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Coyotes in west Medford aren't unusual

There looks to be a sizable population of coyotes living around the neighborhoods near the Albertsons off West Main and near Thunderbird Market. I have always heard they keep to themselves, so it seems strange to suddenly see so many. How concerned should we be about the safety of pets? What are the rules about co-existing with coyotes?

— Shawna J.

Coyote reports on social media have definitely been on the rise this winter, with west Medford residents reportedly seeing the wild canines in neighborhoods and other heavily populated areas.

Coyote populations in Southern Oregon have always been more plentiful than most realize and are not believed to be “on the rise,” according to Matthew Vargas, a wildlife conflict biologist for Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Coyotes are a sturdy bunch, adaptable to a range of habitats and dining scenarios. They play an important role in the food chain, controlling rodent populations and scavenging on dead wildlife that could spread disease. With breeding season upon us, Vargas said, coyotes could be more active and visible.

“Every now and then we get people calling in and reporting a coyote in that area, but that’s not super unusual for anywhere in the valley, and usually it’s not that they’re causing problems, people will call just because they saw one,” Vargas said.

“There’s a lot of them, more than we can keep track of. In Jackson and Josephine, we probably have upwards of several thousand.”

Vargas said it isn’t uncommon for most locals to struggle to tell the difference between a wolf and its much smaller cousin, unless they’ve seen both.

“Once you see the difference, it’s pretty obvious. The coyote is going to be like 40 pounds while a wolf will be bigger than any domestic dog — well over 100 pounds,” Vargas said. Another big difference, wolf populations are tagged and monitored, whereas coyotes are largely undocumented.

“As for wolves, all we have in our area is the Rogue Pack, which stays east of Butte Falls and bounces between there and Klamath basin,” he added.

“Coyotes don’t need as big a territory or food source. They can survive off scavenging for stuff, eating small rodents, dead roadkill. They forage better than wolves.”

While coyotes rarely cause problems and won’t typically attack larger pets or humans, coyotes that cause problems, according to the ODFW website, “can be hunted or trapped at any time with approved methods.” For information about how to coexist with coyotes and precautions to take with small pets, visit the ODFW website at www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/docs/living_with_coyotes.pdf.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.