Coyote sightings on the rise in NC

Biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) say May is when people are more likely to spot a coyote than any other time of year.
Published: May. 9, 2023 at 12:33 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (FOX Carolina) - Biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) say May is when people are more likely to spot a coyote than any other time of year.

According to biologists, coyotes are common throughout North Carolina, including in cities in and suburbs, but often go unnoticed because they are skilled at avoiding people. In late spring, however, coyote parents are busy raising their young, which means more hours scouting for food and more opportunities for people to catch a glimpse of one.

The NCWRC said coyotes will roam a large area, crossing through neighborhoods and business districts, looking to feed for food for their young. Coyotes mostly eat rodents, rabbits, insects, fruit, and carrion, but will also dine on pet food and table scraps left outside.

Seeing a coyote in a residential area shouldn’t cause alarm, as attacks on humans are very rare. However, concerns for small pets, such as cats and small-breed dogs, may be valid as these animals can easily be mistaken for a coyote’s natural prey. For this reason, small pets should always be closely supervised when outdoors, or kept behind a dog-proof fence that is at least 6 feet tall and prevents digging underneath.

“Using a 6-foot leash is an excellent way to protect small pets when they’re outside,” advises Falyn Owens, extension biologist for the Wildlife Commission. “If you notice a coyote watching or following you during a walk, pick up your pet and haze the coyote until it leaves. Your physical presence can be a powerful deterrent for a curious coyote.”

In neighborhoods, residents can make the area less attractive to coyotes by removing easy food sources and actively scaring off any coyotes they see.

Here are ways to keep coyotes away:

  • Keep cats and small dogs on a leash or harness whenever they are outside. Backyard poultry should be kept in a predator-proof coop and run.
  • Feed pets inside and keep food waste in secure containers. If you feed pets outside, set specific feeding times and remove the dishes and spilled food afterward.
  • Keep fruit and bird seed off the ground. These foods can attract rodents and wildlife that prey on them.
  • Haze coyotes seen around homes and businesses. Scaring coyotes away teaches them these areas are off limits and that people should be avoided.

While a coyote will typically leave the area when confronted by a human, one that has vulnerable pups nearby is more likely to stand its ground. “This time of year, if you pass through a brushy or wooded area and notice a coyote watching you or following you at a distance, it could have a den nearby,” said Owens. “Calmly leave the area and notify others if you are near a public trail.” Coyotes use dens only as a nursery for newborn pups. As soon as the pups can survive outside of the den, the coyotes will abandon it and move on.

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