Home & yard safety: Deterring coyotes


lone coyote in the road

Over the last day or two, headlines are filled with the story of a New Hampshire hero Dad who killed a coyote with his bare hands after it attacked his 2-year old son. There had been reports of coyote attacks in the area for a few days. Authorities caught and killed the animal and testing showed that it had rabies. This is a frightening story, but the Humane Society reports that thankfully, coyote attacks on humans are relatively rare.

Coyotes live in every US state except Hawaii. They are very adaptable to almost any environment – including cities and suburbs. They are scavengers that will eat just about anything. Right now, we are in peak breeding season, which generally runs from January to March.

One of the problems with living close to humans is that coyotes start to lose their fear of people. Instead of hiding, they can become bolder. Many pet owners have heartbreaking stories about having small pets grabbed from their yard by a coyote – or even snatched  right off a leash in front of a horrified pet owner. While coyotes tend to be nocturnal, they can also roam around during the day. They are often spotted at daylight and dusk.

The Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services offer steps you can take to reduce the chance of human-coyote conflicts:

  • Do not feed coyotes!
  • Eliminate sources of water, particularly in dry climates.
  • Bird feeders should be positioned so that coyotes cannot get feed.
  • Do not discard edible garbage where coyotes can get to it.
  • Secure garbage containers and eliminate garbage odors.
  • Feed pets indoors whenever possible. Pick up any leftovers and store pet and livestock feed where it is inaccessible to wildlife.
  • Trim and clean, near ground level, any shrubbery that provides hiding cover for coyotes or prey
  • Fencing your yard could deter coyotes. The fence should be at least 6 feet high with the bottom extending at least 6 inches below ground level for best results.
  • Don’t leave small children unattended outside if coyotes have been frequenting the area.
  • Don’t allow pets to run free. Keep them safely confined and provide secure nighttime housing for them. Walk your dog on a leash and accompany your pet outside, especially at night.
  • Discourage coyotes from frequenting your area. If you start seeing coyotes around your home or property, chase them away by shouting, making loud noises, or throwing rocks.

This last tip is commonly referred to as “coyote hazing”. The Humane Society has great resources on this topic – see Coyote hazing: Guidelines for discouraging neighborhood coyotes that focus on steps to change coyote behavior. Hazing is method that makes use of deterrents to move an animal out of an area or discourage an undesirable behavior or activity. Hazing can help maintain a coyote’s fear of humans and deter them from backyards and play spaces. The article suggests dog-walking tools and ways to keep them out of your yard.

Prior wildlife posts:

 

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Do you fly in the U.S.? You might need REAL ID by October 1, 2020


REAL ID 10/1/2020 deadline graphic

Do you fly on commercial airplanes for work or for pleasure in the U.S.? Do you regularly visit military bases or secure federal facilities? If so, this is the year you will need to have either a REAL ID-compliant license or a valid US passport to take commercial flights within the US or gain access to secure federal facilities. The law goes into effect on October 1, 2020 so there is still plenty of time to assess whether this is something you need or not and, if so, time to get the required documents.

Here’s the scoop. After 9/11, federal legislators and security officials established consistent, minimum security standards that would be enforced in all states and territories. Beginning on October 1 of this year, federal agencies, including DHS and TSA, will only accept compliant documentation at TSA airport security checkpoints and some federal facilities, such as military bases and nuclear power plants. The most common forms of documents are REAL ID-compliant licenses or US passports or passport cards. A handful of states (Michigan, Vermont, Minnesota, New York and Washington) issue enhanced driver’s licenses, which are also acceptable.

You do NOT need a REAL ID if:

  • you have a valid U.S. passport or passport card
  • you don’t use commercial airplanes to travel domestically
  • you don’t visit military bases
  • you don’t visit secure federal facilities
  • you are under 18 years of age

You can use a passport if you have one, but you have to remember to bring it with you in instances where it wasn’t required previously.

What is a Real ID and how do you get one?

It’s possible that if you renewed your license in recent years, you have a Real ID-compliant license because states have been phasing them in. Homeland Security says that “REAL ID-compliant cards will have of one of the following markings on the upper top portion of the card. If the card does not have one of these markings, it is not REAL ID-compliant and won’t be accepted as proof of identity in order to board commercial aircraft.”

REAL ID symbols

And here is a sample of a Massachusetts REAL ID-compliant license vs a noncompliant one. The designation in the upper right-hand corner varies by state.

Massachusetts REAl-ID compliant license sample

Homeland Security has many resources to learn more, including

You can also check with your state’s registry of motor vehicles to see if your license is REAL ID compliant. Here are links to REAL ID info for state RMVs in the New England region

 

Quick best practice tip for your 2020 financial and legal documents


young woman signing a financial document with two other people watching

It’s a new year – time to get in the habit of changing the year that you use when you write a quick check or date documents. But there’s another habit you should alter this year, according to police and other crime experts: write out the full year of 2020 in your handwritten dated documents, not just the abbreviated ’20. Failing to write the full year of 2020 might open you to costly fraud.

While it’s common to date documents in this format – 1/7/20 – the unique nature of this year’s date makes it too easy for a fraudster to change the year by simply adding more digits on the end. So your check or contract dated 1/7/20 could easily be altered to backdate it to 1/7/2019 or date it into the future as 1/7/2021.

