INCLINE VILLAGE - The next time unprotected trash is scattered hither and yon, don't assume it was a hungry black bear. It could be a coyote.
The snow has fallen, and many area bears have taken to their beds. Lake Tahoe Basin residents tend to think the nuisance has passed for another year. Not so, according to Nevada Department of Wildlife staff specialist Russell Woolstenhulme.
"When the bears go into hibernation, people tend to go back to their old habits, but coyotes don't hibernate, and they get hungry," Woolstenhulme said.
Coyotes will eat almost anything, and even though they can be scavengers, they enjoy the thrill of the hunt, he said.
"Their first preference is to hunt, but if they find an easy food source, they'll go for it," he said.
Like bears, which have been garnering publicity recently , coyotes are adaptable to human encroachment. In fact, they seem to welcome the human invasion.
"They tend to head to neighborhoods, and it's not unusual to see them in downtown areas looking for food," Woolstenhulme said. "I just got a report recently that one was found living in San Francisco."
Even though they are solitary hunters, Woolstenhulme said packs will form occasionally.
Although he has had few reports of coyotes causing havoc, Woolstenhulme warns that they can be more than just garbage-rummaging nuisances.
"People should be aware that these are wild animals and very good predators. They are not averse to taking small pets for food, especially cats," Woolstenhulme said.
Woolstenhulme says it's not just the threat coyotes pose to domestic pets that should concern people.
"There have been instances where coyotes have taken small children who were left unattended," Woolstenhulme said. "This is not the norm for them, but it becomes more prevalent during the summer months when people spend more time outdoors."