Johnson Lane Journal: Living with wildlife
April 30, 2017
Hello, Johnson Laners. Spring is in the air! I don't know about you, but I am so done with winter. Yes, we need the water and I am fine with a few sparsely delivered spring showers and thunderstorms that don't bring floods. Mother Nature should be nice to us for all that we have been through in the past few years.
Spring brings out baby quail, baby rabbits and all kinds of other critters. Those cute fuzzy critters are part of the food chain and they attract coyotes. Recently, there have been a lot of reports on Nextdoor.com and Facebook about coyotes stalking pets. Most of the activity occurs in the early morning hours. Please be careful when you're letting your dogs and cats out in the morning. Look around before you open that door and be cautious of these predators.
One thing I want to discuss along these lines is that, yes, you and I do have the right to protect our property and livestock.
Douglas County Ordinance 9.68.030 discharge of firearms states:
"It shall be unlawful for any person to discharge any firearm, gun, pistol, rifle, shotgun or other firearm across any county road or highway.
It shall be unlawful for any person to discharge any gun, pistol, rifle or other firearm with the exception of shotguns or air rifles within 1,500 feet of any dwelling occupied by any other person or persons within Douglas County without the permission of the occupant.
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It shall be unlawful for any person to discharge any shotgun or air rifle within 500 feet of any dwelling occupied by any other person or persons within Douglas County without the permission of the occupant.
This section shall not apply to peace officers, or to persons shooting in any regularly established and authorized rifle range, gun club or shooting gallery, nor to any person lawfully discharging a firearm in protection of life or property. (Ord. 384 1, 1981)"
NRS 202.287 discusses discharging a firearm from a structure or vehicle, but it is too lengthy for this article. But I wouldn't suggest shooting at coyotes from your upstairs bedroom window. You will be in trouble.
I reached out to the Sheriff's Office and the Nevada Department of Wildlife regarding how we should respond to a coyote encounter. Here are their responses:
"Coyotes in Nevada are classified as an unprotected species. This means the management of them does not fall directly under one agency," said Jessica Heitt, a wildlife specialist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife. "If livestock is threatened, the responsibility falls under the USDA Wildlife Services Division. Their phone number is 775-851-4848. However, before calling Wildlife Services, precautions should be taken first to protect livestock such as fully enclosed chicken coops."
In her reply, Heitt reminds us that "We live in a desert, and living in the desert means living with coyotes." It is our responsibility as homeowners to protect our pets and livestock. Heitt recommends clearing your lot of any source of food which would attract coyotes — for example, dog food left outside, garbage and fruit from trees. Additionally, she points out that "bird feeders attract rodents, which attract coyotes." She recommends keeping your dogs on leashes when out for a walk and to "avoid walking at dawn and dusk" since these are the times coyotes are hunting for food.
She also recommends you attempt to scare off a coyote if you come in contact with one by making loud noises, using an air horn, banging on metal or throwing rocks. According to Heitt, you are teaching them to be scared of humans which will help prevent them from becoming habituated to humans. She recommends you take steps to protect your property by installing hot wires or coyote rollers which prevent the animal from jumping your fences.
As a last resort, she states "coyotes are an unprotected species which means you can hunt them without a hunting license. If you are to pursue this route, you must obey all laws regarding discharging a firearm in a congested area." Trapping is an option, but you must obtain a trapping license through the Department of Wildlife and follow all trapping laws. Finally, Jessica states "removing coyotes in any capacity is often not a long-term solution. In the end, our neighborhoods still are creating a perfect habitat, providing endless supply of food, water and shelter. This means removing coyotes will only create a vacancy for more coyotes to fill."
Undersheriff Paul Howell provided the following tips:
Keep your pets inside at night;
You have the ability to protect your animals
We discourage the discharge of a firearm at an animal that you cannot clearly show was causing harm to your pet or livestock;
The mere presence of a coyote on your property does not give you the lawful right to shoot the animal; and
We need to learn to live with wildlife.
Howell was clear that you need to be sure your animal is being attacked and not just stalked. You should attempt to spook the coyote before you do anything as serious as pulling a trigger. Howell was not able to recall any recent history of coyote attacks that were reported to the Sheriff's Office. Howell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Before you go off "half-cocked," please contact someone to answer any of your questions.
I am not advocating that we organize a community-wide hunt of coyotes. Naturally, with any action you take, please consider your immediate surroundings, so you don't accidently injure your pet or anyone or thing in the line of fire. The consequences of your actions could get complicated if you do not have a clear justification. I would immediately notify the USDA Wildlife Services Division at 851-4848 or Douglas County Sheriff's Office if you have an incident.
Send any announcements or organization information to Johnsonlanejournal@outlook.com. John Hefner is a Johnson Lane resident.