North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission says to expect coyote sightings as whelping season peaks
Coyotes are common throughout North Carolina, even in cities and suburbs, but often go unnoticed as they are very good at avoiding people. However, NC Wildlife Resources Commission biologists say coyote sightings increase in the spring, so it’s imperative to know what attracts them and what to do if you see one.
Coyotes prefer to raise their young in secluded areas, but keeping a litter of well-fed, healthy pups means searching for food at all hours and covering a wide territory. Coyotes roam a wide area in search of food, sometimes traversing neighborhoods and densely populated areas in search of an easy meal. Coyotes primarily eat rabbits, small rodents, insects, fruit, and dead animals, but will also eat outdoor pet food and food scraps left near homes. Small pets, such as cats and small-breed dogs, should always be closely supervised when outdoors, as they can easily be mistaken for a coyote’s natural prey.
A dog-proof fence, which is at least 6 feet high and prevents digging under it, is the only guarantee of a coyote-free zone, but there are other ways to keep coyotes from hanging around. .
“Try to eliminate any food sources that might attract coyotes and find ways to actively make the area uncomfortable for them,” says Falyn Owens, extension biologist for the Wildlife Commission.
Owens offers these tips for deterring coyotes:
- Feed pets indoors and keep food waste in secure containers. If you feed pets outdoors, set specific feeding times and then remove dishes and spilled food.
- Keep fruit and birdseed off the ground. They can attract coyotes and their rodent prey.
- Keep cats and small dogs on a leash or in a harness when outdoors.
- Haze coyotes away from homes and businesses. Examples include waving arms and shouting loudly until a coyote leaves, spraying them with a garden hose, or throwing small rocks in their direction.
Pup season brings an added factor to interacting with coyotes.
“Coyotes generally avoid confrontations with people, but they are diligent parents. A coyote that has young pups nearby is more likely to hold on than run away. If you’re going through a brushy or wooded area and you notice a coyote watching or following you from a distance, there might be a den nearby,” Owens said. “Leave calmly and let others know to avoid the area if you are near a public footpath. Coyotes will leave once their young are old enough to survive outside the den.
Coyotes rarely attack people, but sometimes take an interest in our pets. Keep cats indoors, and if you’re walking a small dog and notice a coyote watching or following you, pick up the dog and mist the coyote until it leaves. Teaching a coyote to have a healthy fear of people is a great way to discourage unwanted behavior and promote coexistence.
If you have questions about interactions with coyotes, visit www.ncwildlife.org/coyote or contact the NC Wildlife Helpline, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at 866-318-2401 or email email to HWI@ncwildlife.org.