BY KELLY BOSTIAN World Outdoors Writer
Thursday, January 28, 2010
1/28/10 at 4:44 AM
A chip shot from the No. 3 green at Meadowbrook Country Club, Reginald Murray pulled a small garden trowel from his bag of tricks and went to work on a trap — a coyote trap, that is.
Murray, co-owner of Oklahoma Wildlife Control and vice president of this state's chapter of the National Wildlife Control Operators Association, is trapping coyotes near the golf course and Bristol Park, a housing development near 81st Street and Memorial Drive.
As of Wednesday, he and apprentice Jack Noel had taken 11 coyotes out of a 77-acre meadow between the golf course, the neighborhood and Regent Preparatory School. They started Jan. 10 and expect to catch between 15 and 20 coyotes before they're done.
Murray said that after catching two coyotes infected with Sarcoptic mange Wednesday, he's sure that two packs of eight to 10 animals each are working the area.
The Bristol Park Homeowners Association called Murray to do the job. Resident Terri Crites spearheaded the effort after her shih tzu disappeared on New Year's Eve and another resident's American Eskimo — a dog weighing about 20 pounds — was lost New Year's Day and later found on the golf course, mostly eaten by coyotes.
Crites read about some of the rare, documented coyote attacks — usually on children by animals that have been fed by or become accustomed to people — and grew concerned. She had been within a few yards of coyotes while looking for her dog, and another resident reported seeing coyotes that didn't seem to be afraid of him.
"With our greenbelt and the kids playing and proximity of the preparatory school playground, I felt like it was the kind of thing that I could never forgive myself if something was to happen to a child," she said. "But also it was to raise awareness for people and their pets."
Murray said most of his coyote work used to be on ranches, but not anymore.
"We're getting more and more calls from in town," he said.
Coyotes aren't bad; they're just coyotes, Murray said.
"We all like having wildlife around, but they can become a nuisance, and coyotes can be dangerous," he said.
People just need to be aware, Murray said.
"You can't let your pets roam," he said. "We have leash laws, and this is part of the reason."
Coyotes are here "because we give them shelter and we feed them."
Coyotes are opportunists, Murray said. If they run out of natural food sources, they'll turn to garbage or unwary pets.
"A coyote doesn't see a dog or a cat," he said. "It just sees food."
Murray also encourages people to use lock-lid trash cans.
The increase in urban calls he sees could reflect an increase in coyotes, but it also might be a result of reduced city of Tulsa Animal Welfare services, said Steve Harris, an animal welfare control officer.
"We don't do as much coyote trapping as we did four or five years ago," he said.
Harris said the city visits people now only if a nuisance animal is on the caller's property.
"If it's under a shed or a deck, we'll try to trap it, but to just go out to trap in a general area, we don't have that kind of manpower," he said.
The agency still welcomes all calls and can offer knowledgeable advice, he said.
Harris reiterated Murray's message that wild animals will find ways to adapt to urban environments and that people, too, need to adjust their habits for their own good and for that of the wildlife.
"If we have the dog tied up in the backyard and leave the food dish out there when we bring the dog in, we shouldn't be surprised when we get up in the morning and there is a fox or a coyote out there at Fluffy's food dish," he said.
Kelly Bostian 581-8357
A coyote bares its teeth after being caught in a trap in south Tulsa. Courtesy/Reginald Murray
Reginald Murray, who owns Oklahoma Wildlife Control and is vice president of the state's chapter of the National Wildlife Control Operators Association, demonstrates a leg-hold trap design that is easier on animals than traps made years ago. KELLY BOSTIAN/Tulsa World