National Training Center home to urban coyotes

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FORT IRWIN, Calif. — Fort Irwin is home to a variety of wildlife, including the increasingly abundant coyote. Historically coyotes were only found in the prairies and deserts of America and Mexico.

During the 1800’s and 1900’s European expansions, coyotes dispersed west and east to the coasts, north to Alaska, and south to South America. The new food source — deliberately and inadvertently — provided by humans, allowed coyotes to settle across the continent and in our urban areas. Coyotes’ diverse diet allow them to survive in many types of habitats. In natural environments, coyotes eat mammals, amphibians, reptiles, insects, and birds. Urban coyotes find it easier to scavenge from humans than to hunt for natural foods. Biologists have observed that coyotes living in urban areas consume more processed human foods. These foods can contain toxins and do not have the proper nutrients for a wild animal. Urban coyotes will also forage from bird feeders, compost, and cultivated fruit trees.

A low-protein diet is unhealthy for coyotes and can lead to a compromised immune system. In addition, feeding coyotes on Garrison causes these typically solitary animals to come into unnaturally-frequent contact with each other, including diseased coyotes, increasing the rate of infection from one individual to the next. The disease called “mange” (specifically Sarcoptic mange at Fort Irwin) can be seen infecting many resident coyotes. A recent study investigating the extent of infection around Garrison revealed that over 60% of coyotes had Sarcoptic mange. Twelve of the forty-one animals being observed died or were euthanized due to complications from mange during the study.

Mange is caused by an arthropod similar to ticks, called mites. The mites bite and burrow into the skin, eventually leading to infection and possibly death. Constant scratching will cause sores and hair loss which can be detrimental during cold winter months. Mange infections on the face can blind a coyote and make it difficult to catch natural prey. When coyotes are offered food handouts, they can lose their natural fear of humans. Coyotes that are not afraid of people can become a safety risk to children and pets. Because many of Fort Irwin’s urban coyotes have mange and other infectious diseases, these animals cannot be relocated and sometimes require euthanasia. Relocating a coyote with mange would spread the disease to healthy populations and many of these diseases (including mange) are also potentially transferrable to household pets. Feeding wildlife begins a domino effect that ends with the animal suffering unfortunate and sometimes, deadly, consequences.

Do not be the reason a coyote becomes habituated to humans! Let coyotes live a healthy and natural life.

Please follow these tips:

• Do not approach wildlife for your safety and the safety of the animal

• Do not offer food to wildlife

• Do not leave pet food or water outside

• Keep garbage in secure containers and the lids closed

• Supervise pets when outside

• Keep pets in kennels when outside unsupervised

The Fort Irwin Directorate of Public Works (DPW) has wildlife biologists on staff who are trained and can assist with animals creating a safety hazard or nuisance. If you have a coyote or other wildlife concern, contact the DPW front desk at (760)380-5044 during regular business hours. After hours and on weekends, contact the Military Police at (760)380-4444 and a wildlife biologist will be notified.