move around more in daylight, and when plants lose their leaves, it makes wildlife more visible.
And after a few drought years in which pup survival rates were low, coyote populations are rebounding so wildlife officials “expect a fair number of complaints as these animals disperse,” said Mike Bodenchuk, Texas director of wildlife damage for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Bonnie Bradshaw, president of 911 Wildlife, agreed. “There definitely have been more calls,” she said, “and we wanted to get accurate information out to people, because 90 percent of what people think they know about coyotes is false.”
Coyotes are found in every state except Hawaii and, to the surprise of many urban dwellers, in virtually every big city. One study in Chicago found them living in even the most densely populated neighborhoods, not just in open or brushy areas.
Since 911 Wildlife won the Dallas contract for wildlife management last year, it has worked to assure residents that coyotes are at home in the city, and that they are by nature shy canines.
Occasionally, coyotes will prey on pets, but such attacks are relatively rare. Coyotes prefer a diet of rodents and fallen fruit.
Jody Jones, director of Dallas Animal Services, said the decision to stop routinely trapping and killing coyotes and other wildlife came partially from calls for a more humane approach and partially from budget cuts. Previously, the city paid trappers for each animal caught and removed. That made wildlife management costly and focused on the wrong goal, she said.
Animal researchers say selectively killing coyotes does nothing to reduce their overall numbers but in fact will cause them to start reproducing faster and younger — so populations actually increase.
In North Texas, no one keeps data on coyote populations, so it’s impossible to know what effect the trend away from trapping has had. Dallas Animal Services, 911 Wildlife and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department reported no discernible change in the number of calls they’ve gotten.
The city’s message at the White Rock presentation persuaded Lori Peniche, 57. She lives near White Rock Creek and worried that a coyote might snatch one of her two dogs.
She learned that she probably shouldn’t leave the smaller dog, a Pomeranian, outdoors alone. But she was relieved to learn that coyotes only weigh, on average, about 30 pounds.
“You hear people claiming they’re the size of German shepherds,” she said. “Well, now I know. My corgi outweighs a coyote by 10 pounds, at least.”
Sally Johnson, 60, whose cat was killed by a coyote in August, also praised the city’s approach. She lives west of White Rock Lake and says she’s gotten used to having coyotes as neighbors.
If she gets another cat, it will be an indoor cat, she said.
“Because I don’t have a choice.”