Elizabeth Whitman of Whitman Legal Solutions talks about this in her article Will Abbreviating 2020 on Legal Documents Make You Vulnerable to Fraud?

She talks about why someone might do this, using an example of vintage violins with label changes that made the instruments older and consequently more valuable than they were. While labeling fraud on vintage musical instruments may not be something you have to worry about, she offers examples of why it might be worth your attention:

“Those who warn against abbreviating 2020 theorize that a scammer could backdate a document, such as a promissory note, to 2019. After that, the scammer could try to collect an extra year’s interest on the loan.

Commentators express similar concerns about postdating–that someone could change the date to try to cash a stale check. Or, they could try to force performance of an expired contract by make it appear that the contract was signed later than it was.”

Some say this fear might be overblown, that in prior years scammers might have altered dates on any two-digit year — but that just reinforces the importance of using a 4-digit year on written legal and financial documents – why take the risk? Whitman notes that while a consumer may be able to ultimately prove the fraud, that might entail an expenditure of time and money. Whitman says that although the risk of using an abbreviated date might be minimal, “it also doesn’t hurt to use the full year in a document signed in 2020–or in any other year.”

Her article also offers an handy list of document signature best practices, such as using a digital signature when possible, signing in blue ink, maintaining time-stamped paper copies and using dated cover letters – read more about these suggestions in her post.

Forged, altered or fake paperwork is a real thing – see our prior post on title washing scams that occur in used car purchases – a crime that costs $30 billion a year! Thieves and scammers are very creative in separating you from your money – a small step like using a 4-digit year in financial and legal documents that would make their job harder seems worth it.

Favorite blog posts for 2019 and all-time


thumbs in the air for top blog posts

Here are the Top 10 Blog Posts that were reader favorites in 2019

1. Never plug a space heater into a power strip

2. New Massachusetts hands-free driving law to go into effect in February 2020

3. Update your life insurance beneficiaries!

4. Keyless car owner alert: Carbon monoxide poisonings

5. Buying a used car? Don’t get scammed by title washing

6. Home burglars reveal the tricks of the trade

7. Fraud alert: This is (not) the government calling

8. What’s most likely to kill you? Check out your odds for National Safety Month

9. Thinking of a side hustle? Check with your insurance agent

10. Get rid of that junk: where and how to recycle your stuff

Top 20 All-time Favorite Blog Posts

1. Does homeowners insurance cover a flooded basement?
2. Do I Need Condo Insurance?
3. What are the odds? Mortality calculators
4. Car thieves have new tricks: VIN cloning
5. What to do if you have a car breakdown while on the road
6. Does your new car have a spare tire? Don’t count on it!
7. Does my car insurance cover me when I rent a car?
8. New Massachusetts hands-free driving law to go into effect in February 2020
9. Drunk Driving Simulator shows effects of impaired driving
10. Puffback: Avoid This Homeowners’ Nightmare
11. Totaled: Upside-down car loans and when Gap Insurance could be a good idea
12. Is Your Home’s Vinyl Siding Melting?
13. Behind the wheel: when being too polite is dangerous
14. Drowning doesn’t look like what we see in the movies
15. MA commercial truckers take note: New requirement to carry US DOT number in September
16. Preventing frozen pipes: tips from the experts
17. Ten dog breeds that might cause problems with your home insurance
18. Life events that should trigger a call to your insurance agent
19. Water in the basement: What does insurance cover?
20. Ice Dams 101: How to handle winter roof hazards

Follow the incredible one-night journey of Santa Claus


Do you ever wonder how Santa Claus manages to deliver all those gifts to all those kids in just one night?  This short video breaks down the annual global trip by the big guy in the red suit the way that an actuary might see things – using math, numbers and science.

We’re all for math and science, but there’s also the magic factor to help explain this amazing feat. We think the folks at NORAD see things our way. They’ve been tracking Santa’s Christmas eve flight and reporting on his whereabouts since 1958. They deploy the latest technologies to track Santa, including radar, satellites, SantaCams and jet fighters. They are aided by Rudolf’s bright red nose, detectable by their infrared sensors. You can track him online at the NORAD Santa tracker or you can download a mobile app to track his journey on your phone.

Homeowners & Santa Claus

Meanwhile, as a host, we hope that you are properly covered to entertain a V.I.P. like Santa in your home. What if your dog bites Santa or he gets stuck in your chimney – are you covered against these or any other mishaps while he’s on your property? If you have homeowners insurance or rental insurance, the personal liability and medical payments portions should cover you, but you may want to check your coverage limits and deductibles.

If you plan to leave any sweets out for the big guy, Mrs Claus issues this plaintive plea: Please skip the cookies – Santa has a weight problem. Consider leaving a healthier snack. If you decide to leave cookies out anyway, you may want to get Santa to sign Christmas Cookie Liability and Indemnification Agreement. And something that should go without saying – don’t leave any wine or brandy out – you don’t want to be liable if a tipsy Santa leaves your house and has a DUI accident!

Whatever holiday you celebrate – Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus or something else, we wish you the joys of the season. We’ll see you in 2020!

zmimztion of Santa riding a Christmas tree rocket

 

*Source of the Santa animation