Fish and Game responds to ‘unusual’ coyote behavior in Bonner County

By Reader Staff

Idaho Fish and Game has received multiple reports of highly unusual coyote behavior in and around the city of Sandpoint.

In early January, reports were received of coyotes roaming the Schweitzer ski resort, chasing skiers as they navigated down the slopes. Fish and Game staff worked closely with resort staff to develop a plan to dispatch the coyotes in the interest of public safety.

Before the coyotes could be located and killed, one bit a female skier. Although her injuries were minor, Fish and Game and Schweitzer took the matter seriously. Collaborative efforts are still underway to trap and eliminate the offending coyotes.

A coyote was spotted on the back patio at the 219 Lounge in downtown Sandpoint on Jan. 25. Bar manager Mark Terry said this particular coyote was bounced from the bar by Sandpoint Police Department. Photo by Robyn Field.

Fish and Game received reports during the week of Jan. 22 of two coyotes roaming around businesses in downtown Sandpoint. The animals were reported to appear comfortable in the presence of human activity during daylight hours, which is highly unusual. 

Fish and Game conservation officers consulted with local law enforcement to capture and kill the animals, again in the interest of public safety. One coyote was captured and put down, and its body retained for further testing, if needed. Efforts are still underway to capture the remaining animal.

Coyote behavior

It is unknown what is causing these coyotes to behave so abnormally. Reports of coyotes being comfortable near and even attacking humans are extremely rare, as they are often secretive and largely nocturnal animals. 

There are very few documented cases of rabies in land mammals in Idaho, so it is unlikely these coyotes are rabid. Although coyotes are known to defend dens with pups, pup season occurs in April and May, which is several months from now.

The most probable explanation for their behavior is habituation to humans, which most often occurs when wild animals are fed by humans. When wild animals become habituated to human presence or food sources, they can behave uncharacteristically and become dangerous to people. It is suspected this was the case with the coyotes involved in these incidents.

If you or someone you know sees a coyote on Schweitzer, or in and around Sandpoint, contact the Panhandle Regional office immediately at 208-769-1414 to report the incident. Do not approach the animal or attempt to feed, touch or harass it.

For more information or if you have questions, contact the Panhandle Regional office.

You can also follow the Panhandle Region Facebook page to get regular news and updates.

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